You beauty! I was one happy chappy when Andrew Finlay, managing director of Perth’s Optima Press, phoned me to say that Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, 1897-1996 was printed, boxed and ready to go. The dreadful COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, and is certainly far more serious than any game of football. Of course, there are no games of football for the foreseeable future. However, this 388-page book may help people remember Fitzroy’s glory days – before the great club was dumped from the AFL with about as much pomp and ceremony as a litter of unwanted kittens. Besides Fitzroy people, I hope supporters of the game enjoy the book. To borrow the title of one of renowned footy singer/songwriter Greg Champion’s great works, “deep in our hearts, everyone barracks for Fitzroy.”
There have been several books written about the Royboys, as the team was affectionately known, so finding a new angle was essential. As the title suggests, the book recounts Fitzroy’s 100 “best” wins. Some of the selected wins will be remembered because of their recency, while others are from the deep, dark, distant past long before the age of television and the Internet. The obvious victories are included (we can’t forget that the Roys won eight VFL premierships!), while others get a guernsey on account of brilliant individual goalkicking performances, thrashings, wins against the odds, great comebacks, thrilling finishes, or because the writers of the day made the games sound far more interesting than they indeed were. The one thing they had in common was that the Maroons, Gorillas or Lions – the Mighty Roys! – won them all. Fitzroy 100, Opposition 0.
Given there are 8,145,060 ways of choosing six Lotto balls from a barrel of 45, the task of selecting 100 Fitzroy victories from a pool of 869 was always going to have an element of subjectivity. It certainly took me longer than the time allocated on TV for your regular Saturday night Lotto draw! I then ranked the “Top 100” in a countdown from 100 to 1. As footy is theoretically a 100-minute game with four quarters of 20 minutes plus five minutes time-on, I’ve split the 100 wins accordingly and included quarter, half and three-quarter-time “breaks” filled with other Fitzroy themes.
To give you an idea of the style and format of Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, I’ve posted three of the chosen wins on this website. They are Fitzroy’s victory over South Melbourne in a fiery encounter at the Lake Oval in 1909; Len Smith’s Lions beating Norm Smith’s Demons in the first “Battle of the Brothers” at Brunswick Street in 1958; and the Roys’ last-gasp entry into the top five in 1984, defeating St Kilda in the final VFL/AFL match at the Junction Oval. Of course, the latter game was notable for the great Bernie “Superboot” Quinlan – who features on the book’s front cover – chalking up his second successive century of goals.
I have many people to thank for helping me with this book, but here are a few. My old school cricket captain Paul Jacobs created the front and back covers; the Fitzroy Football Club (now competing in the Victorian Amateur Football Association) honorary secretary Bill Atherton wrote the Foreword; and Steve Barwick – who designed and laid out Dreamer, Drifter, Drunk in late 2014 – did likewise with Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century. And I can’t thank Andrew and his team at Optima enough for the splendid job they did in printing the books in super quick time. I hope you enjoy reading Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, 1897-1996.
Fitzroy – the erratic genius of the VFL/AFL. A team that inspired one week and infuriated the next. This inconsistency added to the charm of a club that is sadly missed in the “Big League”. True, the Brisbane Lions carry the Roys’ torch in the AFL and Fitzroy itself flies the flag proudly in the Victorian Amateur Football Association, based back at its spiritual home in Brunswick Street. But nothing can replace the joy the Roys, Maroons, Gorillas, Lions – the Royboys! – gave to so many during their 100 years in the top flight.
Fitzroy’s VFL/AFL life began in far better style than it finished. In Round 1, 1897, after kicking 11 behinds in the first half without a goal, the Maroons overran the visiting Carlton to win 6.13 (49) to 2.4 (16). The Roys were on top of the ladder with an impressive percentage of 306.25. There were many fine days ahead.
Some 1927 games later in Round 22, 1996 – after being one of just three teams (Carlton and Collingwood were the others) to compete in all 100 VFL/AFL seasons – Fitzroy bowed out with an 86-point defeat to Fremantle at Subiaco Oval. Sadly, the Lions finished on the bottom with a dismal percentage of 49.47. Their only 1996 victory was, coincidentally, against the Dockers at the Western Oval in Round 8.
