Albury based Robbie Mackinlay has produced another podcast. This time it centres on Hay Lions Premiership win of 1992. Rod Gillett previews the story which you can listen to by clicking the icon below. This will take you to the Glory Days site where you can open the podcast.
By Dr Rodney Gillett
HAY 1992 PREMIERS
Hay has always been far from anywhere. This has made it problematic for the town’s football club, which was formed in 1876, to compete and to retain and attract players.
But as, country football broadcaster Robbie Mackinlay’s latest podcast, Hay 1992 – Triple Treat reveals it all came together in 1992 when the Hay Lions won all three grades in the Kerang & District Football League (now known as the Golden Rivers Football League).
Like it is for most country footy clubs, it’s a matter of getting the right coach.
For Hay the bush telegraph worked a treat when a former Hay auctioneer John “Chum” O’Dwyer started his own stock and station agency in Ariah Park and on a return visit home informed club president Ted Hill and head recruiter Robert “Buck” Howard that APM’s coach Dennis Dunstan “was on the move”.
Dunstan, originally from Balranald, had taken on the Brown Bombers’ coaching role in the Riverina Football League at age 19, but after two seasons was ready for another job.
Mackinlay recounts the story of how Dunstan went to Hay for a due diligence check and to meet the Hay footy club officials and some of the players at the club’s watering hole, the New Crown Hotel.
“It was after cricket, and I looked around the pub and saw all these young blokes, 6’2” or 6’3”, and I thought to myself there’s some potential here” Dunstan told Mackinlay in an interview for this podcast.
Dunstan, initially declined the Hay coaching offer, but having identified the right man for the job, Hill and Howard persisted and finally got their man. It was a premiership winning move.
The new coach bought his mate from Balranald, Royce Simpson, who had gone with him to APM, to Hay. Simpson had an outstanding season winning the competition best and fairest award as well as the medal for best afield in the grand final.
Additionally, some new players fortuitously arrived in town for work and other opportunities including Steve Lockhart, a stock and station agent from Ivanhoe, Brett “Axe” Whitfield following up on a romance, and solid half-forward Rhys Williams, who had come up from Melbourne to run a motel owned by his partner’s father (the operator of a Melbourne two-up school).
And then just before clearances closed, the Hay Lions secured the services from Balranald of star defender Jamie Gordon and speedy forward Ronnie Murray, who would “top-up” the list and lead the charge into the finals, and ultimately, the club’s second ever premiership.
Gordon, who hailed from Ariah Park-Mirrool where he had the heart-break of playing in three losing grand final teams, told Mackinlay that he and “Muzz” would travel over from Balranald for training (a round-trip of 266kms on the Sturt Highway), go to the New Crown for tea and team announcements, then drive home dropping Murray off down the end of a lane just outside town.
Gordon told Mackinlay that this was his “most memorable year in football” after stellar stints in the South-West league, ACT AFL, RFL, and the Mid-Murray league.
Hay finished the season unbeaten (tied first game with Ultima) on top of the ladder and went straight into the grand final after beating Wandella in the 2nd semi final, then came up against the league’s most successful club again in the grand final at Murrabit.
The Bombers kicked the first 4 goals of the game and had control of the game at quarter time, but the Lions came back to with the wind to boot eight goals and be in front at half-time. By booting four goals against the breeze in the third term they retained a handy lead at ¾ time, then with coach Dunstan booting two early goals in the last quarter the Lions went onto to record a famous victory.
In a grand day for the Hay Football Club, they also won the Reserves and Thirds; it was the Reserves fifth flag in six years.
Robbie Mackinlay captures the pivotal moments of the season and how it came together. He reserves the most effusive praise for the coach “who pulled a town and playing group together”. And evidently, they played just as hard off the field.
The premiership celebrations were extensive. Mackinlay’s interview with Robbie Jackson, the competition’s Rookie of the Year, reveals a week of partying such that club official Buck Howard was worried that the players wouldn’t ever go back to work!
Jackson tells Mackinlay that “the whole town got behind us and we were like rock stars when we won all three flags”. He recalls the reception in the packed Memorial Hall that was overflowing with players and supporters that consumed a staggering eighteen kegs of beer!
“The week after the grand final we had kegs at every pub. There were seven pubs in Hay at the time”, Jackson told Mackinlay.
According to Jackson, “We had a great bunch of blokes, good mix of locals and imports, but it was the coach who bought us together”.