“……GO TARRAWINGEE……….”

“Go Tarrawingee…….Tricolors we are the team”
“Tough… fast…courageous… in football we sure reign supreme……..”
“From back line to for’d line, we Dogs we never give in”
“We aim to be the premiers of the Ovens and King…………”

 

The strains of the Bulldogs’ theme song were still ringing in his ears when Trevor Edwards finally hit the sack around 4am last Sunday.

What a momentous day ! The best-laid plans of his brains-trust had worked to a tee, and his players had given of their best. They’d fought out a gruelling contest with Milawa, in windswept conditions, and with steely determination, to clinch Tarra’s eighth flag.IMG_3683

Then the celebrations began…….And the endless renditions of that song………..

“We had a good go again, out at the Clubrooms, when everybody re-surfaced on Sunday, then the boys at the ‘Plough’ put on a meal for us on Monday ,” said Trev. “It’s amazing how you can still find different parts of the game to dissect two days later………..”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To put Tarrawingee’s third flag in eleven years into perspective, it’s worth tracking back more than two decades, to an era when they were fobbed off as one of the O & K’s ‘poor relations’.

After clinching an unlikely premiership in 1990, the next fourteen years were spectacularly unsuccessful. The Dogs floundered at – or near the bottom – of the ladder.  A meagre two victories between 1997 and ‘99 resulted in the ignominy of a hat-trick of wooden-spoons. Only once, in 1995, did they manage to reach the finals.

The Recreation Reserve was certainly not a ‘destination-spot’ for any player seeking to head out to the Ovens and King. The ‘Bullies’ were ‘on the nose’.

A comeback of sorts began in the early 2000’s, when improved on-field performances were matched by the diligence of an enthusiastic administration. Some building projects were undertaken, which lifted  Tarra’s  facilities to be almost without peer among minor-league clubs.

Under the coaching of Billy McMillan, they snuck into successive Elimination Finals. In Mick Wilson’s second year, the Dogs convincingly outpointed Bright to snatch the flag.

The revival was complete.

Tarra has now contested 14-straight finals series, and appear well-placed to continue their reign amongst the upper echelon. Their rise from the scrap-heap is an example to other clubs which find themselves mired in mediocrity………………..
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
My original intention was to yarn with Trevor Edwards last week, as a lead-up to the Grand Final. He wasn’t too keen; opting to keep things low-key before the big game.

Even now, as we talk, he’s probably wondering why I’ve bothered to chase him up. He’s a humble bloke, quietly-spoken – hardly the type to peel the paint off clubroom walls with a vitriolic outburst, or, heaven forbid, draw undue attention towards himself.

“He’s highly-respected – the players think a lot of him,” noted one old Dog. Another said: “You rarely hear him raise his voice or do his block.”

Trev has loved his time at Tarra ; loved coaching. But he’s 37, and it’s time to hang up the boots, he says. “I’ve had a really good run with injury. Dislocated a knee once; had a couple of soft tissue injuries. I’d be tempting fate if I went on………..”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Trevor Edwards career began with a couple of seasons at King Valley Thirds. He was around 13, he thinks, when he first started. The next step was to Junior Magpies, where he came under the influence of the legendary Bob Murray.

“Jonny McCormick, Simon Gamze and Brian Tavare were three others who were playing. We had a fair side, and won the flag. That was the first of many to come, I thought. I soon came to realise how difficult they are to win.”IMG_3682

A pre-season with the Murray Bushrangers prepared him for his elevation to the Wang Thirds – then, in 1999, came his O & M debut with Wangaratta.

As a tall, lanky, teen-aged left-footer, he was pitchforked into key defence roles with the struggling Pies. They were in the midst of a horror-patch, where they were to collect seven wooden-spoons in a row. In his first four seasons they won just nine matches.

It was a rapid-learning experience, to say the least, and when Jon Henry took over as coach, the improvement amongst the younger players, in particular, was obvious.

Trev stands 6’4” ( 193cm) and has now thickened up a little from his earlier days, when he tipped the scales at just short of eighty kilos. Hardly the sort of proportions to be wrestling with the goal-kicking brutes of that era, you’d reckon.

“Jon ( Henry ) kept at me about hitting the weights, but I’ve never been a gym junkie,” he says.
“I just relied on my height and natural ability, I suppose.”IMG_3686

The Magpies’ gradual rise was emphasised when they played Lavington in the Elimination Final of 2004. That was the last of Trev’s 102 O & M senior games.

Yielding to a touch of wanderlust, he and Lauren decided to explore the West, where he spent a season in the W.A Amateur Football League, with the Whitford Warriors.

When they returned to Victoria, they settled in Geelong. He was quickly snapped up by Bellarine League team , Geelong Amateurs.

“They were a strong club and we had a fair bit of success in the seven years I was there. We won the flag in 2008, then finished runners-up for the next three seasons.”IMG_3685

The ‘Ammo’s’ used him on a wing, or across half forward. When they swept to their second BFL title – kicking 28.11 to Torquay’s 14.17, he starred in attack, and savours the memory of his first senior premiership, which had been brewing for ten years.

