Footy on the Banks of the Murray

    Grand Final day at the Tocumwal Recreation Reserve 2009
        (From Miles Wilks, Australian Football Clubs in NSW)

By Dr Rodney Gillett

VFL club St Kilda, in 1960, on the cusp of the club’s most successful period in history, sensationally lost to the Murray Football League in a mid-season match in Tocumwal, a small town on the Murray River situated half-way between Echuca and Yarrawonga on the NSW side.

While matches between VFL clubs and local clubs/leagues were common up until 1970, usually when there was a bye for an interstate game, it was very rare for the locals to beat the big boys from the city.

Research by Paul Daffey, who wrote about this game for The Age in 2010, shows that there were only two other wins by country teams over VFL visitors: in 1901 Rutherglen beat South Melbourne, and in 1914, a Goulburn Valley rep team beat Carlton at Tatura.

St Kilda, missing Brownlow medallists, Neil Roberts and Verdun Howell who were both playing for Victoria, shot out to a seven-goal quarter time lead, led by four goals at half-time, and two at the final break. The lead changed four times in the final quarter, then the Murray league team drew clear to win by 14 points.

The Murray league-St Kilda match was also significant because it was Allan Jean’s last game. He had played for Murray league clubs Tocumwal and Finley before joining the Saints.

In 1960, when was 26, Jeans was battling to overcome strained rib cartilages, but according to Daffey, he was determined to play against the Murray league. After the game, he succumbed to his injury and became St Kilda’s non-playing Reserves coach.

The next season he was appointed senior coach and in a sixteen-year period coached St Kilda to its one and only premiership in 1966, as well as grand finals in 1965 and 1971. Later, of course, he coached Hawthorn to three premierships.

The 1960 match was played at the Tocumwal Recreation Reserve, which has been the scene for the biggest games in the area, including representative fixtures and Murray league grand finals from 1931 until the Toc footy club left the league for the Picola league in 2014.

The ground is in an idyllic setting alongside the Murray River set amongst the river gums. And it’s a long ground: 190 metres from fence-to-fence and 150 metres wide.

It has first-rate facilities including a pavilion that includes a viewing area and social rooms on one level, and change-rooms below. Levee banks built up over the years protect the ground from flooding.

“It’s a big ground to play on” testifies Jim Cullen, who played 319 games for the Bloods from 1957-77 and is widely regarded as Tocumwal’s greatest player ever, having won the competition best and fairest in 1965 and played in the much-celebrated 1967 premiership.

“You could move about anywhere you wanted to”, Cullen who played in the centre told me in an interview for this piece. “There was plenty of room to move. I liked it very much”.

Cullen was pitted against some of the best players in the league that at that time who were ex VFL players coaching in the Murray league including former Footscray 1961 grand final star Graham Ion (Deniliquin), ex St Kilda back pocket player Brian Walsh (Cobram), and former champion St Kilda centreman Lance Oswald at Strathmerton.

He missed the St Kilda match in 1960 due to injury but played against Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Footscray – all games were played on the Tocumwal Recreation Reserve.

The Tocumwal Recreation Reserve which consists of 61 acres was gazetted as a public park in 1882. Football was first played on the reserve in 1893 on the site of the Pony Club when the newly formed Tocumwal Football Club took on cross-river rivals Cobram. They commenced playing on the current site in 1909.

Tocumwal were a foundation club of the Murray Football League formed in 1931; their two greatest rivals, Finley and Berrigan, joined two years later.

The Bloods’ finest moment in the Murray league came in 1967 with a premiership win over Cobram coming after grand final losses to Berrigan (1965) and Deniliquin (1966) to break a premiership drought of twenty-one years.

      Julian Vise

Coached by Don Whitten, who played in Yarraville’s 1961 VFA premiership team after playing with his brother Ted at Footscray from 1956-58, came to coach Toc in 1964 and took over the licence of the Tattersall’s Hotel.

In a match-winning move, Whitten placed star centreman Jim Cullen at full-forward where he booted 5 goals. Jim told me, “We got a good start, and hung on all day”. Other good players were former Rochester and Collingwood player Julian Vise at centre-half forward and key defender Jeff Beasley.

