Hooroo hoodoo - Part 2
When it kissed the “Kardinia Curse” kaput courtesy of a thrilling three-point victory over the Cats on May 13 1972, the Footscray Football Club accomplished what many of the faithful considered Mission Impossible. But rather than bask in the glory stemming from the Bellarine breakthrough, the Dogs’ turned both attention and energy to the following weekend’s assignment – Collingwood, away.
If the 70-kilometre journey down the Princes Highway to Geelong brought nothing but pain to the Scraggers for more than a generation, the half hour cross town trip to Abbotsford proved almost as futile. Any Footscrayite yet to reach their “majority” would’ve struggled to remember spending a winning winter afternoon there. For the record an 11.12-78 to 5.10-40 triumph on August 5 1961 was the clubs most recent success in front of the perennially rowdy Ryder Stand at the time of the May 1972 encounter.
But there was more than just precious premiership points at stake in the impending battle. A lot more. The Prodigal Son was returning home!
Bob Rose is an icon of the Collingwood Football Club. A statue in his likeness greets visitors to the Magpies administrative headquarters on Swan Street. Even though his brilliant 152-game career ended almost 60 years ago, the four-time Copeland Trophy winner is still considered one of, if not the greatest, player to don the famous Black and White vertical striped guernsey. Rose’s time as a player in the nation’s premier footballing competition would come to a sudden and premature end when he accepted an invitation to become captain-coach of Wangaratta Rovers prior to the commencement of the 1956 football season. Under his charge the Rovers would morph from strugglers to stars capturing their inaugural Ovens and Murray league premiership in 1958, adding another pennant two seasons later for good measure. The “Midas” touch obviously impressed his old club and it was Rose whom the Woodsmen chose to succeed two-time premiership coach Phonse Kyne’s at the end of the 1963 season. Advancing to three Grand Finals during his initial eight-season stint as coach, the Pies would come up empty handed, the aggregate losing margin across the trio of deciders a trifling 15 points in total. A “one and done” exit from the 1971 finals series brought the curtain down on his first stint in charge at Collingwood, Rose tendering his resignation shortly thereafter.
Rose’s flight from the nest would coincide with the departure from the Western Oval of Footscray’s favourite son, Ted Whitten, thus ending Whitten’s astounding two decade player/coach affiliation with the Tri-colours. Unable to emulate his memorable on-field accomplishments from the other side of the boundary, EJ’s contract to coach the Bulldogs wasn’t renewed upon the completion the 1971 home-and-away campaign. The revolving door at the Western Oval had barely slowed when Footscray shocked, if not surprised, the Melbourne football public by announcing it had secured the services of Bob Rose to coach the side for the following three seasons.
The enormity of the task facing Bob Rose - to lead the Bulldogs, a team with one solitary pennant (1954) to show for almost half a century toil in the VFL - out of the footballing wilderness was succinctly summed up by Rose’s biographer Steve Strevens years later. In Bob Rose – a dignified life, Strevens noted that whilst Collingwood had problems, Footscray had more in that they were:
….a lowly club, usually beaten, their home was in one of the poorest suburbs in Melbourne and they had only one flag in their history. At least Collingwood made the finals, even Grand Finals, before they lost. At Footscray it was a different story.
You’d be stretched to find fault with Strevens' summation and whilst the trophy cabinet remained bare, the same couldn’t be said for the playing list Rose inherited. Gary Dempsey, George Bisset, Stuart Magee and David Thorpe were amongst the finest players in their respective positions in the competition, Bernie Quinlan, Barry Round, Peter Welsh and Stephen Power had either reached or would soon register the all-important 50 game mark of their blossoming careers and talented youngsters Dennis Collins and Alan Stoneham would make their entry into the ranks of VFL football during his first year on Barkly Street.
Rose’s first afternoon as Top Dog went from acceptable to abysmal within the space of an hour. Trailing by just under two goals at the main break his new boys capitulated during the second half of the season opener against Essendon, the Bombers providing Rose’s former pupil Des Tuddenham the best possible start to his coaching career by smashing the 'Scray, 18.20-128 to 9.13-67, on what turned out to be a miserable Easter Monday. A month later Bob’s boys sat in eighth spot on the 12-team table. Sporting a mediocre two-win/three-loss record, it appeared the Dogs had come down with a severe case of kennel cough. A pitiful percentage of 79.3 didn’t help matters either and a less experienced man might’ve panicked. Despite the ordinary start the new chief enjoyed strong support from the local press, one devoted an editorial column to the early season plight of the locals.
The Advertiser – May 3 1972
The Footscray Football Clubs motto is Cede Nullis. Translated it means “Yield to no one”
Yield to no one?
