“DYLAN CARRIES ON THE STONE FOOTBALL TRADITION……”

Brien Stone was one of those old-style, colourful characters who were part and parcel of local sport more than half a century ago…….strong-willed, enthusiastic, opiniated, ultra-competitive, passionate, thirsting for success……..

In his time he played cricket, tennis, footy, raced horses, owned and trained greyhounds……….

When ‘dishlickers’ were the feature attraction at North Wangaratta’s Sentinel Park, a succession of his stable-stars, including Medowra Lad, Accumulated and Medowra Prince, regularly greeted the judge. Another star, Medowra Jet, won a Melbourne Greyhound Cup.

His obsession for football far outweighed the achievements of a modest footy career, which had included playing in Glenrowan/Thoona League premierships with South Wangaratta in 1928 and Glenrowan in 1934.

A brief stint with O & K club Waratahs followed in the mid-thirties. He was nearing the end of his playing tether when he and his family ( wife Merle and kids, Jim, Marie, Des, Mavis, Maureen, Merle and Rob ) moved onto a Dairy Farm, and he lined up with nearby Tarrawingee not long after the cessation of World War II.

For the next 25 years or so, he became a driving force behind the Bulldogs, as part of an unlikely ‘Triumvirate’, alongside the irrepressible Ken Stewart and the ‘Plough Inn’s’ popular publican, Pete Nolan.

Tarra took out their first-ever flag in 1953. They saluted again a decade later – and made it a double in 1964 – with two of his sons and two sons-in-law playing starring roles in the side.

When he stood down after twelve seasons as President, the ‘Dogs had contested Grand Finals in five of those years…….

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Brien passed away in 1984, aged 77. He’d received immense satisfaction from following the careers of his stalwart sons Jimmy (315 senior games), Des (250-plus) and Rob (70-odd), in Red, White and Blue and savouring the involvement of the whole Stone clan at Tarra.

Unfortunately, he never got to see any of the succeeding generations of his progeny make their way through the footy ranks……He’d have been chuffed to know of the impact that they’ve made in Ovens and Murray football….and beyond……..

THE GRAND-KIDS

Mark Stone: Played with Wangaratta and Wodonga, Moe, Powerhouse ( Won VAFA Pepper Medal), Ormond, Ringwood, Wagga Tigers ( won Riverina FL Quinn Medal, and also coached). Assistant-coach at South Fremantle, West Coast Eagles, Sydney Swans, Fremantle and Brisbane Lions. Coached Glenelg to the 2019 SANFL Premiership after a 33-year drought .

Dean Stone: Played with Milawa, Wangaratta, Wodonga ( Joint B & F 1994 ), Wagga Tigers, The Rock- Yerong Creek ( playing-coach ). Assistant-coach at Wodonga. Coached Wangaratta 2017 ( Flag ), 2018 & 2021.

Robbie Richards: Played with Wangaratta, Maffra, Greta. Coached Greta 1995 ( Flag ), ‘96 and 2000. Coached Wangaratta Seniors 1997. Also coached Reserves and Thirds.

Rick Marklew: Played 229 games with Wang Rovers ( Flags 1988, ‘93, ‘94 ), Northern United ( Bendigo FL rep ), Heidelberg. Member WRFC Hall of Fame.

Gary Stone: Played Tarrawingee and Wang Rovers ( Reserves Flag ).

GREAT GRAND-KIDS

Jamie Allan : Played 84 games with Rovers and 100-plus with Wangaratta ( B & F 2010, 2012 ), Morris Medallist 2010. Also played Box Hill, Essendon Doutta Stars, Milawa ( Flag, and Baker Medal 2019 ).

Ryan Stone: Has played 81 games with Rovers. Also played 103 games Heidelberg ( NFL rep ).

Nick Richards: Has played 56 games Wangaratta ( Flag 2017 ) O & M rep. Also played Werribee, Williamstown, Heidelberg.

Robbie Allan : Played Rovers and Wangaratta. Also played Essendon Doutta Stars and Milawa ( Flag 2019 ).

Joe Richards: Has played 63 games with Wangaratta ( B & F 2017 & 2019. Flag 2017 ).

Danny Allan: Played Rovers and Wangaratta.

Ethan Stone : Senior Debut with Wangaratta 2021 ( Played 5 Senior games ).

Connor Stone : Senior Debut with Wangaratta 2017 ( Played 13 Senior Games ).

Alex Marklew: Has played 69 games with Rovers. Also played Doutta Stars, Golden Square ( B.F.L rep ), Essendon, Werribee.

Riley Stone: Played with Wodonga and Wangaratta. Now with Wodonga Raiders..

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Permit me to introduce you to another member of the clan – Dylan Stone – who celebrated his 100th game with the Wangaratta Rovers last week-end.

It hasn’t exactly been a dream run to the ‘ton’ for ‘D.J’.

