Final quarter for South’s golden era

Don Dixon
Don Dixon (third from the left, back row) and the 1954 premiership team.

ANOTHER hero of the “golden era” of Fremantle football, Don Dixon, has died, leaving only a handful of the 1940s and 1950s stars to carry the flag.

Dixon wore the number 1 guernsey for the South Fremantle Football Club in the back pocket during the 1950, ’52 and ’53 premierships, and centre in the ’54 cup-winning side.

He played 134 games and represented WA in an incredible era dominated by the Bulldogs who made nine grand final appearances between 1945 and 1956. The club never finished lower than third on the ladder during its dream run. 

Club president Peter Christie said Dixon’s death represented a sad day for the 121-year-old club. 

“Don was the middle generation of three generations of Dixons to play league footy for the Bulldogs. He was a four-time premiership player, and a legend of our club,” Mr Christie told the Herald.

Dixon’s father Norm made 98 appearances for SFFC between 1924 and 1931 as an outstanding back pocket specialist, and his son Don Jnr, a talented full-forward, was forced from the field through injury at just 22 years of age after 15 games in 1974 and ’75.

“Don Snr was an integral part of the golden era of the SFFC which put the Bulldogs on the VFL map, and WA footy on the map Australia-wide,” Mr Christie said.  

The late Colin Beard (SFFC 1959 – 72, Richmond (VFL) 1969 – 71) in his Where Are They Now? series for the club, said that thanks to Dixon and his team mates, Souths also held more than their own against VFL sides.

Dixon told Beard the only side he remembered getting up on them was Footscray in Bunbury, the day after Souths had beaten them in the city. 

“Footscray used extra players on the bench that day and out-ran us to win narrowly,” he’d recalled.

Dixon also said the highlight of his career was his team mates. 

“The premierships were great, but I realise I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It was exciting to play alongside such wonderful players as Sandover medallists Frank ‘Scranno’ Jenkins, Clive Lewington, Steve Marsh and John Todd, and with goal kicking legends Bernie Naylor and John Gerovich,” Dixon told Beard.  

“The unsung heroes of our golden years was our back line, with brilliant players such as Jenkins and Frank Treasure. I was privileged to play alongside outstanding fullbacks Ernie Graham, Bob Mason part of the renowned “Mason-Dixon line”, and Ray ‘Lizard’ Richards. However, to play alongside Ray was certainly a health hazard. He was such a tough, strong, fierce and desperate competitor that even teammates soon learnt to keep well clear when the ball was in the area.”

Marsh, Richards, Gerovich and Todd survive from the golden era, along with John Colgan, Laurie Green, Ernie Grose and Tony Parentich.  

In the 1954 grand final, Dixon was moved into the centre and made a strong contribution as the Doggies beat cross-town rivals East Fremantle 21.14 to 9.8. It was the highest grand final score at the time, as well as the highest winning margin recorded.

A SFFC Hall of Famer, Dixon will be remembered for his love of the game, respect for his team mates and opponents alike, and his guile and wit.

Dixon is survived by his wife Dorothy, sons Don Jnr and Rodney, and daughters Lynette and Cheryl.

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