Captain Kirk – Persistence & Durability

Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of Brett Kirk to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame:

Twice dead and buried before his AFL career got off the ground Brett Kirk is the ultimate story of persistence.

He’s also an incredible tale of durability.

Kirk missed just one game in his entire career, country and reserves footy included, that’s right, one solitary game in 18 years of footy.

From the age of 16 when he was thrown into the deep end of the Ovens and Murray League playing for North Albury to his ‘Swansong’ in the 2010 semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs at the MCG 18 years later, Kirk had just one week on the sidelines.  It was a Swans reserves match in his first season in Sydney in 1999.

“It was a nick in my quad,” Kirk said. “I remember having a chat with Matt (Cameron) the Swans physio. I thought that I could play and Matt thought I should take a week off.”

Neither Cameron nor Kirk knew at the time they were putting the kybosh on a ‘Guinness Book of Records’ type effort for resilience. Imagine going through an entire footy career without missing a game.

On top of his 241 games for the Swans Kirk estimates he played more than 80 games for North Albury and another 60 plus for the Swans Reserves. That’s more than 380 games and only one missed through injury.

Brett Kirk

It’s a phenomenal effort in any era of football but Kirk achieved this feat with the added challenge of playing as an inside midfielder. Heavy body contact was a given and in his case it was being delivered by players like Mark Ricciuto and Nathan Buckley who were more than 10kg heavier than his 80kg frame.

“Timing was everything,” Kirk said. “I did a lot of homework on my opponents. Mark Ricciuto for example I would push him under the ball and hit him late and move my feet. I kept away from situations where I was vulnerable, if I got into a wrestle with these guys they would move me and I wouldn’t be effective”.

“You changed your tactics according to whether it was Lenny Hayes, Simon Black, Nathan Buckley or Mark Ricciuto. They all had different strengths, it was about knowing their strengths and where I could expose them”, he added.

Kirk also learned a thing or two from his dad Noel Kirk who played for the Burrumbuttock Swans in the Hume League. Noel lost his hand in a farming accident at the age of four but still played out a long and successful career.

“He played on the half back flank and was as tough as an old boot,” Kirk said.

“He would spoil the ball with his right fist and then hit someone in the back of the head with his stump. He was a left footer and played an aggressive bruising style of footy. He played for a long time.”

Growing up Brett loved the atmosphere at the footy at Burrumbuttock, when he wasn’t sneaking into the rooms he would be climbing trees, eating chips and peeping over the fence to see how it was going. He even followed the Sydney Swans because they wore the red and white of Burrumbuttock. He also gleaned some pretty handy footy IP”.

“When I was growing up my dad said if you hesitate you get hurt,” Kirk said. “He was right, the way I attacked the contest was I was fully invested in it every time. I was never in the in-between phase, I was in it or through it.”

The footy and life lessons Brett learnt from his dad would come in handy over the coming years as the knock backs came.

The first was in 1996 when Kirk was on the Swans supplementary list. He was studying a Bachelor of Education at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and flying in each week to play for the Swans Reserves. He had played every game for the season (19) but was dropped for the Preliminary Final.

“I was shattered,” Kirk said. “I didn’t hear anything from the club from that point on. The first I heard from the club was a letter from Rob Snowdon in January. It said thanks for your service but I was no longer required. I just put my head down and worked harder, spent another couple of years at Uni and finished my degree and got another chance.”

He earnt another shot thorough a stand-out performance for Victorian Country at the national country championships at Bendigo in 1998 and he was selected in the All-Australian Country team. The Victorian team was managed by David Matthews (now Giants CEO) who strongly encouraged him to have another crack at the AFL.

Kirk was back at the Swans in 1999 and kicked three goals on debut in round 19 against the Kangaroos. He played the remaining four games including a losing final against Essendon and another 36 games over the next three and a half seasons but when Sydney hit a bad patch of form midway through 2002 Kirk was in the gun again.

“Rocket (Rodney Eade) took Daniel McPherson and I into his office and said we’re not going to make finals so we will play younger players,” Kirk said.

“I remember going home devastated but within seven days Rocket had left and Paul Roos took over. I didn’t play in his first two games as coach but I played in his third and then the next 200 consecutively.”

Those 200 included the 2005 premiership, that year when Kirk won the Bob Skilton Medal and added another in 2007. He was runner up four times, third once and eighth in his last year.

