Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

The Opposition – Footscray

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Footscray in 1953 were on the cusp of premiership success. This was the year they won their first ever final, when they defeated Essendon in the semi-final by 8 points. They reached the preliminary final which they lost to Geelong by 26 points. It would be another year before the Bulldogs would finally taste premiership glory by winning their only Grand Final.

Footscray were captained and coached by Charlie Sutton. He debuted with the club in 1942 and played 173 games in a career that lasted 12 years. (He did not play between 1943-1945) He became captain/coach of the Bulldogs in 1951, a year after he won the best & fairest award which would subsequently be named after him. He would remain captain until his retirement as a player in 1955 and stay as coach until he was unceremoniously dumped midway through the 1957 season, when Ted Whitten took over. He is also a member of Footscray’s team of the century. He is a legend of the Footscray Football Club.

Ruckman Harvey Stevens won Footscrays’ best & fairest award in 1953. Two weeks prior to the start of the 1953 season Stevens was dumped by Collingwood and was fortunately picked up by the Bulldogs just prior to round 3. Stevens played VFL footy for 10 years, with 5 seasons at Collingwood where he played 55 games, and 5 at Footscray where he played 72 games. He played in Collingwood’s losing 1952 Grand Final side, where he was tried without success at full-forward, even though he had never played in that position before. Many feel that he was made the scapegoat for that loss and despite performing well in the 1953 preseason he was dumped from the team before the start of the new season. Stevens became a  member of the Bulldogs’ 1954 premiership side and captained Footscray in 1957.

The most famous Bulldog of all was a member of the 1953 side. 1953 was the 3rd VFL season for the legendary Ted Whitten. ‘E.J’ had played just 29 games prior to 1953. To many people he was the embodiment of everything Footscray, he captained the club from 1957 until his retirement as a player in 1970. Teddy also coached the club from July 1957 until 1966, when his predecessor Charlie Sutton took over the helm, and again from 1969 until 1972, when Collingwood’s greatest ever player Bob Rose took over the coaching role. Whitten won the Bulldogs’ best and fairest in 1954, 57, 58, 59 and 61 and was their leading goal kicker in 1961, 62, 64 and 68. He is the captain of both the Western Bulldogs‘ team of the century and AFL team of the century. Like Sutton he is a legend of the Western Bulldogs Football Club.

In 1953 the leading goal kicker for Footscray was Jack Collins who kicked 50 goals for the season. Collins won the best & fairest award for the Bulldogs in 1951 and 52. His 1953 season is perhaps remembered mostly for the controversy that occurred in the final round of the home & away season when he and Collingwood’s Frank Tuck clashed which caused both players to be suspended for the finals series. Collins played 154 games for Footscray over 9 seasons and kicked 385 career goals.

Peter Box was another of Footscray’s top players of the 1950s. He debuted in 1951 but missed the entire 1952 season through injury. In 1956 he won the Brownlow Medal after winning Footscray’s best & fairest in 1955. Don Ross the 1956 Footscray best & fairest was playing his second season in 1953.

The Footscray backline of 1953 also featured some of their all-time great players including Wally Donald and Herb Henderson. The Bulldogs conceded only 959 points for the season, the lowest in the VFL history to that date.

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