25 years after he accepted leadership of the Fitzroy Football Club as its last captain in the AFL, it’s high time Brad Boyd was recognised for his heroic feats over those last two tumultuous years when he carried the hopes and despair of the side, the supporters—and the sympathisers on his young shoulders. And so courageously steered them towards that fateful day at Subiaco Oval in Round 22, 1996.
Brad Boyd in front of the iconic grandstand at the Brunswick Street Oval in the AFL’s centenary year of 1996
Plenty’s been said, written and recorded about Brad Boyd the player. And rightly so. A bit of a late starter in terms of stepping up to the rigours of AFL footy training, once he got going at Fitzroy – after being traded from Collingwood – Brad Boyd was by all accounts a superb footballer, and along the way bagged some significant honours.
In his first season as captain Brad Boyd won Fitzroy’s best and fairest. And in the same year represented Victoria in State of Origin. At the end of his career having played 70 games for the Roys and 15 for Brisbane, he was nominated for the Fitzroy Team of the Century. Man mountain and comrade David Leydon (who knows a thing or two about Fitzroy history) says the only reason Brad Boyd didn’t make the cut was that midfielders like John Murphy, Warwick Irwin and ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn were ahead of him.
And let’s face it, he was so young. For me, in considering Brad Boyd’s legacy, it always comes down to that. So young, with such a huge burden to shoulder as Fitzroy’s last captain in the AFL.
From all accounts – and I’m relying on Fitzroy aficionados like footy historian John Harms and Comrade Leydon here – Brad Boyd was fast and he was agile. He could take a strong overhead mark and had quick hands. He was a club man, a coach’s dream, playing his role and playing it from virtually every position on the field. A natural ruck rover, he’d move without questioning to wherever he was required: from his favourite position in the midfield, to half back flank, to centre half-forward, onto the wing and, when there was no else to fill the gap, even to full back.
Like on that horrible day on Saturday 25 August 1996 when Fitzroy played its last game in Melbourne against Richmond, and coach Allan McConnell called on him to take up duties on the backline in an effort to stop Matthew Richardson in full flight.
Needless to say, it didn’t end well. Nothing did that day. But there was simply no-one else to fill the gap.
John Harms describes Brad Boyd as a footballer’s footballer, a great player whose career was – in the end – cruelled by a failed body. Comrade Leydon’s estimation is pretty similar: “brilliant shortened career”, “able to play wherever he was needed”, “could’ve become anything except for the injuries”.
For me, an archetypal ‘Fitzroy’s-my-second-team-type fan’ back in those days of '95 and '96, the memories are not of the player but of the young man who was made captain.
A captain of an entirely different stamp from other club leaders running around at the time. Think Wayne Carey. Think Stephen Kernahan. Not to mention the vast resources backing them up.
In front of 48,884 people Allan McConnell consoles Brad Boyd at
the end of Fitzroy’s last game at the MCG against Richmond on
Saturday 25 August 1996
I remember turning to the back pages of The Age and seeing the image of a ridiculously young face, sitting on a rather dilapidated couch on his Northcote veranda, talking about his retirement from Brisbane and touching on his time at Fitzroy. And talking sense with his characteristic grace and dignity. Definitely not Wayne Carey. Definitely not Stephen Kernahan.
That article got me thinking. Really?! Leading up to the shameful shafting of one of the VFL/AFL’s founding teams, a club with a history as long as the league, someone so young was called on to steer the ship in those final two turbulent years? And withstand the physical toll and emotional turmoil that came with it?
Made captain in 1995, Brad Boyd was only 23 years old and Fitzroy’s second youngest captain in their long history. Brad Boyd featured as Fitzroy leader on theAustralia Post stamp in the AFL’s centenary year.
Only the great Haydn Bunton, at 20, was younger when named captain for the 1932 season but he didn’t even last out the season, relinquishing the position early on to concentrate on his game. But Brad Boyd didn’t enjoy the same luxury. And didn’t consider taking the option a crucial number of his teammates and football mentors did. He didn’t walk away.
Fitzroy Football Club’s oldest player Ron Bickley sadly passed away on Sunday.
Born in 1926, Ron played his first senior game for Fitzroy in 1949.
He went on to play 29 senior games between 1949 and 1951.
In a 1950 article in The Argus, the main newspaper of the day, a mid-season review described Ron in glowing terms:
“Ron Bickley came from the University Blacks last year and played seven games. This year he started with the seconds but was quickly promoted, and has done so well that he seems fairly certain to maintain that job, which was for some time in the hands of Alan McLaughlin, who at the time of writing is with the seconds.
Few players have settled down so quickly to senior football. His experience with one of the best amateur teams in Victoria must have been most valuable. He is a two footer, with a two way turn that proves most disconcerting to opponents. He has an intelligent approach to the game, and seems to know all the answers. Ron is a clerk, is single and travels from Upper Ferntree Gully each day.”
Argus, 10 June, 1950
Ron remained a lifelong loyal Fitzroy man and was regularly at Brunswick Street Oval games until 2019. With no games being played in 2020 because of the COVID crisis we missed seeing him this winter.
He was our oldest surviving player and played with some of the Roys greats including Bill Stephen, Norm Johnstone, Butch Gale, Vic Chanter and Allan Ruthven.
We send our thoughts and condolences to son Chris who is a much-loved supporter and hard-working volunteer every game day at the Roys, and to all the Bickley family.
Selling fast—new supporter guernseys!
You asked, and we delivered! We get many enquiries at the club about the availability of Fitzroy guernseys for our supporters to wear and now the wait is over!
We're looking for a Coaching Director & Senior Women's Assistant Coach
The Fitzroy Football Club is looking for someone with the right experience and enthusiasm to join our Club in a newly created role to oversee the ongoing development, education and evaluation of all coaches and the development and support of player leadership groups.
If you, or someone you know fits the Position Description, initial queries can be referred to Director, Football Operations, Sharon Torney (0415 420 487) or Director, Player Recruitment and Wellbeing, Michael Pickering (0419 849 662). Click here for the position description.
Senior Women's Assistant Coach:
We are also seeking a Senior Women's Coach to Support and work with the Senior Women's Coach, newly appointed Bronte Ryan, in 2021.
If you, or someone you know fits the position description, initial queries about the position can be referred to Director, Football Operations, Sharon Torney (0415 420 487) or Director, Player Recruitment and Wellbeing, Michael Pickering (0419 849 662). Click here for the position description.
Spread the word - we're on the hunt for Royboys and Roygirls to play for us in 2021
The Fitzroy Football Club is now recruiting experienced players for our senior men's and women's teams!
Do you know someone who is keen to pull the boots back on after a long 2020 with no footy?
We're keen to make 2021 bigger and better than ever after being away from our community for so long and not being able to have a season. It's been a tough year, but it's only made us more motivated to come back strong in 2021.
If you, or someone you know might be interested in playing, please share our expression of interest link below to help us get the message out that Fitzroy is on the hunt for players and we're excited to get back on track for 2021!
Wishing Brisbane all the best in this weekend's Preliminary Final!
The Fitzroy Football Club wishes the Brisbane Lions all the best this weekend in their Preliminary Final against Geelong. We value our ongoing relationship with the Lions and wish them all the best as the prepare for this do-or-die battle.
Go well Lions!
We'd like to extend a big welcome to the world to baby Reuben and send congratulations to dad Richard Willingham and mum Maddie.
Reuben James Foster-Willingham was born on Monday, 5th of October and we're sure will become a much loved member of the Roys family just like his parents are.