The heart of Tigerland
TIGER great Kevin Bartlett gave the eulogy
at Jack Dyer's funeral
yesterday. Here is an edited extract.
MUCH has been said about Jack Dyer over the past few days. Most of it has
been true, although there have been a few stories I think have been
But what is true is that he is the greatest player in the history of the
Richmond Football Club, arguably the greatest player of all time.
He has been an icon of the club, he has been the symbol of the Richmond
Football Club. He's been the inspiration, the motivator, the force behind
the club. He's been the spirit of the yellow and black.
To that famous catch-cry: "Eat Em Alive". Carrying what has got to be
most famous nickname in the history of the game: Captain Blood.
He lifted the spirits through a depression and a world war, he gave the
masses something to cheer about, something to smile about, something to
talk about. He even gave them something to boo about.
Jack had wonderful timing: 54 years ago on this very day, Jack Dyer played
his last game for the RFC against Geelong. Round 19, 1949, August 27. In
his last game he kicked six goals on the state fullback and kicked a goal
with his last kick.
We are gathered here at this famous Richmond landmark where Jack went to
school next door, St Ignatius.
We are in the heart of Richmond to reminisce about the heart of the RFC.
Jack was more than a footballer: in fact, he was a tennis champion of the
district. He was also a snooker champion, which didn't please his dad.
At one stage, he made 200 not out as an opening batsman against a NSW side.
The family moved to Richmond when Jack was just 14. He played football with
his brother Peter, who came from a rugby background and instilled in Jack
the skills of tackling and hard hitting.
At 17 years of age, Jack Dyer made his debut versus North Melbourne and we
should have realised then that we were in for something special.
The Tigers that day kicked a record score - that was the start of a legend.
I first met Jack in 1963. It was quite strange circumstances. I was playing
in the under 19s and we were playing against Geelong at the MCG. In those
days we started about 8.30am and it was cold and miserable. But I was
excited: 16 years of age playing in my first game on the MCG.
The very first bounce of the ball . . . it was a crooked bounce. I went
with the flight of the ball and was smashed from behind and went down.
I lasted three seconds: that was my entire contribution to the game.
I was carried up the race and they called an ambulance. I was lying on a
bench; it was cold, miserable and dark, and I was feeling sorry for myself.
I looked up and who should be there but Jack Dyer. I'd never met Jack Dyer,
I only knew him by watching him on television. He looked at me and said:
"How you feeling, son?"
I think I called him Mr Dyer. I said: "I'm pretty sore. I don't feel very
But he said: "You'll be OK." And he sat there for about 15 minutes
Now I've often wondered: "Why was Jack Dyer there?"
What a boost it was for me.
I think maybe he saw a young player go down, maybe he thought I needed some
consoling, maybe he realised my parents weren't at the ground. Maybe he
just wanted to come around and give me some confidence. What a fantastic
thing for a bloke to do.
When the ambulance came, Jack was with me and he patted me on the head and
he said "You'll be right, son, tomorrow you will be as good as gold; you'll
be up and running."
When I was in hospital for two weeks, lying on my back with a 30cm scar on
my side, I thought: "I don't think Jack Dyer was telling the truth."
Years later, when I broke Jack's record number of games, he was the first
person to congratulate me and tell me how proud he was. We sat and we
laughed. I reminded him of that time when he helped me into the ambulance.
I said: "Jack, I was in hospital for two weeks lying on my back". And
said to me: "I don't know much about hips. I know a lot about
Jack played a huge role in the renaissance of the RFC.
In 1943, he captain-coached a premiership. In 1944, we were runners-up to
Fitzroy. We didn't play in another final until 1967. They were tough times.
Graeme Richmond came on the scene recruiting the best young players. He
took a brown-paper bag full of dollars and a TV set with rabbit ears. He'd
go around and chase the best young players. But the ace in the pack was
that travelling with him in the car was Jack Dyer. How could you refuse?
I remember in the mid-1980s there was a story in the Sun saying Richmond
was going to Brisbane. A group of us were very disappointed to read that .
. . among us was Jack himself.
He had fire in his eyes, a bit like Mike Brady when he said: "Infamous Jack
Dyer, breathing smoke and fire."
He was ready for a fight . . . Richmond supporters becoming armchair TV
barrackers - that wasn't going to happen.
