PIG TALES – what a great read!!!

University football clubs differ from other footy clubs. And the club from the Charles Sturt University in Wagga, the mighty Bushpigs, is different again.

Every university football club around Australia goes through an annual process of renewal when a welter of teenaged students signs up during O-Week. This process is a source of wonder and delight. The sense that a talented student might emerge from a dormitory room to kick 100 goals is a sense that never quite leaves university footballers. The optimism of youth is carried through future endeavours like a ball tucked under the arm.

Without the cautionary presence of their parents and grandparents at a university club, the young players go a bit silly. University students are creative types, with lots of bright ideas. The atmosphere at university clubs tends to verge on mayhem. Sometimes it tips over. The Bushpigs have tended to treat away games, the chance to get out of town, like weird and wonderful adventures. Pubs throughout the Riverina, from Ardlethan to Bethungra, experience a surge of sentiment and song while the Bushpigs stop over for an hour during their journey back to Wagga.

The Bushpigs are like university clubs in cities and towns around Australia, with teenagers on the committee and an inventive approach to life and the drop punt. But the club does have a distinctive twist. The Bushpigs are based in the country where Australian rules football and the rugby codes have always duelled for the hearts and minds of local fans. This battle of the codes has given the Bushpigs an added sense of purpose. It is unlikely that a club that was founded on a campus with only 700 students could have achieved such longevity if not for its location in the border lands of the Code War.

Peter Ponting, the Bushpigs’ first premiership coach, was born in to a rugby league family in Cootamundra. He was saved, however, from the threat of rectangular perils when his family moved to Melbourne. As a young boy, Peter went to Essendon Primary School, which is tucked behind the eastern goals at Essendon’s traditional home ground, Windy Hill. When he left high school, Peter headed across the country and settled in Geraldton, on the West Australian coast. He played for a season with the Towns footy club.

Ponting was 20 years of age when he headed back across the country to see his mother, who was now settled in Wagga. He got a job and he, too, stayed in the regional city. He signed on to play with North Wagga, where he became well-known for his tough and resolute style at half-back.

In 1972, Ponting was a carpenter when he took a job on the maintenance staff at the Riverina College of Advanced Education. He played in North Wagga’s premiership team in the Farrer league in 1973 before heeding the call of his colleagues and becoming an assistant coach at the college’s football club.

Ponting then spent two seasons with the Wagga Tigers, and was a member of the Tigers team that won the Farrer league’s 1975 premiership. He was also a member of the Farrer league’s representative team that upset the Sydney competition in the NSW championships.

In 1977, Ponting was an assistant coach at Junee. At the end of the season, he returned to the college’s football club to assume the role of playing-coach.

Early in the 1978 season, Ponting found that the students were unsure of themselves when pitted against truck drivers with big arms and farmers with gnarled hands. With his determined displays at half-back, Ponting led by example. He despaired, however, about the students’ resolve.

When many students returned home to the far corners of the Riverina during the term break, the club was left in its annual predicament of finding enough players to field two teams. Club officials pleaded with students from all over the campus to take up footy for one match. According to a report in the club’s early history, Pig Tales Vol I, soccer players were common targets for recruiters, while a table-tennis player once agreed to pull on the boots after hearing the code referred to as aerial ping-pong.

In 1978, Peter Ponting pulled off a heist when he persuaded a physical education lecturer, Bruce Graham, who happened to be a representative basketballer, to fill in for one match for the Bushpigs. Graham adapted so well that he agreed to play out the season. Although the turn of events was unlikely, it was just the type of thing to happen at a university footy club.

The matter of raising club morale at the student club in Wagga was taken up by Phil “Growler” Jackson, an education student from Leeton, who shared the ruck work with Neil Dal Nevo. Away from the books, Growler Jackson was an avid hunter of wild pigs in the scrublands of the Western Riverina. When, with impressive forthrightness, he suggested that the club should adopt the nickname of the Bushpigs, he scared a lot of people. But he gathered enough support to get the idea through.

