A life-long love affair
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