Albatross AFL Club (AAFC – 1968-2015)

by Duane Unwin

History of HMAS Albatross The decision to build an airfield at Nowra Hill was taken soon after WWII was declared in 1939. The RAAF occupied the new base on May 1942 and were soon followed by the US Army Air Corps and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force.

The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm began operations at Nowra in late October 1944, and the base was renamed HMAS Nabbington. In March 1946, the base reverted to RAAF control ‘to be retained but not maintained’.

With the decision to form the RAN Fleet Air Arm HMAS Albatross was commissioned on 31 August 1948.

Short History of South Coast Australian Football League (SCAFL)
The original South Coast AFL was formed in 1969, comprising Albatross, Creswell, Nowra and Wollongong. In 1970 the Bomaderry club was formed and in 1972 Dapto joined the competition.

In 1975, Wollongong and Dapto left the league to create the Illawarra Australian Football League. They were joined by Bulli-Woonona (now known as Northern Districts), Port Kembla and Shellharbour, three clubs who had conducted junior programs but were now introducing senior football.

The sixth foundation club of the senior league was the University of Wollongong.

In 1989, the Wollongong Lions moved to the Sydney Football League and the remaining clubs joining the South Coast AFL, which was renamed the Leisure Coast Australian Football League. The league returned to the name “South Coast AFL” in 2002. In 2012 The South Coast AFL became “AFL South Coast” incorporating the three leagues of South Coast AFL: Seniors, Shoalhaven Juniors and Illawarra Juniors.

History of Albatross AFL
Prior to the formation of the AAFC in 1968 many Albatross based players joined clubs in the SFL, namely South Sydney and Sydney Naval (1944-1971 and formerly Sydney FC 1880-1944). Teams also represented Albatross in various midweek/knockout competitions against other ships and military establishments as well as the NSW Police team.

The AAFC as a distinct entity in a local competition was formed in 1968 to then become a founding member of the SCAFL in 1969.

The AAFC boasts and enviable record of 13 First Grade and 5 Reserve grade premierships with two lots of “three-peats” being 90/91/92 and 95/96/97.

2005 would see the last time the AAFC would make a First Grade grand final and whilst not successful the Reserve grade won the flag in that year. From this period declining player strength due to a number of factors hampered the club.

Competing in reserve grade only in 2013 provided the last Premiership Flag before diminishing player participation in the Shoalhaven resulted in the 2016 merger of the Albatross Demons with the Nowra Blues to become the Nowra Albatross Vikings.

The home ground of the AAFC is the Tom Smith Oval named after the club legend, Tom and his wife Marlene were the core fabric of the club from formation in 1968 and with continued involvement until their respective passing in 1999 and 2012.

The photographs following this narrative contain images of Tom and Marlene together with images of Tom’s iconic time clock, honour boards and various premiership teams!!  Click this to see images.

North by North West – Lenton Bros starring roles

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
Dr Rod Gillett profile the nomination of Brian Lenton to the Hall of Fame:

Gunnedah Inaugural Premiers North West Football Association 1978

“The women playing is the best thing that has happened for footy up here. The fellas are now running the canteen while the girls play!” Brian Lenton told me in an interview for this piece.

Brian was reflecting on over 50 years of active involvement in football in NSW after having done it all in the north west as a player, coach and official since his arrival in the area in 1976.

“I’m just as proud of my daughter Natasha who played in the Bulldogs’ women’s premiership team this season as my son Nathan, who played top-grade football in Sydney and Canberra. And my grandsons, Chad and Jake. They played together in the Under 14s grand final this year”.

Back row: (l-r) T. Seach, S. Spence, P. Harris, S. Seckold, P. Quinell, M. Harris (selector), B. Kyan, D. Harper, D, Mclaren
4th row:  S. Dunn, C Sanderson, B. Ackland. B. Gibson. J. Seach, J. Foran, G. Fuss
3rd row: R. Lucas, F. Robson (vice capt ), P. Dickie, J. Ackland, W. Millard, D. Catford, C. McIntosh
2nd row:  R. Rodway, D. Hatch, B. Murphy, I. Ormiston, C. Wakefield (treasurer)
1st row: J. Rodway. B, Lenton (capt-coach), P. Jaeger, I. Kingwell, L. Kmon, B Kmon (son)
Mascot N Lenton

After a promising start and then a rocky period in the mid-1990s footy has really gained traction in the north west of the state with the Moree Suns coming back in 2015, and both Gunnedah and the Tamworth teams now playing on the main ovals in their respective towns as do the Inverell Saints while the New England Nomads play on the university’s premier oval in Armidale.