Jack went down to the club . . . every word coming from his heart, the
stories of struggletown - he turned the tide. The subject was dropped and
Richmond stayed in Melbourne.
Most of us can also recall 1990 when Save Our Skins was so important to the
RFC. A lot of money had to be raised by the club - $1.5 million.
A lot of people didn't think it could be done. The Bulldogs had struggled
to survive, South Melbourne had been shipped off to Sydney, Fitzroy were
struggling and here was Richmond asking its supporters to put money into
I wasn't quite certain myself . . . most people didn't think it could be
Jack spoke, he talked about his time at Richmond, what it meant to the
people, to struggletown, to the masses. I knew then that the RFC was going
to be saved by Jack Dyer.
What a pleasure it would have been to have seen him play. I can only assume
it must have been a mixture of Wayne Carey and James Hird.
Jack was an apprentice panel beater; well, the beating part was true. He
was a police officer for 10 years, ran a milk bar, a flower shop and was
also a publican.
He played 312 games for the Tigers, kicked 443 goals and broke 64
collarbones. He won six best-and-fairest awards - the greatest effort by
any Richmond player. Those who saw him say he was unbelievably quick.
At the end of his career he kicked eight goals against the black-and-white
enemy at Punt Rd, He would have loved that . . . he loathed Collingwood.
The stories about not watching black-and-white television were true.
Jack played at a time when players played for the love of the game. And the
game loved Jack Dyer.
Mourning more than a legend
By Caroline Wilson
August 28 2003
There was always going to be a level of discomfort at Tigerland this week
when Jack finally went. Because Richmond is no longer the great club he
helped create and the 24-year drought that followed his last flag in '43
has now been matched.
Not that the Tigers put a foot wrong in the way they orchestrated their
dignified but haunting goodbye to the club's original legend.
The thoughtless disrespect that almost two years ago led to Paul Hudson
being presented with a Richmond guernsey bearing the No. 17 appears gone
from the club. At the MCG on Sunday every Tiger player will wear Jack
Dyer's number, but next season no one will.
There was talk of Mark Coughlan switching from No. 24, but as a gesture it
would have proved premature and foolhardy, pressuring a potential champion
of the future when the club so clearly lacks them.
No, the discomfort yesterday lay in stark realisation of all the great
things the Tigers have lost.
Dyer revolutionised football but, when the national AFL revolution took
place, Richmond failed to recognise its proper place in it.
Of all the champions of the great post-Dyer era, Jack was closest to Kevin
Bartlett, but somewhere along the way Richmond lost him, too.
And Dyer died in late August when you could almost smell the spring. But
September holds little meaning for Tiger fans these days.
And Captain Blood passed away in a year that the club's current captain,
tremendous player that he is, was sidelined by injury along with his
And the club realised finally, that Matthew Richardson would never be a
The tributes will roll on until Sunday, when the Tigers run from their MCG
changing rooms in the soon-to-be-rebuilt Northern Stand for the last time.
Former players, including every former premiership player, have been
invited into those rooms before the game.
Kevin Sheedy, Mick Malthouse and Neil Balme - for whom September has
meaning - have all been invited.
The ceremony yesterday at Punt Road ended officially about 2pm when 312
black and yellow balloons were released, symbolising Dyer's games for his
club. The Tigers' last premiership coach, Tony Jewell, noticed their
strange human shape as they flew into the clouds and observed it could have
been "old Jack himself" fading from view. Nearly 2000 supporters
from the turf, leaving it bare but tantalisingly lush and green. This oval
has celebrated many Septembers, but this year, again, the Punt Road field
will lie bare.
The club song was sung, but it was a hollow rendition. It only works when
the team is winning and the only side Richmond has beaten since round eight
is the Bulldogs.
The football community had said goodbye earlier to Dyer at St Ignatius and
you couldn't have asked any more of a funeral or its speakers. But for
Richmond supporters, Bartlett's wise and emotional eulogy again brought
home how much the club and its playing group are missing by his ongoing
boycott of the Tigers.
So the football community would have departed Dyer's funeral enriched by
the experience. Richmond's new chum Greg Miller said he had learned more
about the club in one day than in his previous 10 months.
For the Tiger faithful, into which Miller appears determined to immerse
himself and rebuild the club, several hours later there was a nostalgic
appreciation for everything that Captain Blood had stood for.
