If you listened to the first part of the Corowa rise to the 1968 premiership, here is the second part by Robbie Mackinlay.
In a two part GLORY DAYS series, Albury’s Robbie Mackinlay has this time produced a rags to riches story about border club, Corowa Spiders in their climb to the premiership competing in the strong Ovens and Murray Football League in 1968.
He reports “Things had to change” said President Jack Fisher, and change they did, by recruiting Richmond’s 1967 premiership captain Fred Swift – the ball was rolling for the “Last to First” campaign and this episode starts the journey.
(part 2 of this story to follow soon)
We are featuring another of Albury based, Robbie Mackinlay’s podcasts, part of his GLORY DAYS parcel of footy stories ; this time on the 1994 premiership win of the Daysdale Football Club, its a beauty!
Daysdale is a small rural town with a population of about 190 and located 45km north of Corowa and approximately 618km south-west of Sydney. It is about in the middle of the Riverina District and in 1994 was playing in the Coreen and District Football League.
That year the league comprised ten clubs: Coleambly, Coreen, Daysdale, Hopefield-Buraja, Jerilderi, Oaklands, Rand, Rennie, Urana and Victorian club Wagunyah. It was also in that year that the Daysdale Club celebrated their 100th year anniversary and officials were determined to win the flag.
You can listen to the podcast on the above icon.
Football, like life is a struggle in these small rural towns and 1994 was the last year the club had a stand alone identity. The following year it merged with Coreen, to become Coreen-Daysdale FC then in 2006 they merged with the Hopefield-Buraja Club to become the Coreen-Daysdale-Hopefield-Buraja United Football Club. Along with that goes the claim of the club with the longest name in NSW.
The Coreen League folded in 2008 and the CDHBU Club moved over to the Hume Football League.
In the late 1880s Australian Football in Sydney struggled. It had a number of adversaries and many of those were set against the advancement of the game. Why? It is a long story and we are soon to publish a book on what happened to Sydney Football, particularly in the decade of the 1880s and into the 1890s before it died in 1895.
The 260 page book is full of facts, quotes, tables and conclusions. It will prove a fascinating read for the real football follower who is into history of the game. We will keep you posted on its availability but bear in mind, copies will be limited.
However we found something that might interest you: It is the formation of a club at Granville in 1889
Granville is a suburb of Sydney approximately 25 kilometres west of the CBD and the centre of an important rail junction. It was gazetted as a municipality in 1885 and the ground the team played on at Clyde, was an adjoining suburb. In the 1880s the area became Granville, in honour of the then British Foreign Minister, Lord Granville. Five years later, the Municipality of Granville was declared: it encompassed all or part of the modern suburbs of Camellia, Rosehill, Harris Park, Granville, Clyde, and South Granville. Then it was a village, certainly not a suburb.
By the 1891 census the population had increased to an incredible 4000 people. Interestingly Brunton and Company, a large Melbourne based flour milling concern trading as Australian Flour Mills, extended its operations to Sydney in 1887 which gives support to the theory that it may well have relocated or employed Victorians. Certainly one, John Spencer Brunton, the son of the founder was of the right age to play and in fact a Brunton was recorded as playing for the Sydney FC in 1889.
“The Australian Game. — Everything seems to forbode that the players of the Australasian rules will have this winter the brightest season that they have been blessed with since the game was started in Sydney. From every side comes news of the advancement the old clubs have made, and of the accession of strength gained by the comparatively new ones; and, to make the prospect still brighter, Mr. George Graham, who for several seasons has been one of the crack members of the redoubtable Sydney Club, sends along word that he has succeeded in bringing into existence a club at Granville, to be called the Australian Football Club. Many players are already hard at work training, and some well-contested matches are expected for the Flanagan Cup (Sydney competition trophy of the time). Although a few have been found who have objected to the association’s action in accepting a cup, saying that it will injure instead of promote the interests of the game.
