VFL-AFL SuccessThe Changing of the Guard

VFL AFL success table

Beginning at 1897 (left) and working right, this completely overwhelming table shows every season played, when teams joined and which teams were and are the most successful when ‘years competed’ are divided by ‘premierships won.’ It’ll make more sense as you read on…I hope!

How do you measure success? Is it by sheer amount of games won? Because if so, that would make Collingwood the most successful team to have played in the VFL-AFL competition. Or is it simply by the number of premierships? Because then it’s Carlton and Essendon who are sitting pretty with 16 premierships apiece.

Well I don’t necessarily look at it that way, however I’m still seeing premiership glory as the measurement of success. A quick look at the history books shows you that Essendon did not compete in the 1916-1917 VFL seasons during World War 1. Now I’m splitting hairs, but as Carlton has had two more opportunities to win a premiership, does that not make Essendon’s 16 premierships ever so slightly more impressive?

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Let’s give that theory some form. Let’s calculate how often a team wins a premiership by dividing the number of years competed by the number of flags won. As it currently stands, Essendon wins a flag every 7.31 years, Carlton every 7.44 years. Slightly, yet still, more successful.

Well that is all good and well. However in 2015, using this system to measure success, there was a significant changing of the guard. We all know the Hawthorn story. The team that was let into the VFL in 1925 not on merit, rather due to geography. They then spent the best part of four decades as Mustard Pots, Mayblooms and easy beats. But with a name change to the predatory Hawks combined with the ruthless attitude change, the club has never looked back. The 1950s are the last decade that Hawthorn have spent without a premiership, a most remarkable feat.

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But how successful are they? 13 flags places them in fourth position on the VFL-AFL premiership table, however what must be remembered is that they only joined the league in 1925, some 28 years after the league was formed. Where Essendon and Carlton have participated in 117 and 119 season respectively, the Hawks 13 flags come from just 91 years of competition.

At the end of 2014, with the winning of their 12th premiership, Hawthorn averaged a flag every 7.5 years, slightly behind Carlton (7.38 years) and Essendon (7.25 years.) But here is the momentous part. After winning the 2015 flag, Hawthorn finally sits atop all other comers as the league’s most successful club, averaging a flag every 7 years, (see table below) skipping ahead of Essendon who now average one every 7.31 years and Carlton who average one every 7.44 years. At the other end of the spectrum we have poor old St.Kilda who average a flag once every 116 years. In that light I’ll take Richmond’s ‘flag every 10.8 years,’ even though I’ve seen none of them.

2014 2015 Success

HAWTHORN Success

Using the same table as before however highlighting only Hawthorn’s progress from 1925, you can see their rise to the top of the league

So while I did this research based on looking at Hawthorn’s success, there were a number of other interesting aspects to the tables. Firstly Fitzroy. Eight flags in one hundred seasons means that by the time were no longer a league team, the Roys averaged a flag every 12.5 years. However after 1922, they averaged a flag every 3.71, the leagues earliest power. We might look back and see that as a quaint old notion but at the time it was very real.

As Fitzroy have finished competing, along with University, their statistics will never change. They still sit mid table for VFL-AFL success, and I’m glad they’ve got something to show for all of their early dominance. \

VFL AFL FITZROY

Collingwood’s table also made for interesting reading. After taking over from Fitzroy in 1930 with their fourth successive flag, a record which is under threat from Hawthorn this year, the Carringbush sat atop the league until grand final day 1981, where Carlton not only defeated them but equalled them on the ‘success’ table, surpassing them the following year. Collingwood’s 52 consecutive years at the top is by far the longest reign in VFL-AFL football.

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VFL AFL COLLINGWOOD

However it was nearly interrupted. Melbourne came oh so close to knocking Collingwood off the number 1 position with their 12th flag in 1964. While Collingwood had won 13 premierships at the point in time, it was the three season’s that Melbourne had missed during world war 1 which made their premiership average slightly healthier as you can see below. But that’s as close as they would get. By Collingwood winning the 1958 premiership they not only defended their recording breaking 4 successive premierships, but also maintained their unbroken 52 years atop the league in terms of premiership success.

