The quest for a wool footy jumper

I’m not even sure how it all started but about 6 months ago a set out on a mission to buy an old woollen Swans jumper from the early 90s. The task seemed simple enough. As the months rolled on the task became a mission which became a quest from one side of the Country to the other. Along the way I’ve met great people, the odd dickhead and even learned a thing or two about myself.

I don’t like the modern silky jumpers. I’m 35 going on 72. I like tradition. I liked that when I was a kid an old wool long sleeve jumper would help you hang on to the sherrin. These jumpers went out of fashion and production in the early to mid 90s… my hunt begins.

As I set about the task in June I thought this can’t be too hard. A quick search on ebay and i’ll be wearing my jumper by round 15. I’ve got a uni degree, scrapped together a decent career in sports administration, married, kids. I can tick boxes and get stuff done. Sure I can’t change a tap or read a Melway but I’ll be able to find an old footy jumper won’t I?

A quick search on ebay comes to nothing. A few old South Melbourne jumpers signed by Skilton, Teasdale and Goldsmith are the only wool jumpers on offer. The price tags accompany their playing abilities it seems. $500 bucks for a jumper that looks like it has been knitted by my grandmother, even though it has the great man Skilton’s signature (allegedly) is a little over the odds.

It occurs to me that the search for a Sydney Swans jumper of the early to mid 90s may be tougher than I thought. Pretty sure there won’t be any Sanford Wheeler limited edition signature jumpers to be found.

I need to go to the Swans family. Only the true fan would hang onto an old relic from an unsuccesful era. Where do I start? Onto the Swans Website and hunting I go. I drop into the supporters page and click on the cheersquad tab. The head of the cheersquad is listed as Cathy Marney and there is a phone number.

Do I make a call? I’m nervous. Can you ring somebody these days unsolicited and ask for help? I take the soft option and go for a text message. I have form in this area, many moons ago I broke up with a girlfriend by text. Classy! A regret to this day. A simple text asking for help and ideas from Cathy is sent.

Two minutes later the phone rings. Shit that was quick. No wonder this Cathy lady got to the top of the cheer squad. A bright and cheery lady is on the other end of the line. “sorry I don’t have any Craig but as we speak I’m positing a message on all the Swans supporter group facebook pages for you”. I should not have worried I’ll have this jumper in a few days I think.

Turns out Cathy has been in the cheer squad since the days of Doc Edelstein and we chat for 10 minutes talking all things Swans. The people you meet along the way.

The phone doesn’t ring. A week goes by. I text Cathy for any updates. She says there was one bloke who contacted her but she could tell he was wavering. She put the hard word on him. “are you keen to sell or not”. He said he would like the cash but just couldn’t bring himself to part with his trusty old jumper. I’m glad I didn’t take it from him.

Opp Shops seems like a good idea. I turn Melbourne upside down. The mother in law comes over from Tassie for my wife Sophie’s bday to babysit young Jack and we have a rare afternoon to ourself. A nice drink down in Williamstown and then on the way to a restaurant I spot a local Savers. I’m out the door quicker than Usain Bolt. No luck. Sophie wonders about the sanity of the person she married. I go to countless opp shops, plenty of brown flares and acid wash jeans to be brought but no Swans Jumper.

A get a tip to go to Memorabilia on Smith, which is run by ex pies player Cameron Mcleod. Nice bloke for a Collingwood player. It is like stepping back into 1981 in his store. A player worn Greg Williams jumper hangs by the rafters. I don’t think it has Reece Jones blood on it. Not for sale though, part of Cam’s personal collection.

Off to a joint in Brighton, an old Swans jumper hangs on the rafters again. Maybe these collectors hang them high to make you feel like you can’t get a hold of them. A gruff guy says he doesn’t think it will fit and refuses to get off his backside to fetch it for me. I’m from Wagga, I don’t fit in Brighton. Let’s Roll.

I keep glued to ebay and gumtree like a crack addict. One bloke has a Warwick Capper signed and framed jumper for $400. I make a counter offer of $200 for the jumper unframed but he thinks he can get $400 so declines.