Brian attributes the stability of the footy competition to the introduction of the women’s competition a few years back and efforts to establish junior competitions finally being successful.

Brian Lenton started his football at Whitton in the South West league in the mid-1960s but due to employment opportunities moved to Sydney and lined with Western Suburbs and played in the club’s 1969 and 1972 premiership teams. He was named full-back in Wests team of the century.

He moved to Gunnedah in his employment in 1976 and initially played with Tamworth in the University of New England competition in Armidale. The formation of a football club in Tamworth in 1975 to play in the UNE competition in Armidale was the catalyst for the expansion of the game all over northern NSW.

Together with a couple of Tamworth team-mates based in Gunnedah Brian founded the Gunnedah Bulldogs in 1977 and were admitted to the Uni competition and developed a strong rivalry with Tamworth that continues to this day. He was the inaugural president and captain-coach.

Expansion of the game was unprecedented. Through 1977 clubs were formed at Coonabarabran, Wee Waa, Inverell and Moree. And so, the North West Australian Football Association came into being in 1978.

Brian became the inaugural captain-coach of Gunnedah and led the Bulldogs to the first premiership in the new competition when they beat the Tamworth Magpies at No 2 Oval Tamworth in 1978.“It all started with Tamworth, but we wouldn’t have been able to get going without the support of the students at the Uni in Armidale. They had four teams, so we had a decent competition to start with”, said Brian.

Brian Lenton   (right)  chairs   Wests premiership coach John Northey off Trumper Park in 1972

He coached 1977-82 1985-88, and 1990-91 winning five premierships in 78,79, 86, 87and 91. He won the competition best player award in 1979 and was runner-up in 1978. He was the competition leading goal scorer 1978-1982.

“The 1978 premiership win gives me the most satisfaction. We were down by 40 points at half-time and got up to win by a goal! It was the new league’s first-ever premiership. And we beat Tamworth”, Brian told me.

“Ian Kingwell was a great player for us as were Peter Jaeger, John Acland and John Rodway from Temora. We really gelled together and had great team spirit. We really wanted to win the first premiership”.

This season the Bulldogs beat the Tamworth Swans in the grand final in Gunnedah; the Bulldogs also beat the Swans in the women’s grade but lost to a combined Tamworth team in the Under 14s.

Brian Lenton was match day time-keeper for the Gunnedah Bulldogs this season, a job he has performed since 2000. He has been a club committee member since 1977 and was the Gunnedah club president from 1977-84.

He was made a North-West AFL life member in 1982 and received a National Football League Merit Award in 1988.

Meanwhile Brian’s older brother Allen Lenton was getting the game going on the mid north coast over at Taree where he was instrumental in the formation of the Taree club in 1985.

Allen was a strong supporter of the burgeoning Country Football League that in this period admitted leagues from the Summerland, North Coast, Mid-North Coast, North West, Central West and Sapphire Coast football leagues. He was the inaugural president of the Mid North Coast AFL.

         Allen Lenton

Allen played a pivotal role as the president of the Whitton football club’s successful transition from the South West to the Central Riverina football league in 1979.

The Whitton Tigers narrowly missed grand final appearances in 79-80 but finally won through for the club’s first flag since 1946 with three premierships in a row 1985-87 in the Farrer league division two.

He fondly recalls growing up in Whitton and the arrival of football teams on steam trains on the south west line in the early 1950s, “The driver used to start blowing his whistle a few miles out of town to warn the Whitton people that they’d come to play”.

Where the Bloody Hell is Lake Burgooney?

By Dr Rodney Gillett

1963 Lake Burgooney – Premiers

“Where is Lake Burgooney?”

“Its not a place, it’s a football club!”

This was the conversation I had with long-time Northern Riverina Australian Football League official and historian Keith Rees when I was doing research on the league’s grand final in 1960.

In 1960 the Burgooney football club, that had been a foundation club of the Northern Riverina Association in 1924, decided to move into Lake Cargelligo. The Lake Cargelligo club had folded at the end of the 1955 season; it had also been an original club but had fallen on hard times.

Burgooney was a district with a post-office, a railway siding and a football ground surrounded by wheat and sheep farms about half-way between Tullibigeal and Lake Cargelligo in the district north-west of West Wyalong when the footy team moved into the “Lake”. Nowadays these are all closed except for the railway siding for the harvest.

The club became known as “Lake Burgooney” and adopted the Burgooney colours of a black guernsey and yellow vee made their new home-ground at the Lake Cargelligo Recreation ground.

According to club legend Bob Sanson, who spoke to me in an interview for this piece in a break during harvesting, the move of Burgooney into the Lake was a “perfect match”.