His partnership with Paul Roos was an enormously successful period for the Swans resulting in 18 finals appearances over seven campaigns in eight years.

“Paul coached 202 games and I played in 200 of them. We finished up in the same match in 2010,” Kirk said.

“Paul and I had a strong relationship that was built on honesty and trust and we would challenge each other to be better”.

Kirk is currently the Head of Wellbeing and Development at the Swans.

His family are all involved in footy, his wife Hayley coaches and their children Indhi, Memphys, Tallulah and Skout all play.

The Best Footballer in Australia – in 1933

Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Jimmy Stiff to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame:

 

Jimmy Stiff NSW & South Sydney

Jimmy Stiff was voted the best player at the Australian National Football Carnival (ANFC) in Sydney in 1933.

He was the first and only ever NSW to be awarded such an honour. At this carnival it was known as the Major Condor Trophy, named after the donor, the General Manager of the ABC.

It was the forerunner to the Eric Tassie medal that was inaugurated in 1937 for the best player at the carnival based on voting by the umpires right up until the last interstate carnival in 1988.

The national championships involving all states playing against each other had started in 1908 and was the highest level of football in the country in this period.

Jimmy polled 5 votes to win the award from Jock Collins (Victoria) and Ted Flemming (WA), who each polled two votes. Victorian star Hadyn Bunton only polled two votes.

Legendary Sporting Globe football reporter W.S. “Jumbo” Sharland wrote of Jimmy’s win,

“The victory of Stiff will be very popular in Sydney, for among local Australian Rules enthusiasts, he is an idol. Out of nearly 100 crack footballers from all parts of the Commonwealth … a little fellow like Stiff managed to win through” (Sporting Globe, 14 August 1933).

“Stiff proved himself a very plucky, clever little rover. He is game as they make them. … he can get the ball and he is a terrier on the ground and a good mark for his inches”.

Jimmy Stiff was only 1.6m (5’ 3’’) tall and weighed only 64.5 kg. (10 st 3 lb). By all reports he was a “pocket Hercules” according to contemporary reports in the Sydney press.

Jimmy grew up in Mascot and attended the Gardeners Road Public School, a nursery for Australian football at this time under Rupert Browne, and he played in NSW schoolboys’ representative teams.

He debuted for South Sydney at age 17 and played in their 1934 and 1935 premiership teams under master coach Frank Dixon as well as the grand final in 1932.

He first represented NSW against the VFA at the SCG in 1931. He booted 5 goals and voted best-on-ground in the 16-point loss, NSW 13-13 (91) to VFA 16-11 (107).

Stiff represented the State ten times and was in the best players in every game he played. He was also in the best in the match against the VFL at the SCG in 1932.

He was at his absolute best in the 1933 carnival; he was in the best payers against eventual champion Victoria (lost by 53 points), Tasmania (won by 25 points), Queensland (won by 85 points), and best-on-ground in the 10-point loss to Western Australia.

Clearly, he would have been selected in the All-Australian team if one had been selected at the time; the first official All-Australian team was not selected until 1953.

The equivalent of a Tassie medal and an All-Australian should make him a walk-up start  for the AFL Hall of Fame, not just the AFL NSW Hall of Fame. He was an inaugural member of the AFL Sydney Hall of Fame in 2003.

Jimmy was a natural all-round sportsman who also played first grade cricket in the Sydney competition with the Glebe club after starring as a schoolboy for NSW.

In 1935 Jimmy switched to rugby league with South Sydney and was in strong contention for the 1937-38 Kangaroos tour of Great Britain.

He returned late in the season from playing full-back for the Rabbitohs to play in Souths’ NSW ANFL premiership win alongside his brother Malcom, better known as Mickey. He kicked the first goal of the grand final while his brother booted four goals.

Tragically, Jimmy Stiff, who worked as a tool maker, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Botany Road, Botany in December of 1937.

His South Sydney footy coach and friend Frank Dixon was waiting for him at the Rosebery Hotel in Botany Road.

He told president of the Football History Society, Ian Granland in a recorded interview in 2005 that he was waiting a long time for the “little champ” then someone he knew walked into the pub and gave him the shocking news of his death.

Frank Dixon, who coached NSW State teams in 1936-38 and then again from 1947 to 1952, rated Jimmy the best player he had seen in Sydney in his time in football.