Judging by the manner in which many of the Bulldogs declined to put any vigour into their play at Hawthorn on Saturday, the motto should be changed to “Go in and get it”. Coach Bob Rose’s general demeanour and enthusiasm has won him a lot of respect, and, he has the backing of the club committee. Now it’s up to the Bulldogs to do the right thing and show they really intend yielding to none.
The broadside appeared to get the response it sought. Three days later the Scraggers outlasted Fitzroy at home, the 22-point victory halting the Lions consecutive win streak against the Dogs at four. Then, as mentioned earlier, came the historic win at the Cattery that put the Puppies on the positive side of the win/loss ledger for the first time in almost 12 months. One ginormous hurdle negotiated, another gargantuan one awaited them. It was time to prove the previous weekend drought breaking win wasn’t a fluke.
The build up to Bob’s homecoming was front and centre in the sports pages of the Melbourne press during the lead-up to Saturday’s hostilities. Senior football writer for the Age, Ron Carter, hinted the chances of a little domestic disharmony would be elevated over the coming days in his mid-week column.
The Age Wednesday May 17 1972
“House ban on football talk”
There’s a gentlemen’s agreement in the Rose house at Mount Waverley this week. Footscray coach Bob and his son Robert, the Collingwood half forward and ruck rover aren’t talking football as they usually do. Neither is giving away any secrets because on Saturday Rose sen will return to Collingwood with his Footscray team to try and beat Robert and his Collingwood mates for four premiership points.
For his part father Bob was playing a dead bat to the continuous stream of questions regarding his return to familiar surrounds
“Manangatang or Collingwood, it doesn’t make any difference to me. All I’ll be interested in will be winning four points for Footscray, my personal feelings won’t come into it.”
When asked how significant the visit to Victoria Park was Rose replied:
“Honestly I wouldn’t say this is the biggest challenge of my football career. Sure, trying to beat Collingwood will be a new challenge, but it will be just one of the many big challenges I’ve had.”
But it obviously did mean more. Rose’s explanation for slipping on his famous number 22 Collingwood jumper prior to the Tuesday night training session was:
“I haven’t put it (the jumper) on for a gimmick, it just happens to be the only clean one I have. The last thing I did before I left Collingwood was to ask property man Ernie Reay for a Magpie jumper with my old No 22 on the back.”
His match day preparation would follow a familiar path in that he would:
“Get there for the start of the reserves match. I’ll use my Collingwood life membership badge to get into the ground.”
Carter’s fellow Lonsdale Street scribe Peter McFarlaine’s piece on the battle of the Roses’ – Warm Return for Rose!, noted that not everyone was looking forward to a potential fairytale return, incumbent Collingwood coach Neil Mann warning his former boss in no uncertain terms that the Magpies intended to show him:
“Collingwood is still a good team, a finals team – a premiership team.”
Mann stating emphatically that:
“It’s not only me, all the players are determined that this lesson will be learnt.”
The announcement of the teams for the weekend clash saw both sides make a couple of changes to the squads that took the field the previous Saturday. Con Britt and Robert Dean returned to the Magpie XVIII, John Vickery was omitted to the reserve bench and Daryl Salmon was denied a chance to play due to injury. The Bulldogs welcomed back Stuart Magee and Stephen Power, defender Trevor Zeltner the third and final “in” of the trifecta of changes. Colin Shaw and Charlie Pagnocollo dropped back to the reserves, Bill Godridge was named 19th man for the “ones”.
Despite entering the match one spot higher on the ladder than their hosts, none of the astute judges in the Melbourne press gave the ‘Scray a snowflake's chance in hell of a third win in succession. The Herald's Friday night preview screamed “Bulldogs won’t crack No2 Hoodoo” with all three pundits Alf Brown, and Johns Goold and Craven picking the Pies. The Age forecast doom for the Dogs – “Rose faces unhappy visit” – the “paper of record” almost unanimous in predicting a pulverising for the Puppies, Paul Kerr being the sole exception in amongst the broadsheets experts to favour Footscray. Kerr was in fact the only tipster amongst the Age (5), Sun News Pictorial (6) and Inside Football (9) experts to throw their lot in with the under-Dogs.
Come match day and the opposing Rose’s made their way to the game together. Upon arrival father and son went their separate ways, Rose the elder venturing into the somewhat foreign territory of the guests change rooms. At half time of the curtain raiser the Footscray coach took the opportunity to lead his players out onto the playing arena to disseminate a little “inside information” on the vagaries of Victoria Park. Considering their recent efforts there the Bullies would’ve welcomed any assistance available, the previous four visits resulting in some fearful flayings, the average losing margin across those encounters a whopping 51 points.
