Here in Victoria the most popular football code is AFL. Actually, to the faithful it is more of a religion than a sport.
These days footy is big business with things like endorsements and media opportunities making the stars of the game bigger than ever. In the old days though, the players were just blokes who loved a kick and had jobs on a weekday. (I did a post moaning about that very thing yesterday)
What prompted both of these posts was the death of Charlie Sutton recently at the age of 88 (ABC News, Herald-Sun, The Roar). He was captain-coach of the Bulldogs (Footscray) and the captain-coach of their only premiership flag win in 1954.
The blokes who played footy back then were real hard men. They worked all week then pulled on a guernsey on the weekend and were never afraid of a bit of rough play. Fans were hugely loyal, you supported the team where you lived.
I was listening to the radio on the way to work the other morning and people were ringing up to tell their tales of Charlie Sutton.
One man rang and said that as a kid he and his mates, like so many others, would play kick-to-kick in a lane at night. Luckily for them Charlie Sutton lived nearby and would walk past on his way home from work. He would always put down his Gladstone bag and have a kick with the kids before continuing on his way.
Another woman said that her grandfather remembered playing a scratch match with Charlie Sutton in New Guinea during the war.
The Footscray Football Club has very loyal supporters. When financial difficulties threatened a merger in 1989 fans rallied to raise the money to pay off the debt. Although it is now known as the Western Bulldogs many diehards still think of it as Footscray.
You don’t have to be a football fan to see the way the culture has influenced so much of our history. Parents and kids still play kick-to-kick at the park and in the street. Stickers showing football allegiances are on the back of cars, kids proudly wear their scarves or beanies to school when their teams have had a success. People put their kids names down for memberships before they are born. Front fences are painted in team colours for that weekend in September.
You don’t have to love footy to love its history.
Here is a clip of some of the 1954 premiership team (including Charlie Sutton) watching a replay of that match in 2009 with a handful of current players.