“THE FILO FILES……..”

Two kids, oblivious to their surroundings, are firing bullet-like passes at one another in the paddock adjoining a Castlemaine home…….

The taller lad looks a ‘natural’……..superbly-proportioned ……..the type silver-tongued recruiting gurus gush over, and instantaneously label a ‘generational player’….

The other boy’s a few months older, smaller, muscly, well co-ordinated, with sure hands….. such is the adroitness of his kicking, it’s difficult to ascertain which is his preferred foot……..

They play for opposing teams in the local Junior League….. Winter’s Flat and Campbell’s Creek………but they’re as thick as thieves, and will eventually re-unite to play with Bendigo Pioneers’ Under-age sides before they go their separate ways……….

Fast forward 17-18 years:

The taller bloke has evolved into a Brownlow Medallist, triple premiership player, and triple Norm Smith Medallist………one of football’s all-time greats…………..

His mate, Brodie Filo, has perveyed his footy skills over the length and breadth of the nation…….A four-time Medallist in three different Leagues…..a dynamic, will-o-the-wisp, ball-magnet with 360 senior games under his belt……and counting…...

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There’s no disputing the Filo footy pedigree…….

When Brodie’s father Derrick retired at 43, he’d chalked up over 450 senior games, four Best & Fairests, four Premierships, and the 1991 BFL Michelson Medal. Save for a season with Balranald, and several appearances with Carlton U.19’s and Reserves, he was content to confine his considerable talents to the Bendigo area.

“There’s not too many people you bump into who don’t know him,” Brodie says.

“He coached four Bendigo League clubs – Castlemaine, Kyneton, Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk….I’d describe him as a good, old-fashioned, basic coach………not too tactical…….but a terrific player….A roaming centreman who could go forward and kick goals….”

“He was born and bred in Castlemaine…..My Nan still lives in the house that Dad grew up in. He lives just up the road now……”

“I used to go to the footy with him all the time, pretty well……just became part of the clubs he was involved with….”

Brodie was 9 when he started playing Midget footy at Castlemaine; before moving on to Winter’s Flat, then Castlemaine Under 16’s. But he never got around to playing senior footy with his home-town club.

Derrick had landed a job with Blue Scope Steel in Bendigo, and was appointed playing-coach of Eaglehawk. So the youngster moved over to play with their Under 18’s.

The following season – 2007 – when he was just 17, he and a few of his mates forced their way into the senior side, as Eaglehawk – who hadn’t won a flag in 25 years – began their march towards a famous premiership.

“The team was comprised mostly of locals who had come through the Reserves and U.18’s……They went to school together, knocked around together, and had an unreal bond……I haven’t really experienced anything to compare with it at another Club….”

“Gisborne, who had won four of the last five flags, beat us by 100 points in the final round. We beat them by a goal in the second-Semi, then came from 3 goals down at three-quarter-time, kicking into the breeze in the last term, to win by two points……..It was an enormous win……and great to play in a flag alongside the old man…..”

Brodie spent a good portion of the following season playing TAC Cup with the Bendigo Pioneers.

“I was a bit of a loose cannon in those days,” he says. “Being involved with the Pioneers didn’t do much for me. It just didn’t feel like you were part of a real footy club. I preferred to be back at Eaglehawk, playing with my mates…….”

His suspension in a late-season Pioneers game in 2008 robbed him of the chance to return to Eaglehawk and share in their second successive flag. They held off a final-quarter charge from Golden Square, to win by six points……….

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Whilst Derrick was no doubt the biggest influence on his career, Brodie says his greatest fan was his ‘Pa’ – Sam.

“He was a big part of my life, and used to come to all of my games – from juniors right through – until his health started to deteriorate……He was a massive supporter of mine; a humble, quiet, 6’4” gentle giant……He grew up as part of a large Samoan family. They moved to New Zealand ( where Dad and his brother Shawn were born ) before settling over here.”

“Pa treated us all fantastic, but I was five years older than the next grand-kid, so I think he spoiled me a bit more than the others ……He passed away last year….”

Footy’s ingrained in the family; his brother ( on his mum Sue’s side ) Kane Farrell, is a classy 23 year-old left-footer, who has played 33 AFL games with Port Adelaide, whilst three younger Filo’s – Isaah (16), Noah (14) and Aidan (11) are coming through the ranks.

But they’ve only been able to catch fleeting glimpses of their older brother in action, since he began his football travels……..

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Brodie was 19, and still at Eaglehawk, when he played a starring role for Vic.Country against the VAFA, in a match that they clinched after the siren:

“A rep from Peel Thunder must have been watching, because their President, John Ditchburn got in touch and invited me over.”

“I hadn’t really been out of home before, and was still only a kid……..Peel are based at Mandurah – about an hour from Perth – so the place had a bit of a Bendigo feel to it…….Good weather and lifestyle……..But we were getting pumped by about 100 points every week……”

“The standard of footy was excellent, and it definitely set my career up, I guess…….In hindsight though, I should have stuck it out for another couple of years in the WAFL – or gone to the SANFL………”

Instead, he moved back east, to Koondrook-Barham, where he played for the next two years. His uncle, Shawn was coaching, and they lined up a job for him, stacking fruit boxes and driving a fork-lift.

He finished third in the competition B & F in his first year, and represented the Central Murray League and NSW-ACT.

But he’d become a touch disillusioned with football:

“ I’m very laid-back. If I’m not enjoying something I just won’t do it…..So I wasn’t going to play footy just for the sake of it….I was just going to kick back for the year”

Fortunately, he received a call from a long-serving Eaglehawk team-mate, Luke Dutton, inviting him back to the Two-Blues.

Over the next three years Filo enhanced his burgeoning reputation. He helped Eaglehawk into the finals in 2013, taking out the B & F ( “it was great to win one at my home club “). He represented the VCFL the following year, and in 2015 was added to an illustrious Honour Board, alongside his dad, as a winner of the BFL’s Michelson Medal.

Darwin beckoned soon after, and he began the first of his summer sabbaticals, stripping with the Nightcliff Tigers……..

