‘CHEWING THE FAT WITH ‘CHIZZA’………

Of all the personalities with whom he came into contact in a lifetime of football, Peter Chisnall retains a soft spot for his first coach…….

“She was a Catholic nun – Sister Mary Elizabeth Clancy………I remember she used to tuck her long, flowing, black habit into her belt and spear out accurate left-foot passes to us little tackers,” ‘Chizza’ recalls.

“I was in my forties when I returned to a school re-union at St. Mary’s Primary School, and caught up with her again……. She told me she’d got to see me play a couple of games at the MCG…….then presented me with a scrapbook that she’d compiled, detailing a lot of my footy highlights. I was tickled pink ………”

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‘Chizza’s’ a ‘people person’……..friendly, enthusiastic, exuding positivity, and blessed with a liberal dose of charisma. And boy, does he love a yarn!……I’d promised not to annoy him for too long…….Two and a bit hours later, we were still at it, despite him facing a lengthy drive back home to Numurkah…….

He does some work for the Justice Department these days; supervising offenders on Work Projects. He had a crack at retirement for a while, he explains, but drove himself up the wall with boredom. So he started going around to jails giving talks to prisoners. Then this job was offered to him. He loves it….. Loves being involved, and helping people.

His long-term trade was as a Butcher, but he’s also been a Grain Representative, a Promotions Officer, had stints on talk-back Radio and TV, and operated a corner-store . He and his wife Helen bought a run-down pub in Burrumbuttock many years ago, built it up and sold it, then ran the Tungamah Hotel for more than a decade. I can just picture him engaging in repartee with the patrons from behind the bar of a pub. They’d have stayed for hours, I’m sure.

But I’m keen to explore ‘Chizza’s’ footy resume’….. that’s a fascinating story in itself……………

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The Chisnall’s are a famous Corowa footballing family. Two of Pete’s uncles were part of the Spiders’ first premiership, way back in 1932. His dad Bill, who lost a fair bit of his footy to the war years, also played a lot of games, and later coached South Corowa. An older brother Adrian had been a star, so expectations were high when the lad debuted, aged 16.

“John Hoiles, the ex-Footscray defender, was coaching at the time. ‘Hoilesy’ could be pretty brutal, but he was good for a young fellah like me. He kept hammering into us to ‘put your head over the ball’. We were short on talent though, and won just two games in each of my first two seasons.”

“Thankfully, we picked up some classy recruits in 1968; the club was able to snap up Richmond captain Freddie Swift as coach, and ‘Hoilesy’ agreed to stay on as a player. A big change came over the place,” he recalls.

Peter had done a pre-season at North Melbourne, and played on match-permits in the opening two rounds – a win at Footscray, and a 19-point defeat at the hands of Essendon.

“It was weird to be playing on blokes like Barry Capuano and Russell Blew. You’d been running around collecting their footy card only a couple of years earlier. But ‘Swifty’ and ‘Bluey’ Crisfield came down to see North, and said they’d like me to go back,  play the season at Corowa, and return for good the next year. So that’s what I did.”

It proved a dream season for ‘Chizza’. He played in the Ovens and Murray’s Country Championship win over Wimmera, and was a constant source of drive on the wing for the Spiders, as they surged dramatically towards an improbable finals berth.IMG_3662

Their Round 18 clash with Wangaratta carried huge stakes, as the clubs were vying for the vacant fourth spot. Corowa needed to get up by seven goals or more…..They stormed home to win by 92 points.

Then they overcame North Albury and Myrtleford in successive weeks, thus earning the right to challenge powerful reigning premier Wodonga in the Grand Final.

It was a classic. The Dogs led by 26 points at quarter-time, but Corowa, with a strong breeze at their back, booted six goals to nil in the second to gain the ascendency. It became a nip-and-tuck affair from then on.

In the dying stages, Wodonga maintained a slender lead, but a superb 50-metre goal from Kevin Witherden and a ‘pearler’ from the pocket by left-footer Lindsay Jacob, sealed the Spiders’ first flag for 36 years…….

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Peter returned to Arden Street and established himself in the North Melbourne side over the next two seasons, but by 1971 the winds of change were blowing. Brian Dixon had taken over as coach and proceeded to exert his authority.

“I was asked to attend a meeting, and when I walked in he said: ‘I want to see you upstairs.’ I thought ‘here’s trouble’. He greeted me with: ‘Well, make up your mind. Do you want to be a League footballer….. or a butcher for the rest of your life ?’”

“I thought that was a bit harsh. Here I was, starting work in the Butcher Shop at 4am to cram in footy training. Along with four or five other players who’d been given a similar directive, I walked out on North.”

He moved to Sandringham without a clearance, and played with the Zebras for the next two seasons. When the VFL and VFA declared a Morotorium to eradicate their clearance stand-off, he was forced to serve a one-year penalty.

