“REDLEG REGGIE REFLECTS……….”

For a large portion of his (almost) 79 years neighboring Barkly Park has been his second home.

Even now, most days he’ll uncoil his lanky 6’6” frame from the comfort of his favourite lounge chair, stroll down from his Harris Street home, and check out that nothing untoward is going on at his old ‘stamping ground’.

Reg Edwards is a Rutherglen institution.

In bygone days he plundered mountains of runs as a left-hand opening bat, plucked marks from the heights, and booted goals from near and far………………..

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Reg and his wife Wendy remain ardent sport fans.

They like to fit in a couple of rounds of golf a week, and utilise their subscription to Fox Sports to the full.They rarely miss a ball of Test or One-Day cricket in summer, and watch almost every AFL game on offer……

Reggie’s a died-in-the-wool Sydney Swan…………

That’s surprising in one respect, because in his younger days he continually resisted the efforts of Swans to lure him to South Melbourne’s Lake Oval.

For five or six years, when he was ranked one of country football’s most likely types, he’d be coaxed to pre-season training, or practice matches, often travelling down with ex-South player Don Star and a handful of prospects from the region………..

“I was working at All Saint’s Winery when they first turned up to see me,” Reg says. “Carlton were showing some interest at the same time, and had arranged to come up the next week-end…….They were a bit dirty when I told them I’d signed with South.”

When he finally pulled on the Red and White Guernsey early in 1964 the papers trumpeted him as ‘the rangiest full forward to ever hold down the position for South……..’

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What a stage to make your debut !…….. In front of a bloodthirsty Magpie crowd at Victoria Park………And lining up on an old Rutherglen boy, Teddy Potter…….

“He didn’t make me feel welcome………didn’t say a word to me,” Reg quips……….

“I used to pride myself on my kicking for goal, but missed a couple of ‘sitters’ from 30 yards out, straight in front………finished up kicking 1.4……..”

“In the third quarter I flew high, climbed all over Ted’s back and just failed to hold on to the mark…….South player Graeme John picked up the crumbs and put it straight through the big sticks……..In the meantime, the umpie had blown the whistle and given the free kick against me……..”

“ John ran back and abused shit out of me ………I thought: ‘If that’s League football you can stick it up your jumper.”

“They wanted me to play at Geelong the following week…….But I said: ‘No…. I’ll stay at Rutherglen, thank you……….”

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Reg was 11 when he experienced one of his most memorable sporting moments – the Redlegs’ famous 1954 O & M premiership victory.

He remembers proudly wearing a wide red Tie, emblazoned with the image of a Rutherglen footballer, as he cheered on the star players – coach Greg Tate, Joey Gilfius, ‘Butch’ Hawking, Les and Doug Jones, Leo Mantelli………

“ ‘Spudda’ Tate was magnificent; the best Rutherglen player I’ve seen. Our full forward Kevin Gleeson was pretty ordinary overhead, but ‘Tatey’ used to hit him on the chest every time…….”

“They tell the story that, at one ‘Pleasant Sunday morning’, someone bet ‘Tatey’ he couldn’t hit the goalpost five times out of six attempts, from 30 yards out……He went out and did it….”

By the time Reg was coming through, the glory days were well and truly over at Barkly Park.

He played a year in the Reserves, aged 16.

“I was at full forward, and the ball just didn’t go down there…….I reckon I played three-quarters of the year without getting a touch ……….An old trainer, Bert Miller, would often greet me coming off the ground: ‘Missed out again today, Reg’………..“

He spent a season with Springhurst, in the Wangaratta Junior League, under the coaching of a savvy ex-League ruckman, Ron ‘Horse’ Bywater, then walked straight back into the Rutherglen senior side, where he would remain a fixture for the next decade.

Stationed like a giant light tower at full forward, he proved an instant success, booting six goals in his second game, against Albury.

“There were a lot of characters at the Club in the sixties, and it was a good place to be a part of, even if we didn’t have a lot of success………We approached every season with optimism …..”

“ I never got too downhearted, but put it this way, if we won seven games in a season it was a good effort…..” he says.

“ I know opposition teams didn’t look forward to meeting us over here, though, particularly if we got our tails up early……..”

