‘THE OLD FOOTBALL SAGE…’

It’s 1958…….. Wangaratta Rovers have assembled a classy line-up, which is on the verge of premiership glory…….

Attention focuses on Bobby Rose, the champ wearing the Brown and Gold Number 1 guernsey, who has guided the Hawks from irrelevance to become an O & M power.

Undeniably, ‘Mr.Football’ is the ‘leader of the band’ ……….but who’s the venerable gentleman in the suit and tie, with whom he intently confers at the breaks………and who studiously follows play from the Rovers’ bench……

Someone says: “Oh, that’s Ben Ward, ‘Rosey’s’ right-hand man………”

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We slide back through the pages of history – more than a century in fact – to trace the career of this old football sage, who was born in Myrtleford, and raised on a dairy farm at Meadow Creek, roughly 10km from Moyhu……..

When Ovens and King football resumed in 1919, after the Great War’s intervention, he was among the many untried kids who lined up with the Green and Golds. Strong, courageous, and a born leader, he became Moyhu’s nominal skipper the following season, aged 20.

Wangaratta and Eldorado were the dominant O & K teams of this early-20’s , but Moyhu were constantly nipping at their heels.

Wang’s elevation to Ovens and Murray ranks in 1922 saw them cast their recruiting net throughout the district. Ben Ward, who had starred against them, was among the first to be approached.

The boy from Meadow Creek could scarcely have envisaged that his arrival at the Showgrounds would be the precursor to ten Grand Final appearances in thirteen years.

In four of the five in which he was involved with Wangaratta, their opponents were Albury’s powerhouse combination, St.Patrick’s. An intense rivalry developed from the initial clashes between the two Clubs, and reached epic – and probably unhealthy – proportions.

No wonder. The ‘Pies were decidedly unlucky in 1922. They held out their fast-finishing opponents by a goal in the Final. St.Patrick’s, as Minor Premiers, exercised their right to challenge, and the two teams tangled again the following week. This time the ‘Greens’ prevailed by four points – 6.9 to 5.13.

When brilliant Footscray small man Matt O’Donoghue took over the coaching reins in 1923, he was so impressed with the tactical nous and leadership qualities of the rising 23 year-old Ward that he installed him as his vice-captain.

St.Patrick’s’ narrow ascendancy continued when they got up by a goal in sloppy conditions at the Albury Showgrounds. For the return, Round 11 clash, minor league games were cancelled, to enable people to head in to Wangaratta.

And they came from everywhere. Three trains ran from Albury and Myrtleford, and a crowd of over 5,000 paid £183.10/- ( a North-East record) to witness another classic.

‘O’Donoghue, Ward, Martin Moloney and Jim ‘Coco’ Boyd were Wangaratta’s best, but St.Patrick’s sneaked home by 5 points in one of the finest games ever witnessed’, according to the match summary. In assessing the contest the ‘Chronicle’ scribe drily commented that: ‘..This Wangaratta side is a good one. It should be good. It has cost a lot of money………’

After falling short in three straight Grand Finals, Wangaratta had become close to paranoid about bridging the gap to St.Pat’s, who had now collected four flags on the trot.

But luck’s a fortune……..The Postal Department had scheduled the construction of new lines through the Wangaratta district, and many jobs were created….. And, if you happened to be a handy footballer you were a fair chance to land a job on this project.

With several high-profile recruits and a new coach – former Collingwood champion ruckman Percy ‘Oily’ Rowe – hopes were high that the ‘Pies would land their first-ever O & M flag in 1925.

As the side resembled something of a ‘foreign legion’, it was crucial for the local players to maintain a presence. Rowe ensured that the popular, resilient Ward retained the deputy-leadership.

The ‘Pies drew the opening match of the season with Hume Weir ( 12.11 apiece ), then embarked on an unbeaten run to the finals.

The hotly-fancied St.Patrick’s surprisingly imploded in successive finals, leaving Wangaratta and Hume Weir to fight out the ‘Big One’.

After the Weir had raced away to an early lead Wangaratta had the game in their keeping at three quarter-time, and cruised home, to win 10.11 to 7.8.

Wangaratta retained most of their premiership line-up in 1926 and continued the tussle with St.Patrick’s for league supremacy.

They finished the home and away games in second position, but just before the finals, eight members of the side lost their jobs due to the completion of work on the telephone lines .

A public meeting was held to attempt to keep them around but this setback seemed to have an unsettling effect on the players’ morale and led to what became known as ‘The Bust-Up’.

The Magpies reached the Grand Final easily enough and tangled with old foes St.Patrick’s, who had exercised their right of challenge as minor premiers, after dropping an earlier final.

