MORE OF FOOTBALL’S FINEST

Emboldened after choosing my version of the Rovers Dream Team, I embraced the task of  selecting the next 22 champs.  It should be a ‘lay-down misere’,I surmised – surely not as difficult as last week’s painstaking affair.

Alas,whereas many of the Dream Team were walk-up starts -Rose,Hogan,Walker,Holmes,etc – the remaining pool of stars were more even .I waxed and waned and,at the finish,still had a list of 20-odd who could quite easily have been slotted in.

So here is DREAM TEAM No.2

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BOBBY ATKINSON had played 40 Reserves games before he became established as a senior player with the Hawks.But he revelled in becoming a member of the meanest,most ruthless backline in the O & M.Aggressive,attacking and with loads of spirit,he settled into a back flank and opponents who had to wear him for the day knew that every kick would be earned the hard way.He played in premierships in 1964 and ’65. He later coached King Valley to their first flag,then returned to play in the Rovers 1971 and ’72 premierships.Played 175 games.

 

TERRY BARTEL’S first game for the Rovers was at the age of 16,lured to the club on permits from Beechworth.A precociously talented small man,he went on the football merry-go-round for years,before returning to rove in successive premierships in 1971 and ’72.Nicknamed ‘Gypsy’ for his propensity to get the occasional bouts of wanderlust,he could win a game off his own boot.Once kicked 9 goals from the pocket in an inter-league game.An enigmatic figure,he should have forged a reputation in League football,just as his  famous son James did.Played 63 games.

 

KEN BOYD’S debut with the Rovers in 1962 was delayed by 8 weeks because he had been suspended for striking Carlton great John Nicholls in 1961. An astute coach and a charismatic figure,Boyd led the Hawks to flags in 1964 and ’65.He was a fit and fearsome ruckman-cum-key forward in his early years.Despite a back injury in his final season he was still useful.His last -and 82nd game- was the 1966 Preliminary Final loss,in which he was reported 4 times.His 8-match suspension did nothing to dent his mighty standing among Rovers fans.

 

BARRIE COOK flew under the radar of the broad football public,but the Rovers had the highest regard for the loping,long-striding winger.He played 215 games for the Hawks and 5 of these were in premiership sides during the seventies.The way he could contort his body at all angles to take marks earned him the nickname of ‘Leaner’. His unflappable demeanour suited the big occasions and he was a star in many of the 31 finals he played.

 

ERIC CORNELIUS played on a wing with poise and grace and was rarely outpointed His early career was highlighted by his role in the 1964 premiership.He spent a couple of years with Shepparton United,then returned to play in premierships in 1971,’72 and ’74.Superb judgement and uncanny aerial skills marked his 169 games.Some heavy knocks to the head finished his stellar career.

 

RON FERGUSON had the looks of a choir boy and the wiry frame of an old ‘cockie’.The Murmungee farmer proved a remarkably durable and hard-working player over 14 O & M seasons and 256 games.’Fergie’ could run between the lines and showed no fear in his customary role as a half back flanker.Opposition fans were not enamoured of him and he had a hard edge to his game that prompted the occasional altercation.Played in 4 premierships.

 

EDDIE FLYNN was a silky-sklled midfielder who had the enviable knack of  being able to find the football.A former jockey,he made no impact in an earlier stint at the Findlay Oval.But after winning the O-K League’s Baker Medal and a premiership with North Wangaratta,he returned to become a star. He was a finals specialist and played in Grand Finals in his first 7 seasons with the Rovers – winning 5.He played 159 games and won a B & F in 1981.

 

LEN GRESKIE was recruited from Moyhu as a tenacious rover and played in the 1958 and 1960 premiership teams before settling in as a mean-spirited back pocket who tormented resting rovers.He was a significant contributor in two more flags and played every game from 1958 to 1969 – 236 consecutive matches.When he moved to North Wangaratta as coach he broke a leg in his first game.Best and Fairest in a premiership year – 1965.

 

The Rovers have boasted some champion defenders over the years and TYSON HARTWIG is right up there with them.A close-checking full back,he thrives on taking a barnstorming run downfield and letting fly with his lethal left foot.He has the physique to out-muscle some of the gargantuan forwards of the current era.He has been an All-Australian defender and a regular VCFL rep and includes a Best and Fairest in his 126- game C.V.

 

ROBERT HICKMOTT had 2 sporting passions -football and racing – and inevitably the two collided. The son of a horse-trainer,his prodigious football ability saw him star in an O & M flag win and represent the League at the age of 18.He was lured to the city by Kevin Sheedy,who would,a decade or so later,say: “You better do well in the horse game,because you wasted your footy talent”.He did play League football,with Melbourne,but returned to the Rovers to share in another flag in 1991.Played 70,often scintillating games with the Hawks and later trained a Melbourne Cup winner.

