“……A CLASS ACT………”

Frank Hogan was a class act…….He had the physique, and presence at the batting crease of a Ponting…… His silky footy skills and knack of finding the pill mirrored a sixties version of Lochie Neal………

I was an impressionable sixteen year-old when he arrived in Wangaratta all those years ago. I eagerly awaited the prospect of batting with him, and watching him run rings around the best of the O & M’s small men…………….

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The famous Hogans were raised in an old weatherboard home just a couple of decent stab-passes from the Violet Town Oval, on which they honed their sporting skills.

The eldest of the clan, Pat, was still attending Wangaratta Technical School when, at the age of 18, he was handed the coaching job by the locals. He spent two seasons at South Melbourne, then led several country teams, as he moved around the state in his profession as a school-teacher.

Kevin was also lured to the Swans, where he played 63 games as a classy rover, before transferring to Sale as captain-coach. The OAM he was awarded in 1983 acknowledged the monumental service he’d rendered to Gippsland sport as a journalist, broadcaster and volunteer. He remained on the Sale Footy Club committee for just on 60 years.

There were sisters, Margaret and Loretta, and Frank’s younger siblings, Johnny ( a premiership rover at Benalla in 1962 and ‘63 ), Normie ( an O & M Reserves Medallist ) and Terry ( a laconic Wang Rovers left-footer; later coach of Nathalia, Tatong and Tungamah, and plundering left-hand batsman)…………

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If you were looking for the definition of ‘sporting prodigy’, Frankie Hogan fitted the bill.

He was a mere stripling when he stepped up, and acquitted himself superbly, in senior company. His footy debut with Violet Town came at 15…..He won the Euroa Cricket Association’s prestigious Maygar Bat as the competition’s leading run-scorer in five successive seasons…..top-scored for a Combined Country XI against Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side, aged 18.

Naturally, the talent scouts came hunting…..He was lured to Benalla in 1957, where he was an instant success as a rover for Len Fitzgerald’s Demons. The runs also kept coming, as he and the veteran Keith Sherwill formed a dynamic opening combination. They shared six century – and one double-century – partnerships by the half-way mark of the ‘57/58 BDCA season.

It was principally through cricket that he was first enticed to the ‘big smoke’. Former Test captain Ian Johnson had dropped the word to his old District club South Melbourne, that a kid he’d played against up Benalla-way was worth having a look at.

Frank recalls the first night he turned up to training at the Lakeside Oval: ”The coach Joe Plant threw an almost-new ball to Test left-armer Ian Meckiff and said: ‘Here, ‘Fatty’, have a go at the young bloke.’ “

“He’s rattled the stumps with his first two balls…..I pointed to the one peg that was remaining and said to him: ‘Righto smarty, see if you can knock that one over ’……. And he promptly did just that.’ “

He shared his District debut with future Test quickie Alan Connolly, batting second-drop against Carlton, in a star-studded line-up which included six Australian or Victorian players.

At the same time, he was invited to do a footy pre-season with South.

I asked him if he’d considered going anywhere else, considering that Bobby Skilton and Brian McGowan, entrenched as probably the VFL’s best roving duo, were in front of him.

“Not really….. Our family was very South-oriented. I remember my grand-father, who was a Swans fanatic, taking me to see Bob Pratt play when he returned from the War. It would have been sacrilegious to go anywhere else……Besides, my brother Kevin was still playing there.”

He managed 12 senior games over two seasons, missing most of ‘59 with a thigh injury, and was quite content with his lot at South . But one of his cricket team-mates, ‘keeper Pat Bourke, planted the thoughts of making a move.

“Pat was an old Croweater and said: ‘Would you be interested in heading to Adelaide ? I reckon you’d go all right over there.”

“I didn’t think any more of it, until I got a call from West Adelaide Footy Club. They arranged to fly me over to have a chat….Next thing, I’m over there for keeps………..”

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He was immediately enticed to play Grade cricket for Adelaide, coached by the legendary spinner Clarrie Grimmett. A splash of publicity had accompanied his arrival, and he was among the runs in his first season.

But with the footy pre-season full-on he was finding it difficult to combine the two, and decided to bypass cricket in favour of water-skiing.

