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Alan Martin Team Photo 1951
Alan Martin Team Photo 1951


Part:I Alan’s early days at Stawell, Minyip and Golden Point.
Part:II His career at the Western Oval with the Bulldogs.
Part:III Alan’s years in Bendigo.




PART: 1 EARLY DAYS


THE MARTIN FAMILY


Alan Martin was born in the Stawell Hospital in 1928 and was one of six children born to John and Doris Martin. John, better known as ‘Jack’ throughout the district, was a dedicated and respected teacher at the Stawell State School No: 502 from 1927-70. Jack was also a footballer of some repute...

“During those early years, on a Saturday, I watched the Stawell 'Warriors', where my father was vice-captain. They were premiers in 1932 and 1933.” Alan Martin ~’Bulldog Heritage’ Page:62.


The Martin children not only loved games and outdoor fun but excelled in competitive sport. The boys of the family (Alan, Rod, Max and Greg) participated in the various sports of the town while Joan and Lorraine pursued their own interests with varying success in Stawell.

Main Street, Stawell, Vic.Rose Stereograph SLV
Main Street, Stawell, Vic.Rose Stereograph SLV
Stawell, Vic.Rose Stereograph SLV
Stawell, Vic.Rose Stereograph SLV


Max made a name for himself in Maryborough as a footballer and a hard-working league official; he also won fame in athletics as a sprinter and later became a long-serving official of the Victorian Athletic League.

Rod played senior grade football for Stawell FC, under the tutelage of the legendary John Kennedy, and he also carved out a reputation as a high-order batsman in the Stawell, Bendigo, Ballarat and Mornington Peninsula cricket associations and during the Victorian Country Week Cricket Championships.

Joan Martin wasn’t ‘left in the shadows’ when it came to success on the sporting arena. Even from a young age, Joan was a stand-out sportsperson; and as was reported in ‘The Pinnacle’, the magazine of the Stawell High School in 1951…

“We have Vice-Captain of Read House, Joan Martin, in our form, bringing us the honour of an Inter- Champ. She captained the first Basketball and played in the First Tennis….” 1951 Page:9.


Joan took to tennis like a ‘duck to water’ and, in later years, became one of the leading singles players throughout the Wimmera and regional Victoria. It is known that Joan won two titles the Victorian Country Week Tennis Championship.


ALAN’S EARLY YEARS


Alan attended Stawell Primary School and was actually taught by his father. An interesting fact, uncovered in researching this story, was that all six children of the Martin family were taught by their father. No doubt Jack had the ‘inside running’ on parent –teacher nights!

Alan was only fifteen years of age when he was selected to play his first senior game of football for Stawell FC in 1943.From his initial appearance in senior grade football, Alan appeared to be ‘natural’ defender and, more often than not, held down the key position of full back despite his age and lack of experience in open-age football…

“ During the war, many men were away so, during 1944 and 1945, many students played senior football. Jack Rathgaber, Roy Sturgess and Alf Smale are some I remember. In later years, the Stawell Football Club instigated a wall of honour depicting those who originated from Stawell and played Victorian League Football. My uncle, the late Bill Earle, was the first (Melbourne in 1932 and Essendon in 1934 to 1936)...” Alan Martin ~’Bulldog Heritage’ Page:62



ALAN MARTIN PLAYS AT MINYIP


Following in his father’s footsteps, Alan decided to become a teacher and consequently left Stawell and, in 1946, took up the position of *teacher at Rupanyup North State School.

  • Note: Alan was a trainee-teacher, in a one teacher school, which was the accepted appointment system for young teachers in that era of Victorian education.

During that season, Alan played with Minyip FC which was affiliated in the Wimmera FL. The teams comprising the WFL in that post-war era were: Stawell, Murtoa, Horsham, Rupanyup, Jeparit, Nhill, Warracknabeal, Ararat, Dimboola and Minyip.

Wimmera League 1940s MRiley
Wimmera League 1940s MRiley


Minyip FC is a club with a rich history and research shows that the following VFL/AFL players were either recruited from Minyip to the VFL; or played with Minyip following successful VFL careers: Laurie Icke (North Melbourne), the legendary Roy Cazaly (St Kilda / South Melbourne), Eric Zschech (Richmond), Jack Evans (Geelong), Stuart Cameron ( Fitzroy/)Melbourne), Vic Bodsworth (Footscray), Frank Drum (Richmond), Bill McGrath (South Melbourne), Bob Johnston (Collingwood), Clinton Young (Hawthorn / Collingwood), Cyril Suares (Collingwood) and Alan Martin.

Note: Vic Bodsworth, a rover, played five games with Footscray in 1949-50 and was a team mate of Alan Martin during that period. ‘The Age’ (April 1958) reported that Vic was appointed the coach of Minyip for the staggering amount of £25.0.0 (pounds) per week.


BACK TO BACK FLAGS AT GOLDEN POINT


As order was restored and life returned to some ‘normality’ following the cessation of hostilities of World War: II, VFL clubs became more competitive and scoured the bush leagues seeking out ready-made recruits. Regions such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Gippsland were prime ‘hunting grounds’ for the VFL club scouts in the post-war era.

It was during this period that various VFL scouts began to take particular interest in Alan’s performances with Golden Point FC. Alan played in the club’s premiership teams in 1947 and 1948…

“He (Alan Martin) later moved to Ballarat to attend Teachers’ College and played in the local team Golden Point’s 1947 and 1948 premiership teams. It was in these sides that he played alongside Bob Davis who would later become a Geelong legend and one of Martin’s toughest VFL opponents.” ‘Sons of the Scray’ Page: 78.


In 1947 Golden Point, coached by Jack Cotter (ex- Richmond/South Melbourne), defeated Geelong West by more than seven goals to win the pennant. Alan Martin and Bob Davis played in that memorable victory. The scores that day were: Golden Point 12.15.87 defeated Geelong West 5.6. 36. …

“Davis transferred from the Clunes Football Club to Golden Point in 1947. He played 16 games that year and jointly won the club's best and fairest with Len Taylor. He was also instrumental in Golden Point's grand final win that year, when the local team thrashed Geelong West…” ‘Ballarat Courier’


Sporting Globe 2Aug1939 P10 Jack Cotter
Sporting Globe 2Aug1939 P10 Jack Cotter
Football Record V40n22 Finals W2 Bob Davis 12Sep1953 p13
Football Record V40n22 Finals W2 Bob Davis 12Sep1953 p13


The following season, under the leadership of ex-Carlton, Sandy Bay (Tasmania) and Coburg forward, Lance Collins, Golden Point overcame Maryborough ( coached by Ern Coward ex-Essendon) to win back-to-back flags…

“In the Point team were Len Taylor, remembered as the 1946 champion centre half-back for Ararat : Max Smale, of Warracknabeal, who was in the 1947 Maroons' pennant side, and A. Martin and Holloway who came from Stawell.” ‘The Horsham Times’ October 1st 1948.


