Where the Bloody Hell is Lake Burgooney?

By Dr Rodney Gillett

1963 Lake Burgooney – Premiers

“Where is Lake Burgooney?”

“Its not a place, it’s a football club!”

This was the conversation I had with long-time Northern Riverina Australian Football League official and historian Keith Rees when I was doing research on the league’s grand final in 1960.

In 1960 the Burgooney football club, that had been a foundation club of the Northern Riverina Association in 1924, decided to move into Lake Cargelligo. The Lake Cargelligo club had folded at the end of the 1955 season; it had also been an original club but had fallen on hard times.

Burgooney was a district with a post-office, a railway siding and a football ground surrounded by wheat and sheep farms about half-way between Tullibigeal and Lake Cargelligo in the district north-west of West Wyalong when the footy team moved into the “Lake”. Nowadays these are all closed except for the railway siding for the harvest.

The club became known as “Lake Burgooney” and adopted the Burgooney colours of a black guernsey and yellow vee made their new home-ground at the Lake Cargelligo Recreation ground.

According to club legend Bob Sanson, who spoke to me in an interview for this piece in a break during harvesting, the move of Burgooney into the Lake was a “perfect match”.

“The Lake no longer had a team, the Recreation ground was well maintained and watered; it was much better than playing in a paddock out at Burgooney!”, he told me.

The newly minted Lake Tigers started the season in fine form winning the first seven games after finishing bottom of the ladder the previous season and finished half-a-game ahead of Ungarie at the top of the ladder.

They defeated Ungarie in the 2nd semi final at Tullibigeal, 11-7 (73) to 7-16 (58). The Magpies earned another crack at the Tigers by beating Four Corners in the preliminary final.

Ungarie proved too strong for Lake Burgooney in the grand final and established a comfortable 22-point lead at half-time. The Tigers made a late run in the final term and got to within 13 points but half-forward Ian Keane sealed the win for Ungarie with a late goal.

Final scores: Ungarie 10-9 (69) d Lake Burgooney 7-8 (50).

Best players for Ungarie were centreman Leo Daniher, centre-half forward Jim Daniher, backman Brian Brewer, and winger Ron Fixter while for Burgooney the best were ruckman  “Blue” Ridley, captain-coach John Booth, and fullback Keith Delahunty.

Lake Burgooney finally broke through for a premiership in 1962 when they beat Milby at Four Corners for their first flag in twenty-three years and their first as a merged entity.

The Tigers went onto to win four premierships in a row, 1962-65 with the Sanson brothers, Bob and Harry playing together in all four premierships and joined by Don (1962) and Ross for the 64-65 triumphs. Then again from 1969-71, 1973 & 1976 in the club’s most dominant period, thus validating the move into Lake Cargelligo.

The club changed its name to Lake Cargelligo in 1972, but became known as the Lake Tigers when a new club, Lake Swans, was formed in 1978 based at the Lake Cargelligo Golf Club oval. However, the Lake Swans were short-lived and failed to form for the 1987 season.

The Sanson brothers, all had successful careers playing football in the northern Riverina. Bob Sanson played from the age of 14 in 1955 until he was 44,  thirty years later. Bob led the Tigers to premiership wins in 1973 and 1976.

Harry played in ten premierships in the Northern Riverina League – nine with the Lake and one with Ungarie, who he coached to the premiership in 1974. He won the competition best and fairest award in 1967. Harry was outstanding at both codes of football; he represented Riverina against South Melbourne in 1972, and against Great Britain in rugby league in 1974.

Don played in seven premiership teams for the Lake along with his youngest brother, Ross, the father of Tim, Mark, Paul, and Brett, who all made their mark at Lavington in the Ovens and Murray league. Tim coached Lavington to premierships in 2001 and 2005 and is a member of the O & M Hall of Fame. Both Tim and Mark played at the Sydney Swans.

Bob has fond memories of the family going to the footy at Burgooney in the fifties when his father Roley played for the Tigers. Bob made his debut in 1955 alongside his father, who was a full-forward with a prodigious torpedo punt kick.

Roley retired at 43 at half time in a game against Milby in 1958 when he came off and proclaimed, “I’ve kicked seven goals and had 3 ‘blues’. I’ve had enough!”

His father ran the boundary and his mother ran the canteen when the boys played. “When we were sowing at the start of the season, Dad would stay on the tractor and I had to fill the seed boxes before I left for the game and come home straight after to take over from Dad and work through the night”, Bob recalled.

At this point of the interview Bob got a call to bring more fuel down to the paddock to keep the header going, “We’re having our best harvest ever, we’re getting 14-15 bags per acre”.

I hung up, knowing a lot more about Lake Burgooney, the footy team, not the place.

Source: Keith Rees, Northern Riverina Australian Football League, 90 Years, 1924-2014. West Wyalong Advocate. 2015.

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