From the NRL Cradle to AFL Premiership Glory

Kieren Jack boy and man

This pair of images from the Daily Telegraph’s award-winning photographer Phil Hillard were taken 22 years apart. They are both at the SCG, the first is when Jack was just 11 years old and leading West Pennant Hills Public School to victory in the Paul Kelly Cup.

The second was his final game in the AFL, the round 23 win over St Kilda. The kicking style is almost identical and in the second image resulted in a goal which ignited the Swans faithful.

Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of Kieren Jack to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame:

 

If Tony Lockett was the first Swans player to draw the admiration of Sydney’s rugby league fans it was Kieren Jack who cemented Plugger’s inroads into NRL heartland. League followers loved Lockett’s aggression, intimidation and goal scoring talent and Jack turned them on to the game’s skill, speed and courage.

Rugby League fans first knew Kieren as Garry Jack’s son, the Balmain, NSW and Kangaroos champion full back.

Initially Kieren and his brothers Rhys and Brandon (also a Swans player) headed down the same path playing Rugby League but when Plugger booted the Swans into the 1996 grand final Kieren’s head was turned.

“It was the 96’ Swans team which first caught my interest when I was about nine”, Jack said.

“I wasn’t playing Aussie Rules but having a successful team in Sydney, that was the first thing that attracted me to the game. It was Sydney’s team and we were going to follow them.”

His early interest turned into something more substantial when he reached grade five at West Pennant Hills Public School.

“The Paul Kelly Cup started that year and we were one of the first teams to play,” Jack said.

“I think there were only 50 or 60 teams. Now there’s a couple of thousand competing. It was a simple competition and very smart. It got kids involved in footy who otherwise wouldn’t be. We had a mixed bag of players, there were only a couple of Aussie Rules players, the rest were mostly Rugby Union, Rugby League and Soccer players.

“We made the grand final on the SCG and won it. The following year I signed up for our local team Westbrook in the junior comp. Our school played in the Paul Kelly Cup again the next year, this time with about 150 teams and we won the grand final again. We went back to back. We were the first dynasty in the Paul Kelly Cup!”

The same year he was picked to represent NSW Primary Schools and the balance between League and Rules started to swing.

“That was when I fell in love with footy,” Jack said. “I continued to play League and AFL until I was 15 and then made my choice, and it was a pretty easy decision to be honest. I loved AFL, the atmosphere, the skills and the fitness. The size issue wasn’t a big factor but it was part of the decision especially when other kids were growing much faster. I didn’t want to keep getting smacked around, footy had more space to run.”

Soon Kieren was off to high school at Oakhill College in Castle Hill and changing football clubs as well.

“Pennant Hills was the breeding ground to go onto senior football,” Jack said. “It had produced so many AFL players over the years; Lenny Hayes, Mark and Jarrad McVeigh, Stephan Carey & Nick Potter. It was a great club environment and full of amazing people.”

Just when things were progressing nicely Kieren’s ambitions hit a snag, he missed out on state selection for the under 15s. It was a body blow.

“All of my hopes and dreams simply were sucked right out of me,” Jack said.  “I asked for some feedback about why I missed out and that was when I was told I was too small to play to play the game. I was told footy was moving in a different direction and that you needed to be a certain athletic size to play it and the small players were getting weeded out.”

It was the first real setback Kieren had faced but he soon discovered resources he didn’t realise he had.

“I used that setback to drive me,” Jack said. “I’d run every day and when I hit that pain barrier I’d say to myself I’m not too small and I can do this. I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me I couldn’t make it.”

Kieren’s teens were a pivotal period of time in his career as he battled between ambition and self-doubt. During this time his coaches played a critical role.

“There were three who stood out,” Jack said.

“Greg Barnes coached me in grade six for the Paul Kelly Cup and up until the age of 15 at Pennant Hills. He gave me enormous support and confidence to back myself. Mick Clift had a big influence at the Redbacks, he took me under his wing and was always talking to me. He was very good with people”.

“Then there was Rod Carter after that at State level. I remember coming off the bench in the under 16s, I did a couple of good things and then he threw me into the middle. He could see things in me others couldn’t and he was huge. He backed me and told me what I needed to do to get better. When I got to my late teens I had real confidence in my ability and he was the main reason why.”

