The Big 3 at the SCG – Lockett, Goodes & Franklin

For much of the last 40 years former Swans and Bulldogs defender Neil Cordy has been in the media box at the SCG to witness the careers of three of the game’s greatest players on the famous ground that has hosted Australian football for 140 years.
Here, he presents their story.

Tony Lockett, Adam Goodes and Lance Franklin.

There’s been a host other outstanding contributors over the years. Paul Kelly, Michael O’Loughlin, Jude Bolton, Brett Kirk, Barry Hall, Greg Williams, Gerard Healy, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh are champions all.

But the big three stand apart.

Size and power are their common denominator but they’ve all bought something different to the table.

Plugger was a goal scoring beast who kept the scoreboard ticking over like no player before him or since. He would physically and mentally intimidate opponents, win the ball and kick for goal with unerring accuracy.

Goodsey was poetry in motion, a super athlete who became a super footballer. In the early days he was admired for the beauty of his play, in the end he drew equal applause for his toughness and durability.

Buddy is different again. At 34 he still electrifies the crowd like nobody else in the game.

The patch of turf in front of the SCG’s Members and Ladies Stands is his favourite place. In the summer cricketers raise their bats there, in the winter its Buddy’s playground.

Tony Lockett’s 1995 arrival in Sydney from St Kilda was a game changer for both parties.

Sydney were rock bottom, financially and on the playing field. Plugger was in a slump as well as he struggled with injury in 1993 and 1994. His success in red and white was instant, kicking 110 goals for the year and leading Sydney to eight wins.

But the best was still to come.

Plugger’s Point

In 1996 Rodney Eade arrived as coach taking the Swans to their first finals series since 1987. Lockett brought up the ton again in round 19 against Richmond at the SCG kicking 12. He missed the qualifying final win over Hawthorn with a groin complaint. Two weeks later he was back in for the Preliminary final against Essendon. It was a thriller. Still struggling with injury Plugger kicked just one goal for the game and barely left the goal square. With the scores tied and the final seconds ticking down he marked on the 50 metre arc. His kick after the siren went through for a point putting Sydney into their first grand final since 1945 and sent the SCG rocking like never before.

It was just one of many magic moments the champion spearhead shared with the SCG faithful.

Another came three years later when he kicked his 1,300th to pass Collingwood’s legendary full forward Gordon Coventry’s to become the game’s greatest goal kicker.

Adam Goodes selection at pick 43 of the 1997 draft remains one of the great bargains in footy history.

Growing up he loved playing soccer and came to Aussie Rules later than most. After a slow start playing all of 1998 in the reserves he sprouted wings the following year winning the AFL’s Rising Star Award. There was no turning back from there.

Four years later (2003) he won the first of his two Brownlow Medals playing mostly in the ruck and in 2005 played a vital role in the Swans drought breaking grand final win over the West Coast Eagles.

During the year he was also awarded life membership for the Swans after playing 150 games.

The milestone along with a flag, All Australian honours and a Brownlow was more than most players dreamt of but Adam was barely getting started.

Playing in the midfield his second Brownlow came the following year and a brilliant display in the grand final against the Eagles almost landed back to back premierships. West Coast scraping home by a point.

Over the following years Goodes durability became legendary as he played 191 games straight to the end of 2007. In round four 2012 he overtook his great mate Michael O’Loughlin to become Sydney’s games record holder on 304. His finest moment would come later that year on the biggest stage with an effort of enormous courage.

Goodes’s Finest Hour – 2012 Grand Final

Adam’s form in grand finals had been strong in 2005 and 2006 but a second quarter knee injury in the 2012 decider threatened to ruin Sydney’s hopes. It was a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee but Goodes refused to go off the ground.

If he was substituted the Swans would be down a rotation with 3 quarters to play and almost certain to lose. Playing with his knee heavily strapped an unable turn left or right he had a hand in two second quarter goals and kicked a critical last quarter major to help his team get home.

When he retired in 2015 he’d played 372 games, 143 of them were at the SCG, the most of any player at the venue.

20 years after Tony Lockett’s arrival at the SCG Lance Franklin made an even bigger splash.

He was expected by most people to be heading to GWS but when Buddy signed a nine year $10 million with the Swans the footy world was rocked. The deal came with enormous expectations and the former Hawk lived up to them and delivered even more.

By year’s end he had his third Coleman Medal, finished second in the Brownlow medal and claimed his fifth All Australian selection.

