“……A CLASS ACT………”

Frank Hogan was a class act…….He had the physique, and presence at the batting crease of a Ponting…… His silky footy skills and knack of finding the pill mirrored a sixties version of Lochie Neal………

I was an impressionable sixteen year-old when he arrived in Wangaratta all those years ago. I eagerly awaited the prospect of batting with him, and watching him run rings around the best of the O & M’s small men…………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The famous Hogans were raised in an old weatherboard home just a couple of decent stab-passes from the Violet Town Oval, on which they honed their sporting skills.

The eldest of the clan, Pat, was still attending Wangaratta Technical School when, at the age of 18, he was handed the coaching job by the locals. He spent two seasons at South Melbourne, then led several country teams, as he moved around the state in his profession as a school-teacher.

Kevin was also lured to the Swans, where he played 63 games as a classy rover, before transferring to Sale as captain-coach. The OAM he was awarded in 1983 acknowledged the monumental service he’d rendered to Gippsland sport as a journalist, broadcaster and volunteer. He remained on the Sale Footy Club committee for just on 60 years.

There were sisters, Margaret and Loretta, and Frank’s younger siblings, Johnny ( a premiership rover at Benalla in 1962 and ‘63 ), Normie ( an O & M Reserves Medallist ) and Terry ( a laconic Wang Rovers left-footer; later coach of Nathalia, Tatong and Tungamah, and plundering left-hand batsman)…………

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

If you were looking for the definition of ‘sporting prodigy’, Frankie Hogan fitted the bill.

He was a mere stripling when he stepped up, and acquitted himself superbly, in senior company. His footy debut with Violet Town came at 15…..He won the Euroa Cricket Association’s prestigious Maygar Bat as the competition’s leading run-scorer in five successive seasons…..top-scored for a Combined Country XI against Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side, aged 18.

Naturally, the talent scouts came hunting…..He was lured to Benalla in 1957, where he was an instant success as a rover for Len Fitzgerald’s Demons. The runs also kept coming, as he and the veteran Keith Sherwill formed a dynamic opening combination. They shared six century – and one double-century – partnerships by the half-way mark of the ‘57/58 BDCA season.

It was principally through cricket that he was first enticed to the ‘big smoke’. Former Test captain Ian Johnson had dropped the word to his old District club South Melbourne, that a kid he’d played against up Benalla-way was worth having a look at.

Frank recalls the first night he turned up to training at the Lakeside Oval: ”The coach Joe Plant threw an almost-new ball to Test left-armer Ian Meckiff and said: ‘Here, ‘Fatty’, have a go at the young bloke.’ “

“He’s rattled the stumps with his first two balls…..I pointed to the one peg that was remaining and said to him: ‘Righto smarty, see if you can knock that one over ’……. And he promptly did just that.’ “

He shared his District debut with future Test quickie Alan Connolly, batting second-drop against Carlton, in a star-studded line-up which included six Australian or Victorian players.

At the same time, he was invited to do a footy pre-season with South.

I asked him if he’d considered going anywhere else, considering that Bobby Skilton and Brian McGowan, entrenched as probably the VFL’s best roving duo, were in front of him.

“Not really….. Our family was very South-oriented. I remember my grand-father, who was a Swans fanatic, taking me to see Bob Pratt play when he returned from the War. It would have been sacrilegious to go anywhere else……Besides, my brother Kevin was still playing there.”

He managed 12 senior games over two seasons, missing most of ‘59 with a thigh injury, and was quite content with his lot at South . But one of his cricket team-mates, ‘keeper Pat Bourke, planted the thoughts of making a move.

“Pat was an old Croweater and said: ‘Would you be interested in heading to Adelaide ? I reckon you’d go all right over there.”

“I didn’t think any more of it, until I got a call from West Adelaide Footy Club. They arranged to fly me over to have a chat….Next thing, I’m over there for keeps………..”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

He was immediately enticed to play Grade cricket for Adelaide, coached by the legendary spinner Clarrie Grimmett. A splash of publicity had accompanied his arrival, and he was among the runs in his first season.

But with the footy pre-season full-on he was finding it difficult to combine the two, and decided to bypass cricket in favour of water-skiing.

“I had a visit at work from Col Egar, the Test umpire, whom I’d got to know. He said: ‘I should kick your ass, you bloody idiot. Bradman called in to watch you make that 85 at the Adelaide Oval the other day, and you’ve been added to the Shield Squad…..Now you’re giving it away.’ …….Thinking back, it wasn’t a sensible move on my part, but I just wanted to get right for footy…….”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

West Adelaide had lined him up with a job as a Motor Mechanic at York Motors and he quickly adapted to the SANFL style of play. It was no surprise when he was named in the State side after a succession of impressive performances.

“ It was July 7th 1960,” he recalls, “… and we faced the daunting task of overpowering the Vic’s at Adelaide Oval. They were near- unbeatable in any conditions, but the game turned into a rout.”

Hogan ( 3 goals ) and his roving partner, Haydn Bunton Jnr, were irrepressible in front of just on 30,000 adoring fans, who watched in disbelief, as South Australia triumphed, 14.15 (99) to 3.12 (30).

It was the first of the five State games Frank played, including the ANFC Carnival in Brisbane the following year.

In 1961 West Adelaide’s non-playing coach Jack Oatey, was replaced by Neil Kerley, whose on-field aggression helped to lift his side into premiership contention.

