The Rannock Football Story

Peter Clark shares an extract on the Rannock football story from his soon to be released book, In the True Sporting Spirit.

 

Rannock Footy Ground

Australian Football was last played at Rannock more than half a century ago. Rannock’s football experience is a familiar Australian tale of a farming community starting out with a healthy stock of fit young men eager to play football only to see that supply dwindle as farms got bigger, families got smaller and distances became faster to travel. From its beginnings in a localised football competition comprising similar-sized settlements, Rannock’s football journey expanded to new frontiers. Later it competed against teams from much larger and more distant settlements.

Rannock is a rural locality, situated in ‘canola country’, 23 km north of Coolamon in the Riverina region of NSW. The settlement was proclaimed in 1899 and grew steadily to a peak population of 285 in 1933. By the 2016 census Rannock’s population had fallen to just 55 people.

Upon my first visit to the Rannock Recreation Reserve in 2017 I was surprised to find the football setting largely intact which immediately inspired me to learn more about the club and football days long past. What I discovered was a club widely respected for its sportsmanship, a proud and successful club and a club in many ways typical of hundreds of small country football clubs once common throughout Australia.

The Rannock football ground’s rust coloured earth, once trampled by young men chasing the Sherrin, is now covered in tall grass. A lone goal post stands at the northern end as a silent reminder of football games in bygone days. Other relics such as the deserted dressing sheds and the vacant luncheon booth stand passively at the cypress pine tree-fringed oval. The galvanised iron dressing sheds remain furnished with dust-covered rubbing down tables and rusty showers that have not run hot water since the last home game.

The Rannock Football Story traces the sequence of leagues the club participated in between 1923 and 1964 commencing with the Tara and District Association and ending with the Central Riverina League. Many of the familiar experiences of country footy clubs are covered: changing league affiliation, club mergers, glory years, struggling times and the recurrent threat of demise, all experienced in the midst of economic, technological, demographic and social change.

A football club was formed at Rannock in 1923. Less than a decade later Rannock was the centre of a ‘bush’ football league, the Rannock and District Football Association. Only four decades after its formation the club went into recess for the last time. In 25 football seasons, spanning 42 years, the club participated in six different leagues, won five premierships, endured two periods of voluntary recess, together with an interruption due to World War II, and experienced a joint football venture with the neighbouring community of Methul.

Rannock initially competed in the Tara and District Football Association alongside the neighbouring communities of Tara, Methul, Mimosa, Pucawan and Walleroobie. According to former club president, A.H. Grinter, “the players though keen and enthusiastic did not win many games, but had a lot of fun.”

In 1932 Rannock became the home of a new league called the Rannock and District Football Association. Other clubs that competed included Bectric, Winchendon Vale, Methul, North Berry Jerry, Pucawan, Mimosa and Marrar. Rannock hosted most finals matches in the league’s six year existence.

Playing in the newly formed Temora and District Association in 1938, against teams from Temora, Clear Hills, Bagdad, Reefton, Pucawan and Winchendon Vale, Rannock were the competition pace setters. This was one of the most successful eras of football for Rannock. The club reached the final four on several occasions in the 1930s and claimed back-to-back premierships in 1939 and 1940. When football resumed after the war Rannock re-joined the Temora League and were successful in winning the 1947 premiership.

Rannock ‘s next move was to the ten-team Ariah Park and District Football Association where they competed for four seasons.  During this era the identity of the club was to change and the geographical focus shifted to the north. In 1950 Rannock and Methul formed a combined team known as the ‘Federals’. The other teams in the Ariah Park competition in 1950 were Tara Stars, West Wyalong, Ariah Park, Temora and Mirrool. The cessation of the league in 1951 prompted the Federals to apply for admission to the South West District Football League (SWDFL) Reserves competition.

Continuing to play under the ‘Federals’ banner, the club participated in the SWDFL Reserves between 1952 and 1955. The Federals immediately became a dominant force in the competition which was divided into east and west sections with the winners of the two zones playing off for the premiership. In 1952 five teams competed in the Eastern Zone: Narrandera, Coolamon, Rannock Federals, Grong Grong and Ganmain. The Western Zone comprised Griffith, Yanco, Leeton and Darlington Point.

