Bob Dawson and Jeff Hilton were part of the fabric of the St Kilda Football Club.
The two former Saints players have passed away in recent weeks. At 102 years of age, Bob Dawson was the oldest living St Kilda player at the time of his death on July 31. Bob was the 790th Saint to play League football when he debuted in 1941 and Jeff Hilton was the 1379th on the Saints' honour roll when he first appeared in 1991.
Hilton was only five days past his 19th birthday when he became St Kilda’s 1379th senior player when he first appeared 50 years after Dawson.
Dawson gave a fascinating insight to his time in football when talking to Tom Morris on the Saints website in 2014.
Dawson had not only never seen the MCG, but hadn’t viewed a picture of the famous ground before walking through the gate to play there for the Saints in his second game. He played four times for the Saints in his one and only senior season.
It was all an adventure for the youngster from Elmore who debuted for St Kilda reserves in late 1940 after 1925 Brownlow medallist Colin Watson had recommended that the Saints give him a trial run. He had already played senior football with Elmore at the age of 16.
Like many young men of the time, Dawson’s League footy involvement was affected by World War II. He didn’t play the game for four years and when he returned form the war he resumed his football with Elmore. His talents as a rover saw him win competition best and fairests in the Bendigo League and in the Echuca League. He would later become a leading figure in the formation of the local under-18 competition and was honoured to have the local league’s under-18 premiership trophy named in his honour.
Half a century after Dawson’s time with the Saints, young Hilton embarked on his League football journey with the Saints.
Recruited from Dromana, the sandy-haired Hilton had been part of a strong sporting family in East Bentleigh.
Strongly built and willing to tear into packs, he debuted wearing the No. 58 jumper in mid-1991 with an impressive 18-disposal effort against Hawthorn.
The Saints made the finals that year and holding down a place in the attack was no easy feat. The forward line-up around twin towers Tony Lockett and Stewart Loewe featured stars such as Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam. 'Joffa' Hilton played five senior games in his debut season, but in 1992 could only add one more to finish with a record of six games and six goals for the red, white and black.
Crossing to Melbourne, he couldn’t break through for a senior game in 1993 but a strong pre-season resulted in the loss of eight kilograms and he became a regular for the Demons playing 19 games in each of the 1994 and 1995 seasons. He finished at Melbourne after five further games in 1996, and in all he notched up 43 games and 23 goals with the Dees. He then linked up with former Melbourne teammate Phil Gilbert at the newly formed Peel Thunder team in the WAFL.
He returned to Victoria in 2001, but after a few games with Rye, he was forced to retire due to persistent back trouble.
Sean Ralphsmith, president of the St Kilda Past Players and Officials Association, and a teammate of Jeff Hilton, said: “In recent months the St Kilda Past Players Association and former teammates were working hard to support Joffa through difficult times, and we wish we could have done more.”
St Kilda extends its condolences to the Dawson and Hilton families.
Vale, Bob Dawson and Jeff Hilton.