The Newcastle Flyer Soars Into Contention

Sydney Swans’ mid-fielder Isaac Heeney has made a giant leap into contention for this year’s Carey Bunton Medal for the best player from NSW in the AFL based on the votes for the AFL Coaches Association Award.

The former Cardiff player scored ten votes for his brilliant performance in the Swans’ demolition of the Fremantle Dockers at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast last Sunday.

Heeney is now on thirty-seven votes, but is now within reach of leader Jacob Hopper (GWS Giants), who has accumulated 48 votes so far this season, and Adelaide key forward Taylor Walker is now only one vote in front of Heeney.

48 Jacob Hopper (Leeton-Whitton) – GWS Giants
38 Taylor Walker (North Broken Hill) – Adelaide
37 Isaac Heeney (Cardiff) – Sydney Swans (R19 10 votes v FRE)
37 Callum Mills (Mosman) – Sydney Swans
33 Tom Hawkins (Finley) – Geelong (R19 4 votes v RIC)
11 Errol Gulden (UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) – Sydney Swans (R19 2 votes v FRE)
10 Sam Wicks (Manly-Warringah) – Sydney Swans
10 Zach Williams (Narrandera) – Carlton
8 Lachie Schultz ((Moama) – Fremantle
8 Luke Breust (Temora) – Hawthorn
7 Matthew Kennedy (Collingullie)
6 Jacob Koschitzke (Albury) – Hawthorn
6 Dane Rampe (UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) Sydney Swans
6 Jeremy Finlayson (Culcairn) – GWS Giants
6 Harry Perryman (Collingullie) – GWS Giants
5 Braeden Campbell (Pennant Hills) – Sydney Swans
5 Taylor Duryea (Corowa) – Western Bulldogs
4 Harry Cunningham (Turvey Park) – Sydney Swans
4 Dougal Howard (Wagga Tigers) – St Kilda
3 Matthew Flynn (Narrandera) – GWS Giants
3 Isaac Smith (Cootamundra) – Geelong
2 Harry Himmelberg (Mangoplah-Cookardinia United) – GWS Giants
2 Jarrad Witts (Sydney University) – Gold Coast
2 Todd Marshall (Deniliquin) – Port Adelaide

Walbundrie Sports Ground – Part II

by Peter Clark

In Part I of the Walbundrie Sports Ground story we looked at the iconic features of the show ground/sports ground and its treasured place in the Walbundrie and the Hume Football Netball League communities.

The theme of Part II is memorable matches of football played at Walbundrie. We also glance at the historical context surrounding one of those unforgettable matches.

More than 200 finals games and about 1000 home and away games have been played at the Walbundrie Sports Ground over the past 110 years. It should be no surprise that some of the most memorable football matches in Hume League history have been witnessed at the ‘Riverina cross roads’ venue.

What are the elements that make some football matches memorable, in fact, so clear in the minds of football followers that incidents from matches played 40 or 50 years ago can be recalled in an instant? They can be: inspirational and brilliant performances by players; meetings of traditional rivals in grand finals; hotly contested local derbies; remarkable comebacks; heart-stopping moments in close contests; premiership-winning goals (and points); match-deciding umpiring decisions; knock-out blows and all-in-brawls, and often, a combination of several of those incidents.

Let’s start with one the most remarkable comebacks in Hume League history.

Trailing by seven goals at three quarter time in the 1978 HFL grand final did not faze the Walbundrie Tigers, well known for their gregarious nature. Many Walla supporters, believing victory was in the bag, left the ground early. Walbundrie stormed home in the final term to snatch the flag from fierce close-town rivals Walla. The Border Mail (16/9/78) headline told the story: “TIGERS DUMP WALLA WITH A 7 GOAL BLITZ’.

Legendary coach Tim Robb belts out the club song
                                   with Walbundrie players and supporters

In 1973 Walla played minor premiers Burrumbuttock in the grand final. The two sides had met in the second semi-final two weeks earlier in a remarkable match dominated by a strong wind, which blew for the entire game.  Walla won the toss and with that the match, scoring six goals in the first quarter while Burrumbuttock failed to register a score. For the rest of the game scoring seesawed under the effect of the wind. Halted by the gale in the last quarter, Walla had done enough with their downwind opportunities to win their way through to the grand final. Burrumbuttock regrouped and won the preliminary final against Rand, setting the stage for another crack at Walla.

The grand final was played in more benign weather conditions and produced a classic country football premiership-decider. Scores were close all afternoon and at the 27 minute mark of the last quarter were locked at 67 all. The crowd went wild with excitement at that point and a draw seemed certain.  With time running out, Walla wingman Graham Scholz broke clear sending his team into attack where a match-winning point was scored by former coach Bruce Diffey, who was playing his 252nd game. The final scores read: Walla 9.14 (68) to Burrumbuttock 10.7 (67). It was also a great day in the long career of 37 year-old Walla ruckman and club president Merv Wegener. He was playing his 280th game for the Grasshoppers. It was another record Hume League ‘gate’ at Walbundrie and the second year that all finals were played at the crossroads location.