By now Peter and Helen had moved to Albury. They’d recently lost their first-born, Brad, through cot-death, and were rapt to be back near their respective families. He acted as a runner for Albury coach Timmy Robb in 1973.

But a visit from a North delegation, Ron Barassi, Alan Killigrew and Ron Joseph, changed their path. ‘Chizza’ was about to embark on the ride of his life……

“ ‘Barass’ said: ‘Have you thought about playing VFL footy again ? I can tell you, if you come down and do a pre-season, you’ll play in my team.’ That was good enough for me.”

“I’d always considered myself a bit of a battler. I had speed, and could mark, but the game didn’t come naturally to me.”

“We had a pack of good small men around the middle, led of course, by Barry Cable. Our job was capitalise on the ruckwork of big Mick Nolan, who had the marvellous ability to direct the ball anywhere.”IMG_4229

“It was unbelievable to be a part of North’s journey, as we got to our second-ever Grand Final, then in 1975 knocked over Hawthorn, to win the Club’s first flag.”

What obviously also appealed to Barassi was that his winger; a popular, engaging figure within the club, played on the edge once he crossed that white line.

He had a day out in the Grand Final, collecting 22 kicks, 5 marks, dishing out 5 handballs, and continually pumping the pill to the point of the square.IMG_4226IMG_4227

‘Chizza’ also featured in the ‘76 Grand Final, in which the Hawks were able to exact their revenge. But in the first practice match of 1977 his 80-game League career came to a sad end, when he was involved in a head-on collision and suffered a fractured skull.

That setback may have put paid to his time at the top, but over the next thirty years, he was to embark on a coaching odyssey which would further re-inforce his footballing CV………

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The first stop was to Tasmanian club New Norfolk, whom he guided to a Preliminary Final in 1978.

“I was on a two-year contract, but was released from it when Dad got badly injured in a truck accident, and needed my support. I made a vow that I’d return to Tassie one day.”

“But I’d no sooner arrived back home when Hec Francis, who’d been tied up with Rutherglen, approached me and said: ‘Look, we’re gone. We’re going to amalgamate with Corowa and we’d like you to be Corowa-Rutherglen’s first coach.”IMG_4225

“They were three terrific years. I also coached the O & M side in ‘79, and combined the role with a job as North Melbourne’s Zone Development Officer.”

After working with Barastoc Feeds for several years, he was back operating a butcher shop in Port Melbourne when the famous VFA club had a coach pull the pin on the eve of the 1986 season.

“I’d been doing some Skills Coaching at Essendon, but Port asked if I’d slip into the job. It was a privilege to be involved with such an iconic Club……..They’re great people. I handed over the reins to a Port stalwart, Georgie Allen, at season’s end.”

‘Chizza’ fitted in one final season as a player at East Ringwood, aged 39, as a favour to an old Port Melbourne mate, ‘Buster’ Harland. He then moved on to coach Old Caulfield Grammarians for two years.

He honoured his promise to return to New Norfolk, as non-playing coach in 1990. They’d been on the brink of bankruptcy, and had lurked around the bottom reaches of the ladder for several years.

The Chisnall arrival inspired great optimism and the Eagles, playing with renewed intensity, headed the ladder at one stage, before fading out in the Elimination Final. He worked on morning radio with TTT-FM, made regular appearances on TV, and coached the Tasmanian State side.

After concluding his three-year stint with New Norfolk, he moved north to coach State League Club Launceston for two seasons.

Completing the full circle, he and Helen settled back in the North-East, and he was snapped up by Yarrawonga to succeed Peter Foster in 1996.

Being back in the O & M environment appealed to ‘Chizza’ after a 15-year hiatus, but the Pigeons were on a ‘downer’ at the time.

“I decided to give the kids every opportunity, but became frustrated, and butted heads with a few people around the place. Suffice to say, I was unable to make a difference,” he says. Part of the way through his third season at the helm, he and the Club parted ways.

However, the ‘coaching bug’ continued to itch. He spent two years with Mulwala and one at Devenish, before the 350-game Chisnall coaching journey drew to its conclusion………

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Peter and Helen’s two younger boys chose divergent paths in life. Grant studied at Duntroon, became an Army Captain, and served at several overseas hot-spots . Guy, who’s now involved in the meat industry, enjoyed a fine footy career, played in Corowa-Rutherglen’s 2003 premiership side and won a B &F with the Roos.IMG_4223

The baby of the family, Natalie (Ramsdale) still plays Queensland State League Netball with the Whitsunday Sharks

The grandkids are now his pride and joy, but he still finds time to sate his unquenchable thirst for football.

Next month, along with hundreds of old Kangaroos, ‘Chizza’ will celebrate North Melbourne’s 150-Year Anniversary. He’s looking forward to being back in the thick of the action……………… Continue reading “‘CHEWING THE FAT WITH ‘CHIZZA’………”

‘THE ARTFUL DEFENDER……’

Jimmy Sandral occasionally casts his mind back to that late-September day in 1956.