 

NEALE McMONIGLE’S two premierships with the Rovers were spaced 13 years apart.The first was as a gangling,loose-limbed youngster in 1978; the second as a wizened old full forward in 1991.’Macca’ kicked 377 goals in his 108 games,but could drive coaches to distraction with a nonchalant manner.One minute he would be leaning on a goal-post,seemingly disinterested; the next he would be snapping a miracle goal.

 

RICK MARKLEW was one of ‘Burt’s Babes’,who took the Rovers to an unlikely premiership in 1988.He kicked 4 goals in the last half that day – a portent of things to come in a stellar 229 senior games.A superb overhead mark and an accurate kick,he booted 351 goals,including 6 or more on seven occasions.He could be thrown around the ground with good effect.Played in 3 flags – 1988,’93 and ’94.Continued to give yeoman service in the Reserves,where he played over 100 games as a veteran.

 

ROLEY MARKLEW had the knack of stirring opposition players and supporters into a frenzy,during an eventful 162 games with the Rovers. He was a fresh-faced crew-cut lad of 16 when he was blooded in the 1960 premiership team,but later developed into a tough and unyielding utility player.His outstanding ability was often overlooked by fans,who focused on his rugged style of play.Had 3 years with Tarrawingee,but returned to play the best football of his career,including premierships in 1971 and 1972.

 

Although only built like a rover,MAX NEWTH was durable and could play in any number of positions.Bob Rose liked to use him as a decoy full forward and he booted many of his 202 goals in that role.He was ultra-competitive and tough – as you would expect from a Greta shearer and man-on-the-land.He played in the Hawks first 2 premierships and was a favorite of Hawk fans in his 89 games.

 

Before he was drafted to Carlton,KARL NORMAN was a high-flying key defender.After a colorful odyssey,he returned home to assume a role as an indestructable object at centre bounces and an inspirational player around the ground.Despite his body taking a heavy buffeting,he was a much-loved and astute on-field general in 121 games.Won a B & F and was runner-up in the Morris Medal in 2012.

 

JOHN O’DONOHUE was recruited to the Rovers in 1988 after being on the fringes at North Melbourne for a couple of seasons.He soon established himself as,arguably, the best player in the League.Positioned at centre half back, and superbly fit,his long,probing runs often ended up with him shooting for goal.He played in a flag in his first season and returned,after 4 years with West Adelaide,to feature in two more,as a key forward/ruckman.Played 101 games,won a B & F and later won respect from all,as a coach for 3 seasons.

 

KEITH OTTREY was the heartbeat of the Hawks in the early 50’s.Small,but as solid as a rock,’The Demon’ shared a Best and Fairest in 1951 as a tough,cheeky rover,ever-dangerous around the big sticks.He snared 180 goals in his 134 games and was later to settle into a permanent role in the back pocket.Was an O & M rep in 1953 and ’56.Later filled several important on-field roles with the club,including President and Secretary.

 

ANTHONY PASQUALI grew up on a tobacco farm in King Valley. At 16,he walked into the sports store owned by a couple of Rovers legends and asked how he could join the Hawks.He served a long apprenticeship in the thirds and reserves before cementing a senior position.A great mark for his size and blessed with endurance,he could play in key positions or on the ball.After coaching Benalla he returned to lead the Rovers.Numbered 3 premierships among his 322 senior games.

 

ARTHUR SMITH was a standout for the Rovers in their battling early years in the O & M.So it was gratifying to him when the club finally became a power.He was superbly-built,tall and athletic ,with long arms. His ‘home’ was at centre half back,where he would back himself against any opponent in the air.He won the Best and Fairest in the premiership year of 1958.After coaching Moyhu to a flag in 1959,he returned to play in another premiership in 1960.Played 88 games.

 

A lively little man who played with enthusiasm and fire, JOHN WELCH could be swung all over the ground.He was a vital component in the premiership sides of 1964 and ’65 and was playing at his peak when he left to coach Whorouly in 1967 – aged 22. He returned the following year,but mid-season,his car veered off the Ovens Highway and wrapped itself around a tree. His O & M playing career was over after 88 games.He later coached the Hawks for three seasons.

 

ANDREW WILSON was a football all-rounder,able to play anywhere,with an aggression that coaches crave.Used with equal aplomb on a wing,half back,on-ball or even at full forward,he could provide a contest like few others.Nicknamed ‘Waldo’,after a famous wrestler,he was as tough as his namesake -Waldo von Erich. He once lopped the top off his little finger,but returned a fortnight later,conceding that,yes,it was a little bit sore.Played in 3 flags in his 258 senior games.

 

MICK WILSON played with fearsome determination.He ran harder and tackled and harassed more ferociously than anyone,in 316 games with the Rovers.The half back flank was his usual position and he filled that role in 4 premiership teams.He led by example and was the consummate team man, ever-ready to make a newcomer feel at home.Played 25 games for the O & M and later coached the League’s representative team.

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