The distinctive nature of the nickname was part of its appeal; it chimed in perfectly with the inventive nature of a student club. But the nickname also had a certain resonance because of the presence of pigs on the western plains.

Peter Ponting says the adoption of the nickname was a turning point in the club’s fortunes. For student footballers with long hair and corduroy flairs, who had struggled to carve a niche against their short-haired opponents, the nickname had a galvanising effect. It generated momentum. Under the banner of the Bushpigs, the student footballers found themselves.

Despite the rising club’s improving fortunes late in the 1978 season, the local sports writer Ross Ingram voiced an unpopular opinion to anyone who would listen during an evening of drinks at the Rules Club in Wagga. Ingram, a mainstay at the Wagga Daily Advertiser, who was prone to exhibiting the scepticism of his trade, told the Bushpigs players that a bunch of students would never, ever win the Central Riverina league’s premiership. Peter Ponting, the most senior and sensible Bushpig, took the journalist to task. Ingram scrawled on the back of a beer coaster a pledge to provide an 18-gallon keg of beer for the Bushpigs’ celebrations if they did manage to hoist the premiership cup.

As the Bushpigs players were about to jog out of the rooms before the 1978 First Semi-final against Cootamundra at Barellan, one of the players began singing the club’s newly penned song. Teammates joined in with boisterous outpourings of the response — “Root, root, root” — at the end of the second line. Ted Ryder, the sports editor of the Wagga Daily Advertiser, was at the game. He later wrote that he had never heard a club song bawled out with such feeling. Peter Ponting says the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. His student footballers now truly believed in themselves. The Bushpigs rolled past their fancied rivals.

As the 1978 finals series rolled on, Ponting and his wife Betty knew that the culinary habits of the students were unlikely to provide the necessary fuel for the rigours of finals football. To ensure that his players were properly nourished, Ponting invited the players to his home in Truman Avenue, Wagga, for a cooked breakfast on the morning of every finals match.

Peter and Betty Ponting, aware of the long pockets of lanky students, paid for the breakfast themselves. They served steak and onions and eggs. Many players, a long way from home during one of the most important months of their young lives, looked up to their host couple, neither of whom was yet to reach 30 years of age. The students especially loved the couple’s dog, Mac, a golden Labrador who performed an array of tricks on demand. The students occasionally stole Mac to show off to their friends in the student union.

Before the 1978 Grand Final, Ponting gave Bruce Graham, his basketball recruit, the job of shadowing Barellan’s crack centre half-forward. As the match progressed, Graham grew into his role. In the second half, he began to find the ball himself. Having barely played footy just a couple of months previously, Graham was named best on ground for his performance in the Grand Final.

Such a rapid rise in fortunes reflected the sports union’s credo of offering a range of opportunities for those on campus. At such a young age, students were willing to explore those opportunities. The Bushpigs sang their song to the skies.

Four days after the match, the Bushpigs players gathered in Trail Street, Wagga, under the window of the Daily Advertiser, and chanted the name of Ross Ingram, the wilful gambler from the sports desk. The footballers wanted their beer. Ingram duly obliged. The student footballers drained their keg during a joyous afternoon of pomp and piggery.

Source: Paul Daffey;  and we acknowledge Paul’s work and contribution.

Robertson Oval is now the HQ for Australian Football in Wagga.

Society vice-president Dr Rod Gillett continues the series on famous football grounds in NSW with a brief history of Robertson Oval in Wagga Wagga.

Robertson Oval is now the headquarters for football in Wagga, again.

This followed an extensive revamp of the well-known old ground in 2012 that involved extending the length of the field, a complete re-turf, upgraded change rooms and installation of lights to meet the requirements for staging AFL fixtures.

Prior to the upgrade, Robertson Oval had shared the premier fixtures for football with Maher Oval, the ground at the Riverina Australian Football Club in south Wagga that was established in 1971.

It remains the home-ground for the Wagga Tigers footy club, which has played on the ground since 1911, when the club was known as Federals (formed in 1887).