Buddy Takes Over Against Port – Round13 SCG, 2014.

Buddy’s round 13 outing against Port Adelaide became an instant classic. With Port finishing strongly Buddy booted the Swans last five goals of the match to hold them out. His last two goals were both candidates for goal of the year, one from 70 metres out and the other beating a quartet of opposition defenders.

The Swans lost the grand final to Hawthorn but it wasn’t Franklin’s fault as he kicked four goals from limited opportunities.

Injury has hampered his recent years in red and white but Sydney’s fans have been treated to a lifetime worth of goals and entertainment.

His round 22 effort in 2017 was another memorable outing at the SCG. Trailing Coleman medal leader Josh Kennedy by five goals Franklin kicked 10 against Carlton to beat him by four. It also continued his run of winning the medal every three years.

Sydney fans have also had the pleasure of watching their hero climb the ladder of all time goal kickers from 35th to sixth. He is now closing in on the 1,000 goal mark not achieved since Gary Ablett Snr. in 1996.

By good luck or good management every milestone match from 200 to 300 has been played at the SCG. If he can hold out till next year his 1000th could be there as well.


Walbundrie Sports Ground – Part II

by Peter Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

By Dr Rodney Gillett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The Riverina Grazier, 24 May 1876)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep tuned here for Part II.

Erskineville Oval – a famous old Sydney Australian Football Ground

Dr Rodney Gillett continues the series on famous football grounds in NSW with a look at Erskineville Oval which was the venue for grand finals and interstate fixtures and the home ground of the extraordinarily successful Newtown club from 1903 until 1986.

Newton captain coach Sam Kekovich, who led the
    Blood-stained Angels onto Erskineville Oval
  in 1980-81, storms forward in the preliminary
          final against North Shore at the SCG.

Erskineville Oval hosted fifty Sydney AFL grand finals in the period 1908 until 1990 during which time it was the major ground for local and interstate fixtures.

It was the home-ground for the Newtown football club that was a powerhouse in the Sydney competition from its foundation in 1903 until its demise at the conclusion of the 1986 season.

The Blood-stained Angels won nineteen flags – of which 15 were accrued from 1928 to 1950 including six in consecutive seasons from 1945-1950.

NSW beat Victoria twice in the 1920s – playing on Erskineville Oval.

In 1923, in front of 8000 spectators, NSW beat Victoria 15-15 (105) to 11-19 (85) with Paddington full forward Stan Milton (after whom the AFL Sydney goal-kicking medal is named) booting three goals. Then in 1925, NSW again beat the Vics, this time by one point, 13-10 (88) to 13-9 (87) with three-time Phelan medalist Billy McKoy of the Sydney Club, starring on the wing.

Long-time Newtown official and NSW league administrator Jim Phelan in a 1930s article in the NSW ANFL Football Record explained that the fundamental reason for Erskineville Oval hosting the Sydney finals and interstate fixtures was financial. A better result was obtained from Erskineville than either the SCG or at the R,A,S., Showground, Moore Park (now FOX Studios)

Further, that the “whole atmosphere is, on the whole, more congenial in a football sense than that of any other playing ground controlled by the League” (NSW ANFL Football Record, 21 September 1935).

Erskineville Oval was originally developed and opened in 1885 as Macdonaldtown Park, however, it was later renamed in 1892 to its current title following the change of the name of the municipality.

The original ground (pictured below in 1935) had an east-west orientation and was located further west than its present position, more near Binning Street, but in 1937 construction started on Department of Housing flats with the ground relocated further east to its present location, adjacent to Mitchell Road.

The ground was enlarged specifically to cater for Australian football and was reconfigured to run north-south. A new grandstand was also constructed. The new oval

1935 Erskineville Oval (old)

was first used for by the Newtown club in season 1940, and it was the venue for the grand final in the same year, won by Newtown.

From a player’s perspective it was a good ground to play on because it was specifically developed for football, according to champion Newtown full-forward Denis Aitken, who won the league’s goal-kicking in 1962 with 96 goals and played in the 1967, 1968 and 1970 premiership teams.

“It was a good-sized ground and provided for more open play, it was also good from a spectator’s point of view and the ground had a good atmosphere with a grandstand as well as good vantage points around the ground” Denis told me in an interview for this article.

“Because the ground was open to the elements, the wind was always tricky. I mainly used a torpedo punt to kick for goals but at the southern end when it was windy I used a drop-punt”.