The Federals went on to have an undefeated season in 1952 qualifying for the grand final to be played against the Western Zone finalists, Darlington Point. Unfortunately the opposition were unable to get a team together, due to a clash with a wedding, and forfeited the premiership-deciding match. In 1954 the Federals were again matched against Darlington Point in the grand final, but on that occasion there was no prior engagement affecting the ‘Riversiders’’ attendance, the game went ahead and the Federals won the Jas. Quinn Cup. The Federals reached the Eastern Zone grand final again the following season but were defeated by Ganmain. In 1956, when the SWDFL scheduled all Reserve grade fixtures as curtain raisers to senior matches on Sundays, the Federals did not re-join the competition and went into recess.

The club reformed in 1962 and joined the Central Riverina Football League where they played for three seasons. Rannock’s football geography moved to the heart of the Riverina in a league containing a mixture of clubs from within Wagga Wagga and surrounding settlements. Rannock’s opponents included: Army, Boree Creek, Collingullie, Cootamundra, East Wagga, Junee, Osborne, RAAF, Uranquinty and old rivals Marrar. In its sunset years Rannock experienced some big losses, none greater than a 282 point loss against Boree Creek in 1964. The youthful Rannock team went winless for forty consecutive games from the start of the 1962 season until early in 1964 before finally notching a win. The Daily Advertiser celebrated Rannock’s victory over Uranquinty with the headline: ‘Rannock at last! – 41st time lucky’.

Rannock’s brief life in the league ended prior to the start of the 1965 season due to a lack of players. Reluctantly the club followed the fate of many country football clubs from small communities in disbanding. To build and rebuild a football club takes imagination, ambition, enterprise, organisational skill and persistence from those in charge. Rannock was blessed with men and women with those qualities. It also possessed stalwarts who committed to the task for the long haul, year in and year out, in both prosperous and difficult times.

The people of Rannock can take considerable pride in their former football club which frequently punched above its weight. Equally, they were honoured by footballers widely recognised for always giving their best, for never throwing in the towel and most importantly, for being good sportsmen.

Footnote

Extracts are from the soon to be published history of the Rannock Football Club, In the True Sporting Spirit, written by Peter Clark

Goolagong Parties Like its 1999 for Terrigal-Avoca Panthers

A special report by Doctor Rod Gillett:

Maurice Goolagong demonstrates his perfect
kicking technique that yielded over 1500 goals!

The sudden appearance of gun forward Maurice Goolagong for Terrigal-Avoca half-way through the 2nd quarter of the 1999 grand final of the Central Coast AFL stunned both the crowd and the Killarney Vale Bombers at Wyong’s Don Small Oval.

The competition leading goal-kicker, ostensibly out for the season with a fractured wrist, had driven through the night from Swan Hill on the Victorian border where he had attended his father’s 50th birthday party, leaving the party at 2am.

“I started getting changed into my football gear when we came over the Mooney Mooney Bridge” Maurice told me in an interview with this piece.

“I had taken the plaster off my wrist on the Thursday night and it felt good so I called the coach, Dean Wall, to tell him I could play, if he wanted me. He said yep, you’re in!”.

The goalkicking machine had booted 70 goals to top the 2GO league goalkicking that season for Terrigal after transferring from the Peninsula Swans, better known as Woy Woy.

Killarney Vale led at half-time of the 1999 grand final by two points, but the arrival of their spearhead propelled them into action and the Panthers went onto win by 64 points with Maurice booting five goals in the second half.

Maurice Goolagong carved out a sensational career in football on the Central Coast after having started out at Barellan in the South West juniors as a youngster, then moving to North Wagga in the Farrer league under the legendary Dick Carey, where he played centre half back.

After moving to Sydney to take up an apprenticeship as a butcher he heeded the call from an uncle to play on the central coast initially with Woy Woy, and then at Terrigal Avoca where he has left an indelible legacy.