Robertson Oval is an enclosed ground located in the Bolton Park sporting complex where it was previously known as No. 1 Oval. A grass embankment runs around three-quarters of the oval with a 350-seat grandstand and social club on western side of the ground. The ground now has a capacity of 12,000.

The ground was named after prominent Wagga businessman Cameron McLean Robertson, who was the president of the Community Advancement Fund, that donated funds to the Wagga City Council for redevelopment of the ground and the construction of a grandstand. He was the father-in-law of ex Tigers player and football benefactor John Braid. It was named Robertson Oval in 1963.

The ground has a rich sporting history having also hosted international cricket and international rugby league matches.

Cricket goes all the way back to 1878 when a Wagga Wagga team comprised of 22 players played an Australian XI that was preparing for the tour of England. Australia was led by Dave Gregory and included the Bannerman brothers, wicket-keeper J.M. Blackham, and W.L. Murdoch who made 93 runs. The visitors won by an innings and 117 runs.

Touring cricket teams from England, New Zealand and India have played Southern NSW teams at Robertson Oval over the years. Colin Cowdrey took 2-9 and Derek Underwood 2-15 when the MCC beat Southern NSW by 6 wickets in a one-day game in January 1971.

Local skipper Stan Dasey dismissed both openers, Geoff Boycott (76) and Brian Luckhurst (62), stumped by Albury’s Steve “Stumper” Rixon, who, of course, later went onto to play for NSW and Australia.

A spinner, Dacey at one stage had 1/12 off three balls – the first two balls were hit out of the ground and landed on the bowling greens of the neighbouring South Wagga Bowling Club.

The crowd record is 11,000 which attended the rugby league international between France and the Riverina – won by the French 25-14 in 1960. In 1954 a crowd of 10,732 attended a match between Great Britain and Riverina won by the Poms, 36-26. Jim Daniher, father of Essendon’s Terry, Anthony, Neale and Chris, scored two tries for Riverina.

Terry Daniher was the “Emperor” of Robertson Oval when he led Wagga Tigers to five premierships in six years in the Riverina Football League in the nineties after finishing his illustrious VFL/AFL career with the Bombers.

The most decorated player from Wagga Tigers is Paul Kelly who had a highly distinguished career at the Sydney Swans where he won the 1995 Brownlow medal and led the Swans into the 1996 AFL Grand Final.

Daniher and Kelly are two of the many great players to have played at Robertson Oval for Wagga Tigers. Others include St Kilda goalkicking great Bill Mohr, John Pitura (Swans/Richmond), Paul Hawke (Swans/Collingwood), Harry Lampe (who played in South Melbourne’s 1899 grand final team), local 418 game champion Gerald Peiper, as well as current AFL player Isaac Smith.

Previous matches involving VFL teams played at Robertson Oval included a combined Wagga team v Hawthorn in 1952 and an Albury & District (forerunner to the Farrer League) representative team took on North Melbourne in 1954.

In recent years, NAB Cup Challenge matches have been played at the venue; last year, 2020, the GWS Giants beat Richmond. Previous matches include the Giants against St Kilda (2013) and North Melbourne and Collingwood (2016).

The Farrer League hosts its grand final at Robertson Oval each season, and the final of the Carroll Cup for the secondary schoolboys’ competition is also played under lights at the ground and attracts crowds of up to1500 spectators.

1941 – Some Great Reading

1941 in Sydney World War II had been going for eighteen months or so, men were signing up in the three forces and many interstate footballers were filtering their way through the Sydney Football scene.  Sydney provided many training facilities.  The RAS Showground and Randwick Racecourse were turned into camps for a multitude of units.

By the start of the season, well over 100 Sydney footballers had enlisted.

Supporters of the code had no idea whether the game would continue to be played in Sydney and in fact in many country areas saw the drain on young men to such an extent that many competitions were forced into suspension for the duration of the war.  There was talk too of suspending all sport during the conflect, but the question was asked “how would that help.”