“I had a visit at work from Col Egar, the Test umpire, whom I’d got to know. He said: ‘I should kick your ass, you bloody idiot. Bradman called in to watch you make that 85 at the Adelaide Oval the other day, and you’ve been added to the Shield Squad…..Now you’re giving it away.’ …….Thinking back, it wasn’t a sensible move on my part, but I just wanted to get right for footy…….”

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West Adelaide had lined him up with a job as a Motor Mechanic at York Motors and he quickly adapted to the SANFL style of play. It was no surprise when he was named in the State side after a succession of impressive performances.

“ It was July 7th 1960,” he recalls, “… and we faced the daunting task of overpowering the Vic’s at Adelaide Oval. They were near- unbeatable in any conditions, but the game turned into a rout.”

Hogan ( 3 goals ) and his roving partner, Haydn Bunton Jnr, were irrepressible in front of just on 30,000 adoring fans, who watched in disbelief, as South Australia triumphed, 14.15 (99) to 3.12 (30).

It was the first of the five State games Frank played, including the ANFC Carnival in Brisbane the following year.

In 1961 West Adelaide’s non-playing coach Jack Oatey, was replaced by Neil Kerley, whose on-field aggression helped to lift his side into premiership contention.

“ ‘Kerls’ was as tough as old boots,” Frank says. “…..Probably the only fellah I could compare to my old South team-mate Ken Boyd, for the knack of intimidating opponents.”

“He used to come to me and say: ‘Is anyone annoying you? It got to the stage where I wouldn’t tell him, because he’d go and drop ‘em.”

The Westies won their way into the ‘61 decider, and faced Alan Killigrew’s Norwood at the Adelaide Oval on a brute of a day. A hot westerly wind swept down the ground, and the temperature reached 98 degrees. It has gone down in history as: ‘The Turkish Bath Grand Final.’

At one stage the umpire halted the game and removed up to 10 trainers who were treating distressed players with wet towels. It was obvious that the game would resort to a ‘last-man-standing’ affair.

West started to gain the ascendency in the third quarter and went on with it in the last, to win by 36 points. The elusive Hogan was a factor in their win, finishing with four goals.

The celebrations for West’s first flag in 14 years went on for weeks.

Frank recalls driving around the streets of Adelaide in a Cadillac, with several players: “We were all on the grog, with a barrel in the boot of the car, when we ran out of petrol in the middle of King William Street. You wouldn’t believe it, the cops ended up going and getting us some petrol.”

The following year they again reached the Grand Final, but were outclassed by arch rival Port Adelaide. Amazingly, at season’s end, the highly-popular ‘Knuckles’ Kerley was relieved of the coaching job.

“Some thought it was because of a run-in with an administrator,” he says. “There was a bit going on at the time.”

Frank headed back east after three seasons, 58 games and 120 goals with West Adelaide. He’d got wind of a coaching opportunity at Tatura, and made enquires about it. Within a fortnight he had the job.

“Things didn’t quite work out. We just missed the four, but I’d got offside with a couple of people, and there were a few rumblings.”

“I appeared on the Channel 6 Footy Show one Sunday. Ken Boyd was also there, as part of the O & M segment. We had a yarn…. ‘Boydy’ said he’d be rapt to get me over, and would organise something with the Rovers………”

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Frank’s recruitment was the icing on the cake for the rapidly-developing Hawks. Boyd had succeeded Bob Rose as coach in 1963, and had nursed along a young group who were on the cusp of stardom. The experience and class of a top-flight on-baller was to prove a god-send.

They won the first 15 games of 1964 before inexplicably dropping the last three Home and Home games, and developing the staggers in the Second Semi-Final against Wangaratta.

The prophets of doom decreed that they had run their race…….But something clicked in the last half of the Preliminary Final against Myrtleford. The following week, a no-holds-barred Grand Final also went their way, as they comfortably accounted for the ‘Pies.

The flag win completed a dream season for the magical Hogan. He’d won the Hawks’ B & F, finished equal third (behind North Albury’s David Sykes) in the Morris Medal, and booted 52 goals.