Son of a Gun: Gordon Strang

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 profiles the nomination of Gordon Strang to the Hall of Fame.

 

Billy Strang

A Sydney representative team beat South Melbourne in a challenge match in Sydney in 1909. Sydney 10-10 (70) defeated South Melbourne 7-10 (52).

And as students of football history would know, particularly Swans fans, this was the year the club won its first-ever VFL premiership.

Ironically, the captain of the Sydney team, and the player that turned the game in the third quarter, was former South Melbourne player, Bill Strang, originally from Albury, then playing for YMCA in the Sydney competition.

According to The Referee (July 1909), “In the South Melbourne-Combined Sydney match at the Agricultural Ground (RAS Showground, Moore Park), the Blues had a lead of 15 points at half-time. In the third quarter, however, Strang put a different complexion on affairs by kicking two goals from somewhere in the vicinity of sixty yards and was undoubtedly the means of Combined Sydney winning the match”.

Known as “Cocker”, Bill had gone to South Melbourne in 1904 and played with the Bloods until 1907 including the South Melbourne team that finished runner-up to Carlton for the 1907 VFL premiership.

Remarkably, four of Bill’s sons played in the VFL, Alan, Gordon, Doug, and Colin.

Doug and Gordon were both recruited from East Albury via Jindera by Richmond to play in the VFL for the 1931 season. The Tigers were focussed on Gordon who had already made an impact in the Ovens and Murray competition but father Bill told the recruiters, “You might as well take Doug too; he’s a good player and not bad in front of goals” (Sporting Globe, 3 April 1954).

In his first game, Gordon took 12 marks playing in the key defensive position including three in the dying stages that saved the match. Meanwhile, Doug booted fourteen goals against North Melbourne in round two. This remains a record at Richmond for the most goals in a game.

Gordon Strang NSW and Richmond Team
of the Century CHB

Gordon (also nicknamed “Cocker”) played in Richmond’s premiership teams in 1932 and 1934; he also played in the losing grand final teams of 1931 and 1934. Gordon played a total of 116 games and kicked 108 goals for the Tigers and represented Victoria on nine occasions.

He was named centre-half back in Richmond’s Team of the Century and in the same position for NSW’s Greatest Team.

Doug played at Richmond from 1931-35 accumulating 64 games and 180 goals in a career riddled with injuries. He was the Tigers’ leading goalkicker 1931-1933 and played alongside his brother Gordon in the 1932 premiership team. He missed the 1933 grand final through suspension.

Gordon returned home to the border to coach Wodonga in 1939 after coaching Launceston in 1937 and having another season with Richmond in 1938. He coached against his brother Doug in the 1939 grand final won by Albury.

He won the Morris medal for best and fairest in the O & M in 1940. The grandstand at Martin Park, Wodonga is named in his honour for his service to the football club.

After coaching the Kyneton Tigers to a premiership in 1936, Doug returned home to Albury and played in the 1937 premiership, and then coached the club to flags in 1939 (against brother Gordon) and 1940.

Doug booted 126 goals in 1938 which still stands as the Ovens and Murray Football League record. The O & M goalkicking medal is named in his honour. He is a member of both the Ovens and Murray FL and Albury Tigers Hall of Fame.

Bill’s two other sons, Colin and Alan, both also played VFL football. Colin played two games and kicked 3 goals at St Kilda in 1933 while Alan played fifteen games and kicked 17 goals at South Melbourne 1947-48.

Bill’s grandson Geoff went to Richmond where from 1965-71 he played 88 games. He was a fast, tough attacking defender in the mould that Tommy Hafey re-built the Richmond sides in the 1960s. Geoff played in the 1967 and 1969 premiership teams.

As for Bill, he had another stint with South Melbourne in 1913 and topped the goalkicking with 28 goals. Altogether, he played 69 games and kicked 80 goals for the Bloods. He also played three games for NSW and 3 matches for Combined Sydney.

After serving in World War I, Strang returned to Albury where he played until 1920.

The Strang family have the most players on the 500 Greatest-ever list of NSW players.

“Sellers” – From East Sydney to Carlton Triple Premierships

Mark Maclure, 1972 Winner of Sydney’s Sanders Medal

Former Swans player and East Sydney Captain/Coach Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of Mark Maclure to the NSW Hall of Fame.

