Some Of My Footy Firsts

Can you remember your first footy jumper? Thankfully I still can. In fact, almost 50 years on I see it with absolute clarity. It was an Essendon jumper, or sorts, but it was my prized and cherished possession. Once it was on, Mum would have to peel it off. But it did have a slight flaw.

My Nanna knitted it, as far as I can remember without a pattern. I remember seeing the black wool being knitted, and the electric shock when the first rows of red were added. Before long the big day came and my Mum and Nanna called me forward, like an Arthurian prince about to receive his first sword, to put it on.

It was magnificent…the black, the red, the….

Nanna just couldn’t get the sash right. So, as a result, it possessed one glaring but unique modification to the actual Essendon club jumpers. My magnificent jumper instead has one red hoop (a la a Geelong jumper) across it instead of a red sash. Question is though, did it matter to me? Absolutely not! I ran around the yard kicking my footy for hours, days on end in my first ever Essendon footy jumper.

I don’t know what ever became of it. I imagine I grew out of it and it was discarded as I got older. I like to think it may have made its way to a second hand shop and some other kid may have been able to wear it. I’ll never know but I will never forget my first footy jumper.

My first footy is a bit more hazy. I remember Dad getting hold of a leather ball without a rubber bladder. It was that very dull browny-red of the late 60’s style footys. He stuffed it with mainly paper, but something else which made it bounce a bit more. I never investigated out of respect…I just recall stuffing the paper back in if it dared to come out.

Like my first jumper, this ball was terrific. I would charge the length of the field (across the yard) and kick it through the big sticks (the fourth and eleventh paling on the fence) and knew that as long as Essendon had me they would be a powerhouse team. I loved playing against Collingwood when I would continually run around their key defender (the Lemon Tree), past their ruckman (the Plum Tree), dart by their wingman (the bin) and beat their rover (some other citrus tree in the yard) and goal with my own brilliant footy.

I also remember opening my first set of Scanlen’s footy cards. The reason I remember so clearly was it contained no Essendon players. There was Wes Lofts (Carlton), George Bissett (Footscray), Kevin Neale (St Kilda), Dick Clay (Richmond) and a couple more I can’t recall. I must have looked a little sad after having opened the packet, started eating the gum and seeing no Essendon cards. Dad must have felt he had let me down because soon after he gave me another packet and, sure enough, amongst the contents was John Williams (Essendon) and I was elated.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I would gather more cards (maybe a packet a week if my parents had the spare money) and would soon cherish not only Essendon players but also have my own Peter McKenna, Royce Hart, Peter Bedford and other great players from that era.

I would soon have enough for at least five cards per team and would play matches on my bedroom floor. Each team had a full back, full forward, two wings and a ruckman. I would use the small red wooden block from a set of Cuisenaire rods as the ball and flick it from player to player with the card. It was remarkable how often Essendon won…and how good the Essendon flicks were compared to ALL other sides.

I don’t begrudge the current generations their own versions of a childhood growing up with whatever technology or products the era offers. I think it is brilliant to have video games to play footy with, apps, a variety of club jumpers and squillions of other things.

But I am so eternally grateful to my parents and grand-parents who went out of their way to find ways for me to enjoy the game of Australian Rules football with things that other kids might have had but we couldn’t afford. They gave me sash-less Bomber jumpers, paper filled leather balls and cardboard footy cards which were my pride, joy and inspiration.

Today I am a coach of school teams, have been a part of two premiership teams as a club coach, had a fun playing career right into my ‘50’s, have just written a book about footy as well as hundreds of articles and other achievements. But these things can all be traced back to that first footy and that first set of footy cards.

But most of all it can be traced back to Nanna’s sash-less Essendon jumper.


About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. My first was my brothers north adelaide jumper – woollen red with a white V – number 10 Barrie Robran

    Then I went to visit my cousins in Victoria and my auntie gave me my cousins Carlton guernsey – navy blue with white CFC

    So I could play 1972 “champions of Australia ” in my back yard

  2. Top stuff Wes, well done. I recall my first Geelong jumper, number 23, Doug Wade. The following season he was at North Melbourne !


  3. Beautifully written and stirring memories of my first jumper – a numberless long sleeve Sturt jumper straight from Motley and Greer. I was about 7 or 8 and had yet to come out as a fully fledged Woodpecker supporter. The fear of being tormented by my Port Adelaide barracking brother had I openly supported the green n golds in the late 60’s saw me team up with Sturt, the premiers of the day. I was always Dean Ottens in our backyard footy battles. It was not until the 70’s that I outed myself as a Peckerhead. My dear sister hand knitted my first ever footy scarfe – a green and gold special – to celebrate my coming out. I remember seeing it when I moved to Brisbane 25 years ago, but like your Nanna’s Bomber Special Wes, it vanished into thin air.

  4. Jim Johnson says

    The first footy jumper that I owned was my first and last one. I still have it. The Croydon Football Club gave it to me because I played in their premiership team of 1960. The jumpers I wore and didn’t own were the Mount Evelyn first eighteen jumper at age 15 years in 1949, followed by the Ringwood 1st Eighteen and the Melbourne High 1st Eighteen School team in 1950, followed by The South Belgrave 1st Eighteen 1954/58 including the Mountain District Intercompertition Team jumper. My last team was Croydon. As a kid I was, and still am, a normal one eye’d Collingwood supporter. Ringwood’s Colours were Collingwood’s and I enjoyed playing in their jumpers for the four seasons 1950/53. My first pair of football boots were hand me downs given to me at age ten years. The first day of school after receiving these boots I insisted, against my mothers instruction, in wearing them to school. Sounds easy but it entailed walking four miles to and from school. I can still hear the clunking sound of the stops on the school wooden flour. I did not wear them to school again. My Father at the start of the 1949 football season purchased my first real football. I immediately turned the stab kick into my stab punt. Thorold Merrett was three weeks younger than I at this time and was practicing kicking a stab kick through a car tire hanging from a tree. Yes I was a little ahead of my time. Come to think of it I still am.
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson

  5. Scanlens footy cards rocked. The anticipation before opening each packet, the powder coated gum, the picture on the back of the previous year’s grand final, the pleading with other kids in the school yard to swap you their Peter Daicos… Lovely piece Wesley.

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