” THE NIGHT ETTAMOGAH SCOOPED THE POOL…….”

When Mark Mulcahy arrived home after rounding off his education at Assumption College, his eyes lit up when he came across an advertisement for a Cadet Journalist in the local paper………..

‘Right down my alley,’ he reckoned…….He landed the job, and, over the next 45 years, was to report on life’s broad spectrum for both the Wangaratta Chronicle and the Border-Mail….

N.S.W Supreme Court, Judge Lerve, acknowledges the career of retiring Journalist Mark Mulcahy

He’d inherited a fascination for all things sport. His mum was a champion golfer, and Mark followed suit; representing Waldara’s junior North-East Pennant team at the age of 16.

His time at Assumption had given him the opportunity to play alongside the illustrious School’s elite talent, many of whom went on to carve out memorable careers.

The pick of the cricketers, in his book, was an all-rounder, Peter ‘Pee Wee’ Ryan, who once took 10 wickets in a Grammar School match – and followed it up the next week with an exhilarating innings of 230.

“He was lured to England and opened the batting at Hampshire with another blossoming talent – the destructive West Indian right-hander Gordan Greenidge.” Mark recalls. “ ‘Pee Wee’ was voted the County Competition’s ‘Best Young Cricketer’ one year; just ahead of Greenidge,”

“He came home, and copped a two -year stint of National Service. It stuffed him up a bit…….He moved to Queensland, played half-a-dozen Shield games, but was never the same player…….An absolute Schoolboy freak, though….”

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Mark’s own sporting career appeared in jeopardy when, as a youngster, he fell backwards at cricket training, thrust his hand back to cushion the fall, and dislocated his arm two ways.

“The doc gave me the diagnosis that I wouldn’t be able to play any more sport, but I managed to overcome it, somehow,” he says.

With a slightly bent bowling action, he was still able to participate in four winning North-East Colts cricket teams, two flags with Whorouly; and twice finish runner-up in the WDCA bowling average. He also represented Wangaratta and Albury at Country Week, and captained ABCA side Lavington.

After almost four years with O & K Club Moyhu he spent a couple of seasons with North Wangaratta when they were at their peak, then transferred to Walla Walla for the remainder of his time in footy.

One of his great thrills was playing in Walla’s 1980 premiership, and wearing the Hume League representative guernsey on a couple of occasions.

He was around when Wangaratta Basketball began to surge in the early seventies, and was part of the really strong YMCA Lakers side, which at one stage, won 40 A-Grade games in succession. When Wang sides began to have success at regional titles, he was there.

Mark began to have problems with a dicky knee and was forced to give cricket away in his latter years. He took up the less physically-taxing sport of Bowls at the age of 39.

…….And he’s played ever since; winning Singles and Pairs titles at Walla, and finishing runner-up in the Albury & District Champion of Champion Singles in 1999.

He became the Association’s fourth Life Member roughly six years ago, and is currently the District Bowls Patron …..

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In your role as a Sports Journo you’re privy to a mountain of cherished highlights – and more than a few that you’d like to obliterate.

He immediately raises the 1990 O & M ‘Bloodbath’ Grand Final between Wodonga and Lavington as the most obvious that he’d prefer to erase from the memory-bank:

“I was the Sports Editor at the time. After the game I walked back to the old Border-Mail building and the Chief Sub-Editor Frank Connell said to me: ‘How’d the footy go ?’. I said: ‘It was a bloody disgrace’; and that turned out to be Monday’s front-page headline. “

“But one of my fondest memories is of the World Series cricket match at the Albury Sportsground, between the West Indies and Australia, early in 1977.”

“Because World Series was only in its infancy, I got to sit in the Secretary’s Office, and every 20 minutes or so, had to send a report to Australian Associated Press, which went nation-wide……It was one of the best games of cricket you’d wish to see…….Martin Kent made a terrific 100; Roy Fredericks was at his irresistible-best, and also finished with a ton.”

“There was a huge crowd……Australia made 270, and the Windies finished with 250-odd……..With blokes like Roberts, Garner and Holding in full flight, the fans sure got their money’s worth…..”

“I had the privilege of witnessing another fantastic game when Zimbabwe caused the major upset of the World Cup by knocking off England at Lavington…Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham was at the height of his powers at that stage, but even he was unable to curtail Zimbabwe, who had the crowd right behind them.

“I think our headline was: ‘Tiger tweaks the Lion’s tail’………..

Mark says it was a delight to mingle with all of local sport’s personalities, but his favourite was Walla Walla’s own – Des Kennedy.