The result, so far, has been to arouse in the secretaries of the various associated clubs a surprising amount of activity in hunting after all new members worth having, and in keeping together the old ones. The fact that the secretary of the association has been successful in his efforts to obtain the use of one of the ovals on the Agricultural Ground (RAS Showground, Moore Park) for cup matches will be a source of satisfaction to all players and supporters of the game. Now the Sydney public will be afforded an opportunity, not at their command in previous seasons, of seeing Rugby and Australian rules played side by side by the best exponents of the two games available in the city. The votaries of the Australasian game hail with delight the opportunity that will thus be thrown in the way of the public to form a comparison between the two games. Paid umpires will be employed for the cup matches, which will be another gratifying feature of the season, and which will make the play faster and more exciting. ” Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Thursday 25 April 1889, page 8
Below is the 1889 Granville fixture we have been able to find, so far. During this period of the Australian game, goals were worth one point and behinds, although at times shown, were not counted in the final score. This changed in 1897. How the term ‘behind’ was derived, was when the ball was taken ‘behind’ the goal line but not through the goal posts. Rugby also used this term in their early days. But, unlike Australian Football, was very seldom displayed.
The Granville Club failed to go on and shortly after 1889 a soccer club was formed in the village most probably supported by a number of Scottish immigrants brought to Australia in the mid 1880s to work at the Clyde Engineering Company. The Granville Australian Football Club, known as the “Australian Football Club” was no longer seen.
|4 May 1889||Granville 1||Sydney 6||Granville|
|11 May||Granville||Sydney FC 2nds||Granville|
|18 May||Granville||East Sydney||Granville|
|25 May||Granville||West Sydney||Granville|
FLANAGAN CUP MATCHES
|22 June||Sydney 2nds 3-10||Granville 3-3||Moore Park|
The following is a copy of the 1890 annual report from the Hamilton Football Club in Newcastle, NSW. It is an account of the previous season’s activities. We are also fortunate to hold a photograph of the team.
It is a long read but to football enthusiasts it may prove an interesting insight on how a club in that area functioned during that period.
The club was fully represented, and about a dozen intending members were also present. Mr. John Williams, president of the club, occupied the chair, and Alderman Charles G. Melville, one of the vice presidents, the vice-chair.
The minutes of the previous meeting having been read and confirmed, the secretary’s report of last season was read as follows :
“Gentlemen, as secretary for the Hamilton Football Club, I have much pleasure in placing the following report before you for season 1889.
For such a young team I have not known one that has made such rapid progress. In seasons 1887-8 the defeats out-numbered the victories; but in the last season, 1889, out of 120 matches played no less than 12 were won, whilst five were lost and three drawn.
Among those lost were two against senior teams (Wallsend and Summerhill); one against St. Ignatius College, at which place we were only partially represented, such players as Derkenne, Griffiths, R. Donald, and R. Sharp being unable to be there; whilst we had to submit to being defeated twice by the Carltons, of Maitland – once on our ground in an arranged match, and once at Maitland in a final cup contest.
The victories, amongst which were the two winning matches for the junior cup against the Carltons, two wins against Merewether, one Wallsend Juniors, and two City’s speak for themselves, and prove what progress the team must have made to obtain the highest honours for junior clubs in the northern district.
The number of goals kicked by the Hamilton team during the season was 47, whilst 49 were kicked against us. This may seem strange in the face of such a brilliant career, but when it is taken into consideration that three easy matches were forfeited to us, in which at least 18 or 20 goals would have been added to our score against probably three or four, it is easily seen where the peculiarity comes in. Leaving out senior matches, our record looks much better, inasmuch as we kicked 42 goals to our opposing junior’s 29, and won the much coveted junior cup, presented by the N.D.F.A., as well as gaining the title of crack juniors for the Northern District.
By being thus successful. the Hamilton team will this season be raised to the rank of seniors, under which name they shall, perhaps, have to suffer several defeats, but at the same time shall certainly make is greater name for themselves in the football world if their progress in the future is as good as that in the past; and within the next two or three years it would not at all surprise a few to hear of the Hamilton Club being premier of New South Wales.
It is, I believe, the intention of the Hamilton team to journey to Sydney on the 24th May to try conclusions with one of the best teams in the metropolis, and if the whole team can see their way clear to get away there is not the slightest doubt that we will beat the best team in Sydney. During the past season we had no less than 43 names on the members’ roll, including Mr. John Williams, president; Dr. Craven, Rev. A. C. Hirst, Messrs. Sharpe, Melville, and Swain, vice-presidents. It is expected that we will have a larger number this season, including young blood, which will be a great acquisition to the club. Financially, as well as in the field, we have been more successful than in past seasons, having this season a credit balance of £2 9s, which the treasurer will show in his balance sheet. This balance, it may be said, is mainly due to the monetary support afforded us by the officers and hon. members, as well as Mrs. Craven and Mrs. Williams.