Tocumwal won its tenth and last Murray league premiership in 2009 when the new complex on the river side of the oval was opened. Julian Vise

The new scoreboard named in honour of Jim Cullen was constructed in 1977 following Jim’s retirement from playing and coaching. He then served on the committee for 20 years including ten as president as well as a trustee of the Recreation Reserve.

Meanwhile, the toilet block that a young Allan Jeans had helped build in the early 1950s has been replaced by more modern conveniences.

Acknowledgements: Jeff Seamer, Alan Jones, Jim Cullen and Greg Whatmore

Tough as Teak Hard as Cement

“Where is this bloke from?” asks Channel 7 football comentator Lou Richards.

“North Wagga” replies co-comentator Peter Landy.

It is just before half-time of the National Escort Championships between New South Wales and VFL club Fitzroy at the Sydney Showgrounds and the “rotund full-forward” from NSW had just kicked his 5th goal to give the Blues an eleven point lead at half-time.

The player in question was Laurie Pendrick, the NSW skipper, who had kicked his first 3 goals in quick succession early in the first quarter on the Victorian representative full-back Harvey Merrigan.

“When the Fitzroy runner came out to change him (Merrigan) over with the bloke wearing the head-gear (Chris Smith), I told him he’s no good either! I’ve played on better in the Riverina!”, Pendrick told me in the interview for this piece.

Such was the supreme confidence that was the trademark of arguably Wagga’s best-ever locally-produced player not to go to the VFL/AFL, although he did receive multiple offers to go to South Melbourne in the mid-1970s.

NSW playing under legendary VFL coach Allan Jeans took the game right up to Fitzroy in that pre-season game at the Sydney Showgrounds but faded in the second half to lose by 56 points. Penrick ended up kicking six goals and being named best for NSW.

Laurie Pendrick was a young Wayne Carey’s hero when “Lozza” ruled the roost at McPherson Oval, North Wagga in the 1970s through what has been the club’s most successful period. Carey told Neil Cordy in a recent interview for the AFL NSW Hall of Fame nominations that,

“Laurie was my first football hero. 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”.

Pendrick grew up over the back fence from the Careys in the Mt Austin area in Wagga.

Laurie recalls playing kick-to-kick with Wayne’s older brother Dick in the back-yard; later, they would play and coach together at Collingullie in the twilight of their illustrious careers.

The Turvey Park Midget League is where Laurie began his football at the age of five playing for the “Magpies”. He would graduate through the ranks and make his debut at 16 for Turvey Park in the South West League in 1967.

The pivotal moment that turned Laurie into a top-line footballer, and ultimately a successful coach was the arrival of Graham “Curly” Ion to coach Turvey Park in 1969. “Curly” was a star in Footscray’s 1961 grand final team under Ted Whitten but went to coach Deniliquin in 1966 leading them to a premiership and winning the competition best and fairest award.

“I was in awe of ‘Curly’. I wanted to be just like him, both on and off the field!” said Pendrick. “I became assistant coach to him and travelled to games with him in his brand-new Monaro GTS 350. He taught me everything.”

In 1973 “Lozza” went across the river to North Wagga to be assistant coach to Allan Hayes. Together they led the Saints to their first premiership since 1935.

Pendrick took up his first senior coaching appointment at Grong Grong Matong in 1975. He lifted the combine from the bottom rungs of the ladder into finals contention. He recalled his time at “Grongy” with great affection:

“Great people, passionate about their football club. If we won the farmers would give me a fistful of dollars in the change rooms, buy me drinks at the pub, and leave a side of dressed lamb on the back seat of the car”.

He returned to North Wagga as captain-coach in 1976. He led North Wagga to a premiership over Collingullie and topped the Farrer league goal-kicking with 114 goals.

The following season “Lozza” had probably his best season of football: he won the Baz medal, topped the goal-kicking with 132 goals, and led the Saints into another grand final.

It was during this season that South Melbourne tried its hardest to entice Pendrick to the VFL. The Swans offered him $10K to sign and two players on the senior list to North Wagga as replacements similar to a deal that they had done to secure Colin Hounsell from Collingullie. But North Wagga insisted he honour his contract to coach the club.

