O’Dwyers and Tooheys lead Barooga to flag in 1960

A special report by Dr Rod Gillett:

“Dad and Uncle Vin were the lynchpins of the three premiership wins 1959-1961” – Chris O’Dwyer

It’s a late afternoon as the sun sets down on the Murray River when 91-year-old Gerald O’Dwyer comes in from his vegetable garden at his home in Barooga to chat to me on the phone about the local club’s 1960 premiership triumph in the Picola & District Football League.

“I couldn’t make the committee meeting because I was watering at the time. I got appointed honorary coach, that meant no money for doing the job!” Gerald told me.

“It was between me and Vin Toohey, who was a marvellous player, but the committee chose me because I was older”.

It was an inspired choice by the Barooga footy club because Gerard would lead the team to a premiership and Vin Toohey would win the competition best and fairest. They were the two best – and hardest players in the competition.

The names O’Dwyer and Toohey are inextricably linked to Barooga even though the sons of Gerald and Vince would make their mark elsewhere with Jon (Swans list), Chris (Swans), and Kieran O’Dwyer (Hawthorn list) and the Toohey brothers, Bernard (Geelong, Swans & Footscray), Gerard (Geelong) and Stephen (Geelong Under 19s).

However, the eldest boys, “Jon O” Dwyer and “Huck” Toohey would return home for premierships. More about the sons of guns later.

Barooga is a border town (pop. 1817) on the NSW side of the river just 10kms from Cobram. It shares the same postcode as Cobram, 3644. I dialled 03 then the home number to talk to Gerald. Everything visual is Victorian except the number plates.

The Barooga Football Club was formed in 1894 and with Tocumwal, Yarroweyah and Muckatah formed the Murray Border Football Association.

Gerald O’Dwyer went to boarding school at St Gregory’s Campelltown and didn’t play football and until he returned home to work on the family farm at end of WWII.

Together with his brother-in-law and close friend Vin Toohey he joined the Barooga team then playing in Murray League 2nds competition against Jerilderie and seconds teams from most of the MFL clubs such as Finley, Berrigan, Cobram, Deniliquin and Tocumwal winning premierships in 1950, 1952-53 and 1956.

In 1959 when the Murray League decided to consolidate the Seconds competition by adding Nathalia and Numurkah (from the Picola league), Barooga joined the nearby Picola & District Football League and Jerilderie went to the Coreen & District FL.

Barooga won the premiership in their first season by beating Wunghnu in the grand final at Picola under Don Holbrook. Then Gerald O’Dwyer took over taking the club to premierships in 1960 over Katunga and again in 1961 against Wunghnu.

In the 1960 Katunga (“sons of soldier settlers”) threw everything at Barooga and were in front by 15 points at ¾ time, Gerald went forward from his usual position in the centre and kicked two goals to propel them to victory.

Gerald recalls the best players in the 1960 grand final being Vin Toohey and his brother Bernie, both rovers, ruckman Pat Quinane, half-forward Frank O’Çallaghan, and defender Gavin Cullen.’

Jono O’Dwyer

When I asked Gerald about the high preponderance of Catholics in the team, he simply replied, “We were all in it together, we were nearly all farmers or worked on farms, good mates on the field, and off the field, we all enjoyed a barrel in the rooms after a game and then a drink down the pub, not all of us made it along to Mass on a Sunday”.

Gerald played 325 games for his beloved Barooga including seven premierships.

Vin Toohey won six competition best and fairest awards – four in the Murray League 2nds and two in the Picola League, 1960-61. And eight club best and fairest awards, between 1952 and 1969. He played in ten grand finals, winning six.

His eldest son, Bernard, has vivid memories of one match his father played when he was “cleaned-up” by a Yarroweyah player which broke a bone in his father’s neck. The ambulance was called but his father was reluctant to go off and wanted to keep playing “…besides I’ve got to get home to milk the cows”.

He played again three weeks later but could never look too far to his left again. Tough Toohey, that was another nickname, Bernard had at the Swans. Like father, like son.

After a highly distinguished VFL/AFL career Bernard had three years with Wodonga in the O & M but came home at his father’s urging and played in the club’s 1997 premiership in the Murray League at full forward and kicked 70-odd goals for the season.

Jon O’Dwyer, whose outstanding football ability and renowned ferocity at the ball took him from Assumption College Kilmore (ACK) to the Swans and a football odyssey in NSW also returned home to Barooga to play in the 1993 and 1994 premierships.