These ladies have been very kind and have proved that they would like to see the Australian game advanced in this district. Last season the Australian game became very popular in Hamilton.
Many enthusiastic admirers were completely carried away by the skill displayed, whilst we also had many followers when playing away from home. It is only hoped that the game will go on amongst us, and when the youths that are shooting up become thoroughly acquainted with the Australian rules, Hamilton will be able to boast of one of the best, if not the best, football clubs in the colony.”
The report was received with applause and adopted. The balance-sheet, which was also adopted as satisfactory, showed an income of £23 11s 6d, and an expenditure of £21 2s 6d, leaving a balance to the club of £2 9s.
The election of officers resulted as follows: Patron, Mr. E. O. Merewether;. president, Mr. John Williams (re-elected); vice presidents, Messrs. Dr. J. A. Craven, Alderman C. G. Melville, Rev. A. C. Hirst, James Sharp jun., James E. Swain, Dr. Nash, Alderman J. Arkins (Mayor), David Duncanson; captain, J. Jarvis; vice captain, E. Derkenne; secretary, Mr. J. Donald; treasurer, James Sharp junior; selection committee, Messrs. Jarvis, Derkenne and J. Donald; working committee, Messrs. William Milton, James Sharp, H. Simpson, J. Jarvis, W. Dickson and the secretary. A vote of thanks to retiring officers closed the proceedings.”
Source: Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Tuesday 11 March 1890, page 5
By Dr Rodney Gillett
The Reid family connections run deep at the Temora footy club with direct links to the 1959-1960 and 2012-2014 premierships that have nourished the club and its supporters between flags.
In 1960 Mal “Nugget” Reid led Temora to a grand final victory over Marrar in the Central Riverina Australian National League at Bolton Park, Wagga, 9-6 (60) to 4-3 (27).
It was Temora’s second premiership in a row; the green and golds also beat Marrar in 1959 when “Nugget” coached from the sidelines while playing for Coolamon in the neighbouring major league, the South West DFL.
Mal and his twin brother “Jacko” were members of former South Melbourne captain Ian “The Heap” Gillett’s Coolamon’s premiership team that defeated Leeton before a record crowd for Australian football in the Riverina at the Narrandera Sportsground of 12,000.
A key member of the 1960 premiership team was Bayden “Ben” Krause, now aged 85 who had only started playing football a few years before but had a break-out year booting 80-odd goals and being awarded the CRL Player of the Year.
“We went through the season undefeated. We were all so super-fit, we worked hard on farms and we were well led by Nugget”, “Ben” told me in an interview for this article.
“We were very close, all good mates, we nearly all worked on farms or were shearers or timber-cutters, the only player who wasn’t worked at a bank in town” Ben said. “I remember working with eight team-mates in our shearing shed” added Ben.
The other place the Temora footballers congregated at was church as so many of the team were Lutheran. The Hartwigs, Noel and Ron, Frank Terlich, Brian Wehrsedt, and Alan, Brian and Barry Block as well as the Krauses, Ben and younger brother Wayne (aka “Mousie” (record games holder) went to the Lutheran church at Trungley Hall, 20 kms north of the town.
The Lutherans mainly from South Australia came to take up land after the pastoral runs were opened up for settlement in the early part of the 20th century.
The first football club was first formed in Temora in 1893 (Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser 13 May 1893), but the club has not always been in continuous existence.
In fact, Temora has been a battleground since rugby league was introduced in 1912 by a school-teacher according to the history book, Temora: Yesterday and Today, 1880-1980.
This accords with the thesis that it was the “3 Cs – the chalkies, the coppers, and the civil servants” that introduced the game to the major towns in the Riverina.
But the small towns and villages held onto the football that their descendants had bought with them from the southern areas of Australia when closer settlement of the land was undertaken.
What emerged in the research for this article was the separation of town and district – with historically, the farmers, farm hands, and shearers played the indigenous game, and the “townies” played the rugby codes depending on their social background.
For most of the pre-WWII period Temora played against district clubs such as Tara, Pucawn, Mimosa, Springdale, Bectric, Rannock and Winchendon Vale (Ariah Park News (31/5/1923). However, research by Peter Clark (the author of the forthcoming book on the History of the Rannock FC) shows that for part of the 1930s there was a Temora and district league but no Temora club!