But it was a celebration thick with melancholy. And walking from the Punt
Road grass and the giant, painted No. 17, the sadness was as tangible as it
A final roar for a fallen
By Martin Blake
August 28 2003
Football is full of myths, legends, misconceptions and half-truths - and
one of them is that Jack Dyer, or "Captain Blood" to the masses, was
hard-man than great player.
So when his old mate Bob Davis stood up to deliver his part of the eulogy
to Dyer at St Ignatius in Richmond yesterday, he set the record straight
Davis pointed out that of about 11,000 men to have played league football,
Dyer made the 21 who were chosen in the AFL's team of the century a couple
of years ago, perhaps as one of the first picked.
Kevin Bartlett, Richmond's other most famous son, also spoke at the requiem
mass yesterday, and made the same point.
"What is true is that Dyer is the greatest player in the history of the
Richmond Football Club, arguably the greatest player of all time," said
Bartlett. "He has been the icon of the club, he has been the symbol of the
Richmond Football Club, he has been the inspiration of the club, he's been
the motivator of the club, the force behind the club. He's been the spirit
of the yellow and black."
It was an emotional day for the Tigers and, indeed, for all the football
community. Dyer's death last Saturday at age 89 gave Richmond people no
time to prepare a proper tribute to its greatest son by the time its
players ran on to the ground on Sunday.
But about 1000 people attended yesterday's requiem mass, held at the church
where Dyer was an altar boy, where he was married in 1939, and where his
own two children, Jack and Jill, were married. Yesterday his grandchildren
led the prayers. The Richmond players and students from St Ignatius school,
where he was a pupil, formed the guard of honour as the club theme song was
played over the loudspeakers.
Later, back at Punt Road Oval beneath the Jack Dyer Stand, the Tiger
faithful gathered around an emblem of his No. 17 guernsey etched into the
turf as his family released 312 yellow and black balloons, one for each
game he played for the club. Together they gave another rousing version of
The Yellow and Black.
The tributes will continue when Richmond meets Hawthorn in its final game
of the season on Sunday.
Bartlett said Dyer "played 312 games for the Tigers, kicked 443 goals and
broke 364 collarbones". He said Dyer inspired people throughout the Great
Depression and a world war.
"He gave the masses something to cheer about, he gave the masses something
to smile about, something to talk about. He even gave them something to boo
about," he said.
Bartlett recalled his first meeting with Dyer, as a 16-year-old Richmond
under-19s player in 1963. He had been seriously injured at the first bounce
of a final and was awaiting an ambulance in the dressing rooms when the
legendary figure appeared at his side. Dyer stayed 15 minutes talking to a
lad he had never met, not to know that a couple of decades on the boy would
overtake his club games record.
Bartlett said he had ribbed Dyer years later about his assurance that day
that the pain would be gone by the next day. Bartlett was to spend the next
fortnight in hospital with a hip injury. "He (Dyer) said: 'I didn't know
much about hips. I only know about collarbones."
Davis, the straight man to Dyer and Lou Richards on League Teams and World
of Sport, recalled their time on TV. "Dyer specialised in mangling of the
English language and droll humour," Davis reminisced. "The more
was, the funnier he was."
Once, said Davis, he and Richards hoodwinked Dyer into believing that his
interview subject, a new Hawthorn player by the name of Bohdan Jaworskyj,
spoke little English.
"He patted him on the chest and said: 'Me Jack Dyer. What your name?' The
kid said: 'Bohdan Jaworskyj, Jack. What are you on about?' "
Bartlett did not attend the supporters' function at Punt Road yesterday,
maintaining his estrangement from the club that sacked him as coach more
than a decade ago. But his voice was breaking as he closed his tribute at
St Ignatius. "Jack played at a time when the players played for the love of
the game. And the game loved Jack Dyer."
Tigerland salutes Captain
28 August 2003 Herald Sun
By MICHAEL WARNER
FOOTBALL greats and diehard fans yesterday farewelled the greatest Tiger of
them all: Jack "Captain Blood" Dyer.
More than 1000 people packed St Ignatius Catholic Church in Richmond, the
battlers' suburb Dyer made his own.
