VAUDEVILLE IN THE DRESSING-ROOMS

photo“The new recruit’s training tonight”, Dad said. “I’ll take you down.”

I didn’t need to be asked twice. It was pre-season 1955 and the Rovers were keen to introduce fresh blood. By all reports this fellow was pretty handy around goals and a bit of a gun.

His name was Stan Trebilcock.

The club President, Harry Klemm had contacts in Geelong who pointed him in ‘Trebly’s’ direction. He was offered a job as a Presser at Sandegren’s Dry Cleaners, accommodation was teed up and he and his young wife Bessie arrived in town to begin a new chapter in their lives.

He certainly looked the goods on the track and, in no time, the ginger-haired 23 year-old captured the affection of team-mates with his larrikin, fun-loving personality. As an impressionable fan, I immediately took a shine to him.

He had not enjoyed all that easy an upbringing and spent a good portion of his adolescent life in St. Augustine’s Orphanage. His blossoming football career had taken him from the captaincy of Geelong Thirds to V.F.A club Yarraville and thence, to this exciting opportunity in the bush.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Coincidentally, just as ‘Trebly’ was settling into his new environment, four lads who had been residents of St.Vincent’s Orphanage, South Melbourne, left the big smoke to begin a long-planned trip around Australia.

John and Bob Frawley, Lionel O’Neill and John Morris decided to stop off for a day or so in Wangaratta. The Frawleys wanted to visit an uncle who just happened to be an ardent Rovers supporter.

Within no time they had been teed up with jobs and talked into saddling up with the Hawks. That decision was to change the direction of their lives.

Imagine their surprise when one of the first players they were introduced to was Stan Trebilcock, whom they had known when they were all little tackers.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

‘Tich’ O’Neill, Bob Frawley and Johnny Morris lined up in the curtain-raiser a fortnight later.

John Frawley and Trebilcock were two of a number of recruits named in a new-look senior side for the season-opener against Benalla.

Trebilcock excited Rovers fans with his display at full forward. He booted seven goals and fed off a couple more. And he followed this up in the second game, against Corowa, with another eight, as the Hawks snuck in by a point.

He was a ‘Collingwood six-footer’ ; one of those blokes who bob up in country footy occasionally. The type who can ‘sniff’ a goal and create a scoring opportunity out of nothing.

The Rovers approached the local ‘derby’ the next week with the confidence that they now had the fire-power to overcome Wangaratta.

‘Trebly’ opened proceedings with a couple of early goals, as the Hawks took a handy lead.

Minutes later, he was at the base of a pack, leaning on an opponent, when he received an accidental knee to the head from a flying Magpie. The pack crashed on him.

He regained consciousness on Sunday afternoon and learned that five doctors, including Wang’s club doctor, Roy Phillips, had operated on his fractured skull. They had enlisted the help of a Melbourne surgeon, via a telephonic hook-up, and after some anxious moments, had been able to save him.

But their warning was quite blunt : ” You are a lucky man. Your sporting career is over. Should you play again, you do so at your own risk”.

Six months after that fateful afternoon, doctors at Royal Melbourne Hospital covered the gap in his skull with a metal plate, at about the same time that his son Glenn was being brought into the world.

The following season Stan defied the stern medical advice that he had been given and again donned the Brown and Gold jumper.

Although he was never to recapture the highs that, fleetingly, made him the hottest property in O & M football in early 1955, he proved a more than handy player. A broken hand, sustained in the final home and away round of 1958 brought an end to his 50-game career with the Hawks.

Whilst some wondered ‘what may have been’ had ‘Trebly’ not fractured his skull, the man himself never stopped to bemoan his fate.

He could possibly have pursued a career in vaudeville, such was his propensity to entertain, his sense of humour and delight in performing to an audience.

At some time during a Saturday evening he would launch into a bracket of songs, which would include his favorites,   ‘Barefoot Days’ and ‘Lucky Old Son’. And, as the composer of the Rovers’ first theme song : “The team of the Brown and Gold”, he always gave that a bit of a run.

Stan made an indelible mark as a legend of Wangaratta cricket. A brilliant all-rounder, he dominated the local game through the late fifties to early-sixties, winning 10 Chronicle Trophies – four WDCA and six WSCA awards.

A decade after adopting ‘Trebly’ as one of my favourites, we became Country Week cricket team-mates and I had a front-row seat to a daily dressing-room floor-show.

With Bessie and their three kids, he moved to Mornington to run a fruit shop for a while. They later re-located to Strathmore, where Stan became a stalwart of the local cricket and football clubs. He played his last game of cricket at the age of 58.

And he probably found his true calling as a spruiker at the South Melbourne market, trading banter with customers and the hard-bitten stall-holders.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Footnote: Staphoton Trebilcock’s four acquaintances from the Orphanage days never got to make that round-Australia trip.

John Morris stayed four or five years before moving on.

John Frawley, a bricklayer, married Mary, had 4 kids and played 105 games with the Rovers. He featured in the club’s first two premierships and was still doing odd- jobs at the Findlay Oval twelve months before he died, in 2013.

Bob Frawley had a long career in the Railways, played 24 senior games with the Hawks and captained the Reserves for several years.

Lionel ‘Tich’ Ophoto‘Neill was a handy and loyal small man who later became a committee-man with the Hawks and was awarded Life Membership. A French Polisher, he became a furniture salesman and spent 40 years in Wangaratta before retiring to the Mornington Peninsula.

After a painful battle with Motor Neurone Disease, ‘Trebly’ died in 1999.

One of sport’s unique characters, he had the knack of enabling people to see the brighter side of life

One thought on “VAUDEVILLE IN THE DRESSING-ROOMS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s