FAMILIAR FACES AMONG A.C.K CRICKET GREATS…..

A rare night out for me usually entails a Pot and Parmie at the Pino, with Moira and a few of the kids.……

So it’s with some trepidation tonight, that we’re treading this elaborate staircase, adorned with marble balustrades and plush carpet. We’re headed for Crown’s swanky Palladium Ballroom – long-time venue of the Brownlow Medal-count and former home of the Logies.

It’s akin to a second-rate bush nag being thrust into a Group One Classic at Flemington.

The occasion is Assumption’s 125th Gala Dinner, at which they’ll be inducting several of the famous Kilmore College’s high-achieving alumni to their Hall of Excellence.

Another feature of the night – and of particular interest to me – is the unveiling of their ‘Cricketers of the Century’.

In the meantime, we’re downing canapés and pre-dinner drinks and watching celebrated Old Boy Billy Brownless natter to arriving guests on the blue carpet……IMG_3740.

There are in excess of 600 guests expected, and, as we cast around, we spot a few of the school’s illustrious sporting products……You never forget that craggy face…. It’s the inimitable ‘Crackers’ Keenan….there’s ‘St.Francis’ Bourke, the ex-Richmond legend………we notice former Collingwood defender Peter McCormack……….. Shane Crawford is buzzing around, as usual. ‘Crawf’ joined footy’s elite at this very venue when he snared the Brownlow in 1999…………..

One super-veteran, decked out in a light sports coat and shuffling around with the aid of a ‘walker’, button-holes us. He must be well into his nineties and almost takes a tumble as he leans forward. Surely he’ll struggle to see out the evening……

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The function is every bit as classy as anticipated…….Good meal, impressive speakers…….. And we’re among chatty, warm company……… When it comes around to inducting the eight people who have achieved excellence in various walks of life, it’s humbling to gain an insight to the journeys that they have undertaken.IMG_3735

A standing ovation is reserved for the final nominee – Neale Daniher – whose four-year campaign to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease has warmed the hearts of the nation…….

Shortly after, another ‘notable’ is introduced to the crowd, and it’s obvious, from their reaction, that he’s held in the highest regard. He’s somewhat of an institution at Assumption.

His name is Ray Carroll……………..

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Still boasting a full head of hair and wearing dark glasses ( obviously  his eyesight isn’t too flash these days), he belies his 81 years. It’s acknowledged that he’s the most successful cricket/football coach in the history of Australian college sport.

Amazingly, he spent 53 years at Assumption, devoting himself to the betterment of kids’ education, both in the classroom and on the sporting field.

Ray grew up in the tiny Western District town of Hexham, situated about 14km from Mortlake; son of a stay-at-home mum and a rough-hewn but kindly dad, who was a shearer and occasional tent-boxer.

From an early age his twin passions were cricket and footy. He played Country Week cricket; trained with, and followed the fortunes of Mortlake’s formidable Hampden League side, but had his eye on a career as a Teacher.

His first job, though, was as a cadet surveyor. When an opportunity bobbed up to attend Teacher’s College, he grabbed it with both hands.

I like the story he tells of graduating, at the age of 21:

“Out of the blue I was told there was a vacancy at Kilmore. I’d never heard of Assumption. When I arrived for an interview, Brother Sylvester, who was the principal, said: ‘I suppose you can teach…… and I hear you like football and cricket…..You can start on Monday.’ “

“On the first morning, Br.Sylvester told me I was in charge of a class of 65. I mentioned that I didn’t have any text books. He handed me a strap and a cane and said: ‘The boys’ll have books….Just keep one page in front of ‘em…..’ ”

The Carroll philosophy in life has been to “always treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and treat them with respect.”

He took charge of Assumption’s First XI team in 1967, and became the First 18 coach in the mid-70’s – the first lay person to accede to the role.

He was a mentor, and a second dad to a lot of kids, especially those who struggled with the transition from the open spaces of, say, life on a Riverina farm, to boarding school at Kilmore.

When he began coaching the First XI he was not much older than many of the boys, but down through the years, coached their sons – and in a handful of cases – grandsons.

Apparently the Carroll coaching methods never changed. He felt no need to tweak them, as they still proved stunningly successful, but time marches on, and he finally, reluctantly, stepped away in 2011.IMG_3739

He’s an icon of Assumption, and it’s obvious that he has maintained contact with most of his old pupils. They all seem eager to renew acquaintances………

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One of the countless sportsmen who came under Ray Carroll’s influence was Jon Henry. The boy from Kamarah, situated between Moombooldool and Ardlethan in the central Riverina, once kicked 201 goals in a season for Assumption.