He admits that the lifestyle in the sultry Far North was right down his alley:

“I was doing Solar Installations up there……I know it’s not much fun being on a roof most of the day when it’s as hot as hot…..But when you finish work there’s nothing better than settling down with a cold beer………. ”

Brodie’s become somewhat of an NTFL legend in the seven years he’s been travelling back and forth.

He stamped his mark on the competition in his first season, when he took out the League’s Nicholls Medal in 2015/16. Nightcliff had been starved of success for decades, and he was a key figure in their transformation into a power.

The Tigers swept to their first flag in 54 years in 2018/19 and completed the hat-trick two years later in the most dramatic of circumstances:

“I’ve never played in a game like it…..We were up by 40 points half-way through the second quarter…..With five minutes remaining we’d slumped to 4 goals down………Amidst a flurry of goals in the dying stages, we managed to tie the game…..”

“It went into over-time, and we won it by seven points……..The Nightcliff fans went crazy…..That’d probably be my biggest thrill in football…..”

Brodie took out his second Nicholls Medal in 2019/20, represented the NTFL against Glenelg the following year, and passed the 100-game mark for the Tigers last summer.

One of the highlights of NT footy, he says, is taking the 15-minute flight over to the Tiwi Islands to play the Bombers:

“They treat you like you’re Gary Ablett; they’re just nuts for their footy…..There might be a crowd of 700-odd, but you’d reckon there were 5,000 when they carry on after the Bombers have kicked a goal….”

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A friendship that had been forged with Shepparton United star Tim Looby in a Vic Country game was the catalyst for Brodie to head over to the Goulburn Valley League in 2016.

He was at the peak of his form, having picked up two League Medals within six months, and enjoyed another fine season, representing the GV and finishing runner-up to Looby in United’s B & F.

The Ovens & Murray League had long held an attraction, and when Daryn Cresswell messaged him in 2017 he jumped at an invitation to join a resurgent Wodonga Raiders :

“I hadn’t played under a coach with ‘Crezza’s’ CV…… So I ended up moving to Wodonga and worked with him……still do bits and pieces for him…….We’ve got an really good relationship, and I think in the two years I spent with him there ( in 2017-18 ) I played some of my best footy…..”

The Raiders looked a really strong contender in 2018. They had the Second Semi in their grasp…….until young Albury ruckman Brady Morton converted a free kick, with just 57 seconds remaining. The Tigers snatched victory by two points….

“That shattered us really, and we lost a bit of momentum,” he recalls .

“Wang ended up knocking us off by 6-7 goals in the Prelim………Then we drowned our sorrows on Mad Monday……”

He’d got a whisper that he was a chance to top the Morris Medal count that night, and was urged to go along. He wishes he could have his time over again…….

“I’d had quite a few, and when I left the stage after accepting the Medal, tripped on the step, fell on the floor and cut my hand.”

“They were a bit shitty on me …….I put my hand up for it and had to apologise, but there were a few who wanted to take the Medal off me……”

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He was still working for Cresswell, who, by now, (2019) had departed for the Wang Rovers, and had been succeeded by Jarrod Hodgkin.

“I was doing a job for Crezza up at Mollymook, on the NSW south coast, and had lost a bit of interest. I said to the Raiders: ‘Look, I’m not enjoying my footy. If I keep playing I’ll be wasting your time and mine……..I’m happy to sit out….or you can clear me back to Eaglehawk. Thankfully, they did…..”

A good mate Travis Matheson was now coaching the Borough, who went on to reach the Grand Final and fall just short of another flag. They finished mid-table last year.

Brodie was re-united with ‘Crezza’ at the Rovers this season, and has produced flashes of brilliance in his 13 games ……..His red-hot 27-possession game against Corowa-Rutherglen last Saturday was the catalyst for a stirring victory. Undoubtedly, if the Hawks can see the best of Filo for the remainder of the season, their finals prospects will be enhanced.

Retirement is still a long way off, and he sees no reason why he can’t pass the 500-game mark before hanging up the boots.

“I’ll go up and play another summer season in Darwin and then come back to the Rovers, I guess. ……….I enjoy it here,” says the little maestro……..

“WANGARATTA’S DES – ‘THE RACE-CALLER’S RACE-CALLER‘ “

The celebrity status that Bruce McAvaney has recently been accorded is welcome recognition of a genius who brings sport to life with accuracy and flair, from behind the microphone.

‘Bruce Almighty’ is a once-in-a-generation ‘caller’ who can readily adapt to many sports, but the recent era has also spawned such rich talent as Brian Taylor, Gerard Whateley, Anthony Hudson, Denis Cometti, Greg Miles, Matt Hill and Hamish McLaughlin………

Those of my ilk can throw up the names of Bert Bryant, Bill Collins, Geoff Mahoney, Johnny Tapp, Joe Brown, Harry Beitzel, Rex Hunt, Tim Lane, Clinton Grybas and Ron Casey……….

Wangaratta can lay claim to a gentleman who sits comfortably amongst those all-time great sportscasters ……

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Des Hoysted was born just on a century ago, into Victoria’s most famous racing family.

His father Wally was a successful jockey who rode more than 1,000 winners in a colourful 30-year career and, in his prime, was the number 1 jockey for Hoysted’s Stables …….

“He won a few Albury Gold Cups…..started as a jockey when he was 12 and won the first of his three Wang Cups a year later…..”” Des once recalled.

Wally participated in a dramatic train of events at Wagga races in 1916 which became part of country racing folklore.

He was on Silent Tress, owned by Wangaratta’s Arthur Callander, in the final race of the program…….In a neck-and-neck finish Silent Tress flashed over the line with highly-regarded Riverina horse, Eunona.

It was declared a dead-heat……Connections were given the option of sharing the prize-money or electing to have a re-run….Eunona’s owners, sensing that they had an edge, wanted a re-run…….Again they hit the line together…….Again the judges couldn’t seperate them….Another dad-heat was declared.

By now dusk had descended on the course…..the horses were exhausted……it was decided to divide the prize-money……

Des reflected on being at the races with his mother (Dimpna) and baby sister one day, when Wally crashed before their very eyes…….

“I think I was 6 and my sister Winifred was 4……The horses came down right on the finish line……..”

