‘HOT-ROD’ – THE INSPIRATION FOR A YOUNGSTER’S DEBUT………

There’s young Harry Condon, sitting pensively on the bench. He’s looking forward to realising a long-held dream today – to make his senior debut for the Rovers.
Understandably, the lad’s pretty ‘toey’. As one of seven newcomers to the side, there are a thousand thoughts running through his head. IMG_3248
I wish him all the best and, being the type of kid that he is, he thanks me profusely for taking the time to seek him out.
He points to the name on the locker behind him, and hopes he can do justice to the memory of his great-uncle, who wore the number 5 into battle for the Hawks around sixty years ago.
Heck, I hadn’t even linked Harry with the old ‘Hot-Rod’, who was a great character of the Rovers sides of the fifties and early sixties………………..
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Us kids used to try to emulate the kicking style of Brian Condon.
That was a task in itself. Firstly, the approach contained a stutter, which was more pronounced than that which peppered his rapid-fire speech. Then he would bring down the Sherrin from on-high, and strike it right on its tip, which could send it any which-way.
Fans laid odds when ‘Hotty’ was lining up for goal. There was a delay while he settled into his routine, after re-aligning strands of his comb-over hair. Then an air of expectancy pervaded the air, as he trotted in. If he happened to somehow guide it through the big sticks, the crowd would roar.
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But perhaps I’m doing him an injustice. A check with the record-books shows that he kicked 62 goals in his 135 senior games with the Hawks, which is a percentage not to be scoffed at.IMG_3243
Ideosyncracies aside, we loved ‘Hot Rod’ because he was a personality, and didn’t take life too seriously. He was one of the most popular of all Rovers players……….
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He was Mildura-born, but reared in inner-suburban Melbourne – a product of South Melbourne Tech – which spawned its share of League footballers over the years.
The dream of local kids, of course, was to gravitate to the Lake Oval; to wear the Red and White of the Mighty Bloods.
And that included ‘Hotty’. He stood 6’3”, loved footy, but was cumbersome and awkward, and spent his developmental years with Middle Park YCW, where he featured in a hat-trick of flags. A couple of games with South Seconds, whetted his appetite for the game.
His parents, Doris and Arthur, had prodded him in the direction of a butcher’s apprenticeship. Doris, who later served as a J.P and as Mayor of South Melbourne, suggested young Brian should make a new life for himself once he’d completed his indentures.
An uncle, Bill, a former cop, had retired to the ‘bush’, and was happy to provide him with board and lodgings. In late 1952, ‘Hotty’ was on the train, headed for Wangaratta, and a promised job at Les ‘Colty’ Goodwin’s Rowan Street Butchery…………….
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“He reckoned those first six months in Wangaratta were the loneliest of his life,” says his brother Rex (Harry’s grandad). “But once the footy came around, he was right. It took him a while, though, to get used to the town being divided in its loyalties – half Rovers and half Magpies.”