An interesting aspect of Alan’s final year at Golden Point FC was that, at the end of the 1948 season, Golden Point played a ‘charity match’ against Stawell. The match was organized to raise funds for the Ballarat Childrens’ Orphange; and after a spirited contest Golden Point (10.12.72) overcame Stawell (8.18.66) to win by six points…

“The match was played for Ballarat Orphanage funds and the receipts were £260. It was a splendid performance by Stawell as they had the long trip to face a team playing on its own ground. This was reflected in the first term scores when Point scored 4.7 to nil, but thereafter the Red and Blacks were on top, only to just fail because of inaccurate kicking…” ‘The Horsham Times’ October 5th 1948.


Alan Martin won Golden Point’s Best and Fairest award in 1948 and the publicity surrounding his win intensified several VFL club’s endeavours to secure his signature on the clearance papers. It is known that Carlton FC was dogged in its efforts to gain his services. However, Alan carefully weighed up all the arguments and eventually decided that he would play for Footscray.

1950 Argus Badges Footscray ARFC
1950 Argus Badges Footscray ARFC



PART:2 YEARS AT FOOTSCRAY


ALAN TAKES REG EVENDEN’S NUMBER 19


Alan impressed the Footscray selectors on the track during the pre-season trials of 1949; and was listed to wear the number 19 guernsey which was formerly worn by Reg Evenden. In the history of Footscray Football Club, Reg Evenden is an unsung hero; and it is surprising that not more is known about this reliable and loyal Bulldog full back.

Reg (born 1919) was recruited from the local district in 1938 and made his debut against North Melbourne at the age of 19 years. He played for a decade for the Bulldogs and represented Victoria against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval in 1946.

Footscray Senior Team 1941 Reg Evenden
Footscray Senior Team 1941 Reg Evenden


Reg served in the armed forces during World War:II and, according to the Nominal Roll, Reg Ernest Evenden (Service No: 149546) enlisted with the RAAF on 31st May 1944. His posting at his date of discharge (21st February 1946) was with 1st Communications Unit.

Reg’s returned to Footscray and played on until 1948; his last senior game of VFL football was against Essendon at Windy Hill in Round: 10 that season. He was 29 years of age when he retired and he had played 109 games with FFC and kicked 13 goals. When Alan Martin received Reg’s jumper number at the beginning of the 1949 season, he knew he had a ‘lot to live up to.’


1949 ALAN MARTIN’S VFL DEBUT

Alan was selected to play his first game for Footscray in Round: 3 against Melbourne at the MCG. ‘The Argus’ briefly mentioned Alan’s selection…

“Two new players will make their bow to the football public, Footscray having chosen Martin (Golden Point half- back) and Davies (Chelsea half-forward).” April 29th 1949.


Alan was named on the half back flank but also had a stint at full forward late in the game. It must have been a marvellous occasion for Alan that day as…

“Had never even seen a league game the day he pulled on a Bulldog guernsey and ran down the MCG race to play…” ‘Sons of the Scray’ Page: 78.


Alan was 21 years of age and the Footscray team had two teenagers (Bill Davies and Jack Storey) in the line-up for that match. ‘Scray stalwart Arthur Olliver was the playing-coach in 1949 but he was forced to withdraw from the line-up because of a poisoned finger; his place was taken in the team by Bob Reid. Other well-known VFL identities in the Footscray side included Len McCankie, Wally Donald, Charlie Sutton, Dave Bryden and a brilliant wingman named George McLaren.

Argus 1949 Footscray Team - (Alan Martin - Middle Row, third from left
Argus 1949 Footscray Team - (Alan Martin - Middle Row, third from left


Alan had a tough initiation into VFL ranks that day as Melbourne was rarely challenged after the first quarter and went onto to record a comfortable victory by 52 points. Key Demon forward Lance Arnold kicked seven goals in an impressive performance for Melbourne and Bill Scanlan bagged three for the Bulldogs.

It is recorded that Alan was moved to full back late in the game and, despite the one-sided affair, the over-worked Footscray defence received a degree of praise in the ‘Sporting Globe’….

“…Craddock replied for the Demons and again asserting themselves. Melbourne worried the tired Footscray defenders who, though well beaten, were putting up a fighting finish.” April 30th 1949.



ALAN WINS A TROPHY


Alan played 17 games that season and missed two matches through injury. It is recorded that throughout six years of VFL football, Alan was never omitted from the senior team because of ‘poor form.’

Alan’s ‘break-out game’ was against South Melbourne in August at the Western Oval; and he received accolades for his efforts when moved to the centre late in the game. Footscray trailed the Swans at the final break and Alan’s masterly display was a major factor in the Bulldog’s last quarter surge ….

“Switched to centre in the last quarter, Alan Martin swung the game in Footscray's favour against South. His heady work played a big part in the Bulldogs' victory. Martin previously played in defence for Golden Point and Minyip. After his brief appearance in the centre it looks certain he will become the Bulldogs' permanent centre-man.” ‘Sporting Globe’ August 10th 1949.


On that day, the ‘Sporting Globe £100 Player of the Season’ votes for that game went to:


Alan won the club’s Best First Year Player award in 1949 and had gained a reputation as a reliable and consistent back man. Footscray finished ninth that season with seven wins and Wally Donald, who was recruited from Braybrook FC in 1946, won the club’s Best and Fairest award. Alan Martin polled four votes in the Brownlow Medal which was an indication of how well he had coped in the ‘big-time’ in his first season.


1950- MR CONSISTENCY


During the led-up to the opening round of the 1950 season, it appeared as though the Footscray ‘brains trust’ had toyed with the idea of using Alan Martin as a centre man. Strong opinion existed that Alan (180 cm) had the skills and ‘know-how’ to play midfield…

“Footscray selectors are making some interesting experiments in the main practice game tomorrow, the principal one being the testing of the ruck prowess of two young players. The players are Alan Bulman and Tom Miller, who each played a few games last year….Alan Martin, who played in the centre in the last few games, will be given an opportunity of retaining that position. He will have Colin Missen, a talented young player from the seconds, as his opponent.” ‘The Argus’ March 24th 1950.


1950 was an extremely disappointing season for Footscray and, despite the best efforts of Arthur Olliver, the club could only muster five wins and slipped back to tenth position on the VFL Ladder.

However, for Alan Martin the season was one of consolidation and improvement and he enhanced his reputation with some fine performances during that season. Percy Taylor of the ‘The Argus’ described Alan in the following fashion…

“Alan Martin , who came to Footscray from Stawell, via Golden Point…was a successful full back in the Ballarat League, and played more often than not in defence during his 17 games in the senior side last year. He is a good mark, an excellent kick, and can dispose of the ball adequately. Alan is a physical training teacher in the Education Department, and recently helped Arthur Olliver, the coach, by taking charge of the training on one night when it was too wet to go outside. He is single, and is living in Footscray.” July 8th 1950.


Alan kicked his first VFL goal against Essendon at Windy Hill that year and, in his tally of eight career goals, he kicked seven in 1950. He also won the FFC’s Best Clubman trophy; but the season ended on a sad note as Footscray’s resolute and stalwart Arthur Olliver stepped down as the club’s captain and coach.


ARTHUR OLLIVER: THE MAINSTAY


1948 Kornies Victorian Footballers - Arthur Olliver Source:ARFC
1948 Kornies Victorian Footballers - Arthur Olliver Source:ARFC


Arthur had joined Footscray in 1933. He had played 271 games and kicked 355 goals and it was once said by Hector De Lacy (‘Sporting Globe’) that…

“Olliver is in the main Footscray…not only has he been a mainstay of Footscray winning many games almost by his own outstanding efforts….”