North Shore player, Frank Young had been killed in Libya while South Sydney player, Nigel Watson, was killed in an air crash while instructing a new pilot in Brisbane.

Another North Shore player, Lieutenant Tom Prentice of R.A.N.R. figured in one of the most heroic episodes thus far in the war during a raid on the German post in the North Sea.  Tom was a leading ruckman with the North Shore Club before the conflict.

There was at least one future Brownlow Medalist and several Magarey Medalists playing in Sydney.  As time went on, captains of VFL clubs took on playing for various Sydney Clubs  as they were either stationed or passing through the city.  The standard of the game in Sydney during WWII was unbelievable.

What’s all this got to do with our website you ask?  Well, we have found all the Sydney League’s Football Records from 1941 and they have now been scanned and added to the site.

You can read all about footy during the war.  The difficulties, the trials and tribulations and the successes.

For a footy buff, this is fantastic reading.  PLUS the 24 May issue is the production for the VFL v NSW at the SCG with the Victorian team containing all the stars of the day.

Read about Tom Prentice and Nigel Watson and many others and see if you can identify some of the footy stars of the future in these pages.

Click this link to go through all the issues of the 1941 volume.

The Albury Sports Ground

By Peter Clark

The Albury Sports Ground, home of the Albury Tigers Football Club, is neatly wedged between the botanic gardens, the Murray River and Wodonga Place in downtown Albury. The ground was established in 1868 as the Albury Cricket Ground.

It underwent a facelift in 1900 and  was renamed the Albury Sports Ground.

Its iconic features include the historic grandstand on the north western side, the Albury FC clubrooms on the eastern side, the memorial scoreboard down beside the Murray River pocket and the turnstile entrance gates. Prior to the 1970s, the ground featured a bike track with  associated lights around its perimeter. Nowadays, a netball court occupies the north eastern corner of the precinct.

The surface of the ground is second to none and facilities for spectators are among the best outside the metropolitan centres. The current capacity of the ground is approximately 8,000.

As a venue for local and regional sport, as well as a focus for civic celebrations, the Albury Sports Ground (ASG) has a long and colourful history. Prior to the emergence of the Lavington Sports Ground as the venue for most Ovens and Murray League grand finals in the mid-1990s, the Sports Ground hosted many premiership deciders.

It was the venue for an official VFL match between South Melbourne and North Melbourne in June 1952 attracting a ground record crowd of 15 000 spectators. ‘South’ won the game by 20 points.

Exhibition and practice matches between visiting VFL teams and local sides were attractions to the ground in the fifties and sixties. Frequently,  the ground hosted inter-league football games. It also served as the ‘home ground’ of in-town rivals North Albury (from 1947 to 1961) before the ‘Hoppers ground, Bunton Park, was established

Cricket matches played between country and touring international cricket teams have been held on the Sports Ground. The touring MCC  team played a Southern Riverina representative team here in 1965.

International cricketers have entertained enthusiastic crowds at the ground. In 1933 the greatest batsman of all time, Don Bradman, thrilled the crowd in making a century for a NSW XI against an Albury team at the Sports Ground.

In the field of athletics, the ASG was the venue for the Albury Gift and countless annual school athletics carnivals. The Albury and Border Cricket Association held ‘A’ Grade cricket matches there for many years. Even a rugby league international game between France and a Riverina team was staged at the Sports Ground in 1951.

The ground also fulfilled a major civic role when it hosted a visit by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1988.

The ASG has been graced by some great footballers over the years. Triple Brownlow medallist, Haydn Bunton Snr. starred for Albury and West Albury in the late 1920’s, while 1930 Brownlow medallist Stan Judkins coached the club to the 1937 flag, and later, another ex-Tiger, Doug Strang followed with two more premierships for Albury.

Former Essendon great Jack Jones also coached Albury (1955-59) and led the club to the 1956 premiership. Another Brownlow medallist, Fred Goldsmith from South Melbourne, coached the Tigers between 1960 and 1965, while Collingwood hard-man Murray Weideman captain- coached Albury to a premiership in 1966. More recently, former AFL player Paul Spargo coached the Tigers to a record five flags.

