Doug Priest’s Mentors Led to First Class Honours in Coaching

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 profile the nomination of Doug Priest to the Hall of Fame.

When Doug Priest was appointed captain-coach of Ariah Park-Mirrool in the South West League in 1970, the coach widely regarded as the greatest ever, Norm Smith, then coaching South Melbourne gave him a copy of his prized coaching notes.

Doug had been captain of South’s Reserves team at Smith’s behest as a result of his leadership qualities being revealed at the club after being recruited from Holbrook in southern NSW.

“The notes were very practical and provided a strong basis for my coaching philosophy but I still had the challenge to put the ideas into practice” Doug told me for this interview.

Working as a selector alongside another all-time VFL coaching great Allan Jeans, who coached the NSW State teams playing in the national club championships in 1979-80, provided another dimension to Doug’s coaching.

“Jeansey taught me about ‘man-management’; he really knew how to get the best out of individual players while Norm (Smith) was more old school, strong on discipline and values. I learn a lot from both”, Doug told me.

“My first senior coach, Brian Prior (ex-Footscray) also taught me a lot, particularly in relation to team-work and leading from the front. He was a terrific person as well as an excellent coach”.

And, of course, my first junior coach was my father Merv, who got the juniors going in Holbrook when he went there to work in the late 50s” Doug added.

Doug’s father, Merv is also one of the Riverina’s greatest players with a fine record as a player and coach with Rannock, Coolamon, Ganmain, and ultimately with Wagga Tigers.

A player named Priest on a football field in the area started with Doug’s grandfather Norman, who first pulled on the boots for Methul in 1912. The tradition continues with Doug’s grandson Kobe making his way through the grades at Wagga Tigers.

Doug began playing senior football for Holbrook in the Farrer Football League in 1962 and was a member of the 1964 premiership team under ex Footscray defender Brian Prior that beat Temora.

After stints at South Melbourne in the VFL (1966-69) where he played 26 games, and coaching Ariah Park- Mirrool in the South West League (1970-71) he went to Wagga Tigers in 1972 as coach until 1976 leading Tigers to a premiership in 1975 over Henty.

Doug played a leading role in the 1977 premiership victory over archrivals North Wagga under the illustrious Laurie Pendrick, with whom Doug shared the competition best and fairest award, the Baz medal.

He retired after playing in the 1978 premiership under ex Melbourne and Glenelg player Colin Anderson, who had taken over from him as coach.

Then he begun  highly successful involvement in representative football as a coach and selector while continuing involvement at Wagga Tigers in all manner of off-field roles (including president 2008-09) that continues to this day with leadership of the club’s history project.

Doug coached the Farrer league to great success during this period including three State Championship victories, the most notable being in 1980 when the bush boys beat a star-studded Sydney team coached by ex VFL star Sam Kekovich, then coaching Newtown, at Deniliquin.

Down by 8 goals at half-time, the Farrer team showed enormous spirit and courage to prevail over their more fancied opponent following a spate of injuries. This followed previous coaching triumphs in 1976 and 1978.

Following the restructure of the leagues in the Riverina in 1982, Doug took on the task of coaching the Riverina Football league (RFL) rep team in the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) championships.

Doug bought together the players from old rivals Farrer and South West to defeat the Wimmera league, but to lost by 7 points to eventual champion, the Ovens and Murray league. It galvanized the players and officials in the new competition.

Doug’s sons, Steven and Andrew, have followed in the footsteps of their forebears. Both have played nearly all their football with Wagga Tigers, and between them have won a staggering fifteen premierships!

Steven played in eight premierships, while Andrew played in seven flag-winning teams for Tigers.

Andrew is the games record-holder at Wagga Tigers having played 423 games; Steven amassed 360 games. Steven also played twenty-two games for the Sydney Swans Reserves in 1995.

The Priests have made an indelible mark on the game in the Riverina in so many ways and at so many levels, with Doug at the top of the class with his superb record as a player, coach, and official.

“…one of the most highly regarded footballers, coach, and later non-playing coaches in Riverina football” according to the history of the Ariah Park-Mirrol Football Club 1953-1983.

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.

Wayne Carey: The Greatest Player Ever

Australian Football celebrates its 140th anniversary in New South Wales this year after the founding of the NSW Football Association in Sydney on 30 June 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 interviews his former NSW State-of-Origin team-mate Wayne Carey:

 

       A Young Wayne Carey

In the week NSW Australian Football turned 140 its greatest player, Wayne Carey, has revealed he grew up barracking for the Parramatta Eels and South Melbourne.

