It’s 70 years since Richmond ruck great Bill Morris took over the captaincy at Tigerland from the legendary Jack Dyer (in 1950), and 60 years (1960) since his tragic death. Dyer was a massive Morris fan. Here’s what he wrote about the 1948 Brownlow Medallist in his iconic 1965 book ‘Captain Blood’ . . .
“The late Bill Morris was an unforgettable footballer. He was a football purist . . . The umpires loved him, the Richmond players fought for him and the opposition wouldn’t touch him.
He was a player who always felt he was in ill health, but once you got him on the field he gave you 100 per cent effort . . .
He was one of those strangely gentlemanly footballers. If he knocked somebody down he would stop and pick him up. There was nothing you could do about it. One day I burst through a pack and skittled an opponent. Bill stopped in his tracks to help him to his feet and Dick Harris, as hard as nails, snapped at him: ‘Let him die. Do you think Dyer’s knocking them down for you to pick up? When they’re down keep them down’. It was water off a duck’s back to Bill. You could not get him to play tough football and I didn’t try, his value was in his artistry. I was the protector he was the craftsman in much the same way as (Fritz) Hefner had been my protector in my heyday. A good side must have a protector and he must be an experienced player awake to all the tricks.
Morris was a football artist. His ruckwork, palming of the ball and marking was a delight . . .
The ability to ride a knock was a feature of Bill’s play. Many a time I’ve seen him in dire trouble. But he could take the knock and use it to position and balance himself. He could even baulk in mid-air. He was a football freak who comes but once in a lifetime.
Against Essendon he gave the most tremendous display of stamina I have seen. I rucked him throughout the first three quarters. There was a wind blowing and favouring the Essendon goal in the final quarter. He was exhausted, but we had a very slender lead and looked no-hopers kicking against the gale. He wanted a spell and I gave him five seconds. He went back on the ball and ran himself into the ground but saved the game. We had to help him off the field.
Bill Morris was known as Paleface to his friends. His face was always as white as a sheet. His untimely death was a shock to us all. Morris was not only a great footballer but a great personality.”