Pendrick would continue on as captain-coach of North Wagga, but then would embark on a remarkable football odyssey that would see him play and/or coach Newtown in Sydney (1979), QAFL club Coorparoo (1980 & 1984-86 including two premierships), North Wagga in 1981-83 (winning a Clear Medal) and again in 1987-88, Palm Beach-Currumbin on the Gold Coast (1989-90), Latrobe in Tasmania (1993), Collingullie (1996-1998), and Yarraville in the Western FL in Melbourne (2000-2001 including a premiership).

As captain-coach of Cooparoo he promoted Churchie school-boy Jason Dunstall to full-forward, who, of course, went onto forge a legendary career at Hawthorn following “Lozza’s” recommendation to his old NSW coach Allan Jeans, with whom he maintained a close relationship. Mary Jeans called him, at Allan’s request, just before he passed away.

According to long-time Wagga Tigers’ opponent Bevan Rowe, “Laurie was almost an unbeatable opponent. He had wonderful skills, enormous confidence, and was just so hard. He had massive influence on his teams, they followed him, and were absolutely fearless with him at the helm”.

Laurie Pendrick represented NSW on 11 occasions including captain-coach, and Queensland nine times including coaching the Maroons to Division II championship wins in 1985.

Allan Jeans

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880. One hundred and forty coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame at an event to be confirmed later in the year.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile the nominees for the Hall of Fame:

Allan Jeans coaching St Kilda in the 1960s

Controversy was never something Allan Jeans courted throughout his amazing 31-year career as a VFL/AFL player and coach. But before it all started, he found himself right in the middle of one when he moved from Tocumwal to Finley in 1952.

Jeans accepted an offer to play at Finley and work at the Albion Hotel which was run by Finley coach Bert DeAbbel who was also making the move from Tocumwal.

Tocumwal were furious and refused to grant Jeans a clearance which forced him to sit out the season and miss a premiership.

Three years later he was off to St Kilda with the consolation of playing in Finley’s 1954 premiership.

Neither the Saints nor Jeans had a clue what was in store. His 77 games as a player (1955-1959) gave little indication either.

But two decades later he had transformed the course of St Kilda’s history.

The highlight came in 1966 when Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale’s five goals and Barry Breen’s wobbly point gave them their first and only premiership.

They also played in grand finals in 1965 and 1971, preliminary finals in 1970 and 1972 and made finals appearances in 1961, 1963, 1968 and 1973.

He finished with a win loss record of 193-138.

In the previous 16 seasons (1945-1960) before Jeans arrival as coach the Saints had won seven wooden spoons, never got near a final and went 75-216.

By 1976 Jeans was in his words was “burned out” and took a five-year break from coaching in the VFL.

He took on the part-time role of coaching NSW in 1979-80 in the national club championships involving State league clubs from Victoria, WA and SA and representative teams from the other states. Under Jeans, the Sky Blues earned new-found respect.

In 1981 he jumped back on the horse and took over from David Parkin at Hawthorn.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship which produced arguably the greatest period of success of any club in the game’s history.

The Hawks had missed the finals in Parkin’s last two years but Jeans had them firing again in 1982 when they finished third. They then played in seven consecutive grand finals (1983-1989) and eight of the next nine winning five. Jeans missed the 1988 premiership after suffering a brain injury leaving Alan Joyce as caretaker.

At his funeral in 2011 John Kennedy Jnr. spoke on behalf of the players he had led to so much success. Kennedy described how Jeans set the tone for what was to come in his very first address, “Yabby said as players we did not have to like him but we must respect the position he holds at this football club,” Kennedy said. “He will need to earn our respect and we his, he demanded we respect the position he held as coach”, he added.

It was also the first of many memorable motivational speeches to the players. Kennedy recalled some of his favourites in his eulogy.

“He would stress continually that in football and life you cannot have freedom without responsibility,” Kennedy said. “That freedom to say and do things must be accompanied by a responsibility in what you say and do. You cannot have one without the other, he would roar.”

His half time address at the epic 1989 grand final is famous:

“It was about a mother who needed to pay the price for her son’s new shoes if she wanted them to last”. “She had to pay the price,” Jeans boomed. “If you want to win the game you have to be prepared to pay the price.”

Dermot Brereton and Robert DiPierdomenico paid the price with serious injuries including broken ribs, internal bleeding and in Dipper’s case a punctured lung. They played on and claimed Jeans fourth and final premiership.

