What better way to start the second half of the season than with a story that reminds us of the long-held passions and commitment people have for our club. You will see David Leydon at just about every Fitzroy game and this is the story of his family’s football journey, as told to Gabrielle Murphy.
At the end of the day, everyone just wants to come home
Born and bred in Fitzroy, Patricia Ryan and Ward Leydon were both passionate Roys supporters when they met and subsequently married in the early 1950s. Theirs was a marriage made in heaven, and heaven was the Brunswick Street Oval.
Pat and Ward have followed Fitzroy through thick and thin all their lives: from ground to ground, in good times and in bad, against all odds. For them and their children, David and Kelly, and David and Kelly’s kids – following the Lions is a family thing. It’s something they’ve always done, and will always do.
So when the first bum deal was dealt the Roys and they were moved off the grand old Brunswick Street Oval in 1966 to become the refugees of the VFL/AFL, it was a wrench. But not one to bemoan their fate, or that of their beloved Roys, Pat and Ward simply changed routes and travelled further afield to watch them every week, rain, hail or shine. Left: The Leydon family (from left to right) David, Sean and Pat, travelled all over Melbourne to watch the Roys at whatever their ‘home ground’ was at the time.
David tells us that Pat first started going to Fitzroy games at Brunswick Street Oval in the late 1940s. She was Pat Ryan back in those days.
“She and her sister Doreen would always stand behind the goals at the Brunswick Street end. That way they could run out of the ground at the end of the game and get a seat on the waiting tram,” says David. “But importantly, it gave them the perfect vantage point to catch the heroics of their favourite forwards and backmen of the day close up.”
Pat was in the crowd when Fitzroy captain Alan Ruthven kicked the winning point in the dying seconds of the 1952 semi-final against Carlton. She was there to see Vic Chanter keep legendary Essendon full forward John Coleman goalless for the only time in his career. She was there when Kevin Murray played his first game and twenty years later, was there to see him play his final three hundred and thirty third game. She was there in the pouring rain at the ’86 elimination final against Essendon when Micky Conlan kicked that last-minute goal to beat Essendon – one of her greatest days as a Roys supporter.
And Pat and Doreen were in the crowd on that sad day in 1996 when the Royboys played their last AFL game in Melbourne. Words aren’t necessary to explain what this felt like for Pat and Doreen. Their faces say it all. Right: Pat Leydon and her sister Doreen express the deep distress all Fitzroy followers experienced on the last day the Roys played in the AFL in Melbourne.
Of all the family, Ward was probably the most affected, finding it very hard to accept what had happened. While the whole Leydon family played their part over the years in fundraising attempts to keep Fitzroy afloat, Ward went to the extent of taking long service leave in 1991 to work on the fundraising appeal conducted by the club from AFL House. He worked there all day, tag teaming with David who came in at night to volunteer on the phones with other passionate Roys supporters.
It was a little different, and perhaps a little easier for Pat, and she embraced the Brisbane Lions concept pretty early in the piece. David thinks much of this was due to Pat’s pivotal position as a Lions’ matriarch and organiser of family football allegiance. After all, she was over the moon when her first grandson Sean was born in 1992 and accompanied him to his first Royboys’ game as a 2-year old. Left: Sean Leydon, 20 months old, with Paul Roos in 1994.
How could a grandmother countenance her first born grandchild living without an AFL team to follow? So, in time, Pat also became a passionate member of the Brisbane Lions and was ecstatic when they won three premierships in a row in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
David, like his father, was at first angry, and then lost, after 1996.
“Even after the first couple of premierships which were great, there was something lacking,” says David. “We yelled, screamed and supported our backsides off in those two grand finals and we were rapt to finally have some success.
“But to me, deep inside, something still didn’t make it feel 100 per cent like old Fitzroy.
“I vividly remember the moment that properly changed that feeling forever.”
This was Round 19, 2003 when the Brisbane Lions played Collingwood at the MCG.
“It was heritage round,” David recalls, “and for the first time the Brisbane Lions wore the old Fitzroy jumper with the traditional white FFC on the front. They looked magnificent!