His boss ‘Colty’, was a ‘funny man’ himself, and ‘Hotty’, also possessive of a dry sense of humour, hit it off perfectly with him.
The Rovers were a battling side in those early days, but the arrival of Bob Rose, in 1956, elicited a transformation in the Club. Standards lifted, a raft of recruits were introduced. Within a couple of years the Hawks were flag contenders.IMG_3242
‘Hotty’ had been tempted by an approach from North Melbourne, and signed a Form Four on the eve of the ‘56 season. But nothing eventuated; he decided to stick with the Rovers.
Rose and Condon became great mates, and there’s no doubt the big fellah’s game developed under the coaching of ‘Mr.Football’. He was rewarded with his first O & M guernsey in 1958 but later in the year suffered his greatest disappointment when he was squeezed out of the club’s first premiership side.
Loose-limbed, lanky, mobile John McMonigle, who had made an art-form of belting the ball away from the centre bounces, was preferred, as the Hawks went into the game with the lone knock ruckman.
The old adage is that, like fine wine, big men take time to mature. And that certainly proved to be the case with ‘Hot Rod’, who became one of the O & M’s outstanding ruckmen in his last four seasons with the Hawks.IMG_3241
He played in the 1959 Grand Final loss to Yarrawonga, but a broken thumb threatened to deprive him of his long-awaited first flag opportunity in 1960.
Thankfully, he returned on the eve of the finals to clinch his spot, as the Hawks swept to a convincing 23-point win over Des Healy’s Wodonga.
The retirement of the enigmatic McMonigle cast Condon into the role of Number 1 ruckman, and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
The sight of his big left ‘dook’ reaching for the sky and palming the Sherrin expertly this way and that, became a familiar sight. He made life easy for small men Leydin, Rose and Barnes.IMG_3240
Rose reneged on an earlier decision to retire in 1962, after Ken Boyd, who had been appointed to succeed him as coach, was unable to overturn a 12-week suspension. The champ produced some memorable football as the season unfolded and he regained full fitness.
But he would have no doubt been grateful for the ‘silver service’ he received from the now-veteran Condon, who controlled most games with his dominant ruckwork.
Condon and Rose shared best afield honours in the Rovers’ 30-point semi-final win over Wangaratta – a performance many experts rated ‘Hotty’s’ finest.
The Hawks then overcame Corowa in the Preliminary and liked their chances in the ‘big one’ against Benalla. But they fell short by 10 points in a low-scoring battle of the defences; a match notable for Rose accumulating 26 kicks before half-time.IMG_3245
So there was no fairytale  ending to Brian Condon’s career with the Rovers. He capped a fine season by finishing runner-up in the Club Best & Fairest, fourth in the Morris Medal, and being awarded a Life Membership to honour his 10 years of service to the Hawks……………
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Neil Smith received two responses to the ad he placed in late 1962, for “a butcher/ preferably a footballer.”

They came from Rovers Premiership stars -and old team-mates, Ted McSweeney and Brian Condon.
“We decided to put them both on,” Neil recalled. “We also owned a shop in Corryong, so Ted said he wouldn’t mind going up there. ‘Hotty’ took the job in Tallangatta and was also appointed coach of the Football Club.”
His seven years as coach of Tallangatta were eventful, to say the least. He was Club B & F in five of those years, and also took out the TDFL’s Barton Medal in 1965.
Another bonus was that he became acquainted with Ban, the daughter of the local publican, Bill Barwick.
Their subsequent union produced Sean, Damien, Brendan, Peter, Dominic and Daniel.
“I christened Damien,” says Neil Smith. “They were heading off to the Catholic Church to get him baptised one Sunday. I said: ‘Look, save the trouble, I’ll do the job myself. I just happened to have a bottle of VB in my grasp, and trickled it over his forehead ! “
“ ‘Hotty’  managed  our  Corryong shop for a while and took over as coach of Federals for two years. He loved it up there, and made some great friends.”
His next move was to work at an abattoir in King Island, then it was on to Gippsland, where he propped until he passed away in 2008, aged 77.
The boys, who had been the apple of his eye, gave ‘Hotty’ a monumental send-off. All of them had made a success of their lives. They numbered among their ranks a couple of firemen, a cop, an environmentalist, a builder and a school-teacher…….
Damien, the teacher, changed tack to become a Financial Consultant, and is now the Managing Director of Southern Cross Broker Network, in Perth.
His considerable football career included stints at Hawthorn, East Fremantle ( three flags) and Wodonga. He is now an assistant-coach with WAFL club Claremont, but says he still keeps an eye on the fortunes of his dad’s old Club……..
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P.S: Despite the Rovers’ shock opening-round loss to Corowa-Rutherglen, ‘Hot-Rod’s’ great-nephew  was one of the bright spots. He slotted in well on a back flank and was named the Hawks’ best player. The general consensus is that young Harry is a player of the future…………….IMG_3239

One thought on “‘HOT-ROD’ – THE INSPIRATION FOR A YOUNGSTER’S DEBUT………

  1. Greg Rosser

    KB that is brilliant, remember it exactly as you tell it, solid citizens who do the game proud. Do you remember the night his boys brought Hotty to one of our does, Hotty was struggling with his health but his boys made sure he had a great night, and I can still see the smile on his face. Our Leanne worked with Damien at East Fremantle. Talk soon …regards Greg Rosser

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