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CAPTAIN BLOOD IN BRONZE

Speech by Senator Rod Kemp - Minister for the Arts and Sport

Unveiling of the Jack Dyer Statue
Sunday 21 September 2003

Clinton Casey [President Richmond Football Club]; David Mandie [Patron, Richmond Football Club]; members of the Dyer family, Mitch Mitchell, Richmond legends, players and supporters, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour to be here representing the Australian Government.

As Minister for the Arts & Sport, this occasion brings together both sides of my portfolio - art portrays one of the greatest legends of Australian sport, Jack Dyer.

But as well as representing the Government, I like to think I represent here today the legions of Aussie rules fans.

Some of the fondest memories of my youth are the winter Saturdays at the footy.

Year after year, I went to the football with my father, brother and sister, my cousins and so on. There are hundreds of thousands of families who can speak of similar experiences in their family story.

Of course, many of us had Dads who, above all, wanted their sons to play league football.

In this respect, my brother and I were undoubtedly a great disappointment to my late father. Despite all his efforts, neither of us had any prospect of playing football at the elite level.

[Although I think we can claim to have learnt to play that game they play at Parliament House in Canberra.]

Although I am sure my father would have been very proud that his son had been given the honour of unveiling the statue of Jack Dyer.

The magnificent tributes of Kevin Bartlett and Bob Davis at Jack Dyer's funeral last month recorded his achievements, his character and the impact that Jack Dyer had on football, the Richmond community and Australia.

Kevin pointed out that Jack Dyer "is the greatest player in the history of the Richmond Football Club, arguably the greatest player of all time."

"He has been an icon of the club, he has been a symbol of the Richmond Football Club. He has been the inspiration, motivator, and the force behind the club, the spirit of the yellow and black."

Supporting Kevin Bartlett's comments, Bob Davis pointed out there are over 11,000 'young fellows' who played AFL and VFL football and Jack was chosen in the first 21 when the team of the century was announced - that is sufficient to give us an idea of his ability.

I met Leon Daphne, a former President of Richmond, at the funeral. Leon has provided a valuable insight on the meaning of Jack Dyer to Richmond and the passion that they feel for this genuine Aussie hero.

"Jack became loved in Richmond and feared elsewhere. Richmond at the time of Jack's introduction into football was described in Janet McCalman's history of Richmond under the title of "Struggletown" as a place where the depression came early, finished late and damaged the physical and social fabric of the suburb for decades to come.

"The depression of the early 1930's hit Richmond very hard. Nearly 30% of the men in its workforce were unemployed. Families who couldn't pay their rent were sometimes turfed out in the street, often there was not enough food. Football was the one and only escape from the grimness of life on the breadline.

"In the 1930s and 1940s Jack Dyer was to Richmond what Donald Bradman was to the whole country. Jack was a God you didn't mess with, someone to talk about, someone to behold.

"Jack was an inspiration for the people of Richmond who used football as the only relief from a struggling existence."

The statistics certainly demonstrate his deeds.

Jack played 312 games for the Tigers between 1931 and 1949, he kicked 443 goals, won 6 club Best and Fairest and represented Victoria 16 times.

Jack was a member of the 1934 and 1943 Premiership side, as well as the 1931, 1933, 1939, 1942 and 1944 Grand Final teams. He played in 16 State games and was Victorian captain in 1941 and 1949.

Richmond only missed the finals six times in Jack's era from 1931 to 1949.

He was inducted into Australia's Sporting Hall of Fame in 1992.

I come from a generation which was too young to remember Jack Dyer as a player. The first footy game I attended was in 1949 at the age of 4 at the Arden Street ground. I remember nothing about the game except an old wooden stand and gasometers.

My generation knew Jack Dyer through his work as a journalist, radio commentator and TV personality.

And of course we always watched Jack on "World of Sport" and "League Teams" with Lou Richards and Bob Davis.

Jack's influence on AFL will endure.

Even now, Jack's image, in full flight, still confronts every AFL fan who switches to Channel Nine's Footy Show. The same photograph that was the basis for that logo is the inspiration for the sculpture we unveil today.

This was the game that Jack kicked nine goals in the 1944 preliminary final against Essendon. This is still a club Finals record.

