Vic Naismith, who died October 26, 2021 aged 85, played for Richmond’s Seniors, Reserves, Thirds and Fourths teams (in specially designed Julius Marlow footy boots), and took the field in the 1956 Olympic exhibition match.
Naismith died in Moe, his sister Shahali told Rhett Bartlett.
“I would have to say, he was a great example of a human being’s resilience to disappointments and loss for he was, until the end, a very positive person. He was always ready to be grateful to those around him and no matter how he felt he would ALWAYS give you a smile. I feel privileged to have called him Brother.”
As a ruckman Naismith played 31 games between 1956-1958, often as second fiddle to four-time Best and Fairest, Roy Wright. The two would alternate out of the forward pocket.
Naismith listed on debut for Richmond.
After leaving Tigerland he played for Oakleigh, winning the Best and Fairest in his first season, and playing in their 1960 VFA premiership (a Tiger teammate of his, Ray Allsopp, who played in that flag side, also died last week).
An accomplished sportsman, Naismith won a junior championship at Kooyong in Tennis, A-Grade golf, Masters Squash championship against New Zealand, and Gold Medals in the Hammer Throw at the Masters Athletics. (He could throw a 16-pound hammer some 43 yards).
In 1956 he was on the verge of selection for the Australian Olympic Javelin team when he suffered a workplace accident.
“I was a baker, and they used to deliver the flour in 150-pound bags”, he told me in a 2019 interview. “And you’d carry a bag on your shoulder, place it down in the storeroom and make a ladder out of them, 1 bag, then the next is two bags etc. It could be ten bags high, then you work your way back down.”
“The bloke in front of me he put his bag down and I stood on it, but he didn’t put it down square, and it went from under my foot. I had a 150-pound bag on my shoulder and I fell arse-over-head and hurt my shoulder.”
But in a quirk of fate Naismith did end up at the Melbourne Olympics, representing the VFL/VFA side at full-back against the VAFA in the demonstration sports on the MCG.
It may seem an odd position for a Richmond ruckman to play, but Naismith’s skill at kicking with both sides of his body convinced coach Bruce Andrew to play him out of defence.
He gifted his green guernsey, with white cuffs and the Olympic insignia on the front, to the Richmond Football Club Museum.
The Olympic Games cinders track laid down at the MCG was later transferred to Dolomore Reserve in Mentone, an athletics club Naismith also competed for.
Naismith would also run with Tom Hafey, Melbourne player and Victorian cricketer Neil Crompton, Australian cricketer Ian Meckiff, and Carlton player Bob Crowe every Sunday morning along the beach and from Mordialloc to Mentone.
Naismith’s Richmond journey began, as is often the case, by a bit of luck. Although he lived in Mordialloc, Naismith’s grandmother lived in Richmond and was neighbours of Andy Brannan – the club’s Fourths and Thirds coach.
(The fact that the Frankston train line went direct to Richmond station helped as well).
With the Thirds playing as a curtain raiser to the Seniors, Naismith remembered that “sometimes they would turn around and say to me after I played about three quarters of a match, you can come off and we want you to go down and play with the Seconds.”
The club would have a taxi waiting to take him to the opposition ground.
During the Reserves successful 1953-1955 seasons (where they finished Third, Premiers, Premiers) he became frustrated with the lack of opportunities to break into the struggling Senior side.
He remembered it was a feeling shared by Roy Wright who approached the club asking “how come you are not picking Vic Naismith, Ted Langridge, Ray Allsopp, Frank Dunin, and Ron McDonald? They are getting the best on grounds all the time (in the Reserves), and they aren’t getting picked.”
Naismith debuted the following season.
Naismith on debut for Richmond. (Courtesy of Naismith family)
“Monday June 4th was one the most happiest days of my life,” he wrote in his scrapbook, “because I fulfilled one of my life’s ambitions to don the TIGER guernsey for the first time. Boy, was I scared.”
A fast 6ft 2 ruckman, Naismith had a considerable burst of speed over the first 10-15metres, and the papers of the day often recorded his bouncing runs down the field.
At the breaks while his teammates ate oranges, a famished Naismith tucked into chicken rolls. “I was a pastry and bread baker and we used to work of a night time, start work 10pm on Friday night and finish 8am Saturday morning. Then I used to run home from Cheltenham to Mordialloc, have a shower, get changed, and get on the train to go to Richmond to play football.”
His football boots were specifically made by Julius Marlow, a close friend of his father. Marlow’s advice to Naismith was “not to put nugget on them, you’ve got to put on Fisher’s Wonder Wax. It makes them waterproof.”
Naismith’s senior career at Tigerland ended after the 1958 season, following an altercation with selector and Richmond champion Jack Titus at the dance night at the club’s headquarters.
“Jack Titus spat on my shoes”, Naismith told me in 2019, “So I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pushed him up against the lockers … the next season you wouldn’t want to know it, I got the arse from Richmond and played with Oakleigh.”
His recollection was that no one at Richmond told him he was finished, instead he learnt his time was up when Box Hill coach Col Austen, and Oakleigh President Ken Bird suddenly appeared on his doorstep sounding out his interest.
He chose Oakleigh because his former Tiger coach Alby Pannam was in charge, and the Ventura Bus stopped outside the Oakleigh ground and on training nights the club could organise for a teammate to drive him home.
For winning their Best and Fairest he received a pair of Julius Marlow brogues - brown and white pairs, plus two pairs of Fletcher Jones trousers, and three Pelaco shirts.
Julius Marlow footwear won by Naismith
Born May 1. 1936, his parents ran a catering business for weddings and parties, his father-in-law worked at the Herald and Weekly Times, and it’s there that Naismith also worked for 32 years on the loading dock.
His uncle Stan had a long association with the Richmond Former Players Association.
A lasting memory he had of his time at Tigerland was his interaction with the Tiger faithful as he wore the club’s embroided jacket to each game.
“People on the train used to come up and I would talk to them all. It was great. When I got off at the station and had my bag with me, some of the little kids would be there and I would give one of them my bag and we would go in the side gate and I’d say “this is my cousin”, and the kid used to beam and rush in.”