Wangaratta were annihilated – 18.20 to a meagre 6.9…………….

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Legend has it that certain players laid down……that money had allegedly changed hands in the Council Club Hotel during the week of the game…..that things blew up and a fight broke out on the train, as the team returned from Corowa.

This claim was hotly refuted. Many people believed that the inability of the out-of-work players to train regularly with the team contributed to the dramatic capitulation.

Whatever the case, the Magpies’ magnificent era was over, and the cream of this star-studded side headed off into the sunset.

Ben Ward, who had played such a significant role in keeping things together, returned to his spiritual home, taking over as coach in 1928.

He’d been just a nipper when Moyhu pulled off a hat-trick of flags two decades earlier, but fate decreed that Ben was to lead them through another Golden Era.

By 1929 they had assembled a crackerjack line-up, which included seven Johnston’s ( Terry, Jim,’Spot’, ‘Pos’, ‘Skin’, Jack and Eric ), four O’Brien’s ( Bill, Jack, Maurice and Larry) and two Flanigan’s

But their dominant season threatened to be railroaded in the Grand Final, despite establishing a 10.11 to 5.10 lead over Myrtleford at three-quarter time. Their opponents bounced back to draw level after booting four unanswered goals early in the last. Two rushed behinds in the frenetic dying moments enabled Moyhu to scramble home.

The O & K Premiers challenged an almost full-strength O & M finalist, Wangaratta, the following week and clinched a great contest by five points. To complete the almost-perfect season, they also defeated Benalla to lay, with some justification, claim to be the North-East’s leading club.

After another fine season the absence of Eric and ‘Spot’ Johnston through suspension cast a cloud over Moyhu’s 1930 Finals prospects. Beechworth outpointed them in the Final, but as the Minor Premiers, Moyhu exercised the right of Challenge and turned the tables the following week.

Another flag came their way in 1933 when they resisted a strong Myrtleford side, to win by 32 points.

“Moyhu repeatedly outpaced the Blues,” the Chronicle reported . “Their turn of speed was reminiscent of their style a couple of years back…. Both teams were well led……Jack Mahoney is younger and more spectacular than Ben Ward, but Ben does a lot of work that goes unnoticed……”

Then Moyhu put the icing on the cake in 1934, with their fourth title in six years. Myrtleford were again their victims in a thriller. Considerable friction had developed between the arch rivals in a lead-up match, when spectators rushed onto the ground after an incident, and adopted threatening attitudes.

“……This match was played at high tension and weight was freely used throughout,” was the summary. “The Moyhu team has been built up mostly of local boys, with the addition of school-teachers, and several players from Myrrhee and Greta.”

“Their win is another tribute to Ben Ward – the best captain in the competition…….”

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The old warrior finally hung up the boots in 1936, when he damaged a knee. Two years later, though, he sustained much more severe injuries when he was helping to quell a fire outbreak near Greta.

As captain of the Moyhu Fire Brigade he was travelling in a truck which stalled whilst rushing water tanks and a pump to the fire. Badly burned, he continued to pump water on to the Truck, extinguished the flames, then rejoined his men at the main outbreak………

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The coaching career of Ben Ward was over………in his opinion, anyway ……..until Moyhu came calling again on the eve of the 1947 season.

The incumbent, Mick Dalton, was reluctant to do the job, and expressed his concern to star player Jim Corker: “I don’t like to put pressure on Ben to take it on. Would you mind asking him, Jimmy ?”

So began the campaign to a most unlikely O & K flag.

At the conclusion of the home-and-away rounds Moyhu were in fifth position; out of the finals on percentage. But, in a sensational development, top team Myrtleford were stripped of several games for playing an unregistered youngster.

They were ruled out of the finals and Moyhu found themselves contesting the First Semi. Far too slick for King Valley, they won going away, by three goals.

The Preliminary Final against Greta was a dramatic affair; in the balance until the dying moments, when a free kick – and goal – to Cyril Corker, clinched Moyhu’s berth in the Grand Final, against Milawa.

Wayward kicking prevented the Demons from stitching up the Flag. The form of the Gardner brothers, particularly Jock ( who was best afield ), gave them the ascendency , But they were unable to shake off the persistent Moyhu, who had the better of the play at ground level,

In another terrific finish, Moyhu’s 14.9 gave them a five-point win over the errant Milawa ( 11.23 ). Ward lavished praise on his players: “We must be the smallest team to have won a premiership. But the boys were very determined…..”