COLL MELB 1964

melbourne success

Melbourne’s last flag in 1964, when they almost caught up with the Pies. That 1958 Collingwood win not only protected their 4-peat.

Another very interesting part was to see the impact that the teams entering the league from 1987 onwards had on the table, in particular those that enjoyed early successes. Now that clubs such as West Coast, Adelaide and Brisbane have 30 odd years behind them, their premierships and years played statistics are of a meaningful sample size, remembering also that Hawthorn weren’t involved in the for three decades of league football.

After season 1994, West Coast had won two flags from just 8 seasons, giving them an impressive yet ultimately unsustainable average of a premiership every four years! You can see West Coast, Adelaide and also Brisbane race to the top of the table for a short time with the flags that they won, but with every season played since, a more realistic, yet still impressive story is told.

NEW TEAMS

Which leads us to Fremantle. No premierships from 21 years competed. It seems rather harsh to see them down there as they’ve shown great competitiveness over the last decade, however when compared with other sides who have entered the competition in latter years, Gold Coast and West Sydney aside, it is unfortunately an accurate reflection. One could argue however, and probably successfully, that at both Fremantle’s and St.Kilda’s 21 year marks, the Dockers record is far stronger than that of the Saints. Ross Lyon’s coaching career appears to be solely focussed on addressing the bottom end of the premiership success table. How close he has come.

NEW TEAMS

If you’ve made it this far then most likely you brain is swimming in a vortex of facts, figures and spreadsheets. I know mine is. Hawthorn have long been lauded as the most successful side of the modern game, but the numbers now stack up to place them at the top of the all time VFL-AFL table.

I know there are many who think that VFL and AFL premierships should be separated but as I see it, the league has always been continuous and fluid. Should they have started counting again when Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Footscray entered, the single largest injection of teams in any given year? I understand the argument but that’s why I believe that in counting the average years for premierships rather than the sheer amount gives us a more accurate reflection that rewards in particular the successes of Hawthorn, West Coast and Brisbane.

You can see each team’s historical success below, just click through the screens. If you’re keen for a copy of the excel spreadsheet then please contact me, I’m more than happy to share it.

A footy tragic’s love of MS Paint

As I morphed from teenager to ‘man’ during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I had one core belief…

“If it can’t be done on Microsoft Paint then it’s not worth doing.”

Being a big believer that limitations are key to creativity, in particular with music and the recording of it, MS Paint presented exactly that…limitations. I used it to create family Christmas cards, cassette covers for bands I was in (yes that’s right, cassettes!) and of course, footy logos.

Now this below work took a long time, a steady hand and quite an extensive reliance upon the zoom function. While Essendon’s rather simple style presented little problems, the Richmond logo was far more difficult, which can be seen by the fact that I merely put RFC at the top upon completion of the Tiger. I belive it was about 2001, and the phasing out of the classic logo shield shape was underway, with just a few clubs hanging onto that classic design.

The choice of background colour was I believe influenced by the seats in the Southern Stand behind the Punt Road end goals with the same or similar colours. It was, of course, also a prominent colour at the time. That’s still no excuse though.

clubs

Only a few of these designs remain, and in another 10 years the current logos will most likely face the same predicament. Whilst this was not the height of logo brilliance (1980’s in my opinion!) it’s still a nice little time capsule.

Happy footballin’ to ya!

1970’s Footy Enigmas

I’m always on the lookout for a different angle on Australian football, for that little gem below the mainstream surface. Dreamteam, standard AFL merchandising and the Footy Show leave me cold and empty. There must be something more!

Well there is. It has been with great interest that I’ve watched a most unique series of footy t-shirts develop. I’ve kept in close contact with t-shirt creator, Chris Rees, who has been inspired by his childhood love of footy cards. Whilst my own footy card obession was short and intense from the years 1988-1990, Rees offers an earlier view, drawing on his 1975-79 Scanlens collection.

HB TEES BEDFORD CALLERYOn display is one of the classic footy card poses, the camera balk. with ball tauntingly held in cameraman’s face.

