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THE ALL-ROUNDER, THE IMPORT, AND THE COACH WHO STAYED

The Wangaratta Football Club has existed, in some shape or form, for more than 128 years.

Its history reveals stunning highs, cataclysmic lows, and the usual dramas and controversies that beset all sporting organisations.

A handful of the game’s greats have worn the Black and White……There have been characters, rascals and undesirables – and people of great devotion and unswerving loyalty.

In short, there has been a smorgasbord of personalities.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of three such ‘characters’, who turned out for the Pies in the early days of the 20th century……..

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  THE ALL-ROUNDER

Charles Bernard Meadway was 20 when he made his way into Wangaratta’s O & M side during the 1899 season. For most of the next 16 years he would prove to be one of the team’s stars – when he was available.

He was born in Dunedin (N.Z) and his family moved to Australia six years later. The Meadways resided in Bendigo, before eventually settling in Wangaratta.

His sporting career ran parallel, in some respects, to that of the legendary Bill Hickey, who is regarded as possibly the town’s finest all-round sportsman.

But Bernie wasn’t far behind. A brilliant cricketer, he was the WDCA’s leading wicket-taker on four occasions, and hit four WDCA centuries. His ‘hands’ of 130, 150* and 143 indicated that he was partial to a decent stint at the crease.

But his stand-out knock came in 1907/08 when he hammered 210* for Wangaratta against Oxley. It remains the fourth-highest individual WDCA score. For good measure, in the same match, he took 11 wickets.

Later that season, he was selected in a Victorian Country Cricket team, which played a match against the Melbourne Cricket Club at the M.C.G.

Years earlier, on the eve of the 1902 footy season, Bernie appeared set for a lengthy absence from the sporting arena when he enlisted to fight in the Boer War. Fortunately, a month later, peace prevailed and he returned to the playing ranks.

During the early 1900’s Wangaratta alternated between the O & M.F.A and the Ovens and King District Association. After playing his part in an O & K flag in 1905, it was announced that Meadway had made his last appearance, as he would soon be playing with Carlton.IMG_4046

But, after just one game with the Blues, he was back with Wangaratta, and helped them to another flag.

Collingwood lured Bernie down for a run the following season. Reports filtered back that he had been constantly mentioned for his brilliant play in his VFL games. But inevitably, the boy from the bush returned home after three games.

It was the sport of Trap-Shooting that captured his attention and prompted lengthy absences from the Wangaratta side.

His effort of ‘grassing 23 sparrows in a row, and 108 birds without a miss, gave Meadway a world-record in 1907.

‘He used ballistic powder and a beautiful Clarborough and Johnstone gun,’ stated the Chronicle. But in a sombre message, which would have caused some heart-ache to Wangaratta fans, they reported that he intended to retire from football to concentrate on Sparrow-Shooting.

This, however, proved a fallacy. Bernie continued to combine his shooting excellence with regular cricket and football appearances.

After one exciting victory in 1912, a supporter rushed into verse to laud the performance of the Wangaratta side:

“Come let us join together, boys, and sing to all a song.

Of how we play at football and roll the ball along,

Of how we beat Moyhu, who thought they were too strong –

When we’re playing to be Premiers.

“Gil Ebbott is our rover, boys, for ever on the ball.

He can travel with the best of them- the daddy of them all.

When Meddy runs at a man, then someone’s sure to fall.

When we’re playing to be Premiers………….”

Bernie Meadway was 36 years old, and still single, when he played his last game for Wangaratta, during the 1915 season. He enlisted with the AIF and joined the Remount Unit in the deserts of the Middle East.

He returned from the Great War in 1919, to become a successful businessman and continue his shooting career. He won the first of his six Australian Championships in 1920, and competed on three occasions against the world’s best at Monte Carlo……….

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THE ‘FLY-BY-NIGHTER

Bernie Meadway, in his handful of games in 1915, would have no doubt made the acquaintance of Albert Hezikiah (Vernon) Bradbury, who was one of the most ‘colourful’ identities ever to be lured to the Wangaratta Football Club.

Bradbury was a flamboyant midfielder/forward, who made three appearances with St.Kilda before being lured to Footscray in 1910, aged 20.IMG_4047

The Footscray  Advertiser reported in 1914 that: ‘The football Oval was the stage from which Banbury kept crowds entranced with his wizardry.’ . ‘He marked, feinted and twisted with a nonchalance that often left his opponents flat-footed and humiliated. There are few footballing dodges of which he is not the master……’

The champion, whose favoured position was centre half forward, once hit the post seven times in a match against Port Melbourne in 1912 – a record which still stands.

He was a star in Footscray’s 1913 premiership victory, but was one of 5 players sacked by the Club when they played abysmally in the 1914 Grand Final. It had been alleged that more money changed hands in that game than any other in the VFA’s history.

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Footscray’s 1913 VFA Premiership team. Vernon Banbury is far right, middle row.

So, when Wangaratta were looking to bolster their ranks upon being re-admitted to the O & M, they sought the services of the mercurial star, who had become available – and reportedly amenable to the lure of a ‘quid’.

The spectre of War hung over the O & M in 1915. There was some conjecture as to whether matches should continue whilst fighting raged overseas, but nevertheless,  the season rolled on.

The Magpies chalked up a handful of wins – and a draw against the all-powerful Rutherglen. But their most exciting victory came in a heart-stopper against contenders Albury.

With minutes remaining, Edwards kicked a goal to bring Wang within a point. The sides drew level, then Banbury, displaying his great skills, evaded several opponents to snap the winning behind.

He had been a more than handy player with Wangaratta, but, upon the abandonment of the O & M at season’s end, because of the War, he returned to the city.

Vernon found his way back to Footscray, and featured in their successive VFA flags of 1919 and ‘20. He resigned briefly during the latter season when supporters accused him of playing ‘dead’.

By now his life was in disarray, and his reputation as a playboy had cast him as a controversial figure. Overlooked for the 1922 Grand Final, which Footscray lost to Port Melbourne, he was subsequently disqualified for life by the VFA, for the attempted bribery of Port players.

The erratic career of Vernon Banbury took another turn when, in a defiant gesture towards the VFA, the Footscray Football Club bestowed Life Membership upon him at their next Annual Meeting.

Eighty-two years later, in 2010, he was admitted to the Western Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame………

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THE COACH WHO STAYED……

Matt O’Donohue was Banbury’s team-mate, and another of the Footscray players who had become embroiled in the bribery scandal that emanated from their 1922 Grand Final loss.