“The Lake no longer had a team, the Recreation ground was well maintained and watered; it was much better than playing in a paddock out at Burgooney!”, he told me.

The newly minted Lake Tigers started the season in fine form winning the first seven games after finishing bottom of the ladder the previous season and finished half-a-game ahead of Ungarie at the top of the ladder.

They defeated Ungarie in the 2nd semi final at Tullibigeal, 11-7 (73) to 7-16 (58). The Magpies earned another crack at the Tigers by beating Four Corners in the preliminary final.

Ungarie proved too strong for Lake Burgooney in the grand final and established a comfortable 22-point lead at half-time. The Tigers made a late run in the final term and got to within 13 points but half-forward Ian Keane sealed the win for Ungarie with a late goal.

Final scores: Ungarie 10-9 (69) d Lake Burgooney 7-8 (50).

Best players for Ungarie were centreman Leo Daniher, centre-half forward Jim Daniher, backman Brian Brewer, and winger Ron Fixter while for Burgooney the best were ruckman  “Blue” Ridley, captain-coach John Booth, and fullback Keith Delahunty.

Lake Burgooney finally broke through for a premiership in 1962 when they beat Milby at Four Corners for their first flag in twenty-three years and their first as a merged entity.

The Tigers went onto to win four premierships in a row, 1962-65 with the Sanson brothers, Bob and Harry playing together in all four premierships and joined by Don (1962) and Ross for the 64-65 triumphs. Then again from 1969-71, 1973 & 1976 in the club’s most dominant period, thus validating the move into Lake Cargelligo.

The club changed its name to Lake Cargelligo in 1972, but became known as the Lake Tigers when a new club, Lake Swans, was formed in 1978 based at the Lake Cargelligo Golf Club oval. However, the Lake Swans were short-lived and failed to form for the 1987 season.

The Sanson brothers, all had successful careers playing football in the northern Riverina. Bob Sanson played from the age of 14 in 1955 until he was 44,  thirty years later. Bob led the Tigers to premiership wins in 1973 and 1976.

Harry played in ten premierships in the Northern Riverina League – nine with the Lake and one with Ungarie, who he coached to the premiership in 1974. He won the competition best and fairest award in 1967. Harry was outstanding at both codes of football; he represented Riverina against South Melbourne in 1972, and against Great Britain in rugby league in 1974.

Don played in seven premiership teams for the Lake along with his youngest brother, Ross, the father of Tim, Mark, Paul, and Brett, who all made their mark at Lavington in the Ovens and Murray league. Tim coached Lavington to premierships in 2001 and 2005 and is a member of the O & M Hall of Fame. Both Tim and Mark played at the Sydney Swans.

Bob has fond memories of the family going to the footy at Burgooney in the fifties when his father Roley played for the Tigers. Bob made his debut in 1955 alongside his father, who was a full-forward with a prodigious torpedo punt kick.

Roley retired at 43 at half time in a game against Milby in 1958 when he came off and proclaimed, “I’ve kicked seven goals and had 3 ‘blues’. I’ve had enough!”

His father ran the boundary and his mother ran the canteen when the boys played. “When we were sowing at the start of the season, Dad would stay on the tractor and I had to fill the seed boxes before I left for the game and come home straight after to take over from Dad and work through the night”, Bob recalled.

At this point of the interview Bob got a call to bring more fuel down to the paddock to keep the header going, “We’re having our best harvest ever, we’re getting 14-15 bags per acre”.

I hung up, knowing a lot more about Lake Burgooney, the footy team, not the place.

Source: Keith Rees, Northern Riverina Australian Football League, 90 Years, 1924-2014. West Wyalong Advocate. 2015.

The Australian Football Ground

An image of where the Australian Football Ground was locatedAustralian Football Ground

Some time ago we wrote about a ground in Sydney that was owned by the NSW Australian Football League.

It was situated on the north west corner of Gardeners and Botany Roads and was part of the Cooper Estate. (Daniel Cooper was a wealthy land owner, merchant, philanthropist and politician who owned 566.5 hectares land in the suburbs of Waterloo, Alexandria, Redfern and Rosebery.  This was commonly referred to as the Cooper Estate).

The particular parcel of land was initially sand dunes and swamp and in mid 1894 was leased on which was constructed the first Rosebery Racecourse.  We have very recently obtained an 1885 map of the Alexandria Municipality on right, showing the position of the ground in red outline.

After several deaths from the fall of jockeys whilst racing on the track it was not too many years later the NSW Gaming Act was amended to proscribe horse racing on any track less than 6 furlongs (1200 metres) and so arrangements were made for the racecourse to be relocated to an area in Gardeners Road, Mascot (now Eastlakes). 