He topped the league goalkicking in the Central Coast AFL twice, in 1999 with 70 and 115 goals for Woy Woy in 1997.

Upon the merging of the Newcastle and Central Coast competitions in 2000 to become the Black Diamond League, Maurice just kept kicking more and more goals!

He was the competition leading goalkicker from 2000-2005 topping the century four times, and then again in 2011 after stints with St George in the Sydney AFL and Tullibigeal in the Northern Riverina.

His highest tally was 135 in 2001 when he kicked an amazing 25 goals in the last home-and-away game of the season to edge out Killarney Vale’s Simon Cosser who led by 12 goals and kicked ten in the final game only to fail by 3 goals to snare the award from Maurice.

These remain the record number of goals for a season and for a game in the merged competition.

The league goalkicking award is named in his honour.

All together Maurice played over 300 games on the central coast and kicked more than 1500 goals, giving him a “Plugger-like” average of over 5 goals per game!

There have many highlights to the bustling forward’s career including premierships for Terrigal-Avoca in 1999 and 2000 but special reference is made to the historic country championship win in Wagga in 2006 when the Black Diamond representative team beat the best leagues from southern NSW.

The visitors met the powerful Riverina Football League in the decider. At half-time the visitors had not kicked a goal to the RFL’s five goals. They finally scored a major in the third quarter but still trailed by 30 points. In a barn-storming finish the BDL got up to win by a point. Maurice kicked four goals in the thrilling final quarter.

“Our coach Dean Wall believed in us, he knew our styles of play and we just gelled, we clicked at the right time”, Maurice recalled.

When asked about accuracy in front of goal given that he kicked 25.3 in that record haul in a single match and 122.12 in season 2003, Maurice attributed credit to his junior coaches at Barellan, Col Male and Max Jamieson.

“They taught me how to kick, and then I used to practice goal-kicking from different angles after school every day. We lived just across the road from the Sportsground”.

Maurice’s beloved Terrigal-Avoca will meet Newcastle City in this Saturday’s grand final of the Hunter Central Coast AFL at Killarney Vale. He will be there cheering them on and hoping to again party like its 1999.

The sudden appearance of gun forward Maurice Goolagong for Terrigal-Avoca half-way through the 2nd quarter of the 1999 grand final of the Central Coast AFL stunned both the crowd and the Killarney Vale Bombers at Wyong’s Don Small Oval.

The competition leading goal-kicker, ostensibly out for the season with a fractured wrist, had driven through the night from Swan Hill on the Victorian border where he had attended his father’s 50th birthday party, leaving the party at 2am.

“I started getting changed into my football gear when we came over the Mooney Mooney Bridge” Maurice told me in an interview with this piece.

“I had taken the plaster off my wrist on the Thursday night and it felt good so I called the coach, Dean Wall, to tell him I could play, if he wanted me. He said yep, you’re in!”.

The goalkicking machine had booted 70 goals to top the 2GO league goalkicking that season for Terrigal after transferring from the Peninsula Swans, better known as Woy Woy.

Killarney Vale led at half-time of the 1999 grand final by two points, but the arrival of their spearhead propelled them into action and the Panthers went onto win by 64 points with Maurice booting five goals in the second half.

Maurice Goolagong carved out a sensational career in football on the Central Coast after having started out at Barellan in the South West juniors as a youngster, then moving to North Wagga in the Farrer league under the legendary Dick Carey, where he played centre half back.

After moving to Sydney to take up an apprenticeship as a butcher he heeded the call from an uncle to play on the central coast initially with Woy Woy, and then at Terrigal Avoca where he has left an indelible legacy.

He topped the league goalkicking in the Central Coast AFL twice, in 1999 with 70 and 115 goals for Woy Woy in 1997.

Upon the merging of the Newcastle and Central Coast competitions in 2000 to become the strong Black Diamond League, Maurice just kept kicking more and more goals!

He was the competition’s leading goalkicker from 2000-2005 topping the century four times, and then again in 2011 after stints with St George in the Sydney AFL and Tullibigeal in the Northern Riverina.

