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

June 2, 2020 by
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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