This is supported by Temora footy legend Phil “Hawk” Reid, who told me in an interview over the phone in the paddock in the rain delirious with joy that the crop was off, that his grandfather Malcolm Reid snr, known as “Mike” captained Mimosa in the Temora competition.
Another former Temora captain-coach Garry Richardson, son of 1959-60 premiership hero Jim Richardson, who coached in 1983 recalled that most of the players came from farms.
After the war, the Temora footy club resumed in the local district league, then transferred to the Ariah Park & District FL, but when that was disbanded the club went into recess from 1952-54.
It was Mike Reid and Jim Richardson among others that revived the club. Jim had gone to Temora to work as a guard at the RAAF base towards the end of the war and stayed on to become a shearer and was joined by his brother Peter, the full forward in the 1960 premiership team.
Temora entered the Wagga and District League and found immediate success by beating Junee by 3 points in the 1955 grand final, but two players who had played all season were deemed ineligible and the club refused a replay. The club made amends by sweeping to victory in 1956.
Both Marrar and Temora joined the Central Riverina league in 1957 when the Farrer league was formed taking in Wagga Tigers, North Wagga, Mangoplah and The Rock in a major shake-up to local competitions. New club Cootamundra and Junee joined the CRL (Central Riverina Football League) in 1960.
Buoyed by success in 1959-60 Temora joined the Farrer league in 1961 and had almost immediate success but were runner-up in 1963 and 1964 losing to Culcairn and Holbrook respectively.
It was when Temora entered the Farrer league that the club changed to blue and white vertical stripes to avoid a clash with Holbrook.
But premierships eluded Temora until 2012, in between Phil “Hawk” Reid, who won ten club best and fairest awards, played in seven losing preliminary finals. Phil also played in a losing grand final team whilst assistant coach at Ariah Park Mirrool in 1985.
However, his sons, Adam (2012-13), Daniel (2013), and Jason (2013-14) were prominent players in Temora’s historic hat-trick of premierships that finally broke the drought.
Adam’s son, 8 year old son Max, is set to continue the Reid tradition at Temora having started Auskick while Daniel’s twin babies, Felix and Teddy, have maternal grandfather Richard Colless planning for them to play in red and white.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Gary and Robyn Tagliabue, Peter Clarke, Garry Richardson, Bayden Krause, and Phil Reid
Paul Daffey, On the Premiership Trail: More Travels in Victorian Country Football, Daffey Publications, Melbourne, 2020. ISBN: 978-0-646-82660. RRP $35.00
Book review by Dr Rod Gillett
When the Nathalia footy team win the premiership on the Monday morning they take the cup to the aged care retirement village in town to share with the residents; that’s how much it means to this small community (pop. 1902) in the heart of the Murray Valley.
And the Mighty Purples, the “Purps”, know how to find the retirement home, they’ve won ten of the last 15 premierships in the Murray Football League. A stunning record for a competition that currently numbers fourteen clubs.
In his latest book on country football, On the Premiership Trail: More Travels in Victorian Country Football, Paul Daffey goes inside two of the most recent successful country clubs, Nathalia and Kyabram, to find out why.
Daffey finds that there’s nothing in the water at the Broken Creek at Nathalia or the Waranga Mallee Channel at Kyabram; it’s all about the “culture” of the respective footy clubs based on deep community ties and genuine leadership on and off the paddock.
In the change rooms before the 2019 grand final at Finley Daffey finds five former premiership coaches of Nathalia working harmoniously together in various capacities to assist the first-time captain-coach Mal Barnes plot victory over Tongala.
As Daffey notes, “No one appears to have an ego that demands singular attention to his own mighty deeds. All the old coaches pour their memories and experiences into the Purple Pot of Knowledge. They are willing to contribute to the greater good”
Nathalia win to make it five flags in a row to set a new record for the Murray league, which they entered in 1933; they only won four premierships in the 20th century. Daffey, who trained as a football reporter at the Bendigo Advertiser, provides an excellent report in the final chapter as he does for all the other grand finals he attended.
I went on part of the premiership trail with Paul Daffey when I met him in Shepparton on the Sunday the day after the Purps’ historic win for the Goulburn Valley grand final between Kyabram, known simply as Ky, and Echuca.