A record crowd of 115,802 has jammed into the MCG for the Grand Final, between arch rivals Melbourne and Collingwood……….He runs, or rather, floats, onto the ground behind Demon skipper Noel McMahon, and alongside such luminaries as Ian Ridley, Bob Johnson, Stuart Spencer, Donny Williams and Ron Barassi……..

The last-minute words of coach Norm Smith are still ringing in his ears: “…..I want you boys to lay your bodies in the line….Some of you are going to get hurt today; if you’re not prepared to get hurt, leave now !…….”

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Seven years earlier, Jim had just settled back on the family farm after completing his secondary education. He had to re-acquaint himself with the rudiments of footy, as he’d been boarding at St.Gregory’s College, Campbelltown, a traditional Rugby League stamping-ground.

Before his departure, he’d attended the local 11-pupil State school. With seven girls and just four boys, ‘Rounders’ had been the compulsory sport at Rennie Primary.

So when he debuted for Rennie, aged 16, in his first-ever fair dinkum game of football, he was, he admits, pretty rough around the edges. “I wasn’t even sure of the rules. I must admit I made plenty of mistakes,” he says.

But he cottoned on pretty quickly. In 1952 he won the club Best and Fairest award, was runner-up in the League Medal and played a starring role in Rennie’s premiership side.IMG_3486

In the following two years he won both the club B & F and the Coreen League’s Archie Dennis Medal.

It was late 1954 when Corowa invited him in to play a couple of late-season games on match permits. Jimmy adapted easily to the lift in standard and was persuaded to make the 25-mile trek in from the farm, to join the Spiders in 1955.

He was a natural, and took on all-comers at centre half back . Standing just under 6 foot, and weighing around 14 stone, he possessed a strong pair of hands . And – when he swept onto that left boot of his -he could hoof the Sherrin a country mile.

After just seven games with Corowa, Jim earned selection in the O & M’s Country Championship team. In what was an All-Star line-up, he was the stand-out, polling eight votes of a possible nine, to win the gong as Player of the three-game Series.IMG_3497

League clubs, of course, zeroed in. His dad, doing his best to be a bit protective, ushered a couple of scouts away, informing them that: “he’s not going anywhere.”

But when persuasive Melbourne secretary Jim Cardwell and recruiting manager Ken Carlon ( an ex-Demon 49-gamer and former Rennie coach) paid a visit to the Sandral property later that year, Jim was invited to be a guest of the club at the 1955 Grand Final.

“Not only that, but I had the privilege of sitting on the bench, beside the coaching staff. What a thrill. That was the day that ‘Bluey’ Adams ran full-steam off the bench in the final quarter and collided with Collingwood winger Des Healy.”

“Melbourne were pretty good to me, really,” says Jim. “When I headed down there, they teed me up with a job at the Hardware Company of Australia, packing stuff to send to the bush. Gee, I thought, this is a far cry from working on the farm.”

“Then I moved to Standard Containers, of Dawson Street, Brunswick. It was over the road from Miller’s Rope Works, where Norm Smith worked. I got on all right with old Norm, and he used to take me to training.”

I ask Jimmy if Smith was as tough as they say. “No doubt about that,” he says, as he recalls an incident at training one night.

“There was a bloke who’d just been cleared from Collingwood; ‘Icy’ Hamilton was his name, and he was reputed to have a bit of an ego. Anyway, he’s out on the ground, kicking the ball to himself, and dodging and weaving around imaginary opponents, when Norm leads us out onto the track.”

“Norm barked at him: ‘There’s no room for lairs in this place……Get back into the rooms.’ Big Bob Johnson said: ‘I reckon you’re a bit hard on him, Norm.’ ‘Shut up, or you’ll be in there with him,’ was Norm’s reply.”IMG_3505

It was no mean feat for Sandral to break into a Premiership team, and hold his place in his debut season. His form wavered a little at times, and he was named on the bench for the Second Semi-Final.

But his value was shown when he came on to replace Geoff McGivern at half-time. The Sun’s match report said:

‘One of Melbourne’s heroes was 19th man Jim ‘Little Bull’ Sandral, who charged into packs just as his nickname suggests. After the match Sandral – whose instructions were simply : Go in, Get it, Kick it’, said: ‘I kept thinking that if I get a chance to take the field, I can’t afford to make one mistake……(Then) after listening to Norm’s pep-talk at half-time, I felt better than at any time in my football career.’

The Demons stormed to the flag a fortnight later, winning by 73 points, after Collingwood had held a 5-point lead at quarter-time. The 1956 Melbourne team is still thrown up as one of the greatest of all-time.

Jim remembers, as much as anything, the over-flowing crowd, which had earlier lifted some of the gates off their hinges and swarmed inside the oval fence. “You had to be careful if you were chasing the ball near the boundary, that you didn’t end up plunging into the crowd.”