It was exactly 54 years to the day since he played the last of his 312 VFL
A tiger pelt was draped across the coffin as past and present Richmond
players rubbed shoulders with former foes, fans, friends, family and AFL
In the front row were Dyer's ageing mates Lou Richards, Bob Davis and Bobby
Joining them were his only living sister, Aileen, five grandchildren and
Davis and Kevin Bartlett, the only Richmond player to play more games than
Dyer, delivered stirring eulogies.
The entire Richmond playing list formed a guard of honour as the six-time
best and fairest winner was carried from the church to his favourite tune,
Hundreds lined Church and Swan streets to pay their respects, most donning
the famous yellow and black worn by Dyer between 1931 and 1949.
The funeral cortege wound its way slowly and quietly past Punt Road Oval
just after 11.30am.
Dyer, nicknamed Captain Blood for his fearless attack on the ball, was
later laid to rest at Springvale alongside wife Sybil, who died in 1967.
At Punt Road, 312 yellow-and-black balloons were released from the shadows
of the Jack Dyer Stand, one for each game he played for the club.
A giant No. 17, the number he wore, was painted on to the Punt Road turf, a
gesture that will be repeated for the Tigers' clash with Hawthorn at the
MCG on Sunday.
Bartlett told the church service how Dyer almost single-handedly saved the
club from extinction during the Save Our Skins crisis in the early 1990s.
"We needed to raise $1.5 million -- I had my doubts that we could do
"But Jack Dyer strode out on to the ground and spoke about everything the
club meant to him and to them. He saved the club with one speech."
In remembering Dyer, Kevin Bartlett recalled the first time he met Jack
after he had been injured during an under-19s game at the MCG in 1963.
The match had started early in the morning and Bartlett's parents hadn't
arrived at the ground in time to see him carried off.
Dyer made his way to the changerooms to console the youngster, telling him
he'd soon be feeling "as good as gold" and would be out of hospital
Years later, Bartlett told Dyer he had spent more than two weeks in
hospital. "And he said to me: 'I didn't know much about hips -- I only knew
about collarbones'," Bartlett said. Dyer was reputed to have broken the
collarbones of 64 opponents.
Bob Davis, a former World of Sport co-host, said his old mate embodied
"Without Jack Dyer AFL football would have struggled," Davis said.
Triple Brownlow medallist Bob Skilton said Dyer's fearsome on-field
reputation only told half the story.
"Jack himself was just a beautiful person. He'd do anything for you. He was
a wonderful friend and it was a privilege to be considered that by Jack,"
Former Tiger coach Tommy Hafey said Dyer was the hero of all Richmond
"He was our greatest player, arguably the best player of all time,"
said at the wake.
"As the years get going you probably forget who the really great players
were, but I don't think anybody would be as big as Jack Dyer."
Former Richmond president and champion player Neville Crowe said Dyer
embraced everyone who crossed his path, from the grassroots supporter to
the game's elite.
"Jack was a very humble man, you always felt comfortable in his presence.
He was warm and sincere, he wasn't one of those guys who spoke to you for
the sake of getting rid of you."
Granddaughter Georgia Devine recalled how Dyer would bribe her with lollies
to help him memorise the numbers of opposition players during his days as a
"He'd sit me down a few days before a game with his list of players and
rattle off the names and numbers," Ms Devine said.
Former Richmond president Leon Daphne recounted a day in the mid-1990s when
Dyer was mobbed by Tiger players during a visit to Punt Road headquarters.
"None of them had seen him play, they'd only heard the stories, but they
all wanted to associate with him," Daphne said.
Tiger star Andrew Kellaway said the players were determined to do it for
Jack during their final game for the season at the MCG on Saturday.
"Everyone is aware of what he's done for the football club," he said.
John Raymond Dyer was born in Oakleigh on November 13, 1923 -- playing his
first game for the Tigers aged 17 in 1931.
He retired from football in 1949, winning a record six best and fairests
and playing in two premierships, in 1934 and 1943.
He captained Victoria twice and kicked 443 career goals, including nine in
a final and one with his last kick in VFL football.
Of the 11,000 to have played at the highest level, Dyer was selected in the
best 21 in the AFL's Team of the Century.
After hanging up the boots, he became an even bigger star as a football
commentator and television host and was part of Channel 7's World of Sport
from 1956 to 1986.
After a long illness he died on Saturday, aged 89.
