Thursday, 3 April 2014

Suburban Days - 1978

Continuing a series on the Western Oval, as footy returns to Footscray this week... a look back at a golden moment on a wind swept day out west.
(Note of thanks to the site, whose archive of images has been mined to produce this tribute to suburban VFL football )

'Kicking the Sweep'
In 1976, Footscray Coach Bill Goggin had taken over the reins from Bob Rose, and lifted the Bulldogs to a finals series in 1976 (where they were bundled out by Geelong).
1977 saw the Bulldogs finish 7th (in the old final 5 system) with 10 wins, a draw and 11 losses.

In 1978, the Bulldogs began a new year with optimism. They had a core of good players, some of whom would become club legends and AFL Hall Of Fame members. Names like;
 - 1975 Brownlow Medalist, six times club best and fairest, Gary Dempsey.
 - 1980 Brownlow Medalist and 2 time Coleman Medalist, Kelvin Templeton.
 - State representative and Footscray captain 1979-81, Geoff Jennings.
 - 157 game player, future Bulldogs coach and VFA Premiership coach at Williamstown, Terry Wheeler.
 - 144 game player, and frequent State representative, Ted Whitten Jnr.
 - 172 game player, State representative and 3 time club best and fairest winner, Ian Dunstan.
1978 was also the first season of football for Bulldogs Hall of Fame Legend, Doug Hawkins, only one of four to have that honour bestowed upon them.
1977 Scanlens footy cards (Personal collection)

But 1978 got off to a bad start for Footscray, with Bill Goggin resigning after 1 game in charge (where Footscray suffered a flogging at the hands of North Melbourne).

For the rest of the season, the club was coached by former player Don McKenzie, and the club finished that season in 11th place with 7 wins and 15 losses.
The club could have fared better over the season, with narrow losses away to St Kilda and Melbourne (both by 7 points) and also Geelong (12 points), and at other narrow losses at home to Collingwood (4 points) and Hawthorn (by 6 points). A season of missed opportunities.

A highlight of that year was a win for the ages against St Kilda, who finished 6th in 1978.

It came on a typically cold and windy day, in front of just over 16,000 people when Footscray 'kicked the sweep' and set a then VFL highest score record of (33.15) 213 points.

And it was a reasonable Saints team that day. They sat in 8th place before the game, and some of the names that day in the red, white and black were;
Rex Hunt, Trevor Barker, Ian Sartori, Jeff Sauru, Russell Greene, Carl Ditterich, Barry Breen, Val Perovic and Garry Sidebottom.
1977 Scanlens footy cards (Personal collection)

Courtesy of the brilliant website "Footscray Not Western Bulldogs", the last quarter of that game is on You Tube (embedded below).

The game is called by Geoff Leek and 'Smooth' Peter Booth, and it is great to hear those voices at the footy again. It must also be said they do a wonderful job of not just calling the footy, but keeping up with all that went on that day.

Not only did Footscray pile on 12 goals in that last quarter, including 8 to Templeton, there was also crowd invasions, complete with police horses.
Also, thinking the game was over, Footscray coach Don McKenzie also ran onto the ground, and St Kilda players also left the ground heading to the change rooms!

That day was also voted by Footscray members, as one of the clubs' top 10 'Whitten Oval Moments', and you can hear a bit of the players perspective by watching this AFL video from a club function.

And as Geoff Jennings says in that club video, at the players next training session (after a big night of 'celebrations') they team posed in front of the scoreboard to mark that special achievement and then record score.

We encourage you to watch this quarter of footy, as it was. A classic example of the raw nature of suburban football that it was in seasons past. Of windy days, and boggy grounds, and of over-exuberant fans.
Its a great document, and a wonderful slice of our footballing heritage.

A few more cast members in 1979 series Scanlans footy card poses.
(Personal collection)

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