When Mark Maclure arrived in Sydney as a 12 year old footy was his passport to fitting in.O

Over the decades it would become so much more. He went on to win three premierships at Carlton, play 243 games, captain the club and develop into one of the AFL’s great personalities.

Born in Perth into a navy family, his father Murray was a Chief Petty Officer and spent a lot of time at sea. His mum Joan took care of Mark, his older brother Steve (aka ‘Bomber’) and younger brother Peter. Their grandmother Molly was a mad West Perth follower and passed on her love of the game to the boys.

Mark’s footy career got off to a flyer at the Manning Park under 10s. Playing alongside Robert Wiley (Richmond, West Coast), Brian Peake (Geelong) and Peter Spencer (North Melbourne) the boys went through the season undefeated.

The next year the Maclures were off to Queensland when Murray took a two-year posting in Brisbane. Remarkably the boys from Manning Park met decades later when Mark lined up for Victoria against Western Australia in Perth and Wiley, Peake and Spencer played against him.

That was all in the future for the young Maclure who was on the road again in 1967 when Murray took another posting to Garden Island in Sydney. The family lived in Paddington, Trumper Park and the East Sydney Bulldogs were just down the road, it turned out to be match made in heaven for player and club.

“The East Sydney Football Club was a very social place,” Maclure said.

“It was a melting pot of people who played Aussie Rules, so you got all walks of life.

I enjoyed that; it was fantastic. The club owned two terrace houses right next to the ground, that was the social club. It was full of people like me from other parts of Australia, there were people from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.”

In March this year Maclure was back in East Sydney heartland as the club celebrated their 140th birthday at the Paddington RSL. His respect for the club and its great characters was clear for all to see as he interviewed some of East Sydney’s greats.

It was a reminder to the Carlton champ why he had such a strong attachment to the place.

“I love the differences in people,” Maclure said. “If everyone is the same, it’s a boring, boring world. There’s a 1000 people who make up a village. They can’t all be choir boys, they’re all different types”.

“That was East Sydney, it was full of rogues and that is what you want in life. It was a learning process. They were knockabout blokes and you learned to navigate your way through. Nobody was better than everyone else, we were all equal and I loved that. This was our club and that’s where we’re going to be for the rest of our lives”.

“That’s what I felt before I left for Carlton. Where I had to start again and build relationships with another group of people”, Maclure said.

As well as developing his social skills East Sydney helped hone Maclure’s footy talents which ultimately caught the eye of the Blues. After starting in the under 12s he graduated to the under 19’s by 15 and senior footy at 16. On one day he played on all three grades.

“It was a big day,” Maclure said. “I started in the under 19s at nine o’clock, I was taken off at three quarter time and was on the bench for the reserves. I played a quarter and and then a bloke pulled out of the seniors so I was on the bench for that game. I was there all f….. day! My old man was there at 5.30pm and he asked me what I wanted to do, I said I want to go home, I was stuffed.”

It wasn’t just an endurance test for the young Maclure, playing senior footy in the 1970s was a tough going at any age, the Sydney comp had more than its fair share of hard men.

“I was very young and very well protected,” Maclure said.

“Playing against men isn’t easy but it was part of the game, part of growing up and it was great to be thought of.”

Trumper Park was full of big personalities who made an impression on the young Maclure and still do to this day.

“There was a bloke there called Jack Dean (East Sydney Legend) who was a great man,” Maclure said. “Ralph Waldock ran all the kids competitions and he was a great bloke. Roy Hayes (seven consecutive premiership player) was a fantastic bloke, he was one of the best people I met in my life. Greg Harris (East Sydney triple premiership coach) and I played together in rep footy, “Huey” was the ruckman and I was the rover, the slowest rover that ever played.”

While he may not have been the quickest across the ground but Maclure had plenty of ability and footy nous. He needed it playing three football codes each week. Rugby League on Saturday for the Coogee Sharks, Aussie Rules on Sunday for East Sydney and Rugby Union for his school (Randwick North High School) on Wednesdays.

It wasn’t long before Carlton secretary and Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon came calling.

East Sydney legends, John Roberts, Mark Maclure
and Enzo Corvino at a club reunion

“Bert Deacon turned up when I was 16,” Maclure said. “He me asked if I wanted to come to Melbourne. I didn’t know him and my dad didn’t know him so it started from there. I went there in June 1973.”