It was alleged that the lightly-built rover and Bulldog vice-captain had offered an on-field bribe to a Port Melbourne opponent, George Ogilvie. It came as a shock to Footscray fans, who had come to love and respect the local lad. Thankfully, the charge was not sustained.IMG_3836

But O’Donohue had already decided to move on. He accepted a coaching appointment with Wangaratta, and was introduced to a welcoming crowd at the club’s March 1923 Annual Meeting.

He proved an inspiring leader, and introduced a slick, systematic, running game, with an emphasis on handball, which troubled all sides.

His own form was quite outstanding, although he was to come in for his share of rough treatment during the season.

Unfortunately, for O’Donohue’s coaching aspirations, he ran slap-bang into the fabled St.Patrick’s line-up.  ‘The Green Machine’, in the midst of a Golden Era, proved too strong for Wang in the 1923 Grand Final and triumphed by 17 points.

After the Pies  finished runners-up again the following season, he handed over the coaching reins to Percy ‘Oily’ Rowe in 1925, but continued to be one of the ‘big guns’ in a team which boasted stars on every line.

He and big ‘Oily’ proved a lethal ruck/rover combination and played a major part in Wangaratta snaring their first O & M flag. Fighting back from a sizeable quarter-time deficit, they out-pointed Hume Weir by 21 points .IMG_4043

O’Donohue’s class at the fall of the ball was recognised the following season, when he was selected to rove to Rowe in the O & M’s representative clash against the VFL at the Albury Sportsground.

His swansong game with the ‘Pies came in their resounding 14-goal defeat at the hands of St.Pat’s. It was his fourth successive O & M Grand Final, and  a sad farewell for the veteran.

He sated his sporting urges by playing cricket and golf, but continued to follow the fortunes of the footy club with a keen interest.

Arthur Callender, the respected administrator who had engineered Matt’s move to Wangaratta, had become a close confidant, and coaxed him into becoming his off-sider in some of the sporting organisations with which he was involved.

At one stage Matt was concurrently Secretary of the Athletic, Turf and Speed-Coursing Clubs, whilst Callender held the role of President.

When the outbreak of World War II forced the disbandment of the Carnival in 1940, it terminated O’Donohue’s reign as Secretary. He had held the position for 17 years, and had become renowned for his contribution to sport in Wangaratta……….

 

*With assistance from ‘UNLEASHED’, the Western Bulldogs’ History”

“WANGARATTA’S DES – ‘THE RACE-CALLER’S RACE-CALLER‘ “

The celebrity status that Bruce McAvaney has recently been accorded is welcome recognition of a genius who brings sport to life with accuracy and flair, from behind the microphone.

‘Bruce Almighty’ is a once-in-a-generation ‘caller’ who can readily adapt to many sports, but the recent era has also spawned such rich talent as Brian Taylor, Gerard Whateley, Anthony Hudson, Denis Cometti, Greg Miles, Matt Hill and Hamish McLaughlin………

Those of my ilk can throw up the names of Bert Bryant, Bill Collins, Geoff Mahoney, Johnny Tapp, Joe Brown, Harry Beitzel, Rex Hunt, Tim Lane, Clinton Grybas and Ron Casey……….

Wangaratta can lay claim to a gentleman who sits comfortably amongst those all-time great sportscasters ……

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Des Hoysted was born just on a century ago, into Victoria’s most famous racing family.

His father Wally was a successful jockey who rode more than 1,000 winners in a colourful 30-year career and, in his prime, was the number 1 jockey for Hoysted’s Stables …….

“He won a few Albury Gold Cups…..started as a jockey when he was 12 and won the first of his three Wang Cups a year later…..”” Des once recalled.

Wally participated in a dramatic train of events at Wagga races in 1916 which became part of country racing folklore.

He was on Silent Tress, owned by Wangaratta’s Arthur Callander, in the final race of the program…….In a neck-and-neck finish Silent Tress flashed over the line with highly-regarded Riverina horse, Eunona.

It was declared a dead-heat……Connections were given the option of sharing the prize-money or electing to have a re-run….Eunona’s owners, sensing that they had an edge, wanted a re-run…….Again they hit the line together…….Again the judges couldn’t seperate them….Another dad-heat was declared.

By now dusk had descended on the course…..the horses were exhausted……it was decided to divide the prize-money……

Des reflected on being at the races with his mother (Dimpna) and baby sister one day, when Wally crashed before their very eyes…….

“I think I was 6 and my sister Winifred was 4……The horses came down right on the finish line……..”

“The jockeys were just wearing cardboard re-inforced skull-caps…..They didn’t get smashed up all that much, but it was a shocking fall……Mum was horrified……I can still see it now….the scramble of horses and jockeys all over the place…..”

“That always stuck in my mind whenever I was calling all those years later…….I used to get a bit touchy and edgy whenever there was a fall…..”

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Des was never going to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I rode a bit, but I was always going to be too heavy…….There was no money in it, in that Depression era……Anyway Mum insisted I stick to my school-work…”.

But he had inherited the deeply-ingrained Hoysted fascination for racing……

The family home was situated just across the paddock from Hoysted’s Grey Street stables and he would pass through the stabling area to and from St.Patrick’s School each day.

In his pre-adolescent years of the early-thirties he was inspired by the voice of Eric Welch – the leading race-caller of the day – and acquired the knack of identifying race colours and names of horses and jockeys.

Using paints, he’d copy the colours onto pieces of cardboard, attach them to pencils, and call them as they rolled down a tilted table-top.

In the mid-30’s his uncle Fred trained a champion galloper called Valiant Chief, which became the object of his affection. To his delight Valiant Chief came to Wangaratta at the end of his racing career to be the resident stallion at Hoysted’s stud property.

“I used to ride him all the time,” Des recalled. “When I’d come home from school I’d coax him over to the fence, climb up on the rails and jump on his back….”

“I’d then do phantom calls at the top of my voice. I’d have Valiant Chief competing against all the champions……Of course, he’d always win……At the same time I would draw my knees up, and put my hands on the side of his neck, as if I was riding him to victory……You know that old bloke never turned a hair…….Maybe he still got a thrill out of winning ! “

“I’d listen to the race broadcasts on Dad’s powerful old wireless. He set up a 30-foot aerial and I tuned in to Ken Howard from Sydney, and frequently heard Lachie Melville on the ABC. There’s no doubt I thought the world of both men.”

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Des left school at 14 and gained employment as a Telegram boy at the Wangaratta Post Office. He was transferred to Melbourne two years later and boarded with his aunt at Moonee Ponds.

He’d previously written to Ken Howard, expressing his ambition to call races. By a quirk of fate, Howard had moved from Sydney to Melbourne and was calling a charity game of football at Richmond’s Punt Road Oval when Hoysted introduced himself.