As an old Ky boy I was keen to see if they could win their 83rd game out of 84 for three premierships in four years, the only loss being to Shepp, (Shepparton, Victoria) in 2018, Ky’s nemesis in the 60s when Tommy Hafey led the Maroons to three successive premierships, 1963-65, which I witnessed, before going to Richmond.
Paul Daffey’s quest to find the formula for Ky’s success which included a visit for several days during the previous season revealed that it was mostly down to the coach, Paul Newman, known as “Paulo”, who “… showed true loyalty and humility throughout his long and illustrious career. As a coach, those same qualities have proved vital in gelling together the best playing list in the club’s history”.
Daffey’s findings show that, “Every player at Kyabram wants to play for Paulo. Every official loves him. Every supporter loves him. It is rare that I have been at a footy club and noted such a clear fulcrum in the fortunes of his club”.
When he quizzed “Paulo” about Ky’s success, he was told to go and talk to “Dirty”.
So Daffey went to see “Dirty” David Williams, the Melbourne 1988 grand final full-forward, who returned home to coach Rochester for sixteen seasons including two premierships.
Williams had been lured to coach Kyabram for the 2008 season after Rochy (Rochester) wanted the euphemistic ‘change of direction’ – even though as the club’s major sponsor (Hotel Rochester), he tipped more money into the club than he was paid to coach! Nonetheless Rochester went onto to dramatically beat Seymour for the GVL premiership while “Dirty” set about building the platform for Ky’s sustained success including a flag in 2013.
The chapter written about Daffey’s interview with David Williams is enthralling. “Dirty” is renowned for being “tetchy” and he had a blow-up with Daffey over a piece in The Age back in 2003. I was fastened to my chair reading this chapter as they worked through the issues. Williams is highly-regarded in Rochester, not just for his football prowess, but for his generosity of spirit and material assistance.
It is a shame that Daffey was not able to include Maffra and Koroit on his premiership trail. Just like Nathalia they are minnows in their respective competitions and been equally as successful over the past decade and won premierships in 2019.
However, he does write a section on Koroit’s triple premiership coach, the intriguing Adam Dowie, who also landed flags at Terang-Mortlake and Warrnambool in the Hampden league and led North Warrnambool into the 2019 grand final which they lost to Koroit.
Daffey interviewed Dowie in the coach’s room, a tin shed at Bushfield oval before training, when Dowie cited the example of coaches who demand that every player must run around a particular goalpost during a training drill.
Dowie told him that rather than waste energy on demanding that every player must make his way around a particular post, he demands that every player must perform the role expected of him each and every time he takes the field.
One of the revelations of Daffey’s book is how he saw the future of country football at an outer suburban oval in Bendigo at Maiden Gully, when they took on Loddon Valley powerhouse the Mitiamo Superoos in the opening round of 2019.
YCW Maiden Gully are now the largest football-netball club in central Victoria while Mitiamo’s senior team contained no local players, not one. As Daffey points out, the growing regional centres like Bendigo, Ballarat, Albury, Mildura, and Warrnambool provide the pool of players for so many of the outlying country clubs.
Paul Daffey is an acute observer of the game and its people, and the trends in country football, he is also a wonderful storyteller with an innate ability to craft a body of work with telling insight that makes compelling reading.
On the Premiership Trail: More Travels in Victorian Country Football is available from the Collins bookstores in Albury and Echuca from the author firstname.lastname@example.org
by Dr Rod Gillett
The footy team from “Struggletown” used to struggle to beat the “Big Three” from across the border in the ACT but over the past forty years the Queanbeyan Tigers have become a powerhouse in the AFL Canberra competition.
The Tigers won the AFL Canberra premiership in 2020 and were the only team based in the ACT to win the NEAFL premiership in 2012 when they beat the Sydney Swans, 18-13 (121) to 13-13 (91).
The Queanbeyan footy club has an established ground, Margaret Donohue Oval, with an impressive, licensed club facility established in 1983 across the road in the south of Queanbeyan.
According to club historian and Queanbeyan’s Mr Football Ron “Chook” Fowlie 1960 was the year the Tigers began to match it with the “Big Three”: Ainslie, Manuka and Eastlake according to the club’s excellent history book Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright… 1925-1988.
