Lockhart: On the Premiership Trail 1982

Podcast Review: “Lockhart: The Premiership Trail” Mackinlay, R. (Host) (2022, 14 April) [Audio podcast episode]. In Glory Days. Your Sport and Media

By Rod Gillett

Lockhart 1982 Premiers (names below)

When Lockhart left the Farrer league to join the Hume Football League for the 1982 season they had to change their strip from red, white and blue to avoid clashing with foundation club Jindera.

The Lockhart Football Club became the “Demons”.

However, the change of guernsey proved a downfall for Lockhart when they took on Jindera early in the season; club president Graham “Bluey” Harper told Robbie Mackinlay for the podcast that Lockhart players kicked or handballed to their opponents for the whole game!

After leading at half-time, Lockhart lost by a point to the lowly Jindera Bulldogs.

“It was hard to get that out of our system”, lamented “Bluey”.

Mackinlay reveals that Lockhart’s winning record in the Farrer league was only 35%. Of the 384 games they played, they only won 134. The club won only one premiership, when in 1960 the Bulldogs ended Wagga Tigers’ unbeaten season under master Riverina coach Bernie Scully.

Ironically, the Wagga coach Tim Robb in 1960 was appointed the Lockhart non-playing coach for the 1982 season. Robb had an extremely successful track record as a coach having led Wagga Tigers to five premierships, Collingullie to two flags, as well as North Albury (1955) and Walbundrie (1978) respectively to a premiership.

Mackinlay reveals that there was divided opinion about the appointment of Tim Robb to the coaching position at Lockhart with many of the older supporters not fully in favour of “the dirty ankle-tapping little rover (from Wagga)”.

However, club elder Rex Sheather felt sure that Robb was the right choice to make the club competitive again and convinced the committee to hire him.

Despite a few “hissy fits” from Robb involving storm-offs from training when he drove back to Albury because of a poor turn-out at training and/or players being, Robb was eventually able to gel the playing group together.

According to ruckman Garry Knight, who travelled to training with Robb, “You had to be fair-dinkum with Robbie”.

After a mid-season hiding from top team Henty at the Henty Showgrounds, Robb made the players except for the few that had played well to stay on the field after the game and train much to the delight of the Henty supporters who ridiculed the Lockhart players.

At the half-way mark of the season Lockhart had only won four games.

But as mid-fielder Pigdon told Mackinlay, “It was a slow build, but we built and built, until we were the best, then we won the premiership”.

After getting into the top four, the newly minted Demons went to Walla (third) for the last match of the season; it was a simple equation, Lockhart had to win to make the finals, lose, and they would miss the finals.

Following a great second half, they won by 41 points and jumped into 2nd place: top team Henty blasted Brockelsby, which had been in the “four” all season, out of the finals. On the hand, Lockhart had spent half-the-season outside the four.

In the second semi-final in a major reversal of its early season clash with old Farrer league rival Henty, Lockhart stormed into its first grand final since 1968 with a stunning 94-point victory.

The Lockhart Demons had to wait patiently for its grand final opponent to be revealed after Henty and Walla played a thrilling 113-point draw in the preliminary final, but then the “Swampies” convincingly won the replay by 50 points.

Henty was seeking its first premiership since 1937 had entered the Hume league the previous season but did not even make the finals.

However, it was Lockhart that emerged victorious after restricting its opponent to just two goals 3 behinds in the first quarter kicking with a wind estimated to be worth eight goals; by half-time, the Demons had a 22-point lead, and despite a Henty comeback in the third quarter, went on to win comfortably, 13.17.95 to 7.6.48.

It was a glorious season for the Demons; captain Graham “Hooter” Johnston tied for the Azzi medal and gun recruit Warren “Wally” Sykes, who rolled into town at the start of the season on the first stage of “a trip around Australia”, booted a record 133 goals to win the league goal-kicking award. “Wally” never left.

As Mackinlay proclaims, “The former easy-beats became a remarkable force that rejuvenated a club and a community”.

The photograph shows the following:

Back:  Beres Dowdle, Ross Merriton, Ross Campbell, Rodney Knight, Roger Stephens, Garry Knight, Ross Brennan
Middle:  Gary Burkinshaw (Boundary Umpire), John Renner, Mark O’Shaughnessy, Rowley Alexander,
Stephen Dowdle, Leon Tipping, Rex Sheather, Peter Alexander, Mark Powell, John Trevaskis (Trainer), Ken Trevaskis (Runner)
Seated:  Keiran Mahony, Paul (Tom) Wooden, Graeme (Blue) Harper, Graham Johnstone (Capt), Tim Robb (Coach), Warren Sykes, Peter Hyde, John Goode
Front:  Jamey Anderson, Murray Pigdon, Peter Breed, Darren Smallwood

(Names supplied by Liz Lane)

Goal umpire Ken Ray racks up 600 senior games

By Rod Gillett

Ken Ray at a recent match at Henson Park
(Photo courtesy of Leigh Gazzard)

Evergreen Sydney goal umpire Ken Ray reaches a major milestone when he waves the flags for his 600th first grade game when Inner West Magpies take on Pennant Hills in their now traditional Anzac Day clash at Picken Oval next Monday (25 April).

It is fitting that the 600th Sydney senior game will be at Picken Oval where Ken played as a junior for Wests, and his late father Ted was highly involved as an official and supporter for many years. After playing, Ken then turned to coaching Wests Juniors for ten years.

Looking for a new challenge and a means to stay involved in footy, Ken turned up at umpires’ training late in the 1988 season and was appointed for two games as a goal umpire.

He returned the next year to continue a journey behind the goals that culminates in his 600th senior game in the AFL Sydney competition. However, he has goal-umpired probably more than 1000 games if you include AFL Sydney other division matches (320), AFL matches (9), AFL/VFL reserves and Under 19s (62), senior and junior representative fixtures, junior games, university games, charity games and armed services matches.

