Season 2021 – Look Out, Here We Come!

January 23, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

Neither a monkey or even a dust mite on our backs this year!

I don’t know if you’d call it hard core, committed, neurotic, fanatical or just ridiculous, maybe it’s a swirling, churning one-eyed combination of all five, but ever since I was a kid I have ‘occupied’ myself during the final credits of every film with trying to recognise or fleetingly pick out any famous Melbourne Demon last names.

As such, I don’t think I’ve ever spotted a ‘Barassi’ or a ‘Warne-Smith’ represented in any capacity of a matinee film; however, the other day after having sat through near on 3 hours of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ with my 7-year-old daughter, I spied (and I’m not making this up) a ‘Lyon Beckwith’ in the film’s credits!

Not sure about you, but having a first name after perhaps the best player we’ve had at the club in the past 50 years and a last name after a two-time premiership captain from the ‘50s, would have to be an absolutely one-off celluloid occurrence, not to mention a red and blue referential miracle.
Needless to say, with me there is no pre-season, post-season or outright season in itself when it comes to the Melbourne Demons figuring, or pardon the pun ‘featuring’ in some daily way in my heart and mind. But that said, this pre-season is shaping as one of the most promising and talent crackling affairs that I can ever personally recall.

Our bounding, fit and seemingly balanced mix of players aside, it’s the cast that we’ve managed to assemble (almost by stealth) in our coaching and administrative quarters, that has me daring to believe and now menacingly murmur – “Yes, this will be our year!”

At some point over the passing of seasons, I remember hearing and retaining a comment made by the great (now in his 95th year) dual-premiership captain – Noel McMahen along the lines, “not until you fill the four heads [being Chadwick, Warne-Smith, Norm Smith and Cardwell] in the famous ‘Architects of Five Premierships’ photo, will you see anything like the success of what we saw in the ’50s and ’60s.”

Without lumbering the calamitous weight of expectation on the shoulders of our current ‘equivalents’, I’m looking so forward to seeing the collective effects generated by Alan Richardson, Mark Williams, Simon Goodwin and Gary Pert, add on a seasoned Adem Yze for good measure, and you have that aforementioned photo recreated, and then some.

While there’s quite a lot of talk around the traps about our club having the longest current premiership drought (57 years of silver-less Septembers to be precise) I don’t see this as being either a monkey or even a dust mite on the back of anyone associated with the club.

Football is a game played in a stand-alone, year-by-year fashion by players that live and die (without sounding too gladiatorial) by their exploits in ‘real-time’, such things as ‘seasons without a premiership’ are light years away from the realm of any footballer’s direct sphere of influence or control. That our oldest current player in Nathan Jones was born in 1988, puts into perspective the illogical chronological conundrum of holding anyone physically accountable for an overall inter-generational lack of success.

As for ‘premiership windows’, I always cringe when I hear this modern-day dupe of a phrase, for mine, like the best of budding cat burglars – every year is a premiership ‘window’ to be scrambled into in red-hot pursuit of the ultimate loot. If you don’t agree, then refer to the ‘Baby Bombers’ of ’93 or the marauding Hawks of ’08, to name just two supreme groups that came from the clouds to pull off the ultimate of ‘steals’.

I’d love someone to have mentioned such a ‘cute’ inanimate concept like a ‘premiership window’ to the game’s brimstone coaches of by-gone eras like Norm Smith or Checker Hughes; the notion of not having the troops committed or competent enough to win the competition in any given season would’ve absolutely confounded them.

Similarly, in the words and rollicking ‘Ocean’s 11’ spirit of perhaps world sport’s most celebrated and successful coaches of all-time, Vince Lombardi once ‘unpacked’ his approach to such things, by matter-of-factly saying, in his very concise ex-school teacher way (and something that could now well suffice for a rallying catchphrase for our primed Dees of ’21):
“Want it; desire it; earn it; take it.”

Architects of 5 premierships - Chadwick, Warne-Smith, Norm Smith and Cardwell

Percy Beames – the game’s first three-time Grand Final best on ground performer

October 27, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Percy Beames

Nigel Dawe

The celebrated German thinker Georg Hegel once said: “Philosophy is a gallery of heroes of thought” and if he’d have grown up in Victoria at any time after 1858, then I dare say he may well have come up with the equally fitting line: “Footy is a gallery of heroes of sport.”

But humour aside and that said, I was prompted on a serious note to draft up something today to honour not just this season’s, but the game’s outright forgotten Demon, and inaugural triple Grand Final blitzing trail-blazer.

Not to take anything away from Dustin Martin, because his performance the other night in Brisbane was something all footy fans may well never forget; I say ‘may well’ because that is exactly the fate that awaited our fleet-footed boy from Ballarat, Percy Beames – the game’s first three-time Grand Final best on ground performer (in the consecutive Melbourne winning teams of 1939-40-41).

