I’m shooting the breeze with Greta’s games record-holder.
Armed with a stubbie and a roll-your-own, his back is being warmed by a healthy fire as he gazes across the panoramic landscape, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Green paddocks and grazing cattle and sheep complete the scene.
To quote that paraphrase made famous by Daryl Kerrigan in ‘The Castle’, Paul Hogan would say: “Ah, this is Serenity”.
‘Hoges’ is still a bit sore from yesterday’s Reserves game against Goorambat. Fair enough, I suppose. He’s 43 and all of his contemporaries have long since retired, but he still enjoys having a kick with the young blokes and helping the Club out.
He thrives on training and the atmosphere of the footy club, even if Greta are not enjoying the success that they had when he was running rings around opponents in the nineties.
And he likes the fact that, because his wife Andrea’s work as a nurse consumes most week-ends, he can bring the kids, Ben, Molly and Rose to the footy and the other Greta kids take them under their wing. That’s grassroots sport for you.
“Hoges usually gives them a few bob each, as he goes in to get changed, with strict instructions not to spend it all on lollies”, one wag said. “They head straight for the lolly stall”.
“One thing he still does, when he gets his gear on, is to splash a bit of oil around and give himself a rub down. He never asks a trainer to do the job.It’s just become part of his routine. Then he’s raring to go.”
Paul Hogan was 16 when he was given a senior opportunity at Greta, back in 1987. He became a regular over the next couple of years and, in a natural transition, was recruited by the Rovers in 1990.
There was a strong family link with the Hawks. His uncles Maurie and Neville had played there. His grandmother, Tess, had been a long-time supporter.
He wasn’t really sure whether he wanted to make the break from Greta and had a few games on permits in the Reserves. He went back ‘home’ for a couple of games , then returned to the Findlay Oval to use up the rest of his permits.
Paul had pretty much decided that, if he couldn’t crack it for a senior game, he may as well forget about an Ovens and Murray career for the time being. These thoughts were going through his mind just before coach Laurie Burt advised him that he was being promoted for his debut in the ‘ones’.
He played eight senior games in 1990, but featured prominently in a crackerjack Rovers team the following season. The Hawks recovered from a shock second semi-final defeat by Yarrawonga, to blitz the Pigeons by 69 points in the ‘91 Grand Final.
He was by now an established O &M player, mainly as a winger, with an occasional foray forward. His pace and elusiveness and excellent disposal made him a stand-out. The Rovers, going for two in a row in 1992, fell just 7 points short in a dramatic Preliminary Final against Corowa-Rutherglen.
‘Hoges’ was confident in his ability to match it with the best wingers in the competition, but he struggled with the intensity and hankered for the more laid-back ‘feel’ of the O & K.
So, after 51 senior games with the Rovers, he was back in the Navy and White Guernsey – this time for keeps.
He was to play in three premierships through the nineties – ‘93,’ 95 and 1999 – and was a definite factor in the Blues’ fantastic era.
I gather that the ’93 flag holds a special place in his heart. Chiltern were undefeated going into the Grand Final and included in their ranks were brilliant young guns Nigel and Matty Lappin, both destined for stellar AFL careers. The Swans were unbackable favourites.
But Greta were ‘switched on’ and gained the upper hand, with irrepressible Anthony Foubister and dogged veteran Nick Judd playing starring roles. Their coach Rod Canny went into the game ‘on one leg’ and parked himself deep in a forward pocket, dragging a key opponent, Wayne Pendergast with him and away from the play.
Chiltern became frustrated and a few of their players ‘did their blocks’. They hardly raised a whimper in the last half, as the Blues raced away to win by 66 points.
‘Hoges’ won the first of his five Best and Fairest awards in ’93 (the others came in 1997,2000,’05 and ’06) so it was the culmination of a dream year for him.
In 1995, even though he finished third in the Club B & F behind Mark Kilner and Duane Kerwin, he won the League’s Baker Medal. It held particular significance for him because his dad Greg (‘Smoky’) was involved in a three-way tie for the prestigious award in 1956. They remain the only Father-Son recipients of the Medal.
Paul remembers the 1995 flag fondly for the thrill it gave old Magpie stalwarts Robbie Richards and Brett Keir, who had been through years of adversity and could finally share in a flag triumph. And for the fact that Greta lost just one game for the year.
The Blues finished three games clear in 1999, yet almost had the flag snatched from them, as Moyhu came home with a wet sail to go down by five points in a dramatic finish. It was the Caruso era. The former Rovers champ put his final stamp on a three-year reign at the Club. ‘Hoges’ rates him highly, but says he’s been blessed to play under some top coaches in his time.
How does Paul Hogan rate among the greats of the Greta Football Club.
“He’s the best in my time at the Club, which spans three decades”, one old Blue says.
It’s hard to compare players from different eras. Then you start to bring the Tanners, Newths, O’Briens, Lionel Wallace, Col Barnes and the likes into the equation. But he’d have to be in the upper echelon.
He played his last senior game about four years ago. He has 352 to his credit and that will take some beating. He’s now played 54 in the ‘twos’ and we’re still counting.
Back in his heyday he once said: “When I’m past it in the seniors, I’ll just go down to the seconds and play ‘til I drop.”
One thing about it, stress won’t get to him. You never know, there might still be a couple of seasons left in the old ‘Hoges’ yet.