” THE NIGHT ETTAMOGAH SCOOPED THE POOL…….”

When Mark Mulcahy arrived home after rounding off his education at Assumption College, his eyes lit up when he came across an advertisement for a Cadet Journalist in the local paper………..

‘Right down my alley,’ he reckoned…….He landed the job, and, over the next 45 years, was to report on life’s broad spectrum for both the Wangaratta Chronicle and the Border-Mail….

N.S.W Supreme Court, Judge Lerve, acknowledges the career of retiring Journalist Mark Mulcahy

He’d inherited a fascination for all things sport. His mum was a champion golfer, and Mark followed suit; representing Waldara’s junior North-East Pennant team at the age of 16.

His time at Assumption had given him the opportunity to play alongside the illustrious School’s elite talent, many of whom went on to carve out memorable careers.

The pick of the cricketers, in his book, was an all-rounder, Peter ‘Pee Wee’ Ryan, who once took 10 wickets in a Grammar School match – and followed it up the next week with an exhilarating innings of 230.

“He was lured to England and opened the batting at Hampshire with another blossoming talent – the destructive West Indian right-hander Gordan Greenidge.” Mark recalls. “ ‘Pee Wee’ was voted the County Competition’s ‘Best Young Cricketer’ one year; just ahead of Greenidge,”

“He came home, and copped a two -year stint of National Service. It stuffed him up a bit…….He moved to Queensland, played half-a-dozen Shield games, but was never the same player…….An absolute Schoolboy freak, though….”

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Mark’s own sporting career appeared in jeopardy when, as a youngster, he fell backwards at cricket training, thrust his hand back to cushion the fall, and dislocated his arm two ways.

“The doc gave me the diagnosis that I wouldn’t be able to play any more sport, but I managed to overcome it, somehow,” he says.

With a slightly bent bowling action, he was still able to participate in four winning North-East Colts cricket teams, two flags with Whorouly; and twice finish runner-up in the WDCA bowling average. He also represented Wangaratta and Albury at Country Week, and captained ABCA side Lavington.

After almost four years with O & K Club Moyhu he spent a couple of seasons with North Wangaratta when they were at their peak, then transferred to Walla Walla for the remainder of his time in footy.

One of his great thrills was playing in Walla’s 1980 premiership, and wearing the Hume League representative guernsey on a couple of occasions.

He was around when Wangaratta Basketball began to surge in the early seventies, and was part of the really strong YMCA Lakers side, which at one stage, won 40 A-Grade games in succession. When Wang sides began to have success at regional titles, he was there.

Mark began to have problems with a dicky knee and was forced to give cricket away in his latter years. He took up the less physically-taxing sport of Bowls at the age of 39.

…….And he’s played ever since; winning Singles and Pairs titles at Walla, and finishing runner-up in the Albury & District Champion of Champion Singles in 1999.

He became the Association’s fourth Life Member roughly six years ago, and is currently the District Bowls Patron …..

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In your role as a Sports Journo you’re privy to a mountain of cherished highlights – and more than a few that you’d like to obliterate.

He immediately raises the 1990 O & M ‘Bloodbath’ Grand Final between Wodonga and Lavington as the most obvious that he’d prefer to erase from the memory-bank:

“I was the Sports Editor at the time. After the game I walked back to the old Border-Mail building and the Chief Sub-Editor Frank Connell said to me: ‘How’d the footy go ?’. I said: ‘It was a bloody disgrace’; and that turned out to be Monday’s front-page headline. “

“But one of my fondest memories is of the World Series cricket match at the Albury Sportsground, between the West Indies and Australia, early in 1977.”

“Because World Series was only in its infancy, I got to sit in the Secretary’s Office, and every 20 minutes or so, had to send a report to Australian Associated Press, which went nation-wide……It was one of the best games of cricket you’d wish to see…….Martin Kent made a terrific 100; Roy Fredericks was at his irresistible-best, and also finished with a ton.”

“There was a huge crowd……Australia made 270, and the Windies finished with 250-odd……..With blokes like Roberts, Garner and Holding in full flight, the fans sure got their money’s worth…..”

“I had the privilege of witnessing another fantastic game when Zimbabwe caused the major upset of the World Cup by knocking off England at Lavington…Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham was at the height of his powers at that stage, but even he was unable to curtail Zimbabwe, who had the crowd right behind them.

“I think our headline was: ‘Tiger tweaks the Lion’s tail’………..

Mark says it was a delight to mingle with all of local sport’s personalities, but his favourite was Walla Walla’s own – Des Kennedy.

“Des was the Postmaster at Walla, but everyone acknowledged that his equally-important role was to keep his finger on the pulse of all sport in the area…….His tentacles spread throughout the Southern Riverina……….He was the ultimate powerbroker……a fanatic….a legend……”

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When I press him to pluck out his favourite personal highlight, Mark casts his mind back 40-odd years to an unlikely circumstance…….. the night a team of minnows sent shock-waves through Wangaratta Basketball .