I’m not sure if it’s a simple case of oversight or just plain over-exuberance on the part of the footy community to extol the performances and virtues of a contemporary player (and ours wouldn’t be the first generation to fall into the same wide-eyed and appreciative trap) but I can’t imagine the same snub of a player’s efforts (irrespective of how long ago they ‘took place’) occurring in a sport like American baseball. That country’s ‘national sport’ is unlike any other in terms of the reverence they ensure is afforded ‘recollecting’ the memory and exploits – to a fact and stat, of their greats.

Not that it’s ever a safe or even a wise thing to compare the performances of players from different eras, though it is a fascinating undertaking: one not unlike wading into a thick smoke-filled house lined with a thousand haphazardly placed mirrors. But where the blur clears somewhat, enough to gain a glimpse of clarity for the purposes of an informed opinion, is in the basic tale that the stats tell.

Of the three Grand Finals Percy Beames and Dusty Martin left every other player in their tenacious wake, it’s worth first mentioning that Beams scored a total of 12 goals (as a rover) to Martin’s 10 goals (having played on the half-forward line in two of his three Grand Finals).

Again, this article is not about proving who performed better or is more earning of ultimate bragging rights, but the incredible ‘given’ of Beames’ big dance outings, was the fact he lined up against the white-hot calibre of captain and Brownlow medallist of both teams in 1939 (Harry Collier) and 1941 (Dick Reynolds). The 1941 heroics of Beames are made all the more extraordinary when you consider that Reynolds was an absolute all-time great, not to mention a triple-Brownlow winning trojan!

Then factor in Richmond’s Captain Blood, who literally prowled the turf for opposition scalps in the ‘hit-out’ of 1940, and you have the gleaming stage upon which Beames rose to stamp his authority on the toughest game of all, three times-in-a-row.

So as to clearly establish the standing and place that Percy Beames occupies at the club (he was the first Melbourne player to reach 200 games, as well as being a handy cricketer, and the only player in the entire post 1897/VFL-era to captain both the MCC and the MFC) you have to look no further than the fact there is a ‘Percy Beames Bar’ in the members section of the MCG. I don’t know about you, but that would have to take the cake, albeit eternally warm the grand old spirit of any former great!

Demons Nation – Connected Where it Matters the Most

June 20, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Demons Nation – Connected Where it Matters the Most.

Nigel Dawe

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m a fanatical Demons fan, but one thing that forms a keen intertwining feature in this one-eyed fanaticism of mine is the fact that we truly live in a Demons nation. I know, you’re probably thinking where’s he going with this, but one thing I bet you haven’t known prior to now is what our iconic little foot-soldier of Lucifer has in common with so many different places across this wide-brown land.

From Surface Paradise to Mildura, Moonta to Pennant Hills, Alice Springs to North Hobart, Corryong to Casey, Perth to Canberra, Koo Wee Rup to Yarram – they all have a local Demons football team.

And that’s just to name a few, not to mention we also have red and blue coloured demon sides raising hell with their leather projectiles in cities as far-flung as Toronto, Boston and London. So on the topic of keeping exaggeration to a minimum, it’s fair to say that on any given weekend during winter – ‘A Grand Old Flag’ is being sung by a bunch of 18 sweaty combatants, somewhere in not just this country of ours, but right across the entire globe. And I can’t tell you how much the thought of this brings me an outright deep-seated peace and relief.

But the interconnections don’t just end there, the Perth Demons (even though they wear red and black) are coached by none other than Earl ‘Duke’ Spalding, the lovable bloke we all held our collective breaths when he took his set shots at goal back in the 80s, to say he had one of the more ‘interesting’ or outright elegantly wasted kicking styles, would be an understatement.

Then there’s our 2013 runner up best and fairest winner – Col Garland doing his bit to make the North Hobart Demons the best team in Tasmania, not that they need all that much help, seeing they’ve notched a whopping 27 premierships and finished runners-up 17 times in their overall club history.

One of the more little known cross-overs in the game is the fact a former Melbourne player, Lou Suhard answered a call to meet up at a pub in Adelaide one Thursday night in 1878 to form the Norwood Football Club. And of course, Lou suggested what an aesthetically pleasing and no less formidable combo of colours red and blue were for a football team, not to mention the moniker ‘Redlegs’, as Melbourne were then also known, and thus the rest is history.

Whilst in South Australia, I have to make mention of a little town and a football team very dear to my heart – Moonta and their Moonta Demons, who have quite possibly the most sublime red and blue guernsey you’ve ever seen, it actually features a pitch-folk wielding demon on the front.

As some background, my entire family and I used to holiday for three weeks at a time each Christmas in the early 80s in this beautiful old Cornish influenced mining town, come idyllic tourist mecca.

So recently, I got in touch with Mark Durin, Moonta’s club president and Andrew Pearson, the secretary to find out what impact the Covid period has had on their town and club. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have reached them at a tougher time and yet they were the last to complain, as their entire league has been canceled for the first time ever, and the whole region has suffered quite a down-turn.