The Rovers arranged employment for him at Alan Capp’s when he first arrived in Wangaratta, but within months he’d swapped the overalls for a suit and tie, and a job as a Car Salesman with Donovan-Brush Motors.

Selling, and buying cars was to become his mode of employment for the next 34 years.

The Hawks had their ups and downs in 1965. They scrambled into the four on percentage, but found their mojo with successive outstanding finals performances; thus earning the right to another tilt at their cross-town rivals in the Grand Final.

It was a dramatic affair, which saw them outlast the plucky ‘Pies by three points…….. Despite being troubled by a dodgy ‘hammy’ at times during the season, Frank hit his straps at finals time, and was rewarded with his third flag in five years……………

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I managed to see a decent portion of the Frank Hogan highlights-reel during his three and a bit years of WDCA cricket. It began with a majestic 89* in his maiden innings. But two of his most memorable knocks came in finals games.

The first was in a Man of the Match Semi-final performance against United in 1963/64, when he made 110 of Rovers’ 225, then took 4/30 and 4/35 with a mix of medium-pace and leg-spin.

His stand-out innings, though, came in the Grand Final the following year, also against United. Frank had sent down 24 overs, for figures of 3/101, as his side confronted the task of chasing down a challenging total of 340.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make half of the runs if you blokes can chip in with the rest,” he said to us. I’ll let the Chronicle’s scribe paint the picture of his innings:

“A lot of the glamor surrounding United’s win took second place to the brilliant performance of Rovers captain Frank Hogan. His innings was one of the best seen in country cricket for many years.”

“He was in a punishing mood, and any deliveries which were short, or over-pitched, were dispatched all around the wicket with crashing power.

He hit 12 fours during his long innings, and was finally dismissed for 100, finally throwing his wicket away in an attempt to retain the strike. Rovers finished 95 shy of victory……..”

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Frank’s football wanderings continued when he was appointed captain-coach of Beechworth. The ruptured spleen he suffered during the season dealt a telling blow to the Bombers’ finals chances. They bowed out in the First Semi.

He was on the move again in 1967, and was hopeful of to bowing out of football with another flag, this time with Redan…….. But fate is a cruel tyrant. He booted three goals in the Lion’s wayward 5.25, as they fell three points short of Golden Point in the Ballarat League Grand Final………..

Golf became Frank’s sporting passion in retirement. Playing off a six handicap, he ‘shot his age’ a few years ago when he had a par-72 on the highly-rated Ranfurlie course.

The Hogans lost 5 siblings within a period of two and a bit years, and Frank, as the eldest of three survivors is now 84, and living in Cranbourne.

“I’m dirty that a crook back stops me from playing golf. That’s the only problem,” he says. “It’s giving me buggery at the moment……..”

LOCAL BOY FIRES IN CROWEATER COUNTRY

When I first spotted Luke Norman, he was performing acrobatics behind the wicket.

As an up-and-coming ‘keeper in Wangaratta, he had a bullet beside his name. The experts predicted that he was undoubtedly destined for higher honours.

He possessed all the attributes of a top gloveman – agility, an eye like a dead fish, clean hands – and an abundance of confidence. Medium-pacers who had the knack of troubling the batsman by way of swing and guile, had an ally in Luke. He took them up on the stumps – and would have the bails off in a jiffy.

Like so many of his era, though, he drifted away from cricket – seduced by his first sporting love…………….

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He was born to be a Magpie. An uncle, Basil Schubert, patrolled the wing in their 1961 Premiership team. His dad Tom was a tough-as-nails back flanker who played 150-odd games in some fine Wangaratta sides of the sixties, including three losing Grand Finals.

It would have been four, only for Tommy, in a moment of madness, smacking Rovers hard-man Ken Boyd during a frenzied third quarter of the 1966 Preliminary Final.

There was an element of Tom’s toughness, and well-muscled physique, about Luke when he first arrived on the scene.

He’d played his junior football with Tigers, and graduated to the Magpies’ Thirds, providing a glimpse of his promise during an outstanding 1989 season. But he probably still reflects, with bewilderment, on what transpired at Morris Medal night that year .