The former course was used for a variety of activities before being ‘purchased’ by the NSW Australian Football League at a reported price of one hundred and eighty pounds ($360) per acre (one acre = .4046 hectares).  The site would go on to become a very valuable piece of land.

More research has revealed greater details of the property and by chance an initial map of the land an exact location of the ground itself,.

It is recognized that the events of WWI put paid to any committed ownership of the ground by the league and as Jim Phelan (of Phelan Medal fame) wrote in 1938:

On August 4, when all the state teams were assembled at the Australian Football Ground for the purpose of distance contests at the carnival games, the news was flashed by cable that England had declared war against Germany.  Fate had stepped in and dealt a cruel blow.  Had England’s declaration of war been made a few weeks earlier or later, all might have been well as regards the continuity of ownership of the Australian Football Ground by the NSW Football League.

We really cannot confirm that WWl caused the actual demise of the ground, more so it was bad management and the spending of money on the ground that the league simply did not have.

So much for the maligned future and occupation of Australian football in Sydney.

As we gain more information we will post a further report and eventually release a definitive account of the ground itself in an appropriate publication.

 

Book Review: The History of the Hume Football League

Book Review: The History of the Hume Football League
Leon Wegener, HUME: A History of the Hume Football League 1933-2018. Active Print, Wagga Wagga. 2019.
By Dr Rodney Gillett

“I was in the southern Riverina, and the sun was going down when I stopped to slake my thirst, in a Billabong Creek town

I was on the pub verandah, a resting on a chair, When a man appeared before me, he had a yarn to share “I’ll tell you of a football match, its steeped in Hume League history”,

(Excerpts from The Great Decider by Barry Malone in the Hume League history book)

The gathering of the clubs of the Hume Football League for the grand final each year at Walbundrie (population 190) is the premier sporting and social event of the year in the area.

Crowds of over 5000 have regularly attended the grand final at the Walbundrie Recreation Reserve since 1972. This has enabled the league to focus on preparing one ground for the finals and providing facilities for coaches and officials as well as for clubs for catering.

The Hume Football Netball League is a very proud, well-organised, community-orientated football league based in the rural districts between Wagga and Albury in southern NSW.

As Leon Wegener the author of the history of the Hume Football League shows the Hume league came into being in 1933 at a meeting when four clubs split from the Central Hume Association because of “… too much travelling” (p.46). Jindera is the only original member still in the league.

The Central Hume Association folded in 1935, and three clubs, Burrumbuttock, Walla Walla and Walbundrie joined the Hume league, and all are still in it, albeit in merged entities.

Leon is able to trace the beginning of competitive football, as opposed to challenge matches, back to 1909 with the formation of the Germantown (now known as Holbrook) & District Association which was made up of teams from Culcairn, Henty, Cookardinia, and Holbrook.

He also the plots the beginnings in surrounding district competitions such as Lockhart, Walbundrie, Urana, and Milbrulong with special attention to the Coreen & District League which folded at the end of the 2007 season. Four of the Coreen clubs joined the Hume league, while another club Rand, merged with near-neighbours Walbundrie, in 2008.

In 2019, each of the constituent clubs in the Hume Football Netball League, which now numbers twelve, fielded four football teams and seven netball teams as well as conducting an Auskick and NetSetGo programs.

The mantra, according to long-time league secretary Barry Malone in the Foreword to the book is “The Family League – all games on the same day at the one venue”.

Leon Wenger takes a year-by-year approach to the chronicling of the history of the Hume League with the ladders for each grade, player awards, and finals results.

However, it is not just all about how the season unfolded on the field. His access to the league’s minute books from the late 1940s provides useful insights into the machinations at the club delegates’ meetings.

He dutifully records the coming and goings of clubs which have been numerous; he carefully charts the entry of former Farrer League clubs: Culcairn (1992) and Holbrook (1999) back into the NSW competition from the Tallangatta league through reference to contemporary newspaper sources.

The author has referred to a wide range of sources and in addition to official league records and district and regional newspapers, he has tapped into football club histories by Walla, Henty, Howlong, Culcairn, Brocklesby, Osborne, Urana, and Alan Norman’s excellent work: The Finals History of the Coreen & District Football League.

Leon also refers to my Masters of Letters dissertation on the early history of football in the Riverina to account for the rise of the game in the region, to trace the beginnings of clubs, and the role of the railways providing transportation of players and spectators to games.

The most intriguing source is the 49 scrap books of legendary league powerbroker Des Kennedy, the Walla post-master, who served the league from 1962 until his untimely death in 1992.