Its salt in the wounds for Swans fans who lost Carey and John Longmire to North Melbourne for $70,000 in 1988.

But the news should be taken with a grain of the same stuff when the prospect of losing the Kangaroos champion to Rugby League was a real one.

Carey was an Eels fan but his move to his auntie’s house in North Wagga brought footy into the mix. Auntie Pam and Uncle Bob Causley lived on William Street just 50 metres from McPherson Oval.

“They were my happiest childhood memories there at McPherson Oval,” Carey said. “They were really good times for me. I started playing at 8am in the under 10s. The fog would set in sometimes and you couldn’t see the other end of the ground. I would be there all day. I’d run the boundary in the reserves and sometimes, the seniors. I got a pie and a can of coke for doing it”.

“My footy boots were hand me downs from a cousin. The first proper footy I got, a Sherrin, was one I won at a Carnival when I was 10. I treated it like a baby, I polished it and never kicked it on the road. I didn’t trust my brother (Sam) to mark it. If Sam was kicking with me it had to be on the grass.”

Forty years later the game is celebrating their good fortune and Carey’s contribution by including his name alongside triple Brownlow medallist Hayden Bunton’s on the Carey-Bunton medal.

It will recognise the best player from NSW annually through the AFL Coaches Association voting.

The Coaches Association award started in 2004, and previous NSW winners including Brett Kirk, Lenny Hayes, Taylor Walker, Kieran Jack, and Zac Williams will be awarded the medal retrospectively. A team of the year will also be named with Carey one of the selectors along with Mark McClure, Gerard Healy, Mike Sheahan and Richard Colless (conveynor).

It’s a fitting tribute to Carey’s impact on footy north of the Murray and south as well. In 2008 he was named as the greatest player ever in a book titled ‘The Australian Game of Football’. The book, published by the AFL, included a list of the top 50 players of all time.

Remarkably Carey’s inspiration didn’t come from any of the champions listed. His was a home-grown product of Wagga, Laurie Pendrick (pictured below)

“Laurie was my first football hero,” Carey said. “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”.

“He was the captain coach and had a really deep voice. The rooms were pretty small back then so they didn’t let many in. I tried to get in as often as I could and I loved the smell of the deep heat and the rah rah. If I wasn’t in the room I had my head sticking through the door. You could usually hear him outside the rooms because his voice was so loud.”

   Wayne Carey in his playing days with North Melbourne

North Wagga wasn’t the most exclusive area of the town and money was scarce. When Carey was named in the NSW primary school team the footy club raised the finance which allowed him to make the trip.

“North Wagga had raffles and raised funds for me to go to Darwin,” Carey said.

“The trip to Darwin was big and my first meeting with John Longmire”.

Carey cut his foot swimming near an oyster bed but did enough to impress then Swans recruiter Greg Miller. A decade later when Miller was working for North Melbourne came calling on the young pair of New South Welshmen.

Carey says at that stage he was the junior partner in the deal which would help secure the Kangaroos amazing run of success through the 1990s.

“Greg Miller remembered me from the carnival in Darwin and threw me in with the deal with John when we went to North,” Carey said. “They paid $70,000 for us and Horse was $60,000 of that and I was $10,000. John was a very accomplished player at a young age, he had every VFL club after him.”

It is the deal which broke Sydney fans hearts and still lingers in their collective memory, especially those who watched North Melbourne beat the Swans in the 1996 grand final.

The pill is made even more bitter by the fact Carey grew up following the red and white.

“I barracked for the Swans,” Carey said. “The Sydney blokes would come down and do clinics. That’s where I met Stevie Wright. He was my first VFL/AFL hero, he pulled me aside at a clinic and had a kick with me and I loved him from that time on.

“The reason why I wore the number 26 in the 1990 state game against Victoria was because of Stevie Wright.”

Wright coached Clarence (Tasmania FL) to back to back flags in 1993 and 1994 and is still involved in football. He is currently coaching Meeniyan-Dumbalk in the Alberton League in South Gippsland, Victoria.

“Wayne told me the story about the footy clinic but I hadn’t heard about him wearing the number 26 for NSW,” Wright said. “It’s obviously nice to hear that Wayne remembered me, it just goes to show what a difference it makes when you show interest in kids wherever they are.” (Ed. Steve Wright was vice-captain of the 1990 Origin team and wore #12 in that game).

The kid Steve took some time with is now the ‘King’ or ‘Duck’ depending on who you talk with.