Jack was Rookie listed by the Swans in 2005 and given the number 48, it was an early indication he was still a long way from senior football. He lived with the reserves coach at the time and another NSW AFL product Brett Allison and his wife Neita which proved critical in setting the foundation needed to take the next step.

He played the 2006 season in the reserves and made his debut in round six the following year.

After starting out as a tagger he began to win his own ball and had a breakout season in 2010 winning the Bob Skilton Medal.

Two years later he kicked two vital goals in the grand final including the one which drew them level with Hawthorn in the last quarter.

In 2013 he was promoted to co-captain alongside fellow Pennant Hills player Jarrad McVeigh. Remarkably he played the entire season with virtually no training after being struck down by glandular fever before Christmas. His amazing effort earned him All Australian honours.

His last game was in round 23 last year against St Kilda. Appropriately it was at the SCG where he had played 22 years earlier in the Paul Kelly Cup.

“It’s gone really quickly,” Jack said. “It brings a smile to my face when I walk past a field with the four posts up. “I couldn’t find footy posts growing up, I would run around parks and kick at light posts, soccer goals and rugby league posts that’s all I had”.

“The success and growth of the footy in Sydney and this state is something that makes me really happy”.

 

 

 

 

North by North West – Lenton Bros starring roles

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

Gunnedah Inaugural Premiers North West Football Association 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

         Allen Lenton

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

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

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

Woodlocks’ kept footy going on the North Coast of NSW

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

                                           Jill & Jim Woodlock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Goolagong Parties Like its 1999 for Terrigal-Avoca Panthers

A special report by Doctor Rod Gillett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The league goalkicking award is named in his honour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The league goalkicking award is named in his honour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enormous contribution from Rod Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Few have helped footy on as many levels.

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

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

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

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

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

Rod Carter pictured in his ‘school teacher’ attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “Poddy” Slade – ‘Wonder’ Footballer Who Beat the Mail Train

Football History Society Vice President, Doctor Rod Gillett, takes us back to one of the champions of the game in the Riverina Area of New South Wales:

Coolamon’s greatest-ever player Alonza “Poddy” Slade, was rated a “wonder” player because of his “skills and sheer brilliance” according to contemporary media reports.

The most astounding story in relation to Poddy Slade is when he beat the South West Mail train from Coolamon to Matong, almost thirty kilometres, riding a bicycle!

Football teams in the South West league in the 1920s would travel by train to games along the south-west rail line from Junee to Griffith, alternating venues based on the fixtures. All the clubs except Leeton in this period were based on the rail-line that gave the league its name.

One particular Saturday, Coolamon were playing at Whitton, and Poddy missed catching the train by a few minutes due to being delayed at work; undeterred he went after the train on his bike, a cumbersome old Malvern Star, and furiously pedalled over the unpaved road to Ganmain, only to see the train depart the station just as he rounded the corner. He redoubled his efforts and caught the train in Matong. That afternoon he was Coolamon’s best player!

Poddy Slade played his first game for Coolamon in 1908 at the age of 14. He subsequently played until 1934.

The photograph(above) of Poddy Slade in his football prime shows a superbly muscled, powerful frame with a face set in steely determination. He worked for the local granary on tasks that required physical strength such as lumping bags of wheat.

In an interview I did with him in 1981 he told me that he also worked at his fitness by jogging at night along the then bumpy Coolamon-Marrar road.

Poddy was the star player in Coolamon’s 1920 and 1922 premiership teams. The premiership in 1920 was Coolamon’s first premiership; the club was formed in 1894.

Coolamon defeated Naranderra at Coolamon by thirteen points. A crowd estimated at over 3000 attended the match and the gate takings were a record £78. A half-day holiday was declared in the town for the game.

Narrandera had challenged for the premiership after being declared the winner of the semi-final against Marrar at Grong Grong. This followed the controversial “football stabbing” incident by an unknown Marrar player.

Best player for Coolamon was Poddy Slade – “ … with his high marks and general play was always in the limelight” (Coolamon-Farmers’ Review, 24 September, 1920).

The following season Coolamon lost to Junee in the grand final at Naranderra by 16 points. A special train conveyed over 1200 people to Naranderra from Junee for the grand final halting at all stops along the line.

Coolamon secured their second premiership in three years when they took out the 1922 pennant by beating Narrandera at Coolamon. Poddy Slade was again named the best player.

The highlight of his extensive football career was leading a combined South West team against VFL powerhouse Collingwood at Narrandera in 1924.