“The Lions won and as the players walked around the ground waving to supporters after the game, Jonathan Brown and Michael Voss tapped their hearts and pointed to the FFC on the jumper. Sean Leydon with hero Michael Voss in 2003.
“I was in tears and 100 per cent back from that moment,” David says. “It made the third premiership all the sweeter in 2003.”
For David and all the Leydons, the fact that they now have the opportunity to come to the great old Fitzroy home at Brunswick Street Oval every winter is icing on the cake.
“A thousand passionate emotions are stirred every home game,” says David. “Fitzroy Football Club at Brunswick Street Oval and the old song playing, we feel like we’ve come home!” Left: David Leydon at a Fitzroy pre-game luncheon earlier in the season before being presented one of the Roys’ iconic ‘Quit’ jackets from the 1980s and quipping “50 years old and I can’t wait to take it home and show my mum!”
As for Pat, now in her 80s and wheelchair-bound, she remains a proud, passionate and paid up member of the Fitzroy VAFA team and derives much pride in the fact that her husband, sister, son and grandson are too.
She looks forward to receiving the Red Roy and reads it from start to finish every week. She demands to know the quarter-by-quarter Fitzroy VAFA scores from David and is always rapt to hear of their wins and confident in their ability to resurface after a loss.
She absolutely loves the fact that women are now enjoying on-field prominence and recognition in AFL circles, recently telling David that if the AFLW had of been around 60 years ago she’d definitely have got a game for Fitzroy and have liked to play against and beat those Collingwood girls!
She is very pleased to know that the Roys have a women’s team in the VAFA and likes to know that Gemma Minuz and her crew are serving it up to the opposition.
In 2018 Pat and Ward clock up their 60th wedding anniversary. Now that’s a Fitzroy achievement we’ll all celebrate. Caption: At Pat and Ward Leydon’s 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, Fitzroy memorabilia takes pride of place alongside Pat’s wedding gown!
Drew Olarenshaw, hard at it for 150 gutsy games
When Drew Olarenshaw hits the ground this Saturday, he’ll be hitting it hard. And not for the first or last time.
On the eve of his 150th VAFA game, Red Roy spoke to Drew’s coach and firm football admirer, Bernie Carter.
“Drew’s a hard-working footballer who puts team first and just has a crack all the time,” says Bernie.
“He’s fantastic around the group, and even though he’s not in our leadership group this year, sets the example for other players with his willingness to give 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time.”
Supporters might not always pick up the finer points of his game, but for teammates and support staff, Drew stands out as an archetypal hard nut – the type of footballer every team needs to get to the top and stay there.
“Drew works extremely hard for his fellow team mates by doing the 1 percenters which can go unnoticed,” says Bernie, “but not to the coaching group.”
Captain Jack Atkinson, team mate off and on the field since they both graduated from the Under 19s, with whom he’s played virtually uninterrupted over the past five years, agrees.
“As a footballer, Drew is one of the toughest, hardest blokes on the field,” says Jack. “He bounces up from hits that would sideline other players.
“That said he would’ve played his 150th much sooner if he didn't crack in quite so hard!”
For Bernie, it’s Drew’s voice and pressure on the opposition that he and his line coaches most credit. “And if Drew has an idea or thought on training and game day he’s also willing to share that with us.”
Again, you get no argument from Jack. “On and off the field Drew is a great leader and someone whose advice, especially as a previous captain, I’ve really valued this year.”
For the rest of us, we just hope Drew’s career is as long and as hard as we’ve come to admire for so long. And capped off this year with a richly deserved premiership!
Caption: Over 150 hard fought games, Drew’s never been afraid to get down and dirty. Photograph Phyllis Quealy
Roy Girls reload
The Fitzroy-ACU Premier Women’s side faces a very stiff challenge if it’s to make the finals and coach Mick Symons says they are ready for it.
With just six games remaining, some very close losses and a draw have put them well behind the front-runners, but the Roy Girls remain optimistic.
As the team travels over to Glenhuntly Oval to take on Caufield tomorrow, the big focus will be working hard to get players out of congestion and into clear space to maximise their scoring opportunities.