Taking a closer look at some of the most memorable grand finals played at the Sports Ground, we can look back to 1929, 1932, 1948  and 1990 in particular.

The 1929 Ovens and Murray League grand final between West Albury and East Albury stands out in relation to the bitter sectarian rivalry in the 1920s between two clubs – Albury and St. Patricks. Excessive financial payments to players, a further cause of rivalry between the two clubs, were also seen as harmful to the game. Both clubs were dissolved prior to the 1929 season and two new teams, West Albury and East Albury were formed. West Albury, with strong contributions from the three Bunton brothers (Haydn, George and Cleaver), won the grand final by 14 points.

All roads led to the Albury Sports Ground for the 1932 premiership decider between Corowa and West Albury. Superbly led by Ray ‘Nana’ Baker, Corowa won its first Ovens and Murray premiership in one of the league’s most exciting grand final matches. In the nail-biting finish Corowa held on to win by 4 points.

Co-tenants Albury and North Albury met at a very wet and muddy ASG in the 1948 grand final. In a tense game dominated by heavy rain,  underdogs North Albury, who were in just their second season of O & M football, stormed home wiping out a 20 point three quarter time deficit to win by a solitary goal with only seconds left on the clock.

The 1990 Ovens and Murray League grand final played at the ground is remembered for its brutality rather than its display of football. Dubbed the “Bloodbath” Grand Final, 19 players were reported after a vicious all-in brawl broke out shortly after play commenced. The incident drew media attention around the world. As  for the football, Wodonga overcame their inaccuracy and finished on top of Lavington, in a lack-lustre, spiteful spectacle to win by 20 points.

Not only famous footballers, cricketers, athletes and HRH Queen Elizabeth II have graced the Albury Sports Ground. In May 1928 pioneer Australian aviator Bert  Hinkler landed his Avro Avian bi-plane at the ground during half time  in the Ovens and Murray League game between Albury and Beechworth. A large crowd descended on the ground to witness the historic occasion and fittingly a share of the gate takings was donated to the local hospital.

The Albury Sports Ground is a venue with a rich sporting and  colourful civic history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

140 Years of Australian Football at the SCG

By Dr Rodney Gillett

2021 marks the 140th anniversary of Australian Football being played at the SCG.

The first-ever football match played on the (Cricket) Association ground, that was renamed the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1894, was between Sydney and East Sydney on 18 June 1881.

Subsequently, the first-ever inter-colonial football of any code was played between Victoria and NSW on 6 August when the Vics comfortably beat the Blues (wearing a blue guernsey with scarlet caps and stockings), 9 goals to 1 before a crowd of 5000.

Since 1881 the SCG has played host to matches arranged by the NSW AFL, the VFL, the ANFC, and more recently, the AFL.

This Saturday (26 March) the Sydney Swans will play their 401st VFL/AFL game at the ground. The SCG has been the club’s home-ground since moving to Sydney from Melbourne in 1982.

The Swans played their first-ever match at the SCG in 1883 when they played a NSW representative team. South Melbourne won easily, 9 goals to 4. South finished second in the VFA championship to Geelong that season.

For most of the 1880s and early 1890s the SCG was the venue for NSW intercolonial fixtures as well as visiting clubs including Melbourne, Carlton, Geelong, Port Melbourne and South Adelaide.

The VFL played a series of matches for points in 1903-04 with Fitzroy v Collingwood, Geelong v Carlton and Essendon v Melbourne. These matches were played in Sydney to promote the NSW Football Association that was reformed in 1903 after going into to recess in 1895.

This is a valued image taken from the Moore Park side of the SCG looking to where the Members Entry is now located. You can see what appears to be an additional ground east of the oval plus the targets on the then rifle range used for by members of the military. We estimate this photograph was taken around mid 1880s. Image of the SCG taken from inside the then RAS Showground, now Fox Studios, looking west.  Note the concrete cycle track around the ground.  The iconic scoreboard which was erected in the foregound of this photograph was yet to be constructed so would estimate this image as about 1896.