“Jono” has played in an unfeasible number of premierships/championships numbering 18 out of twenty including junior flags at Barooga and school titles at ACK; he also played in senior premierships at Sydney Uni (1992), Barooga (1993-94), Queanbeyan (1998-99) and Griffith (2003) then finished his career off with two reserves premierships for Barooga. He now assists with the GWS Giants Academy at Tocumwal.

Meanwhile, “Chris O” played eight senior games for the Sydney Swans 1990-1992 before joining East Sydney where he played 168 games between 1993 and 2000. He won the Phelan Medal (Sydney competition’s B & F) in 1994 and coached Easts in 1997-98. He currently coaches Ingleburn junior teams in the Sydney Harbour competition which feature the next line of footballing O’Dwyers, Finn, Angus, Sullivan, and Lennix that are sure to make their grandfather proud.

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.

30 Years Ago NSW Downs the Big V in Monumental Upset

“In the mud and slush of a rainy Sydney night thirty years ago (22 May 1990), a motley crew of New South Welshmen upset the Victorians at their own game.

When the star-studded Victorian Sate of Origin side arrived in Sydney to take on the footy minnows of New South Wales in 1990, they brought their arrogance and swagger.

A team containing some of the game’s all-time greats such as Stephen Silvagni, Dermott Brereton, Dale Weightman and Paul Salmon expected an easy Tuesday night at the SCG.

What they copped was a reality check.

Torrential rain greeted the Vics that afternoon and by the time the ball was bounced the conditions weren’t much better.

All the media talk pre-match had been about the Big V and how much they’d embarrass the local boys coached by then Sydney Swans coach Col Kinnear.

But the visitors didn’t count on the state pride of NSW players such as the Daniher brothers- Terry, team captain, Neale, Anthony and Chris – who were playing together for the first time in senior company, hardman Bernard “Huck” Toohey or North Melbourne teenage prodigies Wayne Carey and John Longmire”.

This excerpt from the NSW AFL Annual Report 1990 captures the pride, joy and excitement of the NSW State of Origin team beating Victoria in an interstate match for the first time since 1925 (https://nswfootballhistory.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/1990-NSWAFL-Annual-Report.pdf).

        Craig Davis

“I stuck it up Teddy Whitten” recalls NSWAFL General Manager Craig Davis (pictured left) with a laugh in his voice. Davis had put the game together in less than a month and did a magnificent job to pull all the parts and people together. Even better the outcome of his efforts was a momentous victory for NSW.

“I still can picture Ted Whitten sitting in the Ladies Stand looking absolutely bewildered” he added.

“It remains the biggest off-field initiative of mine in the game, only surpassed by (son) Nick’s 2005 AFL Premiership with the Swans” Davis recalls with immense satisfaction.

On the night of the match Nick Davis was staying in the family home of Bernard Toohey in Barooga with Bernard’s parents the late Vince and Jill; Nick was playing in the NSW PSSA Carnival.

After the after-match Davis drove through the night to Barooga arriving at the licensed Sports Club for breakfast, and in time to watch Nick play that morning on the club’s ground.


N.S.W. 2-4 8-5 11-6 13-8 (86)

Victoria 4-5 7-8 9-12 10-16 (76)

Attendance: 14,000

Best Players: John Longmire, Brett Allison, Mark Eustice, Tim Powell, Syevie Wright, John lronmonger

Goals: N.S.W.: John Longmire 8, Terry Daniher, Wayne Carey, Bernard Toohey, Neale Daniher, Mark Roberts John Ironmonger

Player of the Match: John Longmire


PLAYERS: Terry Daniher (Captain), Steve Wright (Vice-Captain), Anthony Daniher, Michael Gayfer, Brett Allison, Tim Powell, Bill Brownless, Mark Eustice, David Bolton, Wayne Carey, Craig Potter, Neil Cordy, John Longmire, Bernard Toohey, Steve Wright, Chris Daniher, Michael Werner, Michael Phyland, Barry Mitchell, John Ironmonger, Neale Daniher, Mark Roberts, and Russell Morris

COACH & SELECTORS: Colin Kinnear (Coach), Rick Quade (Chairman of Selectors), Tony Franklin, Craig Davis, and John Reid

MEDICAL/TRAINERS: Phil Loxley (Doctor), Doug Coleman (Physiotherapist), Bruce Hunter (Head Trainer), Alex Kair, Matt Sheedy, Colin Moore, Gary Zealand, and Barry Snowden (Trainers)

OFFICIALS: Tim Johnson (Team Manager), Laurie Axford (Fitness Advisor), Peter Krisihos (Statistics), Mike Mealand (Property Manager), Bob McConnell (Timekeeper) Rod Gillett (Property Steward), Bernie Dowling (Doo