“Des was the Postmaster at Walla, but everyone acknowledged that his equally-important role was to keep his finger on the pulse of all sport in the area…….His tentacles spread throughout the Southern Riverina……….He was the ultimate powerbroker……a fanatic….a legend……”

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When I press him to pluck out his favourite personal highlight, Mark casts his mind back 40-odd years to an unlikely circumstance…….. the night a team of minnows sent shock-waves through Wangaratta Basketball .

But first, here’s a bit of background……..

In the mid-seventies a newly-elected administration pushed to streamline the WDBA by insisting on the formation of Clubs, rather than having an array of randomly-assembled teams competing in single grades of the Association.

Whereas earlier-on, teams with a strong football background, such as Rovers, Wangaratta and Myrtleford had been dominant, new, well-structured clubs such as YMCA Lakers, Gotsims, Pacers and Hustlers, became the power teams of the new era.

An incident which possibly sparked the ‘new direction’ came at the culmination of the ‘71/72 summer competition, when Rovers were scheduled to meet Wangaratta.

As several of the Rovers players were involved in a footy practice match that afternoon ( against North Melbourne ) and an official Function had been planned for the evening, it clashed with the eagerly-anticipated Basketball Grand Final.

The Hawks, whose team consisted of players such as Mick Nolan, Roley Marklew, Phil ‘Doc’ Doherty, Mick Brenia, Rick Sullivan and Neville Hogan, asked for the game to be deferred……..Instead, it was awarded to the Pies on a forfeit. Their key players: Ian Moscrop, John Blackwell, Russell Stone, Geoff Rosenow and Robert Hill celebrated accordingly………..

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I’ll let Mark take up the story:

“ Ettamogah was one of those aforesaid, ‘hotch-potch’ clubs. It was originally cobbled together by a few mates as an excuse to enjoy a beer and keep fit for footy………The name was derived from that fictional pub, made famous by Ken Maynard’s cartoons in the Australia Post magazine. It’s claimed that Ettamogah is an old Polynesian expression, meaning ‘Have a Drink’ .”

“They originally started with just the one team, but with pressure coming to bear from the Association, were obliged to expand…….No-one wanted to be involved in organising things, so Harry McKenzie – a long-time local – decided to become President and run the show.”

“He managed to get a Men’s A-Reserve, a B-Grade, and a Women’s team up and running.”

“And that’s how, in the winter of 1977, Ettamogah won three flags, against overwhelming odds…..”

“The Women’s team, which included Jackie O’Brien, Jan Dyer, Diane Simmonds, Maureen Walker, Sue Thomas, Jenny Turk, Sue Phillips

and Tracy Bromilow, won the first premiership of the evening…………”

“The B-Grade Men’s team were scheduled to play Northerners on the main court soon afterwards, and were rank underdogs. Their side reads like a ‘who’s who’ of old local characters…..Convivial types such as Rodney ‘Danky’ Dalton, Mick Malone, Billy and ‘Ab’ O’Brien, John ‘Bluey’ Phillips’, ‘Butch’ and Johnny West, Kevin Clayton, John O’Brien and Terry Flynn.”

“Northerners, who numbered Billy Muncey, ‘Ginger’ Tippett, Mal Patrick and Jack Clayton in their ranks, had finished on top of the ladder, and were red-hot favourites.”

“But Ettamogah came from behind to win by a couple of points in a major upset.”

“I was living in Walla at this stage, and although my previous affiliation was with A-Grade team YMCA Lakers, I travelled down each week to play with Ettamogah, in A-Reserve.”

“We won the last game of the regular season to scrape into the finals, but were given no hope of graduating past the first week of the finals……But we won the First Semi and shocked many with a Preliminary Final win.”

“Our side: John Michelini, Jeff Doherty, Pat and Eddie Flynn, Harry McKenzie, Mick Smith, Alan Crawford and myself, lined up against a Myrtleford side which were at unbackable odds……Everyone predicted it would be a mere formality and the margin would be significant.”

“I had to play footy for Walla, at Howlong, before travelling down…….likewise ‘Big Micka’ and Eddie played footy, then fronted up.”

“ ‘Red’ Malone and the competition’s B & F John Considine ran hot early for the Saints. Considine was shooting goals at random, from the side of the court, and drawing fouls……..I got our blokes to wave their hands in front of his face to block his vision, and he started missing.”

“We led at half-time and went on to win by double figures……Mick Smith and I got 35 points between us, with Mick scoring 18.”

“The packed Grandstand was in disbelief, and when it became obvious that we were going to win, started cheering loudly, and gave us a huge ovation…………..even our blokes couldn’t believe the game had panne out the way it did….”