Prior to the recent UNSW-Eastern Suburbs v Inner West Magpies match at Henson Park, Ken told me in a chat outside the umpires’ rooms that the highlight of his career so far was officiating at his first AFL match at the SCG in 1999 between the Sydney Swans and North Melbourne,

“The Swans were behind all game until Paul Kelly turned it around with a goal that went straight over my head, and I remember saying to myself ‘how good is this!’ ”.

Ken quickly adapted to the mental demands required for goal umpiring and officiated at the AFL Sydney first-grade grand finals in 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2013.

He was awarded the Michael Heinrichs Award for the Best Goal Umpire in 1990, 1996 and 2003. The Most Improved Goal Umpire award is now named in Ken’s honour.

Ken was appointed to the role of Sydney Goal Umpires Coach in 1993; a role he continued until 2008. Additionally, he took on the role of the AFL Goal Umpires Observer in Sydney.

He continues to guide and mentor goal umpires as they come through the ranks.

As a coach, he was renowned for his innovative drills that provided creative and practical approaches to develop the knowledge and skill base of the goal umpires under his tutelage.

According to his peers in a piece published on the NSW Australian Football Umpires Association website to support his Hall of Fame selection in 2005:

“His commitment is excessive; his doggedness for professional procedures is portrayed in rehearsals and rendition on the training track plus extensive de-briefings post-game”

Ken has been a popular member of the AFL Sydney community for over thirty years. He is highly regarded for his professionalism and fairness as well as his endearing passion for the game. He has been a strong supporter of the NSW Australian Football Umpires Association.

Ken Ray is a member of the NSW Australian Football History Society. He values the game’s heritage in Sydney. He has made his own legacy by encouraging and supporting up-and-coming goal umpires to be the best they can and to enjoy the football as much as he does.

Well done, Ken.

Calling All Vintage Football Jumpers Hoarders and Collectors

By Tim Raff

If you’ve got an old woollen footy jumper with a great back story then chances are it’s perfect to feature in a new book to be called “For the Love of the Jumpers – Vintage football jumpers of Australia.

The book will be a celebration of the Australian Rules football jumpers of the past, with a focus on the pre-sublimated era, when jumpers were made of wool, then wool/acrylic blend and later acrylic, (also lace up jumpers). The purpose is to tell the visual story — and preserve the history — of traditional jumpers, their manufacture and designs.

The book will feature photos of jumpers of both big & small league jumpers, with an emphasis on those with stories behind them.

These are some of the very old football jumpers that were used in the 19th century.  In those days it was not unusual for players in the same team to wear different designed jumpers

I’m part way through the project and am keen to document as many of the fabulous jumpers from yesteryear as possible before they succumb to the ravages of time & moths.

If you are interested in having your jumper included please contact me on 0417 713 758 or email me at info@sportingnation.com.au. Note I am based in Melbourne but am willing to travel to photograph said jumper/s.

Swans Flap Their Wings And Land In Sydney

By Braham Dabscheck

Sydney Swans players at the Opera House

It is 2:10pm on Sunday 28 March 1982. There I am at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to witness the dawn of a new era in the history of Australian Rules Football, the great Australian game. The Swans, formerly South Melbourne, soon to be the Sydney Swans, are taking on Melbourne in their first game at their new home ground, the SCG. It was to be the first step in the transformation of Aussie Rules from a Victorian to an Australian, national based game.

In the late 1970s, the Victorian Football League (VFL) expressed the hope of establishing Australian Football as a national sport with a ‘national premier league’. The first step in this transformation was to have a Sydney based team play in the VFL competition. In 1979, the Hawks took on the Kangaroos at the SCG in Round 10 before more than 31,000 spectators. Four more games were played at the SCG in 1980, and two in 1981, one of which involved the Swans and Magpies, before 22,000 spectators.

Another attraction of Sydney for the VFL was games could be played on Sundays and beamed back to Melbourne. The Victorian government banned VFL games on Sunday; protecting that day for the Victorian Football Association. At one stage it was contemplated that a thirteenth team would be established in Sydney. Then it was suggested that Fitzroy would move to Sydney; but following a successful year on the field it decided to remain in Melbourne.

These developments were occurring at the same time that clubs were turning away from former players and motivated volunteers to persons with business experience and entrepreneurial flair to manage clubs. It was hoped that such persons would find ways to raise extra income through sponsorships and merchandising. Going national, playing games in other parts of the country would help enhance broadcasting deals with television networks, with such further exposure enhancing sponsorships and other business opportunities.

It took the VFL/AFL (it became the Australian Football League in 1990) a long time to work out how to make this transition. The problem was that the clubs, who a judge once described as ‘an alliance of sworn enemies’ had no idea how this could be achieved. Clubs, in pursuing their own immediate interests lacked a sense of the collective needs of the game. It would take the VFL/AFL another dozen or so years, with the creation of the AFL Commission which was granted such powers, to perform this function.

In July 1981, South Melbourne, one of the weaker teams in the competition with a declining supporter base proposed to the VFL that it would play its eleven home games at the SCG. It was in danger of being insolvent and going out of business; a fate experienced by Fitzroy in 1996. The Sydney market, with a population similar in size to Melbourne, held out the prospect of ‘strong’ corporate support.

  Swans captain Barry Round   leads the team onto the SCG in   their first game following the                       move to Sydney

The proposed move resulted in a split amongst supporters with a group called ‘Keep South At South’ (KSAS) taking over the control of the club in an attempt to block the move. The players went on strike, something that would have normally caused apoplexy amongst VFL officials and football followers – it did not on this occasion! – and refused to have anything to do with KSAS. Eventually, the diehards caved in and a new administration took over and the now named Swans would play their home games at the SCG.

So, there I am at the SCG, waiting for the first bounce for the game to begin. I cannot remember where I was at the ground on this historic occasion (it was 40 years ago!), but am pretty sure I was on my lonesome, looking forward to watching a game of footy even if it didn’t involve the Mighty Saints. Later on, a group of us, all football refugees from either Melbourne or Perth, used to converge in the Brewongle Stand. The rule was we were allowed to support our ‘Melbourne team’ when it played the Swans. At long last, we had the chance to attend games on a regular basis and simply talk ‘footy’. With the Saints not playing I feel I was able to develop a more dispassionate view of umpiring decisions!

