BULLDOGS supporters moved cars, literally picking them up and shuffling them a few inches along, to make room for Alan Martin to get a park at the MCG on grand final day in 1954.
Martin loved to recall the quirky anecdotes to family from Footscray’s sole VFL/AFL premiership rather than talk about his on-field heroics. But the humble “star from Stawell”, who joined the Bulldogs via Golden Point, was part of the game’s most miserly back lines ever, patrolling across half back with Ted Whitten and Jim Gallagher.
It was the legendary stuff of another age but the same feelings of premiership glory is what modern Western Bulldogs are clawing for a chance to taste, should they clear Saturday night’s preliminary final against a newer AFL franchise GWS.
Peter Martin said his humble father did not speak a lot about his football but would always sign autographs, attend reunions and help the club in financially tough times. He always talked of his “band of brothers”.
“His football career got more significant as we got older, but we were used to Teddy and Gallagher calling in and visiting us all the time,” Peter Martin said. “I used to wear his Footscray premiership jumper, the number 19, to football training as a kid. It was worn and had shrunk a bit.”
The first time Alan Martin saw the MCG was when he ran out for his first game. He joined the ‘Scray in 1949 after back-to-back premierships with Golden Point in the Ballarat Football League, alongside the likes of Bob Davis.
“It was different times,” Peter Martin said. “Dad used to talk of when they won the premiership, going back to Footscray’s oval with a big blanket people threw pennies and shillings in for players.”
Martin played 105 VFL games for the Bulldogs and not once dropped to the reserves. He left Footscray for Bendigo in the premiership wake for a better paid captain-coach post with Golden Square. His legacy lives on in the club, which changed its nickname to the Bulldogs in Martin’s honour.
Martin’s grandson Tim Martin is the most dominant ruckman in the Bendigo Football League. Only, Tim plays for the Bulldogs’ arch-rival Sandhurst. In a twist of fate, the clubs will face off in the BFL grand final this weekend.
Alan Martin died 50 years after the club’s glory day but relished a team lap of honour at the MCG that year.