In his first 75 games with the Hawks he played in just 15 wins. That was a touch hard to take, after he’d heard tales of old Rovers champs chalking up flags with monotonous regularity and appearing in Finals as if they were going out of fashion……..Talk about a bloke being in the right place at the wrong time !

He played all of his junior footy with Tigers, alongside one of his best mates, Jessie Smith. Their paths diverged, as Dylan joined the Rovers and Jessie headed over the laneway, where he has become a premiership player and part of a highly successful era.

As they say, Fate can be a cruel mistress !

“That’s the luck of the draw, I suppose. I was always going to play with the Rovers…..to follow in the footsteps of dad, and my brother, who’d been there for a few years,” he says

Ryan was making his name as an elusive, classy forward, with an eye for the big sticks ( he booted 35 and 31 goals in successive seasons ), and Dylan envisaged that whilst he was still coming through the ranks in the Thirds, they’d end up playing plenty of senior footy together.

It did eventually happen……seven years after he’d made his senior debut mid-way through 2014…….

In his fourth game Dylan figured in a nail-biting Elimination Final win over Corowa-Rutherglen……The following week the Hawks bowed out of the 2014 premiership race at the hands of Lavington.

It was to be his last Finals appearance……………….

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The ability of the silky-skilled, lightly-proportioned on-baller to find the Sherrin, transition it from stoppages with the balance of a Ballroom dancer, and make things happen up forward soon made him a key member of the Rovers side.

As a ball-magnet in a side not over-laden with talent, he became a target of attention. A heavy knock against Wodonga Raiders in 2016 kept him out for a week with concussion protocols, but he recovered in time to take his place in the Ovens and Murray League line-up for the Country Championship clash with Hampden a couple of weeks later.

The break-out Stone season came in 2017, when he took out the Bob Rose Medal.

His effort was all the more meritorious, considering a ‘dicky’ left knee was restricting him. After corrective femoral osteomoty post-season surgery in late-November, he decided to chance his luck in VFL ranks.

Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres offered access to the Club’s medical staff for his recovery, and was keen for him to come on board.

But soon after, he moved to Coburg after an approach from their coach Leigh Adams, who dangled a small-forward’s role in front of him.

Dylan had been living and working in Melbourne, but, after five months, homesickness got to him. He returned to Wangaratta.

It was great news for the Hawks, who plonked their fully-recovered star into their opening-round line-up.

One of his old coaches believes that Stone became an even more dynamic player after the corrective knee surgery.

“I reckon I was a different person, that’s for sure,” Dylan says. “I could actually run with a bit more freedom.”

He lived in Wangaratta for two years, then headed back to Melbourne in 2019, where he was employed by Blue Earth ( alongside Ryan ), and continued his pursuit of a VFL career.

He landed at Box Hill Hawks, but found it difficult to command a spot. Again, it was back to his home club, where new coach Daryn Cresswell accepted him with open arms.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen the first day I met ‘Cressa’ “ Dylan quips. “He was an intimidating figure to start with. But he’s got the best out of my footy, that’s for sure.”

“My strength has always been to ‘run and carry’ the ball, and play with a bit of flair. He keeps drilling into me to make that happen.”

Dylan was a key component of a new-look Rovers line-up, which went within an ace of a long-awaited return to the Finals in 2019.

With the dream of playing in the VFL still lurking in the back of his mind he was lured to the Northern Bullants’ Preston City Oval this season.

“ I’ve always been determined to play the best standard possible, and extract all that I can out of my footy…….The training was great, and I knew a few of the blokes from my time at Coburg, so I get on well with everybody.”

He played five games with the Bullants, interspersed with his seven appearances with the Hawks.

“I didn’t actually play in a winning side at the Bullants. Ironically, they won three on the trot after I returned to the Rovers.”

Dylan is still keen to make his mark in the VFL, but he’s also relishing the success that the Rovers have enjoyed.

If anyone needed confirmation of his exquisite skills, they were on display in the Rovers’ recent victory over Lavington.

He’d played an integral role in a pulsating third-quarter comeback, as the Hawks reined in a 23-point deficit to hit the front…….The pendulum had swung repeatedly in this 10-goal term…….Inspiration was required…..

Taking possession on the boundary at the 25-minute mark, in front of the adoring home crowd in the Hogan Stand, he flicked a handball across to Cody Schutt….dodged an opponent and received the pill back…..

Still hemmed in on the boundary, and swivelling around one Panther, with another on his hammer, he found a smidgeon of open space, darted clear, straightened up and nailed a crucial major. It was a classic piece of Stone wizardry…………..

Last Saturday, he featured in several metre-devouring runs, turning defence into attack, as a youthful Rovers attempted to withstand the persistent ‘Roos, who sniffed victory.

But it was to no avail. They fell five points short in a see-sawing contest………..

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‘D.J’ is rapt to have realised his ambition of joining the Hawk 100-Game Club.

“You walk up those stairs at the Clubrooms, and see the photos of all the great players who’ve preceded you……..It means a heck of a lot to me…….”

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