JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

A father lost to sons of the West

Date

Bob Murphy

Footscray captain Charlie Sutton leads his club out on Grand Final day in 1954. His Bulldogs were victorious, but the club has not won a premiership since.

Footscray captain Charlie Sutton leads his club out on Grand Final day in 1954. His Bulldogs were victorious, but the club has not won a premiership since.

''Only truthful hands write true poems. I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem.'' 

PAUL CELAN

So the legend goes, once a man had shaken the hand of Frank Sinatra, he became a part of an esteemed group. As if he were part of an unspoken code among men.

Western bulldogs hall of fame charlie sutton former coach and premiership captain. Click for more photos

Footscray Legend Dies

Footscray Legend Charlie Sutton, captain and coach of the Bulldogs only premiership in 1954 has died aged 88. He was Coach of the Bulldog's Team of the Century, an AFL Hall of Fame inductee and an inaugural Bulldogs Hall of Fame and Legend. Photo: Wayne Hawkins

Out in Footscray, we've been blessed to have something similar. We've had Charlie Sutton, a man whose handshake was like a poem.

One of the first things you would do as a brand new Footscray recruit was meet Charlie. I remember when it was my time, having just come off the training track, pale and nervous and still just 17.

And there was Charlie, back at his beloved Whitten Oval in the middle of summer, with no one around really, introducing himself to players old and new. I must've shaken Charlie Sutton's hand a few hundred times over the ensuing years, and every time it felt important. It felt special.

There are things as a Footscray footballer that are just there. E.J. Whitten is still there, and I say this as a player who never met the man, but you feel his presence nonetheless. Stand on the ground that bears his name, and you can hear his passionate address to his tired players, slumped on the muddy field.

Chris Grant is almost a mythical figure, whose humility and gentle touch breezed through this place as a player and still now as a board member. Tony Liberatore's grunt and undeniable spirit linger in the walls of our changerooms. Jack Collins is there for me every time I open my locker. Johnny Schultz, Dougie Hawkins, the list goes on.

All of these great figures were celebrated again last Saturday week, at our Hall of Fame night. But it was Charlie's presence that night, brief and ailing, that stayed with you. Just as it always did, as much as he didn't want the moment to be about him.

The thing with Charlie Sutton is that as a player we felt him there in the most primitive of ways. You felt the touch of his hand. A hand that had the weight of history in its grip.

Footscray is unique in lots of ways. We're outsiders in a city dominated by football. Outsiders geographically, outsiders in other ways too.

Our one and only premiership came way back in 1954, and the struggle for that elusive second one is our story stripped back to its bare bones. Our 1954 premiership players are our heroes, and it has to be said that Charlie was their hero.

I'm into the symbolism of things, of footy clubs. I think about it a lot. I think about our club theme song all the time and its opening line — "Sons of the West" — asks me a more profound question.

If we are its sons and daughters, then who is our father? I don't think it's going a step too far to say that figure is Charlie. Yesterday, a football club lost its father, and as sons of that club we are in mourning.

Our story stripped bare is one of glory and of tragedy, but it’s a story that continues. One premiership in over 100 years is a big cross to bear, but it also looms as the biggest carrot in the game.

When Charlie was inducted as the first Hall of Fame legend two years ago, he spoke as only he could about guts, determination, and that thing beneath your shirt called heart — that without it, you don’t win.

Sitting in a wheelchair, straight out of his hospital bed, he said he had always been thrilled to do anything he could for the Footscray Football Club.

All of us in his family should put our weight behind trying to fulfil a promise, to do whatever it takes. It may take time, but we should never forget that we shook the hand of Charlie Sutton.

10 comments

  • Another great story Bob
    Keep up the great work both on and off the field
    There have been some great stories coming out of the club recently
    Such as Barry Hall's appreciation of the club
    Chris Grant staying at the club after West Coast,s offer
    Sons of Libba and Wallis playing
    And now Ted and Charlie meet again

    Commenter
    Bean
    Location
    Dogland
    Date and time
    June 06, 2012, 9:04AM
    • A very well written piece....every footy club need legends like Charlie and the dogs sure have a few good ones to derive inspiration from.