Admiring his enthusiasm, Howard invited the lad to watch him call the races at Moonee Valley…..

But his ambitions had to be shelved for a while, with the onset of World War II. Three years after the cessation of hostilities he was back home for Christmas when he was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.

It was Boxing Day 1948, and his cousin Henry, who was the course broadcaster at Wodonga, called in sick…….An emergency replacement was required……….Would Des like to step in ?…….

He borrowed a pair of binoculars and proceeded to call the entire Wodonga Cup program…..

Fortunately, his call was heard by ABC radio’s Sports Editor Mel Morris, who was so impressed he appointed him as Joe Brown’s understudy.

He regarded it as an honour to work with Brown, who was one of the true gentlemen of racing. He was delighted to have the opportunity to relieve him when he went on holidays.

Des was enticed to Sydney’s 2GB in 1952, and was there for six and a half years before he became the central figure in an amazing swap.

Ken Howard was brought over from rival station 2UE to replace Hoysted………Just a few weeks later, Hoysted began calling for 2UE…..

For the next 24 years he gradually built his ratings and would reign supreme in latter years, as Sydney’s most listened-to race-caller.

“Ken Howard had been Mr.Racing…..I hadn’t been able to make any inroads into his audience.”

“But (2UE) gave me a free rein to do what I wanted….I was able to roast and criticise and say what I thought……That enabled me to improve my calling-style……Then the ratings came……

He recalled that this approach ruffled a few feathers, particularly among race officials and jockeys, but the listening audience appreciated his frankness……..It became the trademark of his calling for the remainder of his career.

Hoysted called 22 Melbourne Cups, but by far his toughest assignment was Van Der Hum’s win in 1976, after continued heavy rain had turned the course into a mud-heap.

In conditions which meant that ‘the jockeys’ mothers would have been hard-pressed to recognise them’, Van Der Hum, a wet-track specialist, held on to win. The favourite, Gold and Black was a length and a half behind.

One of the many highlights of his career was calling the AJC Derby, when his cousin Bob’s filly Rose of Kingston hit the front. He couldn’t resist egging her on with ‘Go Rosie, Go’, as she neared the post…..

There was no argument about the horse he most admired, even though he never got to call him in a race:

“I was standing outside Joe Brown’s box and watched Bernborough do the impossible, and win the Newmarket Handicap.”

“He was hot-favourite, but never appeared in the call, until he came from the outside and gobbled up a top field of sprinters…….You could hardly imagine that a horse could have gone so quickly…..He was 100/1 with 200 metres to go……And was all over them with 100 metres to go…..”

Des was forced to relinquish his calling duties at 2UE in 1983, because the company had a policy of compulsary retirement at 60.

“I was going pretty well, and felt I could have gone on for a couple of years…..My ratings were still good ….It was certainly an emotion-charged day…..”

But Des’s career continued, and encompassed stints at Sky Channel, Channel 10, as the on-course broadcaster for the Hawkesbury Race Club, and calling the Harold Park trots.

He recalled the night at Harold Park that an untidy-looking character knocked on the door of his broadcast box, high on the roof of the Grandstand.

“I was still on air, just wrapping-up a race, and the door was half-open……I turned around to see this bare-footed bloke, dressed in a check-shirt and ragged jeans……I’ll never forget him….he had a beard, long black hair and blazing eyes……”

“Anyway, I continued my on-air duties as he started to approach……’Can I help you, mate ?’ I asked. I suffered his breath as he uttered: ‘Excuse me, could you tell me where the shit-house is ?’ It went over the air as clear as a bell ! My reply was: ‘You’ve come to it.’….Needless to say, I promptly crossed back to the studio…..”

Fifty-three years after his debut behind the microphone, Des had his swansong call at a Fairfield Harness Meeting in 2001.

Des Hoysted, one of Wangaratta’s finest sporting exports, passed away in 2010, aged 88……

(With help from: John Tapp – Inside Racing)

” ‘I’LL BE A SAINT, TO BE SURE’…. SAID HANRAHAN………”

It was a red-letter moment for Frank Hanrahan, that early-January morning in 1956…….

The family had just arrived home from Sunday Mass when he noticed a big Yellow Plymouth sedan pull up outside their Kyneton residence………

A deputation from the St.Kilda Football Club – President Graham Huggins, and star players Alan Jeans and Jack McDonald – alighted, and began enquiring whether the young fellah might be interested in doing a pre-season with the Saints………

“That’s for sure. I’ll be down as soon as I can, “ Frank blurted, almost before Huggins had time to complete his salutations………..

At that moment, he envisioned, his boyhood dreams were on the verge of materialising……..

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Frank is derived from solid Irish stock…….” My forebears virtually lived on potatoes in the old country……..When things went bust they headed out here…….Mum’s family were Hart’s from Trentham…….Dad’s mob ran cattle and sheep at Reidsdale……….”

He was born and bred in Kyneton, where his dad Martin was a Cinema Projectionist….He attended the local Marist Brothers College…..

“It was one of the best things that happened to me, going there…..the discipline, their ability to teach…..they loved their sport…….it was all about footy in winter; cricket in summer……I loved it…..”

“The Brothers must have seen something in me because when I was about 16 they sent one of their ‘Recruiters’ around to ask if I’d consider becoming a Marist Brother……..I must admit I had a bit of an interest in it at the time……The Noviciate was only 20 minutes away, at Mount Macedon, so I thought: ‘I’ll give it a try……it might show a bit of a lead to some of the other boys who may be thinking of it…..”

“I lasted about three months, but it wasn’t for me……..I was too keen to play footy…….”

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Frank’s active involvement with the Kyneton Football Club began when he started running the boundary for the Reserves.

“Mum warned: ‘You’re not to play Seconds, because you’re too young’……But they were short of players when we went up to Golden Square one day, and they talked me into playing………I hurt my leg…..instead of my parents giving me a burst when I arrived home, they said: ‘Bugger it, you might as well keep going now…..”

Next year, aged 17, he lined up for his first senior game, on Bendigo’s spacious Queen Elizabeth Oval, opposed to Sandhurst’s highly-rated mid-fielder Brendan Edwards………..

They were to renew acquaintances in League ranks a couple of years later, but in the meantime, both came under attention for some eye-catching displays with their respective BFL clubs in 1955.

That’s what prompted the visit from the Saints, who’d been given the mail that, after one senior season, the lightly-built, 5’10”, 70kg Hanrahan was a likely prospect………….

