‘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’………”

FICKLE FANS FRAZZLED FORMER BLUE…….

I remember the night Ian Nicoll’s football career turned around…………

It was a mid-September evening in 1968. We’re shoe-horned into a packed Festival Hall for Johnny Famechon’s Commonwealth title bout with the Canadian featherweight, Billy McGrandle.

The crowd erupts, as the national hero appears from a darkened corridor, sparring and bobbing his way down the aisle. Shortly after, amidst the razzamataz and pre-fight hubbub, the ring announcer calls the crowd to attention:

“Ladeez and Gentlemen…..Before we begin proceedings, For the benefit of the football fans here, I have an important announcement to make…..There has been a late change to the Carlton team for tomorrow’s Second Semi-Final clash with Essendon.”

“Ian Nicoll has been named to take the place of the injured Dennis Munari……….”
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For a bloke who had ‘come from the clouds’ to play League footy, this was a rare opportunity.

Ian knew that, in the ‘pressure-cooker’ of a VFL final, in front of a crowd exceeding 100,000, he would need to produce his best.

We watched on, as he turned in a more than serviceable performance. The Blues booted seven goals to one in the last half, to run away from the Bombers by 36 points.

Inevitably though, the classy Munari regained full fitness a fortnight later, and took his place as second rover in the Grand Final line-up. The boy from Whorouly was consigned to the sidelines, as Carlton snatched a thriller by three points, over a valiant Essendon.

But a sniff of the finals atmosphere had convinced Ian Nicoll that he had the prerequisites to acquit himself capably in League football………..
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He grew up among cricketing bluebloods at Whorouly, inheriting a sporting pedigree from his father Wils and uncles Ron, Ernie and Vic, who set prodigious batting records at the Memorial Oval,some of which still stand.

Ian was conspicuous as a youngster, with his slight build, horn-rimmed glasses and shirts  buttoned to the wrist to protect a delicately pale skin.

“I didn’t have the batting technique of Dad, or my brother Peter,” he says. “Uncle Ron once said to me: ‘Just give it a good crack, son,’ And that’s what I did.”

Ian’s most famous contribution to local cricketing folklore is the double century he scored, which included 24 fours and a six. The fifth-wicket partnership of 302 with his cousin Lex remains a WDCA record for any wicket. His second century came up in just 40 minutes.

So his slot in the assembly-line of a famous cricketing family was well-recognised . Not so obvious was his prowess as an up-and-coming footballer.

He played about 100 games with Whorouly.

“About half of those were with the Seconds,” he says. “When I broke into the Seniors, Terry Burgess was coach, then Ron Critchley took over. It was because of Critchley, who had moved on to coach Wangaratta, that I was talked into having a run with the Magpies in 1966.”

Aged 19, he enjoyed an outstanding season with Wangaratta, who looked to be the only likely challenger to Murray Weideman’s all-powerful Albury.

The Pies really took it up to the Tigers in a thrilling second semi, and were doing all the attacking in the final stages. At the 29-minute mark, Nicoll streamed goalwards,  but his kick veered off-line, to leave the ‘Pies one point down. Critchley had just about got his foot to the ball for another shot at goal when the siren sounded. Albury had won by a point.

The Tigers made no mistake in the Grand Final though, and controlled the game throughout, to win by 55 points……….
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Ian had ‘nibbles’ from Richmond, Collingwood and Carlton at season’s end. He had accepted a transfer to the city in his job as a clerk with the Railways and hadn’t given much thought to his football future.

“I had no great pretensions about my footy ability, but Dad said: ‘Why don’t you have a run at Carlton. You just have to turn left there on Sydney Road. It’ll be the most convenient for you.”

“I hadn’t signed anything, but after the second practice match old Jack Wrout (Chairman of Selectors) pulled me aside and said: ‘Look Ian, we’re going to put you on the list. If you work your butt off I reckon you’ll make it.’ “

He was a relative lightweight, tipping the scales at just 73 kg and standing at 179cm, but possessed a couple of prized assets – pace to burn and a distance-devouring left boot.

Progress was slow – a token senior game in 1967 and scant opportunities for most of ‘68. Things were looking bleak……until the selectors threw him that life-line in the Second Semi-Final………

Ian put in a red-hot pre-season in 1969 and knew that he wasn’t far away from senior selection.

