‘THE UNSUNG HEROES……….’

For every sporting champion who revels in the fanfare and the roar of the crowd, there is the unsung hero.

If you delve deeply enough into his background you’ll uncover an uplifting story. He’s probably a battler who overcame the odds, achieved the ultimate, then returned to the humble surrounds from whence he came. Or perhaps he sought nothing more than the buzz of belonging to a team, and shied away from the glory that attached itself to others.

You may not have heard of Archie Fisher, Henry Johnson or ‘Scotty’ McDonald. This is their story……………….

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A timely piece of advice from a city doctor was the catalyst to launch Fisher’s dazzling sporting career.

Lying seriously ill in a Melbourne hospital for twelve months, he was shaken when told sternly by the medico: “If you don’t do something about your health, you’ll die here.”

Tiny Archie, his nerves in tatters, asked what he should do.IMG_3322

“Take up Golf, it’ll do you the world of good,” came the reply.

And so began a love affair with a sport which saw him become one of the finest Victorian golfers of his era…………

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Archie Fisher was born in 1897 at Bowman’s Forest, the son of a cricket enthusiast who managed to transmit his love of the game to his other sons, Clem, Clyde and Harry.

But Archie showed little aptitude for sport, apart from being quite fleet of foot, and having the occasional game of football.

In another contrast to his volatile brothers, who were notorious for their unyielding behaviour on the cricket field, Archie was a docile fellah, with a lovely nature. But within, lay a fiercely competitive spirit, which was to unveil itself on the golf course.

The family’s move to a farm at East Wangaratta created a mountain of work, with cows to be milked by hand and heavy manual labour to be undertaken.

It started to take its toll on Archie, who suffered two nervous breakdowns before golf arrived as the perfect form of therapy.

He stood just five foot five and weighed a little under nine stone, but, from the time he first struck a ball he showed great timing and touch.

Completely self-taught, he would travel to Melbourne to analyse the technique of the visiting American professionals, then practice for hours to implement them into his own game.

He was spectacularly successful, as he won the first of his 13 Wangaratta Club Championships in 1930 and repeated the dose in 1933, ‘37 to ‘46, and 1948. He then captured Jubilee crowns in 1950 and ‘51.

Strangely, he found the North-Eastern title elusive and was only able to get up once, in 1947.

A brilliant Country Week player, he captained North-East on 12 occasions. In this time the team was to capture the Leader Shield five times.

Archie was Victorian Country champion in 1937 and ‘38.

His short game was superb, and his form on the green moved one critic to label him the best putter he had seen.

He was certainly ‘hot’ in one competition event at Metropolitan, when he established a club record by having four twos in the one round.

Facing a 25-inch putt for the fourth, a bystander remarked: “I shouldn’t say this, Archie, but if you hole this shot you’ve got the record.”

“Don’t worry,” said Fisher. “I’ll put it in for sure.”IMG_3323

And he did.

An ice-cool temperament was a tremendous asset in helping Archie to more than 100 tournament victories. He won 12 Yarrawonga events ( called the Ryan Trophy), every Open Championship in the area, and owned a host of North-Eastern course records.

Fisher played off scratch for 22-odd years and proudly claimed five holes-in-one.

Just as his career was winding down in the early fifties, that of his son Gordon was cranking up.

Gordon’s nine Wangaratta Championships, the first at the age of 17, were captured between 1948 and 1961. But increasing work commitments forced his departure from the game.

Archie’s grand-daughter (Gordon’s daughter) Kaye O’Shea, has continued the family’s golfing tradition, recently clinching her her seventh Jubilee Club Championship.IMG_3332

Archie Fisher died in 1952, aged 55.

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Henry Johnson battled away for many years before finally making his name in rifle-shooting.

He had a fascination for the sport from an early age, but this had to be put on hold when he enlisted in the army and went away to serve in the Great War.

He returned with a badly damaged arm and had to change his action from the right to the left shoulder.IMG_3320

The adjustment required perseverance and determination and it was a tribute to Johnson that he was able to master his handicap.

