Brown and Gold blood courses through the veins of Rick Marklew.
Any wonder. His family links with the Wangaratta Rovers can be traced back almost 60 years.
His grandfather was the secretary in a premiership year, and his dad played in a flag in his first senior season, at the tender age of 16. In 162 games with the Hawks there were few tougher, or more uncompromising players than Roley, who, by the way, also managed to forge a sizeable reputation at Tarrawingee.
Roley officiated in more than 500 games as a central umpire, upon hanging up his boots and remained oblivious to carping comments from fans. Perhaps it was because they had seem him previously eliciting unsociable deeds as a player.
And for the last couple of decades, on his return to the Club, he has been the epitome of devotion.
So it was a no-brainer that when young Rick began to show a bit of promise in the primary-schools competition, his destiny had already been charted.
In 1985 the Rovers thirds won an unlikely premiership when they tossed previously undefeated Wodonga in the second semi and Grand Final. Rick was at centre half forward. He pulled down 12 marks and booted five goals to be best -on-ground in the decider. Two of his team-mates that day, Michael Wilson and Howard Yelland, were to share senior triumphs with him in time to come.
To underline his sporting talent, he also played in the first of successive A-Grade flags with the Rovers Cricket Club, performing strongly as an all-rounder.
The following year, aged 17, Rick found himself lining up alongside such respected champions as coach Merv Holmes, Laurie Burt, Mark Booth and Leigh Hartwig. Within two seasons, he was part of an Ovens and Murray premiership team.
Although the Hawks had dominated the first half of the 1988 Grand Final, the scores were level at half-time. The youngsters were giving away considerable age, weight and a height advantage to the experienced Lavington. The expectation was that they would wilt under pressure as the game wore on. To the contrary, they lifted and ran away. Rick more than played his part, kicking four goals in the second half.
“One of them was sheer poetry”, recalled Chas Wilson…….”It gave the Rovers a breather after Lavington got to within 3 points half-way through the final term. Rick read an acrobatic leap and knock-on from Rob Hickmott, roved it perfectly at top-speed and nailed the goal on the run. Soon after, a frustrated Blue flung him to the ground after he had marked and the 50-metre penalty allowed the brilliant youngster to kick the goal that sealed the game….”
Rick’s studies then took him to Bendigo, where he signed with Northern United and played alongside a fellow Hawk, Matthew Allen. The pair figured in Bendigo League’s Country Championship triumph of 1989. It gave him particular comfort to star in Bendigo’s convincing semi-final defeat of the Ovens and Murray League at Lavington.
He took another ‘sabbatical’ from the Hawks in 1991, when he was living and working in Melbourne and decided to throw in his lot with Diamond Valley League club, Heidelberg. He doesn’t retain fond memories of that stint, particularly as he missed the Rovers’ flag triumph over Yarrawonga.
He re-joined the Hawks the following season and was a prominent member of their great 1993 and 1994 premiership teams, which chalked up 36 consecutive victories in a period of dominance.
Adaptability was the name of the game with Rick. He was able to be thrown into any position on the ground with effect, was a superb overhead mark and an accurate kick.
His total of 351 goals has him slotted fourth on the Rovers’ all-time list, behind Steve Norman, Rob Walker and Neale McMonigle. This includes a bag of 8, one of 7 and five hauls of 6 goals. A natural forward, he could ‘smell’ a goal, but on many an occasion was sent to shore up a backline under intense pressure.
He was one of those old-fashioned blokes who played for the comradeship and the opportunity to share the glory. He was rapt to spend the bulk of his career alongside many long-time mates. In fact, when he ran out for his 200th, there were five other ‘double-centurions’ – Rob Walker, Peter Tossol, Anthony Pasquali, Michael Wilson and Ron Ferguson alongside him.
So he headed to the O & K Hawks, North Wangaratta, where a cluster of old Rovers were gathered. He spent three seasons at North and figured in one losing Grand Final, before returning ‘home’ for the closing chapter of his playing career.
It is a crucial ingredient of any successful team to have a vibrant, competitive Reserves group, applying pressure to the senior players, but also contributing to the spirit of the Club.
Rick, ageing though he was, played a vital part as the elder statesman of the group, sidekick to coach Bob Murray and an outstanding clubman. And he was still a very handy player. The ‘twos’ contested Grand Finals in 2005 and ’06, then broke through in 2007 for the club’s first Reserves premiership in 23 years.
He was happy to ‘fill-in’ on a couple of occasions over the years, and a cameo appearance in 2014 was his last – 29 years after his debut with the Thirds.
His final Games tally for the Club stood at 347 – ( 229 with the Seniors, 101 in the Reserves and 17 Thirds appearances).
Rick continues to pull his weight in various capacities around the Club. Currently he is undertaking his third term as ‘Interim Secretary’.
He’d be rapt if someone volunteered to take over on a permanent basis, but until then he’s busy ticking off the 101 tasks that are part and parcel of a new footy season.
Rick’s son Alex is currently chasing his football dreams, as he attempts to nail down a permanent spot in Essendon’s VFL line-up. He spent most of 2016 with EDFL team Doutta Stars, but broke into the Bombers’ side towards the end of the season.
Possessive of loads of talent and with the good fortune of being adaptable, like his old man, Alex burst onto the O & M scene four years ago. He was touted as a star of the future in his 46 senior games with the Rovers and was voted the O & M’s Rising Star in 2013.
In an ideal world, Alex will satisfy his football wanderlust, then return home to continue what was already shaping as a glittering career with the Hawks.
And further enhance the Marklew tradition at the Findlay Oval……….