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  1. #1
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    AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Jeff Kennett: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank


    On August 17, 1995, the great Footscray player and football identity, Ted Whitten, died after a long illness. I was premier at the time.

    I woke up early on August 18 to be confronted by this newspaper’s front page reporting Ted’s death and stating that my government had offered his family a state funeral.

    State funerals are normally limited to very few prominent people. Footballers, however good they were, did not meet the criteria.

    So to say I was surprised that my government, without my knowledge or approval, had offered a state funeral was an understatement. I had known Ted, respected him and did not want to cause his family any additional grief.

    I rang my chief of staff, John Griffin, to find out who had offered the state funeral. He assured me no one from government had made such an offer.

    I smelt a rat. I asked John to contact Ted’s family and to apologise but say there had been a mistake and the government had not offered a state funeral.

    John called, but before he could tell them about the mistake, he was told how much Mrs Whitten and the family appreciated the generous offer.

    Abashed, John called me and said he could not tell a grieving family, within 24 hours of the death of their husband, father and grandfather, that it was all a mistake.

    There was only one thing to do. Given the esteem in which Ted was held by the community and the sympathy extended to his family, I knew there was no option but to go ahead with the state funeral. But I had no idea who had told the Herald Sun that my government had approved the funeral and I was more than surprised that the paper hadn’t confirmed the story with us.

    I thought that perhaps the fact that Ted died late on the night of August 17 might have contributed to the urgency to get the story into the last edition.

    But I suspected I might have been set up. Given my not-so-close relationship with The Age newspaper at the time, I suspected that one or more of their journalists was responsible.

    But I could not prove it. Until last week.

    Last Thursday, I flew to Hobart for a few days in Tasmania, a trip that culminated with Hawthorn’s game against Carlton in Launceston on Sunday.

    It was while I was waiting for the flight to Tasmania that one of the culprits approached me and confessed to his involvement and that of two others.

    I was further told the plan was conceived while the three were in an extraordinarily relaxed state at the Imperial Hotel opposite Parliament House. I have to admit that it was a prank that worked.

    When they heard of Whitten’s death late on August 17, one of them called the night editor at the Herald Sun and claimed to be one of my press officers, the late David Wilson.

    It was explained that the government would offer a state funeral to Whitten’s family. A press release, the Herald Sun was told, would follow.

    I suspect that because of the lateness of the hour, and the fact it was well-known that I held Wilson in very high regard, the newspaper decided to run with the story.

    In the end, there was no harm done and the Whitten family certainly appreciated the state funeral which, up until that point, had been offered to very few citizens. In fact, since the death of Ted Whitten, many more citizens who have made major contributions to Australian life, beyond public service, have been given state funerals — so maybe the prank has brought about something that better reflects the times we live in.

    And, of course, however it came about, the Herald Sun’s reporting of the honour given to Ted meant that once again it had scooped The Age.

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  3. #2
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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    A prank - that surely how Ted would have wanted it
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Deserved a state Funeral. Great man, Mr Football.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    I still remember watching it on TV (I think it was the first time the main channels all broadcast the same thing), the huge crowds outside the church and the huge honour guard which was a reflection of his meaning to people. I've only seen a few honour guards longer at funerals at the Police Academy for police killed on duty, which are a special and different class. It was great he got to attend a final SOO, then know the bridge was being named after him and then a state funeral.

    On the sadder side, I remember watching the footy show and after coming back and seeing Doug crying. And that's all I needed to know that Mr Football had succumbed, I didn't need Eddie to confirm it.

    On the better side, EJW Jr has made sure his dad has a legacy for men's health.

    A figure who still casts a big shadow over our club and sport.
    I drank the slab that Bon Scott drunk
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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    EJ's impact on society went far beyond just being a footballer. Kennett just wants to get his name mentioned on the same page as the great man.
    WOOF NUMBER 6

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    I was in year 12 at the time and we had a year 12 v year 11 footy match at school. We made a banner for our team with a likeness of EJ and "We Stuck it Right Up 'Em", from memory.

    His influence reached far and wide as we were along way from the Western suburbs and I'm pretty sure I was the only Bulldogs supporter in the entire year level.

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by Twodogs View Post
    EJ's impact on society went far beyond just being a footballer. Kennett just wants to get his name mentioned on the same page as the great man.
    No matter what you think of Kennett it's a good story and I'm glad he shared it.

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    No matter what you think of Kennett it's a good story and I'm glad he shared it.
    Agree. Well played all.

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Sounds like something EJ would cook up himself! Remember the time so vividly. My dad, who once walked to work with Ted, passed away from cancer not quite 3 months later.
    "Who are you, and how did you get in here?"
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    Thumbs up Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    No matter what you think of Kennett it's a good story and I'm glad he shared it.
    For sure.
    WOOF NUMBER 6

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP6 View Post
    Sounds like something EJ would cook up himself! Remember the time so vividly. My dad, who once walked to work with Ted, passed away from cancer not quite 3 months later.
    That was my thought too, that Ted had served it up, like losing the toss and charging off pointing as if he'd won.

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  20. #12
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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    I'm shocked that The Herald Sun would print something without doing their due diligence. Shocked.
    "It's over. It's all over."

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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by bulldogtragic View Post
    I still remember watching it on TV (I think it was the first time the main channels all broadcast the same thing), the huge crowds outside the church and the huge honour guard which was a reflection of his meaning to people. I've only seen a few honour guards longer at funerals at the Police Academy for police killed on duty, which are a special and different class. It was great he got to attend a final SOO, then know the bridge was being named after him and then a state funeral.

    On the sadder side, I remember watching the footy show and after coming back and seeing Doug crying. And that's all I needed to know that Mr Football had succumbed, I didn't need Eddie to confirm it.

    On the better side, EJW Jr has made sure his dad has a legacy for men's health.

    A figure who still casts a big shadow over our club and sport.
    I was fortunate to be one of the 2,000 to attend Ted’s funeral held at St Patrick’s Cathedral. A further 3,000 assembled outside to honour the great man. Ted Jnr had a wonderful close bond with his Father and it is fitting to see the great work he has continued to head up the EJ Whitten Foundation over the past 20 years. There was a close friendship between EJ and Doug Hawkins with both being recruited from Braybrook and fitting that Doug would go on to eclipse Ted’s Club games record. Both have become Legends of our Club and we have been privileged to have had two League Champions at our Club.

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  23. #14
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    Re: AFL legend Ted Whitten’s state funeral came about after a prank

    Quote Originally Posted by Nuggety Back Pocket View Post
    I was fortunate to be one of the 2,000 to attend Ted’s funeral held at St Patrick’s Cathedral. A further 3,000 assembled outside to honour the great man. Ted Jnr had a wonderful close bond with his Father and it is fitting to see the great work he has continued to head up the EJ Whitten Foundation over the past 20 years. There was a close friendship between EJ and Doug Hawkins with both being recruited from Braybrook and fitting that Doug would go on to eclipse Ted’s Club games record. Both have become Legends of our Club and we have been privileged to have had two League Champions at our Club.
    I stood out in Geelong rd near Footscray cemetery and watched the cortege go by on the way to the Altona crematorium. The crowd was five deep on the footpath along Geelong rd from somerville rd all the way down as far as I could see. There must have been close to 100 000 people standing along the street paying their respects. It's one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

    I remember one of my uncles saying it closed a chapter on old time Footscray and what it used to be like.
    WOOF NUMBER 6

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