1954 Premiership Team
Coach & Captain:
Charlie Sutton - Born April 3, 1924 - Died 5 June, 2012 (173 games, 65 goals)
Peter Box - Born March 22, 1932 (107 games, 43 goals)
Dave Bryden - Born 23 June 1928 - Died 30 August 2013 (147 games, 56 goals)
John Charles (Jack) Collins - Born January 5, 1930 - Died July 6, 2008 (154 games, 385 goals)
Wally Donald - Born May 27, 1927 - Died November 8, 2003 (205 games, 1 goal)
Roger Duffy - Born September 26, 1931 (117 games, 117 goals)
Arthur Edwards - Born June 4, 1934 - Died May 2006 (120 games, 26 goals)
Jim Gallagher - Born March 16, 1931 (151 games, 12 goals)
Brian Gilmore - Born July 8 1933 - Died 1959 (105 games, 61 goals)
Herb Henderson - Born September 13 1930 (130 games, 0 goals)
John Kerr - Born July 15 1934 (83 Games, 26 Goals)
Alan Martin - Born March 13, 1928 (105 games, 8 goals)
Ron McCarthy - Born November 3, 1934 (42 games, 3 goals)
Doug Reynolds - Born September 4, 1933 (95 Games, 19 Goals)
Don Ross - Born February 20, 1934 (129 games, 20 goals)
Harvey Stevens - Born August 8, 1930 (126 Games, 127 Goals)
Ron Stockman - Born August 19, 1934 (96 Games, 1 Goal)
Edward James 'Ted' Whitten - Born July 27, 1933 - Died August 17, 1995 (321 games, 360 goals)
Angus Abbey - Born November 15, 1925 (78 games, 0 goals)
Jack Nuttall - Born January 30, 1929 (27 games, 0 goals)
Footscray opened the 1954 season looking anything but a Premiership contender, being beaten by both St Kilda and Richmond in the first two rounds.
Then, buoyed by the return from suspension of spearhead Jack Collins in round three, Footscray crushed the unbeaten South Melbourne by 87 points to score the first of six straight wins.
Collins had an immediate impact on the Dogs' fortunes. He kicked eight against South Melbourne and had an incredible nine on the board by half-time in the following round against Carlton.
When rain fell during the second half, Collins was needed in the ruck to help save the game and, as a result, the Bulldogs hung on to win by 11 points. Collins did not add to his nine-goal haul.
One more would have seen him equal what was the club record of ten goals in a match.
Despite a 4-point defeat to Geelong at Geelong (round nine)- a venue that was never a happy hunting ground for the Bulldogs- Footscray maintained their hold on top position on the ladder.
The Bulldogs remarkably had a win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss sequence in rounds 8-15. As the season came to an end, the results of each game became more critical in a very even competition.
The Dogs broke the win-loss sequence in round 16 against fellow finals candidates, North Melbourne, at Arden Street, albeit by drawing a match they should have won.
North managed to kick 2 goals, 1 behind in the dying minutes to level the scores and the resultant draw pushed the Bulldogs down the ladder to see them precariously placed in fourth position.
A great victory over Essendon at Windy Hill in the next round restored Footscray's confidence with the win lifting the Dogs to second place on percentage from North Melbourne.
A soft win over Hawthorn in the last round, handed Footscray the double chance for the first time in the club's history. The Bulldogs finished with 11 wins, 1 draw and 6 losses, and second spot on the ladder. After all 18 rounds, the final four, in order was Geelong, Footscray, North Melbourne and Melbourne.
Footscray's opponent in the 2nd Semi-final was Geelong, a team that had played in the last three Grand Finals, winning two Premierships. Geelong had defeated the Bulldogs in the 1953 Preliminary Final.
Even though the Bulldogs were missing their captain, Charlie Sutton, they were now a better equipped and more experienced unit than in the previous season.
Vice-captain Wally Donald acted as stand-in skipper. Despite going into the game as underdogs and the scores being tied at three quarter time, Footscray won by 23-points (11-19-85 to 8-14-62), with Collins kicking four and Harvey Stevens and Peter Box playing starring roles.
The Grand Final Countdown
Seats were at a premium owing to the re-construction of the Northern Stand, reducing the ground's capacity to barely 80,000 for Footscray's first historic appearance in a VFL Grand Final (the MCG was undergoing re-building maintenance in readiness for the 1956 Olympic Games).