Growing up on the North West Coast of Tasmania meant that Rees relied on three things for his VFL fix as a kid; the wireless, The Winners and of course, Scanlens footy cards.

“Often I have no memory of seeing someone play, but I have had their card as long as I can remember. That frozen moment at training is how I know those players” recalls Rees. With these images burned into his mind, he has gone about adapting these old images in a unique yet familiar style. They now sit perfectly on a new range of t-shirts he has brought out titled ‘1970’s Footy Enigmas.’

As the name suggests, this isn’t the ‘A-list’ of VFL stars; the Harts, the Jesaulenkos and the Keith Greigs. (I know, there was only one of each, but I just love this ‘footy-speak’) Rather, these t-shirts celebrat the cult heroes, with the odd champ thrown in for good measure. So dust off your old footy cards and compare notes as we take a look at the players chosen, one from each old VFL club, in club-by-club alphabetical order.

SCANLENS CATOGGIO

When talking ‘cult heroes’ it’s hard to go past one Vin Catoggio. His unique hairstyle and catchy name has helped him stay in the current footballing fan’s mind. I like how Rees has used his hair as his defining feature, without need for mouth, eyes or nose.HB TEES CATOGGIO

“I always loved his name and his afro, and they way he defied tackling. His story grabbed me anew when I read Brent Crosswell’s account of the 1973 Grand Final. It was Vin’s first game and he didn’t make an impact – something it took him a long time to get over” recalls Rees.

SCANLENS McKENNAI said that there was a champion or two in the mix, and Peter McKenna certainly fits the bill. With his mop-top of hair and a short lived career as a singer, McKenna’s finest work was still done out of the goal square dressed in black and white. However he fits the quirky nature of this range of t-shirts.

HB TEES MCKENNA

“I was tempted by Rene Kink, Billy Picken and Ron Wearmouth but the sealer was when someone gave me a book with frame-by-frame pics of his kicking style, with his Beatle mop flopping about.” (You can see the frame-by-frame images of McKenna in the first short video here) Add to that McKenna’s ‘Hey Hey it’s Saturday’ connection of being ingloriously replaced as co-host by Ozzie Ostrich, and he’s right at home here.

SCANLENS BLETHYNThe bespectacled full forward Geoff Blethyn is another whose unique appearance on the footy field has kept him in the public eye all these years later. Unfair really, given that he did kick 100 goals in a season. If McKenna were the Beatle-esque footballer of the time, then Blethyn can be described as the VFL’s Buddy Holly.

HB TEES BLETHYN

I have two Dons cards from ’72 and they are both shot from the same up-the-shorts angle.” says Rees of his oldest football cards. “I always liked this card and could never imagine quite how he played with the specs. When I recently looked up his record and saw that he kicked a ton in 1972, that was the genesis of my idea to bring some of these unfairly forgotten players back to people’s attention.”

A recent Age article by Peter Hanlon celebrated both Blethyn and this range of t-shirts. It’s great to get Geoff’s reaction to being ‘immortalised’ on fabric.

”We’re all a bit quirky in our own way,” was his take on the players selected.

Read the article here http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/blethyn-specs-a-tall-order-20130625-2ov7y.html

SCANLENS QUINLANContrary to popular reports, Kevin Murray was not the only player to pull on a Fitzroy jumper during the 60’s and 70’s. ” I eliminated Kevin Murray as he has had plenty of (fully warranted) attention in recent years. But it seems like Superboot was due for some recognition. He’s a sneaky inclusion in a 1970s-era list as he really shone at Fitzroy in 1982 and 83.”

HB TEES QUINLAN

Quinlan spearheaded the Roys to a final tilt at the ultimate success in both their 1983 and 1986 finals campaigns. The Roys fell short on both occasions. In a career of two halves, Bernie played for 9 years at Footscray before heading over to Fitzroy where he equally spent 9 seasons. At this point in time, he is ranked 7th on the all time games played list.

SCANLENS DEMPSEY

I really like Rees’s explanation on why he chose Gary Dempsey as Footscray’s 70’s enigma. “I picked Dempsey on his record – not the Brownlow medal but his club Best and Fairests, six in eight years. It sounds like he was carrying that club.”

