Windy Hill- Essendon

Windy Hill- League Venue 1922-1991. League Matches: 629. Finals: 1. Record Attendance: 43,487 v Collingwood (1966)

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I’ve always been interested in the Essendon story. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a time in football of fierce suburban rivalries and territorial battles, the Essendon Football Club oddly called the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in Jolimont home, a two and a half hour, 10 km walk from Essendon. How peculiar that while we often now mourn the loss of locality and sense of place in football, Essendon played so far from home all through their formative years, from 1881 until 1921!

Due to the East Melbourne ground’s closure in 1921, the Essendon footy club finally came home to Essendon and did what most league clubs have done in some way shape or form…bullied a VFA club! Yes, they took the Essendon Recreation Reserve from VFA side Essendon Town who, groundless, ceased to exist, swallowed up by VFA team North Melbourne. And there the Bombers stayed for 70 years until progress saw this club move back to it’s traditional area, the MCG!

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This post is a continuation of a series I’ve been compiling over the past few years that I’ve called Home and Away. In the early 2000s I began documenting with my camera Melbourne’s decaying old league grounds, however Essendon’s is a ground I didn’t explore fully until more recently. I did however manage a few encounters with the old ground.

Windy Hill old pics

Mum is an Essendon supporter so I do sometimes stop and think what might have been. Here are some photos she took from I believe a 1975 game between Essendon, in red shorts, and St.Kilda. Mum’s work colleague Colin Carter lined up for the Saints that day which is why the camera was on hand. Below is a mash up panorama of the photos which shows policeman on the ground, during the match, as the Essendon team runs out!

Windy Hill old

 My first memory of Windy Hill is watching the 1988 VFA grand final on the telly and being rather confused as to who Coburg and Williamstown actually were; I thought it was Essendon and Richmond on the telly! I never saw a league game at Windy Hill however I was lucky enough to attend the Richmond v Carlton legends match in 1990, a fundraiser for the Save Our Skins campaign. With the crowd figure nearing 25,000, it felt real to me!

We sat on the members wing in a poky little seating bay, right in front of where the Windy Hill brawl took place! I didn’t appreciate it at the time but on reflection am thrilled to have watched Hart, Bourke, Bartlett, and Barrott in a game of footy, even Bull Richardson had a run. I also saw Syd Jackson, Vinnie Catoggio and Percy Jones play, and of course Barassi. Though he was beyond past it, I can say I saw him all the same. David Cloke played that day too, and in what must be a first, came out of retirement and played league footy the following year!

Richmond took Essendon’s good will in letting them use the ground and ran with it, signing off from Windy Hill with a surprise win the following season. David Cloke played in this game also.0

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The huge crowd at Windy Hill to see the Richmond v Carlton legends match, 1990

The other time I got out to Windy Hill was to see an Essendon FC side of 6 take on an Australian VI in a cricket match played before a very decent crowd. I of course had no interest in the game but was along to see and capture Windy Hill with a crowd, bravely wearing my Richmond polo. It was great to see the winning raffle ticket number being shown to the crowd and in the middle of summer, that footy in the middle of the ground was a sight for sore eyes.

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The ‘working class stands’ at Windy Hill making use of themselves once more, albeit for a cricket match
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In the past few years, particularly living out this side of town these days, I’ve made a number of visits to Windy Hill for a snoop around with my camera. Thankfully I got some shots of the beautiful old Showers stand before it was criminally knocked down in 2007. Interestingly, built in 1939, it was the last major grandstand built in Melbourne before world war two. Whilst not quite as elegant as the art deco grandstand at Glenferrie Oval, I find it difficult to reconcile that it is gone and the concrete jungle on the wing still stands. That’s progress for you I guess!

WH Coleman edit finish 2A mash up of Coleman taking a big grab in front of the summer cricket crowd from a few years back. Click the photo to make it bigger

The Showers stand had a lovely shape to it and was made predominately using blonde brick. I loved finding this old Tavern Bar and Snacks sign which I’m sure has since been thrown into a skip. What I didn’t capture was how this stand looked from the street. It really set the tone for how I perceived Windy Hill and I’m sad that it’s gone.

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In front of the Showers stand on the terraces (now a grassy hill) sat these two turnstiles. I’ve seen them in a few different spots on my journeys to Windy Hill so I get the idea that they want to hang onto them but are unsure how best to display them. I’ll take one!WH Quirky 1 a

Another visit, another position for the turnstiles. I saw this magnificent old boot studding table the last time I visited, at least I assume that’s what it is. When I look at the nailed on cigarette tin I am transported to a different time, to dingy changeroom of any football club in Australia. Again I’m not sure what the plan is here, but hopefully Essendon see fit to place it in a museum or donate it to someone who will!Windy Hill Quirk

Down at the primary school end of the ground lies one of the makeshift scoreboards that was in use for a time during the 2000s for VFL matches. The main scoreboard was demolished with most of the outer after the ground stopped being used in the early 1990s. To read and see more about the old scoreboard, see Scoreboard Pressure’s great post on it HERE.WH Quirky 2

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The old Windy Hill scoreboard in all it’s glory. Photo courtesy of Jeff Lawton

Now this is one of my favourite parts of Windy Hill, walking through the bowels of the grandstand, the light of the playing arena beckoning you onwards. That’s what I love in old footy grounds, the contrast.