Trev had played 114 games with the ‘Ammo’s’ and was named in their ‘Team of the Decade’. But they felt the call of home,  and he and Lauren lobbed back in Wangaratta in 2013.

He was keenly-sought by a few clubs, but several old Magpies – such as Brendan Cairns, Trent Allen, Dan McCormick, Jordy Solimo and Daniel Barassi – had already gravitated to Tarra, and that made his decision to sign with the Tricolors a no-brainer.

The Dogs fell at the Prelim Final hurdle in his first couple of years, but there was no doubt that the big centre half back had earned his ranking as one of the League’s premier defenders.

There was more disappointment ahead, in 2015, when they bombed out in a demoralising Elimination Final performance against Bright. Edwards stood tall in defence, against the odds, as they were nailed by 69 points.

He shared the coaching duties with Kyle Raven that year, but stepped into the role in his own right in 2016.

It was a natural progression. Coaching was a good fit, he agrees. When I ask for the philosophy, that he preaches, it’s fairly basic: “Be a good team-mate…….Be prepared to do a job for the team……Gain the trust of your team-mates by your efforts on and off the field……..”

Tarra finished the home-and-away in third spot in 2016, then recorded impressive wins over King Valley and Milawa. “We were really enjoying our footy. We’d got on a roll,” Trev recalls.

“But at half-time of the Prelim, Bonnie Doon were pretty well on top, in sloppy conditions. We looked a bit flat. You asked before whether I’d ever lost my cool – well, I gave ‘em a burst that day.”

And it worked, the Dogs fought back to clinch a 3-point win. The following week, however, on the big stage, a rampant Glenrowan proved too strong.

Last season, after earning the double chance despite the loss of key players, they were bundled out in straight sets.

So the question mark remained over the Bulldogs. Could they produce when they were ‘under the pump’ in the finals ?

“We recruited well this year,” Trev says. “Obviously Daine Porter was a handy acquisition. I don’t think you’d find many better team players than Daine. He sets a great example.”

“But after Benalla knocked us off in Round 6, we had a close look at our set-up. Actually, Xav Norden texted me over that week-end and said :’ what do you think about us swapping over – you to centre half forward and me to CHB ?’ “

“We alternated for a few weeks, then thought it was working okay, so we kept it at that. Xav’s been terrific down back. The leader of a really strong, tight backline.”

“But, as we proved last week-end, we’ve had a good, even spread across the board. The style of footy we played in the two finals is just what was required. They’re a great lot of fellahs.”IMG_3684

“I’ve also had great support from Joel Fisher and Jai Canny, who’ve been my eyes and ears on the bench. They both know their footy back-to-front, and allowed me to focus on my game………..”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

So after 350 senior games, including being a ‘centurion’ at three different clubs ( 102 at Wangaratta, 114 at Geelong Amateurs and 119 at Tarrawingee ) the Trevor Edwards career has wound down.

He’s looking forward to just following Tarra from the other side of the fence, spending more time with the kids – 6 year-old Harry ( who loves his footy) and 2 year-old Isabelle – and watching Lauren play Netball.

One thing he won’t miss is having to go on the recruiting trail. He’ll leave that to his successor. When I mention that he’s now joined a hallowed group of premiership coaches – Kevin French, Ray Burns, John Welch, Bob Barrett and Mick Wilson – at Tarrawingee, he’s impressed.

“That sounds pretty good company,” says the unassuming gentle giant…………IMG_3667

“THE LONG ROAD TO THE FLAG…..”

Footy premierships are hard to win.

Sometimes they’re the culmination of years of careful planning, prudent spending and nurturing of local talent. Even then, just as ‘Everest’ seems to be within reach, a knee injury to a gun player, or an untimely suspension, can derail the most meticulous of finals campaigns.

On rare occasions, though, a hefty slice of luck by way of a last-minute recruiting coup, can thrust a battling team into flag contention.

This is the story of an unlikely Ovens and King League triumph – the seeds of which were sown during a late-night session in a Darwin pub…………….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

It’s March 1990, and a star Territory goal-kicker, who is enthusiastically celebrating yet another NTFL flag, is yarning with a Tarrawingee lad who’s up in the far north searching for work, catching up with family….and spruiking about his home club, the mighty Bulldogs……..

The next day Paul Nolan rings home: “Chris Long’s interested in coming to Tarra……..”

“Chris who?”

“You know………Michael’s brother…..He played in Yarrawonga’s premiership last year.”

“Terrific. But we’d better run it past Barrett ( Tarrawingee coach and Plough Inn publican, Bob Barrett ) to see what he reckons……”

A couple of nights later, another phone call confirms that Chris Long is in the process of loading up his ute, and is about to embark on the 4,000km trek down the Stuart Highway ………and he’s also bringing his brother Johnny, along for the trip.