VFL records indicate that Arthur had coached Footscray for a total of 131 games, including three finals, in two stints (1943-46) and (1948-50); and had a win-loss ratio of approximately 53%.

Arthur’s retirement was a massive blow to the club’s stocks but things went from ‘bad to worse’ when hardened veterans Len McCankie, Marty McDonnell (born in New Zealand) and Evan Rees also ‘hung up their boots’ at the end of the 1950 season. Considering that the four retirees had played a combined total of 586 games, they were ‘some very big boots to fill’ and the future looked problematic for the Bulldogs.


CHARLIE SUTTON IS APPOINTED COACH


1948 Kornies Portraits - Charlie Sutton Source:Ebay
1948 Kornies Portraits - Charlie Sutton Source:Ebay


After deliberation, the Footscray committee turned to Charlie Sutton to take over the reins at the Western Oval. The task of selecting a new club coach, at any level of football, can be a minefield as it can often ‘blow up in one’s face.’

The appointment of Charlie must have been a subject of lengthy and serious discussion as the club appeared to be at a ‘fork in the road’; and any error in judgment by the FFC committee, on such an important position, could lead the Bulldog further into ‘football wilderness.’

However, the decision to appoint Charlie Sutton, as coach, would prove most insightful and, as the record books show, Charlie would later deliver Footscray to the ‘promised land’ and unbridled joy in 1954.


TED WHITTEN SIGNS ON AT FOOTSCRAY


1953 Argus Football Portraits Ted Whitten
1953 Argus Football Portraits Ted Whitten


When Alan Martin and his team mates commenced pre-season training in 1951, they were joined, on the track, by a teenager (seventeen years) named Ted Whitten. There is evidence to suggest that Collingwood’s coach in 1950, Phonse Kyne failed to be convinced about the merits of signing Ted and consequently the Bulldogs snapped up the ‘young boy from Braybook.’

Phonse probably suffered nightmares, or at least insomnia, about his poor judgment for a long time after Footscray defeated Collingwood by five points at Victoria Park in Round: 10 that season. On that day, Ted kicked a goal and his clever hand pass to Reg Egan set up another crucial major for the Bulldogs.

There is little that this story can add to what is already known about Ted Whitten but, as time would reveal, Ted would earn the title of ‘Mr Football’ and would come to be regarded the game’s greatest showman and one of Australia’s most popular celebrities.

1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Sutton Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Sutton Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Mccankie Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Mccankie Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Donald Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Donald Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Reardon Source:ARFC
1951 Kornies Footballers In Action Reardon Source:ARFC



A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION


Charlie Sutton’s team started the 1951 season well with a spirited one point win over Richmond at Punt Road. The Tigers were coached by ‘Captain Blood’ (Jack Dyer) and his team had a good smattering of experienced stars including Col Austen, Don Fraser, Bill Morris, Billy Wilson, Roy Wright, Max Oppy and Ray Poulter. The Bulldogs side had four debutantes that day (Ted Whitten, Len Kent, Peter Box and Brian Willis) and a handful of ‘raw’ youngsters including Don Henderson, Herb Henderson, Jack Collins and Frank McRae.

Footscray’s win was full of merit and put the club on the right foot from the word ‘go’ under its new leader….

“Outstanding feature of the Richmond-Footscray game on Saturday was the brilliant League debut of two Footscray colts-Whitten and Kent. This new combination should develop into one of the League's outstanding half-forward lines. It will be a threat to all-comers. Coupled with this, the inspired leadership of Sutton, Footscray's new captain and coach, helped the visitors to fight back tenaciously and go on to a well-deserved one- point victory.” ‘The Argus’ April 31st 1951.


Charlie Sutton was a spirited footballer and a ‘no-nonsense’ coach who, in one season, lifted Footscray out of the doldrums and into the 1951 final series.


ALAN MARTIN PLAYS IN A VFL FINAL


Footscray stunned the pundits with its meteoric rise up the ladder under the inspirational leadership of Charlie Sutton. The week leading up to the Semi-Final was dominated by two sensational issues; and the actual game took a back seat as the stories broke and then swamped the newspapers columns that week.

Firstly, on the eve of the finals Essendon’s brilliant forward, John Coleman, was suspended for four matches, by the Independent Tribunal, following an ugly incident involving Carlton’s Harry Caspar in the Round: 17 clash. The consequent hearing received unprecedented publicity and created uproar as was/is seldom seen in football circles.

The second matter, which generated great comment and consternation, involved Footscray’s Ted Whitten who, at that time, was undertaking compulsory national service training. Football writer Graeme Atkinson described the situation as follows…

“Eighteen-year-old Ted Whitten appeared in his first finals game only due to the intervention of the Prime Minister Mr. Menzies. Whitten, on national service, had previously been refused leave for the day of the game.”


It will never be known how many votes Mr Menzies won from the ‘Footscray electorate’ that day; but Ted played and John Coleman did not.

The enthusiastic and talented Bulldogs met Essendon in the First Semi- Final at the MCG before a crowd of 66,135 fans. Without John Coleman Essendon struggled; and it was mainly due to the fine efforts of Roy McConnell, Norm McDonald and Alan Dale that the Bombers narrowly dodged an ‘early exit’ from the finals.

Despite the loss, Charlie Sutton’s young brigade was described as ‘gallant’ in defeat and had shown that his team possessed the ‘where-with-all’ to match it with the best in the competition.

In that final, Alan Martin played his 51st game on the half back flank. Bill Scanlan was named at centre half back and Jim Gallagher took the other flank. Alan’s direct opponent that day was Jack Jones. Jack (183cm) was a fine mark, a useful second-string ruckman and deadly goal kicker if allowed space. However, Alan acquitted himself well and restricted Jack to just one goal.

1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 061 Collins Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 061 Collins Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 062 Bryden Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 062 Bryden Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 063 Wearmouth Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 063 Wearmouth Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 064 Box Source:ARFC
1952 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor005 064 Box Source:ARFC



CHARLIE SUTTON’S BLUEPRINT


In 1952, Footscray FC hit football’s ‘slippery slope’ and finished the season with a mere five wins and the fans were asked, with some justification… “Was 1951 a flash in the pan?”

However, Footscray’s win -loss ratio during that season wasn’t the whole story. Three things happened in 1952 that were crucial in setting the direction of the club for the next couple of seasons…

  1. The recruitment and ‘blooding’ of players such as: Roger Duffy (Newtown N.S.W) , Brian Gilmore (Yarraville) , Roy Harper (Sandringham), Don Ross ( Albury) , Stan Beal (Ringwood), Allan Rogers (Rochester), Doug Reynolds (Spotswood), Frank Aked Jnr (son of Frank Aked), Eddie Phillips (Sunshine), Ray Crozier (Morwell), John Edwards (Blackrock), Bob Slater (Maidstone) and Ian Foreman from Braybrook FC.

    Charlie Sutton turned over more than a dozen young recruits that season in the hope of finding a ‘couple of nuggets’; and his efforts weren’t wasted as several would later become VFL stars in their ‘own right.’

