A life-long love af­fair

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

Achance

en­counter with late Footscray leg­end Char­lie Sutton in a phar­macy in 1951 sparked what would be­come a life-long love of the club for War­rackn­abeal’s Graeme Bell.

“I stud­ied phar­macy and fin­ished my ap­pren­tice­ship in Al­tona,” Mr Bell said.

“One day a man came into the phar­macy there and ev­ery­one made a fuss.

“I asked, ‘who was that?’ and they said, ‘Char­lie Sutton’, with great rev­er­ence in their voices.

“I asked who he played for and in a few weeks I de­cided to go to Footscray to watch some of the play­ers.

“I told the lady I boarded with I was go­ing to go to the foot­ball. She asked, ‘where?’ and when I said, ‘Footscray’, she said, ‘well they’re play­ing Colling­wood, so don’t start bar­rack­ing un­til you’re near some Footscray sup­port­ers’.”

Three years later, in 1954, Mr Bell was in the crowd at the MCG as Sutton cap­tain­coached the Bull­dogs to their first VFL premier­ship, against Mel­bourne.

Mr Bell’s sup­port for the Bull­dogs never wa­vered, de­spite the club spend­ing years in the foot­ball dol­drums.

He was re­warded for his loy­alty last year when the Dog­gies en­joyed a drought-break­ing premier­ship over Sydney.

He had an op­por­tu­nity to re­live the high­lights of both games with 2016 premier­ship cap­tain Eas­ton Wood and upand-com­ing ruck­man Tim English at Wim­mera Base Hospi­tal on Mon­day.

The pair vis­ited the day on­col­ogy unit as part of the club’s an­nual com­mu­nity camp.

Mr Bell, who has se­condary liver can­cer, re­ceived weekly chemo­ther­apy at the hospi­tal be­fore stop­ping treat­ment.

He was thrilled to be in­vited for the Bull­dogs’ visit.

Mr Bell, 85, shared his his­tory of bar­rack­ing for the club and re­lived mo­ments of the 1954 de­cider with Wood and English.

Wood said he found Mr Bell’s rec­ol­lec­tions fas­ci­nat­ing.

“Graeme went to the 1954 grand fi­nal, so to get to hear a first-hand ac­count of some­thing I ob­vi­ously wasn’t around for was great,” he said.

“It was great to hear about the dif­fer­ent parts of the game, how it ebbed and flowed and who was kick­ing goals and who was play­ing well. I was pick­ing his brain and once you got him go­ing, he was a fan­tas­tic sto­ry­teller. He was re­ally cap­ti­vat­ing.”

Mr Bell, who ap­peared in his el­e­ment, said he was ‘a bit puffed’ fol­low­ing the visit.

“I think it’s great the boys are here,” he said. “Maybe within a year or two they might play a cou­ple of games here. I might still be with ev­ery­body. I didn’t think I’d get to see them win the last one but I did, which was won­der­ful.

“I’ve got to 85 and they told me to set tar­gets for my­self, which I’ve done. My next tar­get is my 86th birth­day on July 10 and then our 60th wed­ding an­niver­sary in Oc­to­ber this year.” West­ern Bull­dogs premier­ship coach Luke Bev­eridge caught up with Hor­sham anti-do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ad­vo­cate Si­mone O’brien dur­ing a visit to the re­gion for the club’s an­nual com­mu­nity camp.

Mrs O’brien, a sur­vivor of a hor­rific at­tack at the hands of her ex-fi­ance, joined forces with the West­ern Bull­dogs last year to help fur­ther the club’s anti-do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cam­paign.

The Bull­dogs ded­i­cated their round-13 block­buster against Gee­long to rais­ing aware­ness of White Rib­bon, Aus­tralia’s male-led cam­paign to end men’s vi­o­lence against women.

Mrs O’brien said she was pleased the club would con­tinue its ef­forts in 2017.

“Be­cause Luke’s very pas­sion­ate about it he wants to keep it rolling. They are work­ing with Greater West­ern Sydney, who are also very pas­sion­ate about White Rib­bon,” she said.

Mrs O’brien said she and sev­eral friends en­joyed din­ner with Bev­eridge at Hor­sham’s Ex­change Ho­tel on Mon­day night.

“He wanted to go there be­cause his grand­fa­ther who won a premier­ship here in 1938 worked there,” she said.

“It was re­ally ca­sual and low-key. Luke just like me and you and talks about any­thing and ev­ery­thing.”

GLORY DAYS: War­rackn­abeal’s Graeme Bell rem­i­nisces about the Bull­dogs’ 1954 premier­ship dur­ing a visit from 2016 premier­ship skip­per Eas­ton Wood, right, and new player Tim English.

Pic­tures: PAUL CARRACHER

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