The ball is bounced, and the game begins. The ball squirts up and down the ground with both teams trying to find some rhythm to their play. After all, it is the first game of a new season. Melbourne’s Brian Wilson kicked the first score of the game from a free; a point. He looked like someone who knew how to play; he went on to win the Brownlow that year. Mark Browning achieved the Swan’s first score with a point from a long bomb – he had such a beautiful left peg. Colin Hounsell scores the Swan’s first ever goal with a right foot snap, deep in the forward pocket on the grandstand wing at the Randwick end, at the 7 minute 40 second mark of the first quarter. The Swans ran out winners, 20-17 (137) to 16-12 (108) before 15,764 spectators. So, began this new era in the history of Australian Football and Australian sport.  

Petar Ruscuklic: Czar of Sydney Goal-kicking

Petar Ruscuklic, the champion East Sydney full-forward, holds the record for the most goals kicked in a State league in Australia. He booted a stunning tally of 213 goals in 1981 in the Sydney Football League.

He surpassed the previous record of 209 set by Peter Hudson when playing for Glenorchy in the Tasmanian Football League just a few years earlier in 1979.

Ruscuklic only played three seasons in Sydney football, from 1979-1981, topped the competition goal-kicking each season with tallies of 136, 156, and 213 respectively. His goal average per game in Sydney over this period was 8.70.

But it was the 1981 season that Petar Ruscuklic had the ultimate season. In addition to being the leading goalkicker he also played in a premiership team, won the SFL Player of the Year award (a $350 stereo system), and won the club best and fairest award.

The highest number of goals Ruscuklic kicked in a match that season was 24* against St George in round 8. He also snagged 22 against Liverpool, 18 twice, 13 two times, 12 against Norths at North Sydney Oval and eleven in a win over Wests at the SCG.

Wests’ full back Gary Tagliabue recalls lowering his colours to Ruscuklic in that game, “He (Ruscuklic) clearly out pointed me; he was so hard to play against, just so good with his body-work, he was a good lead or he could run you under the ball and mark over the top of you. And such a good sportsman”.

Tagliabue who also played full back for Whitton in the South West league, The Rock-Yerong Creek, and later at Tooleybuc in the Mid-Murray league, told me he’d sooner play on Trevor Sutton who is the other most prolific goal-scorer in football having booted an Australian country record of 249 goals for Deniliquin in the Murray League in 1982.

“Petar could just beat you with skill; he was the hardest to beat by far” added Tagliabue.

At the end of the home-and-away season Ruscuklic had kicked 187 goals. He then booted twenty-six goals in the finals including 10 in the semi final and the preliminary final and six in the grand final win over Newtown, 19-16 (130) to 3-23 (41).

“Snorkel was an absolute champion” his 1981 captain-coach Greg “Huey” Harris told me over a coffee in Clovelly. “He was just about unbeatable that year, but we did have some great players pumping the ball forward to him, blokes like “Richo” (Jim Richardson), “Gossie” (Wayne Goss) and Enzo (Corvino) on the wing. A terrific fella, he fitted in brilliantly at Easts” said Harris.

Ruscuklic came to Sydney in 1979 to join East Sydney when his older brother Alex, a former Fitzroy and Carlton VFL star, took on the coaching role. The previous season he had played for South Adelaide after stints in the VFL with Fitzroy in 1975-76 (10 games/20 goals) and Geelong (4 games/1 goal) in 1977. He went to the ‘Roys in 1974 to play under 19s after playing with Macleod-Rosanna in the Diamond Valley Football League.

Ingloriously, Easts which had gone through the season undefeated got bundled out of the finals after losing both finals.

Alex was replaced by 1976 premiership coach Austin Robertson for the centenary season in 1980. Alex went to coach Western Suburbs but his younger brother elected to remain at Easts. Petar played a starring role in Easts’ premiership triumph booting nine goals in the grand final at the SCG.

“Petar was pivotal to our success in 1980”, Austin Robertson told me by phone from Perth. “He was a very talented player who instinctively knew the craft of playing full-forward” according to WA’s greatest goalkicker who booted a record 1211 goals in his illustrious career as well as 60 goals for South Melbourne in 1966.

Surprisingly, Ruscuklic went travelling overseas in 1982 and was expected back in June, but never returned to East Sydney.

For the 1983 season he landed at Myrtleford in the Ovens and Murray league after moving to Bright to work with his mother in the aged care sector.

He was a key figure in the meteoric rise of Myrtleford under former player Greg Nichols (pictured left) who at age 21 had coached Turvey Park to a flag in the Riverina and had played in Ainslie’s 1982 ACT AFL premiership team under Kevin “Cowboy” Neale. Nichols won the competition best and fairest award, the Mulrooney medal and was Ainslie’s best player booting six goals in the grand final.

Additionally, Myrtleford secured the services of Gary Ablett after a short stint at Hawthorn. Ablett in the centre, Nichols at centre half-forward, and Ruscuklic at full-forward formed a potent combination that took Mytrleford deep into the finals. Ruscuklic topped the Ovens & Murray FL goalkicking list with 76 majors.

“Slugger was not just a talented player but also a wonderful person”, Nichols, now Chair of the AFL Coaches’ Association and Director of Racing Victoria, told me by phone.” We knew each other from Geelong and he just adapted so well to the new club environment (at Myrtleford). He was my assistant coach and he was just so supportive and very constructive and insightful in his role. We played well together and never got in each’s other way”.

Ruscuklic took over from Nichols who moved to play with Glenelg in the SANFL in 1984. He remained as a player at Myrtleford until 1986 before moving back to Melbourne and finishing at Research in the Diamond Valley league.

His story is a remarkable one. The son of immigrants, Bill (from Yugoslavia) and Guste (Germany), from war-torn Europe who came to Australia in 1949 to find a new life. Bill had been a freedom fighter in his home country “for King and Country” not for Tito or the Nazis. He had played soccer for Yugoslavia in Spain when he was just sixteen years old.