“ ‘Kerls’ was as tough as old boots,” Frank says. “…..Probably the only fellah I could compare to my old South team-mate Ken Boyd, for the knack of intimidating opponents.”

“He used to come to me and say: ‘Is anyone annoying you? It got to the stage where I wouldn’t tell him, because he’d go and drop ‘em.”

The Westies won their way into the ‘61 decider, and faced Alan Killigrew’s Norwood at the Adelaide Oval on a brute of a day. A hot westerly wind swept down the ground, and the temperature reached 98 degrees. It has gone down in history as: ‘The Turkish Bath Grand Final.’

At one stage the umpire halted the game and removed up to 10 trainers who were treating distressed players with wet towels. It was obvious that the game would resort to a ‘last-man-standing’ affair.

West started to gain the ascendency in the third quarter and went on with it in the last, to win by 36 points. The elusive Hogan was a factor in their win, finishing with four goals.

The celebrations for West’s first flag in 14 years went on for weeks.

Frank recalls driving around the streets of Adelaide in a Cadillac, with several players: “We were all on the grog, with a barrel in the boot of the car, when we ran out of petrol in the middle of King William Street. You wouldn’t believe it, the cops ended up going and getting us some petrol.”

The following year they again reached the Grand Final, but were outclassed by arch rival Port Adelaide. Amazingly, at season’s end, the highly-popular ‘Knuckles’ Kerley was relieved of the coaching job.

“Some thought it was because of a run-in with an administrator,” he says. “There was a bit going on at the time.”

Frank headed back east after three seasons, 58 games and 120 goals with West Adelaide. He’d got wind of a coaching opportunity at Tatura, and made enquires about it. Within a fortnight he had the job.

“Things didn’t quite work out. We just missed the four, but I’d got offside with a couple of people, and there were a few rumblings.”

“I appeared on the Channel 6 Footy Show one Sunday. Ken Boyd was also there, as part of the O & M segment. We had a yarn…. ‘Boydy’ said he’d be rapt to get me over, and would organise something with the Rovers………”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Frank’s recruitment was the icing on the cake for the rapidly-developing Hawks. Boyd had succeeded Bob Rose as coach in 1963, and had nursed along a young group who were on the cusp of stardom. The experience and class of a top-flight on-baller was to prove a god-send.

They won the first 15 games of 1964 before inexplicably dropping the last three Home and Home games, and developing the staggers in the Second Semi-Final against Wangaratta.

The prophets of doom decreed that they had run their race…….But something clicked in the last half of the Preliminary Final against Myrtleford. The following week, a no-holds-barred Grand Final also went their way, as they comfortably accounted for the ‘Pies.

The flag win completed a dream season for the magical Hogan. He’d won the Hawks’ B & F, finished equal third (behind North Albury’s David Sykes) in the Morris Medal, and booted 52 goals.

The Rovers arranged employment for him at Alan Capp’s when he first arrived in Wangaratta, but within months he’d swapped the overalls for a suit and tie, and a job as a Car Salesman with Donovan-Brush Motors.

Selling, and buying cars was to become his mode of employment for the next 34 years.

The Hawks had their ups and downs in 1965. They scrambled into the four on percentage, but found their mojo with successive outstanding finals performances; thus earning the right to another tilt at their cross-town rivals in the Grand Final.

It was a dramatic affair, which saw them outlast the plucky ‘Pies by three points…….. Despite being troubled by a dodgy ‘hammy’ at times during the season, Frank hit his straps at finals time, and was rewarded with his third flag in five years……………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I managed to see a decent portion of the Frank Hogan highlights-reel during his three and a bit years of WDCA cricket. It began with a majestic 89* in his maiden innings. But two of his most memorable knocks came in finals games.

The first was in a Man of the Match Semi-final performance against United in 1963/64, when he made 110 of Rovers’ 225, then took 4/30 and 4/35 with a mix of medium-pace and leg-spin.

His stand-out innings, though, came in the Grand Final the following year, also against United. Frank had sent down 24 overs, for figures of 3/101, as his side confronted the task of chasing down a challenging total of 340.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make half of the runs if you blokes can chip in with the rest,” he said to us. I’ll let the Chronicle’s scribe paint the picture of his innings:

“A lot of the glamor surrounding United’s win took second place to the brilliant performance of Rovers captain Frank Hogan. His innings was one of the best seen in country cricket for many years.”

“He was in a punishing mood, and any deliveries which were short, or over-pitched, were dispatched all around the wicket with crashing power.

He hit 12 fours during his long innings, and was finally dismissed for 100, finally throwing his wicket away in an attempt to retain the strike. Rovers finished 95 shy of victory……..”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Frank’s football wanderings continued when he was appointed captain-coach of Beechworth. The ruptured spleen he suffered during the season dealt a telling blow to the Bombers’ finals chances. They bowed out in the First Semi.

He was on the move again in 1967, and was hopeful of to bowing out of football with another flag, this time with Redan…….. But fate is a cruel tyrant. He booted three goals in the Lion’s wayward 5.25, as they fell three points short of Golden Point in the Ballarat League Grand Final………..

Golf became Frank’s sporting passion in retirement. Playing off a six handicap, he ‘shot his age’ a few years ago when he had a par-72 on the highly-rated Ranfurlie course.

The Hogans lost 5 siblings within a period of two and a bit years, and Frank, as the eldest of three survivors is now 84, and living in Cranbourne.

“I’m dirty that a crook back stops me from playing golf. That’s the only problem,” he says. “It’s giving me buggery at the moment……..”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s