His highest tally was 135 in 2001 when he kicked an amazing 25 goals in the last home-and-away game of the season to edge out Killarney Vale’s Simon Cosser who led by 12 goals and kicked ten in the final game only to fail by 3 goals to snare the award from Maurice.

These remain the record number of goals for a season and for a game in the merged competition.

The league goalkicking award is named in his honour.

All together Maurice played over 300 games on the central coast and kicked more than 1500 goals, giving him a “Plugger-like” average of over 5 goals per game!

There have many highlights to the bustling forward’s career including premierships for Terrigal-Avoca in 1999 and 2000 but special reference is made to the historic country championship win in Wagga in 2006 when the east coast Black Diamond representative team beat the best leagues from southern NSW.

The visitors met the powerful Riverina Football League in the decider. At half-time the visitors had not kicked a goal to the RFL’s five goals. They finally scored a major in the third quarter but still trailed by 30 points. In a barn-storming finish the BDAFL got up to win by a point. Maurice kicked four goals in the thrilling final quarter.

“Our coach Dean Wall believed in us, he knew our styles of play and we just gelled, we clicked at the right time”, Maurice recalled.

When asked about accuracy in front of goal given that he kicked 25.3 in that record haul in a single match and 122.12 in season 2003, Maurice attributed credit to his junior coaches at Barellan, Col Male and Max Jamieson.

“They taught me how to kick, and then I used to practice goal-kicking from different angles after school every day. We lived just across the road from the Sportsground”.

Maurice’s beloved Terrigal-Avoca will again meet Newcastle City in this Saturday’s grand final of the Hunter Central Coast AFL at Adelaide Street Oval, Tumbi Umbi. He will be there cheering them on and hoping to again party like its 1999.

Enormous contribution from Rod Carter

This week’s nomination for the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.
Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of ex-team-mate and former neighbour Rod Carter.

Swans champion full back Rod Carter took on some of the greatest full forwards in the game’s history but tangling with Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Malcolm Blight was nothing compared to engaging with the student body at Cleveland Street High School in Sydney’s inner west.

In between his stoushes with footy’s best Carter was living his version of the ‘Blackboard Jungle’ through the 1980s when the school had the reputation as Sydney’s toughest.

“They had all these PE teachers who came in and couldn’t get out quick enough, it finished them,” Carter said.”

“You could imagine their surprise when I said I wanted to work there. When I went to ‘Clevo’ I told the lady at reception I wanted to work there, she stared at me like I was on drugs. She asked me what I taught and when I said Phys Ed she said don’t move. She ran down the corridor shouting Bob, Bob, Bob. Bob was the deputy and he gave me a job on the spot. I ended up teaching geography, history and PE.”

Getting the job was the easy part, keeping it was the challenge for most of Carter’s colleagues. ‘Clevo’ had the highest turnover of staff in New South Wales and many staff were left in tears trying to control the rowdy teenagers. As his opponents know Carter is made of stern stuff and his reputation among the boys received a massive boost when one of his students saw the less friendly side of his personality on the footy field.

“One of the boys was selling ice creams at the SCG,” Carter said.

“He would walk through the aisles with his tray. He looked over the fence one day and saw me punching on with the full forward. He packed himself and went back and told all the kids at school. He put a bit of mustard on the story and voila all the kids were scared of me. It worked a treat.”

Carter’s ability to deal with challenging situations on and off the football field was a hallmark of his time in footy and has made him one of NSW football’s greatest contributors.

Few have helped footy on as many levels.

He played 217 games for the Swans and was one of the pioneering players who made the move from South Melbourne to Sydney such a success. He was very unlucky to have fallen short of the 300 game milestone finishing up stranded on 293 games.

“Finishing my career in the reserves was really disappointing, Carter said.

“I’d played 76 for Fitzroy and then played in the VFA for Port Melbourne. “I was proud of the fact I was able to come back and play for as long as I did with my second run at it. I don’t have any regrets. Tommy Hafey rang me as did John Northey who asked me if I wanted to play at Melbourne and get my 300. Things don’t always work out how you want it but I’ve met some great people in footy. They (Hafey and Northey) were real footy people and knew the game, it was flattering.”

