Melbourne Demons – Mountains to climb & things to claim

August 18, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

All week my brain has been like a swirling red and blue hurricane, but not in a batten down the hatches kind of way, more like a serene bombardment of thoughts and images, that reflect and ‘flag’ the enormity and significance of where we find ourselves as a club, right now in time.

Nigel Dawe

Of all the things that came flooding in, at the forefront was the memory of my two most revered players – Robbie Flower and big Jim Stynes. Should our team take us all the way to the promised land of a premiership in a few weeks: my first emotion will be recalling the wonderful players and people those two legends were, and what a premiership would have meant to these two icons, who don’t worry – will certainly be on their respective wing and centre circle positions in spirit, with hearts ablaze, come that final siren.

Relatedly, not getting ahead of myself (well, maybe just a little) the highlight of a Grand Final win in 2021 would be seeing the great Ron Barassi, up in the stands saluting and savouring his Demons being on top of the football world once again. It would be eerily reminiscent of our team’s 1926 Grand Final victory, which had the club’s ultimate spiritual figure, and the then 90-year-old ‘father of football’ H.C.A Harrison applauding his side’s ‘drought-breaking’ efforts, being Melbourne’s first premiership in 26-years.

In a similar vein, two monumental developments occurred on planet Earth in May 1953. The first was Ronald Dale Barassi’s playing debut for the Melbourne Demons at the MCG on Saturday the 16th; and the second, took place 13 days later on the 29th of May, when Edmund Hillary scaled Mt Everest, the first human being to ever do so. And it’s the imagery and thought-quest of scaling the highest mountain around, that our current-day players need to harness, prepare for and revel in.

Talking mountains scaled, a wonderful outcome of beating the Cats this weekend to claim our first minor premiership in 57 years, would also be the acquisition of the little spoken of – McClelland Trophy (which was first awarded back in 1951). Originally it was given to the club for having achieved the most points/ wins in the top three grades (back when there was a true club reserves and U/19s competition). Interestingly, Melbourne won the ‘last’ McClelland Trophy (along those original combined triple grade lines) back in 1990; since 1991 it has been awarded to the team who finishes the season as minor premier.

Whilst the achievement of a fifth McClelland trophy this year for the Demons (1955, 1956, 1958 and 1990 – being seasons we also previously won) the Melbourne connection to the award does not end there. The award itself was of course named after Dr William McClelland, the former Melbourne captain (1901-1904), 1900 premiership player, club president, and then head of the VFL (for a record setting 30-years) who passed away in the Demons premiership year of 1957.

Not that I’ve ever bought into things like horoscopes, tea readings or tarot cards, but there is something about season 2021 that has an element of ‘stars aligning’ for the Melbourne Football Club, in a very discernible way. As such, if I were to get a precious five minutes with the playing group over the next week or so, I’d flag two points in particular.

The first would be an old American football adage: “We have just four weeks to play, and the REST OF OUR LIVES to think back on it.

And the second, instructional ‘takeaway’ would be a line by the fire-breathing Frenchman, La Rochefoucauld: “We promise according to our hopes; and perform according to our fears.”

So, just go out there boys and be as fearless, committed, and ferocious as you’ve been for this entire year. The time and the season have arrived… and it is now, right now.

As we head full speed into the approaching month of September, there’s only one more thing left to say, and that’s: “Good luck Melbourne Demons – come what may… it’s been a wonderful season!”

MFC, Olympics and the NSW Demons

August 12, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Sally Trevena

Our recent story of Melbourne VFL premiership footballer Corrie Gardner, who was one of only two athletic representatives at the St Louis Olympic Games in 1904, prompted his grandson William Streeton, to share more of Corrie’s story and his passion for the Demons.

William remembers him as a passionate Demons supporter to his death. William has very fond memories of him, despite being very young and remembers going with him to the MCG and watching Ron Barassi, John Lord etc playing. He died watching a televised match of Melbourne playing and winning against Collingwood.

Corrie’s brothers, Mark & Eric also played for Melbourne. Corrie and Eric played together from 1900, 1901, 1902 & 1903, Mark played in1904 and Corrie and Mark in 1905.

I was delighted to hear from William and never cease to be amazed by the ongoing connections between our footy club’s history and members of the NSW Demons audience.

Thank you William

Go Dees.