Petar sadly passed away in 2014, aged just 58.

(Acknowledgment: George Ruscuklic who shared both football and family information about his beloved brother. George also supplied the image drawn by Kevin Ryan)

* The record for the most goals in a game is held by Bill Wood who kicked 28 goals for South Sydney against Sydney in 1943.

 

Petar Ruscuklic’s Record Breaking Goalkicking 1981 Season with East Sydney

Round Opponent Ground Goals Round Opponent Ground Goals
1 St George Olds Park 8 13 Liverpool Rosedale 13
2 North Shore Trumper 4 14 Newtown Erko 6
3 Newtown Trumper 15 St George Trumper 18
4 Western Suburbs Jensen
Oval
9 16 North Shore North Sydney Oval 12
5 Balmain Trumper 2 17 Wests SCG 11
6 Pennant Hills PH Oval 13 18 Balmain Jubilee 18
7 Liverpool Trumper 22 19 Pennant Hills Trumper 7
8 St George Trumper 24 20 Liverpool Trumper 9
9 North Shore Nth Syd 1 21 Newtown Erkskineville 8
10 Wests Trumper 2 2SF Newtown Erkskineville 10
11 Balmain Jubilee PF Pennant Hills Erkskineville 10
12 Pennant Hills PH Oval GF Newton Erkskineville 6

The SCG – A Field of Dreams or House of Pain for Lenny Hayes

By Neil Cordy

Lenny Hayes made his name in St Kilda’s red, white and black but his boyhood colours were the Swans red and white and his dreams of playing in the AFL were formed at the SCG.

The Hall of Famer grew up in Eastwood and played for the very successful Pennant Hills club. He was a regular at Sydney’s most famous sporting venue throughout his teenage years.

His father Chris was from Melbourne and loved the Kangaroos. He would drive Lenny and his mates across town as often as he could.

“Dad would take half the neighbourhood with us,” Lenny fondly recalls. “I loved the Swans and went most weeks when the matches didn’t clash with my Pennant Hills games.

“I was there from the very early days in Sydney when the Wiz (Warwick Capper) was up and going. I remember him taking a couple of screamers against North and one against Fitzroy. He did it almost every week.”

Sadly, those beautiful memories of the late 1980s were followed by some seriously bleak ones in the early 1990s.

Lenny’s loyalty was seriously tested but he stuck fat with the Swans at a time when following them was bordering on self-abuse.

One of his most painful memories was the 1994 round seven clash against St Kilda at the SCG. The 14 year old Lenny witnessed a match which should have come with a parental warning.

In one of his last games as a Saint Tony Lockett was at his brutal best putting the hurt on the Swans. Somebody should have called the cops but there was nothing they or anybody else could do about this horror show.

“It was the game where Plugger cleaned up Peter Caven and then kicked the winning goal,” Lenny said. “It was devastating. We hadn’t won for a long time and we were leading by six goals at three quarter time.”

Plugger kicked 11 and nearly killed Kenny Williams (Swans cheer leader) behind the goals as well.

“I remember walking out and kids were crying.”

There were no tears for Lenny though, his eyes were on the prize.

Five years later, almost to the day, he was back at the SCG, making his AFL debut for St Kilda. In a strange twist of fate it wasn’t against his boyhood heroes he faced but North Melbourne who for no apparent reason were playing some of their home games in Sydney.

Unfortunately for Lenny his favourite ground was to deliver even more pain.

“Glen Archer absolutely flattened me,” Lenny said.

“It was on the wing and I was winning the race to a loose ball and as soon as I picked it up he hit me straight up the middle. He stood over my carcass and then stepped over me. It was Arch saying ‘Welcome to the AFL.’

If the physical pain was bad enough there was also the humiliation of being cleaned up in front of his family and friends.

“It was right in front of my school mates,” Hayes said. “To this day they still bring it up. It’s more than 20 years ago but they still talk about it.”

It wasn’t just his school mates who remembered the clash with Archer, when he was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2020 the hit was included in the video package of his career highlights.

“I think I was the only player who has had being shirt fronted included, Hayes said.”

“It was my welcome to the big league moment. Unfortunately for the Saints it wasn’t a happy hunting ground over the years. I think I tried too hard at times and the other thing was I often got Brett Kirk playing on me. He was a phenomenal player and very hard to get a kick on. In 2009 was a rare win for the Saints, we beat the Swans by a point. It was the year when we only lost three games all year including the grand final.”

St Kilda lost the grand final to Geelong in a thriller and drew with Collingwood the following year only to lose the replay. Lenny won the Norm Smith Medal in the drawn match against the Magpies.

When he retired in 2014 he had played 297 games and was one of the Saints most decorated players winning three Trevor Barker Medals, three All Australian selections and captaining the team in 2004 and 2007.

He credits his time at Pennant Hills Footy Club as laying the foundation for his future success. “It was a really strong footy culture,” Hayes said.

“Mark McVeigh and I played a lot of footy together and Jarrod was a few years younger. Ray Hall (Richmond) was another who came from the Central Coast to play at Penno.”

If Pennant Hills was the foundation the NSW/ACT Rams was the finishing school. Hayes moved to Canberra for year 12 at Erindale College and played under David Noble (North Melbourne Coach) at the Rams.

“David and the Rams took it up another level,” Hayes said.

“I was playing against the best kids in Victoria every week. Mark McVeigh was part of the squad and we made it through to the grand final losing to the Preston Knights. The 1996 grand final was a huge day for footy in NSW, the Swans were in the grand final in the firsts and the reserves.”

In 2015 he returned to Sydney as an assistant coach at the GWS Giants. After a very successful five-year stint he and his family decided to take a break from footy and moved to Hartley in the Blue Mountains where he runs beef cattle on a 100 acre farm with his wife Tara and sons Hunter (8) and Jacob (5).

“I’ll still be connected to the game even if it’s not on a full-time basis” Hayes said.