      Commenter
      Paul
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 06, 2012, 9:35AM
      • Well said Bob. We may have won only one flag, but just look at the calibre of people in our club. What is more important - the character of the family or a premiership? While we mourn the loss of Charlie I think we all know who will step into his boots and continue the same ethos of the club.
        Vale Charlie

        Commenter
        Doggie forever
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 06, 2012, 9:41AM
        • Beautiful, Bob.

          Commenter
          Shadowcat
          Location
          Yarraville
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 10:03AM
          • Well done Bob, all the people mentioned in your articale understood the value of people &club and were all clearly in the mould of our great Charlie..
            I think the current coach has very similar values, team, courage, skill, care,and team again.Im sure that if we stick to those great values, that 2nd elusive flag will be won.

            Commenter
            Brisbane Bulldog
            Date and time
            June 06, 2012, 10:13AM
            • Fine article Bob, but to be picky, it's one premiership in 87 years, not "over 100".

              Commenter
              cardinal dotdline
              Location
              Islamic Republic of Coburg
              Date and time
              June 06, 2012, 12:00PM
              • The sooner this club honours its tradition as outlined above and returns to the name Footscray instead of some corporate name that it hopes will attract people in the west the sooner it will become successful again. North Melbourne came to its senses, why not Sons of the 'Scray?

                Commenter
                Joel
                Date and time
                June 06, 2012, 3:30PM
                • Charlie Sutton’s Hands

                  Charlie Sutton’s hands are a vast expressive expanse
                  Of old knotted strong muscle, that did not just come by “happens chance”
                  Charlie’s hands join up - join up with Charlie’s all embracing arms
                  If you knew him those arms would wrap you in his all surrounding charms.

                  Charlie’s face says it all
                  Apparently just standing near him made others stand tall
                  Whether it be for club, community or family
                  Up back or down forward, Charlie “held it steady”.

                  Charlie Sutton’s hands are a vast expressive expanse
                  Of old knotted strong muscle, that did not just come by “happens chance”
                  Charlie’s hands join up - join up with Charlie’s all embracing arms
                  If you knew him those arms would wrap you in his all surrounding charms.

                  Charlie’s face says it all
                  Apparently just standing near him made others stand tall
                  Whether it be for club, community or family
                  Up back or down forward, Charlie “held it steady”.

                  In 1954, there was a Premiership for the taking
                  Happily it was bluebloods - Melbourne - that got the baking
                  Young Bob Murphy, knows those hands……….
                  A younger Teddy Whitten was in that’54 doggie band……………..

                  Charlie’s hallowed ground.
                  Was the Doggies windswept, muddy mound.
                  Always tricky spot for visitors of all types
                  Those constantly changing winds and angles;
                  those red and white fast moving stripes.

                  Nestled beside the old Footscray corrugated iron Drill Hall
                  That icon almost says it all
                  The lost position on the lost Dougie Hawkins wing
                  Still makes any old “Scragger’s” heart sing

                  At the end of the day
                  Strong and steady – up back or down forward
                  Charlie would have wanted it that way.
                  There’s not that much left to say
                  Deeds speak louder than any words
                  anyway…………

                  Commenter
                  Mark Grant
                  Date and time
                  June 08, 2012, 6:57AM
                  • Another brilliant article Bob, however, I feel the need to add to Cardinal's correction. If you take it as 100 years then the FFC has won 6 premierships (1913, 1919, 1920, 1923, 1924 in the VFA and 1954 in the VFL). If you count all their flags they've won 10. Go Doggies.