The Magpies were led by Charlie Tyson and included Charlie Dibbs, Len Murphy, Joe Poulter and the Coventry brothers, Syd and Gordon. Known as “The Machine” Collinwood would win four premierships in a row, 1927-1930.

The Narrandera Argus (18 July 1924) reported that “the SWDFL made a grand showing against such formidable opponents”. Collingwood won 13-8 (86) to South West 10-15 (75).

According to the match report, “Slade was one of the few to match these leaping wonders” and “used his height and weight judiciously”. He was named in the best players and kicked two goals.

Poddy played for Coolamon until 1934 when his last game was the final game for the season against fierce local rivals Ganmain. Ganmain won 7-21 (63) to 5-9 (39). Poddy kicked three goals.

“The Coolamon team is fortunate in having such a talented player as A. (Poddy) Slade…. He always plays the game as it should be played … he has set an example that footballers should strive to follow. The football and goals have always been his object, and whenever he beats an opponent, he beats him fairly”.    (Narrandera Argus 2 August 1929)

As to how Alonza Slade got his nickname the answer was given to me  by Mrs Slade at my interview with Poddy in 1981, his wife told me, “When his mother bought him home a relative exclaimed “My isn’t he a little poddy” and the name stuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne “Wacky” Walker – The Mark Ricciuto of Broken Hill Football

To commemorate the 140th anniversary of Australian Football in New South Wales in 2020, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Wayne Walker.

1987 NSW AFL Team
Wayne Walker seated second from right.
NSW 10-12 (72) d VFA 8-5 (53)

At the opening bounce in the NSW v VFA match at Lavington in 1987, Wayne Walker bored in to get the tap from ruckman Barry Denton bundling his opponent out of the way to boot the Sky Blues into attack.

Defender Dennis Sandral immediately ran to “Wacky”, as he universally known, to say “You’ll do us!”. Sandral, the tough-as-teak Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer, had challenged Walker at training about his key role in the mid-field.

“Wacky” responded the best way known by playing a pivotal role in the historic victory over the Victorian Football Association and being named second best player. Sandral from the Corowa club was also in the best players along with his O & M colleagues Dick Hamilton and Ralph Aalbers.

Walker had driven his car from Broken Hill to represent his State. There were only two flights out of Broken Hill to Sydney during this period. Like everything else in Broken Hill such as the newspapers, the time, and the beer, the flights came from Adelaide.

This commitment really endeared “Wacky” to his teammates as did his cheery nature.

It proved to be NSW’s only ever win over the VFA. The first match between these two sides had been played in Sydney in 1881 which was the first-ever interstate (colony) football match of any code involving NSW, a year before rugby. The VFA morphed into the VFL in 1995.

“Wacky” told me that “the spirit and competitiveness of the (NSW) players was unbelievable. They were all so committed (to win). “Leechie” (coach Greg Leach) and “Huey” (Greg Harris) knew how to bring the boys together for rep games. It was a very satisfying win”.

Walker carved out a highly distinguished career in local football in Broken Hill from his debut in 1975 until his retirement in 1996 marked by competition best and fairest medals, premierships and representative honours.

He started his senior career at Centrals in 1975. He played 149 games including premierships in 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984.

“Wacky” was a core member of the Centrals mid-field contingent led by skipper Dean “Stixie” Files, ex Port Adelaide centreman John Eade, and the dynamic Visko Sulicich.

Premiership team-mate and former AFL Broken Hill chairman Peter Nash recalls “Wacky” as a player, “Wacky mostly played as a ruck-rover. Got the ball out of packs. He was as tough-as-nails, hard but fair. Very skillful on both sides of the body. He was the Mark Ricciuto of Broken Hill football”.

He stunned the local football world when he moved to Norths in 1985 as playing coach.

Geographically, Broken Hill is divided by the line-of-load into two discernible districts, Town and the South. But as Keith Newton shows in his chapter on footy in Broken Hill in Footy Town (2013) football is tribal. The existence of the football clubs since the turn of the 20th century divides the city into four communities.

Keith Miller

“Wacky” took Norths to a premiership in 1986; he would play 202 games and participate in further premierships in 1988, 1992 and 1994.  He retired in 1996.

He won the Middleton Medal as the best player in the Broken Hill FL competition in 1978 and 1983 at Centrals then again in 1991 and 1995 at Norths which gave him four awards over three different decades. He also won two club best and fairest awards at both Centrals and at Norths.

