Kevin Mahoney’s as solid as the old eucalyptus trees that grew strong, and dominated the landscape at ‘Moyhu Park’, the property his parents share-farmed when he was a lad.
Most people in Wangaratta would probably have heard of Kev. He’s devoted years of unflinching service to a number of organisations, principally because he has enjoyed making a difference and being involved.
His sporting career followed a similar trajectory………..he was the the heart and soul of the clubs he served – you’d sum him up as a ‘trusty footsoldier’.
Kevin was a Moyhu boy. Only the long daily trips on the bus, to Wangaratta’s Brigidine Convent School, dragged him away.
” I didn’t enjoy school all that much. But one bonus from attending the ‘Convent’ was that I palled up with Barb ( his wife-to-be), who was boarding there,” he says.
But he was a lot more comfortable cutting and carting grass hay, shearing, fencing, and milking cows at Moyhu Park.
He had a brush with death at the age of 16, when a hayshed that he and a member of the property-owner’s family were working on, tumbled over and fell on top of them.
“Unfortunately, my workmate copped the brunt of it and was killed. I was the lucky one to escape serious injury.”
The youngster used to ride his bike down to watch footy training at Moyhu. One of the old stars of the forties, Jimmy Corker, who was coaching, convinced Kev that, even though it was a tad premature, he was going to throw him into the struggling side anyway – on a wing.
He was 12 when he played his first senior game. Five years later, he settled in at full back……and made the goal-mouth his home for the next 16 years.
For a fair period, Kev was rated the O & K’s premier full back. A prodigious drop kick, he didn’t mind a clearing dash out of defence, and became a past-master at fisting the ball away from taller, stronger spearheads.
After all, he was only 5’10” and weighed just 10 stone 7lb. His physique would probably have taken Wangaratta coach Mac Holten by surprise when he took the trip out to recruit the highly-rated backman.
He was still attending school at the time and knocked back the approach, but wonders what might have been had he tried his luck ‘in town’.
For a key defender who had been under siege for years, with Moyhu lurking in the doldrums, he appreciated an upturn in fortunes, as they began to assemble a classy line-up in the late fifties.
They reached successive finals series, then stormed to their first flag in 12 years in 1959, under the coaching of Arthur Smith.
The boys in Green and Gold won a titanic battle in the mud. Maxy Corker’s goal in time-on wrested the lead from a dogged Chiltern. When he booted another shortly after and Brian ‘Woofer’ Martin followed with the sealer on the siren, Moyhu had triumphed by 15 points.
Kevin Mahoney was near-impassable that day. What gave the win extra significance in his eyes, was that he shared it with his brother Les, a stylish left-foot winger.
But of the three flags Kev played in – 1959, ’60 and ’62 – he rates the ’62 unbeaten side the best he’s played in – and among the greatest he saw in O & K footy.
Unfortunately, after a run of eight straight finals appearances, Moyhu’s golden era was over and they spent several years back among the League’s cellar-dwellers.
Kevin’s form remained pretty consistent. He lost a little bit of pace, but captained the side in his final two seasons, under the coaching of his old back-pocket sidekick, Richie Shanley.
He played his 350th – and last – O & K game in 1973.
By then his son John was stepping up into the Junior League , so Kev was considered the natural choice to take over as coach of Combined Churches.
What was originally a short-term appointment lasted for 11 years, and a number of O & M stars passed through his hands. He appreciated as much as anyone, what a critical role junior coaches played in the development of local talent.
And he also came to realise how light-on the League was for administrators, when they began casting around for a replacement President in 1981. So he took that on too, and gave it his all for 10 years.
In recognition of his services to the WJFL, the Under 12 Best and Fairest award is called the ‘Kevin Mahoney Medal’. The scoreboard at Wareena Park also bears his name.
Besides footy, Tennis was Kev’s other sporting infatuation when he was growing up. He first started belting a ball around the old Greta courts, opposite the cemetery, when he was 8 and didn’t stop until he was nudging 50.
Barb was also to become one of Wang’s leading players and most summer week-ends, after they were married in 1960, were spent on the grass courts of Merriwa Park.
Their kids – Carmel, John and Heather – came through the ranks too, and were competitive players. The contribution of the Mahoneys to the off-court functioning of the Tennis Club was immense.
Kev had five years as President and Barb was a long-term member of the Ladies Committee. They ran the Saturday morning junior competition for many years and worked tirelessly to make the Club’s Australia Day week-end tournament a signature event.
They were enticed by an old friend, Freddie Ritchens, to help run the new-fangled game of Bingo when it kicked off in Wangaratta in 1977. Many cynics mused that it would pass, like any other fad, but St.Pat’s Bingo on Thursday nights became the biggest game in town.
After Fred’s passing, the Mahoneys accepted the responsibility for running an organisation which required a huge amount of time, clerical work and loads of passion. When it closed down after 36 years, they had helped to raise in excess of 3 million dollars.
Kevin’s working career came to a close in 1997. He had given yeoman service to the Oxley Shire for just on 38 years since coming off the farm, and was looking forward to putting his feet up.
But two years later he underwent a major operation, which involved six Heart-Bypasses. To put it bluntly, it knocked the stuffing out of him. Eventually he recovered, to take up the more sedate sporting pastime of bowls, but he had to tread warily.
In 2014 he was rewarded for his multiple years of work behind-the-scenes when he was announced as Wangaratta’s Citizen of the Year. He was taken aback, but stated :”I’ll still be the first to put my hand up if it means helping a community cause.”…………….
I’m browsing through some old footy cuttings and come across an article to coincide with his 300th game. Someone put the question to him : ” How do you come up week after week, year after year, taking knock after knock ?”
“No worries,” he replied. “If you can take the hits and disappointments on the football field, you can certainly take them in life.”
Well, he copped a hell of a knock recently, when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. He’d been feeling out of sorts for a while, but when the doc called him in to give his diagnosis, it hit him like a hammer, fair between the eyes.
Kev acknowledges that the ‘beast’, as Neale Daniher calls it, will probably get him, but, in the meantime, he’s determined to enjoy life as best he can…………..