HB TEES DEMPSEY

The Dogs didn’t have much going for them while Dempsey was around. Sometimes a player can keep a club going in tough times in terms of giving fans something to cheer about. It reminds me of what Matthew Richardson meant at Punt Road.

SCANLENS SCRATCHER

To be honest, other than knowing the name ‘Scratcher Neal’ and that he played for Geelong, I knew not one thing else about the man. In my research, I came across this great little piece on Scratcher on the ‘the terrace’ website. And to me, this is what Rees’s t-shirt series is all about, bringing long forgotten footballers back into some form of limelight.

HB TEES NEAL

I love his nickname and that he’s that he’s from Wynyard (Tasmania-also the Cats) and his outrageous red hair. In his card from 1982 his fringe is ruler straight and his hair is a shiny copper helmet.” says Rees of this Geelong wingman. And the nickname Scratcher derives from his background as a potato farmer! A great addition to the enigma series.

SCANLENS TUCK

If ever there was an enigma, it was Michael Tuck. He has played the most games of league football in history, virtually an extra season’s worth than his nearest rival Kevin Bartlett. Consider also that he also played 50 games in the reserves before consolidating himself in the senior side! Remarkable longevity.

HB TEES TUCK

“I hate Hawthorn, so this one was always going to be a challenge. But Tucky never whacked anyone, never grandstanded, never staged for a free – just kept going and going and going. I didn’t think any of his footy cards really captured Tucky so I painstakingly drew this one from a bleary frame taken from YouTube.” His wiry frame is indeed captured here. As are his 7 premiership cups!

SCANLENS FLOWER

Robbie Flower is responsible for one of my very first footballing memories. It was in his Forest Hill sports shop, served by him, that I brought Dale Weightman’s iron-on number 3 to put on the back of my Richmond. Flower is the the first league footballer I can remember laying eyes upon.

HB TEES FLOWER

“Robbie Flower stood out clearly as the man to represent the Dees. No still picture seemed to convey the essence of Flower which to me was his run. So I went back to YouTube and drew a sequence of 12 little Robbies.”

I agree that the sense of balance and movement you get from theses ’12 little Robbies’ encapsulates the great man well. “It’s mysterious how it’s established wisdom that he was Melbourne’s only good player for about a 10 year period and came out of it with ONE best and fairest.” says Rees. A trivia question I would most certainly have gotten wrong.

Watch Flower in action!

SCANLENS DENCH

I particularly love the cery 1970’s moustache and hair which David Dench is sporting in this image. If you averaged every white Australian male from the 1970’s, then David Dench is what you’d end up with.

HB REES DENCH

“I was stuck on North Melbourne – Nolan? Cable? Kekovich? Dench? I approached the highest profile Roos supporter I could reach, Tim Rogers. He was unequivocal – it had to be Dench. I always loved his square head, his moustache and his manner when he was captain-for-a-day in the Roos 2nd flag in 77.”

Dench certainly played out of his skin in the drawn grand final. His move forward provided a catalyst in the final term, and he kicked 2 of his career’s 29 goals on this day. A week later, he held aloft the premierhsip cup.

SCANLENS MCGHIE

“The only players with tatts in my card collection are Kevin Murray and Bones. His name, his tatts, and his legendary toughness set him apart in my mind.”

“Then I saw the photos of him Rennie Ellis took on Grand Final Day 1974. A smoke while he does he up his boots pre-game, a tinnie on field after the win. I took inspiration from the pics, but changed his pose so not to incur Rennie’s wrath from beyond the grave.”

View Rennie Ellis’s glorious photograph of Bones McGhie HERE!

HB TEES MCGHIE

I’m not too sure what needs adding here, other than to say I get a thrill whenever I end up at the local supermarket at the same time Bones does! As a Tiger I’ll be sure to add this ripper to my wardrobe.

SCANLENS COWBOY

Cowboy Neale is often remembered as the bloke who king hit Peter Hudson in the 1971 grand final. The hit caued Hudson to miss a string of gettable goals which left him stranded on 150 sausage rolls for the season, just one shy of breaking the record. However Cowboy often misses out on the true adulation he deserves.