Wayne played six games for NSW. He was a regular representative in Broken Hill teams in the South Australian country championships. He also represented SA Country team on four occasions.

From 1996 – 2002 he was the AFL Development Officer in the Far West region and for 5 years coached the Primary State Schools Association team at the intra-state carnival.

He is best-known these days as the father of “Tex”, Adelaide key forward Taylor Walker.

NSWAFL: President Keith Miller, AM MBE and legendary Australian Cricketer, who also represented NSW in Australian Football was present at the match.

Before the Tomahawk there was Jumping Jack

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.

Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Jack Hawkins for the Hall of Fame:

Tom and Jack Hawkins on the family farm in Finley in southern NSW Photo: Herald-Sun

‘Jumping Jack’ Hawkins went about his footy in a different way to his famous son Tom but his high flying marks in the 1970s and 1980s gave Cats fans a nice warm up for what was to come 26 years later.

While Tom’s career is still going strong at 32 Jack’s was sadly cut short by a knee injury at only 27. He returned home to Finley to run the family farm and play footy but the injury restricted him to just 2 games.

His contribution to footy however was far from over and Jack has helped run the Finley Football Club and the Murray Football League for more than four decades.

Not surprisingly his extended time in NSW footy has been supplemented by plenty of time watching his son carve out a stellar career at his old stomping ground, Kardinia Park. Looking back at his time there Jack says he couldn’t have ended up at a better club.

“It (Geelong) was a great place for a country lad to be. I was very comfortable. And as a farmer, I found a wife!” he told me for this story.

Jack studied agriculture at the Marcus Oldham College and then worked on a farm just outside Geelong. But at the end of each football season he would head back to the family farm for the harvest and not return until the end of January. It was the age of the part-time footballer.

On the field he was renowned for his vertical leaps to take marks on the last line of defence. A team-mate, Phil Stevens bestowed on him the nickname, “Jumping Jack”. Then colourful VFL commentator Lou Richards got hold of it, and it stuck.

He played 182 games and kicked twenty goals for the Cats from 1973 to 1981. He also represented Victoria.

Upon returning home, Jack joined the committee, and later became president of the Finley Football Club from 1987-89. He also served on the Murray Football League executive from 1990 before having a spell for five years then he returned as president in 2009 until he stepped down at the end of the 2017 season.

During his period in office there was a transformation in the Murray league with new clubs such as Tongala, Moama, Echuca United and Rumbularra coming in, and the exit of foundation clubs: Tocumwal, Berrigan and Strathmerton to the nearby Picola & District League.

Also towards the end of his term, Tungamah and Katandra came into the competition after a dispute between the Picola league and AFL Victoria to bring the number of clubs up to 14.

Jack also became a selector for NSW State teams at the behest of old mate and rival Terry Daniher, who was coach of the NSW State team while coaching Wagga Tigers at the time. This included the match against the VFA as a curtain-raiser to the Victoria v South Australia match at the MCG in 1995 when Teddy Whitten was emotionally farewelled.

It was to be the VFA’s last-ever representative match. NSW had first played the VFA in 1881.

    Jumping Jack            Hawkins

Jack would drive up to Wagga for training accompanied by prospective State players from the Murray League, a round trip of almost five hours.

“It was a lot of fun with TD. There was nothing complicated about training. He kept it simple. But he would tell a player if he wasn’t up to the required level. There was always a convivial drink afterwards”.

The connection between the Geelong and Finley footy clubs runs deep in the Hawkins family. Jack’s brothers, Michael and Robb, also both played in the VFL for Geelong. Michael and Jack played together for Finley in the 1971 premiership win over Deniliquin.

Jack’s eldest son Tom has already played in two premiership teams and kicked 594 goals in the AFL. Tom is the current leader in the Coleman Medal at the end of round 17. He also leads the Football History Society’s Carey-Bunton Medal for the Best NSW player in the AFL. Younger son, Charlie is playing for Old Geelong in the Victorian Amateurs footy after beginning at Finley.