“The jockeys were just wearing cardboard re-inforced skull-caps…..They didn’t get smashed up all that much, but it was a shocking fall……Mum was horrified……I can still see it now….the scramble of horses and jockeys all over the place…..”

“That always stuck in my mind whenever I was calling all those years later…….I used to get a bit touchy and edgy whenever there was a fall…..”

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Des was never going to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I rode a bit, but I was always going to be too heavy…….There was no money in it, in that Depression era……Anyway Mum insisted I stick to my school-work…”.

But he had inherited the deeply-ingrained Hoysted fascination for racing……

The family home was situated just across the paddock from Hoysted’s Grey Street stables and he would pass through the stabling area to and from St.Patrick’s School each day.

In his pre-adolescent years of the early-thirties he was inspired by the voice of Eric Welch – the leading race-caller of the day – and acquired the knack of identifying race colours and names of horses and jockeys.

Using paints, he’d copy the colours onto pieces of cardboard, attach them to pencils, and call them as they rolled down a tilted table-top.

In the mid-30’s his uncle Fred trained a champion galloper called Valiant Chief, which became the object of his affection. To his delight Valiant Chief came to Wangaratta at the end of his racing career to be the resident stallion at Hoysted’s stud property.

“I used to ride him all the time,” Des recalled. “When I’d come home from school I’d coax him over to the fence, climb up on the rails and jump on his back….”

“I’d then do phantom calls at the top of my voice. I’d have Valiant Chief competing against all the champions……Of course, he’d always win……At the same time I would draw my knees up, and put my hands on the side of his neck, as if I was riding him to victory……You know that old bloke never turned a hair…….Maybe he still got a thrill out of winning ! “

“I’d listen to the race broadcasts on Dad’s powerful old wireless. He set up a 30-foot aerial and I tuned in to Ken Howard from Sydney, and frequently heard Lachie Melville on the ABC. There’s no doubt I thought the world of both men.”

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Des left school at 14 and gained employment as a Telegram boy at the Wangaratta Post Office. He was transferred to Melbourne two years later and boarded with his aunt at Moonee Ponds.

He’d previously written to Ken Howard, expressing his ambition to call races. By a quirk of fate, Howard had moved from Sydney to Melbourne and was calling a charity game of football at Richmond’s Punt Road Oval when Hoysted introduced himself.

Admiring his enthusiasm, Howard invited the lad to watch him call the races at Moonee Valley…..

But his ambitions had to be shelved for a while, with the onset of World War II. Three years after the cessation of hostilities he was back home for Christmas when he was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.

It was Boxing Day 1948, and his cousin Henry, who was the course broadcaster at Wodonga, called in sick…….An emergency replacement was required……….Would Des like to step in ?…….

He borrowed a pair of binoculars and proceeded to call the entire Wodonga Cup program…..

Fortunately, his call was heard by ABC radio’s Sports Editor Mel Morris, who was so impressed he appointed him as Joe Brown’s understudy.

He regarded it as an honour to work with Brown, who was one of the true gentlemen of racing. He was delighted to have the opportunity to relieve him when he went on holidays.

Des was enticed to Sydney’s 2GB in 1952, and was there for six and a half years before he became the central figure in an amazing swap.

Ken Howard was brought over from rival station 2UE to replace Hoysted………Just a few weeks later, Hoysted began calling for 2UE…..

For the next 24 years he gradually built his ratings and would reign supreme in latter years, as Sydney’s most listened-to race-caller.

“Ken Howard had been Mr.Racing…..I hadn’t been able to make any inroads into his audience.”

“But (2UE) gave me a free rein to do what I wanted….I was able to roast and criticise and say what I thought……That enabled me to improve my calling-style……Then the ratings came……

He recalled that this approach ruffled a few feathers, particularly among race officials and jockeys, but the listening audience appreciated his frankness……..It became the trademark of his calling for the remainder of his career.

Hoysted called 22 Melbourne Cups, but by far his toughest assignment was Van Der Hum’s win in 1976, after continued heavy rain had turned the course into a mud-heap.

In conditions which meant that ‘the jockeys’ mothers would have been hard-pressed to recognise them’, Van Der Hum, a wet-track specialist, held on to win. The favourite, Gold and Black was a length and a half behind.

One of the many highlights of his career was calling the AJC Derby, when his cousin Bob’s filly Rose of Kingston hit the front. He couldn’t resist egging her on with ‘Go Rosie, Go’, as she neared the post…..

There was no argument about the horse he most admired, even though he never got to call him in a race:

“I was standing outside Joe Brown’s box and watched Bernborough do the impossible, and win the Newmarket Handicap.”

“He was hot-favourite, but never appeared in the call, until he came from the outside and gobbled up a top field of sprinters…….You could hardly imagine that a horse could have gone so quickly…..He was 100/1 with 200 metres to go……And was all over them with 100 metres to go…..”

Des was forced to relinquish his calling duties at 2UE in 1983, because the company had a policy of compulsary retirement at 60.

“I was going pretty well, and felt I could have gone on for a couple of years…..My ratings were still good ….It was certainly an emotion-charged day…..”

But Des’s career continued, and encompassed stints at Sky Channel, Channel 10, as the on-course broadcaster for the Hawkesbury Race Club, and calling the Harold Park trots.

He recalled the night at Harold Park that an untidy-looking character knocked on the door of his broadcast box, high on the roof of the Grandstand.

“I was still on air, just wrapping-up a race, and the door was half-open……I turned around to see this bare-footed bloke, dressed in a check-shirt and ragged jeans……I’ll never forget him….he had a beard, long black hair and blazing eyes……”

“Anyway, I continued my on-air duties as he started to approach……’Can I help you, mate ?’ I asked. I suffered his breath as he uttered: ‘Excuse me, could you tell me where the shit-house is ?’ It went over the air as clear as a bell ! My reply was: ‘You’ve come to it.’….Needless to say, I promptly crossed back to the studio…..”

Fifty-three years after his debut behind the microphone, Des had his swansong call at a Fairfield Harness Meeting in 2001.