Leon’s Appendices are extensive and include a complete record since the league started in 1933 of league office-bearers, finals placings and player awards in all grades, the placings each year of every club (including former and disbanded clubs), the Coreen League honour roll, and the honour roll for the Hume Junior Football League (1950-1976).

There are photographs of almost every senior premiership team and of all the league’s Hall of Fame members.

This is a complete history of a dynamic district football league that is inextricably connected to its community. The book may be purchased from the HFNL:humefl@bigpond.com. This 405 page publication is also available over the counter from the Walla Post Office for $50 – it is well worth the read.

Beckom overcame draw and local shows to win flag in 1960

By Dr Rod Gillett

Beckom FC – 1960 Barellan & Dist FL Premiers

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.

Beckom Hotel

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.

Woodlocks’ kept footy going on the North Coast of NSW

Dr Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Jim and Jill Woodlock to the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

                                           Jill & Jim Woodlock

When Jim and Jill Woodlock moved to Emerald Beach just north of Coffs Harbour in 1986 from Mornington in Victoria to run a service station they’d both already spent most of their lives together in football, and they were expecting to devote much of their time and energy to their new business.

However, their involvement went up another notch with both of them playing key leadership roles in the consolidation of the game in the area after the North Coast AFL had kicked off in 1982.

After thirty years the Woodlock legacy is a sustainable senior competition, a thriving junior competition, a strong and vibrant umpires’ association, and grand finals at the Coffs Harbour International Sports Stadium every year since it opened in 1994, even in 2020.

When Jim answered the call to take on the presidency of the North Coast league for the 1987 season, he begun a period of leadership that continued in different roles until 2013 when responsibility of the management of the game was turned over to the AFL NSW/ACT.

And for most of the period he had his greatest supporter, wife Jill, also performing executive roles as secretary, treasurer and registrar as well as secretary of the tribunal from 1995 to 2012.

This freed up club delegates to focus on running their clubs and not taking on league executive positions. It provided for independence and integrity of the league.

However, over this period the couple had to deal with some difficult issues particularly the bitter internal feud at South Coffs in 1992 that led to the dissolution of the club and its subsequent reformation as the Coffs Swans. As a result, the Swans did not miss a season of football.

They provided a stable administration for the game in the mid-90s especially with the departure of Grafton to the Lismore-based Summerland league in 1996 that left only four clubs: North Coffs, Coffs Swans, Sawtell-Toormina, and Port Macquarie following the earlier demise of Nambucca Valley.

The re-build had started in 1988 when Jill was highly involved in the start-up of junior football with umpire Brett Upfield and South Coffs stalwarts Steve and Denise Lavis with 27 boys and girls ranging in age from 4 to 15 on Sunday mornings at Fitzroy Oval.

The junior competition has been the platform for the sustainability of the game in the area instead of over reliance on players from the southern States coming into the area.

There is now a strong junior competition consisting of ten clubs in five age groups for boys and girls stretching from the South West Rock Dockers to the Northern Beaches Blues at Woolgoolga.

One of Jim’s greatest achievements was to ensure that the International Sports Stadium built by the Coffs City Council had an oval with the dimensions to host AFL football. This year’s grand final, won by Grafton, ensured that every grand final since 1994 has been played on the region’s showpiece sports ground.

Jim was a key member of the Council’s steering committee that established the ground. In addition to local footy finals, AFL pre-season games and NSW representative trials have been played at the venue. He is currently the vice-president of the Stadium’s members’ association.

However, it’s the establishment of the Umpires Association in 2009 that gives Jim and Jill the most joy and source of continuing involvement in the game.

“When I was first president of the league  I had bought the umpires together as a group, but it went to another level when I instigated the incorporation of the AFLNC Umpires’ Association in 2009 with the strong support of ‘Rocket’ (Rod McPherson), who was the leading umpire in the senior competition”, Jim told me in an interview for this piece.

There are 43 members of the Association that provides all the field, goal and boundary umpires for the AFL North Coast senior and junior competitions as well as training programs for new umpires and mentoring support.

Jill was awarded life membership of the AFL North Coast Umpires’ Association at the recent grand final function for over 20 years of active involvement in the association. She joins Jim, who was awarded life membership in 2009. Jim is still the public officer for the association. Both are also life members of the North Coast AFL.

The Woodlock Medal is awarded each year to the best player in the senior grand final.

According to former NSW AFL CEO Craig Davis, “Jim and Jill have been the A Team in North Coast football for such a long time. They have both made an enormous contribution to the growth of the game on so many levels. They worked hard together to keep the game going up there when things got tough. They both care so much about football and its people”.

 

 

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.”