Sadly Deacon didn’t live to see the great player Maclure was to become. He suffered a heart attack while holidaying in Balnarring just six months after recruiting Maclure.

The kid he signed debuted against Geelong in round 13 the following year and played another 13 seasons retiring at the end of 1986 one of Carlton’s very best.

“My footy life has been fantastic and East Sydney was a big part of that,” Maclure said.

“I loved it. What else would you want to do.”

Maclure was honoured to be named in the ‘Greatest NSW Team of All Time’ and is a selector for the NSW AFL team of the year.

 

 

Ricky Quade – “Loyal Son leading the Swans to Victory”

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
Neil Cordy profile the nomination of Ricky Quade to the Hall of Fame.

Rick Quade

Footy is full of sliding door moments. If the great Norm Smith didn’t make the move to coach the Swans in 1969, Ricky Quade probably wouldn’t have worn the red and white.

It would have been a terrible loss for footy in New South Wales.

Not only would they have missed out on one of state’s greatest talents they would also have lost a lifetime of service at multiple levels.

After starting out at the Lake Oval in 1970 Quade went on to play 164 games and lead the club as captain (1977-79), coach (1982’-84’), chairman of selectors (1980-81, 1989-93) and as a director (1995-2011).

All that may never have happened if it wasn’t for the arrival of the ‘Red Fox’ (Smith) who came knocking on the Quade’s door at the family farm at Ariah Park.

The 17-year-old Quade was hot property after kicking 101 goals for Ariah Park-Mirrool in 1968 and then following it up with 131 the next year. He even played against John Longmire’s dad Fred in an inter-league match between the South West League and the Ovens and Murray League who Longmire senior was playing for.

These feats were remarkable considering he spent most of his teens playing Rugby Union for St Patricks College in Goulburn where he boarded.

But Rick’s dad Leo needed some convincing he should go to the VFL after the experience of his two elder brothers Tom and Mick who played at North Melbourne. Both brothers VFL careers were plagued by injury and Leo wasn’t impressed by the player welfare at the time.

“I was set to go to North,” Quade said. Frank Gumbleton came from Ganmain and had spoken to me but dad reckoned I was too young to go so he held me back, then Norm Smith became coach. It was only because Norm Smith was coach that dad let me go, so I went to South Melbourne.”

Leo was no pushover, Smith and South’s recruiting manager Brian “Wrecker” Leahy had to make seven trips from Melbourne before they could convince Leo the Swans were the right team for Rick.

“It was little wonder dad and Norm became friends,” Quade said. “They drove up from Melbourne in the same red Falcon and got to know the road pretty well.”

It was also the start of a remarkable relationship between Quade and one of the giants of the game. Sadly it lasted only a handful of years due to Smith’s premature death in 1973 at the age of 57.

                               Norm Smith

At his funeral a 23 year old Rick was one of the pall bearers along with Norm and Marjorie’s son Peter, their “adopted son” Ron Barassi and former Melbourne player Ross Dillon, another country boy, from Kyabram, who had tragically lost his father.

“It was a great honour,” Quade said.

“It was one of his wishes (that Rick be a pall bearer), his wife Marj rang me the day after he died. He was a legend, I was really fortunate to play under him. I didn’t realise it at the time because I was only 19, but he was a tremendous figure. Everyone says he was a great coach but he was a great man as well.”

There is no doubting Norm Smith’s position in the game. He was named the coach of the AFL’s Team of the Century in 1996 was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame as a Legend in 2007.

But Quade believes he missed out on an accolade which went to his “adopted son” Ron Barassi after the 1970 grand final.

Barassi’s half-time instructions to Carlton players “handball, handball, handball,” have been described as the “Birth of Modern Football” after it inspired a 44-point comeback to beat Collingwood. But Quade believes Norm Smith started the tactic well before this with the Swans.

“Everyone attributes the handballing game to Barassi but it was Norm who created it,” Quade said.

“He started using handball as a tactic in 1969 and ramped it up in 1970. Skilful players like Skilton, Bedford and Hoffman thrived on that. He was also big on quick ball movement. In those days players would take a mark and go back and take their time, hold the ball in the air and take five minutes to kick it.

“To get South into the top four in 1970 was a huge achievement. That year South beat the eventual premiers Carlton by 12 goals”.

Smith was also big on work ethic and doing the right thing which he often communicated to the young Quade.

