Book Review: Marrar Bombers Centenary

Catherine Fox, We Will Not Be Done: A Celebration of 100 Years. Marrar Football & Netball Club. 2018.  ISBN 978-0-646-98782-8.

Review by Dr Rodney Gillett 

Marrar Coach of the Century, John Hawke
and centre of the 1971 team

According to Marrar’s Coach of the Century, Johnny Hawke, Marrar have always been very hard to beat. “They always hang in there” he told me in an interview for this book review.

And that was from his perspective as an opposition coach. Johnny coached rival Central Riverina League (CRL) club Cootamundra for five years after coaching Ariah Park Mirrool  in the South West league from 1961-65 including a premiership in 1962.

“They (Marrar) knocked us off in two grand finals in a row when I was coaching Coota. They just had this marvellous team spirit. They were all in it together. Everybody” Johnny told me.

“I was really pleased to be asked to coach Marrar by George Mohr, the publican. I went out there in the van to drop off some smallgoods, went to training, signed-on as coach and stayed overnight at the pub. I had the best time out there”.

Under Hawke, Marrar finished on top of the ladder and played Army in the grand final at Junee. At the height of the Vietnam conscription period, Army flew players back from interstate and won their second flag in a row.

According to the club’s history book We Will Not Be Done, “1971 was one of Marrar’s finest hours. All the Bombers played at their absolute best – perhaps above themselves – when the final siren sounded Army was five points in front”.

Although he only coached Marrar for two seasons, Johnny made an enormous impression on players and officials at the club. He was instrumental in the development of emerging stars Reg Hamilton, Bruce Matthew, John “Rip” Mohr, Geoff Eastick and Ross “Arab” Seymour, all of whom went on to be amongst the club’s all-time great players.

Marrar which has a population of 364 people (according to the 2016 Census) is situated roughly half-way between Junee and Coolamon on the South West railway line that went through the district in 1881. Following the arrival of the rail, the post office opened in 1902, then the land on the Marrar Station was opened for selection for small farms in 1907.

Football was played in Marrar as early as 1912 on a social basis but a lack of a suitable competition and the outbreak of WWI stalled the formation of a football club.

A football club was formed in 1918 and entered the Coolamon & District Football League. Marrar beat Ganmain in the challenge play-off to win a premiership in the first season.

There were two Langtrys in that first-ever Marrar premiership team; a name synonymous with Marrar over a hundred years later. In fact, the football ground is named Langtry Oval in honour of the family, who donated part of the land where the current ground is.

Two of the club’s greatest servants, father Bernie “Trinner” Langtry and son Terry “Fred” Langtry, have provided tremendous leadership for the club and are suitably honoured in the book. As is the patriarch, Phil Langtry, who was a club leader in the 1920s and 1930s.

The book produced by the club to document its history over one hundred years expertly captures the salient moments and the contribution of the players and officials for both football and netball. There is a vast array of photos of teams and personalities which supplement the narrative of not being easily beaten.

It adopts a review based on decades with year-by-year reports with the focus mostly on major events and club performance. The club’s office bearers, coaches, and award winners are included in this section rather than as an Appendix.

Teams of the Century for football and netball are both listed at the back of the book along with the club song. Mercifully, it’s not “See the Bombers Fly Up” but the club’s own compilation.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and former chief football writer for the Wagga Daily Advertiser, Michael McCormack, who grew up on a farm in the district and whose father played footy for Marrar in the Wagga league in the fifties, “Marrar has always been the smallest club in any competition it has played in, but always punched well above its weight”.

McCormack, who wrote the Foreword to the book, told me in a conversation for this review, “Loyalty and resilience. These are the hallmarks of the Marrar Football Netball Club”.

He also attributed the appointment of high quality coaches by the club as pivotal to their success naming Johnny Hawke, Graham “Curly” Ion, Lou Alchin, Danny Malone, Tony Hughes, and more recently, Riverina coaching maestro, Shane “Sparks” Lenon, who coached the Bombers to their centenary flag in 2017 by upsetting raging hot favourites Temora.

The 2017 centenary premiership came after demoralising grand final defeats in 2009 – 2011. As the club’s team song goes:

“The mighty Bombers just won’t quit                                                                                                                             
  We will not be done”

Beckom overcame draw and local shows to win flag in 1960

By Dr Rod Gillett

Beckom FC – 1960 Barellan & Dist FL Premiers

Despite playing only one game in five weeks Beckom started well against Sandy Creek and went on to comfortably win the Barellan & District grand final in 1960, 10.6.66 to 4.18.42.

Beckom, under ex-Ariah Park Mirrool star Alan Mackenzie, beat Darlington Point in the 2nd semi final but the grand final was delayed by a drawn final between Darlington Point and Sandy Creek, and the subsequent replay on what should have been grand final day.

The following Saturdays were reserved for the major event in these communities, the agricultural shows at Ardlethan and Barellan – with a break, and then the Ariah Park show.

Premiership rover Brian O’Reilly, then eighteen years old, recalls Beckom’s “blend of youth and experience” – 17 year old half-forward Tommy Connors along with veterans Errol Foster at full-forward, half back Jim Gardiner, full back Pat O’Hare, a “fantastic footballer”, and uncle Bob O’Rielly, who was “close to 40” (years old).