Carter’s next move was into coaching where he led Sydney University to a premiership in his first year in charge in 1992.

“They used to be easy beats,” Carter said. “The first game against Campbelltown was a taste of what was to come. I copped a whack so I gave it back. Then the next game against Wests was the same only this time my teammates came from everywhere and started throwing cut lunches. They’d been on the receiving end for so long and they were enjoying fighting back. I’d never played or been involved with senior footy outside the AFL. I enjoyed the year immensely, to get the bonding you do at that level was fantastic.”

Rod Carter pictured in his ‘school teacher’ attire

Carter was also making moves in his other career, moving from Cleveland Street to James Cook High School at Kogarah and then to the NSWAFL and a job in development.

It was hard work trying to introduce the code to Sydney’s private schools but there was enormous enjoyment coaching the state under 16 and under 18 teams and coming across some of the state’s best talent including Mark and Jarrad McVeigh, Lenny Hayes and Nick Davis.

The talent of the McVeigh’s, Hayes and Davis was something Carter enjoyed being involved with but it was a couple of surprise packets he took special pride in, Kieren Jack and Lewis Roberts-Thomson.

“People didn’t see what Kieren had as a player,” Carter said. “Kieren was one that I was really happy with from the point view of the game in NSW, he was a kid who worked really hard and developed in our programs.

LRT was a gem. I remember watching him at Kelso Oval when he was playing with Sydney’s best kids. He played in the ruck and at the first centre bounce he put his knee on his opponent’s shoulder. That was enough for me and I thought we’ve got something to work on. Even by the time he made his debut for the Swans he wouldn’t have played 50 games of footy in his life. Had you stopped the game at half time in 2005 he would have won the Norm Smith Medal.”

While talent identification and player development were huge Carter’s biggest achievement was the creation of the Paul Kelly Cup where Kieren Jack first came to prominence.

“When I was working for the AFL the development officers were having trouble getting into schools,” Carter said.

“We have to cater to them and move to the market, I came up with the Paul Kelly Cup. It was a struggle to get 20 players for a match so 12 a side was perfect. It’s now the biggest sporting competition in Australia.”

After a decade at the NSWAFL Carter moved became a recruiter for Collingwood and found some outstanding talent including Penrith’s Mick Hartley and Bowral’s Tom Young. But his biggest find for the Magpies was ruckman Jarrod Witts who is now captain of the Gold Coast Suns.

“I went out to St Ives to watch some kids and Jarrod came out in the warm up and he bent down and picked up the ball clean as a whistle,” Carter said.

“He was 6’6” and 15 years old and playing rugby at school in Barker’s first XV. By the end of the warm up I was on the phone to Derek Hine (Collingwood’s recruiting boss). I said forget the other kids this is the bloke we need to get before someone else does. To Derek’s credit, he rang Jarrod’s dad and got on a plane the next day and signed him.”

Carter turns 66 at the end of October and has witnessed first-hand the enormous gains the code has made north of the Murray. He can safely lay claims to as one of footy’s most important people of the last 40 years.

“It’s great seeing the change in the landscape,” Carter said. “I remember a meeting at St Ignatius of all Sydney’s private school sports masters in 1998 and one of them got up and said they rated Volleyball higher than Aussie Rules. I was drummed out of the meeting unceremoniously. To change things so quickly the AFL has to be pretty happy with itself.”

Women in the Centre Square: Reflections on the start of a new era of AFL in Sydney

Women’s footy in Sydney started in Sydney twenty years ago with five teams.

In 2020, there were forty teams playing across the four divisions of Women’s football in AFL Sydney with ten in each division.

In the Premier Division grand final on Saturday the Inner West Magpies will take on Manly-Warringah Wolves. It will be played prior to the Men’s Premier Division grand final.

One of the original players in 2000, Michaela Ekman, will take the field for the Magpies on Saturday. “Mickey”, as she is popularly known, along with another pioneer Meredith Gray have been nominated to the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame as part of the 140th anniversary of Australian Football in NSW this year.