He captained both the First XI and First 18, and recalls his coach being big on loyalty. “He preached playing for the school and sticking together. Ray’s a lovely fellah, and was ultra-competitive. I really think cricket was his first love, though.”

“ But on the footy-front, I remember we clashed with Melbourne High at the Junction Oval one day. They had about 16 Thirds-listed Melbourne players in their side, and Ray emphasised how important it was to gain the upper-hand. He had us really fired up. We came out and knocked them off. It was one of the best wins we had in my time there…….”

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I run into Peter Tossol, who’s reminded of his boarding days at Kilmore: “We were having an impromptu game of cricket in the dorm late one night,” he recalls. “ I’ve grabbed the bat and shaped up as Simon O’Donnell begins to steam in down the corridor to bowl to me.”

“I said: ‘Righto, O’Donnell, bring in on.’ Just then the door opens and one of the Brothers is there, arms folded, with a stern look on his face. He grabbed the bat and gave me a couple of whacks across the backside. Simon also copped a couple, for good measure.”

Toss says he used to bowl first change in the First XI, whilst O’Donnell would wreak havoc with the new ball. “He was positively fearsome at times. Simon had both openers out hit wicket one day, trying to get out of the road. He did all the damage. When I came on all I had to do was mop up. What a player he was as a school-kid……”

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I’m predicting ‘Toss’ and ‘Henners’ to to be walk-up starts in this team of ‘Cricketers of the Century’. And there’s no doubt that Simon O’Donnell, Assumption’s greatest cricketing export, will be named skipper.

So it transpires.

O’Donnell, Test cricketer, veteran of 87 one-day internationals and a star of Australia’s 1987 World Cup victory, gets the captaincy nod.

His deputy is Peter Ryan, a talented right-hand batsman of the late sixties and seventies. He played 84 games of District cricket with Fitzroy, and moved to Queensland in 1971, where he appeared in a couple of Sheffield Shield games.

The team is announced, to much acclaim:

SIMON O’DONNELL (c). ( Class of 1980)

PETER RYAN (v.c). (1969)

NEALE DANIHER. (1978)

PETER CRIMMINS (1965)

RAY POWER. (1982)

NILDO MUNARI. (1957)

STEVE GEMMILL. (1987)

JASON SMITH. (1990)

PETER TOSSOL. (1980)ack dinner

JON HENRY. (1988)

JAMIE SHEAHAN. (2008)

JARROD TRAVAGLIA. (1998)

DAVID JOSS. (1932)

JOHN BAHEN. (1962)

TALLAN WRIGHT. (2010)

DES PURDON. (1942)

The experts claim that it’s a ‘ripper’ side. I’m familiar with the bulk of the names, and naturally, it was great to see Wangaratta ‘imports’ Tossol and Henry being called to the stage, along with former Rovers footballer Jamie Sheahan.

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Jamie Sheahan, with a ‘Hanger-on’.

Six members of the team played League football and several progressed to Premier cricket throughout Australia and to English County cricket. Four of them still play, including 48 year-old Steve Gemmill, who, after five years at North Melbourne, returned home to Cobram to carve out a fine career.

Again, the charismatic Daniher received a huge reception. It was said  of the talented left-hander, that a berth as a Shield or international player, awaited him. Fate decreed that his future lay in football.

Similar tales such as this, continued to unfold ….It was my type of night  ………….toss&henry

‘THE INTRICACIES OF COACHING……’

I’m a sucker for a good old  footy  coaching story……..

……..Like that of the rough and tumble back pocket player, born and bred in Richmond. He joins the Tigers, but over a period of six years never really establishes himself as a regular senior player.

Frustrated and unfulfilled , he spends a season with Richmond Amateurs, then decides to head to the bush, accepting a coaching position with Shepparton. His tenacious attitude and devotion to fitness turns the club into a winner. They narrowly lose the Grand Final in his first year, but snare three flags in a row.

The Mighty Tigers, looking for a replacement coach, cast the net and eventually turn to the formerly unfashionable defender. Relishing the opportunity, he gains the confidence of players, raises their fitness levels to new heights, and preaches his philosophy- ‘Kick the Ball Long…..’

Richmond win four flags under Tommy Hafey, and he is voted their Coach of the Century. He later leads Collingwood, Sydney and Geelong, in a fabulous 522-game coaching career…….

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A diminutive 5’4” rover moves from Murtoa to pursue what seems his impossible dream of playing League football with St.Kilda. He appears in 87 matches on either side of World War II before being struck down with tuberculosis of the spine.

