Member Memories: my first Williamstown autograph

The following contribution was sent in by life member John Raffle. 


(Photo: Our 1953 team. 1950-51 captain Adrian Dullard - fourth from the left in the back row - gave John Raffle his first and most special autograph).


My first recollection with football memorabilia – it was called ‘card collecting’ in those early days – was to collect the Kornies Football Cards out of the breakfast cereal pack. 

I came across a mad football mate who had set about getting as many of these cards as he could. Realising I had little interest in these cards, he would pester me and his school mates continuously for any of the cards. I’m not sure if he got the full collection but he always had plenty to show everyone at school recesses.  

I still remember he had two really special cards - Charlie Sutton and John Coleman - and the fact he had got them personally signed across the front were very precious to him. 

Of course he said he was going to get ‘his favourite’, Ted Whitten, to sign his card. I’m sure he did.  

My mate’s chase for these cards and autographs wasn’t a big deal as far as I was concerned because I had just been given my first autograph book by my father and I set about busily collecting the signatures of the players from Williamstown Football Club. 

There are two autograph moments that I have always remembered and I’ll talk about them later. 

As my two eldest children grew up they were given their own autograph book – one for the Bomber supporter and the other for the Bulldog supporter. 

Each collected a range of footballers and sporting signatures but there was not the interest I expected. 

When Terry Wheeler and Barry Round commenced at Williamstown Football Club there was an interest in autographs as we would start attending some matches and especially grand finals.

I had naturally let my interest wane but had noticed the ‘old style’ of collection autographs had also changed dramatically – every supporter’s jumper was signed, your football was signed and even parts of your body was presented for ‘a signing’. 

I have now spent a great deal of my football time, since moving away from Williamstown, at the St Bernard’s Old Collegians Football Club – the recruiting club and college for many AFL players and, earlier on, even VFA players of which a few joined Williamstown.  

I mention this as a preamble to my next observation of the ‘new autograph hunters’ practice. 

Any sporting autograph hunter will collect the most recent published sporting book and ensure it is personally signed by the sporting personality. 

Working on fundraising at the Club I had collected five personally-signed sporting books which were football stories by recently retired players. 

To my surprise the silent auction for this collection went for $1000. “I’ve been trying to get every one of those signed books for my collection and was not going to miss out,” replied the collector. 

He said he rarely went to book signings but loved chasing them at garage sales, second-hand bookstores and ‘accidental days’ like today.

My present challenge into the realm of autograph hunting involves a friend of mine who, on working for the radio station K-Rock, had used the Encyclopedia of VFL-AFL footballers as background notes for interviewing special guests on their program prior to Geelong’s AFL matches. 

My friend had, unfortunately, just started to seek autographs in his reference book as his tenure at the radio station was winding down. 

Eventually following Geelong I treasure most highly the autograph of Bob Davis along with a few other VFA legends. 

My mate did, as I mentioned, get some great former players’ autographs which I have been able to continue collecting as the reference book is safely in my hands. 'The challenge’ is to get 100 autographs from former players. 

Being involved in the VAFA nowadays means I get to meet plenty of former players during the season and former students who attended St Bernard’s College and eventually played VFL/AFL. 

But I openly enjoy the fact that the best experience for me still centres around collecting the autographs of former AFL/VFL players who spent their time at the Williamstown Football Club.  

Our 1969 premiership reunion had a special meaning for me as I could return to my ‘childhood chase’ of collecting autographs of Williamstown footballers. 

Here I was celebrating our premierships together as I gathered a few missing autographs of Williamstown legends – Ken Barnes, Brian Harvey, Robert Percy.

While the ‘long lunch’, coupled with tales of games played, meant I missed a few, I will be back trying to get to that ‘magic target'.

It is now I like to talk about my two special autograph moments.

The first involves 'my one and only autograph’ collected by a young supporter, as I ran down the field after winning the grand final in 1969. This now not-so-young supporter actually caught up with me years later when we were teaching together. 

She asked me if I remembered her getting my autograph and, naturally with it being the only one I ever gave, I told her honestly that, even in the moment of celebrating being premiers, I recalled saying: "you want my autograph?" But gladly signed it.  

From what she explained there was a group of young supporters from Williamstown High School who had followed all our home games and they were at the grand final.

The other special autograph I collected was my first ever in my brand new autograph book back in the 1950s. Footballers nowadays have a special way of signing their autographs which may include their jumper number, games played etc. Sometimes signed with a small note: "To  …., best of luck. Go …" 

The first autograph I ever collected was that of ex-Melbourne dual VFL premiership player, Adrian Dullard, Williamstown’s captain-coach of 1950/51. 


I was able to catch him as he hurriedly entered the ground for training one night. I recall dad yelling out something along the lines of ‘hey Spud, can you sign your name?’ Running after Mr Dullard I handed my autograph book to him and, after he handed it back, I thanked him and felt elated as I had got my first autograph from a Williamstown footballer.


The experience has stayed with me over all these years, not only the experience of collecting my first autograph, but more from what he wrote. Obviously in a hurry and needing to get to training, he paused and signed not only his autograph but penned (me) a little note. It read: I thought, and thought, and thought in vain. Then decided to sign my name." 



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