“The celebrations, at the Lawn Tennis Clubrooms, lasted until the wee hours of the following morning……but sadly, quite a few of the participants have now passed on.”

“I played a lot of basketball in Wangaratta, Wodonga and Albury, but still regard this as the most satisfying victory I was a part of, mainly because of the considerable hurdles we had to overcome……..” says the old Journo…….

Footnote: Ettamogah continued on for three or four further years, without ever scaling the same great heights. After several players, bowing to the passage of time, retired, the Club disbanded…..

‘THE GRAND OLD FOOTBALL WARRIOR……’

Pat Flynn’s mind occasionally drifts back to those early childhood holidays at his grandparents’ farm…..

…….Being perched beside his old ‘Pa’, who’s negotiating the horse and gig along a dusty, pot-holed road, on the way to collect the groceries and mail at the Wilby store.

…….Or wandering around the paddocks, with him – and a couple of dogs for company – as they search for a few rabbits…..

Great old fellah, he recalls…Thought the world of his grandkids.

But heck, thinks Pat, who’s as nostalgic as they come……Why didn’t I pick his brain and get him to expand on his footy career ?……..

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In this Grand Final Week, when Journos delve into the past to flush out romantic tales of premiership heroes of yesteryear, they’ll be struggling to find one to rival that of Pat’s illustrious grandad……..

James Edward Flynn was born in 1872, a year after his parents had sailed across the seas from Ireland, in search of a new life.

His football journey was eventful, to say the least. He started with Devenish, also stripped with Canterbury, had 5 games with Richmond (VFA) in 1895 and 1 with Collingwood (1896).

Jim found his way to Geelong, partly because of his close friendship with Henry ‘Tracker’ Young, a champion of the ‘Pivotians’, who was also an outstanding cyclist, boxer and rower.

‘Tracker’s’ fitness was renowned. It was said that, on a match day, he would run 30 kilometres along the beach to the ground, ruck non-stop for four quarters, then run the 30km return trip home.

Flynn became part of his rucking brigade once he gained inclusion in the senior side for the third round, in the VFL’s inaugural season of 1897.

But he was slow to mature. Despite showing obvious skill, his first five seasons with Geelong yielded 70 uneventful games. After appearing in another two – the opening rounds of 1902 – he faded into obscurity.

His arrival at Carlton was principally due to the recruiting prowess of the entrepreneurial, controversial, Jack Worrall, who had been installed as the Club’s Secretary/Manager in 1903.

Worrall appeals as an early-20th century version of Norm Smith-Ron Barassi-Alistair Clarkson rolled into one. He became Aussie Rules’ first true coach. As an integral part of his role, he had stipulated he must be handed full responsibility for all aspects of the team’s performance.

Thus, his determination to lift the flagging fortunes of the Blues saw him scouring the country for football talent……..

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To digress on the fascinating Worrall, it’s worth retracing his remarkable sporting background. A nuggety rover who captained Fitzroy in its early and pre-VFL days, he was ‘Champion of the Colony’ on three occasions and was regarded as one of the three best footballers in the nation. In summer he turned his hand to cricket.

He made 11 Test appearances for Australia and played 65 games for Victoria, as a right-hand opening batsman ‘whose belligerent driving could tear an attack apart.’ In one District match for Carlton, he belted 412 not out.

Having been a key figure in forming the Victorian Football League, his appointment at Carlton promised to revitalise the staid old Navy Blues, who had finished no higher than second bottom in the previous five years.

As coach, he pulled out his old footy gear and worked as hard as his players, demanding unflinching courage, and imposing stern disciplinary measures. His message to them summed it up: “Boys: Booze and Linament don’t mix.”

Despite his recruitment of an exciting mix of young players, he’d been particularly eager to gain the services of the 32 year-old Jim Flynn, feeling he could tap into the veteran’s hidden potential .

Decades later, in his role as a journalist with the ‘Australasian’ Worrall discussed the greatest captains who had played the game. He said of Flynn:

“Carlton was finding its feet when Flynn joined the ranks. It was the Club’s salvation. He was the ideal captain. He fitted into the team like a glove, and had the confidence of everybody – players, Committee and supporters alike.”

“He did not prove a great captain straight away. Yet when he did come into his own, he was unsurpassed. His judgement was remarkable, he could play anywhere and he helped everybody.”

“He was a natural centre half back, a splendid centreman with a 50-yard kick on either foot, was a good runner, a great follower and a dangerous forward, as he could both mark and kick. He was an inspiration to the men under him and had the knack of pulling the side together when required…….”