  2. Youngsters Jack Collins, Arthur Edward, Herb Henderson, Alan Martin, Peter Box, Ted Whitten, Alby Linton and Jim Gallagher were emerging as ‘seasoned warriors’ in this period and on ‘ their day’ were proven match winners. Along with the hardness and leadership of the club’s ‘first tier’ players such as Charlie, Harvey Stevens, Wally Donald and Dave Bryden it was plain to see that Footscray had a team with the balance, skill and experience to overcome any challenger.

  3. The third thing that Charlie Sutton was putting in place, in this period as senior coach, was an impenetrable backline that would become the foundation of the club’s future success.

1952 Argus Footscray Team (Alan Martin, Second from top in first column) Source:ARFC
1952 Argus Footscray Team (Alan Martin, Second from top in first column) Source:ARFC


ALAN MARTIN PLAYS AT YALLOURN IN 1952

One of the highlights in June that season (1952) was the ‘National Day’ when VFL teams played matches, for premiership points, in various locations throughout Australia. Richmond played Collingwood at Sydney; Fitzroy met Melbourne at Hobart; North Melbourne played South Melbourne in Albury; and Carlton travelled to Euroa to take on Hawthorn. Unfortunately, the fixture set for Brisbane (Geelong v Essendon) was postponed because of a torrential downpour and it was forced to be played on the following Monday.

On ‘National Day’, Footscray travelled to Yallourn to play St Kilda, and in the words of the former secretary of Yallourn Football Club, Jack Huxtable…

“On that day, 3500 people packed the Yallourn Oval to witness the match. Despite the logistics involved, the club did ‘not miss a beat’ in making the day a resounding success for VFL players, officials and the spectators. …‘and the organisation was good enough to cope with heavy downpour that took place during the match.”


The wet weather didn’t dampen the spirit of the locals who attended (in rubber boots and coats) but the deluge, mud and slush prevented the game from being the ‘spectacular promotion’ that the VFL had anticipated.

In a slogging and low-scoring affair, St Kilda 7.7. 49 defeated Footscray 5.4. 34. Ted Whitten kicked two goals and, according to Jack Huxtable, ‘young Ted’ appeared to thrive in the heavy conditions. The St Kilda FC website story, regarding that ‘clash in the quagmire’, alluded to Alan Martin’s fine performance despite the woeful conditions…

“Few players could handle the wet ball, but exceptions were Alan Squire with splendid ruckwork and safe marking, Nick Bloom, and Des Nisbet of St Kilda and Alan Martin and Wally Donald who were strong defenders for Footscray.”


An interesting aspect of that match in Gippsland was that Wally Donald was named as playing coach in the absence of Charlie Sutton. According to the available statistics, Wally coached Footscray for three games during his career at Footscray.

Age 2 May 1952 P14 Wells At Footscray
Age 2 May 1952 P14 Wells At Footscray



THE GREAT WALL OF FOOTSCRAY


In that era, Alan Martin, Dave Bryden, Herb Henderson, Wally Donald and young Ted Whitten and Jim Gallagher were to gain a reputation as the strongest backline in the VFL competition. Dick Reynolds once described the ‘back six’ at Footscray as the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’…

BulldogsHeritage Donald,Henderson Bryden Martin Whitten Gallagher P64
BulldogsHeritage Donald,Henderson Bryden Martin Whitten Gallagher P64


“Now I have seen every team in the League this season I feel that I am in a position to make such a prediction. Its extraordinary defence was the most marked feature of its play against our team. The defence, which has kept the points against Footscray to the lowest for any side, never wilted against us. It was this factor, and a remarkable finish that gave the Bulldogs the points. Never have I seen John Coleman kept so quiet. On Saturday's form Herb Henderson impressed me as the outstanding full back of the year. He checked Coleman because he kept such a close watch on him, and tackled him from the right position all through the match. His spoiling tactics were excellent and he showed good judgment. But Henderson was not the "only pebble on the beach," Jim Gallagher, Ted Whitten, and Alan Martin formed a half-back line that was "Gibraltar like" in its efficiency. ‘The Argus’ 6th July 1953.


In those days, match-day statistics were rudimentary and ‘not a patch’ on the clinical analysis and detailed data used by coaching panels in modern football. However, Charlie didn’t need figures to tell him of the importance of a sound defence in winning matches; the numbers on the scoreboard were all that mattered to Charlie.

As the highly respected football coach/adviser/ tactician, David Wheadon, surmised some fifty years later …

”When it comes to picking the winner of the two teams in a Grand Final, statistics show the team which has the least points kicked against it for the season has a 70% chance of taking out the Premiership”


Charlie Sutton knew instinctively that Ted Whitten, Alan Martin, Wally Donald and company had the collective will and ability to shut down any opposition forward line when the day came!

1953- ONE STEP CLOSER


In 1953 things ‘clicked’ and the Bulldogs played an enterprising brand of football and bounced back to third on the ladder with thirteen wins. Bearing in mind, David Wheadon’s theory (* see above) Footscray’s backline was by far the tightest and toughest in the competition. In the home and away series, opposing teams could only manage a total 959 points (an average of about 53 points) per game.

Argus Football Team Footscray 1953 (Alan Martin, Middle row, Second from Right
Argus Football Team Footscray 1953 (Alan Martin, Middle row, Second from Right


As a measure of the Footscray defensive skills, the VFL results from that season reveal that in Round: 4 Footscray held Melbourne to 4.6.30; in Round: 7 Fitzroy kicked one solitary goal and then in Rounds: 10 and 14 (North Melbourne and Hawthorn) the Footscray backline held the opposition to a miserly three goals.

One source rated Footscray’s performance in 1953 as the best defensive effort in VFL football for thirty years. The Footscray half back line of a Martin- Whitten-Gallagher won wide acclaim for its brilliance throughout that season and in July ‘The Argus’ reported...

“Most interesting clash of the day will be between Geelong's fast moving half-forward line and Footscray's first class half-back line. Bob Davis, Rayson and Flanagan will thoroughly test Alan Martin, Ted Whitten, and Jim Gallagher.”


The trio was making an impression and the Bulldogs’ half back line had become the ‘springboard of attack’ and a nightmare for opposing forwards.

1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 017 Whitten Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 017 Whitten Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 018 Scanlon Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 018 Scanlon Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 019 Duffy Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 019 Duffy Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 020 Linton Source:ARFC
1953 Kornies Footballers In Action Tckor006 020 Linton Source:ARFC



BEN KERVILLE’S ARTICLE IN THE GLOBE


In July 1953, Ben Kerville of the ‘Sporting Globe’ wrote an article regarding the Footscray half back line. The following lengthy extract is from Ben’s story and refers to Alan Martin’s long kicking, reliability and also his square dance calling….

“More pace, better co-operation, intelligent backing-up— these are the secrets of the Footscray defence, least scored against in the League this season.…Addition of Ted Whitten has added dash, indeed brilliance, to the half-back line. On either side of Whitten are the reliable Jim Gallagher and Alan Martin. The understanding between this trio is good to see. They never cross each other’s paths, never fly for marks together and they back up perfectly. 25-year-old Education Department PT instructor (and casual square dance caller) Alan Martin: “Our defence begins well downfield…”

Of the trio, perhaps Martin has the best disposal. He drives raking drop-kicks straight into enemy territory with telling effect. Gallagher is solid… Whitten's the gay blade—the dynamic player with pace and aerial ability to burn…. "July 15th 1953.



