JOHN Schultz knows a thing or two about football jumpers. He’s grabbed plenty as their wearers flashed past on the footy field. But he also knows they were once the best thing to keep you warm in the surf.
Young surfers of today wouldn’t know about the footy jumper-in-the-surf trick. They have the luxury of being able to choose wetsuits for summer and winter, or even a spring suit for the in-between seasons.
One of the footy jumpers former Footscray ruckman Schultz wore in the surf at Point Leo back in the early 1960s has a history.
The tradition of swapping jumpers with on-field adversaries saw Schultz in 1961 end up with the number 25 jumper worn by Geelong great Graham “Polly” Farmer. Schultz was playing for Victoria and Farmer for Western Australia at a football carnival in Brisbane.
In those days a jumper was a jumper, so Schultz saw Farmer’s black swan-decorated footy jumper as being useful in the surf. He couldn’t wear it on the field. Still able to wear it today, he estimates Farmer’s jumper could be worth $30,000-$40,000, money he’d like to see go towards cancer research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
His wife Elaine died from cancer in 2013 and Schultz believes it’s time for Farmer’s jumper to be put to another good use.
Schultz, who at 21 won the Brownlow Medal in 1960 while playing for the Bulldogs in the Victorian Football League, was also in the side when it lost the 1961 Grand Final to Hawthorn – its previous finals appearance before winning the 2016 flag.
He and Farmer have both been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, Schultz in 1996 with the citation: “Rucking giant who never let the side down. Set the standard for the modern ruckman.”
He donned Farmer’s jumper earlier this month while visiting the Trigger Brothers shop at Point Leo to see the repairs to his 1960s George Rice surfboard.
The three-stringer 10 foot board (surfers still talk in imperial measure) weighs 18 kilograms and will be displayed during a Vintage Surf Day at the Point Leo foreshore 10am-3pm, Sunday 12 November.
Schultz says the dings are all the result of the rocks at Suicide Point, long regarded as the premier wave at Point Leo.
“I was not a good surfer and I distinctly remember how well the board performed when I was not on it, as I watched it cruising in on the wave after I had fallen off,” he says.
“Of course the board always settled and crashed against the Suicide rocks, hence all the dings and it was always a long swim in to recover it.
“The boards were very heavy and the easiest way to carry them was two surfers one behind the other with the boards under their arms. Despite being very heavy they still flew up into the air if you were dumped, so you had to dive deep until you heard the board hit the water again.”
Schultz has given the board to fellow Shoreham resident Richard Stokes to add to his growing, historic collection.
Another swapped footy jumper came to Schultz from John Winneke after Footscray lost that 1961 Grand Final.
That was Hawthorn’s first premiership (after 46 years in the competition) and Winneke went on to be a Supreme Court judge.
Footscray had won the premiership in 1954 and, unknown to players and fans, faced a long drought before appearing in another Grand Final, let alone winning the flag.
Winneke’s jumper now resides in the Hawthorn club’s museum while the whereabouts of Schultz’s remains unknown – Winneke misplaced it.
Schultz said he took up surfing after his parents built a holiday house at Balnarring.
The family came from rural Boort, in northwest Victoria, and, although a keen swimmer, surfing had never been on his radar until the early 1960s.
“I surfed mainly in summer, not because of the cold water in winter, but because it was footy season and I was scared of being injured,” Schultz, who played 10 seasons for the Bulldogs, says. “I remember the swell was usually up around Easter, but that was also the start of the footy season.”
He can’t recall ever seeing other VFA footballers in the surf but says, “you used to see lots of the long-sleeved footy jumpers worn on building sites”.
Although he admits wearing Polly Farmer’s jumper in the surf “now seems sacrilegious”, Schultz says the Geelong player at that stage was seen as being “good, but not as highly regarded as he is today”.
Still close to the Footscray club, Schultz was invited to join the playing group at the 2016 Grand Final and then given the “tremendous honour” of presenting the premiership cup to Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge and co-captains Easton Wood and Bob Murphy.
These days, he’s awaiting a doctor’s all clear so he can “mother duck” a couple of his grandchildren as they surf at Point Leo or Shoreham.