An ankle injury kept him out for a fair portion of the following season. Add that to a decent bout of homesickness and it’s not hard to understand why the wide open spaces of Rennie beckoned.

“I used to come out of a post-match ‘do’ and be greeted by the cold, empty stands of the MCG. Then I’d have to wait for a tram to take me out to Heidelberg. Moments like those made me pine for home……And I knew I was needed back on the farm. ”

Corowa jumped in and appointed him playing-coach in 1958. They were light on for personnel, but were inspired by their champion centre half back, who took out his first Morris Medal the following year.

“The two years of coaching was enjoyable, but it was a battle combining it with work on the farm. At the end of the ‘59 season, I went down to Melbourne with our President Alan McBride, to see if we could find a replacement.”

“We had three fellahs teed up – Freddie Goldsmith, Peter Lucas and Frank Tuck. Goldsmith ended up at Albury, and Collingwood appointed Lucas as their Secretary. ‘Tucky’ was keen on the job, and we were very lucky to land him as coach.”

The Spiders were a vastly-improved combination in the early sixties, and surged up the ladder. Tuck had a terrific lieutenant in the dynamic Sandral, who was to take out five successive Club B & F’s and add another two Morris Medals to his collection. He finished fifth in the Medal on another two occasions.IMG_3494

Corowa won their way into their second-ever Grand Final in 1963, with tight 10 and 7 point victories in the lead-up. Sandral’s battle with burly Demon forward Ian Hughes was to prove one of the highlights of the game. His side was in the contest up to its ears at three quarter-time, but Benalla blew them away with an eight goal to nil last quarter. The Spiders would have to wait another five years for their fairytale flag.

By this time, Jimmy Sandral was back at Rennie. He had left Corowa, aged 32, after 164 games, and a reputation as the greatest-ever player to wear the Black and Red guernsey.

For the next six seasons he coached his home club, and finished runner-up in the Archie Dennis Medal each time.

“I told Rennie that I’d do the job for nothing in 1970. They were pretty happy about that. As it turned out, it was one of my most enjoyable years of footy. I was still playing okay, and took out the club Best & Fairest. And in my last game we won the premiership……….”

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Seven years after Jim’s retirement, his son Dennis began a football journey which saw him chalk up 348 O & M games. Regarded as the finest defender in the competition in his day, he and Jim were named full back and centre half back respectively, in Corowa-Rutherglen’s Team of the Century. He also matched his dad’s feat of winning five club Best and Fairests.IMG_3507

Jim says it gave him a huge thrill watching the young bloke’s career closely. “A good, strong player, Dennis….Never let ‘em down…….Finished third in the Medal one year, and a terrific inter-League player.”

“But then, the other boys were handy, too. Michael did his knee early on, and young Jimmy had a bit of back trouble. When Dennis coached Howlong, Jimmy followed him out and won the League Medal.

Jim and Shirley also had two daughters, Bernadette ( O’Donnell ) and Joanne (IMG_3509 Reagan ). There are also 17 grandkids and eight ( soon to be 12 ) great-grandkids, so the Sandral footy dynasty is set to continue.

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Jimmy’s going on 86 now, and there’s no more respected figure in footy. This official Legend of the Ovens and Murray League could also be dubbed its unofficial Ambassador.

He can be found in his customary spot, perched between the kiosk and the interchange shed at the John Foord Oval each home game, or following Corowa-Rutherglen around, wherever they play. And he’s always  up for a yarn…………….IMG_3501

“……….. BE HOME BEFORE DARK……”

The bloke on the door ushered me into the dressing-rooms on that wintry day in 1961.

The opportunity for a starry-eyed 13 year-old to catch a glimpse of the cream of the Ovens and Murray, limbering up for the clash with Goulburn Valley, was too good to miss.

Those icons of the game looked even more imposing in their Gold and Black guernseys :

‘…’.There’s Donny Ross, the former Footscray centreman….and the red-haired rough-nut, Lionel Ryan.…..Burly ‘Pascoe’ Ellis looks pretty calm and collected…… So does the coach, Bobby Rose, who’s offering a few pearls of wisdom to individual players, like Harold Davies and Kevin Mack…..’

‘High-marking, long-kicking Ron McDonald played League footy last year.…… His club-mates, Neville Waller and Bobby Constable are yapping with him…..’Bushy’s’ in such good form he has pushed the prolific goal-kicker Stan Sargeant out to the forward flank today…….’

‘Who’s the slightly-built kid sitting in the corner ? Heck, he’s got the looks of a choir-boy……must be no more than 18 or 19…..Ah, it’s Billy Gayfer from Rutherglen……..’

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Fifty-seven years later, Billy is hazy on the finer details of that game, but recalls what a thrill it was to represent the O & M. He had to pull out two or three other times with injury, he says. Playing in a struggling side, it was like a Grand Final when you got to wear the prized inter-League jumper.IMG_3358

We’re at the Gayfer residence. You can see Barkly Park in the distance – the home of the Rutherglen Football Club. It’s an Oval chock-full of history and was virtually the hub of the Ovens and Murray in the gold-mining and pre-WWI days.