Former star local Keith Schow had returned to coach after coaching St George in the Sydney competition from 1956-58. He had won the Mulrooney medal for the best and fairest in the ACT AFL in 1950 at age 19, and then went to Collingwood for two seasons before returning to play with combined Acton-Queanbeyan teams that won premierships in 1953-54.
He is regarded as one of the best full backs to have played in the ACT AFL, and according to his vice-captain Bob Griffin he was a prodigious kick and “close-playing defender”.
Keith, and his younger brothers Ross and Peter, on the half back flanks with Griffin at centre half-back were the mainstays of a rock-solid defence that were “spoilers and very tight” according to Bob Griffin in an interview for this piece.
The Schow brothers had all come through the Tigers’ junior organisation that had been started by their father George in 1931 that formed the nucleus of the senior teams in this period.
Under Keith the Tigers made the final four in 1959 but were eliminated in the first semi final by Ainslie. The same fate bedevilled the club again in 1960 but at last they were competitive.
In 1961 after beating Manuka in the first semi-final and Eastlake in the preliminary final, the Tigers made their first grand final since 1941 but succumbed to Ainslie by 8 points in the grand final.
Bob Griffin can’t recall too much about the grand final loss played before a record crowd of 6,000 at Manuka Oval except that Ainslie were “too good on the day”.
“Griffo” played 151 games for the Tigers after starting in the juniors, and after “getting too slow at age 29” he went to play rugby league for the Queanbeyan Blues.
“I grew up playing both codes. I played for the love of it. All my mates were playing. It kept us pretty fit. We used to love taking on the Canberra clubs, we’d bung on a ‘blue’ and head straight back over the border after the game to have a drink at the Royal” he nostalgically recalled.
He does recall playing on a young Alex Jesaulenko from Eastlake in the year before “Jezza” went to Carlton in the VFL, “He was very hard to put off his game!”.
Bob, now aged 84, is still involved with the Tigers and helps out on match days as a masseuse.
“The Tigers are a great club and have a terrific set-up. It’s all down to ‘Chookie’”.
Ron Fowlie has done absolutely everything at the Queanbeyan Tigers since starting in the juniors as a player: secretary, president, football manager, Under 19s coach, club secretary-manager, and the driving force behind the establishment of the licensed club.
The Tigers have won ten premierships in AFL Canberra since 1985 after securing former Riverina star Brian Quade from rival club Manuka in 1984. “Ocker” led the Tigers to their drought-breaking premiership in 1985 over old-rivals Ainslie – the club’s first since 1941.
In an interview for this piece Brian told me that the Queanbeyan Tigers was more of a country style of club that he was used to from the Riverina. “I recruited heavily from the Riverina and they fitted in well. Fellas like Leo Lucas, Jack Lucas, Peter Sculley, Richie Burge, Ian Male and Rex Imrie really made an impression”. So did Brian, he coached the club for ten years and won four flags.
“The club was on the rise before I got there and we had a great home ground fortress which we used to advantage. Canberra sides hated crossing the border to meet the ‘tough country NSW boys’”, Quade recalls.
“There was a strong committee, lots of volunteers and a good supporter base” he added.
The Queanbeyan Australian Football Club founded in 1925 became a member of the ACT club competition which was formed a year earlier in 1924.
Queanbeyan has been derisively referred to as “Struggletown” by Canberrans over the years. It was immortalized in a song entitled “Struggle Town” by rock band The Choirboys as well as being the subject of academic papers at universities in Canberra.
Source: R. Fowlie (Ed.) Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright… 1925-1988: Queanbeyan Australian Football Club.
by Tom Goss
In 1978 I received news of my first permanent posting as a teacher after finishing my teacher training at UNSW. I had been appointed to Coolamon Central school where I was to spend the remainder of my teaching career.
Coolamon is a small farming town about 40kms south west of Wagga and has always been a staunch Australian Football town. I quickly became enamoured with the Coolamon Rovers Football Club. Over the subsequent years I have served, at various times, as player, selector, committee man, Vice President, publicity officer, game day scribe and supporter.
Once again my timing was unerring. Between 1979 and 1985, the club played in six grand finals for one win, three losses and two draws. In 1982, the first year of the newly formed Riverina Football League (RFL), combining the best of the South West and Farrer leagues the ‘Hoppers played East Wagga in the Grand final only to lose by a heart breaking five points. Captain Coach Garry Buchanan not only suffered the agony of leading a losing team but had to endure the indignity of watching his direct opponent, Mark Hull, accept the man of the match award.