Then there was his renowned sense of humour.

He was explaining the appointment of his great friend George Stone as runner:
“Well it’s like this,” Jeans said, “Napoleon during his times of war needed a messenger to get information to the troops. He decided to select the dumbest individual in his army because he believed if he could get the message through to him then it was more likely the message would get to the troops correctly! George is our runner.”

Kennedy said there was often banter between coach and players:
“We all knew he came from Finley,” Kennedy said.
“We would get into him about how small it was and how little he knew about the world. It was obviously completely wrong because he was a career policeman and saw a side of life we never did.”

There were also things he learned before he moved to the big smoke like his sense of right and wrong and compassion.

When he was a teenager working at the Albion Hotel in Finley he would look out for World War 2 veterans who had fallen on hard times. He would let them use the hotel’s shower to clean themselves up and often share his evening meal with them.

Allan Jeans was named Coach of the NSW Greatest Team at the Carbine Club AFL function in Sydney last year. This induction earnt him nomination to the AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

Jack Dean – NSW Hall Of Fame Nomination

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Australia Football Association in Sydney in 1880. One hundred and forty coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities from both the Elite (VFL/AFL) and Community level will be inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame at an event to be confirmed later in the year.

Neil Cordy and Rod Gillett profile some of the nominees for the Hall of Fame:

Jack Dean in 1958

In the 1949 interstate match between NSW and Victoria at the SCG twenty-year-old East Suburbs FC ruckman Jack Dean went up against veteran Victorian captain and legendary Richmond icon Jack Dyer at the opening bounce.

“He sat me on my arse!”

“The Vics. cleaned us up that day, but it was a great thrill to play against them” recalled Jack in an interview at the Alexandria Hotel in 2009.

“We thought we were a chance, our coach Frank Dixon (later Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney) was a great motivator and we trained for weeks in advance with a view to beating them” he added.

Born and bred in Paddington, Jack went down to Trumper Park with his brother Mal in 1944. His father Joe had also played for East Sydney, as did Jack’s son, Marshall. Thus Jack Dean began a distinguished football career that took in over 400 games in NSW until he retired in 1966.

He played 310 games for Easts, 45 for Sydney Naval, and 40 games for Ardelthan in the Riverina.

Jack also represented NSW on 25 occasions including the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) Centenary Carnival in Melbourne in 1958 where he was voted the State’s best player.

He was a star performer in five of Easts’ flags in this period when the club won a staggering seven premierships in a row under legendary coaches Fred Pemberton,  Alf Penno and Roy Hayes from 1953-59.

Following his stand-out performance at the 1958 carnival. where he won the Div II Best Player medal, Jack took up an offer to coach Ardlethan in the South-West League in southern NSW.

“We struggled to match it with the clubs from the bigger places, but we always took it up to them. We had lots of good times afterwards particularly at the London (Ardlethan’s only pub). After 6 o’clock the publican would pull down the blinds and we’d have a great sing-along around the piano. The other clubs used to love to stay back after a game at Ardelthan!”

Following his return from the bush Jack spent a season coaching Easts; he crossed to Sydney Naval, where he played until he retired in 1966 including the 1962 premiership.

He won East Sydney’s best and fairest four times and was runner-up on four occasions.

Allan Jeans

After his retirement, Jack returned to Easts on the committee and assumed the presidency in 1970 and held the position until 1982 during which time the Bulldogs won six premierships including the much-vaunted club centenary flag in 1980.

Jack was a long-serving State team selector and served as chairman of selectors for former St Kilda and Hawthorn premiership coach, Alan Jeans, in 1979-1980, when NSW competed in the national pre-season competition against VFL clubs.

The best and fairest medal at UNSW-Eastern Suburbs is named in his honour. He is a life member of the club and was awarded an Aust National Football Council Merit Award in 1977.

Jack was one of the first players inducted into the AFL Sydney Hall of Fame in 2003.

This induction earnt him a nomination under the category of Community Player for the AFL NSW Hall of Fame as part of the celebrations for the 140th year of Australian Football in NSW in 2020.

 

You can listen to (football) Jack’s life story in two parts on our website;  Here is part I here and part II here  You might have to turn your sound up a bit.