The weather bureau predicted some showers on the day but, after overnight rain, football followers were greeted to a magnificent day by sunshine beating down and the rain staying away. Ground conditions were perfect for football.
Most supporters started arriving as early as 6:00am on Grand Final day to queue for the seats. The huge queue's prompted officials to open the gates and start selling tickets at 9:00am, an hour earlier than normal.
By 10:30am, the entire top tier of the outer stand was filled to capacity as an estimated crowd of 40,000 had already crammed into the ground. Half an hour before game time, the people took up vantage points between the fence and the boundary line.
During the game the ball and players quite often ended up over the boundary line and among the spectators.
Footscray went in as favourites, and newspapers estimated 80% of the crowd was behind them.
Melbourne were coached by the legendary Norm Smith and captained by Geoff Collins. A young Ronald Dale Barassi was in the side and intent on making a name for himself.
Charlie Sutton captain-coached the Bulldogs with Wally Donald his vice-captain. Footscray had a young champ by the name of Ted Whitten, who would stamp his authority on that game and was later to become renowned as one of the greatest players of all time.
The Bulldogs game plan was simple – use pace and handball to break up play, then go long and direct to Jack Collins up forward and afford him space to utilise his skills.
Footscray had four emergencies for the Grand Final. The unluckiest was Lionel Ryan (age 19) who had played remarkably well in the Semi-final victory although injuring a knee.
The other three emergencies were Ron Porta (18), John Westacott (21) and Alan Warren (23). Jack McMurray was the sole field umpire in charge of the game.
Melbourne won the toss and elected to kick to the Richmond end, favoured by the breeze.
It was 11 minutes in when Melbourne secured the first goal of the match through their full forward, Noel Clarke. The Bulldogs, however showed no signs of Grand Final nerves and responded within two minutes when Box found Jack Collins for Footscray's first goal. Collins' skill in the air was already apparent when he scored with his second goal after out-marking Melbourne full back, Lance Arnold.
John Kerr kicked the Bulldogs' third goal with a snapshot from a boundary throw in and Harvey Stevens followed suit with Footscray's fourth major.
Collins again goaled, with his third, from a Kerr handball and then Roger Duffy scored the Bulldogs' sixth and last goal for the term just before the siren, to give Footscray a 29-point lead at quarter time.
Footscray had received great drive through Stevens and Edwards in the rucks, with Ross and Kerr relieving, and through Box in the key forward post and McCarthy on a wing.
The opening goal of the second term was kicked by Jack Collins after a John Kerr pass.
For the remainder of the quarter, Melbourne repeatedly attacked scoring goals through Barassi, Spencer and Mithen to whittle the margin back to 17 points.
The Bulldog backline of Whitten, Bryden and Henderson held steadfast under enormous pressure. Just before the half-time siren, Charlie Sutton chased down Lance Arnold and was awarded a free kick within range.
Arnold had endeavoured to play on after taking a mark and, in a crucial piece of play, Sutton was able to convert the free kick into a goal and give the Dogs a 23-point lead at the long break.
Ron Stockman proved a handful early in the third term, scoring the Bulldogs' first goal then having a hand in Sutton securing its second.
This blew the Dogs' lead out to a comfortable 35 points. Melbourne replied with two of their own through McLean and Johnson, but goals to Jack Collins and captain Charlie Sutton saw the Dogs' lead extend out to 38 points at the last change.
Desperate to break Footscray's grip on the game, the Demons rang the changes for the last quarter, swapping their two key forwards, McGivern and Clark and replacing Melville with Mithen in the centre.
Lane beaten by Reynolds on a wing, went to half forward. The changes seemed to work initially, as Albiston booted the first goal of the last quarter for Melbourne.
Melbourne continued to attack but the Bulldog defence, led by Wally Donald, repelled the advancing Demons on a number of occasions.
After ten minutes of play, Collins secured his sixth goal, then Reynolds followed suit with a gem to extend the Bulldogs' lead out to 44 points.
Melbourne were a spent force before Collins kicked his seventh, after a pass from Duffy, to put the game beyond doubt. When the final siren sounded, Footscray had doubled Melbourne's score to win its first VFL Premiership by 51 points.
Thousands of supporters descended onto the ground and carried the victorious Footscray players into the rooms.
Goals: Collins 7, Sutton 3, Kerr, Stevens, Duffy, Reynolds, Stockman
Best: Kerr, Bryden, Collins, Whitten, Ross, Reynolds