'THE HORSEMAN……..'

Peter McIntyre occasionally re-lives the moment that could have made him an eternal favourite with football’s trivia buffs:

It’s March 22, 1991. He has lined up at full forward for Adelaide in their inaugural AFL match, in front of a pulsating, hugely parochial crowd of 44,902, at Football Park.

The Crows sweep the ball away from the congestion in mid-field; he manoeuvres his 6’4”, 90kg frame away from Hawthorn’s leech-like defensive colossus, Chris Langford, who over-corrects and is free-kicked for interference.

Pete figures that this relatively easy conversion from 30 metres will send the fans into raptures. He deliberates for some time , lines up for what will be Adelaide’s first-ever major…………then kicks into the man-on-the-mark……………

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Hang on, I’m getting ahead of the story here, as we sit, reminiscing, at the back of his Ussher’s Drive residence.

Pete, his wife Georgie and son James, are in the midst of packing, prior to heading back to Adelaide. They’ll miss Wang, he says, but their daughter Grace is attending Uni over there. Jimmy, who has enjoyed a break-out cricket season this year, is bound for Sacred Heart College. Basically, for family and business reasons the move seems appropriate.

Anyway, he’ll be making regular visits back, to his property at Milawa Park, and overseeing his business concerns. They’ll keep in touch, he assures me……….

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Pete hails from deep in Riverina-country – Deniliquin -the home of such sporting icons as Test cricketers Adam Gilchrist and Simon O’Donnell, former Victorian left-hander Laurie Harper, Hall-of Fame jockey Roy Higgins, and footballers Leo Barry, Sam Lloyd and Todd Marshall.

His dad, Barry, was a local legend of sorts, being lured down to St. Kilda in 1958, as an opportunist forward. He played in the Saints’ Night Premiership side that year, alongside the elusive Billy Young, a former Coleman Medallist.

Like so many boys from the bush, he couldn’t quite settle in to the city, and after 11 games, headed home to his ‘Deni’ dairy farm. He coached the locals for some time, and later took over the Thirds coaching, guiding some talented kids who were to form the nucleus of a successful ‘Rams’ era.

With just one team in a town of Deni’s size, Barry felt some good kids were slipping through the system, so he, along with mates Tommy Todd, Bernie O’Connor and Worner Tasker decided to form the Deniliquin Rovers.

That’s where Pete cut his teeth. He, like his four siblings, was a sporting crank.

“Summer Saturday’s, for instance, I’d ride the bike into town for junior cricket in the morning, watch mum playing tennis for a while, then play senior cricket in the arvo. In winter we’d be following mum and dad to the footy.”

He came through the ranks, made his senior debut at 16, and played in successive Grand Finals, under his dad’s coaching.. “We lost both of them. The Rovers still haven’t won a flag,” he says.

It was the era of zoning. Geelong cast their net and lured a host of likely Riverina lads ( 19 year-old Pete included ) to Kardinia Park.

“Even though I was earmarked for the Thirds, I ended up being elevated to train with the Senior List and played 15 or so games in the Reserves”, he says. “That meant training with the senior list. I still remember my first night. I just threw my bag into the first vacant locker I saw and started stripping. I’m buck naked when Mark Jackson barges in, grabs my bag out of his locker and hurls it across the room. That was my introduction to the inimitable ‘Jacko’.”

“After about Round 5, we were asked to attend a Players’ Meeting at a Geelong Motel. I just tagged along; then Mick Turner gets up in front of the group and says: ‘Hands up those of you who think John Devine can’t coach…..I could tell by the mood of the meeting that he’d lost the players.”

“It was all an eye-opener for a boy from the country. Really, I was just a big kid with a bit of ability, but I had no idea. Thinking back, I should have stayed, but at the end of the year I headed back home and spent a couple of seasons with Deniliquin, under a good mate, Greg Danckert.”

Pete played in the Murray League rep side with Rob Hawkins (Jack’s uncle), who had returned to Finley after several years at South Adelaide.

“Apparently John Reid, the South coach, rang Rob and asked whether there were any kids he’d seen who might be worth approaching. Rob put him onto me and Darren Jackson, a big goal-kicker from Finley.”

“So the day after my 21st Birthday party, we’ve packed up and headed over to Adelaide. We didn’t have a clue what to expect, but might have hoped for more than just one win in the first year.”

In 1989 South improved marginally, picking up six wins. But they got on a roll in the latter part of 1990.

“One Thursday night, about four weeks before the finals, we walked off the training track, to be greeted with the news that the club was insolvent. The supporters got to work rattling tins and the like. The players developed a terrific camaraderie through it all. We hit top form, snuck into the finals by half a game, and thrashed Norwood, before North Adelaide stitched us up in the First Semi.”

Adelaide Football Club had been granted an AFL license, which prompted an extensive search for talent, as they combed through the SANFL for likely types. They compiled a list of 100 players, which was gradually pruned, until the Final List for 1991 was announced.