For months he is in a coma and near death. When he recovers he is left hunchbacked. But his love of football and desire to coach St.Kilda inspires him to walk again. He is a big little man of courage and conviction, who openly loves his players, and his speeches become a precious part of the folk-lore of the game.IMG_3726

Overcoated and with tie askew, he patrols the boundary on match day, urging on his players and brandishing a towel to inflame the emotions of his club’s rabid fans.

Alan Killigrew’s coaching route takes him via East Ballarat and Golden Point, to St.Kilda, Norwood, North Melbourne and Subiaco. It ends with a premiership at QAFL Club Wilston-Grange. He says of his wanderings: “Wherever I go I’ll love my football. But I can only love one club – St.Kilda. It’s like a marriage – I’m married to one club …………

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A handy half-forward from Finley is promised six games with St.Kilda. He’s perceptive enough to realise that, at the expiration of those match permits, he’ll probably end up back in the Murray League.

He surprises himself and becomes a Saint regular until a rib injury forces him into early retirement. Two years later, aged just 27, he is thrust into the St.Kilda coaching job, after impressing as a fill-in with the Reserves.

The side clicks. In his first season in charge they sneak into the four – the Saints’ first finals appearance since 1939.

In 1965 they reach the Grand Final, but this is only the prelude to one of the most historic of all football moments, when a rushed snap for goal from Barry Breen hands them a one-point victory – and the 1966 premiership.IMG_3732

He has the reins at St.Kilda for sixteen years, basing his coaching philosophy on fierce discipline and the basic tenet that ‘either we have the ball, the opposition has it, or it is in dispute’.

Alan Jeans’ later appointment as coach at Hawthorn raises eyebrows , but he becomes a much-loved father-figure at Glenferrie, guiding the Hawks for a further nine seasons, during which they land three flags…………..

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A shy 16 year-old from Nyah West is first lured to Melbourne to fight a three-rounder at West Melbourne Stadium. He impresses, and over the next couple of years disposes of a variety of opponents.

On one of those visits to the city, he is invited to train with Collingwood. Years later he admits his clearest memory was of the green grass underfoot ; such a stark contrast to the drought-affected clay surfaces that he was used to in the Mallee.

He debuts with the Magpies in 1946 and becomes a instant hit. Modest to the extreme, he takes the game by storm, winning four B & F’s with the Pies and starring in their 1953 premiership.

The Brownlow Medal that most people feel is his due, never comes. He finishes runner-up in 1953, but is handed the pseudonym of ‘Mr.Football’, and acknowledged as one of the greatest players of all-time.

The football world reels in late-1955 when he announces that he is turning his back on a 152-game VFL career at age 27, in favour of a coaching job at Wangaratta Rovers.

He turns around the fortunes of a struggling club, capturing the imagination of the locals in the process, particularly the large contingent of Italian fans, who dub him ‘Bobby Rossa’.IMG_0549

He guides the Hawks to flags in 1958 and 1960 and wins the Morris Medal in both years. His 126 games in Brown and Gold are of rare quality, but equally acknowledged is his understanding of the game and the esteem in which he’s held.

Bob Rose, football legend,  heads back to Collingwood and takes over the coaching job in 1964. He proves to be a wonderful coach, but luck eludes him in his 10 years in charge, with three heart-breaking Grand Final losses. He also leads Footscray for four seasons…….

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The Rovers embark on a search for Rose’s replacement ; a Herculean task in itself.

Their enquires lead them to South Melbourne’s Lake Oval, where they have arranged to interview a 23 year-old, bony, confident, rapid-talking ruckman.IMG_1493

He’s become a ‘human-headline’ during his brief, controversial VFL career, principally because of his knack of getting into trouble on the field.

After all, he’s been rubbed out for a total of 30 games and has played just 60, many of which have contributed to his reputation as the ‘Wild-Man’ of football.

Several weeks earlier, he had copped a 12-week suspension for ‘snotting’ John Nicholls in a fiery Carlton- South Melbourne game. This followed on from the six weeks he’d been given for smacking ‘Big Nick’ and John Heathcote in the prior Carlton clash that season.

But still, informed sources had led the coaching sub-committee to believe that this fellah was a quality person and would be well worth the punt. He was, they said, ideal coaching material.

He tells them that he’d received 40-odd offers from around the nation, but sounds interested in what the Hawks have to say. Twenty minutes into their conversation, they’re certain that they’ve got the right man for the job.