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Ben Ward maintained his enthusiasm for football – and racing – until his passing, aged 75. His nine kids produced several offspring who followed his footsteps into O & K ranks.

The most recent was his grandson, Hall of Famer Gerard Nolan, a veteran of 250 games, who figured in four Moyhu Premierships in the latter part of a 25-year career.

His 10-goal haul in one of them, spearheaded the Hoppers to the 2005 flag, 86 years after ‘Old Ben’ took the first, tentative steps on his football journey…………

‘WHISPERS……’

This week-end, Wangaratta were scheduled to be meeting Wang. Rovers in what would have been a much-hyped O & M Round 15 at the W.J.Findlay Oval. Guest blogger Simone Kerwin laments the absence of ‘The Local Derby’………

I thought I heard a whisper carried on the breeze
As I wandered past those dual fields of play.
I’m sure it was a whisper…it can’t have been the trees,
As it echoed my thoughts on a winter Saturday.

It spoke of generations past, and all that they had meant,
Of mateship, rivals, battles, triumph, losses they had dealt;
Of pies, thermos, convivial beers, and crowds that came and went;
And those who tended needs to honour passion deeply felt.

For while this flurry of action should now be at full tilt,
A global shift had brought a halt to the usual reverie.
So it came as no surprise, expressed in that breeze-carried lilt,
That the quiet now descended sparked melancholy.

Of communities now separated by length of arm
And masked to stem an evil, rampant disease,
To keep the vulnerable – and all – safe from harm
While they did their best to heed their leaders’ pleas.

I walked a lap of both ovals and offered a listening ear
To the second homes adored by the sporting swell.
Then I whispered back, by way of assuaging any fear,
Assuring the surrounds all one day soon would be well.

They will come, as a wise scribe once famously said,
As they have in this sporting city’s decades past,
To worship ’round the turf their heroes will again tread.
And toil to hoist that flag atop the mast.

Then a ray of sun splashed across my walking path,
A light that could indeed have been the land’s reply,
With gratitude for wishes and prayers I’d heard and held.
Until we meet again, it said, and settled down to lie

As leaves tumbled across the grass in place of the ball,
The winter breeze lamented the absence of the game,
And pondered when it might return with all connected thrall
To bring some smiles and somehow ease the pain

In a strange kind of hibernation, heartened by the hope
Instilled by someone harbouring a dream
That ‘one day soon’ is not far along the slippery slope
On these days of uncertainty it can sometimes seem.

‘HENERS’ – SCHOOLBOY CHAMP TO COUNTRY FOOTY ICON……

The old champ has just turned 36…..The finish-line is starting to loom large on his stellar footy career …..The dreaded ‘R-word’ even crosses his mind….But can he possibly eke out another season from his aching body, and maybe, just maybe…..get to savour the one thing that’s eluded him – premiership glory.

The newly-appointed coach ( to whom he’s just handed the reins ) re-assures him: “Keep fit…..and we’ll see you in March.”

Two years later, he retires – to the acclaim of an appreciative football public – as a dual-Premiership player……….

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There’s hardly a more respected figure in Ovens and Murray circles than Jon Henry. As a player he was a Rolls-Royce – capable of performing at either end of the ground with equal-proficiency……. A celebrated goal-kicker who admits that centre half back was probably his favourite ‘possy’ .

His role in transforming a Wangaratta side – which plumbed the depths of six successive wooden-spoons, faced near-oblivion, then ascended to the top – is one of local footy’s Cinderella stories.

But of equal significance is his universally-recognised standing as a ‘quality bloke’……..

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‘Heners’ hails from Kamarah – 20km west of Ardlethan, 60km north of Narrandera, 12km east of Moombooldool.

At first thought you’d anticipate living on a 3000-acre Sheep and Wheat property in this outpost of Central Riverina would throw up a few obstacles for a ‘sporty’ kid, mad on his footy and cricket.

But his dad Bob, who captained NSW Country as a keeper-batsman against touring West Indies and MCC teams, and played footy with the Ardlethan Stars, gave him every opportunity.

“As a kid, Bob spent hours throwing cricket balls to me,” Jon recalls. “And we’d always follow Ardlethan in the footy, first in the South-West, then the Riverina League.”

“There was a Tin Mine in Ardlethan, and that’s where a lot of the football imports from down south were handed a job. One of my early memories was of Kevin Grose, a big, muscly, tattooed fellah who arrived as a coach, from Collingwood, via North Heidelberg.”

Bob Henry had completed his schooling at Scot’s in Sydney and the family were big on education. Considering that they were a fair way from anywhere, it was a given that the three Henry kids would attend Boarding School.