The mighty Redlegs picked up thirteen premierships in just 22 years, and were all-powerful. Their next flag came in 1935, under the coaching of ex-Essendon player Jack Hiskins. One of the match-winners in that game was Bill’s dad, Harry Ledwin Gayfer, universally known as Mick.

An intense distaste of the city prevented Mick from playing League footy, despite assurances that he’d make it without a doubt. He was chased by Collingwood, Melbourne and Footscray, but couldn’t bear to leave home. A bad knee injury finished his career, aged 21.

He remained involved with the Club, and passed on his fervour to his son, who made Barkly Park his second home. The only stipulation his mum gave Bill was that the wood-box needed to be filled before he left – and he had to be home before dark.

“I’d spend four nights a week down there, having a kick, watching the boys in action, then eventually being invited to join in some of the training. I lived for footy.” he recalls. “Greg Tate ( the coach ) kept an eye on me. He was a terrific fellah.”

In 1954, under Tate, Rutherglen won their last – and probably most famous – premiership. “I can still remember it. Mum and dad heading off to Albury in the family ute…… My sister and I in the back…..We were as happy as Larry on the way home….”

Bill was slotted in for his first Reserves game that year, aged 13. Unfortunately, when he made his senior debut two years later, the Club had begun a downward spiral.

“The coach was the only one who got paid. There wasn’t too much money around in a small Club like ours. In fact, we had to pay 2 bob a week into the Provident Fund. But we were a tight-knit mob, and were always hard to beat at Barkly Park; sides didn’t like coming here. And our fanatical supporters used to sometimes boot us home.”

A lack of depth proved to be the ‘Glen’s problem. They were always competitive, and had a few stand-outs who would keep them in the game for long periods before being worn down. Players like lanky Reggie Edwards, who was ever-dangerous up-forward; Ken and Barry Baker, Ian Auldist, John Tafft and Ron ‘Yankee’ Milthorpe…..IMG_3360

But Gayfer was the star and the midfield was his spot. He could also be thrown onto the ball with instant results, and – despite a slender frame and his height of five foot ten and a half – spent time at centre half forward.

The first task of opposition sides was to ensure they shut him down. But he was rarely beaten.

“He was a brillIant centreman……” says Neville Hogan, who had a few tussles with him during the sixties. “….had great stamina, always racked up plenty of possessions, and did a lot of damage with them.”

The year Hogan took out the Morris Medal – 1966 – Gayfer finished fifth. It was the closest he came to winning the coveted gong, despite being perennially tipped as one of the favourites.IMG_3363

Bill won his first Rutherglen best and fairest in 1960, and also saluted in 1962, ‘63, ‘66 and ‘69. As one of the O & M’s young guns in the early sixties, he was strongly pursued by several VFL clubs. Like his dad, the wrench of leaving home proved too strong.

He signed a Form Four with Collingwood at one stage. They suggested he spend a week down there training with them. But when it came to booking accomodation, they told him they couldn’t afford it.

Later on, Graeme McKenzie, the North Albury coach and former Fitzroy captain, pushed him in the Lions’ direction. Bill played on a half back flank in a practice match, alongside the legendary Kevin Murray, and went okay, he says.

As was the norm in this era, VFL clubs named their official lists on the eve of the season. Bill picked up the ‘Sun’ on the Monday morning to find himself on Fitzroy’s Final List.

But he had no further contact from them, and remained a Redleg……….

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Bill was around 25 when he finally made the move from Rutherglen, to accept a coaching appointment at Balldale. He was later lured out to Brockelsby as playing-coach. “We looked a chance to play finals, but lost a few handy players in the latter part of the season, and bombed out,” he says.

So he headed back to Rutherglen to complete his career, and help out by coaching the ‘two’s’.
With a growing brood, and flat-chat with his work as a builder, footy, as ever, was his outlet.

His wife Rosemarie says that Bill’s pre-match ritual was to do a spot of ‘craying’ down at the Murray River, then have a steak for brunch, washed down with a couple of sherries……,”Got the blood flowing,” he says.

 

When he retired at the end of the 1970 season he had chalked up 175 senior games with the Redlegs – without ever playing in a Final.

He received recognition for his illustrious career in later years; being named in both Rutherglen’s 1950-1978 ‘Best-Ever’ Team and Corowa-Rutherglen’s Team of the Century. He was inducted to the Ovens and Murray’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
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But Bill and Rosemarie’s football involvement was far from over. With eight kids – Michael, John, Tony, Susan, Peter, David, Ben and Will – their time was pretty much consumed with sporting activities. The boys all learned the fundamentals at Barkly Park, but their careers diverged.IMG_3364

Rosemarie says she’d sometimes attend four games of footy a week-end – whether it be Coreen League juniors, O & M, Bushrangers or beyond. “Our 16-seater Bus came in handy for transporting kids to games,” she says.