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“I arrived down there at the same time as a few other boys from the bush……..(Alan) Killigrew had just been appointed coach…..He turned over a lot of the old list, and would jump in his car and drive around the country on recruiting trips…..”

“He got ‘Jeansy’ from Finley, Peter Clancy and Brian McCarthy from Yarrawonga……Geoff Feehan from Wodonga……..picked up Billy Young and Big Bill Stephenson from Sale, Eric Guy came from Carrum and Jimmy Guyatt from Maffra…….”

“ ‘Killer’ became famous for his ‘hot-gospelling’ speeches….That’s where the Saints got wind of him….they went up to see him coaching in a Ballarat League Grand Final and liked what they saw ……He brought Paul Dodd and John Mulrooney down from there as well………”

“We liked ‘Killer’; everyone respected him…..he helped put St.Kilda back on the map………But he wanted things done his way, and got into a bit of bother with the committee at times………..”

Frank found work as a junior clerk at the SEC (Transport Branch) at Fisherman’s Bend, for the meagre sum of two pounds seven and sixpence a week…..He was boarding at Moreland, and what little money he had would be gone by the end of the week.

“I don’t know how I ever lived in those days, but it didn’t matter……I was living my dream…….I loved it at St.Kilda…. the best three years of my life…..socially…. whichever way you look at it………”

“I formed some lasting friendships and became great mates with Clancy, McCarthy and Jeans..”

He played 17 senior matches with the Saints, interspersed with 45-odd Reserves appearances.

It was a massive thrill when he made his senior debut, on a wing, pitted against Essendon star Greg Sewell (who later coached him back at Kyneton)………But he just wasn’t consistent enough to command a regular spot……..

“My best run of form came towards the end of 1957…….I managed seven games on the trot on a back flank, alongside Eric Guy and Neil Roberts……I thought, gee this is terrific…..”

At the end of ‘58 he was gone from the Junction Oval…..

“A bloke called Norm McLeod had resigned as Secretary of St.Kilda and had become involved with Glen Waverley, in the Oakleigh & District League…….He obviously thought Peter Clancy and I were not going to kick on at St.Kilda, so he talked us into going with him…….”

Glen Waverley played off in Grand Finals in successive years; losing both of them to East Malvern………. Hanrahan’s direct mid-field opponent in each game was Tommy Hafey, who’d recently departed Richmond……..The games were as tight as they come…….

“We drew the 1959 Grand Final, and in the re-play they pipped us by a point……It was a tragedy from my viewpoint…….” Frank recalls.

“With seconds remaining I took hold of the ball just forward of centre…..had a bit of space……and launched into a drop-kick…….The centre half back just got his finger-tips to it and deflected it……”

“If I’d tried a punt kick I’m sure it would have cleared him and we’d have scored……..It still sticks in my mind, you know….”

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Frank’s health wasn’t all that flash, and he missed a bit of footy. He was working at Girton Tyre Service in the city when he decided to travel back each week to play at Kyneton in 1963.

It evolved into a brilliant season, in which he took out Kyneton’s B & F, and was selected to represent the Bendigo League in the Country Championships.

Rochester and Kyneton had ignited an intense rivalry over recent seasons, having met in three of the previous four Grand Finals.

The encounter in 1963 represented Frank’s best opportunity to clinch an elusive flag with his beloved Tigers.

But it wasn’t to be……..He picked up 24 possessions in a dominating display in the centre, but ‘Rochie’, guided by hard-hitting policeman Con O’Toole, proved too strong, as they ran away to win by 44 points.

Later that year, a Wodonga livestock agent, Mick Vague, was visiting family in Kyneton when he and Frank crossed paths.

“We were still pretty downhearted after the Grand Final loss, and I was a bit restless, so I asked Mick what sort of a place Wodonga was………I said I’d come over and play if they could line up a job……”

“The Club President, Bill Black, shot back a letter, inviting me to come up……Bill was the Manager of Bradford-Kendall Foundry at the time, and arranged employment there as a Safety Officer.”

“They teed up some board….it developed into a good job….and I played some pretty good footy….so it worked out well all-round……It’s hard to believe that, 58 years later, I’m still here…..”

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Hanrahan was one of a number of classy O & M mid-fielders in the mid-sixties. He says he keenly anticipated his battles with players of the calibre of Billy Gayfer, Neville Hogan, North Albury’s Bill Barton and Benalla champ Neil Hanlon.

“Hogan always gave me a bit of trouble……He’d just been announced as the 1966 Morris Medallist the week we met the Rovers in a First-Semi at Yarrawonga…..I said to Ron Harvey ( our coach) that he loomed as a threat: He said ‘Don’t worry, Frank, we’ve got full confidence in you’…”

“Hogan starred again, of course, but we were hanging onto a slender lead in the dying seconds that day, when Johnny Welch swooped on a loose ball on the wing, bounced it four times, evaded two of our fellahs, and kicked the winning goal…….”

That was one of Frank’s last games for the ‘Dogs……

“I’d been invited to a party out at Baranduda during the off-season……Half-way there I ran off the road, careered over a bank and missed a tree by a whisker…..Someone found me a few hours later and took me to Hospital….”

“They were all at me to come back, but I just wasn’t tuned in to playing again……I gave it away….” Instead, he watched on, as Mickey Bone’s Golden Era unfolded…….

He continued to play cricket, though, and was a member of the powerful Tower Cricket Club, sharing seven consecutive premierships with a side comprised mostly of Wodonga footy team-mates.

Then Wodonga Turf Club advertised for a Secretary, and Frank landed the job…….It was fulfilling, he says. Though he’s never been an avid punter, he’s always loved going to the races…… and meeting people.

His long-term service to the Race Club, as Secretary and later, as a Committeeman, was duly rewarded with Life Membership.

His involvement with the Sport of Kings also included 14 years as a Steward for the NEDRA…..That, and his business – as a distributor of Quell Fire-Fighting Equipment – meant that life was pretty full-on. But his strong alliance to the Wodonga Footy Club continued long after his retirement………..

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Thus, when John Perry was appointed coach of the ‘Dogs in 1977, Frank was prevailed upon to be his Assistant.

The return of favourite-son Perry elicited considerable excitement among their fans, but they were dumb-struck when he was badly injured in the season’s opening-round clash with Myrtleford.

It necessitated him spending the remainder of the year in hospital……..Suddenly, Hanrahan was thrust into the hot-spot as the replacement senior coach………….

Wodonga lost just four home-and-away games to finish second, and when they skarped to a 35- point lead over Wangaratta at half-time in the Prelim Final, a Grand Final berth beckoned……

Then they faltered……..the ‘Pies slammed on 7 goals to I in the third term, and, in a nail-biter, held on to clinch a five-point victory………

Chiltern came knocking in 1979, and appointed him non-playing coach…….

