Edward James 'Ted' Whitten
(27 July 1933 - 17 August 1995) was an Australian rules football
player. Playing 321 VFL
games for his beloved Footscray
, he became known by the moniker "Mr. Football". In 1996, he was among the first batch of inductees to the Australian Football Hall of Fame
, immediately elevated to Legend
status, and was selected as Captain of the AFL Team of the Century
Whitten grew up in the western suburbs of Braybrook
. As a youth he played for Braybrook on Saturdays and Collingwood Amateurs on Sundays; he was urged by the Collingwood Amateurs coach, Charlie Utting
(a former Collingwood VFL
star) to try out for the Collingwood team but was told later to come back in a few years after building up body strength. Within 12 months he was playing for Footscray
, the team he had always supported.
Whitten played his very best football as a key position player, either at Centre Half Forward
or Centre Half Back
. Holmesby and Main describe him as a "prodigious kick, a flawless mark" and as having unequalled "ground and hand skills".
With superb all-round skills, the extraordinary talent of being able to kick equally well with his right and left foot, and perhaps one of the best exponents of the "flick" pass, which was eventually banned, Whitten was one of few football players to have the ability to play any position on the field. He was regarded by his contemporaries in the 1950s and 1960s as the greatest naturally talented player of his era; some bestowed on him the title "Mr. Football".
Off the Field
As well as being a star player (he appeared for Victoria on 29 occasions), Whitten was a passionate promoter of the game - in particular the State of Origin
competition, representing and captaining "The Big V
" on many occasions. He was also chairman of selectors for the state team after retiring from playing football. He was a key promotional tool for the series, with its biggest rivalry between Victoria and South Australia
, often featured promoting the Victorian team with his saying "Stick it up em". He also once famously said: Years ago you had to crawl over cut glass to get one
(i.e. a state guernsey), in an era when there was an ever diminishing esteem in representing one's state, a situation that continues to the present day. He worked as a football commentator on television throughout the 1970s and as a radio commentator in the latter part of his life.
In 1995, Whitten went public with the announcement that he was suffering from prostate cancer.
During a State of Origin game only weeks before his death, Whitten, suffering from blindness due to the cancer, was driven around a lap of the MCG, with his son Ted jr. by his side and Mariah Carey's "Hero" playing on the sound system. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, most of whom were too young to have ever seen him play in person, but for those who had had the privilege to see him play, it was a very emotional moment. This event was polled as the most memorable football event by the Melbourne newspaper The Age.
Whitten lost his battle with cancer in August 1995. Such was his popularity he was given a state funeral, had a bridge named for him (EJ Whitten Bridge
on the Western Ring Road
) and a statue erected at the Bulldogs former home ground, Whitten (Western) Oval
in West Footscray, which was also renamed in his honour.
After his death, Whitten's son, Ted Whitten jnr began the EJ Whitten Legends Game in the memory of his father. The game is a charity match to raise money for prostate cancer research.
- Height: 183cm
- Weight: 89 kg
- Played 321 games, Footscray, 1951 - 1970 (A record at the time which stood for almost a decade)
- Career Goals: 360
- Premiership 1954
- Captain-coach of runners-up 1961
- Captain 14 years, 1957 - 1970
- Coach 13 years, 1957 - 1966, 1969 - 1971
- Club champion 5 times, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961
- Club Leading Goal kicker 4 times, 1961, 1962, 1964(tied), 1968
- Victorian representative player 29 times
- Tied with Allen Aylett for the 1958 Tassie Medal
- Captain, Coach, Club champion, Club Leading Goal kicker 1961