Bob had watched a young Rod Coelli star for Ardlethan on one of his visits home from Kilmore’s Assumption College. He’d also closely followed the career of Neale Daniher, who was from nearby Ungarie, and is one of ACK’s finest products.

So he regarded it as a great fit for Jon to spend the remainder of his schooling at the famous sporting nursery.

“It’s ironic, harking back, considering Neale’s very public health battles, that Bob and my auntie Margaret (Mum’s sister) also passed away after long battles with Motor Neurone-linked illnesses,” Jon says.

He concedes that the regimentation of Boarding-School took a bit of adapting to after the laid-back lifestyle of the farm. But he grew to love it, and established friendships with many kids who have become his best mates.

Assumption was to be his home-away-from-home for six years, but Jon did manage to fit in a couple of matches with Ardlethan.

“I haven’t got great memories of the first of them. I was 15. It was my senior debut, and Ardlethan’s final match in the South-West League; a miserable, wet day at Marrar Oval, Wagga, and I was knocked out by one of the Carroll boys.”

Renowned sporting guru Ray Carroll ( no relation ) had a massive influence on Jon through the latter part of his time at ACK.

“Ray was a very intense coach,” he says. “What he instilled in you was loyalty, not letting the jumper, or your mates, down. His style worked because he had kids for two – or three – years at the most.”

Jon had played most of his junior footy in defence, but in Year 11 Carroll swung him up forward. It proved a master-stroke. Assumption went on to win successive Herald-Sun Shields, losing just one game in two years.

In his final year he sat on a season-tally of 191 goals going into the final game, at Parade College. He booted 10, to give him the double-century in just on 30 matches.

He reckons his best win in footy came at the Junction Oval that year. “We played Melbourne High, which had 14 AFL-listed players, including Andy Lovell, Matty Knights and Steven Tingay. We got up, in the wet, by six points. It was a ripper.”

Jon captained Assumption in both football and cricket, and was named in their Cricket Team of the Century two years ago.

Besides leading them to the APS footy crown in 1988, he also captained them to the cricket flag, against Mentone Grammar.

“We’d had a really good side the year before, but Mentone knocked us off. Their skipper was a kid called Shane Warne. He was a ‘lad’, even back then, and I had a bit to do with him; played in APS rep sides with him.”

“The last time we spoke was at Melbourne Airport. We were just starting to make our way in our respective sporting journeys. He was heading over to have a crack at County cricket; I was off to Brisbane to play footy. We hung out for a while and my parting words were: ‘Well, see ya mate. Hope things turn out okay for you.’…… The rest is history……..”

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The Sydney Swans had access to country NSW recruits in the eighties. To their detriment, particularly with stars like John Longmire and Wayne Carey, they sold off some of their talent to rival, scavenging clubs.

They negotiated to ship Jon Henry to Carlton.

So the boy from Assumption lined up in the summer of 1989, to try his luck with the Blues – and play District cricket.

He recalls the solitary First X1 District game he managed among the 20 or so Seconds matches he played for Carlton.

“ I was listed as an emergency for a Cup-Day game against Footscray. They said: ‘Just show your face before the match; we don’t think we’ll need you.’ I took that literally. My mates and I had hardly any sleep, and were intending to duck off to the Cup meeting.”

“I walked into Princes Park and the coach, Steve Cashen, said: ‘Mate, the flu’s gone through us. You’ll have to play.’ So here I am, four hours later, with a big head, facing Test paceman Tony Dodemaide….hooping the ball on a green-top.”…..”I only made a couple, and never got another opportunity……”

Jon enjoyed his two years of football at Carlton, despite missing senior selection. He got to play with a few of the stars from the Golden Era, like Buckley and Hunter ( with Rod Ashman as coach ) who were in their final year, and formed a strong Seconds side.

The Brisbane Bears then picked him up in the 1991 pre-season draft, where he renewed acquaintances with Robert Walls, who had been in charge when he first lobbed at Carlton.

“Hard man, Wallsy,” was his assessment of the decorated four-club coach. “He rode me hard, but then, he was tough on everyone.”

Jon had arrived late for the pre-season and experienced a rough run with injury, playing just eight Reserves games – and a handful with their feeder club, Southport.

He moved back to the farm at the end of that season, having now passed up on his AFL dream.

Throwing himself into a full summer of cricket – on the turf in Wagga on Saturdays and Creet Cup matches with Ardlethan/Barellan on Sundays – he was rewarded with NSW Country selection at the National Carnival.

But a close friendship with an old Assumption mate, Damien O’Keefe saw him land in Wangaratta, soon after………….