“(My wife) Helen’s a Chiltern girl, so I felt pretty comfortable there,” Frank says……”They were most welcoming……on the first training night Billy Peake, who hadn’t played for several years, arrived in a track-suit and said: ‘Do you mind if I lend a hand ?’…….From that day on Billy was my unofficial assistant-coach…….”

“We had 12 Lappins on the list and many of them were ‘guns’……Jock, who kicked 90-odd goals that year, was one of the most under-rated players I’ve seen.”

Chiltern were jumped by Milawa in the early stages of the Semi-Final that year, and couldn’t get back into the game…….

”That’ll do me,” Frank decided……..His coaching sojourn was over…….

Among the number of volunteer roles he’s take on since, he has been President, and a committee-member of the Association of Independent Retirees – an organisation which works to advance and protect the lifestyle of retirees.

But he has never lost his zest for footy……….or more particularly, the Wodonga Football Club in the six decades since he hung up his boots……..

You’ll still find him in a quiet spot, somewhere around Martin Park on match day, closely analysing the fortunes of his beloved Bulldogs……….

“THE KATAMATITE FARMER…….A COUNTRY SPORTING LEGEND…….”

Wangaratta’s Annual Australia Day Tennis Tournament has become a local institution since it first kicked off 96 years ago.

Some of the legendary names in the sport have trodden the grass courts of Merriwa Park in late January……..including Davis Cup luminaries Neale Fraser, Frank Sedgman, Rex Hartwig and George Worthington……..

A shy, prodigiously talented 13 year-old from Albury, Margaret Smith, once swept through the tournament to win the C-Grade Singles…………Five years later she collected the first of seven Australian Singles championships, en-route to taking out 24 Grand Slam Titles……..Of course, as Margaret Court she remains a celebrated ( somewhat controversial ) figure in the game.

Countless other talented visiting stars strutted their stuff…….. like Wayne Reid, Bob and Daryl Mark, cunning left-hander Jimmy Matthews, Brian Tobin….and Albury’s Wurtz brothers ( Ken and Rod ) who chalked up a staggering 16 Singles titles between them…….

There were a couple of other regular attendees who, in my growing-up years of the fifties, epitomised the strength of regional tennis – and rank highly among the North-East’s best-ever players……..

Bert Kearney hailed from Murchison; his great mate Pat O’Kane was Katamatite born-and-bred…………

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O’Kane, who passed away recently, was a fixture in the tiny town of Katamatite ( population just over 430 ) for all of his 96 years…….He is acclaimed as one of its greatest products.

Like most of his eight siblings, he was taught the rudiments of Tennis by his dad Maurice, on the town’s hard courts.

Honing his talent by belting thousands of tennis balls against a wall at the club, he was encouraged by Maurice to utilise both hands.

The ambidextrous O’Kane style sometimes disconcerted opponents as he began to rise through junior ranks………..they were unable to exploit a possible backhand weakness, as he would simply swap the racquet from right to left hand and play with equal proficiency.

Pat’s first foray to the Wangaratta tournament began in the late forties……..His cousin Gerald, the licensee of the Criterion Hotel ( a then-prominent establishment at the southern end of Murphy Street ) followed in his father’s footsteps by being heavily involved with the local club……He’d been a three-time Singles Champ…….

Pat, nine years his junior, relished the prospect of tangling with Gerald during the tournament……

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Pat O’Kane and Bert Kearney were the face of country tennis. The pair were fierce singles rivals and dominated Country Week during the post-war era. They met in many memorable matches, and formed a dynamic Doubles partnership.

One encounter – a Final at Kooyong – had been affected by rain and O’Kane convinced himself that the fluffed-up balls were suiting Kearney’s steady, baseline game…..

He approached the umpire, Mrs.Nell Hopman, for new balls, but when she answered in the negative, he belted them out of the court….and over the nearby railway line……

Mrs.Hopman had no option but to produce a new tin of balls…..Satisfied that he had triumphed in this ‘battle of wits’ , O’Kane went back to receive serve, only to notice Kearney dipping the new balls under a nearby tap…….

Pat O’Kane won eight Country Week singles titles, six inter-regional championships, and was seeded fifth in the Australian Hardcourt titles of 1952.

He played against many of the greats – including Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Neale Fraser – and reflected that he produced some of the best tennis of his career whilst lowering his colours to these champs.

Former Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman once wrote that O’Kane could have taken his game to another level had he been prepared to forego the farm and concentrate on tennis full-time…….But the pull of Katamatite was too strong for the dyed-in-the-wool cockie………

He toured overseas with Kearney and Mervyn Rose in 1958, contesting Wimbledon and the US, French and Italian Opens, besides several other tournaments in Europe and Ireland.

It was on this tour that he turned in what he regarded as one of his finest performances…….against one-time World Number One Neale Fraser, just five days after the left-hander had played off in the Wimbledon Final.

He took Fraser to three sets in Ireland’s Limerick Open, highlighted by Pat taking out a marathon second set, 11 games to 9……..As some consolation, he and Kearney were successful in the Doubles Championship.

O’Kane and the left-handed showman Mervyn Rose were first opposed in an Under 21 event at Bendigo. Rated Australia’s outstanding junior behind Frank Sedgman at the time, Rose was unperturbed when Pat accused him of cheating…..

He had shouted ‘Bad Luck’ a couple of times, after Pat passed him with seemingly obvious winners, which persuaded the umpire to call the points in Rose’s favour……

“You’ll never make the Davis Cup team by cheating, Merv,” O’Kane blurted……..”You want to bet ? “ was the reply….

The pair eventually became great friends, and Pat was on the sidelines, riding every shot, when Merv Rose took out the 1958 French Open.

O’Kane’s strong relationship with many of the top-ranking players resulted in him inviting some of them to compete in exhibition matches in regional areas.

A leather skipping rope remained his constant companion when playing tennis. It was one of his keep-fit exercises when playing, and he still continued to skip into his late eighties

In the latter part of his career, he contracted ‘tennis elbow’, which prompted him to curtail his tennis commitments, before a spinal injury, incurred whilst hay-carting in 1963, hastened his retirement from the game.

His contribution to tennis was acknowledged in 2000 when he received an Australian Sports Medal…….

O’Kane’s association with the Yarrawonga Football Club began when he was recruited from Tungamah.

A strong, high-marking forward, he later transferred to Numurkah for four years, where he played a key role in two premierships, before moving over to the Benalla-Tungamah League club Burramine, which his brother Brendan (‘Curly’) was coaching.

