VAFA 2020 | Stranded on 399 waiting for football to resume


“To be honest I would find it hard to retire on 399 games. That said, it’s a long way way at my age I couldn’t absolutely guarantee it but certainly my intention would be to keep playing,” Payze said.

“You’re a long time retired.”

Well maybe not as long as most in Payze’s case.

When ‘Bulldog’ gave ‘Mopsy’ his blessing to take record

On Sunday 40 years will have passed since John Rantall passed Fitzroy and AFL legend Kevin Murray’s games record while wearing the maroon and blue.

It was a strange situation as Rantall had finished 1979 on 330 games having made his name at South Melbourne and won a flag at North Melbourne.

He was just three shy of Murray’s record but the Lions came knocking in a move that would help him pass their own champion’s record.

“I certainly was worried about how the supporters would take it because he was an absolute legend at Fitzroy,” Rantall said.

“I went across to Kev and said ‘listen mate I’m thinking of coming to Fitzroy and I’ll probably be breaking your record’. He just put out his hand and shook it and gave me a hug and said ‘go for your life, it couldn’t happen to a better bloke’.”

So on May 10, 1980 at Moorabbin Rantall wore Murray’s No.1 jumper through a huge banner with a guard of honour, the tendinitis raging in his knee settled through an injection and broke the record that had stood since 1974.

Rantall remembers Fitzroy’s supporters and teammates being brilliant to him from the moment he arrived.

“It felt like home,” Rantall said. “Looking back now I am so glad I did it.”

40 years of leg trouble for the skinny kid

Norm Smith medallist David Rhys-Jones had made his debut the week before John Rantall broke the league’s games record and was in the opposition when Rantall played the last of his 336 games just four weeks later.

Rhys-Jones, a skinny kid from Oakleigh who emerged from the same junior club as Warwick Capper, broke his leg that day, still aged 17 and, in his words, with a body not yet ready for the VFL.

His leg snapped like a twig when the big bodies surrounding him caught him at the wrong angle but he didn’t get the treatment players might expect now.

The 17-year-old was on crutches waiting for a taxi outside the Junction Oval when a Fitzroy supporter leaving the ground took pity on the young wingman and offered him a lift home.

Rhys-Jones didn’t get a full check from the part-time club doctor, Dr Richard Ward, until Monday when he was finally diagnosed with a broken femur.

“I’m still paying for it now,” Rhys-Jones joked.

Of course, Rhys-Jones became known for his volatile nature but his football skill was unparalleled as he glided around the ground in a Blues’ jumper in the late ’80s to become a premiership player.

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