'ENIGMATIC CAREY , A STAR OF THE DEPRESSION ERA…'

Wangaratta’s rise to sporting prominence during the Depression era coincided with the flourishing careers of a handful of champions.

Not many of them, though, could match the feats of curly-haired Herbert Wesley Carey, a dynamic footballer, explosive all-round cricketer and enigmatic personality……..

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Carey’s parents transplanted their large family to Wangaratta from Devon Meadows (near Cranbourne) in the late twenties.His dad, Walter. like so many of his generation, had tried his hand at anything; from Gold-Mining, to tobacco-growing, to Carpentry. It was whilst panning for gold that he incurred syenite poisoning in his knee, which left him with a stiff leg for the remainder of his life.

With nine kids ( he and wife Margaret lost another son, Walter Steane, in his infancy ) he found that Building was the most appropriate way to sustain the family. The boys – George, Fred, Bill, Bert and Stan – possessed a variety of skills, but Bert became his principal helper.

The Carey’s would go on to construct many houses in the West End area, including a couple in Steane Street, which was named after the second Christian names of Walter and the baby son they’d lost.

Wangaratta Football Club happened upon a recruiting bonanza when the Carey gang hit town. The five boys all played together at various times. When former Hawthorn player Dermott O’Brien quit as coach mid-way through their first season, 1929, the adaptable Fred was appointed in his place.

One of the key players at his disposal was Bert, who was equally at home whilst on the ball or up forward.

Bert stood 5’10” and weighed 75kg, and had already sampled VFL football, having played five games with Fitzroy. But, at periods over the next nine years, he would prove well-nigh unstoppable in the Black and White guernsey.

He gave Magpie fans an early sample of his brilliance when he booted 13 goals in their 92-point thrashing of Rutherglen.

Bert signalled his cricketing ability in his first WDCA game with newly-formed East Wangaratta, finishing with figures of 5/8 and 6/1 and producing a belligerent innings of 85 against Footballers.

A left-arm bowler of considerable pace, he could swing the ball both ways (sometimes too much) and proved a more than handy batsman in the middle-order. Little wonder, with Bert in the side complementing the redoubtable Fisher brothers, they became a power. After a one-wicket win in the 1928/29 decider, East again took out the flag the following year.

Carey teamed with Brookfield speedsters Ken and Harry Kneebone to form a lethal new-ball combination in representative cricket.

His first Country Week, in 1929, was a raging success. He captured 20 wickets at an average of 5.6, including successive hauls of 7/21 and 5/39. He was to become a cornerstone of the Wangaratta attack, and produced some astonishing performances.

In his best individual effort, in 1933, he snared 6/11, 5/39, 5/24, 4/57 and made an undefeated 40, following this with 4/67 in the Final, which Wangaratta duly won.

His wicket-taking record over nine trips to Melbourne (1929-’37) has never been bettered, and was a factor in Wangaratta’s tally of 21 wins, 4 losses and 7 draws over that period.

In a move which inflamed tensions between the rival clubs, Bert switched from East Wang to Wangaratta in 1933/34, and was able to add another two premierships to his collection, giving him five WDCA flags in total……..

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Carey’s uncanny goal-kicking skills made him a vital part of Wangaratta’s football success. He was averaging in excess of five goals per game in 1930, before he was shut down in a vital clash against West Albury. The ‘Pies lost the game, but he bounced back with hauls of 8 and 11 against Rutherglen and Corowa.

Wangaratta had incurred a financial loss of 275 pounds, after also covering the 50 pound debt of sister club, Rovers. There were concerns about the club’s ability to field two teams, so they decided to affiliate just one side in the Ovens and King League.

They comfortably won the 1931 Grand Final. Carey capped a fine season by kicking his 85th goal – a new O & K record – which was boosted by an incredible 21 goals in one match, out of a team total of 25.32. It still remains the highest individual score by a Wangaratta player.

The’Pies’ second successive O & K flag in ’32 prompted an invitation to return to the Ovens and Murray League. Much to the chagrin of the O & K, who claimed that they were again being ‘used’, Wang duly re-affiliated.

Not only that, they re-asserted their dominance, and were sitting on top of the ladder, unbeaten after five matches.

And they did it without Bert Carey, who had been lured down to Hawthorn. He booted five goals against St.Kilda in the opening VFL round and followed it with another ‘bag’ of five against North Melbourne.

He had 16 goals in six games before advising the Mayblooms that he was returning home to Wangaratta.

This was the icing on the cake for the ‘Pies. But despite finishing atop the ladder, they fell to Border United in the Second Semi Final.