The 1999 HFL grand final was just as close when Lockhart, undefeated all season, met Osborne at Walbundrie. The Cats timed their run perfectly and upstaged the raging favourite Demons to take out their sixth HFL premiership in eight seasons. The question of whether Lockhart had printed premiership t-shirts in expectation of victory remains unanswered, but myth or fact it has added to the intense rivalry between the clubs. That day a 15 year-old local lad named Adam Schneider kicked three goals, including two in the last quarter. Six sets of brothers (Hosie, Clarke, O’Connell, Gooden, Schneider and Gleeson brothers) represented Osborne in their massive boil-over win.

In 1976 when the “Protestants” (Brocklesby) played the “Germans” (Walla) in a game full of feeling, Walla full forward Garry Mickan dealt the KO premiership punch by goaling from 45 out on a 45 degree angle after a contentious mark. But a Brock player, incensed with Mickan’s in-your-face self congratulation, had other ideas of how things should finish – right on the spot he ‘jobbed’ Walla’s hero in his own version of a knockout blow.

Rivalries persist regardless of the importance of matches. And the outcome of some matches between rivals can be as vital as grand finals to the victors and the vanquished. Such was the case at Walbundrie late in the 1997 season when Walbundrie and Burrumbuttock were engaged in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon. Adding to the feeling, and ultimately the irony, was the fact that a former Burrumbuttock player, Paul Azzi “out of the blue”, was wearing the Tiger’s colours that year. With scores deadlocked who should kick a goal on the siren to sink Burrumbuttock, breaking their hearts and sending them to the bottom of the ladder? Azzi of course, and for Walbundrie it was like a grand final win.

We end by going all the way back to the first decade (1930’s) of the Hume League when 1937 Walbundrie premiership captain Tom Fagan performed a remarkable feat. With only seconds left on the clock in a match against Walla, Fagan’s cousin Dick took a mark and kicked a short pass to him. Sizing up the situation, Fagan casually prepared a mound and from a long way out proceeded to place kick the ball through for a match winning goal right on the final bell.

Tom Fagan went off to the Second World War and became a prisoner of war on the Burma-Thailand Railway. He survived his experiences and returned to his beloved Riverina district after the war. It is fitting that 38 Silky Oak trees were planted around the showgrounds in memory of the district men and women who enlisted for the Second World War. There were also five plane trees planted at the showgrounds (near the old School) as a memorial to the Five Walbundrie men who lost their lives in the First World War. An interpretation board has recently been erected at the site to help perpetuate the remembrance.




Walbundrie football stalwart Rick Clancy and local historian Leo Coyle provided some of the historical information and recounted several football incidents for the Walbundrie Sports Ground stories.

‘Gullie boys get amongst the votes

     Matthew Kennedy

Former Collingullie-Glenfield Park and GWS Giants team-mates Matthew Kennedy and Harry Perryman (Giants) both received votes for this round in this year’s Carey Bunton Medal for the best player from NSW in the AFL based on voting in the AFL Coaches Association Award.

Now playing for Carlton, Kennedy scored seven votes for his outstanding performance in the Blues convincing win over Collingwood at Marvel Stadium while Perryman polled three votes in the Giants loss to the Sydney Swans on the Gold Coast.

Jacob Hopper retains the lead in the award with forty-eight votes, ten votes clear of Adelaide forward Taylor Walker, and dashing Swans mid-fielder Callum Mills, who sensationally missed the win over the Giants due to a Covoid scare.


48 Jacob Hopper (Leeton-Whitton) – GWS Giants
38 Taylor Walker (North Broken Hill) – Adelaide
37 Callum Mills (Mosman) – Sydney Swans
29 Tom Hawkins (Finley) – Geelong (R18 7 votes v FRE)
27 Isaac Heeney (Cardiff) – Sydney Swans
10 Sam Wicks (Manly-Warringah) – Sydney Swans
10 Zach Williams (Narrandera) – Carlton
9 Errol Gulden (UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) – Sydney Swans
8 Lachie Schultz ((Moama) – Fremantle
8 Luke Breust (Temora) – Hawthorn (R18 6 votes v MEL)
7 Matthew Kennedy (Collingullie) – Carlton (R18 7 votes v COL)
6 Jacob Koschitzke (Albury) – Hawthorn
6 Dane Rampe (UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) Sydney Swans
6 Jeremy Finlayson (Culcairn) – GWS Giants
6 Harry Perryman (Collingullie) – GWS Giants (R18 3 votes v SYD)
5 Braeden Campbell (Pennant Hills) – Sydney Swans
5 Taylor Duryea (Corowa) – Western Bulldogs
4 Harry Cunningham (Turvey Park) – Sydney Swans
4 Dougal Howard (Wagga Tigers) – St Kilda
3 Matthew Flynn (Narrandera) – GWS Giants
3 Isaac Smith (Cootamundra) – Geelong
2 Harry Himmelberg (Mangoplah-Cookardinia United) – GWS Giants
2 Jarrad Witts (Sydney University) – Gold Coast
2 Todd Marshall (Deniliquin) – Port Adelaide