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Jon admits he struggled early on with the ‘Pies. It was possibly a matter of adapting to O & M footy. But in mid-season he was plonked in front of the big sticks and proceeded to raise eyebrows.

He surged up the goalkicking ladder, with several big hauls, including bags of 15 and 12, and, with 88 goals, took out the 1992 Doug Strang Medal.

The following year, the enigmatic, theatrical Brian Walsh guided Wang to within a kick of the Grand Final.

“It was a huge disappointment, because a lot of the blokes we had, like ‘Chimpy’, Robbie Richards, ’Keiry’ and ‘Crimmo’ had been around for quite a while and never got to play in a ‘Granny’. That hurt ‘em. I felt some responsibility for it because I missed late goals and kicked 2.5 in the Prelim.”

“I always felt I owed the Club after that. It was probably the catalyst for me heading back years later .”

Jon had been a regular O & M rep in his four years at Wang. Despite his footy success, one of his reasons for coming to Wangaratta was to attempt to join the Fire Brigade. He had two cracks at it but fell short.

He decided to head overseas in ‘96, and upon his return, began a Drafting Course in Melbourne. East Ringwood became his new club.

His three years at East, he believes, gave him a great lead-in to be a playing-coach. “They were no tougher at the ball than in the O & M, but there was a lot more off-the-ball stuff,” he says.

He learned heaps off his assistant- coach David Banfield. “He was the first guy that really challenged me. He was all about the team: ‘What are you doing to make others better ?’ he’d say. He prompted me to think about the game completely differently. And I learned to take on feedback”

“Sometimes you’re lucky to come across the right person at the right time……..

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East Ringwood were loath to lose the man who, in three brilliant seasons, had made such an impression that he was selected in their ‘Team of the Half-Century’.

But he was headed back to Wangaratta, principally for employment as a Civil Draftsman, but also to help the revive the spirits of his old Club, which had fallen on hard times.

Appointed Assistant-Coach to Col McClounan, they were unable to stem the bleeding in the first two years, as they won just four games.

‘Heners’ was handed the ‘Poison Chalice’ when he took over the coaching job in 2002 – the ‘Pies’ ninth leader in eleven years.

They’d had a good scout around, but decided to appoint Henry. The clincher for Jon was that he was a great mate of Jason Lappin, who was looking to move back to the ‘bush’.

“ ‘Lappo’ had the name, was also a great player, and had a few contacts; players like key forward Damian Lang and a few others,” John says.

In his first year as coach there was slight improvement, but another wooden-spoon ( the sixth-straight) lobbed at the Norm Minns Oval.

“But we slowly started to gather the core of a solid senior group around us. We also landed Leigh Symons, ‘Boofa’ Carmody and Matt Byers in the first couple of years.”

The Henry philosophy on coaching is that the bloke in charge is important, but it’s equally-crucial to have six or so good senior players who are ‘fair dinkum, train hard and are on the same page’.

“That’s the key. They have the biggest influence on the younger players. When the disappointments come, they’re the blokes who get out on the track, train harder, drive the group and don’t make excuses. That builds your culture.”

He concedes that being an O & M playing-coach was a massive commitment, and challenge.

“There were people at Wangaratta, like Peter Whittlesea and Russell Canning who did heaps of work off-field in those hard times…Then Paul Challman came on board……….”

“But one of the biggest game-changers for us, recruiting wise, was when Jon McCormick came home from Carlton in 2005. He’s the best that I’ve played with outside the AFL.”

“I remember when he did his knee in front of the Grandstand that year. I turned around, saw him, and my heart sank……Even without him, we played in a Prelim….won our first final in 12 years.”

McCormick missed all of the next season, Henry’s last in charge. He’d decided earlier in the year that it was time to hand over the reins. Jason Lappin was his logical successor.

‘Heners’ had always loved training, but says, as a coach you don’t always get to enjoy it, because you’re organising things.

“Robbie Richards, one of my confidantes, told me: ‘The most enjoyable year I had was the year after I stopped coaching.’ I took that on board.”

“That’s when ‘Lappo’ said: ‘I’ll see you in March.’ Best advice I’ve ever got.”

So, over the next two seasons, Jon Henry went along for the ride. He became a key ingredient, possibly the inspiration, in triumphant Magpie sides which swept to successive flags – a 51-point win over North Albury in 2007 and a 32-point triumph against Lavington in 2008.

He retired with 210 games and 448 goals to his name in the Black and White guernsey and was inducted to the O & M’s Hall of Fame in 2016.