The photograph shows Jack charging to his ninth goal in that famous game.

Australia is showing great interest in erecting statues to its sporting heroes.

Not too far from here we have statues of Victor Trumper, John Landy, Don Bradman and Rod Laver and more are planned. Tattersalls has commissioned ten statues of sporting heroes which will be a parade of champions outside the new entrance to the MCG.

At the Western Oval we have the famous statue of Ted Whitten.

Why this interest in statues of sporting champions?

Let me venture one or two thoughts.

A nation needs heroes and it is true that sport embodies many of the values that modern Australia embraces.

When we think of Jack Dyer what comes to mind?

Achievement, courage, loyalty, the will to win, and community.

And let's not be too PC, sometimes you need a little bit of toughness in life and 'Captain Blood' had plenty of that.

Richmond hit hard by the depression could take on teams from the more prosperous suburbs and win.

Today our sporting stars can take on the world and show that Australia can win.

We want our sporting stars to be role models for our young people.

Statues reflect both the affection the current generation feels for its heroes, and a desire to transmit these feelings to future generations.

What does this statue tell us?

It says "this man did great things, we want you to remember him and to learn from him".

Finally, thank you to David Mandie patron of the Richmond Football Club, for donating this marvellous piece of art-a permanent monument to Jack Dyer, the man and the legend.

The name Mandie, in this town, is synonymous with philanthropy and community service.

David's contributions to sport, public affairs and social welfare is, in itself, legendary. Just under a kilometre away from where we stand is the Epworth Hospital and above one of the doors is a sign " The David Mandie Family Entrance".

There are countless other institutions that have benefited from David's generosity.

Congratulations to sculptor Mitch Mitchell for such a splendid rendering of an iconic image.

Mitch is making a name for himself creating artistic monuments to sporting greats. I know that among his creations is a towering sculpture of Michael Schumacher and a bronze bust of "The Don".

Mitch pointed out to me earlier that he was a keen boxer in his youth. I think Jack Dyer would have approved of that!

And thank you to the Richmond Football Club for inviting me to be a part of this special day.

I think Jack Dyer would be very pleased with the location of this magnificent statue, looking out across Yarra Park and the MCG.

Neville Crowe told me that one of the things that Jack loved about the Richmond Football Club was that it has always been a club defined by its people - by its supporters. Jack was a true champion of the fans.

With this statue the likeness of Jack Dyer will look over the hundreds of thousands of fans who will stream past each year to watch the game that he contributed so much towards.

It gives me great pleasure to officially unveil the statue-a wonderful addition to the Richmond Clubhouse, and an inspiration to every young footballer that strolls down Punt Road.

And finally a reminder to the people of Richmond of a sadly missed member of their community.

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Richmond has unveiled a larger-than-life sized bronze statue of club legend Jack Dyer at its Punt Road headquarters.

The imposing sculpture of Dyer, who passed away last month, was created by Zimbabwean-born artist Mitch Mitchell. It stands over three metres tall and looks over to the MCG.

                                                       Among those at the launch on Sunday were members of the Dyer family, Bob Davis, former Richmond president Leon Daphne, senior coach Danny Frawley, captain Wayne Campbell and Essendon coach and former Tiger player Kevin Sheedy.

It took Mitchell four months to create the sculpture, which depicts Dyer running with a ball held closely to his hip.

The photograph that inspired the statue was taken during the 1944 preliminary final against Essendon, when Dyer kicked nine goals.

Mitchell, who covered his studio with pictures of his subject while he was working, said he had kept a rough texture on the bronze to create an impression of Dyer’s ruggedness.

“My prior sculptures I’ve smoothed off a bit, but I tended to roughen this up a little bit, it was more loosely modelled because sometimes less is more and it kind of gives him a bit of cragginess I think.”

“I took a little bit of time to read about him to find out what the man was all about,” he said.

The statue was donated to the club by David Mandie, who also selected the pose for the sculpture, and was launched by Federal Minister for the Arts and Sports, Rod Kemp.

Sheedy said he hoped the statue would inspire passers by to take an interest in football’s history.

“You’ll come through the park and see this big, strong faced man looking at you, and it’ll make you stop and read his history,” he said.

Samantha Lane afl.com.au 2:24:59 PM Sun 21 September, 2003

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