Footy in Hay – In Play since 1876 Part II

By Dr Rodney Gillett

From the turn of the 20th century until the advent of WWII, football in Hay revolved around a local four-team competition and inter-district challenge matches against near-neighbours Moulamein, Balranald and Deniliquin as well occasional forays east by train to play in Riverina “knock-outs”.

Hay Football Club 1885

The local teams were Federals, Imperials, Suburbans, and Gymnasiums (from Hay Gymnasium and Social Club). The Hay Association played under the rules of the South-West District Football Association based at Narrandera.

Upon reformation of the Hay footy club after the end of WWII, there were concerted attempts to participate in inter-district games to heighten interest in the game in the town but again the problem of distance frustrated the club’s efforts.

For the 1950 season the Hay Rovers (as the club had become known) joined the Leeton & District FL (170 kms) which comprised of teams from Darlington Point (120 kms), Beelbangera (near Griffith), Leeton Ramblers and Yanco (near Leeton).

This morphed into the western zone of the South West District FL reserves competition from 1951 to 1955 that ended when that league decided that reserves teams would play with the seniors on a Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Hay club had decided to move in another direction, and in 1952 went south to the Edwards River FL based around Deniliquin (125 kms away) made up of Blighty, Conargo, North, East and West Deniliquin to save travelling. However, this competition folded in 1961 when the Murray league required Deniliquin to field a reserve grade side.

Hay moved on again in 1962 – going east again, this time to the Barellan & District FL. While Barellan was 180 kms away, other clubs such as Darlington Point, Yanco, Yenda (near Griffith, and Coleambly (all on the western perimeter of the league).

Hay Rovers made the finals in 1963 and the grand final in 1969 under captain-coach Rural Bank officer Ken McGowan (ex-Leeton) but went down to Yanco, 8.11.59 to 10.17.77.

Long-time Hay football club official and Hay Shire Councillor, Robert “Buck” Howard (pictured right) recalls Hay being very competitive in the Barellan league, “We more than held our own and had some great clashes over the years with teams like Sandy Creek, who were very strong, and Beckom.”

“It was a shame that the league folded at the end of 1971, we didn’t want to leave”, he told me in an interview for this story.

The demise of the Barellan league as a result of Kamarah-Moombooldool, Sandy Creek and the Barellan-Binya football clubs amalgamating to form Barellan United, Coleambally moving to the Coreen league as well as Yanco and Darlington Point folding forced Hay to look for yet another competition.

All approaches to play in leagues to the east and south were rejected on the basis of distance – “too far to travel for our clubs”, was the response from the South West league (Narrandera-185kms/Wagga 270 kms) and the Echuca  (200 kms) & District league which included three teams north of Echuca based in NSW viz. Mathoura, Bunnaloo and Moama.

The Hay Rovers were left with no choice but to start a local competition once again; this time with four teams of sixteen players played on a Saturday afternoon on the Hay Park Oval. The teams were named after clubs in the VFL – Hawks, Tigers, Bombers and Saints. Players were graded and drafted to the respective teams.

“The games were played in a really good spirit, although some matches became heated, but after the game we’d all have a beer together at the Caledonian (Hotel). It did overcome the problem of travel but we all wanted to play against teams from other towns, and we needed to have under-age competition for the younger boys,” “Buck” Howard who played for the Saints.

“Going south of the border has enabled us to find the right level of competition”, Buck added.

Hay have found a home in the Golden Rivers league, of which they have been a member since 1981, the longest period the club has spent in a competition outside the town and district.

The Lions are currently fifth on the ladder and are drawn to take on fourth-paced Quambatook at home on the Hay Park Oval this Saturday (17 July). The Reserves are running sixth, Under 17.5s are 2nd, and Under 14.5s are fourth place. Auskick is run on Thursday after school followed by a sausage sizzle.

Additionally, there are six grades of netball ranging from youngest playing Net-Set-Go to the seasoned campaigners playing F Troop. Two buses head off to away games, the first at 6 am and the other at 7.30 am, such is the size of the Hay contingent.