4 months have passed and I’m losing hope. What about the old man? He works in Wagga and surrounds selling curtains and blinds. I ask him to get to work. As soon as he spots any sign of red and white in a house he pounces. One day he is in a house in Gammain with the surname of McPherson. Dad asks any relation to Daniel? (played in the 96 GF). I’m his Mum came the reply. Any spare jumpers laying around the house? Unfortunately not, however Mrs McPherson will keep an eye out. Ganmain is turned upside down. No jumper.

It is a good chance for Dad and I to talk footy. Dad introduced me to the game, coached me and taught me most things I know about it. At least 18 times a game Dad can be caught imploring players to ‘just kick the friggin thing’.

I get a tip to email Rick Milne for help. I try. One week later I get a lovely reply outlining that he will ask for help in his weekly Age column. Saturday rolls by and under a article about Buddy moving to Sydney is a request from Rick asking readers to help me and contact him if they have a jumper. 400 odd thousand readers, I’ll have this jumper by Monday. 4 Weeks pass.

My last roll of the dice is advertising. I take out an add in the Daily Telegraph. I figure go Sydney rather than Melbourne. Its like a bloody personal add, you open your soul and ask for help. No love.

I’m tired and out of ideas.

Somebody asked me Why am I doing this the other day?

I think it may be the signs of an early mid life crisis. A footy jumper from the 90s takes me back to the carefree days of kicking a footy around the schoolyard where the biggest issue was if Gerard Healy could squeeze one more year in.

Perhaps it’s guilt. I jumped off the Swans for a few years in the 90s, seduced by the Balmain Tigers and Rugby league. In the darkest of days in 92/3 I was missing. Maybe I just want the jumper to feel a part of this time again?

Who knows?

I’ll keep searching and hoping that one day I’ll be at the G cheering on the lads kitted out in a trusty old jumper.

I wonder who next I’ll meet along the way.

The quest continues…..

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.

Comments

  1. Try country clubs with the same colours ie Sth warrnambool

  2. Craig – I worked at the swans in the 80s in the ‘Edelstein’ era. The property steward at the time was Mike Meelan (not sure I have the spelling right) and if anyone has a jumper from that time, he would (if you can track him down) We reckon he must have had 10 sets of jumpers at home as we seemed to go through so many! Only problem is that I don’t reckon the players’ jumpers were wool. I’m pretty sure that was the time synthetics came in with the use of Sportswool – a synthetic/wool fabric.

  3. craig dodson says:

    Thanks mark, must have been an experience working at the club in those days. I’ll try track done mike in the white pages. Guessing he would be quite old these days? The acrilic sportswool jumpers would be fine.

    Good tip ad

  4. Craig

    I loved this piece mate. A quest to find a woollen footy jumper resonates more with me than Frodo and Bildo’s. For your wife’s sake, hope your quest doesn’t pan out to a trilogy.

  5. craig dodson says:

    Thanks T Bone.. luckily my wife stopped questioning my stupid behaviour years ago!

    Mark I just tried a white pages search for Meelan, no joy across different spellings. Might have to get Magnum PI on the case.

  6. bob speechley says:

    I arranged to buy one a few years back through South Melbourne Districts FC who share the colours – from my fading memory they put me on to their jumper supplier who made one to fit a large person.

    Good luck

  7. Rocket Nguyen says:

    Contact your old coach Wagga Tigers coach Doug Priest – I saw him wearing his South jumper from the 70s at the 2005 premiership dinner! It won’t fit him now!

  8. craig dodson says:

    Small world rocket, my brother actually works with Doug’s son Jason, a good footballer for the tigers in his own right. Never did pull on the tigers stripes, spent my time across turvey, donnies and mango.

    Plenty of guys from wagga who pulled on the red and white and probably have a jumper in the bottom of the cupboard I guess.

  9. Paul Daffey says:

    Hi Craig,

    Nothing like a good quest.

    A friend of mine, Martin Tighe, who painted the image for the first Footy Almanac, scored a woollen Swans jumper a few years ago.

    I think he found it in Katunga, north of Shepparton. They wear the Swans colours in the Picola District league.

    Other Swans clubs? Benambra in the Omeo league; Chiltern, the Lappins’ club, in the Tallangatta league; Ballarat in the Ballarat league; South Warrnambool as mentioned.