“He was in my ear about life and it was often about working harder,” Quade said. “His view was if you didn’t have a job you didn’t get a game.”

Those with life lessons came in handy through the challenging early days of the Swans in Sydney. “We were lucky to survive,” Quade said.

“We were well led on the field by Roundy, Mark Browning, Denis Carroll and those guys. They were offered big money to leave and they stuck fat. We were unwanted and unloved but it galvanised us.” 

Doug Priest’s Mentors Led to First Class Honours in Coaching

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 Doug Priest to the Hall of Fame.

When Doug Priest was appointed captain-coach of Ariah Park-Mirrool in the South West League in 1970, the coach widely regarded as the greatest ever, Norm Smith, then coaching South Melbourne gave him a copy of his prized coaching notes.

Doug had been captain of South’s Reserves team at Smith’s behest as a result of his leadership qualities being revealed at the club after being recruited from Holbrook in southern NSW.

“The notes were very practical and provided a strong basis for my coaching philosophy but I still had the challenge to put the ideas into practice” Doug told me for this interview.

Working as a selector alongside another all-time VFL coaching great Allan Jeans, who coached the NSW State teams playing in the national club championships in 1979-80, provided another dimension to Doug’s coaching.

“Jeansey taught me about ‘man-management’; he really knew how to get the best out of individual players while Norm (Smith) was more old school, strong on discipline and values. I learn a lot from both”, Doug told me.

“My first senior coach, Brian Prior (ex-Footscray) also taught me a lot, particularly in relation to team-work and leading from the front. He was a terrific person as well as an excellent coach”.

And, of course, my first junior coach was my father Merv, who got the juniors going in Holbrook when he went there to work in the late 50s” Doug added.

Doug’s father, Merv is also one of the Riverina’s greatest players with a fine record as a player and coach with Rannock, Coolamon, Ganmain, and ultimately with Wagga Tigers.

A player named Priest on a football field in the area started with Doug’s grandfather Norman, who first pulled on the boots for Methul in 1912. The tradition continues with Doug’s grandson Kobe making his way through the grades at Wagga Tigers.

Doug began playing senior football for Holbrook in the Farrer Football League in 1962 and was a member of the 1964 premiership team under ex Footscray defender Brian Prior that beat Temora.

After stints at South Melbourne in the VFL (1966-69) where he played 26 games, and coaching Ariah Park- Mirrool in the South West League (1970-71) he went to Wagga Tigers in 1972 as coach until 1976 leading Tigers to a premiership in 1975 over Henty.

Doug played a leading role in the 1977 premiership victory over archrivals North Wagga under the illustrious Laurie Pendrick, with whom Doug shared the competition best and fairest award, the Baz medal.

He retired after playing in the 1978 premiership under ex Melbourne and Glenelg player Colin Anderson, who had taken over from him as coach.

Then he begun  highly successful involvement in representative football as a coach and selector while continuing involvement at Wagga Tigers in all manner of off-field roles (including president 2008-09) that continues to this day with leadership of the club’s history project.

Doug coached the Farrer league to great success during this period including three State Championship victories, the most notable being in 1980 when the bush boys beat a star-studded Sydney team coached by ex VFL star Sam Kekovich, then coaching Newtown, at Deniliquin.

Down by 8 goals at half-time, the Farrer team showed enormous spirit and courage to prevail over their more fancied opponent following a spate of injuries. This followed previous coaching triumphs in 1976 and 1978.

Following the restructure of the leagues in the Riverina in 1982, Doug took on the task of coaching the Riverina Football league (RFL) rep team in the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) championships.

Doug bought together the players from old rivals Farrer and South West to defeat the Wimmera league, but to lost by 7 points to eventual champion, the Ovens and Murray league. It galvanized the players and officials in the new competition.

Doug’s sons, Steven and Andrew, have followed in the footsteps of their forebears. Both have played nearly all their football with Wagga Tigers, and between them have won a staggering fifteen premierships!

Steven played in eight premierships, while Andrew played in seven flag-winning teams for Tigers.

Andrew is the games record-holder at Wagga Tigers having played 423 games; Steven amassed 360 games. Steven also played twenty-two games for the Sydney Swans Reserves in 1995.

The Priests have made an indelible mark on the game in the Riverina in so many ways and at so many levels, with Doug at the top of the class with his superb record as a player, coach, and official.