Des Hoysted, one of Wangaratta’s finest sporting exports, passed away in 2010, aged 88……

(With help from: John Tapp – Inside Racing)

” ‘I’LL BE A SAINT, TO BE SURE’…. SAID HANRAHAN………”

It was a red-letter moment for Frank Hanrahan, that early-January morning in 1956…….

The family had just arrived home from Sunday Mass when he noticed a big Yellow Plymouth sedan pull up outside their Kyneton residence………

A deputation from the St.Kilda Football Club – President Graham Huggins, and star players Alan Jeans and Jack McDonald – alighted, and began enquiring whether the young fellah might be interested in doing a pre-season with the Saints………

“That’s for sure. I’ll be down as soon as I can, “ Frank blurted, almost before Huggins had time to complete his salutations………..

At that moment, he envisioned, his boyhood dreams were on the verge of materialising……..

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Frank is derived from solid Irish stock…….” My forebears virtually lived on potatoes in the old country……..When things went bust they headed out here…….Mum’s family were Hart’s from Trentham…….Dad’s mob ran cattle and sheep at Reidsdale……….”

He was born and bred in Kyneton, where his dad Martin was a Cinema Projectionist….He attended the local Marist Brothers College…..

“It was one of the best things that happened to me, going there…..the discipline, their ability to teach…..they loved their sport…….it was all about footy in winter; cricket in summer……I loved it…..”

“The Brothers must have seen something in me because when I was about 16 they sent one of their ‘Recruiters’ around to ask if I’d consider becoming a Marist Brother……..I must admit I had a bit of an interest in it at the time……The Noviciate was only 20 minutes away, at Mount Macedon, so I thought: ‘I’ll give it a try……it might show a bit of a lead to some of the other boys who may be thinking of it…..”

“I lasted about three months, but it wasn’t for me……..I was too keen to play footy…….”

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Frank’s active involvement with the Kyneton Football Club began when he started running the boundary for the Reserves.

“Mum warned: ‘You’re not to play Seconds, because you’re too young’……But they were short of players when we went up to Golden Square one day, and they talked me into playing………I hurt my leg…..instead of my parents giving me a burst when I arrived home, they said: ‘Bugger it, you might as well keep going now…..”

Next year, aged 17, he lined up for his first senior game, on Bendigo’s spacious Queen Elizabeth Oval, opposed to Sandhurst’s highly-rated mid-fielder Brendan Edwards………..

They were to renew acquaintances in League ranks a couple of years later, but in the meantime, both came under attention for some eye-catching displays with their respective BFL clubs in 1955.

That’s what prompted the visit from the Saints, who’d been given the mail that, after one senior season, the lightly-built, 5’10”, 70kg Hanrahan was a likely prospect………….

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“I arrived down there at the same time as a few other boys from the bush……..(Alan) Killigrew had just been appointed coach…..He turned over a lot of the old list, and would jump in his car and drive around the country on recruiting trips…..”

“He got ‘Jeansy’ from Finley, Peter Clancy and Brian McCarthy from Yarrawonga……Geoff Feehan from Wodonga……..picked up Billy Young and Big Bill Stephenson from Sale, Eric Guy came from Carrum and Jimmy Guyatt from Maffra…….”

“ ‘Killer’ became famous for his ‘hot-gospelling’ speeches….That’s where the Saints got wind of him….they went up to see him coaching in a Ballarat League Grand Final and liked what they saw ……He brought Paul Dodd and John Mulrooney down from there as well………”

“We liked ‘Killer’; everyone respected him…..he helped put St.Kilda back on the map………But he wanted things done his way, and got into a bit of bother with the committee at times………..”

Frank found work as a junior clerk at the SEC (Transport Branch) at Fisherman’s Bend, for the meagre sum of two pounds seven and sixpence a week…..He was boarding at Moreland, and what little money he had would be gone by the end of the week.

“I don’t know how I ever lived in those days, but it didn’t matter……I was living my dream…….I loved it at St.Kilda…. the best three years of my life…..socially…. whichever way you look at it………”

“I formed some lasting friendships and became great mates with Clancy, McCarthy and Jeans..”

He played 17 senior matches with the Saints, interspersed with 45-odd Reserves appearances.

It was a massive thrill when he made his senior debut, on a wing, pitted against Essendon star Greg Sewell (who later coached him back at Kyneton)………But he just wasn’t consistent enough to command a regular spot……..

“My best run of form came towards the end of 1957…….I managed seven games on the trot on a back flank, alongside Eric Guy and Neil Roberts……I thought, gee this is terrific…..”

At the end of ‘58 he was gone from the Junction Oval…..

“A bloke called Norm McLeod had resigned as Secretary of St.Kilda and had become involved with Glen Waverley, in the Oakleigh & District League…….He obviously thought Peter Clancy and I were not going to kick on at St.Kilda, so he talked us into going with him…….”

Glen Waverley played off in Grand Finals in successive years; losing both of them to East Malvern………. Hanrahan’s direct mid-field opponent in each game was Tommy Hafey, who’d recently departed Richmond……..The games were as tight as they come…….

“We drew the 1959 Grand Final, and in the re-play they pipped us by a point……It was a tragedy from my viewpoint…….” Frank recalls.

“With seconds remaining I took hold of the ball just forward of centre…..had a bit of space……and launched into a drop-kick…….The centre half back just got his finger-tips to it and deflected it……”

“If I’d tried a punt kick I’m sure it would have cleared him and we’d have scored……..It still sticks in my mind, you know….”

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Frank’s health wasn’t all that flash, and he missed a bit of footy. He was working at Girton Tyre Service in the city when he decided to travel back each week to play at Kyneton in 1963.

It evolved into a brilliant season, in which he took out Kyneton’s B & F, and was selected to represent the Bendigo League in the Country Championships.

Rochester and Kyneton had ignited an intense rivalry over recent seasons, having met in three of the previous four Grand Finals.

The encounter in 1963 represented Frank’s best opportunity to clinch an elusive flag with his beloved Tigers.

But it wasn’t to be……..He picked up 24 possessions in a dominating display in the centre, but ‘Rochie’, guided by hard-hitting policeman Con O’Toole, proved too strong, as they ran away to win by 44 points.