“Powder Fingers” fires up SCG at 1933 Carnival

Written by Dr Rod Gillett

            NSW full-forward Stan Powditch breaks clear of a 
              Queensland opponent to kick a goal on the SCG

On the biggest stage in the big games, NSW full-forward Stan “Powder” Powditch stepped up to boot the goals the Light Blues needed to take it up to rivals from the other States. 

At the 1933 ANFC Carnival at the SCG, he came into the team after the loss to Victoria in round one, to boot 11 goals in a convincing 85-point defeat of Queensland. He subsequently kicked 5 goals in the win over Canberra, 6 goals in the victory over Tasmania, and 5 goals in the narrow 10-point loss to WA. 

Powditch was only trumped as the leading goalkicker for the championships by Victoria’s Gordon Coventry, the champion Collingwood VFL full forward, who booted 12 goals in the Vic’s 60-point demolition of Tasmania to win the title with 30 majors. 

While Coventry scored his goals in five matches, Powditch kicked 27 goals in his four games.  

Both forwards finished well ahead of two of the greatest full-forwards of all time, Victoria’s Bob Pratt (South Melbourne) and South Australia’s greatest goal-scorer Ken Farmer (North Adelaide), who both only scored 12 goals each at the 1933 Carnival. 

NSW finished fourth overall, behind champions Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. 

“Powder” was an athletic 6’ (180cm) tall 13 stone (81.5kg) forward; he had huge hands described as “glue-fingered” by the contemporary press that enabled him to “clunk” marks. A hallmark of his goal-kicking was his unerring accuracy; he kicked 27 goals 5 behinds in the 1933 Carnival and 7.1 in the win over Queensland in 1940 at SCG No 2. 

His overall goalkicking record set out below reveals his career average was remarkably above 4 at both club and interstate level: 

  POWDITCH’S OVERALL GOAL KICKING RECORD 

Club  Years  Games  Goals  Avr. 
South Sydney  1930-33  71  242  3.4 
St George  1933-43  106  534  5.03 
Total  1930-43  177  776  4.38 
NSW  1933-39  11  46  4.18 

 Powditch grew up and learnt to play football in Sydney. His father, Charles, was a foundation player and official at Newtown FC when the competition in Sydney re-commenced in 1903.  

 A young Stan Powditch

He first played football at the Gardener’s Road Public School at Mascot after the family moved to the area. This was a rich nursery for the South Sydney Club, one that also produced Jimmy Stiff, who was voted the best player at the 1933 Carnival.  Powditch then played with Metropolitan Football Assn senior team, Rosebery (pictured) at age17,

Making his senior debut for Souths in the first game of the 1929 season against Sydney, he kicked six goals from full-forward and went onto to boot 56 goals for the season. He finished third in the goalkicking award behind Newtown’s star forward Lionel Hastie (also from Gardener’s Rd school and a future Fitzroy FC player) with 64 and Eastern Suburbs goal-kicking machine Stan Milton on 59.  

He kept in an exercise book details about his career including every game played, opponents, results, goals and behinds kicked, with annotations.  

Powditch broke through for his first competition leading goal-kicking award in 1932 with 59 goals even though he played eleven matches at centre half-forward. Stan Milton finished 2nd with 55 goals.  

For the 1933 Carnival in Sydney Powditch was preferred as full-forward to Stan Milton. Milton had been a fixture as full forward for NSW for 29 matches including the win over Victoria in 1923. He kicked over 1200 goals in a career spanning from 1919-38. 

In a controversial move prior to the commencement of the 1934 season, Powditch requested a transfer from South Sydney to St George.  We believe this occurred mainly because of a change of residence to Brighton-le-Sands, following his marriage to Bessie Sinclair. 

Souths refused to clear him so he went and played first-grade soccer with senior Sydney Soccer team, Metters. In an ironic twist to his position in football as a goal-scorer; in soccer, he played as the goal-keeper! He’d had never played soccer before. 

Eventually, the impasse was sorted out after several appeals and he was cleared to St George but suspended for twelve weeks on a technicality for not declaring a change of residence. 

Nonetheless, Powdictch was selected in the State team as full-forward in 1934 and kicked three goals in the comfortable 34-point win over Queensland at the SCG on 18 August.

He subsequently carved out a stellar career as a key forward for St George and played a key role in the club’s success in this period, winning premierships in 1937 and 1938 and runner-up in 1935 and 1939, and a further premiership in 1943 that Powditch missed through injury. 

In 1935 he topped the league goalkicking for the second time with 80 goals (49 behinds) including six in the grand final Powditch’s notes reveal that he never missed a game (18) and never missed training (52). 

1937 proved to be Powditch’s best season in the local football competition, and St George broke through for its first-ever premiership when it convincingly beat South Sydney in the grand final, 11.16.82 to 6.9.45. 

“Powder” booted his first century of goals, 114 (and only 38 behinds), to top the league goalkicking. He played in seventeen matches averaging 6.7 goals per game. This included bags of 12 against North Shore, 10 against Eastern Suburbs, and 9 goals against Easts, Sydney, Norths (twice) and 10 against Souths in the major semi-final win.  

Powditch won the competition goalkicking award for the fourth time in 1939 with 89 goals including two hauls of 12 goals (and no behinds) against North Shore and Newtown. He bagged five goals in the grand final but Newtown proved too strong and won by 22 points.  

He didn’t play in 1941-42, but returned to play for St George in 1943 with champion Collingwood ruckman  Phonse Kyne as captain.  However, he developed knee trouble and it finally gave way on him in the final round match against top team RAAF. It was to be his last ever game. He still kicked 67 goals in fifteen matches for the season. 

St George beat the strong RAAF team in the major semi-final and then beat South Sydney in the grand final – without their star forward. 

Stan Powditch won four leading goalkicking awards; he is second to Stan Milton (six times) while Newtown’s Laurie McAnulty and East Sydney’s Peter Ruscuklic who both won three times. 

                

 Acknowledgements: Warwick Powditch and family for the donation to the Society of all of Stan Powdich’s football records including photos, match programs, newspaper clippings, and personal reminiscences. 