A one-off match for points was played between Collingwood and Richmond in 1952 as part of a “national round”. The fixture was marred by inclement weather but still drew a crowd of 24,174.

At the request of the NSW ANFL the VFL exhibition games were staged at the SCG from 1965-1969 to promote the game in Sydney.

The VFL would return again to the Sydney Cricket Ground with a series of matches played for points during 1979-1981 as part of a feasibility plan to establish the viability for a club based in Sydney.

After beating eventual grand finalist Collingwood by eighteen points in round 18 in 1981 South Melbourne elected to begin the process to move to Sydney.

The Swans would play their “home” games at the SCG in 1982 despite being based in South Melbourne and would move permanently to Sydney in 1983 and become known as the Sydney Swans.

However, arguably the most significant games of Australian football other than the Swans preliminary final win over Essendon in 1996 and the qualifying victory over Geelong in 2005 were the ANFC Carnivals in 1914 and 1933, and the NSW win over Victoria in 1990.

The interstate carnivals were conducted by the game’s then governing body, the Australian National Football Council (ANFC), that had been formed in 1906 to govern and promote the game in Australia. It was based on a federation model with all the states being members. This body also formulated the rules, not the Victorian Football League.

The carnivals were the highest level of football in Australia in the period when the best players mostly played in their home state, particularly prior to World War II.

NSW finished fourth in 1914 ahead of Tasmania and Queensland. The Blues were led by Ralph Robertson, who was NSW’s best player and captain in the 1908, 1911 and 1914 – arguably three All-Australian guernseys, but they were not awarded until 1953.

The Blues would again finish fourth at the 1933 carnival after losing the play-off place for third by ten points to Western Australia. South Sydney rover Jimmy Stiff was voted the player of the carnival ahead of Jock Collins (Victoria), Ted Fleming (WA), and Hadyn Bunton (Victoria).

NSW’s greatest triumph on the SCG was the victory over Victoria in the State-of-Origin match in 1990 when the Blues prevailed by ten points on a rain-sodden night when current Swans coach John Longmire, then playing for North Melbourne, kicked eight goals straight.

The last Sydney Football League grand final played at the SCG was in 1980 when the East Sydney club under AFL Hall of Fame member and former South Melbourne player Austin Robertson celebrated its centenary year with a 121 point demolition of North Shore.

Phillip Derriman, who wrote a history of the SCG entitled The Grand Old Ground (1981), stated that the most important of the early football matches at the SCG was the first-ever NSW-Queensland rugby match in 1882, “in light of the ground’s subsequent history”.

That history now needs to be re-written and Australian Football accorded its own chapter instead of being in the “Other” section given the subsequent importance of the game at the SCG. 2021 presents an appropriate juncture to honour Australian Football at the SCG.

How Our Game Evolved

We recently provided an overview of some of the rules and why they were introduced.

Now we can provide more data on rule changes and in a few cases how the rules read before these changes:

This is taken from an 1890 report report of a meeting of representatives from Victoria, South Australia, and Southern Tasmania who met at Burton’s Orient Hotel in Bourke Street, Melbourne on 5 November 1890 to revise the rules of the game.  It was noted that New South Wales was unrepresented.

Two years had elapsed since the adoption of the last revision and the experience gained during the interim had shown the necessity for further legislation. In order to facilitate the business of the conference, the V.F. A. (the then ruling body in Victoria) some weeks prior appointed a committee to go carefully through the whole body of rules and to suggest such alterations as might appear necessary to the further improvement of the game.

Starting the Game and Players taking their Place on the Field
The game and quarters were started and following a goal with teams facing each other then one team kicking the ball from the centre, as is the case in Rugby.  Once the kick took place players would then run to their positions.