Denis like so many of his team-mates at the time like key defender Dennis O’Connor, back pocket Greg Schroder, famed boxing trainer Johnny Lewis, speedy winger Alan Sigsworth, half-forward Johnny Egan, rover Max Dean, centreman Graeme and his brother Reg “Sunny” Sambrook and the Free brothers, Ray, Bill and Harry, all grew up in the area.

Denis’s father, Robert, better known as Bert, also played for Newtown and was a member of four premiership teams – 1936, 1939, 1940 and 1942 as well as playing for NSW.  He was later on the committee and a selector.

Denis remembers going to Erskineville Oval as a young boy with his father, who worked in a factory at Alexandria. They lived at St Peters and took the train to Erskineville station, then walked the half-a-mile to the ground.

History Society President, Ian Granland recalls first going to the grand old ground in the early 1960s to see his club South Sydney play Newtown in a local derby, “Newtown were the best performed and organized club in Sydney at the time, they had strong support, mostly locals who would walk-in from all around the neighborhood, as well as catch the tram from Botany Rd and get off in Mitchell Road”.

“The Newtown supporters were very parochial, they were used to success. After games, which they usually won, they’d stream into the nearby Kurrajong pub to fraternize with the players”.

Newtown won its last premiership in 1970 when it beat North Shore in the grand final at Trumper Park, which became the venue for grand finals from 1956 until 1978.

Newtown’s last “hurrah” was the 1981 grand final under North Melbourne premiership star Sam Kekovich, when they beat traditional rivals East Sydney in the 2nd semi final but two weeks later, lost to Easts who were under first-year captain-coach Greg Harris by 89 points in the decider.

After not winning a game and suffering demoralising defeats in the 1986 season the Newtown club folded.

Erskineville Oval had again become the venue for Sydney league grand finals in 1981. This was after respective grand finals at the Showgrounds (1979) and the SCG (1980) for the same reasons that Jim Phelan outlined in 1935. It continued to host the grand finals until 1990.

However, with no permanent tenant the lease on the ground was taken over by the South Sydney Rugby League Club for training, thus ending over eighty years association with Australian football.

The Walbundrie Sports Ground – Part I

Written by Peter Clarke

As the old saying goes … “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And how true it is looking at an aerial shot of the Walbundrie Sports Ground, which in recent years has featured on the front cover of every Hume Football Netball League (HFNL) Grand Final program.

It is grand final day in the HFNL, which spans the fertile cropping and grazing country in the eastern Riverina northwards of Albury towards Lockhart. The ground is in tip-top condition in readiness for another premiership-decider, the netball grand finals are under way, the facilities for spectators are convenient and the hospitality is typically country-style and plentiful. Cars ring the boundary fence and are parked three deep in places. On the first Monday in October, the “largest one-day show in the Riverina” is held at the Walbundrie Sports Ground, but today the attention is on netball and football.

Two hundred and fifty metres north of Billabong Creek in the centre of the crossroads village of Walbundrie lies the Walbundrie Sports Ground. For over a century it was ‘Tiger’ territory, but since 2016 Walbundrie has been part of the three way Rand-Walbundrie-Walla Football Club that sports the Giants jumper and logo.

The Walbundrie Sports Ground is a typical country football/netball setting with a sprinkling of eucalypts, cypress pine and peppercorn trees surrounding the ground and netball courts. The spacious showgrounds facility makes a perfect place to stage a big football/netball celebration.

On cold Saturday afternoons in winter spectators watch the footy from their cars parked around the perimeter, but if the weather is fine their preference is to set up chairs beside the boundary fence and enjoy the picnic atmosphere. And what a feast of sport: four games of football (under 14s, 17’s, reserves and seniors) and eight games of netball (11 and under, 13’s, 15’s, 17s, A, B and C grades plus C Reserves).

The current location of Walbundrie’s sports ground was established in 1925 after a new site on well-drained sandy loam soil was selected. The previous site was on lower ground subject to inundation after winter rains. Both the sporting community and the show fraternity benefitted from the change of location. The Walbundrie sports ground has a long history not only of weekend sports – cricket, football and netball, but also weekday school sports carnivals and other community celebrations. The show ground buildings were also used as a Technical College from the late 1940s to the late sixties for local school leavers to learn skills in wool classing, mechanics, welding and dressmaking.

