2003 08 09 - Bronwyn Evans - Off The Field - Team of the Century

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Team of the Century

Originally posted: 2003 08 09 - 07:39:32 AM

We hustled into the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre to find the foyer awash in black and white with many splashes of red and white and the occasional person who had got it all totally wrong and worn some other colour!

They clearly hadn't read their ticket which clearly stated "Black Tie with a dash of red & white" as the dress. The function was organised for the Banquet Hall ... and that was a great location to be in for the event.

Tables filled this enormous area. We were at table 140, I saw table 160 and there were more beyond. I'm not sure how many people attended, but Richard Colless said there were "almost 2000" and I heard someone else report over 1700. Regardless - it was mighty big function!

The tables were set with white linen and a bowl of red roses. Each person had a program, setting out the menu and program for the evening and with a photo of each player who had been nominated for the Swans TOTC.

Outside in the foyer, I bumped into Julian, was introduced to some of his mates and then my host arrived, so we moved to our table and I found myself seated next to Blind Dog who knew I was next to him before I'd even got there! It's great to see the RWO network growing.

An excited buzz filled the room. The stage was set with huge screens on either side. Large screens were also set up at the back and on the sides of the hall and there were smaller TVs near each of the pillars. This was absolutely necessary given how far many people were from the stage.

Sandy Roberts was our MC, he introduced a great video showing highlights of Swans games through the century. Huge applause greeted the first sightings of Bob Skilton and Paul Kelly and Plugger's 1300th goal. The video finished with a goal from Cressa. We were all revved up, ready for a great night.

Richard Colless, our longest serving Chairman, came to the stage. He welcomed Bob Carr who arrived in from the US the day before and acknowledged Bob Carr's recent support of the Swans (Bron: I think I missed what he did! I thought he ruled out any sort of financial assistance).

The sponsors were welcomed and QBE named as the Sponsor of the Century for their ongoing support and commitment to the Swans. Players and their families were welcomed.

The first of several donations to the Club on the night was announced. Someone anonymously donated a signed photo of the 1933 premiership team to the Club. The Club has an archivist and clearly is taking its history seriously. This donation boosts the growing collection.

Richard commented that when people see the initials SMFC, they immediately think of the Swans. This has a great tradition, but he feels that instead of South Melbourne, people should take it to stand for Sydney Melbourne Football Club in recognition of the long history the Club has of bridging between the two cities. In 1883, South Melbourne played at the SCG.

The Club has a stated aim of raising $10 million over the next three years to become totally self-sufficient. Donations will be tax deductible (Bron: not sure how this works!). Richard announced that ING Real Estate had seeded the foundation with a $100,000 donation.

Moving onto the reason for the evening, Richard stated that the selection panel had ben charged with selecting the best team, without fear or favour, no other considerations. Tomorrow (Saturday), the current team would be playing in replica guernseys of the 1933 premiership team and he expects the same result (Bron: well unfortunately we all know that didn't happen! But there's still hope.)

Bob Carr was introduced and came to the stage to make an address. He reinforced the South Melbourne connection and identified that the Club was born in the same year as Winston Churchill (Bron: so??). He did say that "If you live in Sydney, you support the Swans!" and that to link Melbourne and Sydney, as the Swans do, you have a special place .... a team of skill, grace, sportsmanship, dedication and loyalty. The Club was built on guts, mateship and having a go.

Jim Main, author of the book "Honour the Name", is donating all royalties from the book for the benefit of the Swans. His last objective in his role with sports is for the Swans to win a premiership and "that is bound to happen".

Somewhere around now, we were served our entree, half a marron (WA yabbie) with a pasta on the side and a lovely sauce, very nice.

Onto the presentation of the Swans TOTC ......

As each group of nominees was read out, photos were shown on the big screen. The backline nominees, of whom there were 14,were read out. There were big cheers for Fred Goldsmith, Andrew Dunkley, John Rantall and Ian Roberts.