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Much of Windy Hill has been demolished however what has endured is a very solid collection of grandstands from the 1960’s and 1970’s, serving as a time capsule of sorts. They’re not pretty and there are no frills however that’s what footy used to be. Generally footy grounds reflect their area, and Essendon had a mix of one ‘fancy stand’ and three ‘working class’ stands. That sounds about right to me. Again it’s the nooks and crannies that I love. Footy grounds used to evolve. Now they come pre-fabricated.

Windy Hill nooks & crannies

I love coming across something interesting that you hadn’t picked up before. The photo on the left below is the back of the R.S Reynolds stand, a stand which I understood replaced the old stand on the right. But it dawned on me that the brickwork looked far too old for the 1970s stand that now stands there. Looking at the photo on the right, there seems to be a consistancy with the the grey band of concrete across the mid-section of the two stands, but the more I looked, the stands just appeared completely different.Windy Hill old and nucleus 1

I consulted many books and websites which all spoke of the Reynolds stand in a continuous fashion as if nothing had happened during the 1970s. So I made the assumption that the shell of the brickwork must have been retained to save costs and the new stand built over it. Finally I had this more of less confirmed in the book Flying High, a history of the Essendon Football Club.

“During 1976, the R.S Reynolds Grandstand renovations were completed at a cost of three hundred and thirty-one thousand dollars. The top of the stand had been renewed and extended.”

My itch, finally, scratched.

I know we often joke about the Essendon bowls club effectively standing it’s ground and forcing the Bombers to leave their traditional home, but I for one wish they’d been able to stay. Whilst it took Essendon a good 40 years to make it’s way back to playing in Essendon, Windy Hill will always be the club’s spiritual home. Thankfully the Essendon VFL team still uses the ground as it’s home, and I hope they continue to do so although the language used around this topic has been rather uncommitted.

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I love a good ‘hotch-potch’ of grandstands. These have a very Waverley Park/Moorabbin feel to them; wonderfully bleak.

In a way things have come full circle. There’s again an Essendon team wearing red and black (as the VFA side did) playing at Windy Hill in the old VFA (now VFL) and the league team plays home games closer to the city. I propose that the Bombers VFL side call themselves Essendon Town or the Dreadnoughts (Essendon Town’s moniker) to bury the hatchet all these years later. Would be a nice, quirky touch.

Finally, I took this still from the 1990 Richmond v Carlton legends game at Windy Hill as I believe, and I’m happy to be proven wrong, that this is the last time we ever saw those magnificent banners around the boundary fence. They have the new LED advertising displays well and truly covered in my book, but any digital club people reading this could do well to replicate these digitally before a match. It wouldn’t be the same but would be a nice touch.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.38.43 amI never experienced an Essendon game at Windy Hill but this is the ground through my eyes. I’d love to see and hear your photos and memories of one of league football’s most notorious venues.

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I love the Richmond Football Club

Mezz and Me

 1986, my 5th birthday. sister maryanne was still being ‘Essendon-ed’ by my mum, but this was futile. She was a Tiger soon enough.

The year was 1986. I’d just been to my very first league match. It was a Richmond v North Melbourne Friday night match under lights at the MCG. Richmond had beaten the Roos. I have some vague memories of meeting dad at work in the city with mum, catching the tram to the ground and sitting in the old southern stand. I remember the sheer size of the MCG, the excitement of the lights as we approached the ground. I remember being cold. I remember being glued to the match.

The above photo was taken three weeks later as I celebrated my 5th birthday. Little did I know I’d just begun a complicated journey with my dad’s team, Richmond, who just six years earlier had held aloft the premiership cup. I saw Maurice Rioli play that night, so the record books tell me.

Little did I know the emotional pain following Richmond would bring to my life. The embarrassment at school, the anger at matches, the hollow feeling of being overrun in a final quarter, time and time again. Losing the unlosable and failing whenever it really matters.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. Following Richmond has been difficult, a real test of character. Yet I’m thankful to barrack for the club and suburb that my family both followed and lived in. I’m thankful for hearing the story my dad told me tonight, that his dad, my pa, would come home from games in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s saying “Well it wasn’t Ron Branton’s fault we lost!” I could say the same of Daniel Jackson today.