THE FINALS OF 1953.


Alan Martin had another successful season in 1953 but injury struck in the Round: 17 clash against St Kilda; and he was unable to take his place in the line-up against Essendon in the First Semi-Final. Footscray won in a low scoring affair with Peter Box, Ted Whitten and Lionel ‘Nappy’ Ollington serving the Bulldogs well in a riveting contest. ‘Nappy’ played only a handful of senior games of football for Footscray but on that day he kicked a most telling goal in the scheme of things.

Alan trained well the following week …

“Alan Martin, star Footscray defender, probably will return to the side for the preliminary final on Saturday week. Martin and his co-half- back flanker Jim Gallagher, missed the first semi-final because of injuries. 'Gallagher has a damaged ' thigh muscle, and at the moment is still unlikely to be ready for the final. Martin, with torn ligaments of the ankle, is improving steadily under treatment. Doughty rover - captain, Charlie Sutton, who played so well on Saturday despite the handicap of a severe cold, has almost recovered.” ‘The Argus’ September 1953.


The Preliminary Final against Geelong was an anti-climax for FFC as the Cats fought back determinedly, in the wind and rain, during the second half to win by 26 points. Geelong’s brilliant defender Geoff Williams was the star of the game and up forward Bill McMaster booted four match-winning goals in a low scoring affair. Although being defeated the Bulldogs had created some history…

“The 1953 Bulldogs, however had the satisfaction of being the Footscray team to get past the first Semi-final.” Graeme Atkinson.



A TRIP TO PERTH


Following the 1953 finals campaign, Footscray travelled to Perth to play an exhibition match against the WA premiers, South Fremantle. ‘The West Australian’ newspaper gave great prominence to the match and Alan Martin was described in the papers’ pen sketch as…

“Footscray, which fought its way to the Victorian league football final, will be represented by 26 players in Perth this week. The team will arrive on Fri day by train and will play matches against South Fremantle at Subiaco Oval on Saturday and at Bunbury on Sunday…..ALAN MARTIN. Half-back, 25.5.11, 12.0: Dashing defender. Came to Footscray as a centre man and experience gained there and when occasionally played in attack has given him versatility.” ‘The West Australian’ October 13th 1953.


The results would have shocked some Footscray supporters as South Fremantle (19.16.130) had little trouble in overcoming Footscray (11.18.84). Jack Collins kicked four goals that day and Footscray’s best players were listed in the match review as Bryden, Collins, Whitten, Henderson and Stockman.

Sporting Globe 21 Oct 1953 P3 Alan Martin, Ron Stockman at Perth
Sporting Globe 21 Oct 1953 P3 Alan Martin, Ron Stockman at Perth


In 1953, Harvey Stevens won club’s Best & Fairest award and *Jack Collins won the goal kicking trophy with 50 goals. Jack, who was recruited from Yarraville in 1950, played at centre half back in his early days at the Western Oval.

  • Note: Some readers may not be aware that Jack Collins actually represented Victoria in three positions…centre half back, centre half forward and, later, at full forward. Jack won Footscray’s goal kicking award on five occasions and also won FFC’s Best and Fairest in 1951 and 1952.


ALAN MARTIN HITS THE DECK AND THE HEADLINES


Footscray had travelled a ‘hard and bumpy road’ since the club joined the VFL in 1925. In the period 1925 -50, the club had played in the finals on only five occasions while finishing in the bottom three of the ladder nine times.

For the ‘Footscray faithful’, 1954 was a season to remember as the club realized its full potential; and, despite a faltering start, Charlie Sutton’s Bulldogs ‘hit their straps’ and played a scintillating brand of football.

In Round: 3 Footscray defeated South Melbourne by 87 points; and the following week secured a hard-fought victory over Carlton by eleven points. Jack Collins kicked 17 goals in those two rounds and, as the spearhead, became a reliable target up-forward and, in turn, he galvanized Footscray’s attack.

Age 13 Sep 1954 P14 - Harvey Stevens, Alan Martin, Peter Pianto
Age 13 Sep 1954 P14 - Harvey Stevens, Alan Martin, Peter Pianto
Age 26 Jul 1954 P14 - Alan Martin, Ron Branton, Bob Dummett
Age 26 Jul 1954 P14 - Alan Martin, Ron Branton, Bob Dummett


Alan Martin played 20 games that season and received accolades for his fine play across half back. He also hit headlines when he was hospitalized after some heavy attention in the match against Fitzroy at the Western Oval in Round: 8…

“Martin was grassed deliberately with a hefty back-hander, and play was held up till order was restored. This stirred the Bulldogs and they ran to the lead…”‘Sporting Globe’ July 5th 1954.


Alan was concussion and also suffered lacerations to the forehead that day. Two Fitzroy players, Alan Gale and Don Ross, were reported in the fracas that followed the incident and they ‘fronted’ the tribunal. Alan and Don received stiff match penalties (four games each) which was some indication of the serious nature of the altercation…

“The Victorian Football League Tribunal last night disqualified Fitzroy followers Ken Ross and Alan Gale from playing in the next four premiership rounds. Both were found guilty of striking in last week's match against Footscray...and Footscray half - back flanker Alan Martin were dismissed. Ross and Gale each denied umpires' claims that they had struck Martin in separate incidents…Field umpire Rowe, who laid the charge against Ross said he had seen the Fitzroy player strike Martin in the face with a clenched fist during the first quarter.” ‘The Argus’ June 9th 1954.


Although Alan was taken to the Footscray hospital and kept under observation during Saturday evening, he was back at training making ready for the big clash at Kardinia Park for the Queens’ Birthday fixture…

“Alan Martin was detained in Footscray Hospital until 10 p.m. on Saturday night with concussion. One stitch was inserted in a wound on the forehead. He improved over the weekend, and should not miss a game.” ‘The Argus’ July 8th 1954.


The above round (8) also has great significance in VFL history as it was on that day that John Coleman suffered a career- ending knee injury. It was cruel end to the playing days of a ‘once in a life time’ full forward.


THINGS COME TOGETHER AT THE WESTERN OVAL


In 1954 Charlie Sutton drew all the threads together to weave a winning combination. The Bulldogs won eleven games in a highly competitive season and climbed to second position on the ladder at the end of the minor rounds. Geelong (13 wins), North Melbourne and Melbourne made up the Final Four that season.

Footscray Team 1954 Charles Boyles Source:Private Collection
Footscray Team 1954 Charles Boyles Source:Private Collection


Once again, the Footscray defence had kept opposing forwards to the lowest number of points (1095) in the competition that season. Not only had Alan Martin and his co-defenders played their role to perfection; but there was good spread of goal kickers which indicated the Bulldogs had the potential to boot a winning score in the ‘pressure cooker’ atmosphere of VFL Finals football.

Jack Collins kicked 84 goals that season and the won VFL trophy; and he received substantial support from Harvey Stevens (26), John Kerr (20), Brian Gilmore (19), Peter Box (15) and Roger Duffy. Roger, who was recruited from Newton FC (Sydney), chipped in with 15 goals, was a stand-out in 1954 and polled seven votes in the Brownlow Medal. The only other Footscray players to gather more medal votes were Harvey Stevens (14), Jack Collins (12) and Ted Whitten who collected nine votes from the umpires that season.