    • In the back pocket, we have Vic Belcher who played 1907 - 1920. The guernsey was accepted by his grandson, Alan McKinna (sp?). When Vic grew up the local grocer gave you a ride on his cart and a free bun and that's why Vic barracked for South. In the 14 years he played for the Swans, he only missed three games. He died at 88 and was proud that he never drove a car or went to hospital in his life.
    • The next member of the team is John Heriot (1958 - 68). He lived 100 metres over the creek on the wrong side of the tracks to go for South. At 18, he started as fullback. In accepting his guernsey he said that you couldn't receive an honour like this without the help of your mates.
    • John Rantall (1963-72, 76-??) was named in the backpocket. John won the best and fairest in the under 18s in the Geelong region, but was convinced to go to South. Geelong sent him a letter offering him a spot, but South showed up and wooed him with the personal touch. His only regret was not staying with the Swans for all of his career.
    • On the interchange, we have Fred Goldsmith (1951-9), a crowd favourite. He played at either end of the ground and was won of the most popular players ever to have played for the Club. He told the story of being a kid when a big black limo coming down the street after Billy Gunn and they got Fred. He was quite overwhelmed with award - said he was happy to be named in the 60 but to be in the last 25 was beyond his wildest dreams. He was very emotional and said that he was prouder of being in the TOTC than he was when he won his Brownlow medal.
    • As halfback, we have Bill Faul, whose guernsey was accepted by his sons John and Ron. Bill won the Best and Fairest in his first year with the Club. They told the story how, on grand final morning, his boss, Archie Croft who was the local greengrocer, made him work and he then had to make his way to the ground.
    • One centre half back is Ron Clegg (1945-54, 56-60). Ron's wife Billie collected the guernsey. It was such a thrill for her to be here. The women worked behind the scenes to put the team on the field every week with what they raised on Saturday mornings. She told how she couldn't get into the ground when they won the Grand Final because she didn't have a ticket and afterwards, they went to the local dance - there were no functions like today. Ron took 32 marks in a game against Fitzroy in 1951.
    • The other centre half back is Dennis Carroll (1981-93). Dennis' father played for the Saints. His parents were at the function and he told how the award meant everything to him and he couldn't describe what it meant. Dennis couldn't wait to get to Sydney.
    • Next on the interchange is Mark Bayes, now runner for the Brisbane Lions. Mark said that he would have played anywhere to play for the Swans.

Now for a short break in proceedings and the auction of the eight jumpers awarded so far .... wow, is there money in this town!

Vic Belcher ..... $9,000
John Heriot ..... $6,500
John Rantall ..... $10,000
Fred Goldsmith ..... $8,500
Bill Faul ..... ?? sorry I missed this one ??
Ron Clegg ..... $8,000
Dennis Carroll ..... $7,500
Mark Bayes ..... $8,500

It was then announced that two further anonymous donations to the Foundation had been made, one for $150,000 and the other for $50,000.

Stewie Maxfield came to the stage to talk about the current team. They want to earn the respect of the TOTC and want to emulate the deeds of those who won the premiership, in the near future. He spoke of the huge honour to be captain of the Bloods.

We took a break whilst the main course was served - a fantastic piece of fillet steak that was cooked beautifully rare, served on a potato cake with some greens. Whilst this was happening, we saw a video with highlights of 2003 .... Jude kicked a great goal and there were lots of the spectacular play of Leo Barry, Tadhg Kennelly and Barry Hall.

Back to the TOTC ....

    • Next to be named was Daryn Cresswell, on the interchange. Daryn received a standing ovation as he took to the stage. In a not-quite dinner suit, he told of the great honour in being part of the TOTC. He was first picked to play in Geelong, but was homesick for Tassie and went back. The Swans gave him a second chance. His best moments are the 1996 Qualifying Final, taking a great mark and beating Essendon. He said that he had decided to retire at the start of the year because he didn't want to get in the way of one of the young guys, and this was greeted with cheers for one more year.
    • On the wing, we have David Murphy (1984-93). He said he was very emotional and it was like a dream to be named. He saw that the Swans had come such a long way from when he finished his career - so many people!
    • Greg Williams (1986-91) is named in the centre. He told of the knock backs he'd had on the way to playing football. Geelong had kicked him out. The Edelston days were a haze, but by luck or good management there were quality players. He was with the Swans for six years and had a great time, then went to Carlton. He won a Brownlow as a Swan. He was gifted to handball and gifted with the playesr he had around him.
    • Also on the wing is Herbie Matthews Snr. Herb Matthews Jnr accepted for his father. Herb said how it hurt to accept the award for his father who was a South Melbourne and Sydney fan. He never left them and was involved in the red and white for most of his life (and thought he was the best that ever played!).
    • Back to the interchange, we have Harry Clarke (1926-35). This was accepted by his son, Brian. Harry grew up in Ballarat and Herb Matthews' sister lived in the next street. Harry won the Best and Fairest in the 1933 premiership year.

Another $100,000 is donated to the Foundation.

    • Tony Morwood is named in the half forward flank. He found out that he'd made the Swans team for the first time when he read the back page of the Sun. He played on Dipper in reserves first when he made his debut. Tony moved from Melbourne to Sydney with the Club because he was keen socially to stay with the same guys. He sees the move as being one of the best things that he ever did.
    • On centre half forward, we have Laurie Nash (1933-7, 45). His jumper was accepted by his daughter Noelene Deane. Laurie was a sporting star, also playing test cricket. Noelene told how her father kept his footy quiet - she didn't know he played football until she was 12. Laurie kicked 18 goals in one match (with only 4 by half time!). When asked by Ron Barrassi how he managed to kick 18.2, Laurie replied that anyone was entitled to an off day. In 1946, Laurie coached two country teams to a premiership.
    • Next named was a newly shorn Gerard Healy (1986-90). He chose to leave Melbourne because he wanted to go with Ian Roberts, because of the way he spoke to his team mates and his commitment and passion. Gerard always reflected about what was great about this Club - selfless. Gerard named Dougie Cameron physio of the century - apparently Dougie worked on Gerard's groin better than anyone in the history of the game! Gerard wanted to win a premiership, he was welcomed into the group. His eternal regret is not winning the premiership, but being named in the Swans TOTC makes up for it.
Time for another auction ....
Daryn Cresswell ..... $11,000 (first bid was $5,000)
David Murphy .... $9,000
Greg Williams ..... $7,000
Herb Matthews Snr ..... $7,500
Harry Clarke ..... $4,000
Tony Morwood ..... $5,500
Laurie Nash ..... $9,000
Gerard Healy ..... $7,500