Most of the team were farmers or sons of farmers or shearers with exceptions being Errol Foster who worked as a stock and station agent while Bob “Butch” O’Reilly ran the news-agency.

Brian remembers travelling back to Beckom with his best mate Tommy Connors in the old farm ute after the grand final to have a shower at the pub while the rest of his team-mates showered at the Commercial Hotel in Barellan and enjoyed a few celebratory drinks before journeying back to the Beckom pub.

The Beckom footy team, which wore a black guernsey with red cuffs, had been runner-up to Sandy Creek the previous year, and beat Darlington Point for the premiership in 1958. It also made the grand final with Alan McKenzie at the helm in 1961 but went down to Barellan-Binya in the grand final.

There was an exodus of players prior to the 1962 season with McKenzie going to Ariah Park-Mirrool to play under Johnny Hawke in their South West league premiership team as did Tom Connors while others went to Ardlethan.

To overcome the shortage of players Brian and Errol Foster went to Ardlethan to play under former Footscray rover Barry Connolly, which in return sent eight players to Beckom.

Due to a shortage of players in 1964 the Beckom club went into recess. It reformed in 1965 with Alan McKenzie returning to coach but the club did not make the finals.

1967 was to be the club’s final-ever season and by winning ten games, including an upset over the unbeaten and eventual premier Barellan-Binya, they finished fifth.

Beckom is a small central Riverina village located five kilometers north-east of Ardlethan just off the Newell Highway. Next stop West Wyalong, 60 kms further north.

It had been established in 1908 when the branch railway line from Temora to Barellan was opened; it was extended to Griffith in 1916. The main purpose of the branch lines were to transport rural produce to Sydney but they are also became a means to transport football teams.

Beckom Hotel

Hence the title of prominent Barellan football identity the late George Flagg’s book, Along the Line, on the development of the Barellan, Ariah Park, Tara and Ardelthan football associations in the period 1890-1990.

Brian O’Reilly recalls a vibrant village at Beckom when he played in the 1960s of several general stores, a post office, a bank, a newsagency, a stock and station agency, a garage, a primary school and a pub. All that remains is the pub and the school plus a road-house, a kilometre away on the Newell highway.

The Beckom football club had been formed soon after the establishment of the village and played “social football” according to George Flagg. After WWI, the club initially joined the Beckom-Barellan Association, then in 1923 joined the Ariah Park competition made up of Ariah Park, Mirrool, Ardlethan and Kamarah.

Beckom would continue to play in various incarnations of local leagues until re-joining the Barellan league in 1950. The Quade brothers, Bill, Leo, Tom and Pat were prominent players for the club in the early 50s.

The Barellan & District league ran out of clubs mainly as a result of the merger of Sandy Creek, and Kamarah-Moombooldool with Barellan-Binya to become Barellan United in 1970.

Barellan United beat the Hay Rovers in the grand final in 1971. The league then disbanded

Coleambly went to the Coreen league, Barellan United entered the Central Riverina league, and Hay eventually found a home in the Kerang and District league (now known as the Golden Rivers FL). Yanco disbanded.

Bob O’Reilly played for Beckom up until it folded. He had his best season in 1961 when he won both the competition and club best and fairest awards.

He had a few seasons at Sandy Creek then went to Ariah Park-Mirrool under Doug Priest in 1970. He retired in 1973 but made a surprising comeback in 1980 to play for the newly formed Tallimba club in the Northern Riverina FL. At age 38 and “farm-fit”, he played for five seasons, “mostly in the back-pocket, but it was lot of fun”, recalled Brian O’Reilly.


Source: George Flagg, Along the Line, 1990.

Quade Quadrella From Ariah Park-Mirrool

      Pat Quade

Pat Quade was rated the best player from NSW country never to go to the big time according a feature article in the AFL Record (18 May 2018).

“I can remember five VFL clubs – North Melbourne, Carlton, Richmond, St Kilda and Melbourne – were after Pat,” his brother Rick Quade, who was born 14 years after Pat, told the AFL Record.

“When someone from a VFL club came to the house, he’d disappear down the paddock and do some tractor driving. He bought his first farm out at Tallimba when he was pretty young, only 23 or 24, and that was his great love, apart from his family.

Pat was the sixth-born of the 15 Quade siblings (there were nine boys and six girls) born to Leo and Mary Quade who had moved to the area to take up land selection from down on the border.

Pat and his older brother Tom and younger brothers Mick and Rick are on the NSW Greatest Team list. They were all from the Ariah Park-Mirrool (APM) Football Club in the South West District Football League.

Both Tom and Mick played at North Melbourne while Rick went to South Melbourne.

Tom played just three games over 1957-58 due to a persistent knee injury. He returned to be captain-coach of APM for the 1959 season but was unable to play due to the persistent injury. After a few games the following season Tom was forced to retire.