Bill used to take the mickey out of local die-hards whenever they’d start to spruik about the Mighty Magpies. But he had to change his tune once his eldest son became entrenched in the Collingwood line-up.

Michael was to become a close-checking, highly-effective backman during his eight-year, 142-game stint at Victoria Park. He figured in the drought-breaking 1990 Premiership and when delisted at the age of 28, soldiered on for several years in country football.IMG_3343

“He had great concentration, Michael,” says Bill. “People labelled him as a ‘stopper’, but when he left League footy he became a really attacking player. He won the Medal as the best player in a National Country Carnival.”

Tony, a strong ruck-rover, and adept with both feet, was a key player in good Corowa-Rutherglen sides for years, and later coached Rutherglen and Tatura…… “Had a bit of shit in him…” Bill adds.

Peter made his name as a half back flanker with North Old Boys, Redan and Hamilton. David, who once trained at Hawthorn, later played with Ringwood and Banyule.

Will, after starring in defence in the 2003 TAC Cup Grand Final, was surprisingly passed over in the Draft of that year. He went on to play with South Adelaide, Keysborough and The Basin.IMG_3334

When Michael’s time was up at Collingwood, he was enticed to Tatura by his his old Collingwood team-mate Paul Hawke. The G.V Bulldogs took out the flag in 1995. Also in the side was a 20 year-old David Gayfer.

Three years later, when Tat appointed Tony as captain-coach, he guided the side to another title, sharing in the triumph with Michael, and Peter – who was working at Echuca.

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Bill Gayfer coached heaps of kids in junior footy over the years. But he has no doubt who was the stand-out. I’ll let him tell the story:

“I got a phone call from Christine Longmire one Friday night, asking if her son could be squeezed in for a game with our Coreen League junior side.”

“How old is he Christine .”  “Thirteen,” she said.   “Sorry, he’s too young.”

“Oh, come on Bill.”    “Okay then, send him along.”

“As soon as I saw John Longmire, I knew he was going to be something special. And he was one of the nicest kids you’d ever meet.”

“Ironically, he ended up keeping  Peter out of the side…………”IMG_3367

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“IT SURE BEATS LOSING……”

Hello ! We’ve got OAK-FM here to cover the game…… and I spot a photographer with a giant lens lurking in the vicinity……..you notice the old Corowa-Rutherglen brethren with a bit of a spring in their step.  Maybe the football world senses that the ‘Roos’ losing streak is coming to an end today.

To tell you the truth, I’m starting to wonder about it myself.

After all, the Hawks are coming off four straight losses of 90 points or more – and that’s something that can dissipate the confidence-levels of the proudest of football clubs.

Yes, the clash of the O & M’s cellar-dwellers seems to have a expectant atmosphere to it, and has attracted a larger-than-anticipated crowd to the John Foord Oval on this sunny, crisp winter afternoon.

Corowa-Rutherglen have named their youngest-ever debutant. At 15 years 7 months, the 180cm Will Chandler is apparently one out of the box and will be worth watching. He’s the son of former North Melbourne player Jeff, and has been plucked from the Under 16 competition.

The Rovers have also seen fit to promote their Thirds captain, Paul Sanderson – last year’s Leon Dean Medallist – and a highly-skilled small man. Surely, I surmise, as my eyes wander around the visitor’s rooms, this must be one of the Hawks’ youngest-ever sides…….

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Chatting with a couple of old ‘Roos about their well-publicised plight, they say it hasn’t had too much of an effect on the attitude of the players . “They haven’t been too competitive on-field but off-field they’re as happy as Larry. It’s nothing that the infusion of a few players won’t fix. We won’t be going anywhere,” said one.

In their best performance this year, they fell short by only a couple of points against Wangaratta. Today’s is the best line-up they’ve fielded since then, and they admit, they’re quietly confident of doing okay today………

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The Hawks were off to a flier. Within a minute or two of the start, captain Shane Gaston provided a big target down forward and, with a well-timed lead, cradled the Sherrin to his chest . A lovely pass, but an equally-impressive conversion, as the big fellah landed it over the goal-umpie’s head and it cascaded towards the gum trees.

Most of the early play had been in the Rovers-half of the ground, but when the ‘Roos grabbed the ball from a turn-over and rushed it forward, the locals were in raptures. The silky-smooth Chandler swooped and booted their first. What an entry to O & M ranks !

I happened to be standing alongside the iconic Jimmy Sandral – the triple Morris Medallist – who would have to be the most unaffected and humble champ you’d find. But you could detect that even Gentleman Jim’s chest was swelling with pride.

Especially when the lad kicked his second – and then third goals for the term. He was to go on and finish with five for the game. You had the feeling that, among the smouldering embers of Corowa-Rutherglen’s current misfortunes, fresh hope was born in this new star.