                    Commenter
                    Recent son of the west
                    Location
                    Independent Republic of Yarraville
                    Date and time
                    June 08, 2012, 10:59AM
                    • Best scribe in the business Murph .You bring out the passion of Footscray of 1989 guised under the Western Bulldogs NO other club in the AFL has this.... Collingwood -Boring.spoilt brats...
                      We, if I may say, do not hold the mantle for the most wooden- spoons unlike, St kilda or even the Stats of Hawthorn which may show the premierships they have but endured many many Wooden -Spoons Doggies are at a new beginning starting today an era with Charlie a martyr for the cause along with EJ our strength is gathering I say for the rest of the year BEWARE THE WOUNDED DOG

                      Commenter
                      Dogs supporter
                      Date and time
                      June 17, 2012, 10:20AM
                      Comments are now closed

                      Related Coverage

                      AFL 2015

                      Round 1
                      Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
                      CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
                      Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
                      MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
                      SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
                      BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
                      WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
                      Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
                      STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
                      ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
                      FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
                      Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 2
                      Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
                      WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
                      Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
                      GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
                      COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
                      GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
                      PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
                      Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
                      ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
                      NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 3
                      Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
                      COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
                      Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
                      ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
                      SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
                      NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
                      BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
                      Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
                      GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
                      WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 4
                      Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
                      Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
                      STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
                      ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
                      GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
                      PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
                      FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
                      Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
                      BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
                      GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
                      WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 5
                      Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
                      Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
                      SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
                      GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
                      NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
                      WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
                      Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
                      MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
                      STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
                      ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 6
                      Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
                      COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
                      Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
                      NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
                      WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
                      GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
                      GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
                      MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
                      FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
                      Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
                      PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 7
                      Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
                      ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
                      Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
                      ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
                      HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
                      CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
                      SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
                      WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
                      Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
                      WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
                      RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
                      BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 8
                      Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
                      Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
                      STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
                      GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
                      GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
                      HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
                      FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
                      Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
                      ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
                      MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
                      PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 9
                      Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
                      SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
                      Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
                      MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
                      WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
                      RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
                      ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
                      Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
                      BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
                      COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
                      WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 10
                      Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
                      FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
                      Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
                      GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
                      ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
                      PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
                      Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
                      GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
                      NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
                      STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
                      Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
                      MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 11
                      Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
                      PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
                      Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
                      GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
                      WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
                      NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
                      Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
                      COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
                      STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 12
                      Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
                      ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
                      Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
                      Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
                      GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
                      WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
                      Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 13
                      Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
                      FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
                      Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
                      SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
                      Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
                      BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
                      STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
                      Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 14
                      Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
                      SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
                      Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
                      COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
                      Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
                      GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
                      WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
                      MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
                      Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
                      ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
                      ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
                      FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 15
                      Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
                      PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
                      Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
                      Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
                      ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
                      WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
                      NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
                      WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
                      Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
                      GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
                      HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
                      BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 16
                      Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
                      NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
                      Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
                      GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
                      COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
                      SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
                      FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
                      Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
                      MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
                      PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
                      STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 17
                      Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
                      CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
                      Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
                      GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
                      ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
                      RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
                      ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
                      BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
                      Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
                      WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
                      MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
                      WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 18
                      Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
                      Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
                      COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
                      SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
                      CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
                      GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
                      Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
                      PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
                      ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
                      FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 19
                      Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
                      ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
                      Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
                      COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
                      WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
                      BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
                      GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
                      WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
                      Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
                      MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
                      GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
                      STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 20
                      Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
                      SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
                      Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
                      ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
                      NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
                      PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
                      GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
                      BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
                      Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
                      RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
                      WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
                      FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 21
                      Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
                      HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
                      Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
                      COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
                      GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
                      GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
                      STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
                      ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
                      Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
                      NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
                      CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
                      WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 22
                      Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
                      GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
                      Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
                      GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
                      HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
                      NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
                      ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
                      GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
                      Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
                      ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
                      STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
                      FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
                      View All Fixtures
                      Round 23
                      Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
                      RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
                      Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
                      GEE vs ADE 13:05SS
                      BRI vs WBU 13:45G
                      PTA vs FRE 15:50Adelaide Oval
                      HAW vs CAR 16:40MCG
                      SYD vs GCF 19:20SCG
                      WCE vs STK 19:40Domain Stadium
                      Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
                      MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
                      COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
                      View All Fixtures
                      AFL 2015
                      Overall standings
                      Team P W L D % Pts
                      Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
                      West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
                      Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
                      Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
                      Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
                      Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
                      Adelaide Crows 20 13 7 0 119.10 54
                      North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
                      View all
                       

                      Follow Us on Facebook

                      Featured advertisers