He has continued to help the Magpies in any way he can, either as Senior Runner, working the Bench, and just being around the place.

His daughters, Ella, Jessie and Rose play Netball with Wang, and his wife Paula is a keen follower of the Club.

The four-time Inter-League co-coach fulfilled another ambition when he was accepted into the Fire Brigade in 2010.

“I was rapt. In a lot of ways it’s good that I missed out the first time I applied, as I wouldn’t have been able to coach,” he says.

“Things just panned out nicely………….”

‘BUSH BOY REFLECTS ON A LIFE OF SKIING…….’

(By Guest Blogger Simone Kerwin)

Dick Walpole was a teen-ager the first time he took a day-trip to the snow.

The experience left an indelible impression on the boy from the bush and culminated in him becoming a Winter Olympian in 1960.

His passion for skiing, and zest for imparting his considerable knowledge, recently earned him a Snow Australia Medal……..

The initiative, launched by the national body, recognises the achievements and careers of past ( and retiring ) athletes who represented Australia at the highest level of the sport.

Along with alpine skier Peter Brockhoff and nordic combined exponent Hal Nerdal, cross-country star Dick was honoured in the most recent batch of medal recipients ……….

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Dick’s going on 93, and spends his daylight hours pottering around the Whorouly South farm, where he has spent most of his life, and which is now operated by his son Paul. “My job is to keep an eye on the cattle. But I’m not a very hard-worker these days…. I’ve just about run out of gas.”

He casts his mind back to the day he was coaxed to join his cousin Roy on a day-trip to Mount St.Bernard. He was 16.

“We’d walked over to see the snow on the hills a few times before, but that was my first real experience of skiing,” he recalls.

His main previous sporting involvement had come through cycling and playing football with Whorouly. “Once I took up skiing, though, footy went on the back-burner.”

“My passion was ignited. From then on I became a regular visitor to the snowfields. We used to hire equipment from the Mount Buffalo Chalet……. then I started to make my own skis.”

“I loved the fresh air, the atmosphere and the scenery. I was always interested in geography, so I took particular note of the rivers and the terrain we were covering.”

Then he started racing. He tried downhill skiing at first, mainly because he hadn’t perfected how to turn.

He became enthusiastic about ski technique and physiology, soaking up whatever he could from books, and from some European instructors who had visited Australia.

“I was really interested in the Allais technique (developed by French Olympian Emile Allais, who is dubbed the ‘father of modern skiing’).”

“It doesn’t matter how fit you are, if your technique is not right, you’re in trouble,” Dick says.

Competing predominantly with the Myrtleford Ski Club, he also contested Wangaratta Club races, but skiing rules dictated that representatives from another Club were ineligible to win an event.

Wangaratta High School teacher Bruce Osbourne was also a major influence, and encouraged Dick to focus on cross-country skiing.”

“He was my mentor; an enthusiastic skier who was always encouraging me to take up that discipline.”

“We were at the National Championships in Tasmania, where I was competing in the Downhill and Slalom events for Victoria. I was going badly after slipping on some ice and losing my nerve.”

“I muttered something like: ‘If I had a pair of cross-country skis I’d go in that event’.”

“Bruce straightaway said: ‘Well, I’ve got some skis and boots’. So I competed in the Cross-Country and almost beat him. I finished fourth.”

In his pursuit for fitness Dick absorbed the philosophies of Franz Stampfl, a former skier, and one of the world’s leading athletics coaches, who pioneered the system of Interval Training. Stampfl guided many of the Australian athletes at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and also assisted Roger Bannister to the first-ever sub four-minute mile.

Dick eventually succeeded in his aim of running 5,000 metres in 15 minutes, and believed his fitness tuned his body for the rigours of skiing.

He went on to become Australia’s top Cross-Country skier, winning the National championships in 1958 and ‘59, which led to his selection for the 1960 Olympics.

He describes wearing the Australian blazer at the opening Ceremony for the Squaw Valley, California, Winter Olympics, and pulling on the National colours, as a humbling experience.

“Apart from competing with a North-East team against a Southern Province team in New Zealand, I’d never been outside Australia.”

“We were an insignificant skiing nation in those days, compared to the Europeans, and the conditions were completely foreign to what I’d grown up with.”

“For instance, our snow was so heavy you could only slide 12 feet. Over there, on that snow, you could slide three ski-lengths – about 18-20 feet. It took a lot of getting used to.”

Dick was the sole Australian representative in the Cross-Country event. The only previous cross-country Australian reps had been Bruce Haslingden and Cedric Sloane, who competed in the Oslo (Sweden) Olympics in 1952.

