MANNIE……THE GOLDEN GREEK…

I don’t know Colin Joss. But I’ve heard enough to understand that he must have a great love for football and, more particularly, the Albury Tigers.

He passed through the gate at the Rovers’ last home game, willingly forking out $50 for a raffle ticket and cheerily engaging in conversation. Seems an amiable enough bloke.

In the eyes of the majority of the  football public he’s unfairly portrayed as a faceless behind-the-scenes man who pulls the strings and deemed responsible for stockpiling a glittering array of well-nigh unbeatable football talent.

The same fellah is there at 8-30/ 9.00 each match-day filling up water bottles for the Albury thirds and helping out where he can.

Obviously, he’s been wonderfully successful in business and you hear of stories of his company’s generosity, even towards a couple of other struggling O & M clubs.

Good luck to him. Nine other clubs would love to have someone like him. The Tigers have obviously benefited greatly from his business acumen and, I would guess, his wise counsel.

There can never be enough of it in footy clubs, where sometimes decisions are made on the run, and with consequences which can have a negative effect for a number of years.

The influence of Colin Joss reminds me of a man who made a monumental contribution to the Wangaratta Rovers more than 60 years ago

His name was Emanuel Cochineas……………..

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Mannie knew nothing about the intricacies of football. In fact, it’s doubtful if he ever fondled the oval Sherrin.

Born to an impoverished family, in 1899, on the tiny Greek island of Kythera, he was sponsored by an uncle and migrated to Australia in the summer of 1914.

Work became his passion and he gravitated to the hospitality trade, firstly with his uncle at Warwick and in nearby towns, before he moved to Sydney.

He toiled for long, painstaking hours as a waiter for 5 bob a week in the harbour city and saved every penny he could. It gave him the means to re-locate to Wangaratta in 1928 and open a cafe’ in Murphy Street, where Flynn’s Menswear now stands.

Renowned for selling the best fish and chips in town, Mannie became a successful and quite affluent businessman. Language difficulties were a minor inhibition to him. More importantly, he knew how to deal with people and was the person everybody wanted to have a yarn to when they called into ‘Cochineas Cafe’.

His friendship  with a couple of super-keen Hawks who operated a nearby business inevitably led to him taking an interest in the Rovers.

A slight involvement soon became a love-affair and he was drafted onto the committee.

Those making the big decisions relied heavily on his shrewd financial nous and business clout.

Many of the club’s fundraising ideas were suggested by Mannie. One which proved extremely lucrative over more than six decades was the weekly horse sweep. Modern-day Hawks probably recall investing in the ‘swindle’ as recently as three years ago.

But in the early fifties it was an illegal operation and the ‘Sweep Draw’ would be alternated each Thursday night, so as to throw the constabulary off the scent. Cochineas Cafe was one such venue and, in clandestine fashion, the draw would be held out in the back kitchen, whilst Mannie kept nit at the front of the shop.

When the Rovers sought entry to the O &M in 1950, he provided the financial guarantee. Despite his minimal football background he became extremely well-versed in its politics and fought tooth-and-nail for the cause of the Club.

Despite his standing in the community, he would take on some of the least-glamorous tasks and on match-day he fulfilled the role of ‘Bag-Man’ on the gate. His familiarity with the supporters and repartee was entertainment itself.

When the Hawks were casting around for a high-profile coach, Mannie stunned them with the suggestion that it may possible to lure the great Bob Rose. He was not only a key figure in landing one of football’s great coups, he paved the way for Rose to set up a Sports store in one of the properties he owned in Murphy Street, at a favourable rental.

Mannie became concerned, however, that it might be a bit out of the way, so he helped Bob to purchase the existing sports store, owned by Alex Sinclair, right in the middle of town.

It was a selfless gesture, as he sacrificed a sure-fire opportunity of a tidy profit, to ensure that the club’s new leader would have the best opportunity of success.

And Mannie was on hand , with his flash black Pontiac to drive Rose and other Rovers officials hundreds of miles in pursuit of potential recruits.

The Rovers were confronted by Council red-tape when they were trying to establish their new home at the Cricket Ground. Mannie insisted that this was a load of nonsense and urged that they investigate purchasing some land off Murdoch Road, to establish their new headquarters.

He took them out there to sell his dream. Perched on a fence railing and gesticulating excitedly in typical Mediterranean fashion, he had everyone entranced by the prospect of this piece of dirt being transformed into a fashionable oval.

The move almost came to fruition, but Council’s belated leniency brought about a favourable resolution. His greatest dream was realised five years later when a premiership flag was fluttering from the flagpole at the Cricket Ground.

Mannie’s family moved away from Wangaratta as they grew up and he eventually moved to Sydney to be with them.

It was a hell of a wrench to leave his old mates at the Rovers and he missed his footy.

He would drive out to the edge of Botany Bay on a Saturday afternoon to find a better radio signal, as he would try to pick up 3NE’s broadcast of the Hawks’ matches.

It was there, at a tense moment of a semi-final, that he suffered a stroke that laid him low for some time.

He did recover slightly and maintained his regular radio contact with the Rovers each Saturday, before passing away a couple of years later, at the age of 75.

One thought on “MANNIE……THE GOLDEN GREEK…

  1. Greg Rosser

    G’day Kev, great memories of Mannie, from time spent after school and Saturday mornings working for Rosey in the shop. Remember my Pop Cairnduff, of the infamous 3NE Bowls roundup team of Graham and Doc, telling me how Mannie would describe himself as having arrived in town with “my pants hanging out of my arse”. I also remember Mannie seemed to love anybody who had anything to do with Rovers and was always trying to lend a hand, Regards Greg Rosser

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