Later that year, a Wodonga livestock agent, Mick Vague, was visiting family in Kyneton when he and Frank crossed paths.

“We were still pretty downhearted after the Grand Final loss, and I was a bit restless, so I asked Mick what sort of a place Wodonga was………I said I’d come over and play if they could line up a job……”

“The Club President, Bill Black, shot back a letter, inviting me to come up……Bill was the Manager of Bradford-Kendall Foundry at the time, and arranged employment there as a Safety Officer.”

“They teed up some board….it developed into a good job….and I played some pretty good footy….so it worked out well all-round……It’s hard to believe that, 58 years later, I’m still here…..”

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Hanrahan was one of a number of classy O & M mid-fielders in the mid-sixties. He says he keenly anticipated his battles with players of the calibre of Billy Gayfer, Neville Hogan, North Albury’s Bill Barton and Benalla champ Neil Hanlon.

“Hogan always gave me a bit of trouble……He’d just been announced as the 1966 Morris Medallist the week we met the Rovers in a First-Semi at Yarrawonga…..I said to Ron Harvey ( our coach) that he loomed as a threat: He said ‘Don’t worry, Frank, we’ve got full confidence in you’…”

“Hogan starred again, of course, but we were hanging onto a slender lead in the dying seconds that day, when Johnny Welch swooped on a loose ball on the wing, bounced it four times, evaded two of our fellahs, and kicked the winning goal…….”

That was one of Frank’s last games for the ‘Dogs……

“I’d been invited to a party out at Baranduda during the off-season……Half-way there I ran off the road, careered over a bank and missed a tree by a whisker…..Someone found me a few hours later and took me to Hospital….”

“They were all at me to come back, but I just wasn’t tuned in to playing again……I gave it away….” Instead, he watched on, as Mickey Bone’s Golden Era unfolded…….

He continued to play cricket, though, and was a member of the powerful Tower Cricket Club, sharing seven consecutive premierships with a side comprised mostly of Wodonga footy team-mates.

Then Wodonga Turf Club advertised for a Secretary, and Frank landed the job…….It was fulfilling, he says. Though he’s never been an avid punter, he’s always loved going to the races…… and meeting people.

His long-term service to the Race Club, as Secretary and later, as a Committeeman, was duly rewarded with Life Membership.

His involvement with the Sport of Kings also included 14 years as a Steward for the NEDRA…..That, and his business – as a distributor of Quell Fire-Fighting Equipment – meant that life was pretty full-on. But his strong alliance to the Wodonga Footy Club continued long after his retirement………..

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Thus, when John Perry was appointed coach of the ‘Dogs in 1977, Frank was prevailed upon to be his Assistant.

The return of favourite-son Perry elicited considerable excitement among their fans, but they were dumb-struck when he was badly injured in the season’s opening-round clash with Myrtleford.

It necessitated him spending the remainder of the year in hospital……..Suddenly, Hanrahan was thrust into the hot-spot as the replacement senior coach………….

Wodonga lost just four home-and-away games to finish second, and when they skarped to a 35- point lead over Wangaratta at half-time in the Prelim Final, a Grand Final berth beckoned……

Then they faltered……..the ‘Pies slammed on 7 goals to I in the third term, and, in a nail-biter, held on to clinch a five-point victory………

Chiltern came knocking in 1979, and appointed him non-playing coach…….

“(My wife) Helen’s a Chiltern girl, so I felt pretty comfortable there,” Frank says……”They were most welcoming……on the first training night Billy Peake, who hadn’t played for several years, arrived in a track-suit and said: ‘Do you mind if I lend a hand ?’…….From that day on Billy was my unofficial assistant-coach…….”

“We had 12 Lappins on the list and many of them were ‘guns’……Jock, who kicked 90-odd goals that year, was one of the most under-rated players I’ve seen.”

Chiltern were jumped by Milawa in the early stages of the Semi-Final that year, and couldn’t get back into the game…….

”That’ll do me,” Frank decided……..His coaching sojourn was over…….

Among the number of volunteer roles he’s take on since, he has been President, and a committee-member of the Association of Independent Retirees – an organisation which works to advance and protect the lifestyle of retirees.

But he has never lost his zest for footy……….or more particularly, the Wodonga Football Club in the six decades since he hung up his boots……..

You’ll still find him in a quiet spot, somewhere around Martin Park on match day, closely analysing the fortunes of his beloved Bulldogs……….

“THE KATAMATITE FARMER…….A COUNTRY SPORTING LEGEND…….”

Wangaratta’s Annual Australia Day Tennis Tournament has become a local institution since it first kicked off 96 years ago.

Some of the legendary names in the sport have trodden the grass courts of Merriwa Park in late January……..including Davis Cup luminaries Neale Fraser, Frank Sedgman, Rex Hartwig and George Worthington……..

A shy, prodigiously talented 13 year-old from Albury, Margaret Smith, once swept through the tournament to win the C-Grade Singles…………Five years later she collected the first of seven Australian Singles championships, en-route to taking out 24 Grand Slam Titles……..Of course, as Margaret Court she remains a celebrated ( somewhat controversial ) figure in the game.

Countless other talented visiting stars strutted their stuff…….. like Wayne Reid, Bob and Daryl Mark, cunning left-hander Jimmy Matthews, Brian Tobin….and Albury’s Wurtz brothers ( Ken and Rod ) who chalked up a staggering 16 Singles titles between them…….

There were a couple of other regular attendees who, in my growing-up years of the fifties, epitomised the strength of regional tennis – and rank highly among the North-East’s best-ever players……..

Bert Kearney hailed from Murchison; his great mate Pat O’Kane was Katamatite born-and-bred…………

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O’Kane, who passed away recently, was a fixture in the tiny town of Katamatite ( population just over 430 ) for all of his 96 years…….He is acclaimed as one of its greatest products.

Like most of his eight siblings, he was taught the rudiments of Tennis by his dad Maurice, on the town’s hard courts.

Honing his talent by belting thousands of tennis balls against a wall at the club, he was encouraged by Maurice to utilise both hands.