Wendy, who was there for most of Reg’s career, reflects: “No matter how many times they lost – or by how much – we’d be there on the fence, patting them on the back…..saying ‘Well done.”

I remind Reg that the hospitality at the after-match was always a feature at Rutherglen, as the teams inevitably ended up propping at Frank Ferrari’s Poacher’s Paradise Pub until all hours.

“Yeah, Frank was heavily involved with the footy club, and was a terrific bloke…… He could sure tell some stories, which were usually coated with a liberal dose of bulldust ………….”

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Former St.Kilda centre half back Harold Davies (‘a really good player’) was Reg’s first O & M coach, followed by hot-gospeller Ray Horwood, who had spells as non-playing coach either side of ruckman Bob Hay.

“Bob hailed from Tasmania, and came to us via St. Kilda….. taught me more about ruckwork than anyone.”

He admits that full forward was always his favoured position, but he morphed into a more than capable ruckman.

One old foe recalls: “Surprisingly, for a bloke of his height, Reggie was pretty agile………..He was equally adept at palming the ball with left or right hand – and could jump off either leg.”

He wore the O & M guernsey against Bendigo and Hampden Leagues in 1966, and had pulled down a handful of marks the following year, in a clash with Waranga North-East when a broken cheekbone prompted his exit from the game just before half-time.

The honour of representing the League was a rare highlight for fellahs like Reg, who were regularly deprived of the opportunity to play finals. ………

He deliberated painstakingly about leaving the battling Redlegs when Howlong offered him their coaching job in 1969…….Rutherglen held firm and refused his clearance applications.

Despite their rebuff the Spiders again came knocking in 1970…….this time he was free to pursue his coaching ambitions…………..

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“I used to ruck all day, and was the only import in the side, except for one bloke – Barry Mullarvey, who travelled from Albury, but played all his footy at Howlong,” he says.

“Gee, it was terrific to be winning regularly…….It was also pretty handy that we had five O’Halloran brothers playing……..”

“We used to pick the side and put it up on the wall of the pub every Thursday night……I remember before the ‘71 Grand Final old Mick O’Halloran (their dad) walked over, looks up at the team, comes over to me and says: ‘Well, I’ve done my bit; the rest is up to you ! ’……….“

And they went on with the job, after it was evenly-poised at half-time.

“I was the only bloke getting paid ….I got $40 a week, and thought I was getting a fortune….I handed $5 of it every week to ‘Jacko ‘ (O’Halloran) who was our best player……”

“In the Grand Final we played him at centre half forward and he kicked 4.8……He won the Azzi Medal that year with a then-record 34 votes. On one flank was his brother Peter (another Azzi Medallist), and on the other was a kid called Brian Lester, who was back from school in Sydney.”

“He played the last three home-and-home games and picked up the maximum 9 votes in the Azzi……Not sure whether he ever played after that season….”

The Spiders took complete charge in the third quarter of the Grand Final against Walbundrie, and led by 45 points at the last change: “Reg Edwards continually forced the ball into the open spaces which enabled his speedy mates to sweep it up……..There were O’Hallorans everywhere, as Howlong opened up a match-winning lead…..” reported the Border Mail.

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Reg settled back into the Rutherglen side after a fulfilling three years as coach of Howlong, and continued his role as one of its key components.

He’d played under one of football’s great journeymen – Frank Hodgkin- before he left, but Frank had moved on to North Albury and his brother Bob was now in charge of the Redlegs.

“Frank was still a terrific player, even though he was in his twilight years….. He was causing us trouble down here one day, before Bob lined him up in the third quarter and flattened him……All Bob said at three quarter-time was: ‘I got old Frank off the ground……Now we’ve got this mob stuffed…..”

Despite tough-man Bob’s best efforts – and those of his successor Vinnie Doolan, the ‘Glen still failed to rise above the lower rungs of the ladder………Conversation began to turn towards an unlikely merger with their much-despised neighbors…..Before the end of the decade Corowa-Rutherglen had come into being.