The Walbundrie sports ground is managed by the Walbundrie Recreation Ground Committee. Through community fund raising and government grants the facilities for footballers, netballers and spectators have improved greatly in recent years. An electronic scoreboard is another recent addition that has contributed to making the ground one of the best in the bush.

Country football clubs are a reflection of their communities, particularly the demographic history and composition of the towns and districts they represent. The original settlement at Walbundrie, then called Piney Range, was established in the mid 1850s after gold was discovered at nearby Bulgandra (Walbundrie Reefs). Pastoralism and agriculture came next. Among the settlers was a large number of German South Australians who embarked on a second migrational wave to the Albury and Wagga areas between the 1860s and the early 1900s. After those families settled and dispersed within the district, and as the generations unfolded, players with German-sounding names came to the fore in the local football teams. And today, the Rand-Walbundrie-Walla Walla playing lists continue that German heritage.

The Hume Football League was formed in 1933 as a splinter league from the Central Hume Association. Two years later Walla, Walbundrie and Burrumbuttock joined when the Central Hume Association disbanded. Netball came on the scene in 1947 with the formation of the Hume Netball Association. In 1950 the Hume League Junior (under 19s) competition was formed with St. Paul’s College, Balldale, Jindera, Walbundrie and Walla fielding teams.

In 1967 the concept of centralised finals was initiated. Between 1967 and 1971 HFL finals were played at Brocklesby, but due to a lack of government assistance with ground improvements another venue was sought in 1972. Walla and Walbundrie were the two alternative locations closely considered by league delegates. Just six days before the ’72 finals, the nod went to Walbundrie on the basis of its superior crowd facilities, ample parking, ground size and good all weather surface. Since 1972 all finals have been played at Walbundrie, a remarkable accolade for a place with a population of only 190. The showground’s capacity to comfortably cater for crowds of 7000 and the central location of the town make Walbundrie an ideal venue for finals. In 2017 the Hume Football League and the Hume Netball Association merged to form the HFNL, proudly identified as the “Family League”.

An eyewitness account of a special day at Walbundrie in 2008 tells of the community spirit which typifies country footy and netball in the district. ABC reporter Shannon Byrne visited the venue for the league’s 75th anniversary and to witness the presentation of an AFL NSW/ACT life membership award to league stalwart Merv Wegener.

It was a miserable, wet, grey and cold day at the Walbundrie Sports Ground for the special celebrations of the League’s 75th anniversary, yet more than six hundred Aussie Rules fans braved the unkind weather to show their support for the league. It was a chance for the league to celebrate its milestone, and there were awards handed out recognizing the outstanding contributions people had made to footy. Performers sang, big drums with fires inside were scattered around to warm the supporters, and the barbecue and coffee lines remained long throughout the day. There was a real buzz around the ground. But it wasn’t all about footy. There was a big surprise for Merv as well. He was made a life member of the AFL NSW/ACT at the league’s celebrations.

And again in 2020 that community spirit was evident. In the absence of an operating hotel during the covid-19 pandemic, the local community organised the ‘Walbundrie Hub’ at the sports ground pavilion where people could get together on Friday evenings for a meal, a drink and a chat.

The Walbundrie Sports Ground/Showground continues to be a vital part of the fabric of community and sporting life in the eastern Riverina.


Part II, ‘Memorable matches at Walbundrie”, will be posted later in 2021.

First-ever game of football at SCG

Dr Rodney Gillett continues the series of looking at significant games of football at the Sydney Cricket Ground as part of the 140th year of football at the ground.1881 Sydney Football Club, photograph taken in front of the former Members Stand.

The first game of football to be played on the SCG was a game of Australian football between the Sydney and East Sydney clubs on Saturday 18 June 1881.

The ground was known at the time as the Association Ground and was primarily used for cricket. It was administered by the NSW Cricket Association that had been granted control of the ground in 1875 and following extensive work to fill and re-turf the field as well as construct a Grandstand it hosted its first cricket match in 1877.

Initially, all games of football were barred from the ground but following the election of the Association Ground’s leading trustee Philip Sheridan, as president of the NSW Football association upon its formation in 1880, the position changed.

There were only two clubs in the NSW Football Association at this stage; both were formed in 1880.

