Tom Tobin had just turned 24 when he lined up for his first season with the Wangaratta Rovers.
It was 1957. The attraction of playing under Bob Rose’s coaching was enough for Tommy to sign on the dotted line.
A Tatura boy, he’d transferred to Wang in his job as a Postal Clerk, an occupation which was to take him far and wide, and see him eventually become a Postmaster.
Despite his zest for sport he’d accepted at a young age, that his limited ability wouldn’t propel him to superstardom.
When you’re in the ruck and give away height every week, or line up in a key position and find yourself two yards too slow; then have average skills to boot, it puts you behind the eight-ball. But he played every game as though it was his last.
He made 11 senior appearances in his initial two-year spell with the Rovers, and figured In Reserves Grand Finals in both years, the second of which resulted in a Premiership.
He spent a season with Greta on his return to the area five years later. Then, in the evening of his career, the Hawks suggested that they had the ideal position for him – as captain of the Reserves.
Many youngsters like me were just coming out of the Junior League. Tommy was our ‘protector’, besides coming down hard on us if we strayed on, and off, the field.
He’d often say: “The tougher it becomes, the better I like it,” and would rarely finish a game without ‘wearing’ one wound or another.
I liked his style. When tempers flared in a typically feisty clash with Myrtleford at the Findlay Oval one day, Tom decided that he needed to make his presence felt.
He charged in with all guns blazing just on siren-time, and his ‘two-man war’ with opposition skipper, Vic Garoni, had the crowd roaring. The commencement of the senior clash soon after seemed somewhat of an anti-climax.
Tommy decided to hang up the boots as Reserves skipper. He’d won the B & F (1964), and finished runner-up and Third in the following two years.
He moved seamlessly into the role for which he was lauded, as a brilliant administrator. He became assistant-secretary and a Selector for four years, then succeeded Ernie Payne as Secretary in 1970.
For the first time in the Club’s 20-year O & M history, they’d plumped for a local boy as coach. Neville Hogan’s appointment was panned by many experts and supporters, who predicted the demise of the Hawks.
It was to prove a master-stroke, of course, as the Club embarked on its fabulous ‘Super Seventies’ era. Jack Maroney, a gruff, tough old campaigner, was a fine President who could go off on a tangent. Tobin took it upon himself to keep ‘Old Wally’ in check; also ensuring that the rest of the off-field stuff ran smoothly.
After losing a tight Grand Final to Myrtleford , the Hawks won the first of their seven 70’s flags in 1971 . Tom moved on after this and was honoured with Life Membership.
He followed from afar, but his last (unofficial) duty for the Club came 22 years later. Laurie Burt had heard a whisper that there were one or two Wodonga players under an injury cloud for the Grand Final, and asked if he’d mind subtly ‘sussing’ them out at training.
Tommy was chuffed at that prospect; ‘spying’ for his old club, under-cover, in his adopted home town…….
His summer passion in those days was cricket. As a lower-order batsman and a medium-pacer with an elongated run, he played for Rovers and City Colts, in the Wangaratta and District Cricket Association, and served as WDCA Secretary for two years.
Postals appointed him as their inaugural captain when they joined the Sunday Association. And the Tobin combativeness was always close to the surface.
Like the time he fronted a West End fieldsman who’d been annoying hell out of him and doing his best to get under his skin: “Don’t call me a bad sport, or I’ll wrap this bat around your bloody head…………”
Footnote: Tommy passed away in Wodonga last Wednesday, aged 87. He leaves wife Marlene, six kids and nine grand-kids.