Fast forward three weeks: Tarra’s president Peter Byrne takes a call from the West. It’s Noel Long, who has already played three games at East Perth, but explains he’d prefer to line up alongside his brothers. He adds:

“I should be able to get a transfer in my job at the CES………. East Perth gave me a sign-on fee. I’ll pay them back half of it if you wouldn’t mind paying the other half. Oh, and by the way, my younger brother Patrick is with me, and he’d like to come too”.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Tarrawingee figured in a Preliminary Final in 1986, but by the late eighties had started to tumble down the ladder. The stars who had served them diligently had almost reached the end of their tether, and there wasn’t much talent coming through. The glory of their last flag, in 1975, now seemed a distant memory.

In the lead-up to the 1990 season, with a scarcity of numbers, there had even been talk of a potential amalgamation with neighboring Milawa. Things didn’t look all that rosy.

So, thanks to this out-of-the-blue recruiting windfall, those close to the club got busy lining the newcomers up with some work………. Johnny started as a part-time farm-hand on Peter Byrne’s property, and worked with L & S Coating; Chris was employed at OP Industries; Patrick started as an apprentice at Bob Dewar’s Butchery in Murdoch Road.

And Noel was able to initiate his transfer with the CES . His job alternated between the Wangaratta and Shepparton offices.

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To put into perspective the good fortune that had befallen the Bulldogs, here’s a thumb-nail sketch of the career details of their new recruits:

# Noel Long, a silky left-footer, had won the Chaney Medal, as best afield in St.Mary’s stunning 1989/90 premiership win in mid-March (he finished his career with three Chaney’s). It was the sixth of 11 flags he was to play in with his beloved Saints. He had represented the NT 10 times, played with East Perth and West Torrens, won the Territory’s Nichols Medal and chalked up 215 NTFL games.

# Johnny, elusive and dynamic, figured in seven flags in the Green and Gold, was a 3-time NT rep and played 153 NTFL games – kicking 226 goals.

# Chris shared in four flags with St.Mary’s, represented the NT three times and was ever-dangerous up forward. He made 93 senior appearances with the Saints.

# Patrick’s six senior premierships included a starring role on the wing, alongside Noel, in the ‘89/‘90 flag triumph. He played 172 games with St.Mary’s.

 

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‘Cyril’ Everitt had been a mainstay with the ‘Dogs since arriving from Wangaratta in 1981. A vigorous, hard-working ruckman, he rarely lowered his colours in the big man duels and was one of those ‘heart and soul’ players who are capable of inspiring their team-mates to greater deeds.

“To put it bluntly,” Cyril recalls, “we hadn’t been expecting much. Our previous couple of years had been underwhelming, but the moment the news came through that the Longs were coming, it seemed to give the whole place a lift.”

“I remember Paul Nolan driving Chris up to our first game at Beechworth. He kept asking him to turn the heater up. It was a typically-crisp autumn day at Baarmutha Park, and he wasn’t too keen to brave the elements.”

“From about the half-way mark of the season, you could sense that there was something special brewing within the playing group……The influence of the Longs had a part to play in it, I suppose….. but even the battlers seemed to be swept along…….”

Even so, the Dogs were no certainty to cement a finals spot. In fact, their fate could well have been sealed in a late-season clash at North Wangaratta.

With the bottom-placed Hawks clinging to a narrow lead in the dying seconds, Johnny Long threaded the ball towards the waiting arms of key forward Mal Dinsdale. It’s said that the noise from a passing train drowned out the final siren, which sounded before the mark had been taken.

It was paid by the ump, much to the dismay of the irate Northerners. Big Mal kicked truly, to give the Tricolours a four-point victory……..

The presence of Dinsdale, Lionel Schutt and Chris Long gave the forward line a real presence. Chris booted several big ‘bags’. He accepted a challenge one Thursday night, from a Plough Inn patron, who wagered $100 that he couldn’t boot 10 goals against Greta that Saturday.

It was a breeze. Already with nine on the board, and in the dying stages of the game, he clutched a ‘dinky’ 11-metre pass from his brother Johnny, to notch his tenth. He finished with 11.

Schutt, aged 21, had acceded to the captaincy when injuries forced ruckman Dave McCann out of the side. Playing above his height at centre half forward, the long-haired, swarthy youngster developed an amazing telepathy with the Long brothers. They dubbed him ‘Lionel Long’……..

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Bright’s loss in Round 18, dispatched them from the five and pitted 1989 premiers Whorouly against the glamor team, Tarrawingee, in a mouth-watering Elimination Final.

The ‘Dogs were in control throughout and ran away, to win by 57 points, with Noel, John and Chris Long the architects of a landslide victory.

Prodigiously-talented Noel, and reigning Best & Fairest Wayne De La Rue, were the stars of a fighting two-goal win over Beechworth in the First Semi, the following week.

Flag favourites Chiltern, reeling after being sensationally over-run by Moyhu in the Second Semi, were determined to make amends against Tarra in the Preliminary Final.

The Swans had capitulated, and allowed the Hoppers to boot 12 goals in the final term. Despite being labelled brittle, they were prepared for anything that the Dogs threw at them.