Mick says the team is largely matching their competition in the physical side of games; “In most games we have been well in it, so we just need to stick with it and back each other.
“There is no question the team is all putting in hard and it can be disappointing when you get so close.
“We just have to remember it’s a hard, tough competition this year with no easy games. It’s great for the VAFA that the Premier Women’s competition is a high-quality competition and the standard has lifted from last year.
“But it means we need to keep our standard and concentration at all times. Mostly we have been playing in low-scoring games with a lot of congested play, so the key for us is to maximise the chances and work really hard to get our players out in the open more often,” Mick says.
Mick says Lucy Kerr (pictured above) – new to the team this year and recently named in the initial VAFA rep squad – has had a great season and shown incredible commitment, sometimes coming off a night shift in her role with Vic Pol to take the field not long after. Erin Gogerly has had a very consistent season and Ruby Macdonald has shown some flashes of her brilliance, which no doubt caught the eye of the Brisbane Lions.
Fitzroy-ACU Senior Women will play at 11.40am tomorrow with the Reserves women’s side playing the early game at Caufield at 9.20am, going for their fourth win in a row. The Reserves are sitting nicely in fourth spot on the ladder with the Caufield team in third, so expect a tough contest again.
Mick says the depth of the women’s squad this year and playing both Seniors and Reserves at the same ground each week, has really helped in the overall development of the squad and team unity.
Looking for a solid statement as top two stays the goal
The Fitzroy Senior Men’s side will start the second half of the season with some steely determination to get back in the winning way and cement their top two spot in Premier C.
After an incredible start to the season, two losses on the trot have upset the momentum and coach Luke Mahoney is looking for a solid statement from his committed, hard-working team.
“I’m looking for an improvement in our game style and further development of our talented young guys. We need to work through these losses and evolve.
“We have been working on adjusting some of our set ups and ball movement and the way the guys came back to training this week with a lot of intensity and energy gives me plenty of confidence about the way we are going to play this next block of games.
“We’ve learnt that Premier C is very competitive and it’s turning out to be a very open season – you need to work hard every week and play out the full 18 games if we want that top two spot,” Luke says.
Luke has been really impressed by the application and commitment of a playing group which clearly wants success.
“The eagerness and keenness of players to understand the game plan and implement it quickly has been great. As a new coach you’re unsure how long those things might take with a new group. But I am working with a group of intelligent, committed footballers here and that makes my job easier.
“But it is not a case of turning up and recording wins; as we’ve seen, we have to keep getting better.”
This week’s opponent, St Mary’s Salesian, would not have been happy with their previous showing against Fitzroy, but Luke is quick to point out their improvement in recent weeks. “They’ve had a better month and been a lot more competitive, having pushed Old Camberwell all the way, so we are expecting a strong contest.”
Fitzroy’s prospects will be greatly enhanced by the return of Rory Angiolello and Nino Lazzaro and it’s great to see Lachie Henderson selected for his first senior game this year after some outstanding performances in the undefeated Reserves team.
This week keep an eye on young Bernie Wright (pictured) who will also play his 50th Fitzroy game.
Having put in a big preseason, Bernie and brother Noah have been making their presence felt this year as they start to become regular features in he senior line up, spurring each other on to better and better things. Sadly, Noah will not be in the side with Bernie tomorrow, having struggled through the last few weeks with injury and illness.
Bernie’s commitment to the top side started long before he played his first senior game in round one 2018; back when he was playing Colts with the Juniors he was also volunteering to run water for the Senior side. Congratulations Bernie.
More ‘Roys in rep squads
As a fitting reward for their hard work, high achievements and on-field leadership, Senior Men’ captain Julian Turner and back men Tom O’Donnell and Max Ellis have been named in latest VAFA rep squad.
The Premier B – Division 4 Big V squad will take on the Western Australian Amateur Football League (WAAFL) on July 7 and the Fitzroy trio have been named in the initial 56-man squad. Congratulations Jules, Curly and E-dog.
Whilst the senior sides grapple with some fluctuations in form, our other four sides will be striving to keep some hot winning streaks going tomorrow.