Church on the hill hosts a
By NICK PAPPS
FOR more than 100 years, St Ignatius Church has watched over Richmond,
guiding it through wars, the Great Depression and the good times.
And yesterday the imposing bluestone building at the top of Richmond Hill
said goodbye to its greatest son, Jack Dyer.
Dyer was Richmond -- a football club legend who grew up, fought and spilled
blood for his suburb in the shadows of St Ignatius Church.
Dyer, Richmond and St Ignatius have always been inseparable. The trinity
began in the 1920s when young Jack was an altar boy at St Ignatius and a
pupil at the primary school next door.
In the same church he would become a husband, marrying Sybil in 1939, and
later would proudly look on as his children were married there.
Yesterday at 10am, on a crisp winter morning some 54 years after his last
game for the Richmond Football Club, Jack Dyer's final milestone was also
marked at the church on the hill. More than 800 people crowded into St
Ignatius, filling the pews and lining the walls with their yellow-and-black
scarfs, tiger print tops, Richmond badges and tiger striped ties.
Fans, club presidents and high-powered businessmen sat shoulder to shoulder
with Tigers of old such as Sid Dockendorff and today's champions, including
Wayne Campbell and Ben Holland.
For over an hour, tales of a bygone era bounced around the old church as
the feats, dramas and laughs of Jack Dyer's life were retold.
The stories recalled the father, grandfather, footballer, police officer
and World of Sport star.
There were laughs at memories of Captain Blood's legendary dislike of
Collingwood -- "The enemy just up the road and over the hill" -- and
immense pride in the man who fought to keep his club alive.
For much of his life, Dyer had carried the hopes and dreams of a struggling
suburb on his broad shoulders and strong back.
Yesterday they said thank you.
After more than an hour of recollections, it was time for the church to say
goodbye to its favourite son. As incense surrounded Dyer's casket, covered
by a tiger pelt, the final act was over.
At 11.30, the spirit of Dyer alive in their hearts, the crowd made their
way down the hill to Richmond's heartland at Punt Rd.
In front of the stand that bears the Dyer name and within sight of the St
Ignatius spire, they gathered and remembered for one last time.
On a day that would have filled Jack Dyer's heart with pride and hope, one
of Richmond's faithful summarised just what the legend meant.
"He was inspirational," Ron Reiffel said. "He is Richmond."
Hundreds turn out for
By Jane Bardon
August 27, 2003 - 10:58AM
Kevin Bartlett pays tribute http://media.f2.com.au/?rid=12686
World of Sport co-host Bob Davis http://media.f2.com.au/?rid=12687
More than 1,000 family, friends and fans today packed a funeral service for
Australian Rules legend Jack Dyer in Melbourne.
The former Richmond Tigers player and captain, who died at the age of 89 on
Saturday, was remembered by family, friends and colleagues at the St
Ignatius Church in Richmond.
With his coffin draped in a tiger skin, another former Richmond great,
Kevin Bartlett, and Bob Davis, his co-host on the hugely popular Sunday
television show World of Sport, delivered eulogies to the man known as
In his eulogy Bartlett paid tribute to Dyer both during his momentous days
as a player during the 1930s depression when he "gave the masses something
to smile and talk about," as coach a instrumental in helping to sign and
inspire new young stars and later as the elder statesman who led the
rallying call to save Richmond from its financial troubles.
"He was the greatest player in the history of Richmond, he has been the
icon of the club, the force behind the club and the spirit of Richmond," Mr
Former Geelong player Bob Davis, fondly remembered his days working with
Dyer in television. He said eight million people had watched Dyer play over
the years, but on television Dyer drew 800 million viewers.
"As soon as the red light went on he was the consummated TV worker and he
didn't know it. The more serious he was, the more funny he was. The times
that we had together, and that he made for you people, were just
Mr Davis said Dyer was not just the icon of Richmond, but of AFL and
credited him with "almost single-handedly keeping the BFL and AFl together
when it was wanting to self destruct".
"Jack Dyer for me is just what AFL embodies. Jack has the church to thank
for his eternal life, but he will also get one from AFL because without him
AFL would have struggled."
Both men remembered his fearsome reputation as a player with an all or
nothing "Eat 'em or die" philosophy which earned him numerous injuries
surprisingly few bookings.
"Jack played at a time when players played for the game and the game loved
Jack Dyer," Bartlett said.