Again, they surrendered a big  lead, after being five goals up with 10 minutes remaining, to allow Tarra to pinch a dramatic seven-point win. Another Chris Long eight-goal haul contributed to the highlights reel.IMG_3391

The Dogs were in the Grand Final……….

A huge crowd, upwards of 5,000, crammed into the Greta Recreation Reserve, to salivate upon the eagerly-awaited clash between Moyhu and Tarrawingee. By now, ‘Long-fever’ had swept the Ovens and King League, and many fans who had only heard of the magical brothers were keen to see them in the flesh.IMG_3386

They weren’t disappointed.

From the moment Lionel Schutt poked through his first major with a snap from the boundary, the Bulldogs were in complete charge. They booted 7.2 to 1.5 in the first term, and despite the Hoppers fighting back bravely in the second, the result never seemed in doubt.IMG_3392

The effervescent Schutt nailed eight straight for the day, and always posed a danger. Noel Long set things up from the middle and Chris assumed centre stage late in the game, when he lined up – and kicked truly – for his 100th goal of the season.

But it was a local boy, Andrew Pryse, who was hailed a hero. The rugged defender played the game of his life in an exceptional performance.

The Dogs had been emphatic in their 27.11 to 15.12 victory……………….IMG_3400

IMG_3401…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

  • THE AFTERMATH

* Peter Byrne served eight years as President,  six as Treasurer and is the current Chairman of  the O & K Board. He’s chuffed that, although outsiders predicted Tarra’s financial demise during the 1990 season, the Club finished well and truly in the black. “Bigger crowds and extra enthusiasm around the club certainly helped. It kick-started our clubrooms re-building program,” he says. “We had two ladies – Jackie Everitt (Griffin) as Secretary and Marie Pryse (Financials) who did a fantastic job that year.”

 

* After a brilliant season, in which he finished runner-up in the Baker Medal, despite missing five games, Noel Long returned to the Territory, and continued to dominate. He was later inducted to the NTFL Hall of Fame.

* Brian and Paul Judd, both with O & M experience, proved handy acquisitions. Brian was awarded the VCFL Medal for a sterling performance in the Grand Final.

* Johnny Long came back to play a further three seasons with Tarra. He finished with 53 senior appearances in Red, White and Blue. The Longs still remain in contact with the Club. Chris’s son Ben has played several games with St.Kilda this season. Patrick is returning this week-end, and will catch Tarra’s game against North Wangaratta.

*Andrew Pryse never played again, after being seriously injured in a motor-bike accident.

* ‘Cyril’ Everitt soldiered on. When he finally hung up the boots, he had made 288 senior, and 94 Reserves appearances, won four B & F’s and coached the Club. He served as President, Secretary and Treasurer and remains a devoted supporter.

But there’s no question that the most memorable moment of his footy career came on that sunny September day in 1990, when he held the Cup aloft after played a starring role in his one and only premiership……………IMG_3399

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE LONG LAST QUARTER…………”

 

Dairy cattle graze contentedly in nearby paddocks and picturesque farmland stretches for miles around, as you drive down the laneway towards Greta’s modern-day heartbeat – ‘The Sporting Complex’.
It’s a sophisticated moniker accorded to an Oval, originally crafted out of a parcel of Crown land in 1952.

A cluster of buildings on the western side have been steadily upgraded over the years, to provide relative comfort to the ardent  local  supporters.
Standing guard, overlooking the southern-end forward pocket  is the century-old Greta-Hansonville Hall, a modest-looking corrugated iron structure which has played host to an untold number of the district’s Anniversaries, 21st Birthdays, Weddings – and Grand IMG_2793Final celebrations………….
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Names such as O’Brien, Dinning, Tanner, Wallace, Newth, Delaney, Hogan, Wadley, Hillas, Jones, Ellis, Evans and Younger roll off the tongue when you’re discussing the backbone of this famous old Football Club.

It’s been part of the Ovens and King League for 73 years, having participated in a few other competitions in the previous four decades.
For the major part of the journey they’d been near – or at the top – harvesting a seemingly endless assembly-line of talent from surrounding farms, topped up with a few handy players from Wangaratta.
The recipe produced nine O & K flags and several close-shaves. That rustic old Hall would spring to life when the locals celebrated yet another dose of September glory.

However, as time rolls on, dynamics alter. Those long-entrenched local families with tribes of footy-mad kids whose destiny was to wear the Purple and Gold, began to thin out. It became a far trickier proposition to lure recruits from ‘town’ when you were unable to guarantee continued success…..Tougher times have prevailed in the twenty-first century.
But right now, let’s wind back to a more salubrious era…………
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                                                                     1999

The Blues are led by an ex-Wangaratta Rovers champion, Michael Caruso, and drop just two matches for the season. Looking near-invincible in the run home, they comfortably dispose of Beechworth in the second semi, and are everybody’s tip for the ‘big one.’
But they run out of steam in the final minutes, after looking a superior side all day. Kicking just one goal for the last term, they are forced onto the defensive, as Moyhu mount one last, desperate challenge.
They hang on to win by five points, with the unheralded Scott Amery, Andy Fitzpatrick and Tim Northey, the standouts in the last-gasp win………..

