FAREWELL, MOUSE.

For more than 35 years Denis Wohlers was as familiar a figure at the Findlay Oval as the old gum tree that hovers over the southern end of the ground.

A life-long Rovers supporter, he found his way onto the committee in 1973. It was during the tight-fisted reign of Jack Maroney, a President who believed in doing things ‘my way or the highway’. ‘Mouse’ was an ideas man and sometimes went off on a tangent.

“That   F…… Mousey, what’s he up to now?”, was a common lament from old Jack, who often laid the blame on  Mouse when  anything went haywire, but secretly admired his work ethic.

Mouse inherited the role of Property Steward from Bill Barry and became close to the players. As such he was always invited on the end-of-season Trip – and never reneged. In those days exotic cruises were popular trip destinations.   Mouse was in his element.

One of Wangaratta’s top musicians, he would gravitate to the boat’s entertainment at night. He’d  talk the band’s drummer into having a spell, missing nary a beat on the drums, much to the boys’ enjoyment.

He didn’t mind airing his football knowledge, to the extent of a bit of personal advice to Neville Hogan, Daryl Smith or Laurie Burt. His main beef would be about “frigging around with the ball instead of going direct, the way Sheedy’s got ‘em playing at Essendon”. And why, oh why, he would wonder, do they kick the ball in the direction of that bloody Coca Cola sign.

Another pet argument of his was that the Rovers should change their guernseys . “Brown and Gold’s an insipid-looking colour. There’s no Black and Red in the O & M, that’s what our colours should be”. He always got someone to have a crack back on that one.

A passionate Bomber, he loved his trips to  see them play. We went to watch a Footscray-Essendon game at the Western Oval once and took a couple of young ‘Dogs supporters with us. In typical fashion, Footscray challenged for a good part of the game, but were run-over in the dying stages.

Mouse was delighted, excited. As we returned to our car, somewhere off  Barkly Street, he raved about Keenan Reynolds, Frankie Dunnell, Maddern, Neil Clark, Watson… gesticulating all the while. As we trudged along the footpath he ran slap-bang into a lamp-post. Yet the boys still laugh that he never drew breath.

The Rovers were hot favourites  for another flag in 1980 and Mouse reckoned that we could make a killing by  flogging off a special poster :  “HAWKS, 4  IN A ROW”,  to sell  at the premiership function that night. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately North Albury upset the applecart. Those ‘collectors items’ gathered dust in the Rovers store-room  for years.

In the early 80’s he talked the Club into running a Fight Night, with the feature  bout  being a Riverina Heavyweight  title  bout between  Reno Zurik and Danny Carey. A good crowd turned up, but some unexpected complications developed. We’d forgotten about having a doctor on hand, as the rules prescribed (luckily Bruce Wakefield consented to help out) and a stable of boxers hadn’t turned up from Albury.

The crowd was becoming restive and Mouse began to panic. Just then the missing car-load of boxers arrived and the night turned out to be a great success.  The ‘Promoter’, relishing his ‘Don King’  image, graciously took all the plaudits  and raved about it for years.

Besides being a family man, businessman, fly-fisherman, musician and Rovers committeeman, he put up his hand to help run Bingo every Monday night. 34 years later he was still calling. We knew, over the years, to keep an eye on him because sometimes the numbers would start to get jumbled and the voice slurred. That was time to race a glass of water up to him and give him his ‘sugar-fix’.

No doubt his biggest thrill came when his son made his senior debut. Shane became a fine, dual-premiership player, but ‘Old Mouse’ was always reluctant to give him too much praise.  However, he could hardly contain himself when the ‘young fella’ cut loose at the Albury Sportsground in 1998, to pilot the Rovers to the most unlikely victory.

He would offer his opinion on most things, but some of his pet hates were parents failing to supervise their kids, warm beer, kicking the ball backwards or sideways, the Magpies, kids sliding down the banisters of the Rovers stair-case and people interrupting him while he was videoing a game.

Mouse gave the Rovers yeoman service as a committeeman (12 years), Vice-President (8 years), Bingo-caller, video-operator, fund-raiser , property steward and general  factotum. The Club will be forever in his debt.

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