Within 18 months Ken Boyd has become renowned as a popular, charismatic leader – loved by the Rovers; hated by opposition fans. He coaches for four years, wins two flags, and his capacity to create headlines remains undiminished………

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It’s early-October 2018…….. The Wangaratta Rovers have come off the worst season in their 68-year O & M history.

Winless and firmly entrenched on the bottom of the ladder, they are searching for a formula to return this famous club to its former glory.

And, not for the first time, they’re realising how difficult it is to entice recruits and potential leaders when things are seemingly ‘on the nose’

Already Hawk recruiting manager Barry Sullivan has sounded out Gold Coast on-baller Michael Barlow,  Nigel Lappin and Jarred Waite, among others. His list of names ‘as long as your arm’ is thinning rapidly.

He knows how hard it has been, over the last decade or so, to entice outsiders. Apart from the bold seven-game experiment with Barry Hall in 2012, several other players with sizeable reputations – including Lindsay Gilbee, Josh Fraser, ex-Demon Paul Wheatley and Patrick Rose, have eventually rejected the Rovers’ approaches.

In time, the trail leads to a retired 244-game Sydney Swan, who, during his career, was known as ‘smart, strong and unflinchingly brave’…..A Tasmanian and Sydney Swans Team of the Century Member, who had coached extensively since hanging up the boots – most recently at Wodonga Raiders………..IMG_3724IMG_3725

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“ ‘Carps’ (Sam Carpenter) suggested getting in touch with ‘Crezza’.” said ‘Sully’. “And ‘Rosco’ ( Hill, his co-coach of the past two seasons) fully supported the idea. They have had a good relationship with him and reckoned it’d be worth a try.”IMG_3734

“So I sent a text and arranged a convenient time to talk. He was in London when I caught up with him, but it sounded promising. He said he’d originally been planning to take a year off, but was excited by the challenge of taking over a young list and building the club up.”

“He’s 24/7 when he commits, and he’s big on player development, so he’ll be ideal for our group. But he’s also got a wide recruiting network and will look to see where we can fill a few holes.”

“He asked if he could have a few days to have a yarn to his wife, and have a think about it. When I contacted him again, he was rearing to go.”

“I think it’ll be fantastic for the club. The reaction has already been so positive and I know the players are excited by the prospect of being coached by Daryn Cresswell…………

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So the bombshell news that was dropped last week-end, is still being digested by stunned O & M fans. For the first time in 51 years the  Hawks have a coach from outside the club’s ranks….……Only history will decree whether it’s another of those good footy coaching stories…………IMG_3733

‘JIMMY DEANE – SUPERSTAR…….’

It was a Golden Era of Ovens and Murray football……….when every club boasted a genuine superstar…….

Greats of the calibre of Bob Rose, Billy Stephen, Jack Jones, Des Healy, Don Ross, Fred Goldsmith and Len Fitzgerald, all still in their prime, were lured by the attractive money on offer – and the opportunity to dabble in coaching – in the best country League around.

Their line-ups also included some players who could have easily walked into VFL sides.

I still have visions of the tentacle-like arms of curly-haired Fitzgerald soaring above the pack to pull down screamers at the Benalla Showgrounds; the ex-Essendon star Jones controlling things like a traffic-cop at centre half forward for Albury; the elusive Healy dodging, weaving, pirouetting, and leaving opponents stranded.

Those Wodonga-Wang Rovers clashes of the late-fifties/early-sixties, when Healy tangled with his great friend, and former Collingwood team-mate, Bob Rose, were mouth-watering affairs.

And if you felt disposed to take a spin up the Ovens Highway, you could catch a glimpse of one of the finest mid-fielders in the nation.

His name was Jim Deane……..

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Old Saints swear by Jimmy. They rave about his sublime skills; the knack of being able to read the play; hardly appearing to shift out of first gear, yet rarely being caught.

And his spear-like left-foot passing, which made life easy for those upfield.

Sounds like a modern-day Scott Pendlebury, doesn’t it ?

Mick Flecknoe, who played at full forward, and was the recipient of some ‘silver service’ from his coach, is lavish in his praise.

“He was a rare player, a charismatic leader- and a quality bloke,” Mick says.

So I went searching for the legend of Jimmy Deane………

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Strange as it may sound, he was the grandson of an Afghan cameleer – an expert camel-handler who worked around the northern reaches of South Australia in the early twentieth century and helped to build the railway connection between Adelaide and Alice Springs.

When Jim’s dad Les – a wharfie – married his mum he anglicised his name from Zaberdeen to Deane.

Young Jim honed his football skills in the back streets of Adelaide’s East End. The country was just emerging from the Great Depression and his heroes stripped for his neighbourhood club, South Adelaide, which enjoyed considerable success during the thirties.