Here is an abridged report of the game from The Sydney Morning Herald (20 June 1881):

These exponents of football under the rules of the NSW Football Association were fortunate in accruing fine weather last Saturday for their match on the Association Ground…
During the afternoon about 1000 persons were present including a number of ladies and there were 200 or 300 spectators in the grandstand…
Nash (East Sydney) and Crisp (Sydney) were the respective captains and play commenced about a quarter past 3 o’clock…
Play now became exceedingly lively and some very good drop-kicking was shown, little opportunities being given for little marks…
The superior play and knowledge of East Sydney became more manifest, and though the metropolitans struggled gamely, their skills proved no match for the determined and dodgy play of their opponents…
The game terminated at quarter past 5 o’clock in a victory for East Sydney by scoring 5 goals to 3; the victors also scoring the majority of behinds…”
(behinds were normally shown in the score but were not counted in the total in that period)

This match in 1881 paved the way for football at the SCG, not just for Australian football but also for rugby union (1882) and soccer (1884) that were also able to subsequently play inter-colonial matches at the ground.

However, the first-ever inter-colonial football of any code was played between Victoria and NSW on 6 August later in 1881 when the Victoria comfortably beat the NSW team, 9 goals to 1 before a crowd of 5000.

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

South Melbourne played their first-ever match at the SCG in 1883 when they played a NSW representative team. South won easily, 9 goals to 4.

The SCG is now almost exclusively used for Australian Football League matches and cricket. But for football it all started with Sydney and East Sydney back in 1881.

Podcast Review: Hay 1992 – Triple Treat

Albury based Robbie Mackinlay has produced another podcast.  This time it centres on Hay Lions Premiership win of 1992.  Rod Gillett previews the story which you can listen to by clicking the icon below.  This will take you to the Glory Days site where you can open the podcast.


By Dr Rodney Gillett

                              HAY 1992 PREMIERS

 Back row: B. Monoghan, S. Lockhart, D. Dunstan (Captain-Coach), R. Simpson, J. Creighton, S. Edwards, R. Jackson
Middle row: R. Williams, C. Tighe, A. Stevens, D. Zambon, R. Arandt, J. Gordon, M. Howard D. Honeyman (runner)
Front row: R. Lugsdin, A Patterson, T. Alexander, R. Murray, R. Falconer, B. Whitfield












Hay has always been far from anywhere. This has made it problematic for the town’s football club, which was formed in 1876, to compete and to retain and attract players.

But as, country football broadcaster Robbie Mackinlay’s latest podcast, Hay 1992 – Triple Treat reveals it all came together in 1992 when the Hay Lions won all three grades in the Kerang & District Football League (now known as the Golden Rivers Football League).

Like it is for most country footy clubs, it’s a matter of getting the right coach.

For Hay the bush telegraph worked a treat when a former Hay auctioneer John “Chum” O’Dwyer started his own stock and station agency in Ariah Park and on a return visit home informed club president Ted Hill and head recruiter Robert “Buck” Howard that APM’s coach Dennis Dunstan “was on the move”.

Dunstan, originally from Balranald, had taken on the Brown Bombers’ coaching role in the Riverina Football League at age 19, but after two seasons was ready for another job.

Mackinlay recounts the story of how Dunstan went to Hay for a due diligence check and to meet the Hay footy club officials and some of the players at the club’s watering hole, the New Crown Hotel.

“It was after cricket, and I looked around the pub and saw all these young blokes, 6’2” or 6’3”, and I thought to myself there’s some potential here” Dunstan told Mackinlay in an interview for this podcast.

Dunstan, initially declined the Hay coaching offer, but having identified the right man for the job, Hill and Howard persisted and finally got their man. It was a premiership winning move.

The new coach bought his mate from Balranald, Royce Simpson, who had gone with him to APM, to Hay. Simpson had an outstanding season winning the competition best and fairest award as well as the medal for best afield in the grand final.

Additionally, some new players fortuitously arrived in town for work and other opportunities including Steve Lockhart, a stock and station agent from Ivanhoe, Brett “Axe” Whitfield following up on a romance, and solid half-forward Rhys Williams, who had come up from Melbourne to run a motel owned by his partner’s father (the operator of a Melbourne two-up school).

And then just before clearances closed, the Hay Lions secured the services from Balranald of star defender Jamie Gordon and speedy forward Ronnie Murray, who would “top-up” the list and lead the charge into the finals, and ultimately, the club’s second ever premiership.

Gordon, who hailed from Ariah Park-Mirrool where he had the heart-break of playing in three losing grand final teams, told Mackinlay that he and “Muzz” would travel over from Balranald for training (a round-trip of 266kms on the Sturt Highway), go to the New Crown for tea and team announcements, then drive home dropping Murray off down the end of a lane just outside town.