    Sea Lake wore Swans jumper in the old Tyrrell league but that was several mergers ago.

    Good luck!

  10. craig dodson says:

    Thanks for the tips Paul, might have to jump in the car and visit a few country pubs!

  11. Ben Footner says:

    My missus have got a long sleeve, collared wool Crows jumper a la Andrew Jarman vintage. She still wears it to Adelaide games. I’ll be making she hangs onto it for dear life after reading your trials Craig!

  12. craig dodson says:

    Might need to take a security guard to sit next to her at games too Ben!

  13. Michael Crawford says:

    I know this might sound like a tease (for which I apologise in advance) but I am the proud owner of a 1976 Ricky Quade match day jumper – number 16. It is the real deal – wool – with a tag at the back of the neck that says Jason Knitting Mills – Melbourne. Size 38.. My mum and dad bought it at an SMFC auction one night (dad doesn’t drink much, but I think he might have had a few that night to result in him topping the bidding!). I was 10 years old at the time, and when I came down to breakfast the next morning, there it was sitting on the kitchen table. I could not have been more excited if it was Christmas.

    Ricky Quade was club champion that year, and became captain the following year. It was autographed and even had a bit of match day mudstain on it (those predominantly white woollen jumpers were always hard to get clear, unlike the dark woollen Carlton, Essendon and Richmond jumpers). 1976 was the last year that jumpers didn’t have sponsors logos or the VFL “V” on them. (In 1977 they put a Swann Insurance logo on the jumper). As years went by, and I got older, I started to wear the jumper myself to footy training – the jumper got dirty, mum washed it, the autograph washed out!

    To cut a long story short, the jumper doesn’t fit me anymore (those woollen jumpers tend to shrink, and the older bodies tend to expand), but with a story like that, I am sure you could understand that I would not be too keen to part with it. As a kid growing up in South Melbourne, you want to hold on to what memories you have of the lake oval days. The same reasons that you want one are the same reasons why I wouldn’t give this one up!

    Plus – you want a woollen jumper from the 90s and all I have is a woollen jumper from the 70s. :)

  14. craig dodson says:

    Hi Michael

    Great story, I’m glad the jumper found its way into your hands. Ricky came from Ariah Park which is not far from Wagga and my Dad played against him and also my uncle Neville Miller played with him at South Melbourne in the early 70s.. small world.

    Hang on to it mate and keep it in the family.

    Cheers
    Craig

  15. Milton Miltiadous says:

    Hi Craig,

    A good story and I can relate to the idea of finding “a needle in a haystack”!

    In my case I am looking for a Carlton jumper from the the late 70s/ early 80s.
    That is when I was lucky enough to play in the Carlton Scholarship side (VFL days, I was 15 years old) against Melbourne at Princess Park.
    They gave us the full kit ( jumper ( No.6 ), shorts, socks ) to keep after the game. Needless to say, as I was born and raised in Carlton, it was my “pride and joy”.

    Then later in my life,I let a friend borrow it for a training session we had at a local club I was playing for at the time, as he had forgotten his training jumper.
    I have no idea why I had the Carlton jumper in my car,however,I let him borrow it. After training, he said that he would take it home and wash it and then return it to me.

    Well the following week, he said that his car had been broken into and he had the jumper in the back seat and it was taken. Thus,I never saw hat jumper again!

    As an adult and not living in Australia anymore, I too have become nostalgic and have been searching for a similar jumper to frame (does not have to be signed, all I am looking for is the original woolen CFC and the VFL badge ( here is where I ask you to think of Bruce Springsteen’s song-,”Glory Days” playing in the background).

    I have contacted the club several times and have not received a reply. As I stated to them in my mails, I am prepared to pay for it,however,not the unrealistic prices that people are asking for in regard to signed jumpers. All I looking for is a plain old “footy jumper”+nothing more,nothing less!

    Since I started my search, I have combed “high and low” through the net, as I am not in Australia and still no luck…..

    Hopefully,one day both of us get what you are looking for;a connect to the past and some great memories.

    Good luck in your search.

    Cheers,

    Milts

  16. craig dodson says:

    Milts

    Tough break mate, lets hope the guy who broke into the car was at least a Blues supporter!