He’s looking forward to presenting the first Carey-Bunton Medal later this year.

“I’ve always felt strong about where I come from,” Carey said. “I was born and bred in Wagga and I’m proud of that.”

Neil Cordy played 235 VFL/AFL games with Footscray and the Sydney Swans. After his AFL career Neil coached and played for East Sydney. He worked for Network Ten for 15 years as a reporter/presenter and on their AFL coverage. He was the AFL Editor for the Daily Telegraph from 2011 to 2018 and is currently a member of ABC Grandstand’s AFL broadcast team.

 

The Priest’s Family Footy Dynasty Goes Back Over A Century

by Dr Rod Gillett

There’s been a Priest playing footy in the Riverina spanning five generations for over a century.

The focus of this piece was going to be on Wagga Tigers legend and former South Melbourne player Doug Priest – “one of the most highly regarded footballers, coach, and later non-playing coaches in Riverina football” – according to the history of the Ariah Park-Mirrol Football Club 1953-1983 – but then it became apparent that the Priest family football dynasty in the area stretched back over a century.

It all began with Norman Priest in the early part of the 20th century when he started having a kick with Methul in the Ariah Park & District Football Association.

Since then the roll-call of Priests playing football has been Norman’s sons Bob (Betric), Mervyn (Rannock, Ganmain, Wagga), Lionel (Rannock, Wagga) and Warwick (Turvey Park) , grandson Doug (Holbrook, South Melbourne, Wagga Tigers), grandsons Steven and Andrew (both Wagga Tigers), and, now great grandson, Kobe (Wagga Tigers).

The first evidence of Norman playing is in a team photo of 1912 when he was aged 22; it is almost certain that he started playing earlier than that. He later played with Rannock along with his brothers when that team was formed after the First World War

A highlight of Norman’s career was playing in a combined Ariah Park and District team that beat a Sydney representative team at Erskineville Oval in 1913. He was later a league and club official.

Doug’s father, Merv began playing footy aged 14 for Rannock in the district league of the same name in 1932. He won the competition best and fairest in 1938 aged 19. In 1939 & 1940 he played for Rannock on Saturdays and Coolamon on Sundays in the South West League. Then he went off to serve his country in the AIF 29th battalion as a sergeant in WWII; while stationed in Melbourne in 1941 he played Seconds for Footscray in the VFL.

After the war Merv returned home in 1946 and began playing for Ganmain on Saturdays and Wagga on Sundays till Ganmain found out and he had to settle for just playing for Ganmain. He played in the Maroons’ premiership team win over Narrandera and was named best player.

He joined the Wagga club then playing in the Wagga and District Football League as captain-coach 1947-48. His brother Lionel joined him at Wagga from 1947-54.

He stayed on as player at Wagga Tigers as they became known in 1950 and transferred to the Albury and District competition (now known as the Farrer league) until he retired in 1954. In between he squeezed a season as coach of Collingullie, then in the Central Riverina League, to runner-up to Boree Creek in 1953.

Merv captained the Wagga and District league against North Melbourne in Wagga in 1951 and the Albury and District league against North Melbourne in 1952 also at Robertson Oval, Wagga.

Merv and family moved to Holbrook in 1959 to take up a position at the Pastures Protection Board and was instrumental in setting up the Holbrook junior football teams which he then coached for a few years (therefore he was Doug’s first coach). He was also a selector for the Holbrook Football Club.

Doug began playing senior football for Holbrook in 1962 and was a member of the 1964 premiership team under ex Footscray defender Brian Prior that beat Temora.

After stints at South Melbourne in the VFL (1966-69) where he played 26 games, and coaching Ariah Park- Mirrool in the South West League (1970-71) he went to Wagga Tigers in 1972 as coach from till 1976 leading Tigers to a premiership in 1975 over Henty.

Doug played a leading role in the 1977 premiership victory over archrivals North Wagga under the illustrious Laurie Pendrick, with whom Doug shared the competition best and fairest award, the Baz medal.

He retired after playing in the 1978 premiership under ex Melbourne and Glenelg player Colin Anderson, who had taken over as coach from him. He played in four premierships: one more than his father.

Then he begun a highly successful involvement in representative football as a coach and selector at the representative level while continuing involvement at Wagga Tigers in all manner of off-field roles (including president 2008-09) that continue to this day with the club’s history project.

Doug was a State selector in 1979-80 when NSW played in the national Escort championships under Allan Jeans narrowly lost to Fitzroy at the Sydney Showgrounds after leading at half-time. The next season the Sky Blues beat the ACT but lost to eventual premier Richmond by a narrow margin in the next round.