He was just 17 when he debuted for South, mid-way through 1945. But his arrival in senior ranks coincided with a downturn in the club’s fortunes. In spite of the brilliance he displayed in his 157-games with them he was unable to lift the Panthers into the finals.

Even the responsibility of being lumbered with the job as captain-coach at the tender age of 23, failed to dim his brilliance.

Jimmy was to prove the most famous post-war name in the history of the club that idolised him.

He took out the SANFL’s top gong, the Magarey Medal, in 1953 and 1957, and finished runner-up three times; won six South Adelaide B & F’s and represented South Australia in 15 interstate games.

In between, he was lured over the border and spent two seasons – 1954 and ’55 – with Richmond.

Towards the end of 1955 he was offered the coaching position with the Tigers.

“But there were so many lads born and bred in the Richmond district and some of these fellows were champions. When the news got out it was all over the newspapers and I could sense a bit of animosity among the players,” he once said.

“So I decided to head back home to finish off my career.”

He resisted an approach to cross over to Port Adelaide as coach, but two seasons later Myrtleford came knocking with an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Deane family moved over to the hill country.

“I’d heard so much about the League. It was Bob Rose, I think, who said that a representative O & M team would defeat a South Australian state team.”

Jim’s coaching philosophy was simple. “I’m not a coach who expects players to go out and knock opponents over. All I want is for them to go out and attack that football and get it down to our guys up forward.”

Myrtleford found him a job with Heberle’s Furnishings, but half-way through the first year he took over a shoe store in town and operated it for the remainder of his stay.

“There was a great atmosphere at Myrtleford and they had a good and loyal following of supporters. They were some of my happiest years in football,” he recalled.

The Saints had only been in the O & M for eight years when Jimmy arrived in 1958. But they had been able to cultivate plenty of talent and remained competitive.

In a four or five-year period George Barton (Hawthorn), Len Cotterell (Carlton) and Jack Cooper (Hawthorn) had sampled League footy and returned. Mick Flecknoe, another lad from the area, had also planted his roots in Myrtleford after a fine career with East Perth.

Additionally, Frank Hodgkin (St.Kilda), Clem Goonan (South Melbourne), Dennis Smith (Richmond) and Bill O’Kane (Fitzroy) all played under Jim and went on to make their VFL debuts.

They would have been inspired by the form of their leader, who proved a ball magnet and took out the Morris Medal in his first season (sharing it with Bob Rose).

Two years later, they narrowly snuck into the Four and rated themselves a good chance of venturing deep into the finals.

The First Semi, against defending premiers Yarrawonga at Benalla, had particular significance for Jim, as it was to be the first senior Final he had played in 15 years.

And what a game it turned out to be !

The Saints led by 21 points at three-quarter time and seemingly had the game in hand. But, in a trice, the pendulum swung. The Pigeons, with all the momentum, led by three points with just seconds remaining in the game.

Again the Saints attacked and Wally Hodgkin marked 45 yards out, just on the siren. Jim replayed those final, harrowing moments, many years later:

“It was a pretty good kick for goal, but there was some controversy as to whether it was touched before it went through,” he said.

“All the Myrtleford players thought it was a goal, but the umpire deemed it a point and we’d lost the match. The funny thing was that, before the match a few of the wealthy tobacco growers had given a donation to the players as a thank you for our efforts during the season .”

“We’d decided to back ourselves, because we were so confident of winning. But the Yarrawonga people give us our money back because of that disputed goal. It was a great act of sportsmanship.”………..

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Jim picked up his second Morris Medal in 1961, and was still playing outstanding football when he and his family decided to head home at the end of the 1962 season.

The Premiership success that had eluded him finally came his way at Port Pirie, with whom he shared a hat-trick of flags. He then concluded his colourful playing career with another premiership at Spencer Gulf League club Proprietary, at the age of 39.

South Adelaide lured him back as non-playing coach in 1970, but he only remained in the role for two seasons, opting instead, to become the ‘voice of South Australian football’, as a renowned ABC commentator, for more than 20 years.

This, and his reputation as a well-known hotelier, kept Jimmy very much in the public eye and he remained a highly popular figure.

Jim Deane passed away in 2010. His contribution to the game was officially recognised when he was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame.

South Adelaide’s historian, John Althorp, produced a biography of his club’s icon in 2014 – titled “The Larrikin – The Jim Deane Story’.

But his five years as a champion player and much-loved captain-coach of Myrtleford will also never be forgotten by those who sampled his on-field magic and endearing nature…………