Their profiles appear below the story by Yvette Andrews on the first season in 2000:

Western Wolves SWAFL PREMIERS 2000

Back row: Karen Miethe (Team manager), Julie Rogers, Yvette Andrews, Lucy Burgmann (Vice-captain), Patrice Ladson, Graham Mumme (Coach), Gabby Monahan, Sophie Ewart, Michaela Ekman Middle row: Evonne Loukas, Teresa Wilson, Wendy Holtby, Christine Hibbens, Vicki Keys (Captain), Phoebe Thomas. Front row: Bernie Cox and Fiona Huntington,  Absent: Anna Clark.

Yvette Andrews – the inaugural Sydney Women’s’ AFL Secretary from 1999 – 2003 played in the first Grand Final in 2000 when she was a member of the victorious Western Wolves premiership team. She is vice-president of the Inner West Magpies Australian Football Club.

Five teams took the field in the augural 2000 season of the Sydney Women’s AFL – the Western Wolves (based at Picken Oval), Monarch Panthers from Campbelltown, East/UNSW Dolphins, the Glebe Cyclones and Sydney        University.

Players came from all sorts of sporting backgrounds. We had some imports from southern states who had AFL in their DNA. We recruited players from the other footy codes, netballers, hockey players, basketballers, even Olympians. Most of us were very new to AFL. The style of game was rough and ready and not for the faint hearted.

One of the challenges during those early days was getting access to footy grounds. We played at Trumper Park, Monarch, Village Green and Rosedale Oval in the early 10 am slot before the men. And thanks to the support of Western Suburbs Football Club, W H Wagener Oval became the home of the first finals series between the Wolves, Panthers, Easts/UNSW and Sydney Uni.

The Western Wolves dominated the home and away series, were undefeated and strode through to the Grand Final.

The 26 August 2000 was a hot and blustery day. An enthusiastic crowd had turned up to be part of an historic moment in AFL history in Sydney.

Peter Hatley officiated the game. Graham Mumme coached the Western Wolves and Lachlan Worthy, Sydney Uni. Wests captain, Vicky Keys was an experienced player from Western Australia and Meredith Gray, who captained Sydney Uni had worked tirelessly to bring the team together for their first season.

Tasha Gale, a former Australian Rugby League captain, kicked the first goal putting Sydney Uni ahead where they stayed for most of the game. Despite some inaccurate kicking, the Western Wolves clawed their way back to eventually tie up the scores by the end of regular time. But Sydney Uni jumped ahead again with quick goal out of the centre in the first minute of extra time. Remarkably Wests came back again to tie up the scores at 49 a-piece.

A quick mid-pitch discussion took place between the umpires, Phil Davis from the AFL and some SWAFL committee members who were also playing. We hadn’t foreseen the need for a rule to break a deadlock like this. On such a windy day, golden point seemed unfair so the decision was to play another round of extra-time. This time the Western Wolves put the result beyond dispute with two more goals to win 8 14 62 to Sydney Uni 7 7 49.

Evonne Loukas was named best on ground after her goal resurrected Wests’ chances in extra-time. Michaela Ekman, came off the Wests bench that day and went on to be one of the first women players to play over 300 games and is still playing Premier Division 20 years later.

In that first year, NSW (all Sydney players) also travelled to Canberra for the National Championships. The team had wins against the ACT and Northern Territory but was absolutely destroyed by Victoria in the grand final 26.20.176 to 0.2.2.

What the scoreboard didn’t show, however, was the impact that this opportunity to play against women steeped in footy culture and knowledge had on the new and enthusiastic women from Sydney. And although the Sydney competition remained small for several more years, SWAFL became an influential player in the national push to support and grow the women’s game. 

Nominations for the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame:

Michaela Ekman has played over 300 games and is the only player in Sydney to have played in every season since it started. She has captained Wests and has one 3 Premierships over the course of her football career. She has represented NSW in the national championship on many occasions. She is the coach of the under 18s at Wests Juniors and has played an integral role to the development of the youth girl pathways at the club.