In the club voting Alan Martin was runner-up to Jack Collins and this again underlined Alan’s quiet efficiency and defensive skills. It was mighty effort by Alan considering that the Bulldog’s brilliant champion Ted Whitten finished third in the award that season.


FOOTSCRAY OVERCOME THE FAVOURITES


Footscray supporters were on tenterhooks when Charlie Sutton was forced to withdraw from the team selected to play Geelong in the Second-Semi Final because of a strained knee ligament. Charlie’s absence appeared to have a big effect on the Bulldogs as Geelong peppered the goals in the first stanza. Graeme Atkinson praised Footscray’s defence …

“Geelong looked good, despite the tricky breeze but the strong Footscray defence ….was equal to the occasion.”


The second quarter saw an ‘arm wrestle’ develop but the Bulldogs steadied and found avenues to goal. At three quarter time, the scores were level but with aid of the breeze and some strong forward work the Bulldogs kicked four goals, to win a berth in the 1954 Grand Final.

The margin of 23 points would have been considerably wider except for the fact that the Footscray kicked nine behinds in the last term. Harvey Stevens toiled manfully for the Bulldogs and Jack Collins kicked 4 goals. Alan Martin played well again across half back and was listed among Footscray’s better players in ‘The Advertiser’…

Footscray 11.19 (85) defeated GeeIong 8.14 (62).

Goal kickers for Footscray: Collins 4 Kerr 2 Stevens 2 Gilmore Duffy Edwards.
Goal kickers for Geelong: Goninon 2, Sharp. Flanagan Palmer Tresize Davis McMahon.

Best players for Footscray: Box. Stevens Whitten Ross Duffy Bryden Martin Collins
Best players for Geelong: Williams Hovey Davis Smith Tresize Sharp.


LIONEL RYAN MISSES THE BIGGEST DAY IN FOOTSCRAY’S HISTORY


Melbourne surprisingly defeated Geelong in the Preliminary Final and won the right to ‘face off’ against Footscray for the 1954 VFL flag.

Things looked promising at the selection table when Charlie Sutton declared that he was fit and ‘rearing to go’ in the biggest game of his life. However, every Grand Final brings a hard luck story; and in 1954 *Lionel Ryan, a promising nineteen year old, was the odd-man-out and he was omitted from Footscray’s Grand Final team.

Lionel (ex-Woomelang FC) had been troubled with knee soreness during the finals series and was named as an emergency for the Grand Final. One can only imagine his deep disappointment and mixed emotions that weekend.

  • Note: Lionel played 32 games with Footscray between 1954-57 and it is known that he was appointed coach of the Wodonga FC in 1961-62-63. An interesting coincidence with FFC is that Wodonga FC is also known as the ‘Bulldogs.’ Lionel is the grandfather of former Swans star utility player Ryan O’Keefe. It is also documented that Lionel played with the Lilydale FC.


FOOTSCRAY’S FIRST EVER GRAND FINAL LINE-UP


With Charlie’s inclusion the Bulldogs were at full strength. Melbourne, on the other hand, lost the ever-reliable Peter Marquis (ex-Tasmania) who broke down at training that week.

The Footscray line-up that day was…

B:Wally DonaldHerb HendersonDave Bryden
HB:Alan MartinTed WhittenJim Gallagher
C:Ron McCarthyDon RossDoug Reynolds
HF:Roger DuffyPeter BoxRon Stockman
F:Brian GilmoreJack CollinsCharlie Sutton (c)
Foll:Harvey StevensArthur EdwardsJohn Kerr
19th and 20th : 20th Jack Nuttall Angus Abbey


Footscray Football Club 1954
Footscray Football Club 1954



COMETH THE HOUR -COMETH THE MAN


Numerous accounts have been written about the 1954 Grand Final and most suggest that Charlie Sutton played an unparalleled role in steering his team to victory that day. Noted football historian, Jim Main wrote…

“…Charlie Sutton…was as tough a nut to crack as any in the competition and now he demanded nothing less than total dedication from all his Bulldog pups….Melbourne was upset by Sutton’s ferocious attack on the ball and the Bulldog, leader determined to set the perfect example…”


Argus 27-Sep-1954 p1 Footscray
Argus 27-Sep-1954 p1 Footscray


Norm Smith, Melbourne’s astute coach, had done his homework on the composition of Charlie’s team and when Noel Clarke kicked the Demon’s first goal at the eleven minute mark of the game, things looked promising for the Redlegs.

However, Footscray hit back immediately. Jack Collins kicked the next two goals and the shackles were broken; and from that juncture the Bulldogs took firm control. Charlie Sutton played his role to perfection…

“Sutton using his weight freely put Barassi down and niggled his own opponent, Beckwith to such an extent that Beckwith was moved away and Melbourne skipper came down to mind the rugged Bulldog leader.” ‘Courage Book of Finals.’


Another source embellished the situation about Charlie’s uncompromising attitude to any player in a red and blue guernsey…

“…Sutton, pumped up to bursting point went straight and flattened Ron Barassi, John Beckwith and Geoff Collins…”


The truth is that Charlie upset Norm Smith’s ‘apple cart’ that day and goals to John Kerr and Harvey Stevens flummoxed the Demon’s defence and the Bulldogs led by 29 points at the first break. Melbourne was on the back foot for the remainder of the game and, despite the spirited efforts of Ron Barassi, Laurie Mithen and Ian McLean, Footscray won every quarter and ran away to win its first VFL pennant.

It was a crushing victory and Footscray 15.12. (102) doubled Melbourne’s score 7.9. (51) that day.

A crowd of more than 80,000 attended the MCG but even the most ardent Melbourne fan could not deny that the better team had won the battle. A measure of the Footscray’s tight defence was that Melbourne was limited to just seven goals for the entire game and the Demons did have not one multiple goal scorer ….

“…the Bulldog defence kept its reputation as the best in the League…” ‘The Argus’.


The quarter by quarter scores were:
Footscray: 6.3. 8.5 12.9. 15.12. ( 102)
Melbourne: 1.4 4.6 6.7 7.9 (51)

Best for Footscray : Kerr Whitten Stevens Collins Bryden Reynolds Ross Box Gilmore.
Best for Melbourne: Cordner McLean Barassi Mithen Williams. Albiston Collins.

Goals for Footscary: Collins 7 Sutton 3 Kerr Stevens Duffy Reynolds Stockman.
Goals for Melbourne : Clarke Barassi Spencer Mithen McLean Johnson Albiston.

Jack Collins dominated the proceedings and booted seven goals in one of his finest VFL performances; rover John Kerr was adjudged the best player afield by most journalists *( except for Laurie Nash: see below).

Note: Alan Martin’s statistics for the Grand Final were: 10 kicks and 3 marks; the leading possession winners for Footscray was John Kerr (24 kicks) while Melbourne’s champion ruckman Denis Cordner won 22 kicks. No handball statistics were recorded in that game which again underlines the changing style and emphasis in AFL football over the years.