Some of the best memories growing up were of rare Tiger wins, ringing nana and pa and asking them to record the replay. I’d watch it the following Friday night when we’d go over for dinner.

Stick with them Tiger fans. Just think what some Fitzroy fans would give to still be able to go and watch their team each week, whatever the result.

As I left the ground on Saturday with Richie and Mol (the eldest isn’t into footy), the three of us clad in knitted Richmond jumpers, a punter tapped me on the shoulder and with a glint in his eye and suggested it was child abuse that I put my kids through following Richmond. Yes, I’ve heard that one before. I didn’t bother telling him that one of them had ‘Richmond’ on their birth certificate! I did however reveal my birth year…1981. He chuckled and wished me the best, much like a drunk uncle would on Christmas day.

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Left:On our way to the footy. ‘Richmond’ is wearing the same jumper I’m wearing in the first pic.
Right: What have I done!! Poor Mol learning that the footy is not all fun and games

Thick and thin. What’s another 30 year wait?

I love the Richmond Football Club.

Go Tiges

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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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!

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

Happy Snap #11

This is a picture I picked up for $5 at the Don Bosco Op-Shop in Brunswick a year or so ago. My team is not represented, but I love this photo for many reasons, and it now hangs on our kitchen wall. Why do I love it? I’m glad you asked.

Firstly, the old boots. But it’s not just that, it’s the the old, uncluttered woolen jumpers, the old picket fence with no advertising to be seen and the punters standing in the outer. This is a shot from an Essendon v Melbourne match at the old Windy Hill oval. The fact that Barassi (top) played at Melbourne between 1953-1964 places this picture somewhere during that period.

Barassi’s face in fact is what really demands my attention in this photo. You can wax lyrical about his career, but in this single moment you can see all you need to see. Who in this pack of players wants the ball the most? To me, it is clearly Ron. Though out of position, a quick look into those steely eyes suggests he may well have won the contest, or at the very least made life difficult for whoever won the ball. It was in this manner that Barassi continued throughout his career as a player, captain and coach, having a hand in no less than 8 premiership victories.

I am unsure who the surrounding players are, and would appreciate if anyone had any information on who they may be. Purely for interests sake.

Thank you


Nice Statistic #4 Andrew Underwood

Having already explored the intrinsic link between David Cloke’s career and the number 3, I thought it time to look at the numbers of another dual club player, Andrew Underwood.

Underwood played with SANFL club Sturt from 1985-1988 before being drafted by then VFL club Essendon. After two seasons at Windy Hill, he transferred to Richmond for a season, before returning to Sturt after not being required by incoming Richmond coach Allan Jeans.

Andrew Underwood at Sturt post AFL career and importantly post mullet! Pic from http://www.sturtpics.com.au

So where does the number 12 fit in? Underwood was the last player to don the number before a young Matthew Richardson commandeered it in 1993, taking the number 12 guernsey in his only season with the Tigers in 1991. He played 12 games with Essendon, and 12 games with Richmond. His career of 24 games saw him play in 12 wins and 12 losses, while in his first season at Essendon, he played no games after round 12.

His first season saw him accumulate 112 kicks, while in his career he received 12 frees for in home matches and conceded 12 frees against in away matches.

While his career at Tigerland was brief, I will forever remember him for his part in Richmond’s shock win over his former club Essendon at Windy Hill in 1991, a lovely way for Richmond to sign off from that suburban ground. Underwood played an integral part in the win, yet the part I remember most was the picture of him in the paper following the match…hulking arms raised in defiance to his former home crowd as he left the field a winner, the last time he would do so as a league player.

I have been unable to locate this picture, though I was able to find the old match report from the Herald-Sun. “Obviously I wanted to play well against my old club, I had a point to prove. They let me go at the start of the season…I wanted to prove them wrong.” The report went on to say that Underwood gathered 23 possessions off half-back, going through four opponents; Ian McMullin, Michael Long, Tim Watson and flatmate Brad Fox! “Not a word was passed between us.” 

Andrew Underwood signed my book at the 1991 Richmond Family Day/Best & Fairest Count. He was soon to be let go.

With a Little Help from my friends…

@andreamaryb for informing me of the Underwood #12 files

http://stats.rleague.com/afl/stats/players/A/Andrew_Underwood.html

http://www.sturtpics.com.au

Tigers of Old, by Paul Hogan

(Interestingly, though Andrew Underwood was the last player to wear the number 12 before Matthew Richardson, Andrew finishing in 1991 and Mattew starting in 1993, a 1992 record I have lists Reserves coach Peter Schwabb as number 12 for the reserves. The book ‘Tigers of Old’ shows no record of him playing a game for the Richmond seconds, though this happened from time to time due to player shortages.)