“…one of the most highly regarded footballers, coach, and later non-playing coaches in Riverina football” according to the history of the Ariah Park-Mirrol Football Club 1953-1983.

Wayne Carey: The Greatest Player Ever

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney on 30 June 1880.

To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Neil Cordy interviews his former NSW State-of-Origin team-mate Wayne Carey:

 

       A Young Wayne Carey

In the week NSW Australian Football turned 140 its greatest player, Wayne Carey, has revealed he grew up barracking for the Parramatta Eels and South Melbourne.

Its salt in the wounds for Swans fans who lost Carey and John Longmire to North Melbourne for $70,000 in 1988.

But the news should be taken with a grain of the same stuff when the prospect of losing the Kangaroos champion to Rugby League was a real one.

Carey was an Eels fan but his move to his auntie’s house in North Wagga brought footy into the mix. Auntie Pam and Uncle Bob Causley lived on William Street just 50 metres from McPherson Oval.

“They were my happiest childhood memories there at McPherson Oval,” Carey said. “They were really good times for me. I started playing at 8am in the under 10s. The fog would set in sometimes and you couldn’t see the other end of the ground. I would be there all day. I’d run the boundary in the reserves and sometimes, the seniors. I got a pie and a can of coke for doing it”.

“My footy boots were hand me downs from a cousin. The first proper footy I got, a Sherrin, was one I won at a Carnival when I was 10. I treated it like a baby, I polished it and never kicked it on the road. I didn’t trust my brother (Sam) to mark it. If Sam was kicking with me it had to be on the grass.”

Forty years later the game is celebrating their good fortune and Carey’s contribution by including his name alongside triple Brownlow medallist Hayden Bunton’s on the Carey-Bunton medal.

It will recognise the best player from NSW annually through the AFL Coaches Association voting.

The Coaches Association award started in 2004, and previous NSW winners including Brett Kirk, Lenny Hayes, Taylor Walker, Kieran Jack, and Zac Williams will be awarded the medal retrospectively. A team of the year will also be named with Carey one of the selectors along with Mark McClure, Gerard Healy, Mike Sheahan and Richard Colless (conveynor).

It’s a fitting tribute to Carey’s impact on footy north of the Murray and south as well. In 2008 he was named as the greatest player ever in a book titled ‘The Australian Game of Football’. The book, published by the AFL, included a list of the top 50 players of all time.

Remarkably Carey’s inspiration didn’t come from any of the champions listed. His was a home-grown product of Wagga, Laurie Pendrick (pictured below)

“Laurie was my first football hero,” Carey said. “He was a very good player and a standout in Wagga. He played in the centre but could go forward and kick goals. He was tough and hard and opposition fans hated him and North Wagga fans loved him”.

“He was the captain coach and had a really deep voice. The rooms were pretty small back then so they didn’t let many in. I tried to get in as often as I could and I loved the smell of the deep heat and the rah rah. If I wasn’t in the room I had my head sticking through the door. You could usually hear him outside the rooms because his voice was so loud.”

   Wayne Carey in his playing days with North Melbourne

North Wagga wasn’t the most exclusive area of the town and money was scarce. When Carey was named in the NSW primary school team the footy club raised the finance which allowed him to make the trip.

“North Wagga had raffles and raised funds for me to go to Darwin,” Carey said.

“The trip to Darwin was big and my first meeting with John Longmire”.

Carey cut his foot swimming near an oyster bed but did enough to impress then Swans recruiter Greg Miller. A decade later when Miller was working for North Melbourne came calling on the young pair of New South Welshmen.

Carey says at that stage he was the junior partner in the deal which would help secure the Kangaroos amazing run of success through the 1990s.

“Greg Miller remembered me from the carnival in Darwin and threw me in with the deal with John when we went to North,” Carey said. “They paid $70,000 for us and Horse was $60,000 of that and I was $10,000. John was a very accomplished player at a young age, he had every VFL club after him.”

It is the deal which broke Sydney fans hearts and still lingers in their collective memory, especially those who watched North Melbourne beat the Swans in the 1996 grand final.

The pill is made even more bitter by the fact Carey grew up following the red and white.

“I barracked for the Swans,” Carey said. “The Sydney blokes would come down and do clinics. That’s where I met Stevie Wright. He was my first VFL/AFL hero, he pulled me aside at a clinic and had a kick with me and I loved him from that time on.