“Our coach Frank Dixon convinced us we could beat Victoria (in 1949)” – Jack Dean

A remarkable man lost in the history of football times. Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Frank Dixon to the inaugural AFL – NSW Hall of Fame:

                 The former Frank Dixon Grandstand                                                   at Trumper Park in Sydney

South Sydney Rabbitoh, South Sydney premiership captain-coach, NSW player, captain and coach, Rat of Tobruk, Senior-Vice President NSW ANFL, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney

Frank Dixon did it all in a remarkable career in sporting and civic life stretching from the late 1920s until he stepped down as Deputy Lord Mayor in 1961, declining the opportunity to succeed Harry Jensen as Lord Mayor of Sydney.

“He was a charismatic leader. A great motivator. We respected him enormously” Jack Dean told me in an interview in 2008. “We trained for weeks in advance of the game with the aim of beating Victoria”.

NSW lost that game after a tight first half with the Vics only seventeen points up at half-time. However, with VFL stars Bob Davis, Bobby Rose, Les Foote and Brownlow medalist Don Cordner firing, the Vics ran away to record a resounding win.

At the reunion of the 1949 team at the 1990 NSW v Victoria game Frank Dixon walked into the SCG Trust Suite to meet his charges after being feted by the AFL at the pre-match official dinner and declared, “I’m like Mark Antony walking into Cleopatra’s tent, I haven’t come here to talk!”

Frank Dixon was born in Waterloo and grew up in the South Sydney district which was to remain central to his life in football and politics. He initially played footy for the Daceyville Junior Waratahs club and won the competition best and fairest in 1926.

However, like so many young men in the South’s district, Frank Dixon wanted to play rugby league for the Rabbitohs, and he did in 1928 and 1929.

In 1930 he returned to football and thus began his long and fruitful association with the South Sydney Australian National Football Club as a player, captain, and coach in the club’s most successful era.

Frank took on the role of captain-coach in 1934 and led Souths to its first premiership since 1914. The pen pic of Frank Dixon in the Football Record for the 1935 grand final read:

“Frank Dixon is an inspiring captain and has the whole-hearted confidence of his team-mates. He has outstanding knowledge of the game and should be able to keep command of the game in the position of follower and half forward”.

He was to lead Souths to another premiership in 1935 and to runner-up in 1936 and 1937.

Frank Dixon
               Frank Dixon

Frank Dixon captained NSW for the first time in 1935 when he led the Sky Blues against the Victorian Amateur representative team at the SCG. As skipper led NSW to home-and-away victories over fierce rivals Queensland.

He became captain-coach of the State team the following season and led NSW at the national amateur carnival in Adelaide where the Sky Blues beat South Australia and Tasmania.

The profile in the match day program for the carnival said of the NSW captain-coach:

“….possesses football personality on and off the field, and has the ability to bring the best from his men.”

Frank enlisted in the AIF in May 1940. He served in the 9th Division of the AIF in the western desert and New Guinea until 1945. After surviving the Siege at Tobruk, he was badly wounded at El Alamein and was evacuated to Australia but recovered to serve in the Pacific theatre.

After the war Frank settled back into civilian life and resumed work for the Sydney City Council. But the call to re-join football was strong and he was invited to join the state ruling body, the NSW ANFL, as senior vice president in 1947 as well as coach and selector of the NSW State team.

He took charge of the State team for the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart. Under his tutelage, NSW beat Canberra and Queensland, lost by ten points to hosts Tasmania and were well beaten by the SANFL.

The 1947 Carnival team included players from Broken Hill and the Riverina as well as players from Sydney such as cricket star Keith Miller (Sydney Naval), Roy Hayes (Eastern Suburbs, Ossie Grose (Newtown) and former Henty player Neil Stevens (Eastern Suburbs).

Frank was again coach of the State team at the 1950 ANFC Carnival in Brisbane. NSW were placed in Division II beat Tasmania and Queensland but lost to Tasmania and the Australian Amateurs.

He finished his tenure as coach at the end of the 1952 season. Altogether as a player and coach he was involved in twenty-seven representative fixtures for NSW.

As a senior vice president of the NSW ANFL, Frank Dixon went to Melbourne by train to attend a meeting of the ANFC in 1947 to secure a grant to fund a licenced club in Sydney to promote the game. However, upon his return with a cheque of £5000, the league delegates resolved not to proceed. Frank always regarded this as “golden opportunity missed”.

                 1949 NSW Team v Victoria at the SCG

After finishing with football politics, Frank Dixon turned his attention to local government. A long time ALP member and party official he was elected to the Sydney City Council as an alderman in 1956 and served as Deputy Lord Mayor in 1960-61.