Another two flags followed, with O’Kane proving irresistible in front of the big sticks, once booting 31 goals in three games.

Melbourne invited him to play a handful of Reserves games at the time he was playing pennant tennis in the city…….But again, farm commitments were the barrier to him taking up the offer………

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Pat’s fascination with the ‘Sport of Kings’ began when he started pencilling for bookmaker Don McLean……….His keen eye for the punt was illustrated when he declared that 20/1 outsider Lord Fury would win the 1961 Melbourne Cup, despite having finished last in its lead-up race, the MacKinnon Stakes……… Lord Fury led from start to finish, and the winnings went towards building a new shearing shed at the O’Kane farm.

On the other side of the coin, his horse Little Princess was retired after beating just one horse home in 11 winless starts.

He did have particular success, as a part-owner of pacer Murray Mack which won more than 20 races, including a Sire’s Produce at the Melbourne Showgrounds.. ……..

Cycling was another of his great interests. One of his heroes was the legendary Sid Patterson, and he keenly followed the fortunes of his brother-in-law John Holgate, whose major success came when he won two Melbourne to Yarrawonga road races ……..

As a pro-athletics enthusiast, he rendered lengthy service to the iconic Burramine Gift program, and was bestowed Life Membership of the Sports Club………He was also on the Board of Directors of the Victorian Athletic League for a decade….

His annual pilgrimage to the Stawell Gift continued until his mid-eighties…….There was no one prouder at Central Park when Katamatite’s own Glenn Crawford greeted the judge in 1995.

Crawford won his Gift heat in convincing fashion, but had to survive an agonising five hours of deliberation after a protest was lodged by the stewards…….. O’Kane and John Carr (Pat’s best-man, and the 1957 Gift winner) represented the race-favourite at his appeal, culminating in the disqualification being overturned……Instead, a fine was handed down.

Crawford swept to an emphatic win in the Final the next day in a blistering 11.79 seconds ( still the fastest time ever recorded )……..

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Pat O’Kane maintained a deep connection to the Australian Labour Party and the Collingwood Football Club……….

He knew only too well that the local Federal seat of Nicholls was far beyond the reach of the ALP, but nevertheless, was always a keen observer of the result. He kept an eye on the voting in Katamatite one year, and ascertained that there should be 8 guaranteed ALP votes – 6 O’Kane’s and 2 McDermott’s……..Alas, the figures showed only 7 votes……

He was unable to fathom it out…… couldn’t believe that someone in the family had crossed the party line…….until…..much to his relief, he worked out that one of the O’Kane’s had recently moved to Bendigo and changed electorates………

Likewise, he took his role as a lifelong supporter of Collingwood seriously…….

When his son Brian asked him to name his six greatest Magpies he grabbed a pen and began to scribble down the names……..In order, Albert Collier (1), Nathan Buckley (2), Bobby Rose (3), Des Fothergill (4), Jack Regan (5), Ron Todd (6)…..

The result was that he endured a restless night, and at 7 o’clock the next morning Brian received a surprise call from his dad…….The list just didn’t seem right……”I want to change it,” he said. “Bobby Rose has to go in front of Buckley…….Write it down, Brian…..That’s for history’s sake…..”

Long-time friend Danny Russell says that Pat wrote many other lists for his scrap-book, including the greatest tennis-players of all-time…..

“Pat said: ‘I was lucky to have seen the great American Jack Kramer play at his best…..I rank him ahead of Pancho Gonzales and Lew Hoad as the best player I have seen….’ In later years he loved Nadal….”

Danny added that, in 2015 he was asked to rank the 10 greatest racehorses in an article for the Herald-Sun……..” I haven’t told anyone ‘til now… but that was Pat’s list……It had to be……”

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Pat O’Kane, champion sportsman, brilliant raconteur, outstanding citizen, maintained that he was the only person to have shorn 200 sheep in a day…….and competed at Wimbledon……

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Edna, and children Anne Maree and Brian. He was the father-in-law of Brennan and Cheryl and Grandfather of Patrick, Billy, Gus and Piper……….

P.S: With special thanks to Anne Maree O’Kane and Danny Russell.

“THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A FOOTBALL JOURNEYMAN……….”

The rain’s tumbling down in Rosebud ……..The temperature has barely nudged into double figures, but it feels two or three degrees chillier, with that icy breeze nipping in off Port Philip Bay…… ……..

Norm Hamill has called the Mornington Peninsula town home for the past 13 years……. eons away from the wide open spaces of the Mallee, where he first saw the light of day……or a few of the destinations around the nation at which he landed during his time as a journeyman footballer………

He was one of the real characters you come across in footy – boisterous, open as a book, loyal, the life of the Club, warm-hearted……….but underneath his ‘big-noting exterior’, as he calls it, lay a sensitive and introspective soul ………

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Normie quips that his ‘shit-house’ kicking style prevented him from being a star………

He was playing in Bendigo at one stage, when Hawthorn coach Graeme Arthur – an old Sandhurst boy – brought the Hawks up for a practice match……He marked everything….was best afield for the locals in what he terms ‘the game of his life’……

“Graeme came up to congratulate me after the game. He said: ‘Mate, if you could do something about your kicking you’d walk into the VFL…….”

I recall when he was making his way into senior football with the Rovers he became an instant fan-favourite due to his competitiveness, exhuberance, and ability to pull down a strong pack mark….. Then he’d line up a shot for goal, and they’d collectively utter a sigh of resignation: ‘Don’t put your house on this one………’

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His dad Les was a typical Mallee cockie……..Farmed 6,500 acres of Mallee scrub through years of drought, then had one good year……. Spurred by success he decided to sell out and move onto the irrigation at Pyramid Hill.

That’s where Norm first cut his teeth in footy, making his debut with the Reserves, aged 15, and graduating to the senior line-up.

He’d been making the daily 90-mile trek to-and-from school at Kerang ( 11 of them by pushbike ), but after gaining his Intermediate Certificate, joined Les on the land.

The family’s next move was to a property at Glenrowan West. When the surrounding O & M clubs heard of a likely-looking, 6’2” , blonde-haired youngster landing in their midst it prompted a flurry of activity.

One day, whilst on the tractor, he glanced across to see a pair of Collingwood officials sauntering across the paddock to have a yarn with him.

“The old man reckoned I wasn’t ready, so I spent the next season and a half with Greta……..then the Rovers got me in to play a few games on Match Permits,” he says.

Not that he was an instant success when he moved in permanently to the Findlay Oval…….He was in and out of the senior side for the next couple of years.