A SALUTE TO CHARLIE SUTTON


In the mind of all Footscray supporters Charlie was the hero and architect of the historic win that day. Footscray full back Herb Henderson, who *Laurie Nash regarded as the best player for the Bulldogs in the Grand Final, was later to say…

“He (Sutton) used to talk that strong, we’d run through brick walls for him ….His leadership got us going in ’54 there’s no doubt about that.” ‘Sons of the Scray’ Page:34.


1954 Coles Vfl Footballers Series 1 024 Charlie Sutton Footscray Source:Ebay Thumb
1954 Coles Vfl Footballers Series 1 024 Charlie Sutton Footscray Source:Ebay Thumb
1954 Kornies Football Card Footscray Charlie Sutton
1954 Kornies Football Card Footscray Charlie Sutton
1955 Coles Victorian Footballers Source:
1955 Coles Victorian Footballers Source:
1953 Argus Football Portraits Sutton
1953 Argus Football Portraits Sutton


In his chapter in ‘Bulldog Heritage’, Alan Martin recalled the low-key celebrations of that premiership win for the players. How things have changed for modern victors in terms of festivities and fanfare…

“There were no presentations or medals after the game in those days. We had a shower and headed back to the Footscray Town Hall. Hundreds of loyal fans came to greet us - speeches, three cheers, handshakes - no drinks or eats. Back to the football ground, the Western Oval, which was completely covered with supporters. All the players mingled, talked and savoured our moment of glory -again no eats or drinks.” Page:65



A SHOCK FOR FOOTSCRAY


As can be imagined the Footscray fans enjoyed the long waited triumph and there were plenty of ‘sore heads’ around town on Monday morning. However, when the last barrel had run dry and the dust had settled, some sobering news snapped the Bulldog camp from its euphoria and brought it crashing back to earth with an enormous thud. ‘The Riverine Herald’ (Echuca-Moama) carried the news of Alan Martin’s decision to accept a coaching appointment at Golden Square FC (in the Bendigo Football League) on November 5th…

“Alan Martin, who was in the Footscray team which won the premiership of the Victorian League in the season just completed has accepted the coaching position with Golden Square Football Club. For some weeks officials o£ Golden Square Club have been negotiating with Martin, and yesterday the president (Mr R. Beatty) received the good news from Martin that he would accept the job. Mr Beatty said the club officials, players and supporters: would be happy with Martin coming to the district to take over. It is understood that Footscray will approve Martin's clearance when the application is presented to the club. Martin has played 105 games with Footscray and did not miss a game last season. He plays on a half-back flank, is near enough to six feet, and weighs just on 12 stone. He is 26 years. A school teacher by profession it is understood 'that Martin expects a transfer to Bendigo district after the Christmas vacation….Those who know Martin consider him to be the ideal leader, particularly as Golden Square have so many promising young footballers associated with the club. In the season just concluded Golden Square thirds and seconds won the respective premiership pennants of the Bendigo League. One of Martin's hobbies in the Footscray district has been his long association with boys' clubs in which he has been a popular and capable leader.” ‘Riverine Herald’ November 5th 1954.


In the ‘Bulldog Heritage Historical Player Register’, Alan explained his reasons to quit AFL football and head to the bush…

“ I left Footscray at age twenty-six. I have often regretted that. But, compared

to five pounds a week at Footscray, coaching in the country had its appeal -

more money, but hard work. I coached and played for nine years in the Bendigo

League which, over the years, produced many fine players for the Victorian Football League.” Page: 65



WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALAN’S FAMOUS NUMBER : 19 GUERNSEY?


Guernsey numbers seem to fascinate football fans and the history of jumper number:19 at Footscray is no exception. The first Footscray player to ever wear number:19 was John Sutherland (ex-Nathalia) in 1925. As mentioned earlier in the story, Reg Evenden passed the number onto Alan Martin.

Alan had worn the number:19 guernsey with great distinction from his first game and when he retired the number was given to Frank McDowell (ex-Yarraville). Frank was selected for only one senior match at Footscray in 1955; and the following season the number: 19 guernsey was handed to Brian Buckley who played 37 games for FFC. (1956-59).

Note: Brian was recruited from Gisborne FC and should not be confused with the ‘other’ Brian Buckley who played with Carlton (1956-65).

The record for the most games played by a Footscray footballer wearing number: 19 was set by Gary Merrington who played a total of 174 games (1966-75) with the Bulldogs. Other players to play 100+ games while wearing Footscray's number 19 are Alan Martin (105 games) and Reg Evenden (101). Bulldogs supporters will note that current coach, Luke Beveridge, also wore number 19 while playing at Footscray.

Footscray Senior Team 1941 Reg Evenden
Footscray Senior Team 1941 Reg Evenden
1970 Scanlens VFL Football Merrington Source:ARFC
1970 Scanlens VFL Football Merrington Source:ARFC
1995 Select AFL Football Card Luke Beveridge Source:Ebay
1995 Select AFL Football Card Luke Beveridge Source:Ebay


Table: Players wearing No.19 for the Bulldogs

Note that games are counted only in seasons where the player wore that number.

Player First Last Games
John Sutherland 1925 1925 1
Harry Baker 1926 1926 4
Artie Malberg 1927 1927 1
Wally Warden 1928 1928 13
Arthur Williams 1930 1930 14
Arthur Smith 1930 1930 3
Norm Sexton 1931 1931 1
Matt Cave 1932 1932 9
Bob Muir 1933 1934 22
Norm Honey 1934 1934 7
Roy Rodwell 1935 1935 13
Vern Lamprell 1936 1936 8
Tommy Smith 1937 1937 2
Jim Miller 1939 1939 9
Reg Evenden 1940 1948 101
George Dougherty 1942 1943 25
Alan Martin 1949 1954 105
Frank McDowell 1955 1955 1
Brian Buckley 1956 1959 37
John Bradbury 1961 1963 12
Jack Greenwood 1964 1964 12
Gary Merrington 1966 1975 174
Phil Fleming 1977 1977 3
Phil Bradmore 1978 1981 15
Gordon Polson 1979 1981 5
Terry Love 1982 1983 13
Zeno Tzatzaris 1985 1989 31
Paul Gow 1991 1991 7
Luke Beveridge 1993 1995 31
Adam Contessa 2000 2001 28
Shaun Higgins 2006 2008 32
Liam Jones 2010 2014 66
Lukas Webb 2015 2016 13+




PART: 3 LIFE IN BENDIGO


COACHING AT GOLDEN SQUARE


Golden Square Colours
Golden Square Colours


The ‘city or the bush’ was a difficult decision for many school teachers in that era; and after consideration of an extremely lucrative offer made by Golden Square FC (and other family options) Alan put his teaching career ahead of football and went North. It was tough decision and years later (1993) Alan is reported to have said…

“One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was leaving my brothers on the backline”…He later explained the decision: “I was just married and, at five pounds a week, you couldn’t save enough to get a house. How long do you play football? It’s not long is it? ‘Sons of the Scray’ Page: 78.


But the ‘die was cast’ and Alan packed his books, teaching satchel and football gear and left for Bendigo. In 1955 Alan took charge of Golden Square and, in time, became a legend in the BFL. He was rarely out of news and was regarded as a personality player and drawcard for local fixtures...

