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.

1919 Schoolboys Tour

Rupert BrowneWay back in 1919, only months after the Great War finished, Sydney school sports officials arranged with their Victorian counterparts for an interstate visit by a combined schools team after the finish of the season.  This was seen as the continuation of an interstate interchange in school football started between the two in 1905.

In July of 1919, the VFL agreed to pay forty pounds, estimated with inflation today at $2893.00, to assist with NSW costs.  The boys would be billeted with the number restricted to 20 and they not be over the age of 16 years.

The lads were selected from the following public schools: Ashfield, Burwood, Double Bay and Gardeners Road.  They left by Express train at Central on 28 August and at that stage were looking at spending up to two weeks in the Melbourne capital.

The group was under the management of Rupert Browne (pictured), sports master of the Gardeners Road School and a Mr Stutchbury from the Schools Amateur Athletics Association.

They played three games against combined Victorian State Schools and won the lot:

 

Date

NSW

Schools Score

Victorian

Schools Score

Venue

30 August

8-8 (56)

7-8  (50)

Amateur Sports Ground

6 Sept

3-5 (23)

1-10 (16)

Collingwood
Cricket Ground

9 Sept

5-7 (37)

5-6  (36)

Amateur Sports Ground

 

Following their first match the boys were taken to Punt Road Oval, where they saw the Richmond v St Kilda game.

In between their interstate contests, the NSW boys travelled to Geelong on 2 September where they played and were defeated by the Geelong High School side, 7-11 (53) to 7-4 (48).  And then, with not much rest, the following day the team played a game against Melbourne High School where they suffered their second defeat on tour, 6-12 (48) to 3-15 (33).

In between all this, on 4 September they were entertained by the Collingwood Football Club and the following day the VFL put on a picnic for the boys at Heidelburg.

After an exhaustive but very enjoyable time away the contingent returned to Sydney on 10 September.

But this did not finish their interstate commitments.

In late September 1919, the combined team of Victorian State Schoolboys travelled to Sydney to play a reciprocal match against their Sydney Metropolitan opponents.  The VFL paid their train fare.

Because it was late in the season a venue was very difficult to procure with officials searching near and far for a ground on which to play.  They eventually had to settle for the Sydney Domain (behind NSW Parliament House) but the Victorians fared no better in the match and were soundly beaten by NSW 10-18 (78) to 4-6 (30).

Those who represented the Metropolitan Schools included: Chipperfield, Kell, Armstrong, Curry, Lording and King (Ashfield PS), Sherwood, Rogers, Harris, Spencer and Martin (Burwood PS), George McCure (Double Bay PS), Orme, Paul Flynn, Burns, Walker, Les Stiff and Yates (Gardeners Road PS), Owen and Mackay were the reserves.

The only one of any note who went on in senior football was Paul Flynn.  He represented the state in 1925 and won Sydney’s goalkicking award in 1928 playing for South Sydney.