McIntyre found his name included among this elite band of players – the cream of South Australian footy. Wall-to-wall media coverage and unprecedented interest ensued, particularly in the lead-up to the opening round.

He wasn’t confident of being selected, but gun spearhead Scott Hodges – a walk-up starter – was embroiled in a contract dispute with the new entity. He still hadn’t signed when the team was announced. So Pete was named at full forward for the clash against an imposing Hawthorn combination, which was at the height of its power…………..

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It was a memorable night for the Crows, and their band of supporters, who anticipated a spirited performance from their side, but expected the Hawks to draw away when the crunch came.

The home team were on their way to a conclusive win – by 86 points. Early on, McIntyre began to gain the upper hand on Chris Langford, booting the second goal of the night.

Just after half-time he’d kicked his fourth……..”I thought, shit, I’m a chance to get a bag of 6 or 7 here. Then Graeme Cornes sent the runner out, and I was off until ten minutes before the end of the game.”

“He told me later, he thought I was looking a bit tired. Geez, I was rearing to go. He was a good coach, Cornesy; highly intelligent, thought outside the square, but sometimes he outsmarted himself.”

Pete played 13 games in ‘91, alternating between the Crows and South Adelaide. South were enjoying a great run, and finished minor premiers, before going out in straight sets.

The following year he tore a thigh muscle in the opening AFL round and endured a horror run, struggling in vain to return to fitness. Unfortunately, his injuries cost him a place in the NSW State of Origin side, which played the Vics at the MCG.

“Being a Deni boy, that would have been fantastic, to run out on the ‘G’ wearing the NSW jumper. But at the end of the season I’d had enough. I resigned from the Crows and told them I was going to concentrate on playing for South.”

“I regret that, in hindsight. I had probably my best SANFL season in ‘93, represented South Australia against the West, and kicked 79 goals in 14 games. Adelaide were starting to build something, and I reckon I could have contributed.”

Pete’s always maintained a keen interest in the neddies. He harks back briefly , to his early cricket days with Deni RSL, when a team-mate Greg Higgins – a more-than-handy all-rounder – would shout between overs, from the depths of fine-leg, such comments as : “What won the third leg of the Quaddie?”

He also reckons a day at the Adelaide Oval may have planted the seed for his future involvement with the Racing Game :

“It was a match the SANFL put together – City v Country. I was first emergency for Country, so I thought I’d wander down and invest in a treble – $21, I think I outlaid. It was Colin Hayes’ last chance to win an Adelaide Cup. The first two legs got up and, thank goodness, the Hayes horse I’d backed came home too. Seven and a half grand it was worth.”

“I invested it wisely ! Went to the Horse Sales the next day and bought two weanlings; sent one home to dad’s farm and later sold it for $20,000. I think that’s what got me going on the horses………”

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After nine seasons and 133 games with South Adelaide, the McIntyre’s moved to Echuca. Pete’s playing career with the Murray Bombers was ill-fated, though. In his third game he copped a knee injury which terminated his career.

The rest of his season was confined to using his footy expertise on the bench, as playing-coach Simon Eishold guided the Murray Bombers to a flag.

He worked as a rep for Sunbeam, selling agricultural equipment, then had a stint as secretary of Echuca Race Club.

This led to a short spell as the Racing Manager for leading city trainer David Hall, and a year as the Secretary at Benalla.

Country racing was being re-structured at the time, and he took on the role as Secretary-Manager of the merged Benalla, Towong, Wodonga and Wangaratta Race Clubs.

The merge was dismantled after some time, and Pete took a redundancy, had a re-think and invested in a property – Milawa Park. There were early ups and downs, but he’s now completely absorbed in what he regards as his dream job.

“I’ve always thought I’ve had an eye for a good horse. Basically, I buy 5-6 month-old weanlings, grow them out ( it’s essential to have fertile soil to grow good horses ) and sell them. To put it in plain language, I’m a grass farmer, and my crop are horses.”

“You’ve got to rely on your intuition, picking out the characteristics, like pedigree, temperament, athleticism, desire…… I spent six years as an assistant with the Murray Bushrangers ( loved it there ) and what I’m doing is not unlike how the top recruiters pick out a talented 16 year-old footballer,” he says.

“A few horses which are going around now, like Bondeiger, Charossa, Gytrash, Benz, Ice Ghost and Jericho Missile, have come through this selection process.”

“We’ve had a fair bit of success. I bought Derby runner-up Bundeiger, for instance, for $10,000 and sold for $75,000. I’m always on the look-out to refine the ‘art’ of selecting the right horse.”

Pete tells me a lady who compiled a history of the McIntyre’s, advised him his branch of the family became predominantly Butchers, Carpenters and Horsemen.”

“Have a guess what two of my brothers were.”

“One was a butcher, another’s a Carpenter.”

“I’m the Horseman………..”

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