These two wins and 98 others are discussed in depth in Pete Carter’s latest book, Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, 1897-1996. Pete has split the 100 wins into four distinct quarters, with a suspenseful countdown from 100 to 1. Some victories will be fresh in the minds of devoted fans, while others – including the first game of 1897 – require access to a time machine. Pete doesn’t possess a time machine but, through online newspapers and his extensive sports library, has taken readers back in time to savour some of the Royboys’ finest moments.
There are detailed reports of the club’s eight league premierships, beginning with 1898 and finishing with 1944 (when the team was known as the Gorillas). The other victories include wins by 100-plus points, games where a Fitzroy player booted a double-figure goal tally, boilovers, comebacks, controversial encounters, last-ditch finals entries and thrillers. You name it, it’s there, with some victories falling into multiple categories. During the quarter, half and three-quarter-time “breaks”, Pete has explored other aspects of Fitzroy’s fabulous century, including the seven Night Series, reserves and Under-19 premierships.
Even if you never followed the Roys, reading about some of their great performances will leave you wondering how the AFL Commission could even consider – let alone act upon such a misguided thought – throwing Fitzroy out of the competition. History shows the Lions merged with (or were taken over, in some people’s eyes) the Brisbane Bears in an AFL-orchestrated coup.
In researching, writing and publishing Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, 1897-1996, Pete is grateful to many people, including artist Paul Jacobs, Fitzroy’s honorary secretary Bill Atherton, Steve Barwick of All In One Book Design, Tse Yin Chang of TAD Graphics, and Optima Press production manager Andrew Finlay. Hop on board and enjoy the ride (and read).
Table of contents
- First Quarter
- So Close Yet So Far
- Second Quarter
- Other Fitzroy Flags
- Third Quarter
- The Roys And The Royals
- Fourth Quarter
- A Royboy’s Lament
Junction Oval, Round 22, 1984 (September 1)
It was a day that had everything, and then some. Fitzroy’s dramatic, last-minute entry into the top five; a second successive century of goals by the great Bernie Quinlan; and the final VFL/AFL match at the Junction Oval.
In his quirky The Best of Football Trivia, Marc Fiddian noted the Round 10 Football Record featured an advertisement for the film Against All Odds opposite a VFL ladder showing Fitzroy stuck on the bottom with one win from nine games. From that point on, the Lions won 10 of 13 matches – including their last six – to sneak into the five at the 11th hour.
Brunswick Street, Round 11, 1958 (June 21)
Ben Collins’ massive The Red Fox: The Biography of Norm Smith:
Legendary Melbourne Coach details the extraordinary football lives
of Norm Smith and older brother Len. While Norm is perhaps the most
famous identity in the history of the Melbourne Football Club, it’s often
forgotten that Len – almost three years older – began his playing career
at the MCG before Norm. Len made just 19 appearances for the Demons
and never played in the same team as Norm before his Fitzroy move.
They were on opposing sides nine times between 1938 and 1945, with
the Roys winning three and the Dees six games. By the time Norm
joined Fitzroy as captain-coach in 1949, Len had long since hung up
his boots and was coaching the Gorillas’ Under-19s.
Lake Oval, Round 13, 1909 (July 24)
To paraphrase the late American comedian Rodney Dangerfield:
“I went to a fight the other day, and a football game broke out.”
And, so it was at the Lake Oval when Fitzroy visited eventual 1909
premier South Melbourne – except that the majority of fighting came
not from the players but the fractious red-and-white “supporters”.
The Argus’s Observer provided a somewhat sanitised version of
events. “There may have been some doubt as to which was the match
of the day on Saturday; there was no doubt as to which proved to
be the match of the day. (Sixth-placed) Fitzroy settled that point by
a highly meritorious victory over (top team) South Melbourne. There
was everything on the South ground to make a popular attraction – an
exciting game of baseball between the Columbia Park (American school) boys and a Victorian nine to commence with, and music by the fine Saint Augustine’s Band from Geelong. The great event of the day was, however, the surprise furnished in the football, though it was known that Fitzroy had prepared themselves for a great effort.”
Price (includes postage)
- $30, posted within Australia (direct deposit or PayPal)
- $50, posted outside Australia (direct deposit or PayPal)
Note: These books are shipped from Perth, Australia, therefore ‘Domestic’ refers to orders sent to an Australian address. For all other countries, please select ‘International’.