In 83, Garry Buchanan was replaced by Russell Campbell as captain-coach. The decider was a replay of the previous year. “Bucky” had closely analysed his poor performance and decided he hadn’t been fit enough. Accordingly, throughout that cold winter, on non training days, he set off on punishing early morning runs to ensure, if the chance came again, he would not be found wanting. I had retired from football the previous year but still wished to maintain fitness for my other great sporing love, cricket, and I was Bucky’s running partner throughout that frosty winter.
The grand final was a classic. After 100 minutes of brilliant football from both sides the scores were locked together 119 all. That night in the clubrooms where a celebration, or a wake had been planned, and everyone was as deflated as a security captured beach ball; Bucky went around to every player, lifting their spirits and impressing on them that the flag was still there to be won.
The replay was, if possible, even better. With a minute remaining in the third quarter the teams still couldn’t be separated. Then big burly Albert Suidgeest snapped a goal from a kick-in to put the ‘Hoppers six points in front at the final break. The last quarter was as magical as a conjurer’s convention from Coolamon’s point of view and goals rained down like manna from heaven. The award for best player in the grand final was adjudged over the two games. The unanimous winner, Garry Buchanan.
Drawn grands finals are rare but It’s rarer than stone Gargoyle turds for the same team play in another within two years. Incredibly, in 1985 Coolamon was involved in yet another grand final tie, this time against Wagga Tigers.
Earlier that year the team was in disarray. The coach that season was local product, Neil Pleming. Only slight in stature, affable and good humoured off the field Neil was a simmering volcano on it. He attacked the contest ferociously, had the ball handling skills of a horse Gelder (and collected more kicks) his tackles crunched like the grip of an adult anaconda and he could deliver a shirt front to flatten a mature bull. He demanded nothing less from his team mates. Unfortunately, some were just not physically capable of his style of play.
Things came to a head early in the season following a monumental flogging from old rivals Ganmain by more than 150 points. To be beaten by Ganmain anytime is a dagger in the heart for any Coolamon supporter but a monumental thrashing is unthinkable. Neil’s three quarter time speech was a five word masterpiece of brevity, conciseness and truncated emotion. ‘You can all get fucked.’ he yelled before storming off, smoke steaming from the ears and nose, to await the last quarter bounce.
I was Neil’s selector that year and the club seemed headed straight for a cliff. At that stage the chances of Coolamon playing off for the flag were on a par with Julia Gillard delivering Alan Jones’ eulogy.
From that early season wreck, the team regrouped. An entire club meeting cleared the air somewhat. Plem tempered his fire and brimstone methods a little but his coaching style, pure personal example, the foundation stone of which was an unrelenting attack on the ball quickly converted the players. A revitalised, united Coolamon was able to reverse that humiliating loss to Ganmain on its own patch of turf in the preliminary final.
The Grand final was another Herculean clash. Both teams ran themselves to exhaustion but couldn’t be separated at the final siren. Astonishingly, at the 26 minute mark of the last quarter in the replay the scores were still locked together. One team had to break and it was the battle fatigued, injury riddled ‘Hoppers, facing a team that was fresher and equally determined which couldn’t raise one last mighty effort. Apparently the Wagga players on their lap of honour, kept glancing behind, haunted by the prospect that Coolamon was still coming.
A special report by Dr Rod Gillett:
“Dad and Uncle Vin were the lynchpins of the three premiership wins 1959-1961” – Chris O’Dwyer
It’s a late afternoon as the sun sets down on the Murray River when 91-year-old Gerald O’Dwyer comes in from his vegetable garden at his home in Barooga to chat to me on the phone about the local club’s 1960 premiership triumph in the Picola & District Football League.
“I couldn’t make the committee meeting because I was watering at the time. I got appointed honorary coach, that meant no money for doing the job!” Gerald told me.
“It was between me and Vin Toohey, who was a marvellous player, but the committee chose me because I was older”.
It was an inspired choice by the Barooga footy club because Gerard would lead the team to a premiership and Vin Toohey would win the competition best and fairest. They were the two best – and hardest players in the competition.
