I grew up with Australian Rules Football, and have been a supporter of the Carlton Football Club for about fifty years. So, why did I read a book which is about the Collingwood Football Club, one of Carlton’s great rivals ? I was intrigued by the photograph on the front cover, and the description on the back cover. Life and football in the early twentieth century. A complicated story. Well worth reading.
‘The story of Malcolm ‘Doc’ Seddon, Louie Newby and Percy Rowe is true.’
I picked this book up, read the back cover and decided I had to read it. Yes, even though it is about the Collingwood Football Club, and I am a member of the Carlton Football Club, it’s about football history in the early twentieth century. It’s about two families living in the suburb of Collingwood, about the impact of war, and about love.
‘Doc’ Seddon and Louie Newby grew up together in the same part of Collingwood. ‘Doc’ plays football for Collingwood, as does his teammate Percy Rowe. Percy, also known as Paddy Rowan, is a part-time boxer. Doc and Percy go off to fight in the Great War, but not before Percy marries Louie. Percy does not return from the war, leaving Louie a widow with a small child. ‘Doc’ has promised to look after Louie, and he does.
And after the war? ‘Doc’ plays football for a while, becomes a selector for Collingwood and mayor of Collingwood. He and others (including John Wren) support those doing it tough in Collingwood. There’s a sense of community, of responsibility, of pride in the Collingwood Football Club. But in amongst the story of ‘Doc’ and Louie, I wonder about Percy Rowe.
There’s a lovely story – part of Collingwood lore – about the horseshoe ‘Doc’ Seddon sent back from the Somme just before the 1917 VFL Grand Final. The horseshoe brings Collingwood luck: they win the Grand Final. And the horseshoe is part of a Collingwood tradition now. Eddie McGuire (the club president) takes the horseshoe into the team’s changing rooms before the annual Anzac Day match (played between Collingwood and Essendon) and tells the players the story behind it.
I may support another football team, but I love the way that each team has its own legends. In the case of this book, it’s about Collingwood the place as well as Collingwood the football team. Both histories are important.