The Patriarch of Footscray

I love Friday’s at the moment. I know, everyone loves Friday, but for me they’ve just become Daddy and Richie days, with mum starting a new job. Last week we went to have a look at Williamstown’s refurbished Point Gellibrand Oval, the day before it was reintroduced to football. I love the Willy footy ground. The funny thing was that as much as things change, they stay just the same. Watching the game on the telly, you can refurbish a grandstand and resurface the oval, but once that Willy rain and wind kicks up, you wouldn’t know that $8 million had been spent.

But I digress. This Friday didn’t set out to be football themed with the boy, but as oft happens with me, that’s how it panned out. I dropped the girls at their respective schools and then had an impulsive moment. I’m suddenly decided to keep heading down Ballarat road and take a drive to Bacchus Marsh! My soundtrack was a CD my brother had burnt me of Coodabeens talkback callers, an hours worth, so I was set. For those unfamiliar with Coodabeens talkback callers…click here! As we headed through Braybrook we passed the infamous statues of local boys Ted Whitten and Dougy Hawkins in full flight, stood out the front of the Braybrook Hotel. It’s a great football story that the local boys so well represent their peoples’ footy team, especially when people out Braybrook way did it so tough.

I cast a thought to Charlie Sutton. Though not a Braybrook boy, he was Western Suburbs through and through and along with Whitten and Hawkins, one of the most revered figures at Footscray. Heck, he’s been the only man capable of bringing a league premiership home to the Western Oval. Charlie passed away just last week, and today was his memorial service at that Docklands Stadium. Doesn’t quite seem a fitting venue but that doesn’t matter. And anyway, it’s only a few good drop kicks from Footscray.

Richie’s eyes were becoming heavy as we passed Caroline Springs. The Coodabeens callers were keeping me well amused. Lance from Lara continued his fascination with all things David Mensch post his AFL career, still believing him to be the missing ingredient to ‘The Mighty Cats!’ Cliff from Clematis rang in with footy rumour upon footy rumour, including a rumour that the Scott twins had swapped positions for the North v Geelong match earlier this year, explaining the result. The day was clear, and as I departed the highway for Bacchus Marsh, the boy finally asleep. I’ve always loved driving into this town, the gorgeous elm treed entrance lined with orchards and roadside fruit shops.

I didn’t plan on staying long, it was more the drive and a coffee I was after. As the boy was sleeping, I parked at the local footy ground, a picturesque little oval complete with picket fence, tiny stand and even a band rotunda. By now I was tuned in to the dulcet tones of SEN whilst reading the Age sports section. I had a footy in the car but thought it slightly irresponsible to leave the lad sleeping in the car solo. I drove around town a little more and headed for a cafe which boasted ‘Best coffee in town.” Sounds good to me! Baby Black Espresso Bar lacked nothing in confidence.

And it was lovely, and cosy, and as I was waiting with a freshly woken Rich, I couldn’t help but overhear the local fellas chatting loudly about the footy. Then one bloke said

“Now that EJ and Charlie are gone, you’re like the Patriarch down there!”

Yep, I’d been standing 30-40 cm’s from Dougy Hawkins but hadn’t realised. And though not as svelte as the stoic statue I’d passed back in Braybrook, he none the less commanded the attention of the locals much in the way he’d captured the imagination of those on the Gordon St side of the Western Oval. They even named the wing after him.

I think people tend to forget how good Doug was. Through his bumbling post-career footy show performances and strangulation of the English language, much like Billy Brownless, it’s at times difficult to see the old footy stars within. But Doug was just that. He was a larrikin, he possessed beautiful skills on both left and right, he was courageous and he also had what I’d like to call a “football brain.” And charisma, much like his old mate EJ. And what I liked, which is missing in footy today, was that he represented his people. Doug was a Western Suburb boy.

While the other blokes at the table were dressed in a motley fashion, Doug was all dolled up in shirt and tie. Putting two and two together I clicked that he must be on his way to the big smoke to farewell his old mate, Charlie Sutton. Doug strikes me as the emotional type. Who could forget his emotions as it was announced on air that EJ had passed in 1995. While Sutton’s passing is sad, this was also to be a day of celebration. He’d had a ‘good innings’ so to speak, and had appeared to have used his days well. Doug held court, sharing a story of how he’d escaped a monstrous parking ticket in the city the other day. The blokes were eating out of his hand.

Perhaps Doug is the Footscray patriarch now that Ted and Charlie are gone. The club has never been short for personalities. Deep in thought, I was suddenly alerted as to the readiness of my coffee to go, and the boy and I were gone. And it was a pretty darn good brew too. As Rich was now awake we headed for a park to kick the footy. Well, I kick it to him, he picks up the ‘bup-baw’ and brings it back to me, much in the way a dog plays fetch. He seems to love it.

We hit the road and were home well before lunch, only staying in the Marsh for an hour or so. I re-listened to the Coodabeens CD, picking up many a joke I’d missed the first time around such as Dee supporter ‘James from Jolimont’ who was most upset at Melbourne’s new sponsor ‘Budget’, claiming that it sounded far ‘too common’ for the establishment club. Rich rocked off to sleep again, and as we rejoined Melbourne we again passed the heroic figures of EJ and Dougy, in the heart of Braybrook. The Whitten oval could well do with a bronzed up Sutton looking over proceedings, much as he has the past umpteen years. I’m looking forward to next Friday Richie!

About John Carr

First and foremost, I'm a Richmondite- 5th generation and dyed in the wool. I love the club, but also have a love for the game itself, and love to explore the cultural and social aspects of Australian Rules football. I am married with 4 kids, and also have a love of music, and run a small recording studio


  1. Speaking of strangulating the English language… apologies for paragraph two!!

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    Looks like Richie’s football education is well underway. Hawkins was a champion player in the true sense of the word. People say he should never have played at Fitzroy, he has said that himself, but he had games of the Hawkins of old. I think it was an important swansong for him after a lot of bench time under Alan Joyce in his last years at Footscray.
    And I would love a copy of that CD – can you burn me one?
    Great stuff, Cookie

  3. I’m reading this with the radio on in the background, listening to the coverage of the Doggies game againgt Port Adelaide. They just had a minute’s silence for Charlie Sutton. So, very fitting to come and read your piece. I can quite understand why you’re looking forward to your Fridays! And by the way, that lovely young brother of yours also burnt us a copy of the Coodabeens CD, and we have so enjoyed listening to those callers, some of which I’d almost forgotten, as we drive to wherever. Makes the journey so entertaining.

  4. Hey Cookie,
    Agree with you re Doug at the Roys. Just keep picturing that moment when Fitzroy beat the Crows at Footy Park in 1995, a memory Doug surely cherishes. And who knows what valuable lessons he taught a young Chris Johnson or Jarrod Molloy?

    And yes, sure can pass on a copy of the CD. Also have some of their recordings from around 2000 or so which I can chuck in. You can shoot us an email at [email protected]


  5. Loved the 5 generations.
    Charlie to Teddy to Dougie to JC to Richie. Priceless.
    Not so keen on your brother though. Josh and Brad were real arseholes.

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