They bounced back in scintillating fashion, booting 20.10 to Corowa’s 8.4 in the Prelim, with the double-pronged forward targets, Len Nolan (10) and Bert Carey (8) having a field-day.

The following week Wangaratta lined up against Border United in the Grand Final. The teams were evenly-matched, but Border took a 16-point lead into the final term.

Nolan, Bill Brown and Carey soon had the opposition defence under pressure, and with two minutes to play, Wang had gone to a seven-point lead. A Border goal lifted the hopes of the favourites, but time ran out and Wangaratta hung on to win a classic by one point.

It was a triumph for the Carey family, as coach Fred (the Morris Medallist) had led from the front and Bert, with three goals, again illustrated what a big-game player he was……

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Controversy seemed to dog Bert Carey, despite his star status as a player. No more so than when he was included in the Wangaratta side late in the 1936 season. He’d been missing for most of the year, having decided to take up umpiring.

Two players, Jim Gorman and Len Irving, refused to play alongside him. He had, they said, taken the place of a team-mate who’d helped the side into the ‘four’.

Wangaratta subsequently reported them to the League. Their argument was that there had been a shortage of players when Carey was selected, and: “he had been ready to go umpiring when asked to play against Rutherglen.”

After a lengthy delegates meeting, Irving and Gorman were disqualified for the remainder of the 1936 season for their refusal to play.

Carey proved more than handy in the ensuing finals series. Wangaratta fell to Rutherglen in the Second semi, but bounced back to kick 18.20 to 11.11 against Wodonga in the Prelim.

The old-timer showed his worth by snagging seven majors, as the Bulldogs found it difficult to counter he and the burly Charlie Heavey up forward.

In another gripping Grand Final, Wangaratta turned the tables on Rutherglen, to take out their third O & M flag. It was a contest of the highest order, as Wang, despite kicking poorly in the final term, held on to win by 20 points.

Bert Carey had just turned 32 when Hawthorn called on him in the early rounds of 1937. Playing in the centre, he proved his class in four games. But injuries prevailed, and mid-way through the season he again returned to Wangaratta.

This was to be his swansong. After a handful of games the career of Bert Carey was over. He had played 104 games and booted 423 goals for the ‘Pies……

KENNEDY’S COMMANDO

The lanky volunteer swapping banter with patients at the Wangaratta Hospital, remains anonymous to all but the most perceptive football person.

As a retired male nurse  of 36 years standing,  he’s seen first-hand the fillip that a caring visitor can bring to someone who’s been consigned to bed for a week or more. Even a ‘hello’ can bring a broad smile to their face and brighten their day.

Nowadays he comes across as a soft-hearted, kindly soul – a far cry from the flint-hard key defender, who played an important role in one of the toughest of all VFL/AFL Grand Finals.

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Norm Bussell didn’t play a game of football until he was 14. Not because he didn’t want to, mind you. It’s just that his arm was broken so badly at the age of nine that he couldn’t straighten it fully for many years.

Instead, his dad, who was the resident Lands Department dingo-trapper in Whitfield, would take him out at week-ends to help trap and shoot the pests, which would prey on local livestock.

The Bussell home backed onto the King Valley Oval and Norm spent many hours honing his football skills, soon winning himself a spot in the ‘Roos’ senior side and an invitation from the Wang.Rovers to play three games on permit towards the end of 1961. He was just 16.

The next season he became a regular with the Hawks and relished playing under Bob Rose, soaking up the wisdom of the great man. Rose, for his part, rated the lightly-framed, athletic 193cm Bussell highly.

When he took on the coaching job at Collingwood two years later, he immediately lured Norm down to Victoria Park for the practice matches and Magpie officials coaxed him into signing a Form Four, binding him to the club for an indefinite period.

But he never did take that next step.

He had just started an Auto-Electrical apprenticeship in Wangaratta and was happy at the Rovers. Besides, he was loving his footy, playing at centre half back and thriving in a close-knit group that gelled superbly, as the charismatic Ken Boyd extracted the best out of them.

The Rovers won back-to-back premierships in 1964 and ’65 and played in another Grand Final, which they lost to Wodonga, in 1967. Norm had won the club’s Best & Fairest and represented the League during the season and when Hawthorn secretary Ron Cook came knocking one Saturday morning, he was interested in what he had to say.

What perfect timing ! Collingwood’s Form Four had expired the previous night and the VFL’s Zoning scheme was due to kick-in on the following Monday. This meant that Norm would have become automatically tied to North Melbourne.

“I liked the way Ron Cook went about things. I signed with Hawthorn and decided to go straight away. I never regretted that decision”, he said.