Gordon told Mackinlay that this was his “most memorable year in football” after stellar stints in the South-West league, ACT AFL, RFL, and the Mid-Murray league.

Hay finished the season unbeaten (tied first game with Ultima) on top of the ladder and went straight into the grand final after beating Wandella in the 2nd semi final, then came up against the league’s most successful club again in the grand final at Murrabit.

The Bombers kicked the first 4 goals of the game and had control of the game at quarter time, but the Lions came back to with the wind to boot eight goals and be in front at half-time. By booting four goals against the breeze in the third term they retained a handy lead at ¾ time, then with coach Dunstan booting two early goals in the last quarter the Lions went onto to record a famous victory.

In a grand day for the Hay Football Club, they also won the Reserves and Thirds; it was the Reserves fifth flag in six years.

Robbie Mackinlay captures the pivotal moments of the season and how it came together. He reserves the most effusive praise for the coach “who pulled a town and playing group together”. And evidently, they played just as hard off the field.

The premiership celebrations were extensive. Mackinlay’s interview with Robbie Jackson, the competition’s Rookie of the Year, reveals a week of partying such that club official Buck Howard was worried that the players wouldn’t ever go back to work!

Jackson tells Mackinlay that “the whole town got behind us and we were like rock stars when we won all three flags”. He recalls the reception in the packed Memorial Hall that was overflowing with players and supporters that consumed a staggering eighteen kegs of beer!

“The week after the grand final we had kegs at every pub. There were seven pubs in Hay at the time”, Jackson told Mackinlay.

According to Jackson, “We had a great bunch of blokes, good mix of locals and imports, but it was the coach who bought us together”.

Mackinlay, R. (Host) (2021, May 9). Hay 1992 -Triple Treat [Audio podcast episode]. In Glory Days. Your Sport and Media

Recording The History of Your Club

The Football History Society have moved further into recording the officials, coaches and players of former and current clubs within New South Wales.  The trouble with this, the list of 475 current and former clubs we have so far – and its growing.  And because the data so sparse this project will probably never be finished in its entirety.

“Then why try?” you ask.

Because, its history and if the history of the game is not recorded (for the most part by the Football History Society), then it will never be recorded and those who follow us will be continually guessing the where’s and why’s of the game in a particular area.  Clubhouse honour boards is a good start.

Football Record
The demise of the Football Record in many leagues has added to all this.  Putting together a readable Football Record is, no doubt, a big job.  Not only that, it is an important job.  It records, virtually forever, the scores and what happened and who was involved and responsible for what, so long as these publications are kept.

Some regions are lucky that they have a local newspaper in which they can record the scores and participating players;  even if this newspaper is a suburban ‘free rag’ in Sydney.  Its all about recording what happened, and, for the most part, it makes good reading.  After all, as we said, people will not remember and if it isn’t recorded, who can recall who won the B & F in the seconds three years ago, or for that matter who won it in the Under 17s?  Club reunions rely on this stuff.

Make no mistake.  People LOVE to see their name in print.  Yes its an egotistical fact but no matter, a fact.

Annual Reports
And as for club annual reports or year books; which clubs out of the 200 or so now operating in New South Wales publish an annual report?  We can count them on the one hand and these, without doubt, are the better run clubs.  Even  state leagues no longer publish an annual report; its just all too hard.

The History Society is contemplating the suggestion to make an annual cash award to the best produced annual report and we would encourage all clubs to appoint an historian.

Club Honour Boards – Wagga Tigers
An example of our work can be seen here with details of the Wagga Tigers Football Club.  We did have access to their data from 1955 which is on the public record and after hours of work, have been able to find more information regarding their officials now from the end of WWII – and the search goes on.  In gleaning this data we were also able to update and amend some of the names already listed by the club, but it takes a long time.

Nevertheless we shall continue on with this honour board project and may solicit some assistance from those out in clubland who have access to more information than we can ever hope to.

If you want your club details recorded in this manner, contact us here: 

Citizen Phil

A 17 year old Phil Bradmore           representing NSW

Each year at the Under 18 National Championship the Michael Larke Medal is presented to the best young player at the tournament. The award is named after a young footballer from Sydney who was tragically killed in a road accident returning from a NSW Teal Cup trial match in 1975.

Neil Cordy looks back at the life of one of Michael’s teammates that day who was able to walk away from the crash.