His big chance came in a Round 2 match against Hawthorn. He was one of a heap of stars who glittered, as the Blues booted 12.6 in the final quarter, to amass 30.30 to the Hawks’ 12.10.

With a string of consistent performances during the season, Ian had now supplanted Denis Munari as the second-string rover to Adrian Gallagher.

One of the highlights of the Blues’ 36-point win over minor-premiers Collingwood in the semi was Nicoll’s exhilarating, team-lifting run around the Member’s Stand wing, and a spearing pass up forward.

Old rivals Carlton and Richmond tangled in front of 119,000 fans to decide the 1969 premiership. “We led by four points at three quarter-time, but they ran over us in the last quarter. They kicked 4.7 to our two points. It was a huge disappointment,” Ian recalls.

“That was the day Billy Barrott was switched to full forward and kicked some telling goals, and big John Ronaldson snagged a couple from well out.”

Ian again shone during 1970, but after two average games towards the end of the season, Carlton coach Ron Barassi rung the changes and he made way for utility Bert Thornley in the semi-final ine-up.

And Thornley held his place for the famous Grand Final, which saw the Blues come from 44 points down to bury Collingwood.

Ian knew deep-down that his League career was over. “I was physically and mentally worn out. To be truthful, I never came to terms with all the glamour, the publicity and worst of all, the fickle supporters.”

“It was a great thrill to play alongside the likes of Nicholls, Silvagni and Jesaulenko and the like, but you know when you’ve had enough.”

So after 41 games with the Blues he headed to VFA club Preston for a couple of seasons.

Then he decided to play locally, with Mount Evelyn. “I had a bit of a link with a few of their fellahs. I met them when they came up to Wang for a footy trip a few years earlier.”

“There was no money involved. I just enjoyed the Club and must have played about 130 games over the next 10 years.”

Ian finally hung up the boots at the age of 34.

Although he admits he’s not a great spectator, he did follow the sporting exploits of his son David, who played in 3 footy Grand Finals at Boronia, and was a more than handy cricketer. His daughter Sarah also played good quality Netball for many years.

It was at a Carlton Re-Union many years ago, that an old team-mate, Kevin Hall, precipitated a change of direction in Ian’s life.

“He ran a successful Printing business and suggested  I should buy a Vehicle and come and work with him. He had another crack at me a while later, so I decided to take the plunge.”

“I delivered Stationery for Kevin for 24-25 years. I’m still working as a delivery driver for a firm in Knoxfield.”

What a long and winding journey  it’s been for the boy from Whorouly……………

 

 

 

 

HARD WORK TAKES MOYHU BOY TO THE TOP

Alan Jarrott moved on from the Moyhu Football Club at the end of 1974.

Thank heavens for that, I suggest to him.

Had he hung around for another season he would have had to cope with my coaching – and that may have jeopardised the bright future that the good judges were predicting for him.

In time, he carved out a fine VFL career ; became renowned as one of the most lethal exponent of handball in his era and was acknowledged for his astute football brain.

Not a bad effort for a kid who honed his skills in the paddocks  surrounding  the family farm at Thistlebrook, a tiny speck on the map, about four miles out of Moyhu.

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Alan’s the first to admit that he didn’t establish a close rapport with the dairy cows, which were the staple of the family’s income, and to which his brothers Gordon and Neil were assigned the task of milking twice daily.

Eventually, Gordon suggested that Alan curtail his random visits to the dairy, as there was a theory that cows gave less milk when they were in the presence of strangers !

Anyway, there was no time to spare. He and his mate from the adjoining farm, John McVean, devoted most of their idle moments to playing sport.

Both were outstanding tennis players and Alan was a more than handy cricketer ( he once represented the North-East Schoolboys).

Their nightly footy sessions, on the paddock behind the McVean residence, were fair dinkum affairs. Not just a leisurely kick-to-kick, but plenty of tackling and competitive stuff, which inevitably produced a bruise or three.

Rovers President, Jack Maroney, a regular visitor to the Jarrott farm in his guise as a livestock agent, did his best to entice  young Alan to  the Hawks. But the distance from Wangaratta made it too inconvenient.

Instead, he rocked up to Moyhu’s training and impressed enough to be plonked at centre half forward in the senior side. He was just 16 and was assured by a couple of the team’s elders, John Michelini and Paul Scanlan, that they would shelter him from the rough stuff.

Not that he needed any mollycoddling . Within twelve months he had been selected to represent the O & K against the Upper Murray League at Beechworth.

