Two N.S.W Indigenous All-Stars

Sydney boasts two of the greatest indigenous players in history with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin. But long before they moved to the Swans there were another pair who were dazzling NSW footy fans with their skill, courage and athleticism.

Rod Gillett profiles the nominations of Sid Robins and “Ossie” Grose to the inaugural NSW Hall of Fame to celebrate 140 years of football in NSW.

Sid Robins   Ossie Grose

Sid Robins is regarded as the Griffith Football Club’s best-ever local player and is the club’s record games holder with 317 appearances in a stellar career from 1963 to 1980.

He won the competition’s best and fairest award, the Gammage medal in 1972, and was a pivotal member of the Swans’ 1968 premiership triumph under goal-kicking machine “Gelignite” Ron O’Neill.

Sid won the club’s best and fairest award four times in succession, 1969-1972, during the most successful period for the Griffith club in the South West league.

Standing six feet (1.8m) tall he started as a winger but became the main-stay of the Griffith defence at centre half-back taking on the super stars of the competition such as ex St Kilda star Frank Hodgkin (Ganmain), Brownlow medalist Peter Box (Narrandera), locally-produced star  Des Lyons (Leeton) and ex Fitzroy forward Vern Drake (Ariah Park-Mirrool coach).

He started his football with the Griffith schoolboys but went to play with Beelbangera-Yenda in 1962 under Bobby Spears in the Barellan League.

He returned to Griffith the next season and was to remain with the club until his retirement in 1980. Sid also represented the South West league on ten occasions in representative fixtures.

Part of folklore at Griffith are the club notes in the match program in 1973 after a big win over fierce local rival Whitton, “But the one goal that captured the imagination of the crowd was that of Sid Robins. Running 50 yards against a 30 knot breeze and with seven players hanging off him, he kicked the ball 100 yards for a goal – well done Sid.”

Sid Robins only ever kicked three goals for Griffith in his 317 club games.

At the club’s centenary function in 2014 he was named in the Griffith Swans ‘Team of the Century’ at centre half-back.

Source: https://www.swansonscreen.com/

 

John Mervyn “Ossie” Grose came to Sydney from Kempsey with his family and settled in Erskineville just around the corner from Erskineville Oval. He gained first grade selection with Newtown after a season in the Under 18s. He had not previously played Australian football.

A diminutive 5’2” (1.57m) rover, “Ossie” became a key player in the Blood-Stained Angels premiership team of 1942 continuing on to play in another three premierships for Newtown between 1945-47 during a “golden era” for the club.

He was described in the Sydney Football Record for the 1947 grand final as “Newtown’s classy rover. Intelligence and unselfishness are the key notes of his play”.

“Ossie” played over 300 games for the Newtown club in his career and represented NSW on twelve occasions including the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart and the 1950 carnival in Brisbane. He often featured in the best players and was a renowned goal-sneak

At the 1947 carnival he was in the best players against Queensland (3 goals), Tasmania (3 goals) and South Australia (2 goals)

In 1948 he was recruited by the Leeton Redlegs in the Riverina where he was a contract player. The following year he was captain and coach of Leeton.

“Ossie” returned to Newtown in 1950 to play in the team that won the premiership for the sixth successive season. He played until 1968, in his later years, mostly in the reserves.

Former Newtown player and long-time official John Armstrong rated him “the best rover in Sydney in the 1940s and early 1950s”.

“Ossie” Grose was admitted into the Sydney AFL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Source: https://www.nswfootballhistory.com.au/person/19965/

                            John “Ossie” Grose kicks a goal against Tasmania at the 1947 Carnival in Hobart

 

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JACK DEAN ‘PRINCE OF PLAYERS’ IN SYDNEY FOOTBALL

Jack-Dean3-207x300In the 1949 interstate match between NSW and Victoria at the SCG nineteen year old East Sydney ruckman Jack Dean went up against veteran Victorian captain Jack Dyer at the opening bounce.

“He sat me on my arse!” Jack told me over a few beers. We were at Harry McAsey’s pub in Alexandra after a tribute lunch for our late mate and fellow NSW Football History committee member Ted Ray a few years ago. I put the tape on to record our conversation which was considerably enhanced by the consumption of schooners of Reschs.

“The Vics. cleaned us up that day, but it was a great thrill to play against them” recalled Jack. “We thought we were a chance, our coach Frank Dixon (later a Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney) was a great motivator and we trained for weeks in advance with a view to beating them”.

Victoria were ‘too polished’ according to Keith Miller’s report in The Daily Mirror. Yes, that’s right, the great Australian cricket all-rounder who had recently retired from football had taken up a new career as a journalist. Miller had represented NSW at the ANFC interstate carnival in 1947 after moving to Sydney to play cricket for NSW after the Second World War.

In addition to the grizzly old Tiger, Jack Dyer, other famous names in the Victorian team for that match were Bob Davis, Bobby Rose, Les Foote, Don Cordner and Bert Clay, who if state-of-origin rules were in place would have been wearing a sky blue guernsey. Clay was recruited to Fitzroy from Henty in southern NSW.

Jack Dean played 25 times for NSW in interstate matches and was voted the Blues best player at the 1958 centenary carnival in Melbourne in 1958. He must have been unlucky not to have been selected in the All-Australian team.

Born and bred in Paddington, Jack went down to Trumper Park with his brother Mal in 1944 and thus began a distinguished football career that took in almost 400 games until he retired in 1966.

