Tigerland salutes Captain Blood

28 August 2003, Herald Sun, By MICHAEL WARNER

Tigerland salutes Captain Blood

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 games.

A tiger pelt was draped across the coffin as past and present Richmond players rubbed shoulders with former foes, fans, friends, family and AFL dignitaries.

In the front row were Dyer's ageing mates Lou Richards, Bob Davis and Bobby Skilton.

Joining them were his only living sister, Aileen, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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, Tigerland.

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 it," Bartlett said.

"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 the following day.

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 football.

"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," Skilton said.

Former Tiger coach Tommy Hafey said Dyer was the hero of all Richmond people.

"He was our greatest player, arguably the best player of all time," Hafey 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 commentator.

"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.

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