 

                                                                            1995
Greta lose just the one game, and are deserved 24-point Grand Final victors over Beechworth. It’s the ultimate reward for old Wangaratta team-mates Robbie Richards and Brett Keir, who crown their illustrious careers with a memorable win.

Exciting mid-fielder Paul Hogan emphasises his potential with a great season, and is awarded the O & K’s Baker Medal.

But it’s Keir’s day. He leads an impregnable defence with a BOG performance, and Darren Waite, Mark Kilner and the reliable Damien Flanigan  have matches     to remember………….

 1993

Few O & K fans dare to tip against Chiltern in the Grand Final. They are unbeaten, although Greta run them to 3 goals in the second semi. The Blues sense that if they get another opportunity they could do the impossible, and pinch the flag.

The Chiltern side, which numbers among its ranks future AFL champs Nigel and Matty (Sparra) Lappin, hardly raise a whimper in the last half, in one of the biggest of all O &K boil-overs.
The Swans are unable to curb on-baller Nick Judd, who runs riot. Anthony Foubister wages a great tussle with Matt Lappin, and takes the points, to prove his undoubted talent. But it’s a great all-round performance from the underdogs, who run away to win by 66 points, in a coaching triumph for the veteran, Rod Canny……….IMG_3294IMG_3296

 

1980

Greta ends a 13-year drought by convincingly defeating the powerful Whorouly to the tune of 27 points. They outplay, and outpoint the disappointing Maroons, who had pipped them by a point in the Second Semi-Final.

The trend of the game is set by Terry Wadley, Paul O’Brien and ruckman Brett Rumsey, who are all outstanding.

 

THE HAT-TRICK

The mid-sixties produce Greta’s finest era. They could quite easily have won five flags in succession, but have to settle for a hat-trick – 1965, ‘66 and ‘67.
The recruitment of burly Moyhu ruckman Maurie ‘Bumper’ Farrell as captain-coach adds a touch of ‘steel’ to an already talented line-up, which had lost the 1964 flag to Tarrawingee by just one point.
Greta are unbeaten in the home-and-away rounds of ‘65, but are toppled by a determined Tarra in the second semi. The Grand Final proves a dour, defensive affair, with Greta hanging on to pip the Bulldogs by four points – 5.11 to 4.15.
Greta and King Valley are the two dominant teams of 1966, and it is fitting that they tangle in the Grand Final. It’s a tense, hard-hitting clash, but Farrell is dynamic in the ruck, and leads his side to another nail-biting 13-point victory – 6.15 to 5.8.
‘Bumper’ declares that he’s finished as a player amidst the post-match celebrations, but is coaxed back into playing the following season. Greta meet Tarrawingee in the Grand Final and he is pitted against the ‘twin-towers’ of Neil Corrigan and Mick Nolan.

He lowers his colours, but his fleet of creative small men, John O’Brien, Eddie Hooper and Mick Tanner are able to shark the hit-outs of the giant Bulldogs to lead their side to a 33-point win.IMG_3290
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A FLAG TO REMEMBER

It’s early 1954, and in their nine years in the Ovens and King League Greta already have one flag, have twice been runners-up and are regular finals participants.
Hopes are high for the coming season. After guiding the club to the 1953 Grand Final, the veteran Jimmy Hallahan retires after three years at the helm. The old Fitzroy star is 42, and reckons it’s time to hand over the reins and play a farewell season without the responsibilities of coaching.
His successor is a football journeyman, Ken Bodger……….
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The solidly-built Bodger was a somewhat controversial figure and a football nomad.
His wanderings had taken him from a war-time stint of 12 games with Hawthorn, to coaching jobs at Cobden, Kyneton, Sorrento and an appointment as the Wangaratta Rovers’ first O & M leader.
Replaced as coach after one season with the Hawks, he stayed on as a player for two more years, before finally being released to Wangaratta, following three clearance applications.
Bodger’s aim in transferring to the ‘Pies was to play in a flag, but alas, they were squeezed out in the Preliminary Final. His next move, in search of that elusive dream, was to Greta…………
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“He was different; no doubt about that,” says John Tanner when I ask for a summation of his old coach.
John’s an ideal person to quiz on Greta’s footy history. He has seen all of their ebbs and flows and is one of the greats.