It was a huge step-up in class for the 32 year-old. He struck white-hot opposition from the Scandinavian contingent, and finished 51st in the 15km event, conducted at Kinney Creek Stadium, in Tacoma.

His attitude was to approach his Olympic event as a Time-Trial.

“My motto was that it didn’t matter what you were competing in, you just did the best you could. I reflect now that by regulating my power I could have done better, but it’s no use grumbling about it……..”

One of his main aims in his trip to the USA, he says, was to absorb as much knowledge as he could, then, on his return, assist local skiers and help to develop the region’s tracks.

“I wanted to get the most out of my time over there, and was conscious of my obligation to represent the Myrtleford Ski Club members and learn as much as I possibly could.”

“So I spent a lot of time coaching when I came back, as well as advising Event Co-Ordinators on course preparation.”

“That was one way of helping the Club out……..”

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After winning another Australian Cross-Country title on his return from the Olympics in the winter of 1960, a hip injury played havoc with Dick’s competitive skiing career.

“It was too dangerous, with my crook hip, to keep skiing. I decided if I went back on the mountain I’d probably catch the bug again.”

Even now, the Myrtleford Ski Club Life-Member and old champ baulks at the thought of returning to the scene of some of his former triumphs.

“My balance is gone….my eyesight is poor…..I’d be in real trouble….”

“I’m certainly happy to have made the friends I did through skiing. I don’t usually rave about my achievements, but I did what I set out to do – and I enjoyed doing it……..

‘WAGING WAR ON A RELENTLESS OPPONENT…..’

A weak sun has just started to peek through the heavy fog as I head down River Road, Tarrawingee on this ordinary July morning. “It’s not far past McCormick’s Bridge,” were my instructions, ” ……..on the left-hand side. You can’t miss it.”

Yes I can……. I’ve travelled too far. Luckily a young girl with a dog in tow, guides me back about 500 metres. There, she says, I’ll run into Terry Greaves………

The old fellah’s waiting on the front verandah and looks fitter than I anticipated…… “Been a lot worse, that’s for sure” he quips .

If you reckon 2020 has hurled one crisis after another at the community; what, with bushfires, Coronavirus and the resultant financial pressures, Terry can add a few more layers to that. We’ll broach the state of his health later, but for the moment, we start to unpack his long and winding footy career……….

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The Greaves clan ( five boys and two girls ) grew up on an 800-acre property between Goorambat and Benalla, where his dad, who’d had oodles of experience as a market-gardener, ran livestock and grew pumpkins and potatoes.

The boys all cut their footy teeth at Goorambat. “One of my brothers, Barry, ended up being a 200-gamer there. I was 17 when I played in the 1978 flag…And we won it again the next year. By then I reckoned it was time to give it a good crack at Benalla,” he says.

Terry had already done a couple of pre-seasons with the Demons without creating a huge impression. But he’d now developed well physically, and walked straight into the senior side.

Bill Sykes, the former Fitzroy star, had just taken over as coach from Brian Symes. “Sykesy was an old-fashioned coach…..suited me down to the ground……..He taught me to work hard……. He’d be too straight-down-the-line for blokes these days. They’d get upset.”

Benalla already had four 6’6”-plus ruckmen – Malcolm Ellis, Tim Llewellyn, Tim Symes and Terry’s brother Paul – so he was groomed as a centre half back. Even at 6’4” he had a good turn of pace and was a raking left-foot kick.

By 1985 he’d developed into one of the best defenders in the game. He took out the club’s Best and Fairest and polled 14 votes to finish equal third, just two votes shy of the Morris Medallist, Lavington’s Ralph Aalbers.

The Demons shaped as a genuine flag prospect as that season unfolded. Terry had represented the O & M at centre half back earlier in the year, and was a pillar of strength, but there were quite a few other ‘guns’ in a well-balanced side, coached by former Bomber Wayne Primmer.

They’d kicked 11.1 to half-time of the Qualifying Final, to lead Albury by 14 points, but faded in the last half.

The First Semi against the Rovers the following week, was a nail-biter. After holding a seven-point lead over the Hawks at three-quarter time, Benalla battled gamely to hang on but were overpowered in the dying minutes, falling short by five points.

According to Terry it was one Final that got away. “We’d recruited a bloke called Mick Horsburgh, another ‘giant’ from Collingwood, to boost our side that season. But he was taken apart by a young kid, Paul Bryce, who marked everything, and made the difference in the end.”

As meteoric as their rise up the ladder had been, Benalla tumbled to the bottom in 1986.