The names O’Dwyer and Toohey are inextricably linked to Barooga even though the sons of Gerald and Vince would make their mark elsewhere with Jon (Swans list), Chris (Swans), and Kieran O’Dwyer (Hawthorn list) and the Toohey brothers, Bernard (Geelong, Swans & Footscray), Gerard (Geelong) and Stephen (Geelong Under 19s).
However, the eldest boys, “Jon O” Dwyer and “Huck” Toohey would return home for premierships. More about the sons of guns later.
Barooga is a border town (pop. 1817) on the NSW side of the river just 10kms from Cobram. It shares the same postcode as Cobram, 3644. I dialled 03 then the home number to talk to Gerald. Everything visual is Victorian except the number plates.
The Barooga Football Club was formed in 1894 and with Tocumwal, Yarroweyah and Muckatah formed the Murray Border Football Association.
Gerald O’Dwyer went to boarding school at St Gregory’s Campelltown and didn’t play football and until he returned home to work on the family farm at end of WWII.
Together with his brother-in-law and close friend Vin Toohey he joined the Barooga team then playing in Murray League 2nds competition against Jerilderie and seconds teams from most of the MFL clubs such as Finley, Berrigan, Cobram, Deniliquin and Tocumwal winning premierships in 1950, 1952-53 and 1956.
In 1959 when the Murray League decided to consolidate the Seconds competition by adding Nathalia and Numurkah (from the Picola league), Barooga joined the nearby Picola & District Football League and Jerilderie went to the Coreen & District FL.
Barooga won the premiership in their first season by beating Wunghnu in the grand final at Picola under Don Holbrook. Then Gerald O’Dwyer took over taking the club to premierships in 1960 over Katunga and again in 1961 against Wunghnu.
In the 1960 Katunga (“sons of soldier settlers”) threw everything at Barooga and were in front by 15 points at ¾ time, Gerald went forward from his usual position in the centre and kicked two goals to propel them to victory.
Gerald recalls the best players in the 1960 grand final being Vin Toohey and his brother Bernie, both rovers, ruckman Pat Quinane, half-forward Frank O’Çallaghan, and defender Gavin Cullen.’
When I asked Gerald about the high preponderance of Catholics in the team, he simply replied, “We were all in it together, we were nearly all farmers or worked on farms, good mates on the field, and off the field, we all enjoyed a barrel in the rooms after a game and then a drink down the pub, not all of us made it along to Mass on a Sunday”.
Gerald played 325 games for his beloved Barooga including seven premierships.
Vin Toohey won six competition best and fairest awards – four in the Murray League 2nds and two in the Picola League, 1960-61. And eight club best and fairest awards, between 1952 and 1969. He played in ten grand finals, winning six.
His eldest son, Bernard, has vivid memories of one match his father played when he was “cleaned-up” by a Yarroweyah player which broke a bone in his father’s neck. The ambulance was called but his father was reluctant to go off and wanted to keep playing “…besides I’ve got to get home to milk the cows”.
He played again three weeks later but could never look too far to his left again. Tough Toohey, that was another nickname, Bernard had at the Swans. Like father, like son.
After a highly distinguished VFL/AFL career Bernard had three years with Wodonga in the O & M but came home at his father’s urging and played in the club’s 1997 premiership in the Murray League at full forward and kicked 70-odd goals for the season.
Jon O’Dwyer, whose outstanding football ability and renowned ferocity at the ball took him from Assumption College Kilmore (ACK) to the Swans and a football odyssey in NSW also returned home to Barooga to play in the 1993 and 1994 premierships.
“Jono” has played in an unfeasible number of premierships/championships numbering 18 out of twenty including junior flags at Barooga and school titles at ACK; he also played in senior premierships at Sydney Uni (1992), Barooga (1993-94), Queanbeyan (1998-99) and Griffith (2003) then finished his career off with two reserves premierships for Barooga. He now assists with the GWS Giants Academy at Tocumwal.
Meanwhile, “Chris O” played eight senior games for the Sydney Swans 1990-1992 before joining East Sydney where he played 168 games between 1993 and 2000. He won the Phelan Medal (Sydney competition’s B & F) in 1994 and coached Easts in 1997-98. He currently coaches Ingleburn junior teams in the Sydney Harbour competition which feature the next line of footballing O’Dwyers, Finn, Angus, Sullivan, and Lennix that are sure to make their grandfather proud.