Prior to going to North Melbourne, Tom played in APM’s 1954 and 1955 premiership teams. A tall athletic man, Tom had an epic battle in the ruck against Ganmain captain-coach Mick Grambeau (ex-North Melbourne) in the “rough and tough grand final of 1956” won by Ganmain (Ariah Park Mirrool Football Club 30th Year, 1983).

Pat played alongside his brother Tom in the 1954-55 premiership teams and then went onto carve out an illustrious career with the Brown Bombers. He won six club best and fairest awards in succession from 1956-61. He also played in the 1962 premiership team along with another

      Pat Quade     

brother John, under Johnny Hawke, the father of former Swans and Collingwood star Paul Hawke.

“Pat certainly wasn’t tall compared to the other ruckmen, but he had a terrific leap, was a very good mark for his size, and he was very strong,” Rick Quade told the AFL Record. “He was a strong bugger, I know that. Some of the things I used to see him doing on the farm. Bloody hell, he was terribly strong”.

During a career of more than 200 senior games from 1954 until 1965, Pat also represented the South West League against the Ovens and Murray, the Farrer league, the Sydney league, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong, South Melbourne, and Carlton.

Mick went to North Melbourne in 1966 and played 16 games and kicked nine goals until 1968. His VFL career was plagued by a nagging thigh injury. He returned to Ariah Park but he too was forced to retire prematurely in 1971.

He was described as “a beautifully built big man who possessed all the skills” (Ariah Park Mirrool Football Club 30th Year, 1983).  

He played his first senior match for APM in 1962 while home from school on holidays. All the boys except Pat went to boarding school at St Pat’s College Goulburn. According to Rick, Pat never wanted to leave the farm.

His first full season was in 1965 when he won the club’s best and fairest award. Playing at full-forward in the preliminary final he booted 9-3 but on that occasion APM was overpowered by Griffith.

Rick Quade has done almost everything at the Swans – player, captain, coach, selector, and board member. He went to South Melbourne under country zoning rules in 1970 to play under legendary coach Norm Smith.

Norm Smith made numerous visits to the family farm to entice Rick to go to South. He developed a strong rapport with Rick’s father Leo and undertook to look after young Rick.

The coach and the recruit developed such a strong relationship that Rick became a regular guest at the family home in Northcote, as well as at the coach’s beach house at Rosebud.

Highly regarded by the Smith family, Rick along with Norm and Marj’s son Peter, plus “adopted son” Ron Barassi, and another country boy, Ross Dillon from Kyabram, who went to play for Melbourne in 1966, were pall-bearers at Norm’s funeral in 1973.

Rick played his first senior game for APM aged 16 in 1967 after returning home to the farm from boarding school in Goulburn. He had an immediate impact by finishing runner-up best and fairest and was the club leading goalkicker with 49 goals.

The following season Rick established himself as a star in the competition booting his 100th goal for the season in the grand final against Griffith who were led by Ron O’Neill the league’s leading goalkicking with 114 goals and led the Swans to a 24-point victory over the Brown Bombers. Rick also won the club’s best and fairest award that season.

In 1969 aged 18, Rick kicked a competition record 131 goals but APM slipped to 7th. He again won the club best and fairest award.

He was finally enticed to South Melbourne the next season, but badly injured his knee on debut and missed the rest of the season including the Swans’ first final appearance since the Bloodbath Grand Final of 1945.

After four more seasons in the VFL, Rick returned to APM as playing coach in 1975 along with team-mate and friend Jim Prentice as assistant coach; Jimmy had played 60 games for South from 1971-75. In an exciting run the Brown Bombers surged into the finals and beat Griffith by 2 points in the first semi-final but went down to runner-up Turvey Park in the preliminary final.

In 1976 Rick returned to South Melbourne to play under new coach triple Brownlow medalist Ian Stewart. He had an outstanding season playing as a ruck-rover and won the club best and fairest award.

     Rick Quade

The following season Rick was appointed captain and led the Swans into the finals only to be beaten by Richmond in the elimination final at VFL Park, Waverly. Rick also represented Victoria that season against Tasmania and scored eleven votes in the Brownlow Medal.

Rick retired in 1980 after having played 164 games and kicked 111 goals. He won the Cazaly award in his final season for the Most Courageous Player in the VFL.

The following season he assisted Ian Stewart as a specialist coach.

He was appointed coach of the club for the 1982 season and spearheaded the Swans entry into Sydney when they played their home games at the SCG. A major highlight was the Swans victory in the nation-wide Escort Cup played at night under lights during the week.

Rick stood down as coach in mid-1984 for health reasons.

He was chairman of selectors from 1989-1993. He then became a board member from 1995-2009 and oversaw the club’s rise leading to the first premiership win for seventy-two years in 2005.

Rick is now the chairman of the club’s Hall of Fame committee.

“He was a fearless leader and mixed pure talent with raw aggression to gain the respect of his team-mates as well as the opposition” according to a profile by David “The Sandman” Oehm in the Riverina AFL Record (2003).

Rick was selected in the final squad for the NSW Greatest Team named at the Carbine Club function in May this year.

Tom, Pat, Mick and Rick were all named in APM’s Best Ever Team (Ariah Park Mirrool Football Club 30th Year, 1983).

(Written by Society Vice President, Dr Rodney Gillett)