It’s been more than 40 years since the fateful bus trip that took Michael Larke’s life but the kid that was sitting in the seat in front of him, Phil Bradmore remembers the accident vividly.

The North Shore team mates were on their way back to Sydney from Wagga Wagga where they had played in a NSW Teal Cup trial match.

“I can still remember it, someone yelled out Hang on! Hang on!” Bradmore recalls.

“It was raining and dark and we went over a hill and there was something at the bottom of the hill and the driver hit the brakes, started skidding and lost control. I wasn’t seriously hurt, I broke my finger. I was knocked out and woke up sitting on the side of the road in shock. Michael was thrown out of the bus and killed, he was 15.”

Phil’s father Don and his younger brother Michael had travelled down from Sydney to Wagga Wagga for the match. They left soon after the game finished and arrived home oblivious of the news of the crash.

“We got home to Mona Vale and my wife was standing up on the veranda,” Don Bradmore said. “She said the bus has crashed and one of the boys is dead. We knew Phil was on the bus but we didn’t know who the boy was. It was an agonising wait. It took a couple of hours before the phone call came through and told us it was Michael Larke who had died. We were relieved it wasn’t Phil but straight away our hearts went out to Michael’s parents. He was their eldest boy and they were obviously devastated.”

It was also heart breaking for Michael’s team mates including Phil.

“It was such a shock for everybody,” Don Bradmore said. “It was an enormous challenge to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives. We’re extremely proud of what Phil has done with his life after such a shock.”

               Phil Bradmore Today

Larke Medal Winners

Two years after the crash in 1977 Phil made his senior debut for North Shore (Sydney FL) in a team which, if not for a terrible twist of fate, could easily have had Michael Larke playing alongside him.

“That year I won the ‘Arnotts crinkle cut chips’ best first year player for the Sydney league,” Phil said. “Richmond came calling a few weeks later and I moved to Melbourne to do pre-season training at Punt Road.”

Phil moved to Melbourne and stayed with his grandmother Ruby in Ascot Vale. But when Kevin Sheedy invited him to live with him in Richmond it was an offer too good to refuse.

While Sheeds had rolled out the welcome mat Tiger’s coach Barry Richardson wasn’t as keen on the strong marking forward from Sydney’s northern beaches.

So when Footscray coach Billy Goggin knocked on his door one night and made him a solid offer Phil was out the door, literally.

“I was an immature teenager and didn’t know how to handle the situation,” Bradmore said.

“Instead of telling Kevin I was going to Footscray I just bolted. I packed my bags that night and left at two o’clock in the morning and didn’t say a thing.”

Phil felt uncomfortable about his behaviour but it wasn’t as bad as he felt when he was picked to line up against Richmond in round 11 at the MCG.

“Sheeds ran through me the first chance he got,” Bradmore said. “I’ve met him a number of times since and apologised for my behaviour, he’s OK with it and has moved on but it’s still something that I still struggle with.”

Being cleaned up by a future Hall of Famer was tough to deal with but the bigger problem Phil faced was breaking into the Bulldogs talented forward line.

“I needed a lot of injuries to get a game,” Bradmore said. “As well as Kelvin Templeton up forward we had Peter Welsh, Jim Edmond, Shane Loveless, Richard Murrie and Bruce Reid. I wasn’t mature enough physically or mentally plus I was an awkward size. I wasn’t big enough for a key position but I was too slow to play on a flank or in the pocket.”

After 15 games in four seasons Phil was off to West Perth where he really made his name as a footballer. He kicked 10 goals on debut in 1981 and didn’t look back playing 8 seasons at the Falcons, winning a best and fairest and playing 130 games. In 1984 he played for WA in their win over SA in Perth and followed up that success representing NSW in the National Carnival in Adelaide in 1988.

“It was funny, I eventually got to be coached by a Richmond legend in Tommy Hafey all those years after I did a runner on them,” Bradmore said. “It was fantastic to play for my home state and alongside players like Terry Daniher, Billy Brownless and Dennis Carroll.”

When Bradmore finished up at West Perth in 1988 he moved back to Victoria with team mate and former Fitzroy player Noel Mugavin who was coaching South Warrnambool. As well as winning two premierships and the Hampden League Best and Fairest he also picked up a teaching degree at Deakin University.

It was then onto Wentworth in NSW to start primary school teaching and have a final fling in footy with Wentworth, and then the Mildura Imps in the Sunraysia League.