There was one remaining surprise in store for Bob Rose. As he made his way to an unfamiliar “away team” spot in the stand, moments from the impending opening bounce, the Magpie faithful stood and proceeded to give him a warm heartfelt welcome. Anyone who experienced the Collingwood cauldron during the century that it hosted VFL/AFL clashes will be only too aware that it wasn’t a place for the faint hearted. Not only was the décor Black and White, it pretty much summed up the “us and them” philosophy of the parochial Pie patrons.
The Magpies first-year captain Wayne Richardson won the toss and elected to kick to the member’s end of the arena. With neither team forced to make a last minute replacement the match proceeded without any further ado.
“Wee” Georgie Bisset got the Tri-colours on the board early, Stewie Magee followed with a clever snap to double the distance between the two tribes. The Pies clicked into gear; skipper Wayne found brother Max and the younger Richardson registered Collingwood’s initial six-pointer for the afternoon. Bulldog big man Gary Dempsey was controlling the ruck duels across the ground and his quick thinking led to Bisset notching his second major for the quarter. Denis Collins, a mere half dozen games into his VFL career, benefitted from some terrific work from Bob Cockerell, the Braybrook rookie’s shot shepherded through the Yarra Falls end goals to put his side 22 points. With the Scray dominating in all facets of the game, a frustrated Peter McKenna grappled with Zeltner in a little extracurricular activity, the skirmish between the pair one of the rare occasions the crowd was required to gaze down to the Lulie Street end of the ground. A desperately needed goal off Len Thompson’s boot narrowed the margin and at quarter time Collingwood 2.1.13 trailed Footscray 4.5.29.
Carrying on from where they’d left off the Scraggers went for the kill early in the second term. Superb work by Bernie Quinlan and Magee paved the way for Barry Round’s early major. A typically “lairy” snap from the brilliant David Thorpe preceded Les Bartlett’s strong mark and full point conversion. With halftime in sight Footscray’s lead had pushed out to 35 points. Quinlan and Dempsey were grabbing all aerial offerings; Magee, Bisset and Thorpe were absolutely unstoppable at ground level. The odds of a victorious return for Rose were shortening. Belatedly, the home side started getting its hands on the ball, but unfortunately for the locals, Collingwood couldn’t convert possessions into points. McKenna missed two gettable opportunities and if not for late goals from small forwards Ian McOrist and Henry Coles the significant half time margin would’ve been more imposing. The siren sounded and the players trooped of the ground. Mann’s men were back in the contest, but the Bullies would’ve felt satisfied with their first 60 minutes. At half time Collingwood 4.7.31 trailed Footscray 7.6.48.
Interval couldn’t have come at a worse time for the hosts. Having crept within three goals, a quick start after the break was imperative. But, just as they’d done at the start of the first and second periods, Footscray drew first blood thanks to Cockerell kicking truly. The home side then responded with a mark and goal from Big Bob Heard. When a back injury ended Garry Tredrea’s involvement Mann called on John Vickery. Scoring dried up with the game now reduced to an arm wrestle. At one stage an irate McKenna ran down field and tackled two opponents. Umpire John Coates had a stern word, or two, for the popular footballer/children’s TV show host. Thorpe’s second six-pointer for the game widened the Woofers lead to a commanding 26-point gap, but Thompson, who’d battled hard against Dempsey all afternoon, breathed life into a game that had all but slipped out of his clubs reach with a goal shortly before the players adjourned for their final instructions. At three quarter time Collingwood 6.10.46 trailed Footscray 9.11.65.
With the finish line in sight the Dogs were forced to make change, a corked thigh consigning the dashing Stephen Power’s to spectator for the final stanza. Power’s replacement Stephen Boyle would make his VFL debut, the 19-year-old having been recruited from Moe in the clubs country zone of the Latrobe Valley the previous summer.
With less than half an hour remaining in the contest Rose must’ve known his old side would attempt one last crack at snatching an unlikely victory. They needed to score early and often – and they did. McKenna broke his afternoon “duck” within five minutes of the restart, the combatants now separated by a mere 11 points. The smattering of Red, White and Blue daubed fans amongst 23,586 throng were aghast when the Dogs defence turned the ball over in their back half but breathed a sigh of relief when Wayne Richardson failed to convert the “takeaway”. The Pies were pressing; the staggering Scrays sought a steadier. Just as he had on debut two years earlier Rose junior replaced Robert Dean, Mann making his final change in the hope that fresh legs would continue his resurgent’s side desperate lunge for glory. But this was a Bulldog team hell bent on proving the critics wrong. Rose substituted Graeme Austin with Bill Godridge. Minutes later Don Brown marked and converted a difficult shot from the pocket. Rookie Boyle goaled to put the result beyond doubt, the final siren ringing a few moments later.