Without playing a Reserves game, he went straight into the senior side for the first game of 1968. And he became a fervent disciple of the coaching methods of John Kennedy.

“The conditioning at Hawthorn made the players so much more physically strong than our opponents and John built an entire game plan around this ascendency. It was a real family club. They were champion blokes and it was a privilege to be involved “, he recalled.

He thrived on what his team-mate Don Scott described “the spirit of Hawthorn”.

“It came from the players staying together away from the ground. there was no need for the administration, the coach, or anyone else, to re-in force any kind of discipline. We had our own code of ethics and it worked, ” Scott once said.

Norm forged friendships with the ‘Hawthorn family’ that have lasted to this day.

Whilst never a glamour player, his ability to do the job in defence enabled him to make a name for himself and he was to play 114 senior games with Hawthorn over six years. The highlight was undoubtedly the 1971 premiership.

Hawthorn were dealt a hefty blow in the second semi-final when champion centre half back Peter Knights tore ligaments and was ruled out for the Grand Final. It meant that they were forced to move Bussell across from the flank to the key defence post. He played a significant role in the triumph over St.Kilda, in a rough-and-tumble decider, ever-remembered for its brutality.

It’s interesting, in this current era of exorbitant player contracts, which can sometiimes be upwards of half a million dollars a year, that the players in Bussell’s era were earning around $20 per game, with an extra $10 salted away in their Provident Fund.

A back injury shortened Norm’s League career and he returned to the Rovers in 1974, accepting the appointment as assistant-coach to Neville Hogan, with whom he had shared a flag ten years earlier.

The family settled on a small farm at Whorouly and he enjoyed his footy. “I was very happy to be home. There was never any question about coming back to the club which had given me my original opportunity. But out on the ground it wasn’t easy. I was a bit of a marked man and some of the young blokes wanted to knock my block off”, he said.

Injury problems confined him to just 10 games in 1974, but he played a starring role in the premiership win. He had a stellar year in ’75, winning his second Best & Fairest and helping in another flag win. His toughness added a touch of steel to a talented line-up.

The last of his 143 games with the Rovers came early in 1976, as he succumbed to his ‘dicky’ knee and aching back.

He retired to his farm and commenced a mature-aged nursing degree. The inevitable visit came from his local club, Whorouly, who asked him to take over the coaching position. Successive premierships in 1977 and ’78 were sparked by his aggressive on-field leadership. There was little doubt that his players would ‘go through a brick wall’ for him.

At one stage they had chalked up 29 wins in a row. The winning margin in the 1978 decider against Beechworth was a whopping 119 points.

Myrtleford approached him in 1985 and he spent one, largely unsuccessful year as non-playing coach of a side that had suffered from mass departures during the off-season.

That was the final curtain-call for his active footy career, although he was a proud onlooker as his son Aidan helped the Rovers to the 1993 flag in a 44-game playing stint during the 90’s.

The once-laconic youngster, who had become a proud member  of ‘Kennedy’s Commandoes’, left a strong imprint on the football scene and is a member of both the Ovens & King and Wangaratta Rovers’ Halls of Fame.
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THE COP WHO STAYED

Here he comes, busily hobbling along, with that recognisable gait. Reminds you of an old rodeo rider. His knees are stuffed…..one of the legacies of a legendary footy career.

You notice that everybody says g’day to him. He has a lived-in face and ready smile. In days gone by he would launch into that wholehearted, throaty laugh and unveil a couple of missing teeth. He would once only insert the ‘falsies’ on special occasions, but nowadays they’re a permanent fixture.

He’s probably the biggest personality in the Club, is Andrew Scott. The young players know him because he’s always around the place doing something. Those of an older generation revere him for the way he could turn a game of football on its head and for the effort that he’s continued to put in since hanging up his boots 30-odd years ago.

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Scotty is a Sorrento boy, born and bred. He was somewhat of a childhood prodigy at the Mornington Peninsula club and in 1969 played a key role in their senior premiership team.

After winning the ‘Sharks’ Best & Fairest in 1971 he was invited to Hawthorn and became only the second Sorrento player to break into VFL senior ranks when he made his debut against St.Kilda in Round 11, 1972.

It was the era of zoning in the VFL and Hawthorn were lucky enough to have the plum Mornington area, from which they plucked stars of the calibre of Leigh and Kelvin Matthews, Michael Moncrieff, Peter Knights, Kelvin Moore and Alan Martello.

Hawthorn were the reigning premiers and were continuing to mould a line-up which would remain at, or near, the top throughout the seventies. Scotty felt privileged to be among such hallowed company and grateful for the six senior games he played in 1972 and ’73.

