A LEGEND WRITTEN IN BLOOD
24 August 2003 Sunday Herald Sun
By SCOT PALMER

JACK Dyer, "Captain Blood", the greatest Tiger of them all, died peacefully in his sleep at Box Hill Hospital yesterday, aged 89, but in the back streets of Richmond his legend will live forever.

Jack's wonderfully quirky memory finally deserted him three months ago, leaving him with only the ghosts of football's past for company. He finally surrendered to a severe bout of pneumonia at 1pm.

His son Jack Jr, daughter Jill and members of their families had been with him until an hour earlier, leaving him sleeping.

"He was in no pain," Jack Jr said. "The doctors said the pneumonia was one last battle he couldn't win; his body simply finally folded up."

Wherever the game of football is played, and bumps are dished out, that will come as a shock.

"He was a wonderful dad, always quick to give you a kick up the butt if you needed it, but he was always there for support," Jack Jr, 62, said. "There was always love in the house."

A special prayer service at St Ignatius Catholic Church, in Church St, atop Richmond hill, will take place this week before the same altar that as a raw-bone schoolboy Jack served the Brothers and his faith.

There will be time then to walk into the asphalt and red brick schoolyard of "St Igs" where young football protege Dyer used to dominate the kick-to-kick in a pair of hob-nailed boots at lunchtime.

An AFL and Richmond legend, Dyer went on to play a then-record 312 games for Richmond, became playing-coach then coach, topped the goalkicking and when the grubby old knee bandage was tossed aside finally, he became a television fixture with Channel 7, teaming with Lou Richards and Bob Davis.

Jack will be buried at Springvale alongside his wife Sybil, who died in 1967. They met at an old time dance in Richmond and their original home in Docker St, already a shrine for the young Tigers who revered him, will have many locals passing by from today.

They're bound to recall a frantic visit by Channel 7's sports chief, the late Ron Casey, who after sending his star commentator several urgent telegrams finally had to drive to Richmond and knock on his door.

Jack answered and was surprised to see Casey. "Didn't you get my telegrams?" Casey asked. "Yeah," said Jack, pointing to the unopened mail on his mantelpiece. Then he explained to Casey: "You never open those, they only bring bad news."

It was Dyer's tough, collarbone-shattering playing style that earned him the respect of the Richmond people, but it was also his simple home-spun philosophies on life that turned respect into love.

At one time he was a milk bar owner, in Church St, not far from his home. He always had time for the neighbourhood kids, invariably asking them "Who do you barrack for, son?" before telling them of the mighty deeds of Smeaton, Harris, Bolger and Oppy in his heyday.

IF a customer looked a "toughie", and in those days there were plenty of them in Richmond, Jack would tell them, "You should have a go, son, but never leave a scar. It's not good creating enemies". To the end he had few and success never spoilt him.

In his twilight years he lost touch with former Tigers such as Royce Hart, Mike Patterson, Bill Barrot and Roger Dean. One of his more difficult TV appearances concerned the shooting death of Tiger premiership captain Fred Swift when World of Sport producer Casey wanted Dyer to give a type of eulogy.

Jack was reluctant, but Casey lost his temper and ordered to do it. Jack obeyed, but never looked at the camera. He did not want to tell Casey that he had left his false teeth at home.

Always a storyteller, Jack perpetuated the myth of him being the most feared of all players to relating how in one game against Melbourne he was coping with the game's first tagger, Jack O'Keefe, until his patience gave out just before halftime. He turned around and flattened the Demon.

A stretcher arrives and a blanket was pulled over O'Keefe. Melbourne champion Dr Don Cordner walked past the stretcher and pulled it over his teammate's face.

Jack raced into the room and found Tiger official and criminal lawyer, Ray Dunn. He told Dunn: "I think I've killed that bloke."

Dunn replied: "Don't worry Jack, if we make the finals I'll make sure you get off on manslaughter."

Right to the end he denied he was the commentator who said a ruckman's "arms reached up like a couple of giant testicles" but there were others that will be attributed to him forever. Like the shot he supposedly took from the boundary at so tight an angle that it caught between the goalposts.

AND after one function in the bush, Jack delighted in telling colleagues: "They were so pleased with what we did, they gave us a motor arcade."

We will remember the other Dyer pearlers though, such as "I won't say anything in case I say something" or "Bartlett's older than he's ever been before".

Jack could have been a politician. While running a pub in Prahran he stood as a Labor candidate against the sitting Liberal member Sam Loxton, a former St Kilda player and Test cricketer. Many of his Richmond mates handed out how-to-vote cards for him.

Unfortunately, it was the time of the split in Labor ranks and the DLP ran candidates.

Jack always claimed it cost him a seat in state parliament.

Everyone believed Jack to be invincible because of the car smashes he survived. Once a cow came through his window and on another occasion he finished in a channel and almost drowned.

Before one Brownlow Medal presentation Jack had a bingle outside Graeme Richmond's Vaucluse Hotel in Swan St, but after exchanging numbers was able to hitch a lift with millionaire Lindsay Fox, who was driving past in his Rolls Royce.

Arriving at the Brownlow still shaking, Lou Richards told his right-hand man: "You would do anything to miss a fairest and best, would you?"

MAIN PAGE