The Banter will be featuring recollections from past members in each edition. Eric Thomas was honoured with a life membership in 2004. His accolades include (TREASURER: 1943-47, VAHA DELEGATE: 1943-47, PRESS SECRETARY: 1945-47, SOCIAL TREASURER: 1948, U/AGE COACH: 1945-54, 57, 93 (produced 6 future mens club champions), VIC COLTS: 1946, MENS CLUB CHAMPION: 1945-1946). Eric is currently coaching at Kew hockey club close to where he resides.
WRITTEN BY ERIC THOMAS:
A few interesting things happened in the early days of the club. I am the only player left from my 1941 team. B2 Grade. Some players left their mark as standouts. Including Fred Page, Buck Sigley, Bob Blackbell. Ron Govan, Stan Govan, Jack Hull, Ken Yarwood, Bill Youell. All were top class players of those days. My second year found me selected in the A team (aged 16). Found the going tough as I was full back defending against fit grown men but got used to it and started retaliating with reasonable success. A few years later the club numbers dwindled to 10 members. Nine players and the non playing President. At our AGM we contemplated withdrawing the club and winding up the club. This was very upsetting to me as I loved hockey and also the Club atmosphere of fellow friendly players. At this stage Buck was secretary and I was treasurer. We voted to keep the club going with our diminished numbers of 9 players, Buck was voted in as Captain and remained Captain for many years after that. Buck and I managed to keep up the club spirit so as not to lose anybody. We won a game or two and managed a couple of draws. We actually had mostly experienced A grade standard players as stated above. A wave of excitement happened when I recruited a work mate to have a game. We now had 10 players – yippee. We played at Camberwell but lost again. The recruit received a leg injury and that finished the recruit’s only game. So back to 9 players again.
We had a Ladies club with us, called Footscray Central, they eventually disbanded through lack of numbers. There was also a Footscray Ladies club, which apparently ceased operations. Buck started up a boys u/age team. He viewed that juniors would help to build up the club. An excellent idea. I asked Buck if I could take over the team for the following year as coach. YES he said, and that reply marked the beginning of my 70 year coaching career. The teams did extra well.
One team practised every night after school and duly won the flag. It started off by me asking two boys to train the next night. Word got around about this session and 4 more turned up, and by the end of the week (Friday) the whole 11 turned up for a full scale practice. This went on until the end of the season. In one game the Kew opposition team did not want to lose by our “normal 10 goal score” and after travelling by train and tram we were met by Sam, the Kew manager with the walk over news. A measly 5-0 victory. The team members came from a small area in Kensington. We beat Essendon about 20 –0 . Our C/F scored most of the goals. The following week we played Ascot Vale who shared their ground with Essendon It was obvious that Ascot vale would ask Essendon as to who scored the goals. Ascot Vale turned up at our Lynch’s Bridge ground. So I changed our C/F to right wing and Right wing to C/F to put Ascot vale off the scent. Ascot vale put two players on our decoy C/F, (really our normal wing). He did not score during the first 5 to 6 minutes, which pleased Ascot Vale. I called out to the C/F (the decoy) to change to wing, and Wing to change to C/F. The Ascot vale players swarmed towards our Rt Wing, thinking that he was the mighty goal scorer against Essendon. Our C/F then went on to score goal after goal to give Footscray a massive score of 39 goals to nil. 35 minute halves were played in junior games back in those days. Probably an Aussie record.
Playing one Sat morning , a heavy fog blanketed the whole ground beside the river. actually the visible view was 15 m and once the play went further afield the only inkling of where the play was, was to hear the umpire’s whistle. We most likely won that game as the team was just so unbeatable. One morning we were alerted about a body floating down the river. Police were standing watching but never attempted to jump into the freezing water to retrieve him, but our brave John Dalton stripped off his hockey shirt and boots and swam to the middle and dragged the man to the waiting police to the other side. We waited for our brave hero to return to resume the Hockey. There are plenty of stories of interest belonging to the F.H.C.. The history, rivalry, state players, and top umpires from Footscray. A great history and great club.