“I always thought of him as a lovable rogue, with a reputation for biff. I was surprised when I looked into it that he basically won the 1966 flag off his own boot, but old Barry Breen gets all the press.” says Rees of his choice for Kevin Neale.HB REES NEALE

“His card was chewed by the dog at some stage, and the few extra creases around the face thanks to Minnie gave him a very smiley look. This is the one proper press photos that I have used, and I am happy to settle up if the photographer wants to make himself known.”

SCANLENS BEDFORD

Finally we come to Peter Bedford, another name I’m glad that Rees has brought to light. I actually know the name very well, a Brownlow Medalist who grew up barracking and playing for Port Melbourne in the VFA before joining South down the road in the big league. But what I didn’t know was of his love for cricket and that he represented Victoria 39 times as a batsman/leg-spinner. Sounds like the exact thing the national team needs right now! And upon finding Peter Hanlon’s piece on Bedford from late last year, I learned that cricket was his first love!

HB TEES BEDFORD

“I have Bedford’s 1974 and 1976 footy cards. I have always been impressed that he struck the same lairy “selling the dummy” pose. (see below) I don’t recall seeing him play but as a Brownlow medallist and Shield cricketer he commanded respect anyway.”

hb-tees-bedford-callery

So where can I get myself one of these t-shirts?

Wonderful question, I’m so glad you asked. You can view and purchase the wide range of styles, sizes and colours that these prints come in, from small to triple XL, from mens and women’s t-shirts to hoodies and long sleeve tops… all at the link below

1970’s Footy Enigma T-Shirts

Bernie T

An example of how the Quinlan t-shirt comes up on this very pasty Fitzroy supporter.

You can also follow Chris on twitter @4Boat if you would like to make contact or have any questions about a purchase.

I think these shirts and designs are just the sought of thing that needs to be injected into the often sterile AFL marketplace, and I look forward to seeing them proudly worn at the footy. As Molly Meldrum would say, (whilst wearing the Cowboy Neale hoody) do yourselves a favour!

Animated Football books

It’s been a long while between posts as life built to a crescendo the past month or so, but I haven’t been sitting idle. I’ve actually made a new friend called Vine; a program which gives you six magical seconds of video footage. You can shoot 6 seconds straight or you can get into some tricky stop-motion animation. So my mind, of course, turned to football.

Below are some short video’s or ‘Vines’ I’ve compiled from some old football books, Football for Boys and How to Play Football Australian Style. Theses old books would demonstrate the skills of the game using a series of photographs displaying each skill. So I thought to myself…let’s animate it.

Footy Books 2

Below are such heroes as EJ Whitten, Peter McKenna, Peter Bedford, John Dugdale and more, their still shots now brought to life. Please enjoy the following 18 seconds! For some reason the videos default to mute. You can hear the fairly unimpressive sound by hovering your mouse in the top left hand corner.



Footy Books

Holy Boot blog-Books

Footy books. I have hundreds of them. Sourced from op-shops, fetes and second hand book stores. I even shell out for the odd new book. My books don’t just sit their gathering dust either, I give them a good working over where possible.

Nana and pa

My nana and pa in their Richmond days

My love of both footy and its reading material stems back to my nana and pa’s house in Forest Hill. Old Richmondites, they ‘migrated’ like many from the suburb labelled ‘Struggletown’ to the south-east and finally eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Amongst books on gardening, Australian history and the odd Agatha Christie novel sat a clump of books on our great Australian game. I spent many hours poring over these books, and they have shaped my love of the game, it’s history, it’s social meaning, it’s sense of humour.