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Carlton jumped from sixth to third in Jim’s first season, their maiden finals appearance. Their steady improvement continued in 1904, when they reached the Grand Final, only to be outpointed by arch rivals, Fitzroy.

Jim had made such an impression that he’d been appointed vice-captain to his old Geelong team-mate Joe McShane. Then, when McShane stepped down at the end of the season, Flynn was his popular successor.

Although he stood only 179cm, he and Fred ‘Pompey’ Elliott led the ruck division and were supreme. Despite Flynn always yielding height in the ruck, he usually found a way to counter opponents. With a good spring and sure hands, he was said to be able to shark the tap by feigning to jump for the ball and then intercepting.

Carlton had by now gathered what coach Worrall regarded as his ‘Dream Team’ and finished minor premiers in 1906, to set up a semi-Final contest against Collingwood. They prevailed by 12 points, with Flynn outstanding in a best-afield performance.

Then they went on to boot 15.4 to Fitzroy’s 6.9 to take out their first-ever premiership.

The Blues continued their strong form in 1907 but, after a convincing 29-point win Round 8 win over St.Kilda at the Junction Oval, they were rocked when Flynn announced that he was retiring to take over the running of the Hotel at St.James.

He was loudly cheered, however, when he offered his services if the club happened to need him for the Finals.

True to his word, he returned to the fray, and performed with distinction. The ‘Argus’ scribe noted of the team that had just earned the right to play off for another pennant: ‘It is a great gain to them to have Flynn leading and playing for them in the finals.’

The Grand Final proved an enthralling contest. The Blues emerged with a five-point victory over South Melbourne. George Topping kicked three match-winning goals, Flynn was imperious at centre half back and George Bruce was a will o’ the wisp on a wing.

Flynn was justifiably proud of his team’s efforts, and said after the game: “Yes, we won, but there wasn’t much in it. They kept us going right to the end, didn’t they ? The real secret of our success is our manager, Jack Worrall. He’s a grand judge of a game and the youngsters worship him; they’d do anything for him……..”

Carlton’s Annual Meeting paid tribute to their dual premiership skipper: “The Club will suffer a great loss in the retirement from the game, of Mr.J.Flynn. His position will be most difficult to fill. It is not too much to say that his exceptional skill as a leader, combined with his rare ability as a footballer, was a great factor in the success of the side…..”

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So the curtain finally appeared to have been drawn on the career of the old warrior. He returned to operating his Hotel and prepared to spend the rest of his playing days with St.James.

But Worrall was keen to have him ‘up his sleeve’, and asked if Jim would remain on standby in case an emergency occurred later in the season..

Sure enough, that situation arose on the eve of the Finals. Carlton were well-entrenched in top spot – three games clear of Essendon, when Worrall announced that Flynn would be slotted into Carlton’s Round 18 line-up.

He showed no signs of rustiness in that game – against University- and starred on a back flank in the Semi-Final win over St.Kilda. His vast experience was a telling asset in the nail-biting Grand Final, in which the Blues triumphed by nine points.

Again, the old champ was farewelled with much pomp, as he ‘rode off into the sunset’ to his life in the bush. He’d been one of 11 players who had shared in the hat-trick of Carlton flags……..

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Alas, two years later (1910) the distress signal was again sent out from Princes Park. On the eve of their first Final, three players – Alex (Bongo) Lang, Douglas Fraser and Doug Gillespie, were left out of the side. Accusations swirled that the trio had taken bribes to play ‘dead’ in the loss to bottom side St.Kilda the previous week.

So, in a sensational development, Carlton captain-coach ‘Pompey’ Elliott, his old rucking co-hort, prevailed upon Flynn to return in this time of crisis.

He was rising 40 years of age, and did his best, but poor kicking cost the Blues dearly. South Melbourne won 10.5 (65) to 6.17 (53) in Jim Flynn’s 77th – and final – game for Carlton………

His parting gesture to the Blues was to take a 20 year-old St.James team-mate, Gordon Green, down to the Club. “This lad will make it,” Jim assured officials.

Green proved him correct. He went on to play in Carlton’s 1914 and ‘15 premiership teams, represented Victoria and captained the Club on his return from the Great War.

Jim, his wife Ellen and their kids, Edward, Mary, Jim, Alicia, Jack and Anastasia, moved onto a farming property ‘Glenview’, near Wilby. He continued to play locally, then in retirement, took up a favourite spot on the fence at home games, where he would offer encouragement and advice to the Wilby players………