The Olympic Spirit – in a lone shade of Red & Blue

July 28, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history 

Nigel Dawe

Not that I’ve ever thought myself even remotely the philosopher, certainly philosophical, at times; but my favourite philosopher of all time – Friedrich Nietzsche, once said: “The philosopher knows not where to stand if not on the extended wings of all ages.”

And this comment somehow perfectly captures my fascination with historical events and entities like our grand old football club, and the Olympic Games, when it’s all said and done.

My earliest memory is actually the 1980 Moscow Olympics (and that haunting “Moscow, Moscow…” chant of a theme song that perhaps in hindsight, also doubled-up as a ploy to subconsciously convert the rest of the world to Russia’s form of Communism). Having also been born in the Montreal Olympic year of 1976, the Olympic spirit has certainly swept me up in its reaches (not so much these days) but every four years when it rolls around.

That said, one of the most forgotten, uniquely placed, albeit unheralded Olympians, was a former Melbourne Footballer called Corrie Gardiner, and if it wasn’t for him, then Australia could not now claim (as one of only five nations to be able to do so) to have had athletes attend each and every Summer Olympic Games.

To paint a picture of Corrie, then perhaps envisage a dark-haired bolter along the lines of Ed Langdon but with a dapper, Jake Lever moustache. Corrie was actually a wingman in Melbourne’s first VFL premiership-winning team of 1900.

Of the 18 games the side played that year, Gardiner featured in 16 of them, not to mention the Grand Final, that Melbourne won by 4 points, against the overwhelming favourites – Fitzroy (who actually had their horse carriages emblazoned with ‘Premiers 1900’ waiting outside the ground before the game had even commenced!)

In 1904, the Olympic Games were held in the American city of St Louis, for which our Corrie Gardiner was the sole athlete to represent Australia (there is a second representative who is often mentioned, but he was quick to head straight home without even kitting up when he caught sight of how athletes were actually staying in tents in a city park!) Thus, it would be an understatement to say the games of ‘04 were a far cry from the razzle and pampered dazzle of our more modern-day Olympic affairs.

Alongside the two Zulu tribesmen who attended the St Louis Games for the marathon, and the 92 ‘foreigners’ (41 of which were from neighbouring Canada) Corrie Gardiner seems to have acquitted himself well, indeed you could say he even showed a true ANZAC spirit, a full decade before there was even such a Gallipoli-forged thing.

And so, as it is with the gleaming essence of the spirit of ANZAC, there is a certain sacred, or undiminishable glory to the ‘give all you’ve got’ hard fought loss; Corrie ended up finishing fourth in the heat of his 110m hurdles event in St Louis and was also unplaced in the long jump.

But long may he be remembered, as the lone combatant of not just the country from Down Under – that never backs away from a fight, but the premiership-winning Melbourne footballer, who single-handedly flew the grand old flag on a truly world stage.

The Melbourne premiership-winning 'Olympian' - Corrie Gardiner

‘Carpe Diem’ – In an Absolute Nutshell.

May 20, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history 

Nigel Dawe

I wasn’t going to write just yet, I was going to hold off for a while and see how the next few weeks pan out; and then I thought – ‘No, you know what, while things are rolling the way they are, 9-from-9 to start the season – now is absolutely the time to capture something of this very moment!’

To add another precursor of sorts, I’m not saying for an instant the Dees are any certainty to etch their name in diamond-encrusted platinum by going through a season undefeated (a ‘feat’ as yet unrealised, in over 120-years of the VFL/ AFL competition).

But for just a second, for one almighty miniscule fraction of old man time’s most precious commodity, let’s consider the potential of such a prospect. In the emboldened spirit of William Ellery Channing, who once roared: “Fix your eyes on perfection and you make almost everything speed towards it.” Why not dare, to at least unpack or remotely engage with what such an achievement might potentially look or even feel like. At the end of the day, you only ever hit what you aim for.

While there is no precedent in our code (at its most elite level) for a team that has gone from start to finish without feeling the cold slap of defeat at some stage; there are examples of ‘perfect’ seasons in other codes. In American Football for example, the Miami Dolphins ‘sailed’ through their season of 1972 taking all before them, achieving what no other side has done, before or since in that sport – and that is win – one week at a time, for each and every week of a given season. 