Apart from three years with the Rovers, where he played in their first-ever flag, he represented the Club with distinction throughout his career.
He was just 21 in 1954; tall, lean, agile and a budding star. And it was his good fortune, he says, to play alongside a Greta icon, the legendary Lionel Wallace.
“He stood about 6’2”. His arms nearly reached his ankles and his fingers were about twice as long as mine,” John jokes.IMG_3292
“ ‘Liney’ had an uncanny ability to scale the pack and would be half a body length above everybody else when he took a mark

. Laurie Nash knew him from his days in the Armed Services, and said he’d have been a huge drawcard had he decided to play League football.”
Wallace was undoubtedly Greta’s ‘gun’, but Bodger inherited a team which was ‘cherry-ripe’. “We were a pretty handy side of locals,” says John Tanner.
Little had separated Greta and Chiltern in their three meetings during the season. The Swans got home by 10 and 9 points in the home-and-away encounters. They pipped Greta by just four points in the second-semi.
But Chiltern gained the upper hand in the early stages of the Grand Final and took control of the game. They had skipped out to a 25-point lead ( 11.13 to 8.6 ) at three quarter-time and only the most optimistic Greta fans rated them a chance.
In fact, many were resigned to defeat, and began to wend their way home for an appointment with the dairy cows, early in the last term.
Ever so slowly, the game began to change. With Wallace near-impassable at centre half back, Ian Flanigan a tower of strength in the ruck and Bodger ever-dangerous in front of goal, Greta edged their way back into the game.

 

The last quarter had seemed to go on for an eternity. As the clock ticked past the forty-minute mark, Chiltern’s lead still appeared unassailable.
But Bodger nailed his ninth, then half forward Bernie Greenwood snapped truly. Just seconds later,  the siren sounded to give Greta an improbable victory by four points – 14.12 to 13.14 – after an amazing quarter, which had stretched to forty four and a half minutes.
Tanner lined up on Chiltern coach Laurie Raine that day, and remembers him becoming frustrated, as dusk started to envelop the Tarrawingee ground. “He was saying: ‘It’s too late. It’s too late.’
“It didn’t worry me. We were trying to win the game.”

The time-keepers copped a barrage of criticism, as did the central umpire who, admittedly, appeared to blow an extraordinary amount of time-on. Chiltern’s protest was dismissed.  The result stood.
Tanner says Bodger’s nine goals made the difference.
“He had a day out….Staged a few, got away with pushing in the back a couple of times…..Took a few well-orchestrated ‘dives’.”
“When we got home we celebrated with a barbie and a few frothies, in Nelson Dinning’s front paddock. I remember the President shouted us all a cigar. It was the first and last one I ever had……….”
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‘BACK TO THE FUTURE….’

Greta sit atop the Ovens and King ladder, as we speak, unbeaten, with four wins and a mammoth percentage of 437.6. Admittedly, they’ve been blessed with a favourable draw, but I ask John Tanner whether this might be a signal of a return to the good old days ?


“Too early to tell” he says…………IMG_3288

‘A VARIED NETBALL ( AND SPORTING ) LIFE……..’

A long piece of galvanised iron piping, with Netball ring attached at the regulation height of 3.05 metres, is cemented into an old oil drum at the rear of the Plough Inn Hotel.

A youngster’s attention is focused on shooting goal… after goal…. after goal, despite having an errant football occasionally booted in her direction by brothers Pete, Mick and ‘Turt’………or sometimes having to intervene in the scuffles of her five other siblings.

This is the ‘playground’ of the growing Nolan clan. It’s Tarrawingee’s ‘Centre of the Universe’ and watering-hole of the town’s sporting teams.

As time goes by, the kids become part of everything that goes on in Tarra. They ‘sub’ when the cricketers are a fielder short, train with the footballers, belt tennis balls on the cement courts – and, in the case of Toni, occasionally fill in with the Netball team………….

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Toni is just 12 when one of the tiny town’s netball stars, Mavis Farmer, asks, after one of those fill-in games for the Bulldogs, whether she’ll be able to play every week.

“But wouldn’t that be against the rules. Don’t you have to be over-14 ?” she asks. “Don’t worry about that,” was the reply. “I’ll have a yarn to your mother.”IMG_3189

So begins the sporting career of Toni Wilson……………….

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Sixty years later, we’re chatting in the Wilson’s gazebo, a couple of decent ‘Waldo’ torpedoes away from the ‘Plough’. Sprinklers chit-chit-chit away behind us…..Boof, the 15 year-old family dog stretches out beside Toni……………..

She loved all sports, she says, but particularly Netball.

After leaving home to study politics and economics at Monash, she was ‘roped’ in to play with rivals, Melbourne University Blues. Someone had enterprisingly got hold of an ID and registered her under an assumed name.

A netball icon, Lorna McConchie – the coach of Australia’s first-ever touring team – was in charge, and Toni made her mark, playing Defence, learning plenty, and fitting into a strong side.

When she met VFA footballer, and school-teacher Chas Wilson, they moved to Mildura…….and she kept playing.

Maureen Weightman, matriarch of a famous sporting clan, immediately recruited her to Swallows, the netball team closely linked to Imperials Footy Club, with whom Chas had thrown in his lot.

Theirs was a mid-week competition, and Swallows, who were all-powerful, won a string of premierships. By now, she also had three youngsters in tow, but Chas kept an eye on them, to allow her to keep playing.

“The boys were pretty active at this stage. Chas used to take them down to the football club’s Sunday morning barrels, and they loved knocking around with the kids of the other footy dads,” she recalls.

