“OH !…ME NAME IS McNAMARA………….”

Run the name McNamara past Yarrawonga’s historians and they’ll no doubt remind you of a family which was at the forefront of the region’s stock and station industry for more than a century………….

I’m talking to a modern-day descendant, John McNamara, who guides me back through the generations, to when his namesake, an enterprising Irishman, set sail for Australia in the early 1840’s.

A tiny, weather-beaten building in Belmore Street – suitably emblazoned : ‘J.McNamara & Co…Auctioneer…Established 1881….’ once stood as testimony to a livestock dynasty which spread throughout the state ……

“Just on sixty years ago ‘Pa’ ( also John ) was running the business, but when he got sick Dad was called home from Assumption College to operate it with his brothers.”

Mick McNamara (left) at a Yarrawonga SheepSale

“Bill and Dave went their different ways, and Dad (Mick) stayed on in Yarra…..Australian Estates bought ‘em out at one stage ……Then Dad took over again and started his own firm ………..”

“When the four of us boys finished our schooling at Assumption we all had stints with M.J.McNamara & Co………..”

Chris and Brian are still involved in the stock game, as agents with Landmark; Adam switched over to selling Rural merchandise, whilst John found his vocation as a School-Teacher……….

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The family is also synonymous with sport in Yarra – and beyond…..

Micky McNamara’s fascination with cricket and footy was fostered during his time at Assumption College. He developed into a tough-as-nails defender, who played his role in some handy Yarrawonga sides of the sixties before stepping down and spending years as a mainstay of the Reserves.

“They say he used to like a fight rather than a feed,” says John. “One bloke recalls him playing in a Seconds game one day……..A fight broke out down the other end of the ground and the old man said to his opponent: ‘By the time I get up there the blue’ll be over, so I’m gonna start one here……’ “

Mick played 322 games ( 150 Seniors, 172 Reserves ) in the Blue and White Hoops. It stood as a Club record until Clinton Shoppee snuck past it in recent times.

In the twilight of his career Mick featured in a hat-trick of Reserves flags (1973,’74,’75), as the deputy to another ‘old-head’, Frank Seymour. He then spent time as President, Secretary and committeeman, and remained an avid follower of the Pigeons until he succumbed to MND in 2007.

“Dad was also a wily right-arm offie, and left-hand bat for Yarrawonga Rovers in the YDCA. Their battles with Yarra Footballers were usually pretty intense affairs; and the after-match parties (footy and cricket) would always be at our place,” John says.

The boys started their cricket at Rennie: “ ‘Taity’ (Robert Tait) worked with Dad, and he got us out there when we were young kids, filling in. You’d field all day in the hot sun….hard wicket……..not a blade of grass……”

“Rennie used to always get smashed……….I don’t think they’d had ever enjoyed any success in the YDCA ……Anyway, we ended up winning three premierships and finished runners-up a couple of times……….”

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‘Macca’ first dragged himself away from the YDCA – where he had been a veritable run-machine – in 1985/86, when he and Graeme McMillan moved over to play with Wangaratta club, United.

A technically-correct right-hander, with loads of concentration, he amassed 622 runs for the season, including a telling knock of 110 in the Semi-Final against emerging Corowa.

He had a run with Collingwood the following season. The ‘Pies were a District cricket power at the time, with Shield players, Trevor Laughlin, David Emerson, Grant Jordan, Kevin Whichello and ‘Polly’ Sleeman in their line-up.

“It was a pretty strong team to break into, but at least we won the Second XI premiership.”

“I should’ve hung around, I suppose, but a bloke from Darwin was recruiting a few Southern Riverina boys to play footy with Nightcliff, prior to the next season. He rang me and I caught the bus up. “

“How’d you handle it ?” I ponder.

“Amazing……good fun…..They had about three jobs lined up, but I didn’t last ‘em. It was too hot to work…….Came back after Christmas….I was getting itchy feet for cricket……”

He had a break from footy in 1993, when he fulfilled an ambition to play cricket in England, with Staffordshire League Club, Wightick-Finchfield.

They put John up in a large Castlecroft house, which overlooked the Oval. His job was to mow the ground…..and help with the preparation of the wickets.

“It was all paid for…..I was living in this little room, in a swanky building the size of the Gateway… having a ball…..but runs were few and far between, early on.”

“The old man suggested ‘it might be a good idea to get off the piss, and concentrate on your cricket’……..I did it for a few days and got a hundred straight away…..I was right then……finished with about nine tons in all their competitions….”

John recalls his good fortune in being at Old Trafford on the day Shane Warne sent down the ‘Ball of the Century’ to Mike Gatting…….

“The Poms were 0/80….and the crowd was screaming…… ‘Warnie came on….bowled his first ball….and there was this hush…..It was unbelievable……There seemed to be about 40 Aussie there, and we just went berserk ….”

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On his return from overseas, John spent a year with Cobram, scoring three ‘tons’ and helping them to the ‘93/‘94 Murray Valley C.A premiership.

He was probably seeing the ball as well as ever, at that stage, and represented Goulburn-Murray, Southern Riverina and Riverina, besides scoring a pair of 90’s at Country Week with Murray Valley.

He says Mulwala United Cricket Club came into being a year later, predominantly through the friendships formed between YDCA clubs Rennie and Mulwala Footballers.

“Mul were, like us, very social….We’d fight tooth-and-nail out on the field, then sit in the pub ‘til all hours. We got talking one night and decided that we had to get our kids playing better cricket……There was only one Turf Wicket in Yarra and we agreed : “Let’s go and play a higher standard.”