The Hawks’ recent goal-kicking woes ( they had kicked just 22 in the past 4 games) seemed a thing of the past, as they snagged six in the first term through a variety of avenues.

They led by three goals at quarter-time, but it was noticeable that the ‘Roos’ gun forward James Lawton had just started to impose himself on the contest, as had the talented Will Robinson.

Within minutes, during the second term, both were off the field. Robinson had a sprained ankle and  took no further part. Lawton returned in the third-quarter with a his knee heavily-strapped and was restricted.

He’s obviously a star, and still finished with three goals. I wonder what a difference he may have made had he been able to help out this young team for the full season.

The Hawks led by 28 points at the main break, but their opponents were snapping at their heels. It was proving an entertaining game and the ‘Roos certainly weren’t out of it.

They mounted a real challenge in the third term and reduced the margin to 15 points at one stage.

But within a matter of five minutes or so, the fight-back was snuffed.

It was possibly attributable to Shane Gaston’s period of dominance at the centre bounce. The Hawks swept the pill forward on three consecutive occasions and goals were booted after strong overhead marks by Chris Knowles, Jack Reiter and Simon Pane.

The result was that they led by 33 points at three quarter-time and had resumed complete control.

One of the highlights of the day, in my book, was the clash between Corowa-Rutherglen stalwart Kade Kuschert and the dogged Hawk centre half back, Michael Clarke. ‘Pup’ punched, marked and persisted magnificently, to take the honours. He and his half-back sidekick Mitch Horwood both give the impression that they are badly in need of a good feed, but you just can’t fault their application.

The classy Dylan Stone was on fire, particularly during a scintillating first half, and amassed 33 possessions, many of which set up scoring opportunities.

Cam Fendyk played possibly his finest game in Brown and Gold and impressed with his precise kicking. He’s a dangerous presence around goal and most of his 23 touches were effective.

Likewise, the enigmatic Jack Reiter made Hawk fans sit up and take notice. Whenever he took possession you figured that something was going to happen. His five goals were a reward for  presenting  himself at the contest and his long left-foot kicking was a feature.

Josh Newton continued his fine form and was ferocious in his attack on the ball. His work in-and-under was impressive, as was the contribution of the hard-working Ben Clarke.

And Sam Carpenter continually worked himself into position and drove the Hawks forward. He must have appreciated some room to move, after being sweated upon for the last few games.

There weren’t many better players for the Roos than Brent Rose, who starred in defence and on the ball, as did the helmeted Jay O’Donoghue and dynamic Hayden Filliponi.

So the Hawks belted out the club song with plenty of gusto and the group of five players who figured in their first win for the club were the subject of the obligatory Gatorade-spray from their joyous team-mates.

Yes, it sure beats losing………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘THE HAPPY HOOKER……..’

He was regarded by his team-mates as a happy-go-lucky soul – the ultimate fellah to lift spirits when they were down – but they reckon Anthony Carroll was also afflicted by a sizeable dose of ‘White-Line Fever.’

Hence the nickname ,’Psycho’…….

They recall the time he came to the aid of a debutant batting partner who was being heavily sledged. As he marched towards the offending fieldsmen, they defended their actions: “You started this stuff,” one said.

‘Psycho’ motioned to take off his batting gloves: “We didn’t start it boy, but I’ll certainly finish it,”

“Just a bit of banter,” was his response at the post-match drinks when his foes remarked how serious he had become………

There were the days he would ‘ark up’ when an enthusiastic quickie might offer a few words of advice and proceed to test him with a bit of chin music.

That was cannon fodder for the ‘Happy Hooker’. The shorter the deliveries became, the harder he would hit – then respond with a satisfied smirk in the direction of the bowler…….

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He’s a Buraja boy…….and proud of it.

That faded red Buraja Cricket Club cap was his lucky charm – part of his armoury – as he presented a formidable target to the bowler. With an unruly head of ginger hair, healthy beard, solid build and  a perpetual grin – minus a couple of teeth – he showed no fear……

Except for one day, perhaps, at Dandenong, in just his second Country Week innings. Surprised by the pace of a South Gippsland speedster, the first ball of the day glanced off his head and sped away for four byes.

He was still trying to come to terms with the barrage of short stuff an over or two later, when he conferred with his partner in mid-pitch….

“These pppricks are tryin’ to knock me bbbloody head off……”

He gutsed it out to score 40 of Wangaratta’s winning total of 163.

‘Psycho’ loved his two trips to Melbourne, scoring a couple of important half-centuries and thriving on the lift in standard. He didn’t mind the night-life either. The story he tells against himself possibly sums up his personality:

“We ended up at this night-club and someone talked me into presenting a rose to one of the dancers. I got half-way up on the stage and a bouncer came after me. I headed for the door, with him in pursuit. He followed me out into the street”

“I hid in a nearby construction site for a while, ’til I thought it was safe. I can’t believe it when I think about it, but I walked back into the night-club half an hour later……. !”