The King’s ( or Queen’s ) Prize, is shooting’s time-honoured Blue Ribbon event, and attracts shooters from all over Australia. Brains, tenacity of purpose and self-reliance are crucial ingredients in a sometimes gruelling contest.

It was conducted over three stages in 1934, and Johnson was well back in the field after the first round.

Relatively unknown, and given nary a chance, he put up an outstanding performance over the last two ranges of 800 and 900 yards, by obtaining possibles and coming from the clouds to outpoint shooting’s elite.

The long-standing tradition of the King’s Prize is that the winner is swept up onto a chair and, to the accompaniment of a Pipe Band, saluted by the remainder of the marksmen.IMG_3319

Amidst the euphoria of his victory, Johnson assured his rivals: “The old hat I’m wearing will still fit after this is all over.”

“Although I was well behind on the second day, I knew there was still some chance, and when I needed a big score on the last range, it felt remarkably easy.”

Johnson competed for many years after his big win, even though he was a veteran when he took out the King’s Prize…….

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Gordon ‘Scotty’ McDonald, born in 1900, was an enthusiastic footballer and cricketer, whose on-field exploits were matched by his input as an administrator.

He made his debut with the Wangaratta Football Club in 1919 and quickly became one of the most popular players among Magpie supporters.

Perhaps it was his tiny stature ( he stood only 5’4” and was slightly-built ) or his courage ( they said he was too brave for his own good ). Maybe it was his demeanour which appealed to everyone.

But he was a brilliant rover who always gave of his best. He was outstanding in the ‘bloodbath’ Grand Final in his first year.

It was after this game that the mayor of the town criticised the premiers, Eldorado, for their viciousness and brutality.

“Is it football or bull-fighting ?” asked Cr. Edwards. “I am satisfied it is now a rotten sport.”

McDonald’s continued improvement saw him win selection in a combined Ovens and King side which played Carlton in 1921.

Predictably, the Blues won by 83 points, but their skipper Horrie Clover, rated McDonald, Martin Moloney and Eric Johnstone as good enough to play League football. “McDonald is a finished footballer and a fine rover,” he added.

But ‘Scotty’ rejected frequent approaches to go to Melbourne. He was content in his lifestyle as a grocer at the Co-Store (a job he was to hold until his death), and playing with Wangaratta.

The Pies moved back to the Ovens and Murray League in 1922 and McDonald again impressed Horrie Clover with a smart display for an O & M team which met Carlton at the Showgrounds.

During Wangaratta’s highs (they played in six straight Grand Finals and were undefeated champions in 1925 ) he played consistently.

When they became financially crippled after a couple of years of big spending he volunteered to become secretary and helped to steer the Club through its crisis.

He was playing secretary from 1927 to 1930. At the same time, after years as a keen, but not outstanding cricketer, he took over as WDCA secretary. He carried out this job with his usual thoroughness for seven years.

McDonald retired from football and cricket in the mid 30’s.

Old-timers never lost sight of the contribution he made on the field and in an official capacity to local sport.

He retired after 147 games and, many years later, would saunter down from his Grey Street home to watch his beloved ‘Pies, helping out with odd jobs on match-day. He loved yarning with old team-mates who could remember mosquito-sized ‘Scotty’ dodging, weaving and pumping pre use stab phases to grateful forwards……………

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One thought on “‘THE UNSUNG HEROES……….’

  1. wendy pescud

    HI
    I have just read your story from November 2016 on Steve Dale and the reason I cam across it was because I am married to Mark Pescud , youngest son of Max Pescud .
    we have a son also named Max Pescud after his Grandpa who is 16 and a phenomenal AFL player for Surfers Paradise Demons – I wanted to let you know that I did print your story off as tomorrow is 19 years since Max Snr passed away and I wanted to show our family this story as it will no doubt bring back memories for his wife Jeannine
    thank you

    Wendy Pescud
    wendyerick70@gmail.com

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