Greetings friends. While we’re a long way from having to crank up the printing presses for a reprint of Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, sales remain steady after a spectacular start in April. This despite the COVID-19 restrictions having ruled out a book launch, where the GAS Principle (Guests + Alcohol = Sales) never fails. Many thanks to those who’ve already bought a copy (or copies) of Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, particularly buyers who contacted me to say that they enjoyed the read. However, a book is only as good as its cover, and for that I thank artist Paul Jacobs (the handsome fellow with a beard in the photo).
With June 30 rapidly looming, potential buyers of Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century can take advantage of the following end-of-financial-year specials that also include my first 2014 public release Dreamer, Drifter, Drunk.
- Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, reduced from $30 to $25 per copy
- Fitzroy Dreamer Mega Deal ($50), where you get a complimentary copy of Dreamer if you buy two Fitzroy books
- Fitzroy Dreamer Package, reduced from $45 to $40
I have numerous people and entities to thank since Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century’s release on April 8. Brad Elborough, from Perth’s Have a Go News, was good enough to interview me about both my new book and the self-publishing game, while The Sunday Times (Perth), Herald Sun (Melbourne), Footy Almanac website and ABC (Radio) Grandstand Perth have also kindly given the book a plug. I’m also appreciative of the moderators of the various Fitzroy Facebook sites for allowing me to advertise the book. And I’m very grateful for Fitzroy Reds communication manager Kasey Symons interviewing me last month (see below) for the weekly RedRoy Mail. Of course, the Reds carry on the Royboys’ name in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Pete, you’re from a small town in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. We’re glad you chose to do so, but what influenced you to support Fitzroy?
Kasey, my home town of Tammin in the WA bush is that small that even if you didn’t blink, you’d still miss it! Yet Tammin played an indirect role in me choosing Fitzroy as my VFL side. When I started primary school in 1965, the great Kevin Murray happened to be captain-coach of WAFL team East Perth which was strongly supported around town. “Muzza” had considerably more success coaching the Royals in 1965-66 than he did the Roys in 1963-64 (best we don’t mention these years). He took East Perth to the 1966 Grand Final, but it was one of six that the blue-and-blacks lost (without a single win) in the 1960s. When Kevin returned to Fitzroy in 1967, it was a very easy decision to follow the Mighty Lions.
Fitzroy won 869 games during its 100 years in the VFL/AFL, so it must’ve been a challenging job to select the best 100. What factors influenced your choices?
I established some set criteria whereby the eight winning grand finals, the nine 100-point victories and the 10 games in which a Fitzroy player booted 10-plus goals in a winning cause were automatic selections. The other wins included games where victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat (normally the Roys did the reverse), last-gasp thrillers, performances that sealed a finals berth (or enabled us to avoid the wooden spoon) and boilovers where Fitzroy wasn’t expected to get within 10 goals let alone win. The 100 chosen weren’t all necessarily our greatest victories, but some appealed for quirky reasons. For example, a 1909 win over South Melbourne at the Lake Oval was nothing extraordinary on paper, but our gallant Maroons were attacked by South supporters at half-time and after the game. “We could watch for punches and ward them off, but the cowardly kicks we could not see,” said Roys captain Jim Sharp. And he wasn’t talking about the red-and-white players! The newspaper reports of the day turned a humdrum match into a riveting social commentary.
What are your fondest personal memories growing up as a Fitzroy fan?
Wins were relatively scarce until Fitzroy’s stunning 1979 season. I relied on the Sunday and Monday newspapers for my VFL news and vividly recall us beating reigning premier Richmond in front of the Royal Family at the MCG to kick off 1970 and then thwarting another titleholder, Carlton, in the famous fog match at the Junction Oval late in the 1971 season. When the Lions began 1972 with four victories in their first five games, after winning the last four of 1971, this was it … Fitzroy was surely finals bound that year and a premiership soon after was a fait accompli. Alas, the Roys only served up appetisers and not the main course for much of the rest of the decade until they won the 1978 Night Series premiership. Then the club’s faithful supporters’ hunger for success was finally satisfied, albeit partially. A VFL/AFL premiership would’ve been the icing on the cake that was never delivered.
What does it mean to you that the Fitzroy Football Club has been able to continue and is still alive and well in the VAFA?
After a few years in the footy wilderness post-1996, it’s tremendous that Fitzroy is back at the famed Brunswick Street Oval wearing the colours they finished with in the AFL and singing the same stirring version of the La Marseillaise. Yes, it would be great to still be in the “Big League” but through the hard work of diehard Fitzroyites, the club lives on. I’m sure the Reds’ presence in the VAFA – as well as giving a lot of young (and maybe not so young) men and women a game of footy – helps keep the memory of our 127-year-old club alive. Living in Perth, and being the voluntary historian at East Perth, I don’t get away much during winter. I haven’t been to Melbourne for the best part of a decade, but when I do “renew my passport”, I’ll make the trip east to see the Reds play. Some of the good folk who’ve bought copies of Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century have told me about the great Saturday arvos they’ve enjoyed at Brunswick Street, so I’d be mad not to join them.
Without AFL or Fitzroy footy on, how have you been getting your footy fix?
With footy and all other sports bar horse racing having been put on hold due to COVID-19, supporters of other AFL clubs now have a taste of what Fitzroy has endured every winter since 1996. That said, with this year excepted, the Reds in the VAFA have at least filled a footy void for Roys supporters who live in Melbourne. Marketing Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century and conversing (via email and Facebook) with newfound Fitzroy friends has kept me off the streets during the shutdown. The beauty of our great game is that attending matches is just one way of deriving enjoyment. Watching past matches (well, victories) and reading, talking and writing about footy are other ways I get my fix. I hope to see East Perth play in the WAFL before too long. There’s talk of no crowds being allowed at games, but I tell people if the authorities are really worried about non-adherence to pandemic rules, WAFL crowds have been practising social distancing for years.