Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in NSW this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney in 1880.
Dr Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Gordon Strang to the Hall of Fame.
A Sydney representative team beat South Melbourne in a challenge match in Sydney in 1909. Sydney 10-10 (70) defeated South Melbourne 7-10 (52).
And as students of football history would know, particularly Swans fans, this was the year the club won its first-ever VFL premiership.
Ironically, the captain of the Sydney team, and the player that turned the game in the third quarter, was former South Melbourne player, Bill Strang, originally from Albury, then playing for YMCA in the Sydney competition.
According to The Referee (July 1909), “In the South Melbourne-Combined Sydney match at the Agricultural Ground (RAS Showground, Moore Park), the Blues had a lead of 15 points at half-time. In the third quarter, however, Strang put a different complexion on affairs by kicking two goals from somewhere in the vicinity of sixty yards and was undoubtedly the means of Combined Sydney winning the match”.
Known as “Cocker”, Bill had gone to South Melbourne in 1904 and played with the Bloods until 1907 including the South Melbourne team that finished runner-up to Carlton for the 1907 VFL premiership.
Remarkably, four of Bill’s sons played in the VFL, Alan, Gordon, Doug, and Colin.
Doug and Gordon were both recruited from East Albury via Jindera by Richmond to play in the VFL for the 1931 season. The Tigers were focussed on Gordon who had already made an impact in the Ovens and Murray competition but father Bill told the recruiters, “You might as well take Doug too; he’s a good player and not bad in front of goals” (Sporting Globe, 3 April 1954).
In his first game, Gordon took 12 marks playing in the key defensive position including three in the dying stages that saved the match. Meanwhile, Doug booted fourteen goals against North Melbourne in round two. This remains a record at Richmond for the most goals in a game.
Gordon (also nicknamed “Cocker”) played in Richmond’s premiership teams in 1932 and 1934; he also played in the losing grand final teams of 1931 and 1934. Gordon played a total of 116 games and kicked 108 goals for the Tigers and represented Victoria on nine occasions.
He was named centre-half back in Richmond’s Team of the Century and in the same position for NSW’s Greatest Team.
Doug played at Richmond from 1931-35 accumulating 64 games and 180 goals in a career riddled with injuries. He was the Tigers’ leading goalkicker 1931-1933 and played alongside his brother Gordon in the 1932 premiership team. He missed the 1933 grand final through suspension.
Gordon returned home to the border to coach Wodonga in 1939 after coaching Launceston in 1937 and having another season with Richmond in 1938. He coached against his brother Doug in the 1939 grand final won by Albury.
He won the Morris medal for best and fairest in the O & M in 1940. The grandstand at Martin Park, Wodonga is named in his honour for his service to the football club.
After coaching the Kyneton Tigers to a premiership in 1936, Doug returned home to Albury and played in the 1937 premiership, and then coached the club to flags in 1939 (against brother Gordon) and 1940.
Doug booted 126 goals in 1938 which still stands as the Ovens and Murray Football League record. The O & M goalkicking medal is named in his honour. He is a member of both the Ovens and Murray FL and Albury Tigers Hall of Fame.
Bill’s two other sons, Colin and Alan, both also played VFL football. Colin played two games and kicked 3 goals at St Kilda in 1933 while Alan played fifteen games and kicked 17 goals at South Melbourne 1947-48.
Bill’s grandson Geoff went to Richmond where from 1965-71 he played 88 games. He was a fast, tough attacking defender in the mould that Tommy Hafey re-built the Richmond sides in the 1960s. Geoff played in the 1967 and 1969 premiership teams.
As for Bill, he had another stint with South Melbourne in 1913 and topped the goalkicking with 28 goals. Altogether, he played 69 games and kicked 80 goals for the Bloods. He also played three games for NSW and 3 matches for Combined Sydney.
After serving in World War I, Strang returned to Albury where he played until 1920.
The Strang family have the most players on the 500 Greatest-ever list of NSW players.