MICKEY WHO ?…….

The sun shone brightly on that late September day in 1971, when a decade of dominance in Ovens and Murray football began.

If you were a long-term Wangaratta Rovers fan, you might remember the Hawks coming from the clouds to storm to victory in a last-quarter onslaught that turned the Grand Final on its ear.

If pressed, you may recall many of the blokes who wore the Brown and Gold. Some of them were to become legends of the Club ; a couple went on to play League football.

Mickey McDonald was proud to line up alongside them.

Mickey Who? you might say……………

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Michael Andrew McDonald maintains a low profile these days.

He worked at Bruck for many years…but retired about three years ago. Now he keeps himself busy pottering around his Irving Street backyard.

You used to be able to catch him regularly blowing the froth off a coldie at the Sydney pub, but the doctor warned him last November that it’d be a good idea to give the grog away. The alternative, he said, would be a one-way trip out to South Wangaratta.

If you’re in the foyer at the Rovers rooms you’ll see him in the 1971 team photo, wedged between two blokes with a similar sense of frivolity, Steve Norman and Ric Sullivan. Mick occasionally reminds himself of the emotion that overcame him when the final siren blew and the fans went berserk…………

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.Mick’s days at St.Patricks School were, in short, forgettable. There’s little doubt that his teachers, Miss Finck and Sister Annunciata shared a sigh of relief when he walked out of the gates for the last time.

The lunch-time breaks, when he could kick the footy around, were about the only time he got serious. He was one of eight kids and his dad had a bread-round. Mick occasionally hopped onto the horse and cart and helped him with his deliveries, but had no designs on following in his footsteps.

His mum, Marge, started following the Rovers when they joined the Ovens and Murray League. Her and a great mate, Iris Perso, were probably the most vocal -and fiercest – supporters the Hawks had in the fifties and sixties.

So she was a trifle disappointed when Mick, after showing plenty of promise with Centrals, headed out to Whorouly. I ask him how that came about.

“I was walking down Reid Street one day when Johnny Welch drove past and yelled out : “I want to see you.” He had just accepted the coaching job at Whorouly and asked if I’d like to join him. “I thought, Why not? ”

Even though Welchy had just the one year with the Maroons, Mick enjoyed himself so much that he stayed for three.

It was 1970 – and Neville Hogan had just succeeded Ian Brewer as coach, when Mick belatedly found his way to the City Oval – much to his mum’s delight.

Ask any contemporary for a description of the Hawks’ new recruit and the following adjectives would flow : ” tough…hard-at-it….a team-man….rugged….feisty……stricken with white-line-fever…..”

He cracked it for his first senior game twelve weeks into the season. Named on the bench against Rutherglen, he was given his chance in the third quarter. Twenty seconds after his arrival on the ground, he found himself in the umpire’s book.

“I just got a bit excited,” says Mick, who triggered an all-in brawl when he connected with Redleg ruckman Tim Reeves.

He was back at Rutherglen’s Barkly Park three days later, for the tribunal hearing, rather apprehensive about facing the ‘judiciary’.

What made him even more nervous was that the Yarrawonga player whose case preceded his, stormed out of the tribunal room in a fury, slammed the door, and simultaneously uttered “F…… me dead, four f……n weeks.”

He was dragged back in and given another two.

The three elderly gentlemen facing Mick across the table, were sympathetic towards him, gave him a good hearing – and suspended him for a fortnight. They probably wondered what the hell a stocky 5’7″ rover was doing, taking on a 6’4″ beanpole.

Mick proved a handy spare-parts man and made the most of his opportunities in the senior side in his first couple of years. But salt-of-the-earth blokes like him also enrich the club off the field, and he proved a popular figure.

The players were distracted by some vicious, swooping magpies during his first pre-season, and after being dive-bombed a couple of times himself, he decided to do something about it.

He eliminated the problem one Sunday morning, before training.

Mick hit form at the pointy end of the 1971 season. He had been outstanding in the two’s ( good enough to pick up the B &F after playing just 11 games) and knocked the door down for senior selection in the Finals.

With a couple of goals in the Hawks’ win over Myrtleford in the first semi, he played his part, and also savoured a convincing 33-point Prelim Final victory against Benalla.

Nevertheless, he held his breath when the Grand Final side, to clash with Yarrawonga, was named. But there he was – named as 20th man.

Mick didn’t recall much about the game itself. When I remind him that the Hawks were 20 points down at three quarter-time, then booted 7 goals to one in the final term, the memories start to flood back.

“I didn’t come on until deep in the last quarter. I got a run when Simon Goodale came off with cramp. With my first kick I hit Norman on the chest, lace-up,” he jokes.

When the siren blew, the Rovers had triumphed by 17 points.

“My Yarra opponent asked if I’d swap guernseys. I said, no. It’s been my ambition to get one of these bastards all my life and I’m not gonna let it out of my sight.”

And Mick meant that literally. He says he wore that treasured jumper for a week. There was no argument about who earned the 3 votes for the best performer during the premiership celebrations.

“I was working as a brickie’s labourer for Alfie Stevenson and he caught up with me on the following Friday. He asked : ‘Any chance you might get back to work some time soon ? ”

The Rovers Ball was held not long after. It used to co-incide with the Wangaratta Show, and Mick occasionally accepted the challenge to fight a member of the visiting boxing troupe.

This time the drums were loudly beating and his mates cheered, as he climbed onto the platform and the old promoter, Roy Bell, screamed: ” Your local football hero fights this session………”

To complete the festivities, Mick headed off on the Rovers trip-away – a cruise around the Pacific Islands. He nods in agreeance when I ask him to confirm the story that he saw the sun come up every morning.

“Old Jack Maroney was still President and was on that trip. I think it was his mission to keep an eye on me. Much to Jack’s dismay, I’d bought a grass skirt and a matching bra at one of the ports and wore it a couple of times. He probably feared I was on the verge of causing an international incident ! ”

Mick played two more seasons with the Rovers before heading out to Moyhu for a couple of years, and then concluding his career at North Wangaratta.

He still enjoys watching his footy, but thought his number might be up late last year. He got the ‘silver service’ treatment, when he was rushed to Melbourne, via air ambulance, for an emergency operation.

He survived, after ‘the worst fortnight of my life.’

Yes, the hell-raising days of Mickey ‘Mac’ are long behind him. But that Flag of ’71 still brings a lump to his throat……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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