Covoid restrictions by the Victorian government may prevent this round from taking place even though there are no cases between “Hay, Hell and Booligal”…

Recently, Hay played old rival second-placed Moulamein at Nyah West in order to enable the opposition’s Melbourne-based players to play. The Hay Lions knocked-off their more fancied opponents with the best second-half display in five years according to Buck Howard.

“We’re on a roll, we’ve got momentum” Buck told me, reflecting the optimism and can-do spirit that has defined the history of football in Hay since 1876.

Footy in Hay NSW – In Play since 1876 – Part 1

By Dr Rodney Gillett

The Hay Football Club was formed in 1876 and has overcome the “tyranny of distance” to fly the flag for the game in the western Riverina ever since.

Hay (population 2400) is located on the north bank of the Murrumbidgee River half-way between Sydney and Adelaide with Balranald to the west, Narrandera to the east, Deniliquin to the south, and Booligal to the north.

And at different times over its history, the Hay footy club has played in competitions to the east, west and south as well as amongst themselves.

Hay currently plays in the Golden Rivers Football League against clubs based on either side of the Victorian-NSW border. The nearest opponent is its oldest rival Moulamein, 120 kms away to the south-west, and the furthest is 299 kms away at Nullawil, deep in the heart of Victoria’s Mallee district

For a time in the early 1970s the Hay club wondered if they would ever find a competition to play in after the Barellan League disbanded and approaches to the South West league based around Narrandera and the Echuca and District league were all rejected.

From 1972 to 1975 the Hay Footy Club had to run its own local competition with four teams.

“It kept us going,” according to Hay football stalwart Robert “Buck” Howard, who played for the Saints in the local competition. “It was fun, but we got tired of playing each other, and we needed under-age footy for the kids”.

A break-through came for season 1976 when the Mid-Murray League based around Swan Hill finally admitted the Hay Rovers on appeal into the competition. But the Rovers which had worn a red and black strip in the Barellan league had to change to red, white and black because of a clash with Nyah West.

The Rovers struggled to compete in the Mid-Murray FL which is a major league and sought a move to the Kerang and District League (renamed Golden Rivers in 1998) in 1981 which was granted, but it involved another change of colours as Quambatook wore the Saints colours, so Hay became, and remains, the Lions.

Hay came fifth in its first season in the new competition; it was also able to resume its rivalry with Moulamein which stretched back to the mid-twentieth century for the Conroy Cup.

The newly minted Lions break-through for the club’s first-ever premiership when it took out the 1982 title with a stirring 13-point win over Appin, a rural district just outside Kerang.

The Hay Lions famously won the 1992 premiership which was the subject of a recent podcast by Albury broadcaster Robbie Mackinlay. You can hear it

The Lions won all three grades that season, and then won another senior flag in 1995 by beating Moulamein.

The Hay Football Club was founded in 1876 at a meeting at the Royal Hotel:

(The Riverina Grazier, 24 May 1876)

The new club was duly formed with “…fourteen members subscribing names, and there is hearty prospects of play this present season” (The Riverina Grazier, 24 May 1876)

The new club initially played matches between its members just like in other country towns. The Riverina Grazier (31 May 1876) reported of a football match arranged for the Queen’s Birthday “… a good romp outside will do both old boys and young boys much good”.

White settlement began in 1840 with a coach station and a town was established in 1859. The area on the Hay plain soon became renowned for its fertile grazing land and pastoral runs were taken up for producing wool and fat lambs for the Victorian goldfields.

Hay became a major transport hub with the main form of transportation the paddle steamers that conveyed the wool down the inland river systems to Echuca on the Murray River and returned with stores for the town and district pastoral runs.

The NSW Land Selection Acts of the 1860s and 1870s unlocked land held by the squatters for closer settlement by new arrivals to the area mainly from Victoria who bought their recently established football game with them.

In 1882 the railway line was extended to Hay from Narrandera thus connecting the town to Sydney, and this facilitated inter-town challenge matches with Hay travelling to Narrandera.

By 1885 Hay had regular challenge matches in town and district from teams called the Snaggers (shearers), Half-Holiday Association (shop-keepers and retail workers), the Golden Templars’ Lodge, and the Eli Elwah sheep station (shepherds/farm hands). The Riverina Grazier reported that, “…200-300 attended the football which is fast gaining popularity in Hay” (25 July 1885).

In 1895 the Hay Football Council was formed to administer the local competition.

The rail connection to the east enabled Hay association to play in a round-robin tournament against the Wagga and Narrandera associations in 1899 that attracted a crowd of 700-800.

Hay teams continued to use special trains to travel east to play in Riverina knock-out carnivals at Leeton, Whitton, Narrandera and Ganmain right up until the mid-1950s:

“A special train to the football at Leeton will leave Hay at 8:00 am and return at 8:15 pm” (The Riverina Grazier, 1 September 1939).

Keep tuned here for Part II.