Keith Miller AM MBE – NSW Rep 1947

Former NSW AFL Commissioner Rod Gillett recalls his association with Australian sporting legend Keith Miller when “Nugget” was the Chief Commissioner of the state body. Keith Miller is the only former Australian football player/official featured in the SCG’s Walk of Honour. He was also  made a Life Member of the SCG.

                       Inaugural NSW AFL Chief Commissioner Keith Miller (standing) and Rod Gillett (seated right)

“Roddy, could you chair the meeting for me please mate? Thanks old boy”.

Keith Ross Miller MBE, then the NSW AFL Chief Commissioner, would ask me this prior to our monthly meetings. This would enable him to enjoy a scotch and soda while perusing the form guide as I led my fellow commissioners through the agenda.

Keith Miller was a Boys’ Own Hero – war fighter pilot, Test cricketer, and VFL footballer. A dashing, handsome physically blessed man who also liked a drink, a punt and a night-out.

Appointed the inaugural chief commissioner for the AFL in Sydney in 1986, Keith had an impressive background in football. He had been a star player for St Kilda in the VFL prior to the war and then returned to the Saints in 1946 when he also represented Victoria.

Upon moving to Sydney after he played for Sydney Naval in the local competition and represented NSW at the 1947 ANFC interstate carnival in Hobart.

After the 1948 Ashes tour of England where he was a key member of Bradman’s “Invincibles”, Keith became a sportswriter reporting on cricket and football.

While he wasn’t really that interested in sports administration, he played a key role as chairman of the inaugural commission by leading the re-union of the disparate football bodies in NSW (Sydney, Country & Juniors) back under the one governance model. He stood down from the position in 1988.

It was a shame he didn’t stay on for the last ever national carnival in Adelaide in which NSW playing as an Origin team for the first time lost narrowly to the SANFL and beat Western Australia. He could have taken my place in the governor’s box at the game as he was very comfortable in the company of royalty.

When he was Chief Commissioner he would come down from his home in Newport Beach meet me for an hour or so prior to the meeting at the Old Fitzroy Hotel in Cathedral St just opposite the Powerplay offices in Woolloomooloo. At that stage Powerplay had the licence to run the Sydney Swans and were responsible for funding Development work in schools and for junior football through the NSW AFL.

Marketing guru Bob Pritchard and Swans general manager Ron Thomas were the Powerplay nominees on the NSW AFL Commission.

Then-NSW AFL CEO Ian Granland would join Keith and I to “caucus” at the pub.

Keith would regale us with all stories both from the war and his world of sport.

His best mate from the war, Gus Glendinning was a favourite conversation piece as he had played footy for East Perth in the WAFL and was the father of the inaugural West Coast Eagles captain and North Melbourne 1983 Brownlow medalist Ross Glendinning.

Miller and Glendinning meet while serving in the RAAF in the UK and both became commissioned pilot officers flying Mosquito bombers over Germany during the war. They remained life-long friends; Keith was very proud of his association with the Glendinnings.

The other footballer he spoke highly of was South Melbourne premiership star Laurie Nash. Keith played cricket at South Melbourne with Nash, who had played two Test matches for Australia as a fast bowler. It was Nash who leapt high at mid-on to take spectacular catch that netted a sixteen year old Miller his first wicket in District cricket in the 1935-36 season.

Keith came up against Nash’s South 1933 premiership team-mate and legendary goal-kicker Bob Pratt after Pratt had transferred to Coburg in the VFA. Playing at full-back Miller played the first match of the season for Brighton in 1940 and kept Pratt to one goal. He then transferred to St Kilda in the VFL and played two seasons before enlisting.

According to The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers (5th ed.)  Keith was “a strong marking key defender with a necessary touch of toughness and a fine exponent of the drop kick”. He won the St Kilda best and fairest award in his first season and was runner-up the next year.

He told us his school-boy hero was the swash-buckling Spitfire fighter pilot Keith “Bluey” Truscott DFC and Bar, from his school, Melbourne Boys’ High, where Truscott was captain of the school cricket and football teams. Keith played in the First XI under Truscott when he was in Year 9.

Truscott, a rugged, fiery half-forward flanker starred in the 1939-40 Melbourne premiership teams before enlisting in the RAAF. He died in a flying accident in 1943; the Melbourne Football Club best and fairest award is named in his honour.

Keith continued playing football when he came to Sydney in 1947 turning out for Sydney Naval (the old Sydney club had changed name in 1944) which was comprised mainly of ex-armed services personnel like himself.

He was famously late for a practice match prior to the season at Trumper Park, arriving from Randwick racecourse at half-time, and running out straight after the interval and booting a drop kick goal from centre half-back!

 Keith Miller NSW rep 1947

Selected to play for NSW at the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart, Keith was injured in the second quarter in the first match against Canberra and moved to the forward pocket from which he kicked 5 goals and was awarded 3 votes in the Tassie Medal for best player of the championship.

His roommate at the carnival, Neil Stevens, a convivial country cop from Henty, who joined Eastern Suburbs after serving in the AIF in New Guinea in WWII, remained life-long friends with “Nuggett”. “We used to catch up for the occasional counter-lunch and he would come down to speak to the boys when I was coaching the Police team in the services competition” Neil told me in the company of his son Gregory, at a Sydney Swans game in 2005.                                          

Many honours and awards including the Australian Sports Hall of Fame as well as those at the SCG have been bestowed on Keith Miller but he told me he was most proud of his portrait hanging in the pavilion at Lords; his favourite cricket ground. However, he did tell me that the SCG was his favourite cricket ground in Australia, and the MCG, his favourite football ground.

Keith Miller is honoured for cricket in SCG Walk of Honour.

Around the Grounds of the Ovens and Murray Football League

In the 1960s an Albury newspaper reporter and his two sons set forth most winter Saturday afternoons to watch an Ovens and Murray League football match. Beyond the footy grounds on the border, their riverine journeys took them to football towns in the Ovens Valley, downstream along the Murray to Rutherglen, Corowa and Yarrawonga and to the banks of the Broken River at Benalla.