“Castlemaine, third, will be at home to Golden Square, sixth, and its remarkable record on its home ground should ensure it a win. Golden Square under former Footscray star Alan Martin, has been going close and the return to form of full forward J. Elliott gives it a chance.” ‘The Argus ‘17th June 1955.


Alan coached GSFC for four years and was also appointed coach of the Bendigo FL combined team in 1956 and 57. It is recorded that Alan won the trophy for the player of the series in the 1956 VCFL series. Alan features prominently on the Golden Square FC website….

“It was in 1955, the year after Footscray F.C. had won their 1st & only VFL Flag, Golden Square Football Club with the most sensational recruiting coup of the decade, secured premiership player Alan Martin to coach the lowly Golden Square team. Martin had been transferred to Bendigo by the Education Department and was still in his prime as a player and was in extremely fit physical condition.”


Alan is also listed on the club’s history page with other stars of Bendigo football such as …Greg Williams, John Ledwidge, Tony Southcombe , Des Dickson and Peter McConville.


SOUTH BENDIGO AND BEYOND


South Bendigo Colours
South Bendigo Colours


After approximately 80 games with the ‘Square he transferred ‘across town’ to the Queen Elizabeth Oval and played with South Bendigo. Alan’s record at SBFC was impressive; and he racked up 100 senior games and won the club’s Best & Fairest trophy in 1960.

After more than 20 years of senior football, Alan stepped down as a player in 1963 …it had been quite a ride from Stawell to Bendigo with a ‘stop-over’ at Footscray!

“..1954 Footscray premiership player Alan Martin announced his retirement at the end of the game. A former playing captain-coach with the Square, Martin finished his career as a defender with South.” ‘The Footy Almanac’.


In the years that followed, Alan was not only busy with the changing and challenging roles in education but he was a noted football scribe with the ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ and an eloquent commentator on local television (Channel: 8 Bendigo). Along with another local media personality Dick Turner, Alan presented a most professional coverage of country football each weekend during the season. Alan was also the anchor-man for a television sports show which beamed out across the region.

When one reads Alan’s résumé it is amazing how he ever found time to manage all his professional, sporting, and community commitments each week. It should be added that Alan and his wife (Becky) had four sons (Gary, Peter, John and Alan) so life in the Martin household was rarely dull.

Alan also served as member of the Bendigo FL Independent Tribunal for more than a decade and often took the role as acting-chairman. Depending upon the nature of the report(s) brought before the tribunal, hearings could involve long hours and (without the aid of video replays that exist today) some creative a ‘story telling.’ For more than ten years, Alan sorted the ‘fact from fiction’ on tribunal nights.


ALAN IS INDUCTED INTO THE BENDIGO FL HALL OF FAME


Bendigo Football League Logo (Not Current
Bendigo Football League Logo (Not Current


Evidence of Alan’s lengthy and dedicated involvement on and off the field in Bendigo can be found in the fact that in 1986, along with other well-known football identities of the region, he was inducted into the BFL’s Hall of Fame. The Hall Of Fame inductees were…

PlayerClub
Graham Arthur (Sandhurst, Echuca)
Ron Best (Golden Square, Sandhurst, Northern United)
Wally Culpitt (Kyneton, Castlemaine)
Kevin Curran (Sandhurst)
Eddie Esposito (Eaglehawk)
Reg Ford (Sandhurst, Golden Square)
George Ilsley (Eaglehawk)
Bob McCaskill (Sandhurst)
Alan Martin (Golden Square, South Bendigo
Peter Moroni (Golden Square)
Alf ‘Pixie’ Odgers (Sandhurst)
George Ogilvie (Echuca, Rochester)
Clive Philp (Kyneton)
Peter Pianto (Eaglehawk)
Colin Rice (South Bendigo)
Tony Southcombe (Golden Square, Northern United)
Fred Swift (Sandhurst, Kennington)
Alan ‘Bruiser’ Williams (Eaglehawk)
Greg ‘Diesel’ Williams (Golden Square)
Herb Zegelin (Rochester)

Source: ‘Country Footy Scores’ website.


SHIRE COUNCILLOR


Like other teachers of that era, Alan believed that he had a civic responsibility to be involved in affairs at all levels of the community. While his duties as a school principal were demanding, , he never-the-less found the time (and energy) to be involved in local organizations. In 1969 he was elected to serve as a Shire Councillor on the Strathfieldsaye Shire. According to the official ‘Annals of Bendigo’, Alan Martin …

“…served as a Councillor from September 1969-August 1977…and A.J. Martin was Shire of Strathfieldsaye Shire President in 1972.” Bendigo Regional Archive Centre. (Volumes 16-17).


Further, the Bendigo Annals confirmed that Alan was President of the Strathfieldsaye Shire from September 1972 until August 1973.


THE FUNERAL OF ALAN MARTIN


Alan passed away in the Bendigo Hospital on August 30th 2004. A simple message posted on the ‘Big Footy’ website announced his death as follows…

“Alan Martin passed away in the Bendigo Hospital last night. Gone but remembered forever. A bulldog who was the best of breed.” August 31st 2004.


‘The Age’ football writer, Jake Niall also referred to Alan’s death in a leading article that week…

“The Western Bulldogs are mourning the death of premiership defender Alan Martin. He died in Bendigo yesterday aged 76 and played off the half-back flank in the Bulldogs' 1954 premiership side. It was the last of 105 senior games.” September 1st 2004.


Alan’s funeral was held in Bendigo and it was a ‘large affair’ with members of the teaching fraternity, council dignitaries, sporting officials, BFL footballers, former team mates, friends and family in attendance.

Among the distinguished members of the congregation that day was Alan’s former coach and great friend Charlie Sutton. Charlie was 80 years of age when he journeyed to Bendigo for Alan’s funeral; and no doubt he would have been saddened by the passing of ‘another one of his boys.’ One of his ‘favourite sons’ Ted Whitten had died in 1995.

Alan Martin is buried in the Bendigo Cemetery.

Note: Charlie Sutton passed away in June 2012.


CONCLUSION: LIKE GRANDFATHER - LIKE GRANDSON


As a final comment regarding this truly outstanding servant of the game, football followers were again reminded of Alan Martin’s remarkable career in VFL and Bendigo football when his grandson (Tim) won the Michelsen Medal for the Best and Fairest player in the Bendigo Football League in 2013…

“SANDHURST ruckman Tim Martin has joined many of the Bendigo Football League's finest by winning the Michelsen Medal for the 2013 season. Martin polled 23 votes in Sunday's count at the All Seasons to cap an incredible return to the Dragons…After a four-year stint with Port Melbourne in the VFL and last season at East Perth, Martin re-joined Sandhurst….Martin's grandfather, Alan Martin played off a half-back flank in Footscray's premiership team in 1954 and later coached Golden Square and South Bendigo.” ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ September 15th 2013.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


Sincere thanks to the following people for their kind assistance in researching and writing this story for Boyles Football Photos…

• Lorraine Chilton-Manager Wodonga Football & Sports Club.
• Dr. Michele Matthews-Archives Officer Bendigo Regional Archives Centre (BRAC).
• Rod Martin-(Alan’s brother) for the verification of various aspects of the story and background information regarding Alan’s early years in in Stawell.
• Michael Riley for providing a copy of the ‘Bulldog Heritage Historical Player Register’


THE END