The three years in the bush gave Bradmore the choice of where he would like to teach next. He picked the idyllic beachside hamlet Iluka on the north coast of NSW where he has lived for the past 25 years.

He is now Principal of Iluka Public School and was last year awarded the town’s Citizen of the Year. He is also an ambassador for the Sydney Swans.

In 1976, the year after Michael Larke died, the award for the best player at the national championships was named in his honour. In the decades that have followed the medal has been won by some of the game’s greatest players. Paul Salmon and Paul Williams are winners along with current day stars Tom Hawkins, Christian Petracca, Steve Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield, Sam Walsh and Oscar Allen.

Phil Bradmore never won the Michael Larke medal but lived a life his former team mate would have been proud of.

Indigenous Round named in honour of NSW Player

By Dr Rodney Gillett

Doug Nicholls

Doug Nicholls after whom the AFL Indigenous Round is named came from New South Wales.

He was born and raised on the Cummeragunja aboriginal mission on the NSW side of the Murray River in the Barmah Forest, near Echuca.

He told the Sporting Globe in 1935,

“I get a tremendous kick out of football because I know my people in New South Wales follow my doings closely by the wireless and in the newspapers. This always spurs me on, and gives me added confidence”.

(Sporting Globe 1 June 1935)

He began working life as a tar boy on the sheep stations in the southern Riverina. After moving to Melbourne to play football he became a council worker, boxer in Jimmy Sharman’s travelling boxing show, professional foot-runner, pastor, advocate for aboriginal advancement, and finally, Governor of South Australia (1976-77).

However, it was on the Cummeragunja mission oval that he learnt to play football.

Sir Doug played his early football with the Cummeragunja mission team in the Western and Moira Riding district league based around Nathalia. In 1925 he joined nearby Tongala in the Goulburn Valley Football League.

Sir Doug went to Melbourne in 1927 to try out for VFL club Carlton but left the Blues after a trainer refused to rub him down after training because of his skin colour according to his biographer Mavis Thorpe Clark (who wrote Pastor Doug: An Aboriginal Leader in 1965).

He joined Northcote in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) where he starred in the 1929 premiership. He won the club’s best and fairest award in 1929-1930 and finished third in the Recorder Cup for the best and fairest in the VFA in 1930.

Sir Doug Nicholls was 5 ft 2 inches (158 cm), but muscular and lightning fast.

A further highlight of his VFA career was representing the Association in interstate matches in 1931 against NSW at the SCG and against the VFL at the MCG.

In 1932, Sir Doug joined Fitzroy in the VFL and played 54 games for between 1932-36. He finished third in the club best and fairest in 1934 behind Hadyn Bunton (Brownlow medallist 1931-32 & 1935) and Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn (who won the Brownlow medal in 1933).

In 1934 he became the first aboriginal player to represent the VFL when he played against the VFA. He later represented Victoria against Western Australia.

Since 1916 the Australian Football League (AFL) has named the Indigenous Round in his honour to recognise his outstanding contribution both to football and to Australian society. The Indigenous Round recognises the wonderful contribution of all aboriginal players to the game.

However, it should be noted that there is no written evidence to support the claim that the Aboriginal game of marn-grook influenced the drawing up of the rules of the game we know as Australian football.

There are assertions that as Tom Wills grew up in the western district of Victoria and had played football with aboriginal children that this somehow influenced him in the drafting of the rules. But there is no evidence of this in his correspondence or contemporary accounts.

On the contrary Wills had advocated the adoption of the Rugby School rules (from where he went to school in England) but these were rejected as too complicated and unsuitable for the drier and harder Australian grounds by the his colleagues on the Melbourne Football Club committee that devised the rules in 1859.

While there are advocates of an oral indigenous narrative to support the case that there was an indigenous influence on the codification of the game there is still no firm evidence to support that claim.

Most historians have moved on, according to respected historians Gillian Hibbins and Trevor Ruddell in the journal of the Melbourne Cricket Club, The Yorker in 2009, to commemorate the achievements of indigenous players in the evolution of the game since 1859.

More recently, Roy Hay in his book Aboriginal Football in the Nineteenth Century: They Did Not Come From Nowhere (2019) clearly shows that that there is no direct evidence that the game of Australian football was derived from the Aboriginal game.

Hay challenges the proponents of marn-grook as a major influence on the origins of football to subject the outcomes of their research to historical assessment in order to show that it is “more than a seductive myth”.