The Sydney City Council named the grandstand at Trumper Park in his honour.

Frank said, outside of football, his crowning glory to the community was the construction of the El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens, Kings Cross in Sydney.  “That project was mine, I did that”  Frank told us.

 

Source:: Frank Dixon six-part podcast
interview with Ian Granland (a good listen)

 

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Neil Cordy – Sydney footy’s Media Man

“The Swans, and the code of AFL football, are very grateful to have had someone with a strong media presence who had a deep understanding of the game” – John Longmire
Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Neil Cordy to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy has established an impressive record as a “breaking news” sports journalist across the media landscape in Sydney over the past twenty-seven years.

He has become the pre-eminent AFL media expert in Sydney after a 15-season 235 game career at Footscray (139) and the Sydney Swans (96) in the VFL/AFL ended in 1993.

After his football career, Neil stayed on in Sydney and became a sports journalist. While working for News Ltd he broke the story of the Buddy Franklin transfer to Sydney from Hawthorn in 2013, one of the biggest news stories of the decade.

But what can now be revealed is the story that “Cords” (or “Slacks” as he was known by his Swans team-mates) chose not to break.

That was the tragic death of Swans trainer Wally Jackson on the sidelines in the last quarter of the Sydney v North Melbourne game at the SCG in 2004.

Doing the “boundary-riding” for the Channel Ten live coverage of the match, Neil elected not to report on the story unfolding right before his eyes on the Swans bench as Dr Nathan Gibbs tried valiantly but ultimately unsuccessfully to revive the much-loved Swans trainer.

Channel Ten’s executive producer of sport, David Barham, just happened to be working that night fully supported Neil’s decision not to break the story.

“David and I talked the situation through. It was obvious Wally was in serious trouble. We agreed not to report on the situation unless the game was stopped and we would be forced to. It was out of respect for Wally’s family” Neil told me in the interview for this profile.

This goes to the heart of Neil Cordy’s integrity and ethics as a journalist that enabled him to earn the trust of the AFL coaches in Sydney to get access to news-breaking stories.

Sydney Swans coach John Longmire told me, “The Swans, and the code of AFL football, are very grateful to have had someone with a strong media presence who had a deep understanding of the game”.

Following his retirement from the AFL half-way through 1993 Neil started in print journalism by writing columns for The Sydney Morning Herald. He also started working on match-days for the ABC’s live broadcasts of footy in Sydney as an experts commentator.

The next season he was a boundary-rider for the Seven Network’s telecasts of AFL games in Sydney. He took up an on-air role for Galaxy Sport (the fore-runner to Fox Sports) in 1995 during the infancy of sport on pay TV in Australia.

“Cords” was lured to Channel Ten in 1996 to present sport on Ten News and reports on Sports Tonight based in Melbourne for five years then returning to Sydney where he performed the role for ten years as well as a football commentator when Ten had the rights.

He was a key member of the Ten telecast team for the AFL Grand Finals in 2005-06 that featured the Swans including the 72-year drought-breaking victory in 2005.

After ten years with Ten, Neil went to News Ltd as the Head Reporter of the AFL for the biggest selling daily newspaper in NSW, the Daily Telegraph.

Neil carved out a strong reputation as an insightful and knowledgeable reporter of football that increased following for the game in this medium. During this period he frequently appeared on Fox Sports programs such as the Back Page and Bill and Boz which did much to lift the profile of the game.

Neil finished up with the Tele at the end of the 2018 season and has since been doing match-day work for ABC Sport, which of course, has been severely disrupted this season by Covoid 19. He has, however, relished taking up the opportunity to write profiles for the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame including former team-mates and opponents.

In terms of playing football, Neil had a highly distinguished career and is a member of the AFL 200 Club. He was runner-up best and fairest at the Swans in 1987 and third in 1991.

He represented Victoria twice and was a key member of NSW’s successful Origin teams in 1988 & in 1990 when the Sky Blues beat Victoria.

After finishing in the AFL, Neil joined East Sydney in 1994 as co-coach with former team-mate and great friend Rob Kerr, thus finishing off an auspicious playing career in the red, white, and blue.

The boy from East Gippsland has enjoyed the pizzazz of “bright lights, big city” life in Sydney and carved out a very fulfilling career in both football and the media. Now he has announced his retirement, and he and his wife Jeanette, will move to the Gold Coast.