Holy Boot Blog bookss

Some of my nana and pa’s footy book collection

I’m going to focus this post on the two books which most captured my imagination; The Courage Book of VFL Finals-1897-1973 and Grand Finals, Victorian Australian Rules Greatest Moments. Both are similar in that they move chronologically through the history of the VFL, and I often read them in tandem. They say a picture tells a thousand words, and as a young boy, it was mostly the pictures I focussed on, along with the match details. As such I’m still yet to read much of the text!HOLY BOOT Books combine

When my grandparents sadly passed, I snaffled the Courage book of Finals , and the below photo is a great memory I have of my nana. You could hardly touch one of her books without a plethora of related news clippings tumbling forth.
Holy Boot Blog nana boook

Below is a photo of the 1907 grand final between Carlton and South Melbourne which sits on the back cover of the book of finals, opposed to the ‘current’ image (1973) on the front. I looked at this photo endlessly as a boy, trying to comprehend just how the marquee styled pavilion and treed terraces was in fact the same MCG I grew up with, a concrete jungle.

What strikes me is the carnival atmosphere this photo captures. People up trees to gain a better vantage point, trees which are positioned in front of the pavilion and grand stand, the warm September sun as Melbourne emerges from the depths of winter. What you’re looking at is in fact the precursor to the old and new Southern Stands. I’m still mesmerised  by this photo.
1909 2This photo of the packed footy tram is a classic, though not necessarily connected to Essendon’s 1897 flag. It says to me that as much as things change, they also stay the same. Stripped back, it’s a photo of football supporters on their way to the footy by tram. I did that myself a number of times last year.1897Something that of course made me snicker as a youngun’ was the fact that the bulk of early grand finals in the VFL were umpired by Ivo Crapp. Still raises a grin. To the untrained eye it may appear however to be a brief report on the days work by the man in white.

1900

From sifting through these old pictures, scores and words as an impressionable child, a deep impact has been made. I was intrigued that Fitzroy was the early powerhouse of the VFL, was amazed that St.Kilda took years to actually register a single victory, and even more amazed that the two clubs played off the the 1913 grand final! How different things could have been had the Saints gotten up? The below photo also shows a great shot of the scoreboard which sat in the forward pocket a the punt road end of the MCG, not all too far from where the kids play up at the cricket these days.

For more reading on the MCG scoreboards and 1913 grand final, these are some fantastic posts on the scoreboard pressure blog.

HB Fitz v St.K 1913As a young Tiger growing up in a Tiger household, I stopped often at the Richmond premiership years, and 1920 in particular. The phrase ‘We Ate ’em Alive’ was born after beating the hated rival Collingwood, who’d the previous year downed the Tiges in the big one. My nana still lived with a hatred for Collingwood born from the streets of Richmond, and as both my grandparents were born in 1920, I always found this page a bit special.1920A quick peruse of this site should quickly reveal that I have a thing for old footy grounds. Well much of that too can be traced back to hours spent trawling through these books, pouring over grainy old photos such as these.

HB footy grounds books

The photo on the left is of the Junction Oval on grand final day 1944, Fitzroy defeating the Tiges to claim their final league flag. It’s hard to spot them, but my grandparents, my nanas sisters and cousins, they’re all there. And why a grand final at the Junction Oval I hear you ask? Well the MCG was out of bounds, home to American and Australian troops amid World War 2.

The photo in the top right corner takes us to Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street Oval for the 1903 semi-final between local rivals Carlton and Collingwood, at a time when the MCG wasn’t the assumed home of finals footy that it was soon to become.

And below that is a wonderful still from the 1950 grand final between North and Essendon, another ‘forgotten’ grand final given North’s lack of success until the 1970’s. Imagine if Waverley Park could have seated people between the boundary and the fence!? Would have doubled the capacity!
1939The composition of this photo always appealed to me, the fickle ball leading the players a merry dance as it tumbled this way and that. The Richmond player is Charlie Priestly, the Melbourne player more noted as a master coach, Norm Smith.

HB combined

Whenever the 1977 drawn grand final is mentioned, as it often is, the image in the top left hand corner is what comes to my mind first. The exhaustion and demoralisation is palpable, though it turns out simply to be Len Thompson receiving a 3 quarter time mouth wash, a fact I only realised as I read the caption for the first time yesterday!

To the right of that is one of the most dramatic pictures in Australian football history. Essendon champion, John Coleman, tearily walking away from the tribunal a shattered young man, a four week suspension ending his 1951 final series before it began. Geelong defeated the Bombers by 11 points come grand final day, surely Coleman would have made the difference? We’ll never know.