Although the mood was sombre, it was undoubtedly a mass for a man of the
people as both Bartlett and David drew laughs and applause from those
Outside the church many former players and fans wore their team colours.
Kevin Ryan from the 1958 squad said Dyer taught them many important
lessons. "He always said get up straight away and don't let them know they
hurt you and he had a great sense of social justice, he looked after the
Richmond's current team formed a guard of honour and the crowd applauded as
the hearse drew away.
A public tribute was later held for Dyer at Richmond's Punt Road Oval.
Fans released 312 balloons to celebrate each of the games Dyer played for
his beloved Tigers, before ending the day with a rendition of the club's
Life tribute to Dyer
By SHAUN PHILLIPS and MICHAEL WARNER
JACK Dyer will be honoured with a public church service, a reunion of past
Richmond champions - and a striking 3-metre bronze statue.
Hundreds of mourners are expected to pack St Ignatius Catholic Church at
10am on Wednesday to mourn the footy legend dubbed Captain Blood.
A wake is expected to be held at the club's Punt Rd home later that day.
Visitors to Tigerland will soon be forever reminded of Dyer's greatness,
with the bronze sculpture to be unveiled outside the club's Punt Rd
headquarters within weeks.
The statue is modelled on a famous action shot of Dyer now used as the logo
of Channel Nine's The Footy Show.
Richmond officials will meet Dyer family members this morning to plan a
week of tributes culminating in a player reunion at the MCG during
Richmond's clash with Hawthorn next Sunday.
A minute's silence will be held on the ground before the opening bounce.
Richmond president Clinton Casey said the Tigers would have pushed for Dyer
to become the second footballer honoured with a state funeral - the first
was Ted Whitten in 1995 - if his family had so desired.
But Jack Dyer Jr said the family decided the memorial service at St
Ignatius on Wednesday would give the wider community the chance to say
farewell to Dyer, who died on Saturday aged 89.
The only player to pull on a Richmond jumper more often than Dyer, Kevin
Bartlett, has been asked to deliver a eulogy.
Geelong champion Bob Davis, who with Dyer and Lou Richards became the first
footballing multimedia stars, has also been asked to speak.
St Ignatius, in Richmond, can hold 800 people, but hundreds more may have
to stand outside to honour Captain Blood.
Current-day Tigers used Dyer's memory as a spur in yesterday's clash with
league-leaders Port Adelaide at Telstra Dome.
They wore black arm bands in honour of the six-time best and fairest winner
and seemed determined to do him proud.
Injured skipper Wayne Campbell said the players were desperate to produce a
performance worthy of commemorating Dyer's life.
But after a gallant effort, the Power prevailed 18.19 (124) to 16.8 (104).
The Tigers watched footage of Dyer - dubbed Captain Blood for his ruthless
on-field behaviour - before taking the field.
A sombre Tigers coach Danny Frawley said: "We tried to pay respect to the
Dyer name and club as best we could."
Football's biggest names yesterday lined up to honour Dyer.
Campbell - a former winner of the Jack Dyer Medal, Richmond's best and
fairest award - put the No. 17's standing in perspective.
"It's amazing - he retired in 1949 and yet even now, when you think of
Richmond footy club, you think of Jack Dyer," Campbell said.
"A couple of years ago when the Hall of Fame committee met to decide on the
first immortal, they didn't meet for too long. He was alway going to be
that first one."
Clinton Casey said Dyer was Richmond.
"Jack Dyer was the embodiment of that ruthless, win-at-all cost,
eat-'em-alive spirit that is famous at Tigerland," he said.
"It's going to be a big Jack Dyer week. We're doing a special tribute at
the MCG next weekend, where Jack would have loved it to be.
"It will be the last time the players run down the race from our clubrooms,
because they are to be demolished.
"We're getting the five premiership teams . . . who used those rooms to
Richmond commissioned the bronze statue of Dyer about four months ago.
It will stand outside the Punt Rd Oval, modelled on a famous newspaper
picture taken during the 1944 preliminary final - a day Dyer scored nine
It is the work of Mitch Mitchell, who also created the famous Ted Whitten
sculpture at Whitten Oval and the John Landy/Ron Clarke Sportsmanship
tribute that sits outside Vodafone Arena.
TO CAPTAIN BLOOD