Thus, Mulwala United came into being in ‘94/‘95…….They raised $25,000 for the construction of a turf wicket, and four years later took out the Murray Valley premiership under John’s leadership, with his brother Adam also playing a starring role.


A Mul-United Re-Union. Back Row: Clinton Shand, Rod Peters, Michael Cooke, David Bott. Front: Adam & John McNamara, Daryl Beams

Mulwala-United competed as a strong MVCA club, for 14 years, before merging into the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Cricket Club, and transferring to the Wangaratta competition.

John and Adam played with Bruck when they both settled in Wangaratta……Adam made his mark in 117 WDCA A-Grade games, which included four flags in five years, from 2008/09 to ‘2012/‘13.

‘Macca’s’ not exactly sure, but when I put the weights on him, reckons he chalked up over 30 ‘tons’ all-told in ( including three double-centuries ), in a career which only really concluded last year, when he filled in, alongside his son Cormac, with Rovers-United-Bruck’s C-Grade side.

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The McNamara brothers all began their senior football with Yarrawonga.

“Brian copped a couple of knee injuries early on, and that buggered him for a few years, but Chris was probably the pick of us……He played over 100 games, including that famous flag in 1989,” says John.

“They were in all sorts of turmoil when ‘Salty’ (Parish) quit the coaching job on the eve of the season…..That’s when ‘Davo’ (Neil Davis) took over and steadied the ship…..Actually, the old man stepped into the Secretary’s role that year, as well……”

“Chris captained Yarra a couple of years later, and went on to coach Mulwala for five years…..he’s still President there …”

“Adam was pretty clever…skilful…but he didn’t like training too much, ‘Addsy’….not dedicated enough….”

“We both followed Brian when he coached Tungamah and Strathmerton, and of course, when ‘Addsy’ moved to Wangaratta he joined Moyhu……played in four premierships there….”

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‘Macca’s’ career followed a familiar trajectory, after leaving Yarrawonga.

He enjoyed successful playing stints with Tungamah ( flag in 1986), Barooga (‘92 flag), Strathmerton and Moyhu before finally hanging up the boots.

In the meantime, he and Jane had re-located to Wangaratta, when he secured a teaching appointment at St.Bernard’s School.

He’d had a brief flirtation with the Rovers in 1995, when he played a handful of games on match permits from Strathmerton, the last of which – in his senior debut – he broke his hand.

Five years later, he took over as coach of the Hawk Thirds, guiding them to Third, Runners-Up (after being unbeaten prior to the Grand Final) in 2001, and Unbeaten Premiers In 2002…….

A two-year stint with the Murray Bushrangers – as assistant-coach to Xavier Tanner – followed.

“I enjoyed coaching…..Whatever I did, whether it was coaching seniors or juniors, I gave it my best, I was hell-bent on winning….. and I think I was able to get on fairly well with people,” he says.

Nevertheless, there was mild surprise among the outside football fraternity when he was appointed to succeed Peter Tossol as the Rovers’ senior coach in 2005.

But those in the inner-sanctum of the Hawk camp were confident, with his recruiting capabilities and communication skills, that he’d succeed.

He held the plum job for four years, during which he was exposed to the full gamut of emotions…..being hammered fairly severely with the injury stick, whilst still remaining in the fight for the finals.

Probably the best illustration of the highs and lows of ‘Macca’s’ coaching reign came in 2007.

The effects of a severe drought had forced the Hawks to play away from home for the first two months. They dropped the opening six games, and the media pronounced that their season was effectively over…….Then, in dramatic fashion, they got on a roll, to win 11 of the next 12, several of them by handsome margins, to cement a spot in the Finals.

The Elimination-Final clash with Wodonga was a classic. The Dogs hung on to win by 11 points, but the coach bemoaned the loss of his champion, Andy Hill in the opening minutes of the game.

“I reckon Andy going down made the difference….He was that good a player…..”

John moved on to coach one of his his old clubs, Barooga, in 2009, taking them to a Prelim Final, before he was snapped up by Moyhu the following season.

The 2011 O & K Grand Final against Tarrawingee, remains one of his cherished football memories..

“They’d been a crackerjack side throughout the early 2000’s, and still had a few of the older guys playing. The inclusion of some young kids added an extra dimension to the line-up, though.”

The Chronicle reported that : ‘…Moyhu were inspired by the outstanding performances of Andrew Balfour and Jaimon McGeehan…..But the match-winning move came when John McNamara switched beanpole Daniel McInnes to the forward line in the last quarter….”

The Hoppers fought back from a 10-point deficit mid-way through the final term to win by two points………

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‘Macca’ bowed out of senior coaching in 2012, but has done his share at junior level over recent years, in both footy and cricket.

He’s still rapt in watching sport…….and following the progress of the current generation of McNamara’s.

Paddy, 19, is A-Grade co-captain of Rovers-United-Bruck, and played senior footy with the Wang Rovers this year…..Cormac is showing plenty of potential, whilst his other son, Fergie, is focusing his interest on the Arts……Adam’s son Reid, at 13, is also a budding star.

They’ll all be in action at Mulwala’s Lonsdale Reserve over the Christmas break, when the Beams v McNamara cricket Challenge is held.

“We’ve been playing this game for years,” John says. “The Beams’s were all tied up with Mul Footballers and we were at Rennie……Dad and Bobby Beams ( the patriarchs) were originally foes, rather than mates, but over the years some pretty close friendships have developed.”

“They’ll have some fair players in their side……both Dayne and Clay, who are both more than handy, usually come home to play…….we’ll have our work cut out, but as usual, it’ll be a great day…..and the beer and tall stories will be flowing afterwards………….”

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