The Strang Family From Albury Made Their Mark on Football

Billy Strang

The Strang family from Albury provided the most number of players on the NSW Greatest Team List.

Six members of the Strang family, Bill, father of Alan, Gordon, Doug, Colin, and Geoff, son of Doug, played VFL/AFL in the period stretching from 1901 to 1970.

The involvement of the Strangs at the highest level began with Bill Strang who went to VFL club South Melbourne in 1904 from Albury. He had been captain of the Pirates club. He played until 1907, and then had another stint in 1913. He was described in The Encyclopaedia of AFL Footballers: Every AFL/VFL Player Since 1897 (2003) as “a hard-bumping follower and forward who was a fine mark”. He played centre-half forward in the South Melbourne team that finished runner-up to Carlton for the 1907 VFL premiership.

Strang went to Sydney in 1908 where he turned out for the YMCA club but newspaper reports indicate that he was injured in the finals and missed playing in the premiership. From there he went to Paddington as captain in 1909 and played with this club until half-way through the 1912 season when he returned to Albury.

Nicknamed “Corker”, he played three games for NSW and 3 matches for Combined Sydney while he was in Sydney. He captained Combined NSW to a famous victory over his old club South Melbourne in 1909, the year South won its first-ever VFL premiership. NSW 10-10 (70) defeated South Melbourne 7-10 (52).

According to The Referee (July 1909), “In the South Melbourne-Combined Sydney match at the Agricultural Ground, 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”.

Strang then went back to South Melbourne in 1913 and was the leading goal-kicker with 29 goals. He played 69 games and kicked 80 goals for the Bloods. After serving in World War 1, he returned to Albury where he played until 1920.

Bill’s sons, Doug and Gordon were both recruited from East Albury 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 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 selected recently 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.

Doug Strang returned home to play for Albury after coaching Kyneton Tigers to the premiership in the Bendigo Football League in 1936. He played in the 1937 premiership and then coached the club to flags in 1939 (against brother Gordon who coached Wodonga and won the Morris medal) 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 Fames.

Geoff Strang

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.

Doug’s son Geoff also 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.

Geoff joined premiership team-mate Mike Patterson (coach) at North Adelaide in the SANFL from 1972-74 and was a member of their 1972 premiership. He then returned to finish his playing career at Albury in 1975 where he played a total of 99 games including the 1960-64 period.

The Strang family record is remarkable and they have made a highly significant contribution to football in NSW.

SOME NSW PLAYERS IN GRAND FINALS

As it did when Sydney won in 2012, this year the premiership will feature New South Welshmen.  But the question is, how many?

Today though, presents an opportune time to reflect on the best performances by New South Wales players in some VFL/AFL grand finals.

1. Lenny Hayes (Pennant Hills) – St Kilda v Collingwood, 2010 (drawn grand final)

Lenny Hayes produced the greatest grand final performance from a New South Wales player when he starred in the 2010 drawn grand final.

In the process, Hayes received the honour of being the first player from NSW to win the Norm Smith Medal “ a clear winner by six votes over the next best player.

The statistics confirm Hayes’ dominance in this match, as he was the leading possession winner on the ground with 32, as well as racking up a game-high 12 tackles.

2. Tom ˜Tomahawk” Hawkins (Finley) Geelong v Collingwood, 2011

The high rating for Tom Hawkins is due to his momentum stealing second half in the 2011 decider.

Every time Collingwood gained the momentum in the third quarter of this grand final, Hawkins kicked a goal to keep his Geelong team in the contest. The match see-sawed as a contest until Hawkin’s third goal in the quarter put the Cats up by eight points, and from that point onwards Geelong seized control of the match.

The marks that Hawkins took in the last quarter had the commentators in raptures. “He’s playing out of his skin, Tom Hawkins,” said commentator Anthony Hudson after Hawkins took a strong contested mark in the last quarter.

Just a few minutes later, Hawkins took a one-handed mark while fending off his opponent with his other hand. “Hawkins again, oh this is amazing, who is this man?” Hudson said.

3. Chris Laird (Paddington) – South Melbourne v Collingwood, 1918

Chris Laird has generally been overlooked as a great grand final player due to the passing of time since the 1918 grand final, yet he kicked one of the most important goals in grand final history.

If the VFL had awarded a best on ground medal back in the 1918 grand final then the Sydney recruit would have been in line to take that award.

He kicked the winning goal for the red and whites against Collingwood with just 30 seconds remaining in the match, and was also the equal top goal scorer in the match with three goals to his name.

Without Laird’s final goal, Collingwood would have most likely won this match, so Laird’s influence could not have been more pronounced.

4. Gordon Strang (East Albury) – Richmond v Carlton, 1932

The Sporting Globe’s W.S. “Jumbo” Sharland listed Gordon Strang as Richmond’s best player in the grand final of 1932 as a result of his dominance in marking contests.

This high rating was also backed up by the report in The Age, which wrote “One of the most outstanding was G. Strang, who was unbeatable in the aerial duels, and who pulled down sixteen marks.”

To put this feat in perspective, no one player since the 1990 grand final has taken this many marks in a grand final. For his aerial dominance alone, Strang deserves his spot as one of New South Wale’s best grand final performers.

5. Jarrad McVeigh (Pennant Hills) – Sydney v Hawthorn, 2012

The 2012 AFL grand final is the high point in Australian football history for New South Wales.

For starters, it legitimised the 2005 grand final victory as being more than just a flash in the pan moment. The players recruited from Sydney football clubs such as Kieren Jack and Lewis Roberts-Thomson also had a significant role in the match.

Furthermore, important history was created when Craig Bird became the first player to achieve premiership success after being recruited directly from a mid-northern NSW club (Nelson Bay).

Yet there was one New South Welshmen who, more than any other, led the way in the 2012 grand final – Jarrad McVeigh.

McVeigh accrued 21 disposals, laid nine tackles and, most importantly, kicked two goals. One of those goals was scored while he was matched up against Cyril Rioli and the other, when Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell gave away a 50-metre penalty during the third quarter, became the turning point in the match.

The ultimate team player, McVeigh had as many as 36 pressure acts against the opposition as well. The football purists say one-percenters, pressure acts, tackles and smothers win you football matches.

McVeigh’s performance in the 2012 grand final was one for the football purist.

The other players considered were Brett Kirk (for his role in the 2005 grand final for Sydney), Bert Clay (pictured – the 1944 ruckman for Fitzroy), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (the 2005 and 2012 premiership player from the North Shore), Frank Gumbleton (for his role in the 1975 grand final for North Melbourne) and Leo Barry (2005 premiership defender for Sydney from Deniliquin).

In this case, they fell just outside the top five.

Article, courtesy of Miles Wilks