“The reason why I wore the number 26 in the 1990 state game against Victoria was because of Stevie Wright.”

Wright coached Clarence (Tasmania FL) to back to back flags in 1993 and 1994 and is still involved in football. He is currently coaching Meeniyan-Dumbalk in the Alberton League in South Gippsland, Victoria.

“Wayne told me the story about the footy clinic but I hadn’t heard about him wearing the number 26 for NSW,” Wright said. “It’s obviously nice to hear that Wayne remembered me, it just goes to show what a difference it makes when you show interest in kids wherever they are.” (Ed. Steve Wright was vice-captain of the 1990 Origin team and wore #12 in that game).

The kid Steve took some time with is now the ‘King’ or ‘Duck’ depending on who you talk with.

He’s looking forward to presenting the first Carey-Bunton Medal later this year.

“I’ve always felt strong about where I come from,” Carey said. “I was born and bred in Wagga and I’m proud of that.”

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

 

David Murphy – Nominee for NSW’s Hall of Fame

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
To commemorate, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Neil Cordy profiles the nominees his former team-mate and close friend David Murphy:

Who is the only player to represent Victoria in State of Origin but never lived in the state?

The answer is David Murphy and it’s a trivia question which has produced plenty of quizzical looks and a few free beers over the years.

‘Murph’ played for Victoria six times but is a born and bred New South Welshman.

He grew up in Finley playing all his junior football there before moving to Wagga Wagga and lining up for Turvey Park.

It was a humble beginning to a stellar VFL/AFL career which ultimately saw him claim All Australian honours for NSW and a hallowed place in the Sydney Swans Team of the Century.

One of Murph’s proudest moments when he sat alongside fellow former Finley resident and legendary coach Alan Jeans at the announcement of the 1988 All Australian team. His father Ray played alongside Jeans in Finley’s 1954 premiership when they beat archrival Tocumwal.

“It was the first time I’d met Yabby,” Murphy said. “It was last day of the National Carnival in Adelaide and I was sitting right next to him. When my name was read out he shook my hand and said well done son, your mum and dad would be proud. It was a nice moment, dad had told me a story about the day he was hit behind play and then he heard clunk. He turned around to see Yabby standing over the bloke who hit dad. Dad said to me he felt 10 feet tall.”

Those formative years in the Riverina were no walk in the park for Murph either as he played most of his junior footy against boys much older and bigger. “When I started playing junior footy I was about four years younger than my team mates and opponents,” Murphy said.

“I eventually got to play against my own age group and thought maybe I can play. It was hard but really helped me in the long run. I learned how to stay out of trouble, I learned how to kick the ball and compete against older boys.”

Murphy faced another hurdle early on when he ruptured his ACL just before he turned 18. The injury could easily have cost him his AFL career as it forced him out of football for almost two years.

“I couldn’t have an operation because I was still growing so I had to wait a year,” Murphy said. When I was operated on I was alongside Keith Greig and Roy Ramsay from North Melbourne. It was a long rehab in those days, my leg looked like my arm. I worked in the bank in Wagga so I would go to the gym or the pool after work to build up my leg.”

When he eventually recovered he started playing in the under 19s at Turvey Park. His form was outstanding and the following year was promoted to the seniors. He kicked 76 goals and 78 in consecutive seasons playing as a half forward.

Swans recruiter Greg Miller came to the Riverina to watch Paul Hawke and liked what he saw with Murphy so signed them both for the 1984 season.

If Murphy thought it was tough going playing out of his weight division in the Riverina there was to come in the VFL. Fully grown at 179cm (5’11”) and 75kg he was smaller than virtually every opponent he played on.

But his lightning speed, high marking and long kicking were prized assets in any league and he quickly established himself as one of the stars in a Sydney team which featured some of the greats of the 1980s.

Led by Brownlow Medallists in Greg Williams and Gerard Healy Murphy was part of a super midfield. The group also featured the ball winning of Barry Mitchell, the dash of David Bolton and the flair and hardness of the late Merv Neagle.

Murphy’s ten seasons and 156 games in the red and white played almost entirely on the wing. He, Williams and Healy were all named in the Swans Team of the Century.

He also played alongside Swans Hall of Fame inductee Bernard Toohey. The pair met on their first day of primary school in Finley and went through their entire schooling together including Finley High School.