Peace for a Champion

HeraldSun By IAN HABERFIELD 24 Aug 2003

PEACE FOR A CHAMPION

HeraldSun By IAN HABERFIELD, 24 Aug 2003

SEVENTY-TWO years ago a gawky, raw-boned kid ran on to Punt Road oval for the first of his 312 VFL games.

John Raymond Dyer, recruited from a team quaintly called the Richmond Hill Mob, launched a career in Round 2, 1931.

He had an inauspicious start, spending the afternoon on the bench while Richmond kicked a league record score against North Melbourne (30.19 to 4.7).

Dyer was dropped the following week and did not re-emerge until the return game later in the year.

But from that day forward, his football career took off and he quickly established himself as Richmond's first ruck.

He was labeled "Captain Blood" after the Errol Flynn character and, as legend has it, he was strong, tough, wild -- but, most of all, skilled.

At once hated, idolised, feared and cheered, the captain was the undisputed villain of the game.

When Dyer retired in 1949, he left behind a record studded with broken bones and clashes with umpires.

Once, after he knocked out an opposition player, 200 angry fans waited outside the ground to get at him. At that time Dyer was a policeman.

Emerging in his uniform he drew his revolver, made a break for his car and got away, although he was showered with stones and bottles.

Although one of the hardest players in the history of footy, Dyer had many fans.

When he was in hospital, Captain Blood received more than 500 well-wishing telegrams and when Richmond's adoring fans began their chant, "Eat 'em alive, Tigers", there was no doubt to whom the call was directed at.

But for all his reputation as a football wild man, Dyer was more than a mere bruiser.

He was a fine mark, an excellent kick and a dedicated team man. Amazingly fast for a man his size, he could play in any position and had the football brain of a true champion.

Dyer was born in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh on November 13, 1913.

Soon afterwards, the family moved to a small farm at Yarra Junction about 80km from Melbourne.

At 12, he bought his first pair of football boots and was soon playing with grown men in the Upper Yarra Valley competition.

News of the football prodigy filtered out and young Dyer was offered a scholarship with St Ignatius School in Melbourne.

In 1927, Dyer's parents moved to Melbourne. The boy was 14 and had to leave school to help with the family finances.

He got a job as a packer at the equivalent of $1.25 a week and began playing for the Richmond Hill Old Boys in the Metropolitan Junior League.

By the 1930 season, when Dyer won the award for the best and fairest player in the junior competition, word of his ability reached Richmond.

The 17-year-old gleefully accepted an invitation to train with the team for the 1931 season.

It was the middle of the Depression. Dyer himself was out of work and like many others he needed the $6 for a match.

For all his destructive tactics, Dyer seemed to bear a charmed life with umpires. He was reported only five times and suspended once.

By the late 1940s, Dyer was slowing up but was as deadly as ever.

In his last game, in 1949, he kicked six goals.

On retiring, he switched from the footy oval to the media and was part of Channel 7's World of Sport from 1956 to 1986.

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