“I remember that we got a hiding. And the bloke I played on was given the award for Best-afield”, Alan recalls.

Feeling a bit downhearted at the after-match, he was introduced to former North Melbourne coach, Alan Killigrew, The O & K was part of the Kangaroos’ recruiting zone and ‘Killa’s’ role was to be their ‘P.R’ man in the area.

“He spoke to me for about 10 minutes……. didn’t draw breath. When he finally stopped talking, he said: ‘I like you, son…..you listen’ .”

Alan finished High School and chose to undertake a Phys.Ed course at the Footscray R.M.I.T. Whilst playing in the Victorian/Australian Tennis Open early in 1975, he was tracked down by a bloke who was to have an enormous influence on his life – Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan.

” ‘Slug’ was coaching North’s Thirds and Reserves and invited me to have a run . He sort of took me under his wing, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have played a game of League footy, but for him”.

” He was also North’s full-time Development Officer. My hours at Uni were pretty flexible, so I helped him out at school clinics. I absorbed everything that he taught the kids and then put it into practice.”

“He reckoned I kicked the footy like a bag of spuds, and needed to sharpen up my handball. I was determined to improve. For instance, I’d always avoided using my left foot. In the end, after heaps of work, that became my preferred kicking option”.

On the trips to and from clinics, ‘Slug’ spelt out his philosophies on football. And, with typical, brutal honesty, would analyse Alan’s match-day performances. He became, so to speak, his personal ‘tutor’.

After a lengthy apprenticeship, he broke into North’s senior side late in 1977, and was given a decent initiation – the task of keeping an eye on Richmond champion Kevin Bartlett. The elusive, cunning, wispy-haired ‘K.B’ proved a handful for the youngster, who nevertheless, acquitted himself well.

It was his introduction to the art of ‘tagging’, a form of the game at which Alan was to become adept. He confronted, at close quarters, many of the stars of the game, like Leigh Matthews, Tim Watson,Gary Wilson, Michael Tuck, and Gerard Healy, whom it was his task to negate.

So it was as a tagger and occasional ruck-rover and half back flanker that he made his mark. His ability to concentrate deeply, position his body, defend grimly,  and shoot out a bullet-like handball from a scrimmage made him a valuable cog in the North side.

His coach Ron Barassi had a great appreciation of the no-frills Jarrott and once offered this assessment of one of his favourite players: ” He turned out better than I thought, mainly through really applying himself to skill acquisition. He started off as an ordinary kick and ball-handler. If he had been a bit speedier he might have been one of the greats…..”

It was little wonder, when Alan was delisted by North at the end of 1981, that Barassi and Jordan, who were now at Melbourne, were keen to lure him over.

“When the Krakouer brothers arrived at Arden Street, I got the flick. I’d played 79 senior games, and was happy with that. I was considering some offers from interstate and the VFA, then ‘Barass’ made contact. It was great to get another opportunity”, he says.

He played more as a back flanker and in the back pocket in 91 games over five years with the Demons and provided valuable service during a struggling era for the club.

“Early in the 1987 season, I broke a bone in my hand and that really hastened my decision to retire. I told the CEO I was pulling the pin and he suggested: ‘would you be interested in coaching the Thirds, we’ve just sacked the coach.’ ”

“So I retired on the Tuesday and was coaching on Thursday night,” Alan recalls.

He stayed in that role for the next year and a half, but declined to apply when it was broadened into a full-time position.

He’s had a few other flirtations with football over the last 27 years. A foray into journalism saw him covering League games for the Sunday Age ; he coached University Blues for a season ; and took an assistant-coaching position with ‘Slug’ Jordan, at the Prahran Dragons.

When Jordan suffered a stroke whilst recruiting for Collingwood, Alan offered to help out his old mate, and concentrated on scouting the interstate teams for some time.

He’s now back at North, and has been Vice-President of the Roos’ Past Players for the past three years.

Post-footy, Alan sampled an array of jobs, but for the last 15 years has been an Insurance specialist. Three years ago he launched his own Insurance brokerage.

These days his competitive juices are discharged by playing A-Grade tennis, alongside an ex-Wangaratta boy Ross Spriggs.

From Moyhu to the wide expanses of the MCG, and beyond, Alan Jarrott’s 170 VFL games stand as a tribute to one of football’s hardest workers…………..