But first, here’s a bit of background……..

In the mid-seventies a newly-elected administration pushed to streamline the WDBA by insisting on the formation of Clubs, rather than having an array of randomly-assembled teams competing in single grades of the Association.

Whereas earlier-on, teams with a strong football background, such as Rovers, Wangaratta and Myrtleford had been dominant, new, well-structured clubs such as YMCA Lakers, Gotsims, Pacers and Hustlers, became the power teams of the new era.

An incident which possibly sparked the ‘new direction’ came at the culmination of the ‘71/72 summer competition, when Rovers were scheduled to meet Wangaratta.

As several of the Rovers players were involved in a footy practice match that afternoon ( against North Melbourne ) and an official Function had been planned for the evening, it clashed with the eagerly-anticipated Basketball Grand Final.

The Hawks, whose team consisted of players such as Mick Nolan, Roley Marklew, Phil ‘Doc’ Doherty, Mick Brenia, Rick Sullivan and Neville Hogan, asked for the game to be deferred……..Instead, it was awarded to the Pies on a forfeit. Their key players: Ian Moscrop, John Blackwell, Russell Stone, Geoff Rosenow and Robert Hill celebrated accordingly………..

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I’ll let Mark take up the story:

“ Ettamogah was one of those aforesaid, ‘hotch-potch’ clubs. It was originally cobbled together by a few mates as an excuse to enjoy a beer and keep fit for footy………The name was derived from that fictional pub, made famous by Ken Maynard’s cartoons in the Australia Post magazine. It’s claimed that Ettamogah is an old Polynesian expression, meaning ‘Have a Drink’ .”

“They originally started with just the one team, but with pressure coming to bear from the Association, were obliged to expand…….No-one wanted to be involved in organising things, so Harry McKenzie – a long-time local – decided to become President and run the show.”

“He managed to get a Men’s A-Reserve, a B-Grade, and a Women’s team up and running.”

“And that’s how, in the winter of 1977, Ettamogah won three flags, against overwhelming odds…..”

“The Women’s team, which included Jackie O’Brien, Jan Dyer, Diane Simmonds, Maureen Walker, Sue Thomas, Jenny Turk, Sue Phillips

and Tracy Bromilow, won the first premiership of the evening…………”

“The B-Grade Men’s team were scheduled to play Northerners on the main court soon afterwards, and were rank underdogs. Their side reads like a ‘who’s who’ of old local characters…..Convivial types such as Rodney ‘Danky’ Dalton, Mick Malone, Billy and ‘Ab’ O’Brien, John ‘Bluey’ Phillips’, ‘Butch’ and Johnny West, Kevin Clayton, John O’Brien and Terry Flynn.”

“Northerners, who numbered Billy Muncey, ‘Ginger’ Tippett, Mal Patrick and Jack Clayton in their ranks, had finished on top of the ladder, and were red-hot favourites.”

“But Ettamogah came from behind to win by a couple of points in a major upset.”

“I was living in Walla at this stage, and although my previous affiliation was with A-Grade team YMCA Lakers, I travelled down each week to play with Ettamogah, in A-Reserve.”

“We won the last game of the regular season to scrape into the finals, but were given no hope of graduating past the first week of the finals……But we won the First Semi and shocked many with a Preliminary Final win.”

“Our side: John Michelini, Jeff Doherty, Pat and Eddie Flynn, Harry McKenzie, Mick Smith, Alan Crawford and myself, lined up against a Myrtleford side which were at unbackable odds……Everyone predicted it would be a mere formality and the margin would be significant.”

“I had to play footy for Walla, at Howlong, before travelling down…….likewise ‘Big Micka’ and Eddie played footy, then fronted up.”

“ ‘Red’ Malone and the competition’s B & F John Considine ran hot early for the Saints. Considine was shooting goals at random, from the side of the court, and drawing fouls……..I got our blokes to wave their hands in front of his face to block his vision, and he started missing.”

“We led at half-time and went on to win by double figures……Mick Smith and I got 35 points between us, with Mick scoring 18.”

“The packed Grandstand was in disbelief, and when it became obvious that we were going to win, started cheering loudly, and gave us a huge ovation…………..even our blokes couldn’t believe the game had panne out the way it did….”

“The celebrations, at the Lawn Tennis Clubrooms, lasted until the wee hours of the following morning……but sadly, quite a few of the participants have now passed on.”

“I played a lot of basketball in Wangaratta, Wodonga and Albury, but still regard this as the most satisfying victory I was a part of, mainly because of the considerable hurdles we had to overcome……..” says the old Journo…….

Footnote: Ettamogah continued on for three or four further years, without ever scaling the same great heights. After several players, bowing to the passage of time, retired, the Club disbanded…..

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