 Below Coleman we find the old MCG fence, unable keep the bumper 1908 grand final crowd of 50,261 at bay. However it has lived to tell the tale. Between the two 50 metre arcs on the southern wing of the MCG, the very same 1884 boundary fence, with some slight modifications, still stands, making it clearly the oldest part of the MCG, not so closely followed by the 1985 fly-swat light towers.

HB Grabs bookThe photo on the left shows action from the Geelong v Collingwood grand final in 1937 in pretty much the same position that the 1907 Carlton v South photo was taken (above). The Southern stand was brand spanking new in 1937, and as you look through these books, the action suddenly becomes recognisable with the arrival of the grand stand, suddenly looking ‘modern’ compared with the treed MCG, the knickerbockers and numberless jumpers.

To the right of that photo sees St.Kilda’s Bob Murray, taking what I see as the most graceful of marks in the 1966 grand final, while further right we see EJ the showman in the 1961 semi final against the Saints, triumphantly holding the ball aloft, giving the appearance that he’d just performed quite a feat to secure it.

Finally, as the books were published mid 1970’s, the arrival of glossy coloured images filtered their way into the production. The book on Grand Finals comes complete with an ‘Action Packed 70’s’ colour section, wedged in between the years 1945 and 1946, akin to a Cleo sealed section. Again we see the characterful old Southern Stand, packed to the hilt, as Carlton and Richmond battled it out for the 1972 premiership.

HB70'w
I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane. You may even recall these books, or have more recent copies which were reprinted in later decades. While the old days of footy are at times difficult to connect with the game we know today, it’s good to know where footy has come from, that during the 1920’s, the 50’s or the 70’s, the game was always seen as we see it today, quicker and more skilled. We may look back on today’s football in 100 years with a nostalgic glance to a funny looking game they used to play on real grass! Who knows?HB Dad's writing

The Courage book of VFL Finals may have come to a halt in 1973, but my father, in his early 20’s, utilised the several ‘Further Results’ pages at books rear, maintaining detailed finals results up until 1976, along with a cameo appearance from the 1980 grand final.

Around the Grounds – Victoria Park

Victoria Park: League venue: 1897-1999. League (VFL/AFL) matches: 880 (2 finals, 1901 1st Semi & 1904 1st Semi Finals). Record Attendance: 47,000 v South Melbourne in 1948.

Collingwood’s Victoria Park. It’s iconic. It was more than just a home ground, it was a fortress, a statement of the club that played there. Not pretty but functional. Working class with no frills, yet plenty of character. It was the most feared ground for opposition players and fans alike, in a bygone day when a home ground advantage meant something more than your cheer squad getting a choice of which end to sit.

I never saw a league match at Vic Park. Dad wasn’t keen on taking me there for reasons which I don’t blame him, and by the time I could go to the footy on my own it was only used sporadically for games against Fremantle and the Crows. I’ve since been lucky enough to play a number of games on the old ground for the Western Storm in the Reclink competition.

Shortly after the Pies had left the old ground for their shiny new Lexus Centre, it was in a state of decay. Used by the VFL umpires to train on, it’s future was uncertain. It seemed unfathomable to this writer that such a landmark was so easliy pushed aside. Sanity has since prevailed, but more on that later. I took a series of photos as I’m sure a few Collingwood supporters also did. The remenants of a leage ground (since refurbished) remained.

This is the view (above) of Vic Park that captured me as a child. Whilst dad didn’t take me to games here, he often took the chance to take us for a look around the old grounds. What I loved and still do was the overhang of the grandstand onto the street. Its imposing. I was also particularly fond of Lorraine Wilson’s childrens footy books. From her 1982 ‘Come on the Pies’ book, here is a fantastic illustration by Jack Newnham of the Sherrin stand, with all it’s overhang glorified.

 The old wall, a long forgotten feature at many VFL and VFA gronds, was still standing when I took these photos, and sections of it still stand today. This was one of the last remaining walls of it’s type, with Punt Road, Williamstown and Fitzroy amongst the many to have bitten the dust. I love the ‘fortress’ that it, along with the barbed wire, provided. It’s a far cry from the modern day ‘concourse….’ I shudder when I hear that word.