The Reserves men are up for their 10th in a row against St Mary’s Salesian at Brunswick Street.
The Thirds will play at Ramsden Street and will be putting everything into their contest with Williamstown CYMS as they attempt to dislodge them from fourth spot on the ladder. Fitzroy has won the last four games, including a four-point win over third placed Beaumaris in the last round. Liam Webb kicked three goals in the win.
Having lost the first six games and won the last three, the Fitzroy Under 19s are gaining confidence and form as they go and slowly building some momentum. Tomorrow they face a stiff challenge against Old Ivanhoe Grammarians at their home ground, but this is a game they need to win to stay in touch with the top half of the ladder.
The Fitzroy-ACU Women’s Reserves will be going for four in a row tomorrow against Caufield and if they can do it, then they will put a good break on the competition for fourth spot and may even push into third place with a good win over Caufield.
Ahoy Fitzroy Family – are you Reds Ball ready?
All aboard HMAS Fitzroy as this year’s Annual Reds Ball will be a cruise on Saturday June 30! Oh buoy, how exciting!
Please feel free to join the players on this nautical adventure.
Tickets are $60 to cover the cost of the cruise – this will include embarkation (that means getting on the boat, for those who don't know their port from their starboard) and some light food. You are also welcome to bring food.
Drinks will be on Sail for cost price - that means beer, wine and basic spirits from $2.50 to $4.
The cruise will depart from the Docklands near the Woolshed Pub at 7.30-8pm and will dock 3.5 hours later in the same place.
And last boat not least, the theme is nautical. Dust off your boat shoes, get your peg legs ready and fish out your best mermaid tail for the night.
So seas the day and don’t miss out on an oar-some night!
It's not just the players and coaches who take stock at the mid-way point of the season.
Fitzroy's sponsors, local businesses and community groups will be gathering this week with the Board and club leaders to network and hear the latest about what's happening at the club.
Thanks to Our Community Bank (the Clifton Hill/North Fitzroy Community Bank) which is generously sponsoring the night and The Royal Derby, which is hosting, about 40 people will gather this Wednesday night at 6pm to hear all things Fitzroy.
Senior Coaches Luke Mahoney and Mick Symons, along with Captains Gemma Minuz and Julian Turner will speak briefly about the state of play at the club, whilst President Joan Eddy and Sponsorship Director, Kevin Sharp will also speak.
For further information please contact Kevin Sharp on 0403 750 101.
Get your copy of The Footy Lady
With footy royalty joining us tomorrow at Brunswick Street, just a reminder that if you are coming to the lunch with Susan Alberti, you can purchase Susan’s book, The Footy Lady, either before or after the lunch in the community rooms, so bring your credit card along.
This week a number of the VAFA clubs will don special socks for Sockit2MND Round.
Already this week there has been some wonderful coverage and highlights of Neale Daniher and the AFL coaches getting involved to raise over $6 million for MND research as part of the Big Freeze game between Collingwood and Melbourne.
All donations are helping make a difference in finding a cure for this ‘beast’ of a disease. If you haven’t already, you can make your contribution and Support FightMND today, head to www.fightmnd.org.au
This weekend’s games
Caufield Grammarians vs Fitzroy-ACU Women’s Reserves – VAFA Premier Reserve Women’s – Glenhuntly Oval, 9.20am, Saturday 16 June
Caufield Grammarians vs Fitzroy-ACU Women’s Seniors – VAFA Premier Senior Women’s – Glenhuntly Oval, 11.20am, Saturday 16 June
Fitzroy Thirds vs Williamstown CYMS – VAFA Thirds Division 2 – Ramsden Street Reserve, 11.40am, Saturday 16 June
Fitzroy Reserves vs St Mary’s Salesian – VAFA Premier C Reserves – Brunswick Street Oval, 11.40am, Saturday 16 June
Fitzroy Seniors vs St Mary’s Salesian – VAFA Premier C Seniors – Brunswick Street Oval, 2.00pm, Saturday 16 June
Old Ivanhoe Grammarians vs Fitzroy U19s – Holmesglen U19 Section 2 – Chelsworth Park, 2.00pm, Saturday 16 June