By Dr Rod Gillett
Despite playing only one game in five weeks Beckom started well against Sandy Creek and went on to comfortably win the Barellan & District grand final in 1960, 10.6.66 to 4.18.42.
Beckom, under ex-Ariah Park Mirrool star Alan Mackenzie, beat Darlington Point in the 2nd semi final but the grand final was delayed by a drawn final between Darlington Point and Sandy Creek, and the subsequent replay on what should have been grand final day.
The following Saturdays were reserved for the major event in these communities, the agricultural shows at Ardlethan and Barellan – with a break, and then the Ariah Park show.
Premiership rover Brian O’Reilly, then eighteen years old, recalls Beckom’s “blend of youth and experience” – 17 year old half-forward Tommy Connors along with veterans Errol Foster at full-forward, half back Jim Gardiner, full back Pat O’Hare, a “fantastic footballer”, and uncle Bob O’Rielly, who was “close to 40” (years old).
Most of the team were farmers or sons of farmers or shearers with exceptions being Errol Foster who worked as a stock and station agent while Bob “Butch” O’Reilly ran the news-agency.
Brian remembers travelling back to Beckom with his best mate Tommy Connors in the old farm ute after the grand final to have a shower at the pub while the rest of his team-mates showered at the Commercial Hotel in Barellan and enjoyed a few celebratory drinks before journeying back to the Beckom pub.
The Beckom footy team, which wore a black guernsey with red cuffs, had been runner-up to Sandy Creek the previous year, and beat Darlington Point for the premiership in 1958. It also made the grand final with Alan McKenzie at the helm in 1961 but went down to Barellan-Binya in the grand final.
There was an exodus of players prior to the 1962 season with McKenzie going to Ariah Park-Mirrool to play under Johnny Hawke in their South West league premiership team as did Tom Connors while others went to Ardlethan.
To overcome the shortage of players Brian and Errol Foster went to Ardlethan to play under former Footscray rover Barry Connolly, which in return sent eight players to Beckom.
Due to a shortage of players in 1964 the Beckom club went into recess. It reformed in 1965 with Alan McKenzie returning to coach but the club did not make the finals.
1967 was to be the club’s final-ever season and by winning ten games, including an upset over the unbeaten and eventual premier Barellan-Binya, they finished fifth.
Beckom is a small central Riverina village located five kilometers north-east of Ardlethan just off the Newell Highway. Next stop West Wyalong, 60 kms further north.
It had been established in 1908 when the branch railway line from Temora to Barellan was opened; it was extended to Griffith in 1916. The main purpose of the branch lines were to transport rural produce to Sydney but they are also became a means to transport football teams.
Hence the title of prominent Barellan football identity the late George Flagg’s book, Along the Line, on the development of the Barellan, Ariah Park, Tara and Ardelthan football associations in the period 1890-1990.
Brian O’Reilly recalls a vibrant village at Beckom when he played in the 1960s of several general stores, a post office, a bank, a newsagency, a stock and station agency, a garage, a primary school and a pub. All that remains is the pub and the school plus a road-house, a kilometre away on the Newell highway.
The Beckom football club had been formed soon after the establishment of the village and played “social football” according to George Flagg. After WWI, the club initially joined the Beckom-Barellan Association, then in 1923 joined the Ariah Park competition made up of Ariah Park, Mirrool, Ardlethan and Kamarah.
Beckom would continue to play in various incarnations of local leagues until re-joining the Barellan league in 1950. The Quade brothers, Bill, Leo, Tom and Pat were prominent players for the club in the early 50s.
The Barellan & District league ran out of clubs mainly as a result of the merger of Sandy Creek, and Kamarah-Moombooldool with Barellan-Binya to become Barellan United in 1970.
Barellan United beat the Hay Rovers in the grand final in 1971. The league then disbanded
Coleambly went to the Coreen league, Barellan United entered the Central Riverina league, and Hay eventually found a home in the Kerang and District league (now known as the Golden Rivers FL). Yanco disbanded.
Bob O’Reilly played for Beckom up until it folded. He had his best season in 1961 when he won both the competition and club best and fairest awards.
He had a few seasons at Sandy Creek then went to Ariah Park-Mirrool under Doug Priest in 1970. He retired in 1973 but made a surprising comeback in 1980 to play for the newly formed Tallimba club in the Northern Riverina FL. At age 38 and “farm-fit”, he played for five seasons, “mostly in the back-pocket, but it was lot of fun”, recalled Brian O’Reilly.
Source: George Flagg, Along the Line, 1990.