Reg wasn’t able to hang on to play an active part in the merge. He finally hung up his boots in 1975, after 189 senior games. He’d booted 337 goals, had been captain, Reserves coach, and was entitled to recognition as one of Rutherglen’s finest products.

“I was happy for it to eventuate (the merger)” he says. “I didn’t think Corowa would have a bar of it, because we certainly didn’t like one another.”

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The Edwards cricket career lasted almost as long as did his long-term employment at the Rutherglen Research Station.

He began with Rutherglen during their highly-successful era in the Rutherglen Cricket Association, before moving over to play with his footy mates at Lake.

He was a prolific opening bat in North-East Cup cricket and for a period of 10 years or so at Melbourne Country Week.

“Rutherglen cricket was really strong in those days. The Association comprised Corowa, Buraja, Lake, Howlong, Balldale, Barnawartha, Chiltern and Rutherglen.”

“When Corowa left to join the Wangaratta Association it knocked the RDCA around and it never really recovered.”

Through it all Reg has remained a passionate cricket follower. He rolled the wicket for many years, has filled just about every task possible at Barkly Park and pokes his head in each week to watch the locals play in the WDCA.

One of sport’s true personalities is Reggie Edwards……………

‘THE GOLDEN ERA OF THE MIGHTY REDLEGS……’

I’m at Barkly Park, just a street away from Rutherglen’s main ‘drag’.

Chances are that many present-day O & M fans have never spotted this old relic which, to be honest, has barely changed since I first laid eyes on it about 65 years ago.

It was once the cradle of Ovens and Murray football, the home of the Mighty Redlegs…….winners of 15 flags…… 13 of which came before World War I.

Like the town, the Oval just drips with history………. If I shut my eyes for a moment I’m swept back in time, to the mid-1890’s:

…….Be-suited gentlemen sporting bowler hats; the ladies adorned in their finery, alight from horse-drawn carriages. They take up their vantage spots near the fence, fraternise with companions, and await the opening bell with heightened expectation……..

The participants jog -or rather – stroll onto the ground……..The lads of Rutherglen, wearing their Blue and Red chamois lace-up jerseys, long white knickerbockers and familiar Red ‘hose’, are greeted with polite applause.

Their opponents are the much-vaunted Beechworth Wanderers, who only need to prevail in this game to take out the Premiership Cup:

Never before has a match excited so much interest……. A special train has been chartered to run from Beechworth, and about 200 people have taken advantage of this concession.

Visitors have also come from Wangaratta, Chiltern, Lilliput, Corowa and Albury; some 4,000 spectators in total.

The Wanderers, the Redlegs’ staunchest opponents, hold on. Rutherglen, who had failed to trouble the scorers at quarter-time, are unable to bridge the gap, and are defeated, 4.7 to 2.9…….

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Following the discovery of Gold in the latter part of the 19th century, there was an influx of more than 20,000 people to Rutherglen and its surrounds……A second rush attracted a further 10,000…….By the time a properly-organised football competition was introduced in the 1890’s the town was ultra-busy.

It’s no surprise that Rutherglen and Beechworth ( another town which was to become a ‘metropolis’ of the Gold-Rush era ) were the giants of the Ovens and Murray League……..and ignited a rivalry which bordered on open warfare.

The conflict came to a head in the Final game of the 1895 season, when the teams clashed at Beechworth’s Baarmutha Park, in front of a large crowd:

“The first few minutes of the game were fairly friendly….” reported Beechworth’s O & M Advertiser. “…….until Harry Thompson, the Wanderers’ ace goal-kicker, was attacked in a spiteful manner by a Rutherglen player.”

“The ground was immediately rushed by supporters of both clubs and, but for the intervention of Police, a free fight seemed imminent.”

“ After several minutes had been spent in excited wrangling, order was restored and the game proceeded. Play, however, continued to be rough throughout. When the final bell rang to end the game, Rutherglen were just ahead – 2.7 to 2.4.”

“The Premiers were hailed with boisterous cheers by the supporters of the Red, White and Blue….”

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Legend has it that an Irish emigrant, Dan King and his friend Jack Hiskins were the two who got football up and running in Rutherglen.

They’d been informed by visiting bullock-wagon teamsters that a new game, a cross between the Gaelic code and its British antecedent, Rugby, had become very popular with young fellows in Melbourne.