And back to the presentations .....

    • Bob Pratt (1930-9, 46) is in the team and accepted by his son, Bob Pratt Jnr. Bob (snr) was a "naturally gifted" player. He kicked 150 goals one year yet didn't win the Best and Fairest. When he questioned this, he was told that "you were spectacular Bob, but you weren't very effective".
    • At full forward, we have Tony Lockett (there is only one!). In '94, Tony was faced with hanging up his boots or coming to Sydney. The Swans threw him a lifeline. He was very grateful. Although making silly decisions in his life, he sees the decision to come to the Swans as one of his best. He had to prove himself and keep his spot after the Caven incident. He sees his most memorable kick as the one in the 1996 qualifying final that put the Swans into the grand final. Getting into the grand final was a great thrill and the boys are now on fire.
    • Paul Kelly is named in the right forward pocket and Vice Captain of the Swans TOTC and greeted with a standing ovation. Kel seemed very cheerful and really into the thrill of the night. After 52 games, he was named captain of the Club. They joked that in his first year, when playing with the number 45 jumper, he was so skinny that he had the 4 on the front and the 5 on the back. Kel mentioned Plugger and Roos and Barrassi as key influences. Kel said that the spirit of our team reflects our ancestors. The team will often run out and talk about the Bloods.
    • Next on the bench is Bill Wiliams. Bill said he was so proud tonight - so many Melbourne supporters had come out for this event, so many Sydney people and all for the one Club. Bill originally wanted to play for Essendon, but when taken by the Swans, the coach told him if you do the right thing for us, we'll do the right thing for you. He ran around with the guys and couldn't leave them. He hopes Paul Roos goes onto win. Bill led the crowd in a loud rendition of Cheer Cheer.
    • The TOTC ruckman is Barry Round. Barry was in Sydney since day 1. His comment was "Eddie eat your heart out". Barry told how he was thought to be in the running for the Brownlow in 79 and stayed sober throughout the event, ready to make an acceptance speech. In 81, he said he had "pig's ass" chance of winning and so got into the grog ... of course that was the year he won and he can't remember who he thanked. His final words ... you don't realise what it's like until you retire. Sydney made the Melbourne guys feel so welcome ... "we love you and we want you to be successful."
    • Peter Bedford is ruck rover. Peter was a real sportsman. He played senior cricket at 13 for Port Melbourne. He joined South Melbourne at 21 and in 1970 took out the Club Best and Fairest and the Brownlow. This was the first broadcast of the Brownlow and there were no women allowed - nothing like it is now. He went to Carlton, having initially been disappointed with the move to Sydney, but is now enjoying his involvement with the Club. Peter said that the reason that the Swans are doing so well is that Paul Roos is creating a harmonious atmosphere that breeds success.
    • On the interchange we next have Mark Tandy. His grandson accepted the award. He was only nine years old when his grandfather died and knew nothing of his success.
    • Also on the interchange is Stevie Wright (1979-92). Stevie played 246 games and kicked 247 goals. He kicked eight goals against the Eagles in 1987, and the Swans were the only team to kick 30 goals in three consecutive games that year.
    • The coach of the TOTC is announced as Jack Bisset.
And the penultimate auction ....
Bob Pratt ..... $9,500
Tony Lockett ..... $12,500 (started at $5,000 then jumped to $10,000)
Bill Williams ..... $6,000
Barry Round ..... $7,000
Peter Bedford ..... $14,000
Mark Tandy ..... $6,000
Stevie Wright ..... $5,500
Jack Bisset ..... $5,000

To conclude, the final auctions are Paul Kelly's jumper. This gets a starting bid of $10,000 and goes for $18,000. Bob Skilton's jumper also starts at $10,000 and rockets to $29,000. Finally, someone with more money than me buys the original painting of the Swans TOTC for $71,000

We left the event at midnight, one of the first to leave! Unfortunately I had an early morning commitment on Saturday. The party rocked on until at least 4am, with many a tad the worse for wear! But all those who made it to the cavalcade the next evening at the SCG looked fine and happy and full of anticipation for a great game .... there the story ends.

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