“That’s where ‘Wal’ got his nickname. He’d always be wrestling, and family friend Dale Weightman nicknamed him “Waldo von Erich”, after one of the star performers in ‘Ringside with the Wrestlers’.”

When the family decided to settle back in Tarrawingee, Toni took over as playing-coach of the Netball team. Greta was the dominant side of the era, and the ‘Dogs were just unable to bridge the gap, finishing runners-up in three successive years.

Mick and Joe were already playing with the Rovers, and when Andrew (Wal) also made the move from Tarra in 1989, Toni decided it was time to start following them.

And, like any mum, she rode the fortunes of her boys, who were stars in a Golden Era for the Wangaratta Rovers.

Chas joked about the day Mick took a mark deep in defence, copped a knock from his opponent, and then tried to stage for a free-kick.

“He was lying there, and Toni jumped the fence and ran onto the ground. She was a typical Mum ; she tried to see the whole game, but inevitably she saw her own first.”

Toni reckons that’s not quite right. On that occasion, she says, she feared Mick had been seriously injured.

Mick and Joe were part of ‘Burt’s Babes’, who stormed to the 1988 flag. ‘Waldo’ shared the glory of the ‘91, ‘93 and ‘94 premierships with them. Also, in a first for the O & M, they played in an inter-league match together, against the Riddell League.

Following brilliant careers, the boys were all rewarded with membership of the club’s Hall of Fame.IMG_3196

After one of those flag triumphs in the nineties, someone hung a poster on the front fence at the Findlay Oval : ‘Thank God for Edna Daniher……and Toni Wilson….’IMG_3197

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She and Chas were enjoying a great ride, and had become deeply involved in the Club.

But when the Ovens and Murray Board took the initial steps to inaugurate a Netball competition, Toni was invited to share in the discussions.

“It had surprised me actually, that, although netball was a really vital part of the culture in minor-leagues, the Ovens and Murray hadn’t already given thought to introducing it,” she says

She had seen what a contribution the O & K Netball Association, which had officially kicked off nearly forty years earlier, had made towards enhancing the community aspect of the Ovens and King League.

“Sandy Thomas was the secretary of the O & M at the time, and was a major instigator in getting the concept up and running. And Janelle Hartwig, who had come to the Rovers from Greta, became the first Netball secretary. Janelle did a lot of work in the initial stages.”

“Some of the clubs were fairly lukewarm. In fact, it was the non-Border clubs who really pushed for a Netball competition.”

“We impressed upon the Board that footy needed to add another dimension, to make the League more family-oriented. Introducing Netball was a perfect way of doing it.”

“Families would embrace it. Wives, girlfriends and sisters could play netball at the same grounds as the football team was playing. It would become a real family day.”

So the Ovens and Murray, in 1993, became the first Major League to implement Netball. The stipulation was made that all 10 clubs must have A and B-Grade teams, and that, within three years, they have netball courts within the confines of their grounds.

Besides becoming the inaugural O.M.N.A President, Toni took on the role as coach of the Rovers’ A and B-Grade sides.

The A-Grade team went through the 1993 season undefeated, then outpointed North Albury in both the Second-Semi and Grand Final.IMG_3194

 

 

They lost just three matches in ‘94 and again got the better of North in the ‘big one’, winning 47-45 in a tight affair.

The B-Graders also had a good line-up, and finished Third and runners-up in the first two years.

“To be quite honest, a drover’s dog could have coached the group of girls we had,” Toni says.IMG_3192

“We were pretty lucky to have some really good players who were sisters or girlfriends of Rovers players, or came from traditional Rovers families. And they all just jelled together perfectly.”

Toni coached the A-Grade team for a total of eight seasons, spanning 1993-2004. Her five years in charge of the B-Graders was highlighted by their first premiership, in 1999.

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The Wilsons are a unique combination. Their lives have been heavily intertwined in sport, and they have a better ‘feel’ for it than most.

In the early nineties, the first maths project Chas would give the kids at West End Primary of a winter’s Monday morning, was the task of doing up the O & M netball ladders for Toni.

When she was coaching, Toni would see less than a half a game of footy, and would have to rely on Chas to provide the post-mortem of the game, including a ‘critique’ of the three boys’ performances.

Both served lengthy stints on the Rovers Board. Toni was co-opted in 2000, at a period when the Hawks were still clawing back from a near-crippling debt, and financial prudence was the order of the day.

She took a step back from the Board in 2008, after nine years. She had earlier handed over the responsibilities of Rovers Netball to the younger breed.

Additionally, after 12 years as OMNA President, she felt it was time to retire . “It’s important to know when to move on and let someone with fresh ideas take over,” she said.

Toni’s marathon spell in the game had seen her rewarded with Life Memberships of Tarrawingee, the Ovens and King League, the Wangaratta Rovers and the Ovens and Murray League.

She became involved in her new pastimes – Golf, the garden – and keeping tabs on the six grandkids.

They’re already making their mark in sport, so there are exciting times ahead.