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His three brothers played for Buraja, and ‘Psycho’ was 13 when he joined them in the side. They won two flags in his 12 years there – 1982/83 and ’85/’86.

He was a star in the Rutherglen comp and was recognised by Zone selectors when he was invited to captain the North-East’s 1981 U.21 Harvester Cup team. His undefeated 129 at Shepparton was the first century scored by a N.E player in the series.

With 274 runs at 91.32, he had shown the way. But ‘Psycho’ came to the attention of WDCA players a bit later, when he belted 57 out of Rutherglen’s 108 against them in an Ensign Cup final.

His last innings for Buraja was 112 in a Final. The next year he was invited to join the newly-minted Corowa team in the Wangaratta Association.

So with ‘Cyril’, ‘Boofer’, ‘Gull’, ‘Popeye’, ‘Red-Dick’, ‘Whale’, ‘Harry’,’Keenesy’ and later, ‘Stumpy’ and ‘Puppet’, among others, ‘Psycho’ formed part of a developing team which was to dominate the competition .

Because they were all of the same vintage, they gelled perfectly. Outsiders admired how they played with such freedom; contested the game fiercely, yet were the first to knock the top off a stubbie and have a yarn with the opposition at the end of a game.

“We were a pretty social mob,” says ‘Psycho’. “And we drank our fair share of grog on those trips home on Saturday nights. ‘Whale’ and I were lucky we had ‘Gull’ (Rod Gulliver) who didn’t drink, was very patient and must have driven thousands of miles from Daysdale (50 km north of Corowa) over the years.”

Corowa won their maiden WDCA flag in 1987/88, the first of six in succession.

They were an all-powerful, beautifully-balanced side; among the best in WDCA history.

” ‘Boofer'(David Lane) was captain in those years and thought he was in control. He was too, I suppose, but we all played our part. At one stage he instituted a $5 fine if you got out playing the hook shot. I had to fork out a bit for that, ” ‘Psycho’ says.

He lapped up the big occasions and produced some fine batting performances during the eight flags with which he was involved.

One which earned him celebrity status came in the now-infamous clash between Corowa and College in March 1992.

College pacemen Barry McCormick and Ashley Gilbert had blitzed Wangaratta in a one-sided semi-final and were the key weapons for the popular fancies in the ‘big one’ at the Bruck Oval.

They both did well with the bat, as College mustered a tantalising 284 on the first day. Overnight, ‘unknown persons’ had clambered over the fence and used hammers to vandalise the wicket. Play was delayed for some time to enable the ‘track’ to be repaired, but still, Corowa had misgivings about beginning their innings.
When they did, ‘Psycho’ set the game alight. He was dropped on 6, but made the most of his good fortune to belt 16 boundaries and a towering six. The Chronicle report stated that “………Carroll showed all the class and flair that has made him one of the WDCA’s most dangerous batsmen……”

His swashbuckling 153 took his side past their target, and on to 311. College chased quick runs in their second ‘dig’ and left Corowa 131 to win. Another Carroll ‘gem’ , an unbeaten 59, got them there with the loss of a solitary wicket.

‘Psycho’ scored six centuries in his 11 WDCA seasons and his arrival at the crease usually signified that the fireworks were about to begin.

He played his 124th – and last – game in the 1997/98 Grand Final and chalked up his 8th flag, to put the stamp on a glittering WDCA career.

The Carroll football credentials were equally impressive and have earned him eternal recognition as a Corowa-Rutherglen great.

He began with the ‘Roos in 1976, as a 15 year-old, and when he departed in 1990 after 212 games, was renowned as a fearless, tenacious and skilful on-baller. His ability to dodge and weave out of trouble, turn on a ‘threepenny bit’ and use his left boot to advantage, marked him as a danger-man to opposition teams.

His only time away from the John Foord Oval had been to twice travel up to sweltering, humid Darwin, where he spent a couple of summer seasons with Nightcliff.

‘Psycho’s’ dad, Dinny, was a Corowa champion in his day, and a multiple best and fairest winner with the Spiders. He was named on a half forward flank in the combined Corowa and Rutherglen Team of the Century.

The ‘young bloke’ must also also have come under consideration, as he was a five-time runner-up  B & F and had represented the O & M 12 times.

‘Psycho’s’ fairytale footy season arrived in 1991 when he was enticed out to Coreen as captain-coach. He handled the leadership role with ease and played superbly, taking out the League’s Archie Dennis Medal.

And the climax came when he ‘turned it on’ in the opening quarter of the Grand Final, as the Swans took charge and went on to clinch the flag by 34 points.

He returned to help the ‘Roos out after he hung the boots up, and acted as Chairman of Selectors for 3 years.

But a battle with leukaemia has been the focus of his attention over the last seven and a half years, It has done little to dull the good humour and spirit of one of local sport’s greatest characters.