It was decided to alter this by providing that in future “the members of contesting teams shall, prior to the opening of play, take up the positions ordinarily filled by them in the game.” An opinion was that kicking the ball off from the centre at the commencement of the game and after a goal has been secured entailed an unnecessary loss of time, and the fact that this was proposed to be altered would give satisfaction. The rule relating to the ” kicking off” at the beginning of play, was substituted by a provision for the the umpire bouncing of the ball in the centre of the ground this included after a goal has been scored.

Goal Umpires To Confer
“Goal umpires will rarely make mistakes” if,  they be obliged to “consult with the field umpire before raising the two flags.”  But once given, though the goal umpires’ decision could not be annulled.

Behinds Continue to be an Issue
The committee’s proposal to dispense with behind posts and behinds was not approved of; but the system then in vogue was admitted to be capable of improvement, and it was decided to ask the conference to lessen the distance between each goal-post and its neighbouring behind-post to five yards instead of ten – it was subsequently reduced to seven. What improvement this modification would effect would be hard to imagine, and the probabilities were that the conference would not be satisfied with tinkering half-measures, but would either allow the existing style to continue or sweep away behinds altogether. It was the opinion of the author of this article in 1890 that the latter course would be an improvement is the opinion of very many competent critics, as well as of a large percentage of our most capable players.  It wasn’t until 1897 that it was decided to reward behinds with the value of one point.

Reducing Rough Play
It was resolved that pushing from behind shall not be allowed under any circumstances. Deliberately charging from the front when a player is standing, or in the air going for a mark, was also forbidden; and throwing, slinging, or deliberately charging a player after he has clearly made a mark, or when the ball is out of play, was considered unduly rough, and the offender shall be reported to the association by the umpire.”

The sitting of the conference lasted three hours and a half and all states adopted these changes to the rules.

Source:
Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), Saturday 1 November 1890, page 18
Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), Saturday 8 November 1890, page 23

Ray Millington – A Wonderful Sporting Journey

    Ray Millington taken                from a Fitzroy                      team photo

In 1948 a young 16 year old boy was mucking around with mates on Moore Park, that big expanse of land outside the SCG.

His name was Ray Millington and he had already made a name for himself representing the state at basketball and athletics but on this occasion, one of his colleagues asked him to come and play Aussie Rules.  “We might be a bit short, they’re always looking for more kids” his friend quipped as they threw a few baskets in that playground centre of the park where Moore Park Road intersects with South Dowling Street.  Its gone now.

So Ray was happy to go along and play in the Under 18 team at a game he had barely heard of.

Ray would go on to play VFL for Fitzroy, first grade Rugby Union with Randwick and later, two seasons with Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Club, the Roosters.

He is one of very few who have played first grade in all three codes and fewer who have played each of these codes of football on the SCG.

We got that very talented media company, “My Own Story” [www.myownstory.com.au] to interview Ray and tell us about his journey in sport.  You can listen to it by clicking here.

Or you can read more about Ray’s involvement in Australian Football here.

Corowa Last to First – A Review by Dr Rod Gillett

Review by Rod Gillett

The Corowa footy club went from last to first Ovens and Murray Football League in 1968.

It was a famous victory. Much celebrated. And it is still being lauded.

Albury-based broadcaster Robbie Mackinlay, who still plays cricket for his hometown of Holbrook, has been putting together podcasts of footy seasons past by district football clubs.

Mackinlay who works for NSW Cricket as the regional manager, has so far put together podcasts on Holbrook’s premierships in 1955, 1964 and 1970, Daysdale’s emotional premiership triumph in 1994, and Myrtleford’s controversial 1983 season when G. Ablett snr played.

But it the Corowa Spiders’ 1968 premiership win that is the subject of this review.

Richmond’s 1967 premiership captain Fred Swift had been lured to the NSW side of the Murray to coach the Spiders, who wore a black guernsey with a red sash. He went to work in Brac’s furniture store and was accommodated in the club’s house for the coach.

The Spiders retained previous year’s captain-coach John Hoiles who had come to the club from Footscray where he was a member of the 1961 grand final team that lost to Hawthorn.