“Heather and I had just married and we were keen to get away for a bit of a change. A Benalla boy, Brian Symes was coaching A.C.T club Tuggeranong and convinced me to head up there. It wasn’t quite O & M standard, but nevertheless good footy. We made the Elimination Final and I finished runner-up in the B & F. But gee, it was cold,” Terry recalls.

After returning for another two seasons with Benalla he moved to the other side of town, as assistant-coach of All Blacks. It was assumed that he would step into the coaching role the following year, but the incumbent leader wasn’t keen to hang up the boots. So Terry pulled on the Red and White guernsey for another couple of seasons.

Then Violet Town dangled their coaching job in front of him. “A broken arm ruined my first season and we didn’t have a lot of success either year,” he says, “….but the coaching aspect of it was enjoyable………”

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Terry and Heather shifted to their superbly-located 170-acre property, within kicking distance of the Ovens River, where he could run his Murray Grey cattle. He began working at Brown Brothers, whilst undertaking an apprenticeship as a ‘Chippie’ at the age of 35.

“I had a short spell with Milawa, then returned to Benalla for their swan-song in the Ovens and Murray League, in 1997. It was a bit sad, really, that they decided to move over to the G.V. A lot of us old Demons still retain a strong attachment to the O & M.”

So, for Terry Greaves, veteran of 225 games, Team of the Century member and Benalla Life Member, it spelt the end of his active association with the Demons .

But he still felt there was some footy left in those ageing legs.

He decided to join his brother Paul at the Wang Rovers. “I’d actually rung Laurie Burt a good while earlier about joining the Hawks, but when it came to the crunch I couldn’t bear to play against Benalla,” he says.

It was planned to use his experience to help out a young Reserves side in 1998, but his form was strong enough to warrant a senior game. Aged 37, he became the Rovers’ oldest debutant, when he ran out against North Albury.

After interspersing some assistant-coaching at the Murray Bushrangers and an odd game with the Hawks in ‘99, Terry spent three seasons with Moyhu.

Then, when his brother Paul was appointed coach of North Wangaratta, he decided on a last hurrah as a player, barely missing a match throughout 2003-‘04.

“My body was pretty well buggered by then,” he says. As well it might be……He’d played just over 400 games and, but for a damaged knee, broken jaw, arm and sundry niggling ailments, would have chalked up plenty more.

Goorambat turned to him to guide them through their early, faltering years of O & K footy. He coached in 2010-‘11.

“It was a bit of a struggle, but no-one expected big things,” he says. “To be honest, we were out of our depth at that stage . But I was privileged to be able to help out my home club .”

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Terry’s original brush with ill-health came 12 years ago, when he had a melanoma removed from his shoulder.

“Thoughts of that came flashing back just before last Christmas, when I was putting up a fence for a mate in Melbourne. I had a bad pain in the middle of the night….so bad that I couldn’t finish the job,” he says.

“So the doctors started doing tests…X-Rays of the heart and chest. I kept going back for about four weeks……..I felt like a hypochondriac, because I’m not used to going to the doctors. Then I had a blood test and a lung X-Ray, and the cancer showed up there.”

His next step was to Oncology in Albury, for more X-Rays.

“I came home and started vomiting after lunch, then ended up in Wang Hospital for a week, and headed to Royal Melbourne for a bowel operation in mid-January.”

After his first treatment Terry was diagnosed with Grade 4 Melocstatic Melanoma.

He spent five out of the first seven weeks in Hospital, contracted pneumonia and had a brain seizure. The cancer just tore through his body, and was in the lungs, liver, bladder, bowel, brain and bones.

“They told me not too many get through Grade 4, and that I was extremely lucky I started the treatment, as I wouldn’t have lasted six weeks otherwise.”

“They started this treatment, Immunotherapy, and said I’d last till Christmas to start with, but now I’m in remission. Remarkably, the last scan showed that the tumours had gone. That means I could get 2-5 years, or even more.”

“It fixed Jarred Roughead……..I hope it’s done the job on me, too. I can’t praise the Albury-Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre enough.”

The only problem was that there were a lot of side-effects. Doctors had stopped his treatment because it was attacking his liver. He reckons he’s about 80 per cent fit physically and mentally.

“But that’s great because they say only 15 per cent of people who have the treatment get to remission. I’ve been blessed.”

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Terry is fighting his health battle in the same manner he played his footy……full-bore.

“The thing I cherished about football was the mateship. I loved the training and all the banter that went with playing the game…..Really enjoyed having a beer with the opposition after you’d been going hammer and tongs with them all afternoon.”

“Many of those same people have been contacting me recently and wishing me well. I really appreciate it….”