“I’d have liked to stay longer, but I wasn’t good enough”, he replies when people ask him about his brief sojourn at Glenferrie Oval.

He returned to Sorrento for a season, then, for a bit of a change in lifestyle, decided to head to the bush in his employment as a policeman.

It would, he thought, be a good idea to get away for a couple of years to broaden his horizons.

He put in for a transfer to Wodonga, but was beaten for the position. Wangaratta was his second choice and, soon after finding out he was successful he was bombarded by the Magpies and Rovers, both desperate to convince him to sign.

The Hawks won out and have always regarded the Scott signing as one of their greatest recruiting coups.

Within 12 months he had a Morris Medal draped around his neck and a premiership to his name. And he had become an immense favourite with Rovers fans, who loved this bloke with the knockabout nature.

He was a natural ruck-rover, but had been at the club only a month, when Rovers coach Neville Hogan swung him to centre half forward, as cover for the injured Darrell Smith. There he stayed for a couple of years.

Old-timers likened him to the great Royce Hart, in the way he would float across the pack to take courageous, and spectacular, marks. He played a big man’s game in the most difficult of all positions on the ground, despite being a slender 6’1″.

The Rovers played in Grand Finals in each of his first six years at the Club, winning four of them.  The major hiccup came in 1976, when Wangaratta ran over the Hawks, an occasion which some of his Magpie matesstill hark back to.

“It was with particular satisfaction that we did a job on them the following season”, he recalled in a nostalgic flashback to the days of yore .

“But the one that really stood out for all of us was knocking off Benalla, the virtually unbackable favourites, in 1978. They’d only lost once all year, to us, early in the season. It was all over by half-time. We really came out revved up.”

Benalla’s coach on that fateful day was Billy Sammon, a fellow O &M Hall of Famer, who has always waxed lyrical about Scotty, the footballer.

Sammon coached the O &M to a 56-point victory against the VFA in 1975, as Scotty turned in a terrific display at centre half forward. From then on he was an automatic choice in inter-league sides and a particular favourite of Billy.

Neville Hogan was concerned that his star was becoming worn down by continually giving away weight and height to opponents in the key position. He swung him onto the ball, with an occasional foray up forward.

Scotty didn’t miss a beat. He won the Rovers B & F in 1977 and ’80, finished runner-up in the Morris Medal in 1978 and was third on two other occasions.

And there were the 248 goals that he kicked in his 181 games with the Hawks, including a ‘day-out’ when he and Neville Pollard each booted 10 against Lavington.

Additionally, what value do you place on a fellow who is the life of the show and vital to the cameraderie of the playing group. Priceless, I’d say.

Of the memories that flood back, I recall the famous No.6, delivering a right jab, which travelled just inches, yet changed the complexion of a semi -final against North Albury in 1982.

The victim was champion Hopper John Smith, who had been cutting the Rovers to pieces. The two old warriors met in mid-field, both with similar intentions. Scotty got in first….Smith’s influence waned….the Hawks ran out winners by 16 points.

He retired in 1985, but continued his unstinting involvement.   The myriad of official roles he has been saddled with include ……Assistant-Coach, Chairman of Selectors, Board Member, Past Players President……

He was enlisted by coach Laurie Burt to test the suspect Mark Frawley shoulder in the lead-up to the 1988 Grand Final. As the old bull, who hadn’t seen any on-field action for three years, squared-up against the stripling in front of the Hogan Stand after training, a few onlookers watched the action.

He showed his famed aggressive intent in roaring in to bump Frawley a few times but came off second-best. The harder he tried the further he bounced off and the more distressed he was becoming. Finally, he nodded to Burt: “I think he’s right “.

Scotty is most comfortable soldiering away behind the scenes. His imprint is on all of the building projects that have been undertaken at the Findlay Oval over the last couple of decades. But two of which he’s been particularly proud have been the construction of the mezzanine floor in the foyer and the recent completion of the luxurious Balcony, the O & M’s best viewing spot.

He made a huge decision in the nineties, to ditch the police uniform for ‘tradie’s’ overalls, as Wangaratta’s oldest plumbing apprentice. He then went on to run his own business and become a TAFE plumbing teacher. Just another couple of strings to the bow of the charismatic all-rounder.

There is no more passionate, nor a greater defender of the Hawks than Andrew Scott.

He’s done a fair job for a blow-in !

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Scotty (right), with fellow Hawk Morris Medallists, Bob Rose, mNeville Hogan & Robbie  Walker.
Scotty (right), with fellow Hawk Morris Medallists, Bob Rose, mNeville Hogan & Robbie Walker.