Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Obituary: Remembering Bobby Davis

Today the tributes flow for Bob Davis, "The Geelong Flyer", as well they should. Davis passed away yesterday at the age of 82. With it, he leaves behind a legacy as Geelong's favourite son.

The reason Bob Davis is so fondly remembered isn't his footballing ability, though he had loads. Neither is it his coaching, which delivered in 1963 Corio Bay's last flag for the twentieth century. It wasn't World of Sport, "Fair Dinkum Unbelievable", League Teams or the Three Wise Monkeys. It was his lifetime love for Geelong Football Club. Bobby was the essence of a one-club man, totally aware of the incredible gift the Cats were to the city of Greater Geelong.

It would be unfair to gloss over his influential play and coaching. As a half-forward flanker, his athleticism was unparalleled and he boasted a devastating long kick. He represented his state with flair and distinction. Any rumours suggesting the Cat teams of those years weren't tough are completely unfounded - no-one won in that era without being hard. He captained, coached - starting at 26 - and won a Best & Fairest award before calling time on a 189-game career. Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to him is that the iconic image of him, in full stream with football tucked under arm, is one of the defining images of that era of Aussie Rules.

There's a pleasing symmetry in that during his coaching period US President John F. Kennedy declared "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country", because that was Bob's attitude to the Kardinia Park faithful. After taking over the reins as Geelong coach, he brought Polly Farmer to Geelong and used Polly's unique skill-set to kickstart a running game which echoed back to Hickey's slick, speedy 1951-52-53 unit; teams in which Bob Davis was a key member.

Bob Davis defined Geelong Football Club for over sixty years. During that time, he was an entertainer both on and off the oval. Alongside Jack Dyer and Lou Richards in League Teams, Davis had access to almost every home in Victoria in a format-defining show which with the modern proliferation of media sources will never again be replicated. His - and his comrades' - impact on football commentary shows should make (Davis protégé) Sam Newman, Eddie McGuire and the Cats' next best born entertainer, Billy Brownless, offer up daily prayers of thanks. There was no laddish behaviour or uncouthness, only three blokes having fun talking about football.

Throughout almost his entire adult life, Bobby was the first source for comment on all matters Geelong: from the brawl with Hawthorn in 1985 to near-bankruptcy in the early 2000s and finally, memorably, awarding Tom Harley the 2009 Premiership Cup and celebrating with "the boys". He was conscious of the blessing the win would be not only to the players, coaches and administrators of Geelong Football Club but also the boon it would prove to the entire region. The city of Geelong, the AFL community and a lot of Victoria will mourn his passing.

Bob Davis, dead at eighty-two. He will be remembered. He will be missed.

Image courtesy: geelongadvertiser.com.au

For The Age's photo gallery honouring Bobby Davis, click here.

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