“Let’s give it a try,” King said to his mate.

Dan, who had taken on Bootmaking to supplement a meagre farm income , roughly fashioned a football. The cover was made of leather and kept in shape by a pig’s bladder.

Before long, the naturally-talented King and Hiskins boys had mastered the arts of kicking and marking. The respective families were to provide the core of the great Rutherglen sides of the next two decades.

Pat King organised volunteers to clear the playing field that was to become Barkly Park. His brother Bernard was seconded to coach the side and Jim, Dan, Chris, Francis and Jack were all stars.

Of the 14-sibling Hiskins clan, the nine boys all played in the Ovens and Murray League, although a few were enticed over to the other ‘Glen team, Lake Rovers. Clashes between the arch rivals incited plenty of feeling, particularly in the Hiskins household, where brother would, at times, be pitted against brother.

Fred, Arthur, Stan and Rupert Hiskins all went on to make their name in League football, whilst Neil, Vic, Bert, Clem and my grandad, Jimmy represented either of the Rutherglen-based sides with distinction for years.

But there were a number of others, like Lou Jackson, Arthur Francis, Bill Collins, Hally Chandler and Jim Hallahan, who established phenomenal records whilst chalking up flag after flag with the Redlegs.

Hallahan stood 6 foot, and weighed in at 13 and a half stone. He was a top player, whose career lasted 28 years, most of them being spent with Rutherglen. Enticed to St.Kilda for a season, he returned to Rutherglen after his parents sent an SOS: ‘Leave that nonsense alone – come home and do some proper work.’

He played with the Redlegs until 1924. His sons Jack, Tom and Bill started not long after, and their younger sibling, Jim Jnr, began in 1929.

Young Jimmy proved to be a star, finished third in the first-ever Morris Medal, in 1933 and later played with Footscray and Fitzroy. He once told me that his dad Jim and team-mates had a host of tricks up their sleeves when it came to outsmarting the opposition and cleaning up the odd wager on the side.

Word went around on the eve of a game with Exelsior ( a Miner’s team, whose home ground was 3 miles out on the Albury-Rutherglen Road ) that Jack and Jim King were going to Melbourne to play with St.Kilda, and would be missing from the Redlegs’ side.

The Kings were, indeed, spotted by Exelsior supporters boarding the train, so the money was set. But they disembarked at Springhurst, were picked up by a waiting horse and gig, headed to Exelsior, and helped win the game.

Old Jim had been away gold mining in W.A at one stage, and returned half-way through a season. As the permit arrangements between the O & M and surrounding leagues were, to say the least, flimsy, Wahgunyah asked him to play a game with them in the Coreen League.

His old Rutherglen team-mate Arthur Francis was their coach, and they were sailing along nicely. Surprisingly, a swag of money was put up to back Balldale, their opponents that week-end.

“Dad told the story that Jackie Power, an old jockey and fervent punter, was beside himself and asked him to see if he could find out what was going on,” Jimmy told me.

“He said, ‘There’s no way Balldale could beat us, Jim. They must be up to something’. There were a few rumours around that they had ‘rung-in’ some players. Dad and his mates decided they’d stay one step ahead.”

“Rutherglen were well on top of the O & M ladder, so they went around to see their friend- and the side’s best player – Jack King.”

“ Dad said: ‘Whaddya reckon Jack, will you help us out ?’ Jack agreed and also enlisted his brother Chris; then they roped in Lou Jackson. On the way home, the horse and gig passed the Chandler house……. ‘What about Hally Chandler then, we might as well have him too’.”

So Wahgunyah, with their ranks inflated by some of the Ovens and Murray’s outstanding talent, won easily against the imports from Balldale, and cleaned up a sizeable amount………

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Jack King is probably the best-known of all Rutherglen players.

He made his debut in 1895, and figured in 11 premiership sides, finally hanging up the boots in 1926, aged 47. A brilliant sportsman, he was a Stawell Gift Finalist in 1907 and later gained a reputation as a hard-bitten,astute, tight-lipped trainer of four Gift winners, the first of them being his brother Chris in 1908.

