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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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