The turning-point came towards the end of 1964………..The Hawks, who had won 16 games on the trot, to be red-hot favourites for the flag, suffered an inexplicable drop in form, losing the next four.

A few regulars were chopped,……and big-man Hamill, was one of those who found their way into the Preliminary Final line-up……..

The Rovers stuttered in the early stages, then blew Myrtleford away. The following week after wresting control in the third-quarter, they out-pointed Wangaratta by 21 points, to win the Grand Final.

Normie Hamill was now a premiership player……

The Hawks also hung on in a dramatic finale’ in 1965, before eventually clinching the decider against the ‘Pies by three points…….Again, the big number 18 had played his part in the tense final stages of another famous premiership victory.

It was probably the acknowledgment that he was now a fully-fledged ruckman in his own right, rather than an understudy, that convinced coach Ken Boyd of Hamill’s importance to the side.

“ Boydy had a big influence on me……I couldn’t believe the aura that surrounded him……No wonder opposition players were cautious about him on the field – he frightened me, even though I was playing in the same side as him…….” Norm jokes.

In Boyd’s swansong season, Hamill played his finest football in the Brown and Gold. His good mate Neville Hogan took out the ‘66 Morris Medal with 19 votes………Normie polled 10 votes to finish equal sixth……….

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A WISE OLD BLOKE

‘But Dad !….I want to go to the Sale.

A big ‘NO’ was his very stern words,

“You’re not really interested in cattle, my boy,

You just want to check out the birds,”

He was right, of course, although I wouldn’t admit it,

I didn’t care much about cattle or sheep,

I was only interested in getting to town,

And some of the sheilas I’d meet,

“Grab the Mattoch and Waterback,

An’ go cut some shoots,

Make sure you dig deep and don’t miss the roots,”

So off I would go with a dent in my pride,

Swaggering along with my dog by my side,

But nevertheless, as you probably can guess, I lost

Most of my arguments with Dad.

If ever I won it was with help from my Mum,

To Mum I could do nothing bad.

It was there at Glenrowan, the seeds he was sowing

Had nothing to do with a crop,

But seeds of knowledge to help me cope

With all the problems I’d cop

For it was here that Dad taught me

What it was to be a worker

He said: ‘Always pull your weight son, and don’t be a shirker………..

Norm says farm-life didn’t really suit him: “I’d be sitting out on the tractor for hours and hours, day after day, ploughing……nobody to talk to………..”

In his early years with the Rovers he decided to leave the farm and go picking tobacco at Everton with the Kneebone family……He says his Dad was not that impressed:

“I left home without a care in the world,

Not realising or worrying about the hurt I’d unfurled,

Then Dad, walking behind the bush with a tear in his eye,

Hell, I couldn’t see too much reason to cry………..”

In due course the Kneebone’s invited him to grow tobacco as a share-farmer.

“They were great to me, and we had two good years……..I bought a brand-new car and was the richest bloke in the footy club…….thought I was shit-hot……then in the third year they had the first floods in December for decades ……..flooded every plant down the river…..”

“We all walked off with the arse out of our pants………I’d been living in a tent nearby, with one of my Rovers team-mates, Frank Sargent, who was a teacher at Everton…….We got home after training one night….there’d been a huge storm….debris everywhere……and the old tent, and all our possessions had been blown away….”

That was the end of his tobacco-growing episode. Instead, he took up Ray Thompson’s offer to work at the local Brickworks for a couple of years……..But he was developing itchy-feet and decided to use footy as his travelling passport………..

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He had a few relations in Bendigo, and decided to head over to renew acquaintances with them one week-end……..Invited for a training run with Sandhurst , he met a few people….. One thing led to another, and they offered him a few bob to play.

The Dragons teed up a job selling insurance with AMP and Norm starred in the ruck, alongside 6’8” man-mountain Carl Brewster, who was to become his best mate.

Together, they represented the Bendigo League against Sunraysia, and Norm’s original League, the Northern District.

At season’s end he and two mates drove over to the Golden West. It was his intention to strip with South Fremantle but – restless soul that he was – he popped down to Albany one week-end.

“We were sitting in the pub having a few beers and the bloke ‘behind the jump’ happened to be on the North Albany committee.”

“He raced upstairs, where they were having a meeting. Next thing 5 or 6 of them came down and offered me a few bob to play…….They arranged a job as a slaughterman with Borthwick’s – cutting sheep’s throats……1,000 a day…and hanging ‘em on a mobile chain.”

“I did that for three weeks, before I approached the boss – who was North Albany President…….I said: Listen, mate, unless you can put me up the line a bit I’m giving it the arse…..Anyway, that worked, and I ended up with a better job……….”

The next move was back east, to Albury.

“I don’t really know how I ended up there, to be honest…….They got me a job as a Slaughterman, then I had a Bread-Delivery run and was finally a Sales Rep for a Tyre company for 18 months.”

The Tigers were a middle-of-the-road side in ‘69 and finished bottom in 1970, with just four wins. Norm played consistently, though, under the coaching of Bob Spargo, and alongside Carl Brewster, who’d followed him over from Sandhurst.

“The biggest kick I got in that disappointing 1970 season, was to toss the coin, as Albury captain, with my old team-mate Neville Hogan, who was in his first year as coach of the Rovers.”

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The sunshine was beckoning………And North Albury star Kevin ‘Turkey’ Weule had been offered the coaching job with Queensland club, Coorparoo.

“ They advised ‘Turk’ the job was his, on the proviso that he could bring a couple of ruckmen along. He arranged for Carl and I to meet their ‘money-man’, Barry Modini, in Wagga, to seal the deal.”

“I got a transfer in my job with the Tyre Company, went Car-detailing for a while and ended up selling cars for the remainder of our eight years, most of them on ‘The Mad Mile’, in Ipswich Road, Brisbane.”

Norm adapted well to the QAFL and, in his first season, was rated a strong chance of taking out the League’s Grogan Medal. He was selected in the State Squad for the National Division 2 Carnival, before a sprained ankle forced him out of the action.

And he was a crucial part of what was a hectic social life at Coorparoo, along with his ‘partner-in-crime’, Carl Brewster.

“We had some great times at Coorparoo, but gee, he was a bit of a wild bastard, Carl…….Got me into a bit of trouble over the years…….I even had a blue with him one night at a Club function…….He clobbered me…..I had blood all over my white jumper…..We were heading out to the middle of the ground to finish it off…..”

“When he saw the blood on me he thought: ‘Oh shit. What am I doing, whacking my best mate.’ So we went back into the Club again…….”

“When we got home we told our wives a couple of Bikies had attacked us……..”