At full time, the scoreboard read:
For Footscray none were better than Bernie Quinlan, his 18 kick, 9 handball, 6 mark masterclass the difference between the two sides. Prolific on ballers Thorpe (29 kicks/4 hbs), Magee (21 kicks/5 hbs) and Bisset (21 kicks/2 hbs) provided a continuous supply to their forwards. Merrington’s blanketing of McKenna was also a key factor in the Dogs upset victory
Collingwood were well served by their troika of tall timber in Bob Heard, Len Thompson and Ross Dunne.
Footscray: Bisset, Thorpe 2; Bartlett, Boyle, Brown, Cockerell, Collins, Magee,Round
Collingwood: Thompson 2; Coles, Heard, McKenna, McOrist, Max Richardson
There was little doubt what story would dominate Melbourne’s Saturday evening institution The Sporting Globe – “the pink paper with punch” – following the completion of that afternoon’s proceedings:
“It’s Dogs Day”
Bobby Rose went back to Collingwood today and rubbed some of the glamour from his old side. With the double incentive of “doing it for Bob” and attempting to break an eleven year hoodoo the Bulldogs constantly kept a desperate Collingwood out, and after turning for home 19 points up, finished on better to win well.
Fronting the media post-match a humble Bob Rose reflected on what must’ve been one of the most gratifying victories of his storied football career.
What about the additional pre-game pressure associated with his “homecoming”?
“There was a lot of pressure on everybody associated with Footscray today.”
His reaction to the rapturous applause he received prior to the start of the match?
“The emotion welled up inside me, I knew they were Collingwood cheers. I had no doubt I would be welcomed back but I didn’t expect it (the reception) to be so tumultuous. It was probably the proudest moment of my life. To realise I had left Collingwood and been accepted back was a great feeling.”
As for having to deal with countering any influence his son may have had on the result?
“All week I tried to think how I would react when Robert was on the field. I would play it as it came along.”
Having shaken the spectre of previous capitulations at Kardinia and Collingwood and emerged with the maximum eight premiership points for their efforts, all and sundry at the Western Oval would’ve expected the inspiring victories attained within that seven-day period in May would be the catalyst for a push to play finals football later that year. Sadly it proved a false dawn, the inconsistent Scragger team would finish the season with a 50% record, the 11-win/11-loss record good enough for a seventh place finish at the end of the home and away schedule.
During his four-year stint (1972-75) out West, Bob Rose returned to Victoria Park on four occasions, the 24-point victory in 1972 the only time the Bulldogs would “salute the judge” during his tenure. With a little luck Rose’s record from the “visitors” bench could’ve been a lot more flattering. Close loses in ’73 (five points) and ’75 (seven points) bookended the memorable, if not successful, Round 3, 1974 clash. On that overcast April afternoon the Melbourne football public got their first glimpse of the Dogs 17-year-old Latrobe Valley League recruit Kelvin Templeton. Templeton, who’d kicked “the ton” as a 16-year-old for Traralgon the previous winter, lived up to the hype, his impressive six-goal haul on debut almost singlehandedly delivering victory, the Bullies trailing by 13 points when the siren rang. By the end of the decade Templeton had become the VFL’s premier forward, notching a century of goals in 1978, the first of his back-to-back Coleman Medals. In 1980 Templeton became the first key forward to win the Brownlow Medal.
Fast forward to 2015 and the pre-season prognostications of most media mavens suggested todays version of the artist formerly known as Footscray, the Western Bulldogs, was more likely to challenge for a wooden spoon than an invitation to serious September action. Notwithstanding the less than favourable forecast, the Bulldogs under first-year coach Luke Beveridge, are snapping at the heels of the contenders. Recently Beveridge’s charges faced Geelong and Collingwood over consecutive rounds, just as Bob Rose’s men did more than four decades earlier. Unlike their predecessors back-to-back wins proved elusive. A disappointing loss at Kardinia Park was followed by a solid three-goal win over Collingwood, the victory over the Pies ensuring the club retained the Robert Rose Cup*. Currently occupying sixth spot on the ladder, their record of 10 wins/6 losses has laid a solid foundation for a late season push for the play-offs. It’s quite an exciting time for the Boys of the Bulldog breed, and only time will tell whether they can go further than the Litter of ‘72 and extend their commitments to the “pointy” end of the season.
*Robert Rose, the eldest of Bob and Elsie Rose’s two sons, played football for both Collingwood and the Bulldogs and represented Victoria in Sheffield Shield cricket. Many analysts believed Rose was on the cusp on selection in the Australian Test team when he was involved in a car crash on St Valentine’s Day 1974, the injuries sustained leaving him a quadriplegic. Rose passed away in 1999 and since 2000 Collingwood and the Bulldogs have competed for the trophy struck in his honour. The annual match raises awareness for people living with a disability in the community.