The ambidextrous O’Kane style sometimes disconcerted opponents as he began to rise through junior ranks………..they were unable to exploit a possible backhand weakness, as he would simply swap the racquet from right to left hand and play with equal proficiency.

Pat’s first foray to the Wangaratta tournament began in the late forties……..His cousin Gerald, the licensee of the Criterion Hotel ( a then-prominent establishment at the southern end of Murphy Street ) followed in his father’s footsteps by being heavily involved with the local club……He’d been a three-time Singles Champ…….

Pat, nine years his junior, relished the prospect of tangling with Gerald during the tournament……

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Pat O’Kane and Bert Kearney were the face of country tennis. The pair were fierce singles rivals and dominated Country Week during the post-war era. They met in many memorable matches, and formed a dynamic Doubles partnership.

One encounter – a Final at Kooyong – had been affected by rain and O’Kane convinced himself that the fluffed-up balls were suiting Kearney’s steady, baseline game…..

He approached the umpire, Mrs.Nell Hopman, for new balls, but when she answered in the negative, he belted them out of the court….and over the nearby railway line……

Mrs.Hopman had no option but to produce a new tin of balls…..Satisfied that he had triumphed in this ‘battle of wits’ , O’Kane went back to receive serve, only to notice Kearney dipping the new balls under a nearby tap…….

Pat O’Kane won eight Country Week singles titles, six inter-regional championships, and was seeded fifth in the Australian Hardcourt titles of 1952.

He played against many of the greats – including Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Neale Fraser – and reflected that he produced some of the best tennis of his career whilst lowering his colours to these champs.

Former Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman once wrote that O’Kane could have taken his game to another level had he been prepared to forego the farm and concentrate on tennis full-time…….But the pull of Katamatite was too strong for the dyed-in-the-wool cockie………

He toured overseas with Kearney and Mervyn Rose in 1958, contesting Wimbledon and the US, French and Italian Opens, besides several other tournaments in Europe and Ireland.

It was on this tour that he turned in what he regarded as one of his finest performances…….against one-time World Number One Neale Fraser, just five days after the left-hander had played off in the Wimbledon Final.

He took Fraser to three sets in Ireland’s Limerick Open, highlighted by Pat taking out a marathon second set, 11 games to 9……..As some consolation, he and Kearney were successful in the Doubles Championship.

O’Kane and the left-handed showman Mervyn Rose were first opposed in an Under 21 event at Bendigo. Rated Australia’s outstanding junior behind Frank Sedgman at the time, Rose was unperturbed when Pat accused him of cheating…..

He had shouted ‘Bad Luck’ a couple of times, after Pat passed him with seemingly obvious winners, which persuaded the umpire to call the points in Rose’s favour……

“You’ll never make the Davis Cup team by cheating, Merv,” O’Kane blurted……..”You want to bet ? “ was the reply….

The pair eventually became great friends, and Pat was on the sidelines, riding every shot, when Merv Rose took out the 1958 French Open.

O’Kane’s strong relationship with many of the top-ranking players resulted in him inviting some of them to compete in exhibition matches in regional areas.

A leather skipping rope remained his constant companion when playing tennis. It was one of his keep-fit exercises when playing, and he still continued to skip into his late eighties

In the latter part of his career, he contracted ‘tennis elbow’, which prompted him to curtail his tennis commitments, before a spinal injury, incurred whilst hay-carting in 1963, hastened his retirement from the game.

His contribution to tennis was acknowledged in 2000 when he received an Australian Sports Medal…….

O’Kane’s association with the Yarrawonga Football Club began when he was recruited from Tungamah.

A strong, high-marking forward, he later transferred to Numurkah for four years, where he played a key role in two premierships, before moving over to the Benalla-Tungamah League club Burramine, which his brother Brendan (‘Curly’) was coaching.

Another two flags followed, with O’Kane proving irresistible in front of the big sticks, once booting 31 goals in three games.

Melbourne invited him to play a handful of Reserves games at the time he was playing pennant tennis in the city…….But again, farm commitments were the barrier to him taking up the offer………

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Pat’s fascination with the ‘Sport of Kings’ began when he started pencilling for bookmaker Don McLean……….His keen eye for the punt was illustrated when he declared that 20/1 outsider Lord Fury would win the 1961 Melbourne Cup, despite having finished last in its lead-up race, the MacKinnon Stakes……… Lord Fury led from start to finish, and the winnings went towards building a new shearing shed at the O’Kane farm.

On the other side of the coin, his horse Little Princess was retired after beating just one horse home in 11 winless starts.

He did have particular success, as a part-owner of pacer Murray Mack which won more than 20 races, including a Sire’s Produce at the Melbourne Showgrounds.. ……..

Cycling was another of his great interests. One of his heroes was the legendary Sid Patterson, and he keenly followed the fortunes of his brother-in-law John Holgate, whose major success came when he won two Melbourne to Yarrawonga road races ……..

As a pro-athletics enthusiast, he rendered lengthy service to the iconic Burramine Gift program, and was bestowed Life Membership of the Sports Club………He was also on the Board of Directors of the Victorian Athletic League for a decade….

His annual pilgrimage to the Stawell Gift continued until his mid-eighties…….There was no one prouder at Central Park when Katamatite’s own Glenn Crawford greeted the judge in 1995.

Crawford won his Gift heat in convincing fashion, but had to survive an agonising five hours of deliberation after a protest was lodged by the stewards…….. O’Kane and John Carr (Pat’s best-man, and the 1957 Gift winner) represented the race-favourite at his appeal, culminating in the disqualification being overturned……Instead, a fine was handed down.

Crawford swept to an emphatic win in the Final the next day in a blistering 11.79 seconds ( still the fastest time ever recorded )……..

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Pat O’Kane maintained a deep connection to the Australian Labour Party and the Collingwood Football Club……….