Arsenal, likewise in the English Premier League, won (well didn’t lose, they drew against some teams) by going ‘undefeated’ in all 38 of their games in season 2003-04, a feat which also earned them the title ‘The Invincibles’ and a special (never before given) gold-plated version of the Premier League trophy.

While our red and blue ‘crusaders’ of season 2021 have plenty more ‘immediate’ and pressing considerations to factor in to their collective focus for the year, like getting into September safely first; one nice ‘aside’ along the way, is the potential for achieving the ‘unprecedented’, and stamp their name for all-time on the very cliff face of the game itself.

It’s not unreasonable to consider a perfect season, it might be highly unlikely, even borderline ludicrous: but if the Dolphins of ’72, or if Arsenal of ’03/04 had thought leading in to round 10 of their respective undefeated seasons – ‘We couldn’t possibly do this, could we?’ Then guess what…? A loss would’ve certainly met them, with full ferocity ‘half-way’ along the rocky road of their own self-doubts.

At the original stadium of Olympia, the ancient Greeks had an altar set up in clear sight of all, but essentially it was for the competing athletes, in honour of ‘Kairos’, their mighty little god of luck and opportunity. Often depicted with arrows drawn and wings on his feet, because back then, as now – luck and opportunity have to be ‘taken’ on the fly, and seized without second thought or hesitation.

As such, right now is the ‘opportune’ time for the Melbourne Football Club to take its chances and play with absolute abandon; go out of your way boys – make it 10-in-a-row… we have nothing to lose or fear, except for loss and fear itself. In the purest spirit of one of the ancient world’s most popular sayings, which hasn’t lost any of its fitting gloss, since the ferocious old days of the Colosseum itself…

‘Fortune favours the brave.’

Making an Art of The Winning Streak

May 13, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

The great Norm Smith, and ever-reigning coach of the Century, once snarled: “Winning isn’t everything, but it’s a bloody sight better than what comes next!” And, having stuck by our boys in the red and blue for the best part of the last four decades, I can vouch for Smithy’s comment, in a way that he couldn’t have remotely imagined when he said it at the time.

And so, without getting swept away by the first two absolutely fantastic ‘loss-less’ months of season ’21, and not to downplay or feign indifference to such a non-mean feat (because 8-in-a-row is sterling stuff) we have a long way to go; but what a trip we’ve been afforded thus far. One that’s starting to push our current crop of players into the realm of club record territory.

You’d have to have just come back from a trip to Mars to have not heard our best start to a season was back in 1956 – an ‘Olympic’ and truly halcyon year in which the Norm Smith-led, Barassi, Beckwith and Co gladiators notched wins in all of their first 13 matches, eventually going down to the Bulldogs in Round 14 by 13 points.

But one incredible ‘accompaniment’ to this statistical morsel, is the fact Melbourne also won the last six matches of season 1955, to create the most successful winning streak in the club’s history (19-games straight). The attached visual of ‘The Demon Comet’ and Beckwith with the ball-on-a-string appeared in The Age, 11 ‘supersonic’ games into that majestic season of 1956.

Having said that, the Cats of 1952-53 are the game’s true ‘astronauts’, albeit golden boys when it comes to stringing the W’s together in the win-loss column of ladder histrionics. This incredible dark blue-hooped bunch from Corio Bay fronted up for 23-games straight, without a loss. Next on the all-time list are those Bomber boys of 2000 (and how could we forget), but they amassed a mammoth 20-games straight from Round 1 through to Round 20 (dropping just that solitary outing for the entire year) – the most successful season of any side in the history of the game.

To paraphrase our more than canny current coach, Simon Goodwin, and his chief playmakers – Petracca and T-Mac from after the match last week: ‘To a person at the club, it’s about taking a 0-0 games won approach into each and every game – there is no next week or last week, winning streak or even Shit Creek, there is just an all-important right here and NOW, to be met, overcome and WON!’

Which is an approach and a convictional resolve that surely stirs not just the spirit, but the supreme example of Norm Smith to life, having once echoed: “Clubs must try to build a winning tradition, and develop to the highest degree a fierce pride in their team. If a club’s not a proud one, it has little chance of success.”

So, here’s to the pride required to rise, and prove to one’s self and the entire football world – that the team of the red and the blue have what it takes, to keep winning – one week at a time, for a long time to come.

winning streak

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