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Norm went on to receive an attractive offer from SQAFL club South Brisbane, where he proved a star in his debut season.

“The incumbent coach quit at the end of the year, and they asked me to take over……..I wasn’t that keen, but we actually rose from the bottom, into the four…..It was a great experience.”

Many years later, they invited him back for a function, and named him captain of South Brisbane’s ‘All Star Side’……

The final stanza in his football journey was penned when he returned home, in the late seventies, to spend part of a season with his old club, Greta…….

But the Hamill family had still not sated their wanderlust ……..He and Christine continued to traverse the nation – from Melbourne…. to Augusta (WA)….to Perth, with their growing family – Adrian, Tania and Daniel….

He got right into Scuba Diving and Absailing and crayfishing in Augusta. “Fair dinkum mate, the crayfish down there were two foot long,” Norm says.

He estimates that he had more than 30 jobs, as diverse as Barman-Cellarman, Tomato-Picker, Hotel Licensee, Caravan-Park Manager, Hay-Carter, Oil-Refinery worker, Shearer, Sales Representative, Solid-Waste Operator, Fruit-Juice Distributor, Florist and Club-Manager…………..After 30 years in W.A, he and Chris finally pulled up stumps and settled in Rosebud…….

You can sometimes get wisdom from a man in the gutter,

Not always the intellects and the words that they utter,

He was a wise old bloke that Dad of mine,

Because I took his advice and I’m feeling fine………...

“HAWKS AND TIGERS PRODUCE A CLASSIC……”

Daryn Cresswell paces around the Sydney Airport Terminal; anxiously watching the live-stream of the game and furiously texting, as his charges wage a battle royal against Albury yesterday……..

In possibly the match of the year the Wangaratta Rovers hold on to pip Albury – 14.9 ( 93 ) to 13.14 ( 92 ).

Fortunes fluctuate wildly during this fascinating encounter……Forty-five seconds into the second quarter the Hawks hold a 29-point lead, and are doing it on the bit; five minutes later the Tigers have narrowed the lead to five points.

The Rovers again produce scintillating football in the opening 15 minutes of the third term, to scoot out to a seeming match-winning lead of 33 points………But their never-say-die opponents flick the switch again to fight their way back into the game……..

The last quarter is last-man-standing stuff……The Tigers finally regain the ascendency and, you’d suggest, have the necessary composure and experience to prevail in this classic contest …….It goes right down to the wire……In a match of inches the Hawks get up by a solitary point, to defeat Albury for only the second time in ten years………..

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If all of that drama was enough to drive ‘Crezza’ to distraction, consider his stand-in replacements, Josh and Chris Naish.

Charged with the responsibility of guiding the Hawks for the day they’d scarcely have visualised such a roller-coaster ride……..But, they’ll no doubt reason, they’re better for the experience.

And, by the way, they’ll probably query, in this ‘game for the ages’, why 22 of the 27 goals were kicked to the town end, when there was scarcely a whisper of a breeze.

This game fascinated from the first bounce……The early star ( and in my book, BOG for the game ) was slightly-built on-baller, Jake McQueen, who booted two early goals and continued to be a dynamo.

At one stage Tiger Brayden O’Hara stuck close in an attempt to dull McQueen…….. That was one of the many match-ups that both sides plotted…..Todd Bryant onto the dynamic Fletcher Carroll also proved effective , but really, most of the ‘big guns’ continued to have their anticipated effect on the game……

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The Rovers had no time to rest on their laurels after everything they touched had turned to gold in the first quarter. Albury soon switched into gear, inspired by the brilliance of coach Anthony Miles, who, in one purple patch early in the second term, picked up 5 touches in six minutes ( and 11 for the quarter).

But it was the curly-haired, fleet-footed youngster Isaac McGrath ( grandson of a former Hawk ) who lit the game up with a couple of majors.

The Tigers were right back in it and went to the half-time break with a four-point lead : 7.6 to 7.2.

Many Rovers diehards on the Maroney Pavilion balcony pondered, and were apprehensive about the prospect of their side regaining the ascendency.

They were ecstatic when they booted two goals in a minute. The latter was the result of a classic piece of Dylan Stone wizardry on the scoreboard-side, when he took six bounces, relayed the pill on to Jayden Bear, who knocked it over to Alex Marklew…..Goal !

And under-rated Dylan Wilson was on the end of another distance-devouring Stone effort, and snapped truly…….It was the third Hawk goal in the opening eight minutes of the third term…….They were back in town.

Further majors to Lukass Webb, Jack Gerrish and Sam Allen ( whose clean disposal had come under notice ) extended the lead to 33 points.

Again Rovers fans breathed easily, and contemplated glory…….

But not for long……

The final stanza had no sooner begun when the pendulum swung for the umpteenth time. Big forward Jacob Conlon slammed through two ‘snags’ in a minute…….Shaun Daly was acquitting himself capably after switching into the ruck, and the usual ‘suspects’, Miles, strong-marking Lucas Conlon, Jake Gaynor, Riley Bice and skipper Jimmy Grills came under notice.

Suddenly, the Tigers trailed by just four points.

When Todd Bryant was interfered with at centre half forward, the relay kick ended up in the hands of tall Hawk Mackenzie Bristow, who nailed it from point-blank range.

Temporary breathing space for the home side…….

But it was short-lived when Jacob Conlon marked on the angle and his conversion put the Tigers back in front at the 17-minute mark.

Then Jimmy Grills snapped his fourth point for the day…..A bad miss……It was desperation-stakes for both sides, as they battled in close.

Two great intercept marks from the gallant Sam Murray, and some outstanding defensive efforts from the reliable Raven Jolliffe, brought sighs of relief to the Hawks……..

The Rovers backline, also supported by Sam Carpenter, Michael Clark, Cody Schutt and Will Nolan had continued to be unstinting in their efforts.

The closing minutes were so drama-charged that roughly 32 of the 36 players were fighting for the ball in front of the Hogan Stand, the end to which the Tigers were attacking.

It was three points the difference with a couple of minutes remaining…….

The dangerous Tiger Jacob Conlon marked right on the line, in front of the point post, played on……and booted a point…….A great escape for the Hawks……A disputed mark to Riley Bice, 25 metres in front, was disallowed…..Then, seconds later, Will Blomely snapped…..and deviated to the left point post…….

There was just a point in it when Sam Murray’s raking left foot again cleared the ball from the danger area towards Jayden Bear and Lachie Taylor-Nugent. Just as Bear toed the ball into space he raised his arms in triumph. The roar of the crowd had drowned out the shrill sound of the siren, signifying a one-point victory in a memorable encounter……

The balcony exploded in uproar…….