A final roar for a fallen Tiger

By Martin Blake, August 28 2003, The Age

A final roar for a fallen Tiger

By Martin Blake, August 28 2003, The Age

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 more 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 immediately.

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 serious he 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."

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    Sep 2, 2019
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