    I”ll keep an eye out for you and let you know if I see anything in my search. Most people tell me the best chance is stumbling upon one in a local opp shop.

    Cheers
    Craig

  17. Milton Miltiadous says:

    Cheers Craig .

    Appreciate the offer. Hopefully, we both get what we are looking for!

    Regards,

    Milts

  18. Hi Craig,
    I collect WAFL memorabilia and am always hunting for old woollen jumpers. They are even more difficult to find than VFL jumpers. Anyway, some time back I received a call from someone who had a WA jumper for sale from the early 1970s. He said champion WA ruckman Bill Dempsey had given it to his mother, who worked at West Perth Football Club, shortly after he wore it in a game against the Big V. It bore the jumper Dempsey wore for the state, was signed by Dempsey and was clearly the real deal (they never sold these jumpers to the public).
    However, the other thing he had, which may interest you, was a South Melbourne jumper. The story went that the Victorian team trained at Leederville Oval (West Perth’s home ground) one afternoon before a state game and a player had given this guy’s mum the jumper he wore during training. I don’t know who the player was, but it looks like a legit South Melbourne players’ jumper to me. The tag is Jason Knitting Mills, but it also has a green NFL tag. The red-v is slightly rounded and the number 40 is commercially stitched on the back. I’m willing to part with it, if this fits your criteria… though it’s not from the 1990s!
    If I knew a bit more about it, I might be more keen on keeping it. I have Keith Greig’s North Melbourne jumper from 1978, Mike Fitzpatrick’s Subiaco jumper, Steve Malaxos’s 1987 Eagles jumper and quite a few WA state jumpers.
    Cheers,
    Sean

  19. Terry Barnstable says:

    I have an old woolen Swans jumper, Katunga, at home somewhere in the cupboard, if I can find it I will contact you.

  20. Philip Keegan says:

    Only just seen this thread Craig, there was a great one on ebay last week that I went for and lost as I was out on Australia day when it ended. I hope it was you that won it! Anyway, I collect old Swans jumpers and have even been in the Record on the Collectables page. Drop me you email and I will let you know when I come across a long sleeved one. They are rather rare in long sleeves though, I could easily find you a regular jumper from the early 90s. What are you lloking to spend?

    Regards,

    Phil

  21. Genevieve Elijah says:

    Hi Craig.
    I really enjoyed reading this. I too am in the hunt for an old footy jumper. My quest is for a tigers jumper though. It’s for my 5 year old son. I want it to be big to last him years and years. My dilemma however is whether to buy him a new silky style and let him create his own history in it, or inflict my history onto him? Hmm… I say my history but it is really my brothers. Being a girl I got a tigers scarf. My brother had the jumper I so desperately coveted.
    Hope you’ve had a win.
    Gen.

  22. I have an wollen early 80s jumper with over 20 signatures one being greg williams triple brownlow winner.i have taken it to be checked out and its rare,vintage sekem brand with lots of signatures if yr interested?

  23. Mark Payne says:

    try Lyon Sportswear in Mordialloc who are currently producing a range of traditional woollen footy jumpers, you can even DNA trace the wool used in each back to a specific farm

  24. Julian clarke says:

    I’ve had a couple of these jumpers over the last 5 years and sold them on eBay

  25. I got 1986 swans playing gournsey I wanna sell

  26. I’m looking for an old south Melbourne wooliym jumper Gary 0408656209

  27. Ashley Woodcroft says:
  28. Keep trying op shops. I bought an authentic Jason Knitting Mills North Melbourne jjersey with the pin stripes, black number 2 (Doug Wade) machine stitched on the back, and the green NFL tag on the inside neck. This is a 1975 jersey, pre sponsorship and VFL logo. It is match worn. I have bought a Coburg VFA match worn jersey, a Victoria Jersey, a signed Michael Jamieson Carlton authentic jersey with printed number 40 and embossed monogram, an authentic Paddy McCartin Saints jersey with printed number, a 1990 Seekem Geelong wool blend jersey with sponsorship patch, a match worn Williamstown jersey, and several other ones.

    If you want authentic it has to be Jason Knitting Mills (or Seekem if 1990’s).

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