Jack, like so many of his contemporaries, was tempted with offers from League clubs but played just eight games with St.Kilda in 1904 before the call of home beckoned.

Fifteen of his team-mates from the Golden Era played in the VFL for varying lengths of time.

Jack always regarded Fred Hiskins as the best of them. Fred joined Essendon in 1900 and topped the League goal-kicking the following year, with 34. He represented Victoria in 1902, but headed over to the gold-mines of Kalgoorlie at season’s end, where he played with Mines Rovers for three seasons.

1906 was his swansong season with Essendon. After 50 games with the Bombers – and much to their disappointment – he headed home .

He lined up on a forward flank for Rutherglen against a powerful South Melbourne VFL side at Barkly Park the following year. The Redlegs put up a magnificent performance to go down by just five points, 9.17 to 10.6.

During the course of the game Mounted Police were forced to enter the playing arena on several occasions, to disperse the overflowing crowd.

To further illustrate the strength of footy in Rutherglen, Geelong, Collingwood and St.Kilda were all involved in enthralling contests in clashes at Barkly Park in 1903, whilst two years earlier, South Melbourne, with 11 stars in its line-up were unable to keep pace with the home team, who triumphed by 12 points………

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Rutherglen won the last of its 13 pre-War premierships in 1915, then had to wait another 20 years to clinch another, under the coaching of Fred Hiskins’ son, Jack, in 1935.

They surged again in the early fifties and, with a well-balanced side at his disposal, former Essendon champ Greg Tate guided them to a memorable flag win over Benalla in 1954, in front of 13,000 fans.

Leaner times, though, lay ahead.

The demographic of the Ovens and Murray competition had changed considerably, and a dwindling population-base forced Rutherglen to constantly fight above their weight.

The Grand Old Club had been a standard-bearer of O & M football since 1893, yet made just two further finals appearances in 25 years. In a bid to to preserve their identity, they joined forces with cross-river rivals Corowa in 1979.

The ‘Roos’ – Corowa-Rutherglen Football Club’ became the merged identity……….

“……….. BE HOME BEFORE DARK……”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FOOTBALL DYNASTY

I’d like to escort you back through the ages – almost 130 years, in fact – to a tiny farm near Lake Moodemere, on the outskirts of the busy, booming gold-rush town of Rutherglen.

Irish emigrant Dan King is yarning with his friend Jack Hiskins about a new game that was being spoken of by visiting bullock-wagon drivers. It had, they were told, become very popular in Melbourne and all the young fellows were aspiring to join clubs that had sprouted up in the city and surrounds.

“Let’s have a bit of a look at it”, King said to his mate. Dan had been brought up on Gaelic football ; Jack knew a fair bit about the British game of Rugby. This new code was apparently a mix of the two sports…..

Dan King, a bootmaker, roughly fashioned a football. The cover was made of leather and kept in shape by an inflated pig’s bladder.

Soon the seven King boys and all of the Hiskins clan had mastered the art of kicking and marking. So much so that they were to become the backbone of the fine teams that represented Rutherglen and it’s surrounds for the next couple of decades.

The ‘Glen chalked up flag after flag in an era of dominance in the Ovens & Murray League in its fledgling days. Bernard King was seconded to coach the side and his brothers Jack, Jim, Pat, Chris and Francis were some of the stars.

Jack and Jim both played League football and Jack was to return and play with the Redlegs for a staggering 26 years.

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Jack Hiskins had 14 kids and the nine boys all played in the O & M, which is a record that will, in all likelihood, never be broken.

But they spread their favours between two teams in the district – Rutherglen and Lake Rovers. Clashes between the arch rivals incited plenty of feeling, particularly in the Hiskins household, where brothers would, at times, line up on each other.

Fred was the first of the family to be enticed to the ‘big smoke’, when he joined Essendon in 1900. A fine half forward, he topped the League goalkicking the following season, with 34, but occasionally had a bout of the ‘yips’ . There was one ‘shocker’ against South Melbourne, when his favoured place-kick let him down and he finished the day with 2.10.photo copy

He represented Victoria in 1902 and disappointed Essendon at season’s end by walking out and seeking his fortune on the gold-mines of Kalgoorlie, where he spent three fruitful years with Mines Rovers.