He knew only too well that the local Federal seat of Nicholls was far beyond the reach of the ALP, but nevertheless, was always a keen observer of the result. He kept an eye on the voting in Katamatite one year, and ascertained that there should be 8 guaranteed ALP votes – 6 O’Kane’s and 2 McDermott’s……..Alas, the figures showed only 7 votes……

He was unable to fathom it out…… couldn’t believe that someone in the family had crossed the party line…….until…..much to his relief, he worked out that one of the O’Kane’s had recently moved to Bendigo and changed electorates………

Likewise, he took his role as a lifelong supporter of Collingwood seriously…….

When his son Brian asked him to name his six greatest Magpies he grabbed a pen and began to scribble down the names……..In order, Albert Collier (1), Nathan Buckley (2), Bobby Rose (3), Des Fothergill (4), Jack Regan (5), Ron Todd (6)…..

The result was that he endured a restless night, and at 7 o’clock the next morning Brian received a surprise call from his dad…….The list just didn’t seem right……”I want to change it,” he said. “Bobby Rose has to go in front of Buckley…….Write it down, Brian…..That’s for history’s sake…..”

Long-time friend Danny Russell says that Pat wrote many other lists for his scrap-book, including the greatest tennis-players of all-time…..

“Pat said: ‘I was lucky to have seen the great American Jack Kramer play at his best…..I rank him ahead of Pancho Gonzales and Lew Hoad as the best player I have seen….’ In later years he loved Nadal….”

Danny added that, in 2015 he was asked to rank the 10 greatest racehorses in an article for the Herald-Sun……..” I haven’t told anyone ‘til now… but that was Pat’s list……It had to be……”

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Pat O’Kane, champion sportsman, brilliant raconteur, outstanding citizen, maintained that he was the only person to have shorn 200 sheep in a day…….and competed at Wimbledon……

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Edna, and children Anne Maree and Brian. He was the father-in-law of Brennan and Cheryl and Grandfather of Patrick, Billy, Gus and Piper……….

P.S: With special thanks to Anne Maree O’Kane and Danny Russell.

“THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A FOOTBALL JOURNEYMAN……….”

The rain’s tumbling down in Rosebud ……..The temperature has barely nudged into double figures, but it feels two or three degrees chillier, with that icy breeze nipping in off Port Philip Bay…… ……..

Norm Hamill has called the Mornington Peninsula town home for the past 13 years……. eons away from the wide open spaces of the Mallee, where he first saw the light of day……or a few of the destinations around the nation at which he landed during his time as a journeyman footballer………

He was one of the real characters you come across in footy – boisterous, open as a book, loyal, the life of the Club, warm-hearted……….but underneath his ‘big-noting exterior’, as he calls it, lay a sensitive and introspective soul ………

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Normie quips that his ‘shit-house’ kicking style prevented him from being a star………

He was playing in Bendigo at one stage, when Hawthorn coach Graeme Arthur – an old Sandhurst boy – brought the Hawks up for a practice match……He marked everything….was best afield for the locals in what he terms ‘the game of his life’……

“Graeme came up to congratulate me after the game. He said: ‘Mate, if you could do something about your kicking you’d walk into the VFL…….”

I recall when he was making his way into senior football with the Rovers he became an instant fan-favourite due to his competitiveness, exhuberance, and ability to pull down a strong pack mark….. Then he’d line up a shot for goal, and they’d collectively utter a sigh of resignation: ‘Don’t put your house on this one………’

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His dad Les was a typical Mallee cockie……..Farmed 6,500 acres of Mallee scrub through years of drought, then had one good year……. Spurred by success he decided to sell out and move onto the irrigation at Pyramid Hill.

That’s where Norm first cut his teeth in footy, making his debut with the Reserves, aged 15, and graduating to the senior line-up.

He’d been making the daily 90-mile trek to-and-from school at Kerang ( 11 of them by pushbike ), but after gaining his Intermediate Certificate, joined Les on the land.

The family’s next move was to a property at Glenrowan West. When the surrounding O & M clubs heard of a likely-looking, 6’2” , blonde-haired youngster landing in their midst it prompted a flurry of activity.

One day, whilst on the tractor, he glanced across to see a pair of Collingwood officials sauntering across the paddock to have a yarn with him.

“The old man reckoned I wasn’t ready, so I spent the next season and a half with Greta……..then the Rovers got me in to play a few games on Match Permits,” he says.

Not that he was an instant success when he moved in permanently to the Findlay Oval…….He was in and out of the senior side for the next couple of years.

The turning-point came towards the end of 1964………..The Hawks, who had won 16 games on the trot, to be red-hot favourites for the flag, suffered an inexplicable drop in form, losing the next four.

A few regulars were chopped,……and big-man Hamill, was one of those who found their way into the Preliminary Final line-up……..

The Rovers stuttered in the early stages, then blew Myrtleford away. The following week after wresting control in the third-quarter, they out-pointed Wangaratta by 21 points, to win the Grand Final.

Normie Hamill was now a premiership player……

The Hawks also hung on in a dramatic finale’ in 1965, before eventually clinching the decider against the ‘Pies by three points…….Again, the big number 18 had played his part in the tense final stages of another famous premiership victory.

It was probably the acknowledgment that he was now a fully-fledged ruckman in his own right, rather than an understudy, that convinced coach Ken Boyd of Hamill’s importance to the side.

“ Boydy had a big influence on me……I couldn’t believe the aura that surrounded him……No wonder opposition players were cautious about him on the field – he frightened me, even though I was playing in the same side as him…….” Norm jokes.

In Boyd’s swansong season, Hamill played his finest football in the Brown and Gold. His good mate Neville Hogan took out the ‘66 Morris Medal with 19 votes………Normie polled 10 votes to finish equal sixth……….

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A WISE OLD BLOKE

‘But Dad !….I want to go to the Sale.

A big ‘NO’ was his very stern words,

“You’re not really interested in cattle, my boy,

You just want to check out the birds,”

He was right, of course, although I wouldn’t admit it,

I didn’t care much about cattle or sheep,

I was only interested in getting to town,

And some of the sheilas I’d meet,

“Grab the Mattoch and Waterback,

An’ go cut some shoots,

Make sure you dig deep and don’t miss the roots,”

So off I would go with a dent in my pride,

Swaggering along with my dog by my side,

But nevertheless, as you probably can guess, I lost

Most of my arguments with Dad.