His father Joe had played for East Sydney and Jack’s son Marshall also played for Easts. A handy rover, ‘Marsh’ is a raconteur who in tandem with Stephen ‘Bomber’ McClure (brother of Mark ‘Sellers’ McClure) provided their team-mates with many hilarious moments at their favourite pub in Paddington, the Grand National.

Jack was a star performer in the Easts teams that won a staggering six premierships in a row from 1952-59 firstly under captain-coach, Fred Pemberton, then Alf Penno with the last under club legend Roy Hayes. Following his stand-out performance at the 1958 carnival Jack took up an offer to coach Ardlethan in the South-West League in southern NSW.

“I was the only non-ex VFL player coaching in the league.”  ‘The Heap’ (former South Melbourne captain Ian Gillett) was coaching Coolamon, ex North Melbourne star Gerald Eastmure was in charge at Leeton, Footscray’s Brownlow medalist Peter Box was coaching Grongy (Grong Grong Matong), and Don Keyter (ex South Melbourne) was at Griffith. “It was a strong league”, recalled Jack.

“We struggled to match it with the clubs from the bigger places, but we always took it up to them. We had lots of good times afterwards particularly at the London (Ardlethan’s only pub). After 6 o’clock the publican would pull down the blinds and we’d have a great sing-along around the piano. The other clubs used to love to stay back after a game at Ardlethan”

“We made lots of good friends down there and still in contact with them”, but Joy (Jack’s wife) was a city girl and was pretty keen to return to Sydney to be near family, so we came back.”

Jack returned to his old club, East Sydney for the 1961 season. But the next season Jack was enticed to join local rivals Sydney Naval that shared Trumper Park with Easts, but trained down at Rushcutters Bay.

“I’d formed a close friendship with (rover) Danny Wilson through playing together in state teams. Plus, of course, there was a bob in it for me. They were a well run club at this stage and were well supported by some of Sydney’s biggest bookmakers who fielded at the races on Saturdays and came to the Aussie Rules on Sundays.”

Sydney Naval beat Newtown for the 1962 premiership in Sydney of which Jack was part. He played out his career with Sydney Naval until he retired in 1966.

Following this, Jack then turned his hand to administration and after joining the East Sydney committee became club president from 1970 till 1982.  He presided over another golden period for the Bulldogs during which they won six premierships. The most satisfying was for the club’s centenary year, 1980, when under Austin Robertson they thrashed North Shore in the grand final at the Sydney Showgrounds by 121 points.

“After going through the previous season undefeated we got beaten in both finals, which was terribly disappointing. We got ‘Oscar’ to take over from Alex Ruscuklic. We had assembled a very good team with players like Wayne Goss, Ian Allen, Grant Luhrs and Jim Richardson, plus we had retained Peter Ruscuklic as full-forward.”

Ruscuklic was a prolific goal kicker for Easts booting huge tallies of 136 (1979), 156 (1980), and 213 (1981).

A big let-down was expected the next season after the centenary triumph, but Jack had the inspiration to appoint local player Greg ‘Huey’ Harris, who had returned to footy from rugby union in 1979 and missed the premiership season with a knee injury.

Harris master-minded one of the great comebacks in Sydney footy history by leading the Bulldogs to a 89 point win over Sam Kekovich’s Newtown in the 1981 grand final. Easts had been down by 90 points at ¾ time in the second semi but came back to lose by only 10 points.

“Greg was a natural leader. He possesses great people skills, he can lead men. I had become a good friend of his father Col, who I played against when he coached St George. I just knew he would make a successful coach”

“Huey’ sure did he led East Sydney to premierships in 1981, 1982 and 1983 moulding a bunch of eccentric characters and ace footballers into an almost unbeatable combination. Easts won another premiership for good measure in 1984 under Wayne Goss“ Jack Dean was chairman of selectors.

Jack was a selector for many years for State teams and was Alan Jean’s trusted chairman of selectors when Jeans coached NSW in the Escort Cup in 1979-80 when the Blues almost upset the highly fancied Fitzroy (remember the ‘fat full forward for NSW’ Laurie Pendrick kicking 7 goals on then Victorian full-back Harvey Merrigan?) and Richmond in its premiership season.

Jack would go out to the airport in his plumbing truck and pick up Jeans for training. “He is a terrific fellow (Alan Jeans), a great football brain, but more importantly he had the ability to pass it on” according to Jack.

He continued on as chairman of selectors under Sam Kekovich and later, Greg Harris. It was in this period that I got to know Jack as I was the Country team manager for the state squad. Sam and Jack would fly down to Wagga on weekends to conduct training. Following a brisk, light training run we would head off with fellow selectors local legend Greg Leitch and former Essendon star Bobby Greenwood (who would drive over from Griffith in his Pontiac Parisienne) for a long lunch to discuss team selections.

In those days most people in Wagga stayed at home for a roast on Sundays so I used to get a Chinese restaurant to open up especially for us. Sam would always order up big, then feign that he’d forgotten his credit card and ask Jack if he could pay for the meal and claim it back from the league. Jack would always pay and never make a claim.

These days Jack is highly involved in the NSW Footy History Committee and he heads up the committee that selects the members for the local Hall of Fame each year.

Jack was the first player elected to the NSW Hall of Fame in 2003. The Eastern Suburbs-UNSW best and fairest trophy is also named in his honour. He is also a life member of the club.

This year Jack has been nominated for the AFL’s Hall of Fame. In recent years players and officials from the other states have been justly honoured but there is yet to be a non VFL/AFL player from NSW elected. Unlike the other nomination from North Melbourne via North Wagga, there are no issues about character. Jack Dean is True Blue.

Story by Rod Gillett – former Commissioner NSWAFL and former History Society Committee person.