Jim Clark was the Border Morning Mail’s football reporter in the 1950s and early 60s.

Take the journey with us as we experience some of the rituals of attending country football matches 60 years ago.

By Peter Clark

Driving down to Wangaratta: July 1961

Anticipation of an afternoon at the football made Saturdays the highlight of our week. But first came the journey. To help pass the miles away we invented ‘spotto’ games. The familiar drive down to ‘Wang’ was dotted with journey markers. After leaving Wodonga on the Hume Highway, a sequence of creeks, sites and roadside structures had to be ticked off. The first challenge was to remember the order of the creeks. Starting with Indigo Creek at Barnawartha, next came Black Dog Creek near Chiltern, followed by the duo of Diddah Diddah and Daddah Daddah Creeks. The next landmarks were Springhurst’s silver silos sitting beside the main southern railway line. Then came the long straight stretch where our eyes were peeled for the first person to glimpse the 3NE radio aerial. The appropriately named highway settlement of Bowser followed, and finally the North Wangaratta football ground before crossing the Ovens River and entering Wang.

One Saturday at Wangaratta in 1961 was a special one for us. Wangaratta Rovers captain coach Bob Rose was sidelined with a back injury and we visited him in hospital. Dad introduced us to the champion footballer and his wife Elsie who sat beside him as they tuned in to the radio to hear a broadcast of the Rovers’ match. Dad’s prediction in that day’s paper – “Benalla’s big chance to down Rovers”- proved correct. Missing their inspirational leader, 1960 premiers, the Rovers 6.9 (45) lost to Benalla 12.14 (86).

               Source: Border Morning Mail 3 July 1961

Myrtleford: 1959
At Myrtleford a European-like climate and atmosphere pervade the senses. The weather calls for scarves, gloves, hats and overcoats for spectators most days in mid-winter. Occasionally, patches of snow can be seen dusting the hilltops nearby. The European flavour of the town has long been evident in the cultural background of many Saints players. Well known names in the district such as Piazza, Kekovitch, Garoni and Pizzini tell of the immigrant families from southern Europe, particularly Italy, who settled in north east Victoria after World War II. They took to tobacco growing in the fertile Ovens River valley. And with enthusiasm they also took to Australian Rules Football.

In the ‘Hoppers inner sanctum: 1967
The North Albury change room on match days was a welcome place for supporters, including juniors eager to see their heroes close up

before games and at half-time. As junior North Albury players we felt entitled to crowd into the ‘Hopper’s rooms at Bunton Park before a game. A favourite part of the afternoon was to watch heroes such as Stan Sargeant, Sam Donovan and ‘Turkey’ Weule prepare for the game and listen to the coach, former Fitzroy captain Ralph Rogerson, rev up the team.

Watching the “Weed” at the Albury Sports Ground: 1966
The Albury Sports Ground was the venue for many Ovens and Murray League grand finals and must see interleague matches in the 1950s and 60s. I recall the ground’s big match atmosphere with its crowded embankments, old grandstand, memorial scoreboard and football clubrooms decked in black and yellow streamers. We occasionally accompanied our grandparents who were keen Albury supporters. In 1966 the drawcard for Albury was former Collingwood big man Murray Weideman (‘The Weed’). That season he led the Tigers to their first premiership in ten years. With movie-star looks and an extroverted personality he was a big attraction for young and old football followers alike.

A day out at John Foord Oval Corowa: 1962
Corowa was one of our favourite football grounds, not only because of its picturesque riverside setting but also because we anticipated meeting Dad’s good friend Henry Taft. A Rutherglen man, he was well regarded as the local football correspondent for the Border Morning Mail. Impeccably dressed in a suit and hat, Mr Taft’s presence always meant the generous offering of 2 shillings to buy a pie and a drink. After his enquiries about how we were going at school, we’d be off to spend our treat. While Dad discussed football with his associate, it was our time to listen and learn how to read the game.

The three quarter time huddle at Martin Park Wodonga: 1960
At Wodonga home games Dad usually positioned himself among the crowd and watched the football standing near the boundary fence with family and friends. All afternoon he attended to his task of recording the scores and goal kickers in ‘The Critic’ football record, as his thoughts for Monday’s match report crystallised.

At three quarter time we would walk out onto the ground to participate in a country footy ritual that was a treat to the senses. The huddle had its scents of liniment, grass, mud, perspiration, cigarette smoke and oranges. And it had its sounds of tactical talk, hush, urgings and fiery outcries.

Book Review: The Boys’ Club

Michael Warner, The Boys’ Club: Power, Politics And The AFL, Hachette Australia, 2021, PB, 376 pp, $32.99

Reviewed by Braham Dabscheck

Sport involves competition between teams. Teams not only compete with each other on the field but also off the field for fans, sponsors and players. Despite this overarching rule of competition, teams need to cooperate if games are to be played and income derived. Decisions need to be made about where and when games will be played; contracts with stadiums, broadcasters and sponsors; the allocation of costs associated with putting on games; distributing revenues between clubs and the league, between clubs, between clubs and players and others and in relationships with governments and regulatory bodies. What is the best way to make these decisions?

One model is for the clubs to run the league. Each club has a representative on a ‘governing’ body. This was the model traditionally employed in Australian sport, such as the Australian Football League (AFL). It was found to be inadequate in the 1970s and 1980s, when a number of clubs experienced financial problems. The major criticism was that the clubs were unable to arrive at league based decisions; they would only agree with proposals that would enhance their club and/or weaken that of rival clubs. A judge, in the early 1980s, described the clubs as ‘a confederation of sworn enemies’.

In 1985, the then Victorian Football League (VFL, with expansion into other states the VFL became the AFL in 1990) decided to form a Commission which would make ‘league’ based decisions. The clubs, though, had power to veto major decisions of the Commission. This was changed in 1993 when veto powers were taken away from clubs. Following this, several

commissioners took an active hands-on role and worked closely with Wayne Jackson, AFL CEO from 1996 to 2003. Andrew Demetriou was appointed the AFL’s manager of football operations in 2000. He asked the Commission to ‘step back and cede greater control to the AFL executive team’; which was agreed to.