Toni follows the Hawk closely, and still helps out at a few catering events or Club functions.

Like the one that’s on tonight. But she’ll be a Guest of Honour at that.

You might have heard ; she’s being inducted to the Wangaratta Rovers Hall of Fame……………..IMG_3198

 

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THE JOURNEYMAN

Hey…. There’s an upset brewing here. The 200/1 outsiders conceded 3 goals in the first few minutes of the match, yet have shot to a 3-goal lead at ½ time.

You’ve got to put this game into perspective. One team is coming off a 189-point win. It boasts a percentage of 871.43, compared to the meagre 36.10% of their opponents, who trudged off last week, humiliated to the tune of 135 points.

As expected, the favourites respond and move a couple of kicks clear in the dying stages. But again, the ‘scrubbers’ fight back and score a goal against the tide, in the best passage of play for the day.

With just seconds remaining, a tall boy streaks towards centre half forward and plucks a mark. He can steal a win for the underdogs…….We catch a glance at his coach, who has been out of the box and prowling the boundary for most of the last quarter, waving his hands like an orchestra conductor.

He runs his hands through his shaggy hair, his eyes fixed anxiously on the lad’s run-up,his kicking action and the ball,as it wobbles through. Schutty and his boys have clinched the unlikeliest of victories………

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Lionel Schutt comes from a football family. His dad Ross is an institution at Milawa, having played a stack of games with the Reserves,took on the Presidency, worked on the gate for what seemed like an eternity and waved the goal umpire’s flags for many years. His mum’s been a lion-hearted worker for the club.

It would be fair to say that Ross was unable to hand down any on-field skills to the youngster. But Lionel inherited an innate sense of what it takes to make footy clubs tick, how to build a happy atmosphere and have people working in the right direction.

He should have played a heap of O & M games, but a combination of work commitments  and a laconic attitude meant that the legend of Lionel Schutt was to be crafted in the Ovens and King League. It ensured that training – particularly in pre-season – could be fitted around his physically-taxing work as a painter and later, a sand-blaster.

He started with Milawa as a 15 year-old, way back in 1983. The following season he and his brother Brendan were members of the Demons premiership side. He had nine games under the coaching of Norm Bussell at Myrtleford in 1985, but suffered a knee injury and returned home in time to qualify for the Reserves Grand Final, which Milawa duly won.

He headed to North Wangaratta three years later, had a season with All Blacks in the Benalla Tungamah League, then crossed to Tarrawingee. He played his part in one of the most memorable of all O & K flags, in 1990, when Tarra came from the Elimination Final to kick 27 goals and defeat Moyhu by 71 points in the big one.

Schutty booted 8 goals that day,in a performance that clinched him the Medal for best afield. It was a satisfying win, in front of a record crowd at Greta that marvelled at the deeds of Darwin’s four mercurial Long brothers,who were strutting their stuff for the Bulldogs.

Another knee injury wrecked his 1994 season, but Ray Card, back coaching Wangaratta, enticed him to the Norm Minns Oval in 1995. Then it was back home to Milawa for a four-season stint as playing-coach, in which he took out three best and fairests.

His arrival at Moyhu in 2000 coincided with a golden era for the club. Schutty played in the 2002,’05 and ’06 flags but was denied another when he was rubbed out on the eve of the 2003 Grand Final. He gave great service to the Hoppers and is universally ranked among the greats of O & K football.

Damien Sheridan, who saw him close-up in his final decade as a player,said: “He gave the impression of being laid-back,but once he got on the ground he played for keeps.”

“As a midfielder or on-baller he was so strong,was a terrific kick and did the real team-lifting things. Besides all that, he was one of the best blokes you could have around the club. Money was never an issue with him. He just enjoyed the football environment”, Sheridan recalled.

His old coach Gil Ould once reflected: “You don’t play 400 games unless you are tough and you don’t get up from the big hits unless you have a heart as big as Lionel’s. No doubt he played and trained with injuries that would have put many off the playing arena,but he never complained. It’s not so much about his football ability, but what he brings to the club as a quality bloke”.

The Schutt career drew to a close at the end of the 2010 season. He had played 416 O & K games and decided it was time for he and Michelle to follow the sporting progress of the kids. Breanna, was now playing netball with the Rovers and Cody was taking big steps in his football development.

Well, he thought he’d retired. He was pressed into service with the Rovers Reserves and showed glimpses of the Schutty of old in 14 games in 2011 and ’12.

And when he was approached to coach the Two’s last season he couldn’t resist.

The Schutt family is now deeply involved at the Hawks. Michelle is on the Board, Breanna plays B-Grade netball, a knee injury has temporarily interrupted Cody’s exciting 12-game senior career.

And Schutty’s still wearing his heart on his sleeve. Amidst the excitement of last Saturday’s win he addressed the players and congratulated them on their win : “I told the boys last year – and it still stands. When I took the job on I wanted to be a coach, a mate and a parent to you all. You should be rapt in the way you stuck it out. Let’s celebrate it with a few beers tonight”.

Lionel S