Doug also coached the Farrer league to great success during this period including three State Championship victories, the most notable being in 1980 at Deniliquin when the bush boys beat a star-studded Sydney team coached by ex VFL star Sam Kekovich, then coaching Newtown.

Down by 8 goals at half-time, the Farrer team showed enormous spirit and courage to prevail over their more fancied opponent. This followed previous coaching triumphs in 1976 and 1978.

Following the restructure of the leagues in the Riverina in 1982, Doug took on the task of coaching the Riverina Football league (RFL) rep team in the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL) championships.

Doug bought together the players from old rivals Farrer and South West to defeat the Wimmera league, but to lost by 7 points to eventual champion, the Ovens and Murray league. It galvanized the new competition. He enjoyed enormous respect from the players and coaches in the new RFL.

When asked about his great record as a coach, Doug told me that Norm Smith had given him a copy of his coaching notes when he went from South Melbourne to coach Ariah Park-Mirrool but that working closely with Allan Jeans had taught him about “man-management”.

“Jeansie really knew how to get the best out of individual players while Norm (Smith) was more old school, strong on discipline and values. I learn a lot from both”, Doug told me.

Doug’s sons, Steven and Andrew, have followed in the footsteps of their forebears. Both have played nearly all their football with Wagga Tigers, and between them have won a staggering fifteen premierships!

Steven played in eight premierships, while Andrew played in seven flag-winning teams for Tigers.

Andrew (aka Horse) is the games record-holder at Wagga Tigers having played 423 games; Steven amassed 360 games. Steven also played twenty-two games for the Sydney Swans Reserves in 1995.

Steven won the club best and fairest five times and represented NSW on five occasions including against the VFA on the MCG in 1995. He was vice-captain of the State team that won the Australian Country Championships in 2002.

Just like their great grandfather, grandfather, and father they have served their clubs in various capacities as officials and junior or senior coaches.

Now the baton has been passed to Steven’s son, Kobe, who played in Tigers’ Under 18 team last season. He has big boots to fill, but all the Priests that have come before him have all had the ability and character to be successful as players and contribute significantly to

to the game.

Image: (l to r) – Doug, Steven, Dad (Merv) & Kobe with the football.

Best NSW Team Ever Announced

       Wayne Carey

The player regarded by many as the best player to ever play the game, Wayne Carey, has been named as captain of the Greatest NSW Team at the Carbine Club of NSW annual AFL Lunch today (9th May, 2019).

“The King” captained North Melbourne to two premierships in the 1990s and was selected in seven All Australian teams and was named captain four times. He won four best and fairest awards at North Melbourne and was leading goal-kicker five times. He captained the club from 1993-2001.

Carey played in the NSW team that beat Victoria at the SCG in 1990 and led a NSW/ACT team against Victoria at the MCG in 1993.

He began his football journey at North Wagga and strongly identifies with that club where his brother and nephews played. His boy-hood hero was the illustrious North Wagga captain-coach Laurie Pendrick.

The selection of the NSW Greatest Team was jointly sponsored by the NSW Australian Football History Society and the AFL NSW/ACT.

A panel of experts was assembled to undertake this extraordinarily challenging exercise. Senior selectors were Mike Sheahan and Gerard Healy supported by NSW Australian Football Society executive members Ian Granland and Rod Gillett and society member and author Miles Wilks. AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham and AFL Commissioner Gabrielle Trainor represented the AFL.

The panel was chaired by former Sydney Swans chairman and inaugural NSW/ACT AFL chairman, Richard Colless, who is the AFL convenor for the Carbine Club of NSW.

Nearly 500 NSW players have since 1897 played senior football in the VFL/AFL and a smaller number in the SANFL.

NSW players have won seven Brownlow Medals, five Magarey Medals, and three Sandover Medals.

There have been various attempts to select teams that represent part of NSW, e.g. Southern NSW/ACT, Riverina and Sydney teams. And there have also been a number of teams selected by historians and supporters that have been posted on the internet.

There has however, never been an official NSW team that embraces the game’s 140-year history and includes every part of the State in which the game indigenous has been played.

One of the issues is that there has never been a natural senior competition in NSW. Broken Hill, Sydney, and various Southern NSW and Riverina Leagues have at one stage or another been ascendant.

Nonetheless the game has a very rich history in NSW and the selection of the Greatest Team represents a major celebration for Australian Football in this state.

The team is:

 

 

 

 

Click here for criteria and bio of each player