Meredith Gray was one of the founding members of Sydney Uni. She was on the SWAFL committee for many years and has played for last two decades playing over 200 games. She was the organiser of the 2002 National Championships in Sydney. She represented NSW on numerous occasions.

Sydney AFL Grand Final week brings back memories of Wests’ win in 1965

Again the Football History Society’s, Vice President, Dr Rod Gillett, has sought out a great period in NSW football:

Western Suburbs were the most successful club in Sydney football in the 1960s. The Magpies, which had been re-formed in 1948, played in seven grand finals winning four.

Under dual Melbourne premiership player Athol Webb, Wests convincingly beat St George in the 1965 grand final at Trumper Park, 17-15 (117) to 12-9 (81).

Wests had become a powerhouse through sound administration, access to its own ground  in Picken Oval and the establishment of the first licensed club for Australian football in NSW in 1962.

Club secretary Bill Hart, later to be president of the NSWANFL from 1966-1978, was instrumental in getting Webb to come to Sydney from Tasmania.  The previous year he had coached the East Launceston FC (1962-63) in the NTFA and prior, the New Norfolk FC (1960-61) after finishing up in the VFL where he played with the Melbourne club from 1955-59.

Webb was essentially a full-time coach with Wests.  In addition to coaching duties, he worked in the licensed club and ran school programs in the inner west. He resided in a house next to the club which they also owned.

Western Suburbs finished on top of the table with 15 wins in 1965 and only two losses in the home-and-away matches to St George and North Shore. Wests lost to St George under Col Harris in the second semi final but came back to comfortably beat Newtown in the preliminary final.

Statistics were provided in the NSWANFL Football Record (19 September 1965) that show the following:

Kicks Marks Hand Passes Free Kicks Hit Outs
Western Suburbs 181 63 13 12 53
Newtown 147 52 17 25 30

Wests ruckman Russ Lockett, later a long-term secretary-manager of the licensed club, led the ruck division to a decisive advantage over Newtown, 53 hit-outs to 30.

In an interview for this piece, Athol Webb, now aged 85 and living in The Rock where he went to coach after Wests, recalled it was a “very hot day, 97° F” but “we were pretty well set-up to win”.

The grand final victory which was described by the President Herb Conlon in the club’s annual report for 1965 as “an inspired performance to outplay St George in every position”.

Amongst the best players for Wests were “close-playing” full back Peter Burgess, “fearless rover” Cliff Hayes (later an umpire), key forward John Godwin “a former rugby player” and “versatile” vice-captain Roger Nobes (quotes from the Football Record for the Grand Final).

Western Suburbs FC contingent boarding the plane for NZ

Wests went on an end-of-season trip to Auckland to play an exhibition match. A party of 43 players, officials and committeemen journeyed to New Zealand. The match played at Cromwell Park attracted a crowd of 7000. The Kiwi team proved to good for Wests. The game covered on the national television news on the Sunday following the game.

 

The next year, Athol Webb was enticed to southern NSW to coach The Rock-Yerong Creek in the strong Farrer League. Webb coached TR-YC for three seasons and stayed on as a player for a further six years.

Athol told me that The Rock was a “terrific little spot” and a great place to raise a family.

Asked to name the highlights of his career, Athol modestly told me, “Kicking 5 goals in the 1956 VFL grand final against Collingwood, I suppose”, but then he lit up when he said “also winning the Tassie One Thousand (professional foot race) at Burnie”. When pressed about his share of the purse he said, “750 quid!”.

Athol Webb (pictured left in Tasmanian jumper) is described in the Encyclopedia of VFL/AFL Footballers Since 1897 (2003) as a “former Tasmanian forward whose speed and elusive style made him a constant menace to opposition sides”. He played 74 games and kicked 146 goals for Melbourne from 1955-59.

He told me that Norm Smith was a “master coach”, “…he knew how to get the best out of everyone, every week”

He was captain-coach of NSW in 1965 and also in 1964 in matches against North Melbourne and Hawthorn in Sydney.

He also represented Victoria and Tasmania and kicked the match-sealing goal when Tassie famously beat Victoria at York Park, Launceston in 1960.

Athol Webb has been nominated for a place in the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.