If ever I won it was with help from my Mum,

To Mum I could do nothing bad.

It was there at Glenrowan, the seeds he was sowing

Had nothing to do with a crop,

But seeds of knowledge to help me cope

With all the problems I’d cop

For it was here that Dad taught me

What it was to be a worker

He said: ‘Always pull your weight son, and don’t be a shirker………..

Norm says farm-life didn’t really suit him: “I’d be sitting out on the tractor for hours and hours, day after day, ploughing……nobody to talk to………..”

In his early years with the Rovers he decided to leave the farm and go picking tobacco at Everton with the Kneebone family……He says his Dad was not that impressed:

“I left home without a care in the world,

Not realising or worrying about the hurt I’d unfurled,

Then Dad, walking behind the bush with a tear in his eye,

Hell, I couldn’t see too much reason to cry………..”

In due course the Kneebone’s invited him to grow tobacco as a share-farmer.

“They were great to me, and we had two good years……..I bought a brand-new car and was the richest bloke in the footy club…….thought I was shit-hot……then in the third year they had the first floods in December for decades ……..flooded every plant down the river…..”

“We all walked off with the arse out of our pants………I’d been living in a tent nearby, with one of my Rovers team-mates, Frank Sargent, who was a teacher at Everton…….We got home after training one night….there’d been a huge storm….debris everywhere……and the old tent, and all our possessions had been blown away….”

That was the end of his tobacco-growing episode. Instead, he took up Ray Thompson’s offer to work at the local Brickworks for a couple of years……..But he was developing itchy-feet and decided to use footy as his travelling passport………..

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He had a few relations in Bendigo, and decided to head over to renew acquaintances with them one week-end……..Invited for a training run with Sandhurst , he met a few people….. One thing led to another, and they offered him a few bob to play.

The Dragons teed up a job selling insurance with AMP and Norm starred in the ruck, alongside 6’8” man-mountain Carl Brewster, who was to become his best mate.

Together, they represented the Bendigo League against Sunraysia, and Norm’s original League, the Northern District.

At season’s end he and two mates drove over to the Golden West. It was his intention to strip with South Fremantle but – restless soul that he was – he popped down to Albany one week-end.

“We were sitting in the pub having a few beers and the bloke ‘behind the jump’ happened to be on the North Albany committee.”

“He raced upstairs, where they were having a meeting. Next thing 5 or 6 of them came down and offered me a few bob to play…….They arranged a job as a slaughterman with Borthwick’s – cutting sheep’s throats……1,000 a day…and hanging ‘em on a mobile chain.”

“I did that for three weeks, before I approached the boss – who was North Albany President…….I said: Listen, mate, unless you can put me up the line a bit I’m giving it the arse…..Anyway, that worked, and I ended up with a better job……….”

The next move was back east, to Albury.

“I don’t really know how I ended up there, to be honest…….They got me a job as a Slaughterman, then I had a Bread-Delivery run and was finally a Sales Rep for a Tyre company for 18 months.”

The Tigers were a middle-of-the-road side in ‘69 and finished bottom in 1970, with just four wins. Norm played consistently, though, under the coaching of Bob Spargo, and alongside Carl Brewster, who’d followed him over from Sandhurst.

“The biggest kick I got in that disappointing 1970 season, was to toss the coin, as Albury captain, with my old team-mate Neville Hogan, who was in his first year as coach of the Rovers.”

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The sunshine was beckoning………And North Albury star Kevin ‘Turkey’ Weule had been offered the coaching job with Queensland club, Coorparoo.

“ They advised ‘Turk’ the job was his, on the proviso that he could bring a couple of ruckmen along. He arranged for Carl and I to meet their ‘money-man’, Barry Modini, in Wagga, to seal the deal.”

“I got a transfer in my job with the Tyre Company, went Car-detailing for a while and ended up selling cars for the remainder of our eight years, most of them on ‘The Mad Mile’, in Ipswich Road, Brisbane.”

Norm adapted well to the QAFL and, in his first season, was rated a strong chance of taking out the League’s Grogan Medal. He was selected in the State Squad for the National Division 2 Carnival, before a sprained ankle forced him out of the action.

And he was a crucial part of what was a hectic social life at Coorparoo, along with his ‘partner-in-crime’, Carl Brewster.

“We had some great times at Coorparoo, but gee, he was a bit of a wild bastard, Carl…….Got me into a bit of trouble over the years…….I even had a blue with him one night at a Club function…….He clobbered me…..I had blood all over my white jumper…..We were heading out to the middle of the ground to finish it off…..”

“When he saw the blood on me he thought: ‘Oh shit. What am I doing, whacking my best mate.’ So we went back into the Club again…….”

“When we got home we told our wives a couple of Bikies had attacked us……..”

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Norm went on to receive an attractive offer from SQAFL club South Brisbane, where he proved a star in his debut season.

“The incumbent coach quit at the end of the year, and they asked me to take over……..I wasn’t that keen, but we actually rose from the bottom, into the four…..It was a great experience.”

Many years later, they invited him back for a function, and named him captain of South Brisbane’s ‘All Star Side’……

The final stanza in his football journey was penned when he returned home, in the late seventies, to spend part of a season with his old club, Greta…….

But the Hamill family had still not sated their wanderlust ……..He and Christine continued to traverse the nation – from Melbourne…. to Augusta (WA)….to Perth, with their growing family – Adrian, Tania and Daniel….

He got right into Scuba Diving and Absailing and crayfishing in Augusta. “Fair dinkum mate, the crayfish down there were two foot long,” Norm says.

He estimates that he had more than 30 jobs, as diverse as Barman-Cellarman, Tomato-Picker, Hotel Licensee, Caravan-Park Manager, Hay-Carter, Oil-Refinery worker, Shearer, Sales Representative, Solid-Waste Operator, Fruit-Juice Distributor, Florist and Club-Manager…………..After 30 years in W.A, he and Chris finally pulled up stumps and settled in Rosebud…….

You can sometimes get wisdom from a man in the gutter,

Not always the intellects and the words that they utter,

He was a wise old bloke that Dad of mine,

Because I took his advice and I’m feeling fine………...