Having grown up in a small country town I know how devastating this would be, and so on behalf of the broader Demon community I’d like to extend our heartfelt best wishes and sincere hope that come next season the Moonta Demons go on to claim their 14th premiership, the most recent coming in 2018.

For a club that boasted an evergreen (ex-Brownlow medallist) Gavin Wanganeen in their team last year, the boys are surely well placed to do themselves and us all proud. As an excellent and ever-apt promo from the Norwood Football Club hammered home in the early 90s – ‘Times don’t stay tough forever, but tough clubs do!’

Loyalty & What it Means to Follow a Team Through Time.

June 2, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

I’m not sure who actually said it, though I think it might’ve been Robert Harvey, or maybe someone else in the footy caper around the time that he won his second Brownlow on the trot. Anyway, it’s a notion that beautifully fits the overall bill whether you’re talking the Coolamon Hoppers or our beloved Melbourne Demons. It went along the lines: “No matter how good you are or what you do around a footy club, you’re never anything more than a match-head in a biscuit tin!”

Not to over elevate this wondrous treat-filled receptacle in all of our kitchens, or to push the analogy too far; but clubs or in this case ‘biscuit tins’ are where all the delectable magic happens – where all the mystique and memories of past triumphs and club legends are stored albeit kept safe, where that certain allure ever-resides that keeps your Robbie Flower’s and Garry Lyon’s in the team colours when other clubs are waving blank cheque-books and promises of success in their face.

Clubs are almost like the ultimate expressions of inverse algebra – where one specific thing on one hand doesn’t necessarily equate to anything of relative or even increased value on the other. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the little things can (and often do) mean infinitely more than what they ‘logically’ seem or simply appear to be in themselves.

Rather like the easily missed, bright red demon tail that artist Jamie Cooper worked onto the floor directly below a seated Robbie Flower in the club’s Team of the Century portrait. If you’ve never noticed, take a look, it’s there for all to see – no other ‘great’ gets the same treatment, it is the ultimate of tributes to the most loyal Demon of them all. As Robbie used to weave into his autographs, as if they were one of his dashes down the wing of the MCG – ‘Demons Forever’, and so, I sincerely hope that the gleaming memory of some things truly never fade.

Relatedly, in his first pre-season with the senior Melbourne side, none other than the reigning club captain Robbie Flower drove a young Garry Lyon and future fellow Hall of Famer to each of the team’s gruelling crack of dawn training sessions. Little wonder that Lyon much later reflected after his playing days had finished: “I ended up falling in love with the Melbourne Football Club from a really early age.” Going on to say: “I am part of a former era, but I hope that every group of players that wears the jumper will love the club and have as much respect for their teammates as I did.”

It’s a monumental reflection and one of the most red and blue rendered yardsticks for the love of this club, that Robbie Flower was always immensely proud and would often make mention of the fact that he was not only born in the Demons premiership year of 1955, but also barracked for Melbourne as a kid. Throw in the fact he had to pay to get into the ground for his first game in ‘73 (because he misplaced his player access pass) and never sought reimbursement; and it is right there through this non-fabricatable combination of events – that you have a certified club legend.

Whilst getting up-close and personal with our Team of the Century (and the commemorative artwork in particular), how’s another wonderful tribute that goes largely overlooked within its focused locker room surrounds. It is a generous and gracious gesture of respect to that other integral, essential feature of every football club – the loyal fan. After all, what would any flickering flame be without a robust ‘fan’ to create the necessary draft for it to rise above a certain height so as to fully blaze and reach its maximum ferocity, or to simply cool things down when it all goes wrong?

As such, peering through the doorway (in the artwork) from the stands into the Smithy captivated change room of the oldest footy club in the world is one Marjorie Whitehead, who saw ‘in person’ every premiership win the club achieved (except for that of 1900) which amounted to 11 witnessed triumphs in all, for this absolutely one-eyed Dee-votee.

Thus, when you think what Marjorie experienced it is no wonder and rightfully so, that she was considered and celebrated as an outright living treasure of the club. And if you hadn’t already joined the dots, this remarkable woman would’ve actually cheered at some stage each and every player in that ‘once in a century’ side – all the way from Warne-Smith and Chadwick, Barassi and Beckwith through to Lyon and Stynes!

On the topic of dyed-in-the-wool fans, we have some absolute troopers of our own in the ranks of the NSW Demons. I’d like to thank and give a ‘shout out’ to Jim Cattlin for getting in touch and recounting so many great memories of following Melbourne from the Grand Final of ‘48 through to the present day.

Nothing beats his yarn about how his dad would try to beat the steam train back to Melbourne in the car from Geelong when the boys played down there; or how he still pines for his long lost ‘55-56-57 winning Weg poster, not to mention the tears he shed one afternoon at the ‘G having to sit through a fired-up John Coleman rip through the defenses of our side back in the late 40’s.

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