Fred sustained a nasty eye injury at work and headed back east to receive treatment. Essendon pounced, upon his return, and placed him at the goal-front. 1906 was to be his swansong season of League football and, after 50 games and 78 goals, he chose to play out his career at Rutherglen.

Arthur found his way to South Melbourne in 1908 and was to play a prominent part in the ‘Bloods two–point premiership win over Carlton the following year.

Nicknamed ‘Poddy’, he usually lined up on a half back flank and was renowned photo 3for his long-kicking and tenacity, despite being only 178cm.

He enlisted in 1916, aged 30, having played what, one would have thought, was his last game, as he headed to the front-line in France.

A photo on the Australian War Memorial website, shows Arthur standing knee-deep in mud, in Belgium in 1919. He was a world away from the game that he loved with a passion. Seven months after the photo was taken, he ran onto Princes Park Oval, in his return to League ranks.

He was appointed playing-coach of South in 1920, but they slipped out of the four and he was relieved of the job. However, he played on until the end of 1923 and finished what had been an outstanding career, with 185 games.

He then officiated in 52 games as a VFL goal-umpire.

‘Poddy’ enticed another brother, Stan, to come down and have a run with South in 1913. Stan was of similar build and was a versatile player, who spent a lot of time in defence. He possessed ample doses of the trait which ran through the Hiskins family – toughness.

Stan was a back flanker, but had proved a reliable goal-kicker in his forays up forward. Three months after he had played in the 1914 Grand Final – his 30th game – he was heading off to France, as part of the frontline.

He lost four years of his career to the war, but returned to his occupation as a carpenter and was selected in South’s side for the opening round fixture of 1919.

He had played 66 games and kicked 34 goals when he called it a day in 1921.

Carlton scouts headed up to Rutherglen in pursuit of Neil Hiskins. Considering that three of his brothers had already made their mark on League football, they were excited by reports that the solidly-built Neil was the pick of the crop.

They found the boys having a kick in the paddock, near the family’s watermelon patch. But the youngster was having none of the suggestion that he join the Navy Blues. “No, I’m quite happy here”, was his response.

Neil was a star with Rutherglen but never ventured past ‘Pretty Sally’. Nevertheless, his older brother Rupert agreed to give it a go.

But before he had the opportunity to play a senior game, Rupe enlisted and joined the Light Horse Brigade. By October of 1916 he was in the Middle East, where he was trained as a machine-gunner.

He contracted skin infections, which saw him regularly in hospital throughout his military service. The problem only cleared up when he returned home in 1919.photo 2 copy

Rupe then began a superb League career. Although he was 26 years-old he made an immediate impression as a free-running six foot-plus defender.

He was soon thrust into the ruck and formed a lethal combination with established stars, Bert Boromeo and Lyle Downes. He was an extrovert and a big-occasion player, who revelled in the finals atmosphere. Besides his long kicking and ability to do the heavy work, he was agile at ground level.

Rupe was a six-time Victorian representative and had become one of the game’s big names. By 1923, however, he was asked to carry the ruck division. Downes collapsed and died after training one night and Boromeo had controversially exited the club.

Rupe retired in 1924 after 74 games and joined Boromeo at VFA club, Brunswick, where he concluded his career with a flag.

The other brothers in the prolific family, Jimmy, Vic, Bert and Clem gave yeoman service to Rutherglen and Lake Rovers.

A veritable assembly-line of Hiskins progeny has continued through the generations….

Jack Hiskins followed his father Fred to Essendon in the thirties………Barry Richardson was a triple premiership player in a great Richmond era of the late photo60’s and ’70’s……….Paul McCormack was a Carlton player who later won a South Australian state jumper……..Karl Norman had a brief stint with the Blues between 2003 and ’05…….

But to catalogue the rest, who became stars ( and champions) in Ovens & Murray ranks, and beyond, would be a decent yarn in itself.

Young  defender James Smith is the latest product of this football dynasty that was created by his great-great-great grandfather all those years ago, on a dry, dusty little property at Lake Moodemere.image