Rugged St Kilda ruckman Ike Ilsley was recruited from Koroit along with players from the district including defender George Tobias (Wahgunyah) and rover Lindsay Jacob (Walla Walla).

A star recruit was rover-forward Jack Clancy from West Heidelberg YCW, who was picked up after a pre-season practice match against Corowa. Clancy is a legend of the O & M. He won two Morris medals in 1970-71 and coached the club in 1972, and later coached Albury. He kicked 3.1 in the grand final and got 19 possessions.

A further boost for the Spiders was the return after the opening two rounds of the VFL season of Peter Chisnall from North Melbourne, aged 19, who would have a brilliant season in the centre. And then return to North to play in the 1975 premiership team.

Mackinlay tracks Corowa’s season game-by-game riding the ups-and-downs of the season.

Corowa only secured a finals spot on percentage with a last-round win over Wangaratta Magpies, then went all the way through to beat reigning premier Wodonga led by tough ex- Collingwood rover Mick Bone in the grand final at the Albury Sportsground in front of a crowd of 12,000: Corowa 14.11.95 d Wodonga 12.16.88.

As usual there is drama in the lead-up to the decider with Fred Longmire (father of Swans coach John) injuring his ankle in the teeth-gnashing preliminary final victory over Myrtleford.

Robbie reveals that Fred was extremely doubtful to play in the grand final but visits to chiropractor Harry Brittain in Shepparton got him up to play.

Corowa coach Fred Swift adopted an unusual ploy by arranging a church service for the players the night before the grand final. The service was conducted by the Rev Tony Winter, who played in the Seconds. Fred and the Rev Winter would often meet to discuss club matters at the furniture store. Robbie interviews the Rev Winter for the podcast.

Robbie Mackindlay captures all the excitement and drama of the Corowa premiership win. He interviews some of the players including Fred Longmire, George Tobias, Bert Tait, Terry “Ollie” Phipps, and Peter Chisnall.

His grand final summary includes part of the call of the game by legendary Benalla football writer and commentator Keith Sherwill on GMV 6 that telecast the game live.

But Mackinlay’s best work is reserved for a description of the celebrations in Corowa.

The team returned from Albury by bus stopping at Wahgunyah – 4 kms from Corowa – and getting up on the back of Bernie Bott’s semi-trailer for the trip across the river into town where over 3,000 people had gathered in Sanger St to welcome home the victors.

“Bernie did three laps of the main street!”, Georgie Tobias told Robbie for the podcast. “I’ve never seen so many people in the main street”. Eventually the truck pulled up outside the Memorial Hall for a civic reception by the Shire President, Cr Fred Nixon.

Then the players and supporters adjourned to the club’s home ground, the picturesque John Foord Oval on the banks of the Murray River, for more celebrations for Corowa’s first O & M flag since 1932 that went well into the night and for the rest of the following week!

Celebrations continued when the Corowa footy club went on their end-of-season trip to New Zealand.

The podcast consists of two episodes:

Episode A

https://yoursportandmedia.podbean.com/e/corowa-1968-last-to-first/?fbclid=IwAR1Wy0Ks9lsQzJRww6jwCgkJ0EWw5K9SqbEQBE6qyWoLDN2ch1X6IfNT_V8

Episode B

https://yoursportandmedia.podbean.com/e/corowa-1968-last-to-first-part-b/?fbclid=IwAR0kNHZH2025OJMzG–iPr7GAUIHsF0i9kjaNjCzn8GTgrNW14DRK0-r8K4

Robbie Mackinlay Does It Again

Fred Swift

In a two part GLORY DAYS series, Albury’s Robbie Mackinlay has this time produced a rags to riches story about border club, Corowa Spiders in their climb to the premiership competing in the strong Ovens and Murray Football League in 1968.

He reports “Things had to change” said President Jack Fisher, and change they did, by recruiting Richmond’s 1967 premiership captain Fred Swift – the ball was rolling for the “Last to First” campaign and this episode starts the journey.

Click here to listen

(part 2 of this story to follow soon)