Demetriou became the AFL’s CEO in 2003. He stepped down in 2014, replaced by Gillon McLachlan in 2014. Mike Fitzpatrick became the AFL Chairman in 2007; a position he held until 2017. Investigative journalist Michael Warner provides a critical and searching examination of the operation of the AFL during the two decades of the reign of Demetriou, McLachlan and Fitzpatrick.

Much of the material contained in The Boys’ Club is based on interviews Warner conducted with various members of the AFL Commission, club presidents, lawyers, whistleblowers and others in the AFL’s orbit, some of whom wished to maintain their anonymity. He also draws on internal documents and email trails that became available many years after issues emerged and were ‘settled’. At a minimum, he provides an absorbing account of controversies and scandals which have engulfed the AFL over the last two decades. He maintains:

The national competition is controlled by a ruthlessly entitled Melbourne-based executive, given close to free reign by a commission that long ago lost its oversight or will to intervene. A lack of transparency and accountability in decision making, jobs for the boys, bullying and a string of blatantly compromised ‘integrity’ investigations have become hallmarks of the AFL administration…Deals are done and outcomes reached in almost every instance with brand protection (or defence of their own positions) the [priority]…There is no independence or due process in the AFL’s procedures. Worse, decisions are often made out of personal animus because they can

be…The purpose of this book is to shine a light on almost two decades of questionable conduct; a system in need of reform.

The general picture that Warner presents is that when a crisis or scandal cannot be contained and becomes public knowledge the AFL executive works out what it regards as the best solution and then goes about imposing it on those in its orbit. Its basic modus operandi is to protect those in The Boys’ Club, even if they are forced to resign for whatever transgression they have performed. Despite such punishment, those in the Club will be allowed a job somewhere else at an appropriately later time, either with the AFL, a club or entity involved with the AFL. When the misdemeanor is of a ‘higher level’ which casts the AFL in a poor light and ‘spin’ will not work, someone will be sacrificed and ‘thrown under the bus’.

Two examples will be provided here. The first involved the issue of ‘tanking’. The AFL operates a draft (selection) system for new players. Clubs take it in turn to select (draft) new players with the bottom club having first choice, then the second bottom club and so on with the premiers having last choice; the process being repeated (several times). The AFL introduced a rule that a club which won less than five games (in a 22 round season) could receive a ‘priority pick’ to bolster its playing squad. It was alleged that Melbourne deliberately lost games (tanked) at the end of the 2000s. This was a club decision. Despite this, the club had to be protected and blame had to be attributed to someone to defuse the controversy. Warner examines how Melbourne’s coach was convinced that he should perform this role.

The second example concerns the Australian Crime Commission uncovering of the alleged use of prohibited drugs by Essendon (and Cronulla in the National Rugby League). The AFL decided that the best course of action would be to convince Essendon to voluntary come forward and ‘self-report’. Warner says:

Essendon’s decision to ‘self-report’ would permit the AFL to conduct a joint investigation with ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority], giving the league control of and access to all confidential information. Demetriou and his men would know almost everything ASADA knew…players found to be innocent…Sanctions against Essendon…hold individuals accountable… [For this] to work, they had to have a patsy: a big scalp to prove the AFL took the injections debacle seriously. His name was [Essendon coach and former champion player] James Hird’.

Warner provides a detailed account of the various machination of the scandal and how James Hird was forced out of and compensated for his removal from football. The campaign to protect players from punishment was thwarted by the World Doping Agency mounting a case against the players before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Warner muses on how other clubs which also allegedly used prohibited substances as at Essendon escaped scrutiny, let alone sanctions.

Warner also examines issues associated with the lack of funds and infrastructure support (such as adequate club facilities) for the expansion club the Gold Coast Suns; handling of salary cap breaches (a maximum amount that clubs can spend on player salaries); a player revealing his club’s game plan to his brother of another club before the two teams meet in a semi-final (match fixing?); sex scandals at head office; females at head office being denied chances for advancement because of the boys’ club culture; lack of advancement for indigenous players in coaching and management; the AFL’s lack of support for Adam Goodes when booed by fans; conflicts of interest when awarding contracts including gambling sponsorships; and relationships with governments and regulatory bodies.

Warner’s penultimate chapter is concerned with the negative impact Covid had on the AFL in 2020 and actions it took to save the season. It forced the AFL and clubs to rationalise their respective operations which resulted in substantial job losses and reductions in pay (not so

much for AFL executives). Warner sees the shock of Covid providing a basis for an inquiry, the first since 1993, into the workings of the AFL. He maintains that any organisation should conduct such an investigation every 30 years or so to review and enhance its operation. His recommendations are

1. The review should be independent with strong input from clubs with clubs determining who should conduct it;

2. Executive accountability to clubs;

3. Commissioner selection, a stronger role for clubs potentially involving transparent elections;

4. A corporate governance charter;

5. Financial transparency;

6. Proper tendering and procurement processes (and less cronyism); and

7. Integrity investigations. AFL Executives to not be involved in such determinations to stop it performing ‘the roles of investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner’.

The Boys’ Club is an important book in that it casts a searching light on the internal operation of the AFL. It provides information on the workings of Australia’s leading professional team sport which should be of interest to not only followers of the AFL, but other codes and those with an interest in the governance of sporting bodies. It will be interesting to see the reaction of those in the AFL world to its contents – ignored, criticised, a catalyst for debate – and whether or not it will lead to the AFL reforming its operation and governance.

Braham Dabscheck is a Senior Fellow at the Melbourne Law School at Melbourne University who writes on industrial relations, sport and other things. For over a decade

he has been a member of the Australian Football League Players’ Association Player Agent Accreditation Board. He is alone responsible for the contents of this review.

(The book review is produced with the permission of the Newtown Review of Books)