Here are some of the entry points to the ground. As it was used up until 1999, the signage was in good condition and fairly up to date. 

I think Vic Park may have been the first league ground to actually introduce a spacious concourse as seen below! This would fit with current stadia regulations surely, although perhaps there’s not enough modern art and fast food outlets? As I said, it wasn’t beautiful, but it did the job.

Once in the ground, there were nooks and cranny’s aplently to exlore. The two photos below were taken under the Rush stand. Collinwood made sure you never forgot where you were, taking any and every opportunity to stick up the black and white stripes. The Rush Stand was hardly a stand, more a terraced outer with a bit of shelter, and plenty of what the photo on the bottom right says…standing room!

This is taken out the back of the Rush Stand as it joins with the hill behind the goals at the Yarra Falls end. I love the terrace houses you can see in the background, the same houses you can see in old photographs of the ground. The shot beside it shows the old scoreboard from behind, amidst the ghostly gums.

          

Entering any ground from the darkness below has me wide-eyed like a 10 year old. With the plethora of concrete, black and white, the sudden appearance of green really breaks the monotony. 

When I took these photos, Collingwood had just left, and with them had gone what seating the Rush stand had, along with the players names that adorned the Rush, Ryder and Sherrin Stands. The surface still looked in pretty decent condition.

 The precurser to the Sherrin Stand (above), the old Ladies Stand, is captured beautifully here by Ainsley Walters (below).

pic from http://www.neridahmcmullin.com/page/ainsley_walters.html

The old scoreboard, since demolished, stood atop one-eye hill. Many Pie fans wish that it had been refurbished, but it was deemed a health and safety hazard. It’s a shame to see these old scoreboards knocked down all over the place, but I guess that’s progress! To the right of that is a bit of broken seating from the Rush stand which I helped myself to. Seats numbers 75-77, they may have been your seats!

Below that is the since refurbished Ryder Stand, now complete with new VFL coaching facilities and wheelchair access, and to the left we see the old social club form behind. As a stark reminder of Collingwood’s seemingly abrupt leaving of Vic Park, this shot captures where the logo had been removed, only to see an older one it had been covering, if you look closely!

For a more comprehensive look at Victoria Park’s scoreboard and the modern artwork which now stands in its place, check out Vin Maskell’s blog Scoreboard Pressure. Click here for the old scoreboard and here for a piece on how the new sculpture was conceived.

Photo by Anderson Hunt
Whilst fossicking around Vic Park I also found a whole lot of rubbish carelessly ‘disposed’ of by the recently vacated Collingwood F.C. Among them were some notes from I guess a team meeting. I’m sure they’re more into interactive whiteboards and the like now, but some things remain the same.

DESIRE INDICATORS ARE A KEY TO OUR VICTORY…pretty much ‘have a crack!’

And what of Vic Park now? The Pies have returned in the form of their own ‘reserves’ or ‘VFL’ team, who now play home games at the ground. The Rush Stand has come down but the others remain, and the place has been done up nicely. For more on that check out Collingwood and footy nut Jeff Dowsing’s piece on the Footy Almanac website. To get you in the mood, below is some of his pictorial work with the refurbished ticket box, before and after.

No set of footy fans were as connected to their home ground as the Pies were to theirs, with websites, artwork and poetry now devoted to Victoria Park. Even though I follow Richmond, I’m disappointed that I never saw a league match played there, hostile as it may have been and no doubt a feather in the away fans cap should they have survived. The refurbishment is certainly respectful of the past, something I wish all Melbourne clubs would consider as their grounds are no longer useful playing venues. A leaf could be taken out of Collingwood’s book on this one.

I’ll give the last word to a fanatical Magpie fan with a spray can…

 

Make sure you check out the comprehensive and fantastic Victoria Park website, full of stories, pictures, history, memories, video clips and more, all devoted to Collingwood’s spiritual home!

A couple of panorama’s I put together of Vic Park circa 2005. Above is from the social club, below from the Sherrin Stand.