Luke was one of six players who had finished equal top in the voting for the Thirds’ Award. The O & M opted for a count-back to decide the winner, and the young Pie was declared the Leo Dean Medallist.

Acting on advice from Wodonga Raiders the following day, League officials re-checked the team sheets and found that votes in one game had been allocated to the wrong players. Philip Partington, of the Raiders was handed three extra votes, to move him one vote ahead of the unfortunate Norman.

But that was a mere hiccup. He had debuted with the seniors that year, and was regarded as a star of the future. His first senior coach, Ray Card, saw his rapid improvement from one season to the next.

“All of a sudden, he developed from promising, to a player with the X-Factor about him……. Strong overhead, rather impetuous, dynamic and adept on both sides of his body……I could see he had the potential to be a star,” Card recalls.

Norman was part of a Wangaratta side which scraped into the finals in 1993. Pumped up by hot-gospeller Brian Walsh, they comfortably accounted for Corowa-Rutherglen in the Elimination Final, then survived a thrilling First Semi against Yarrawonga.

“Walshy had us really convinced we were on the march to the flag,” Luke recalls. “It should have been a Rovers-Wang Grand Final. We had most of the play in the last quarter of the Preliminary Final against Wodonga, but couldn’t put them away. Jon Henry had a shot for goal with the last kick of the game, but it went out on the full. Wodonga had held on to beat us by four points.”IMG_3519

A mate of Walsh’s put Melbourne in touch with Norman. They added him to their Supplementary List, and in 1994 he played 15 games with their Reserves, interspersed with occasional appearances back with Wangaratta.

The Demons had liked the look of him, and decided to give the bullocking utility his opportunity. Selected at pick 68 in the National Draft later that year, Luke Norman’s prayers had been answered.

He made 16 AFL appearances over the next two seasons. “I certainly wasn’t a standout,” he says. “I played some handy games, I suppose, and it was an enormous experience, but there were too many of my type of player on the list.”IMG_3510

The highlight, in Luke’s opinion, was his final game – the so-called ‘Merger-clash’ between Hawthorn and Melbourne. “It was billed as a dress-rehearsal for the ill-conceived marriage of the two clubs, and there was a fair bit of hype surrounding it. Hawthorn got up in the dying stages, to beat us by a point, in front of 60-odd thousand.”

Flicked by Melbourne at season’s end, he was enticed over to Adelaide by a team-mate, Clay Sampson, who was heading back home, to play with the Crows.

Luke signed with Sampson’s SANFL club, South Adelaide, and played 38 games with the Panthers. Standing 6’0 and weighing a touch over 13 stone, he proved adaptable, and well-suited to the South Australian game.

Then came the call of home. Wangaratta had fallen on hard times, winning just the one game in two seasons. They pleaded with one of their favourite sons to help extricate them from the mire.

He gave them good value. Now nearing his thirties, Norman probably played his best footy in the Black and White guernsey. A far more-rounded player, explosive, and difficult to contain, he was Best and Fairest in 2000 and ‘01, represented the Ovens and Murray League five times and won VCFL selection. And in 2001, he finished fourth, behind Robbie Walker, in the Morris Medal.IMG_3517

But unfortunately, in his three years back at the Norm Minns Oval, the Pies remained entrenched on the bottom of the ladder; seemingly eons away from the glory that was to await them seven years later.

After chalking up 140 games with Wang, he and his now-wife Mardi ( a South Australian ) decided to head back across the border. A good mate, Ian Borchard, had taken on the West Adelaide coaching job, and was keen for Luke to join him.

It proved an handy decision. Borchard was succeeded by Sean Rehn in 2003, and Norman, now in the veteran stage, hit it off well with the big ex-Crow.

“He introduced an AFL touch to his coaching, and the players loved him. Opportunities were provided to a few young kids, like Adam Cooney, Sean Tuck and Beau Waters. There were 11 players drafted from his three years as coach. We improved to the extent that we were a genuine challenger for the flag,” he says.

‘Westies’ nipped at the heels of the dominant Central Districts in the Second Semi, before going down by 18 points. Having earned the right to have another crack at them in the Grand Final, they weren’t quite strong enough. Districts controlled most of the game, to win the flag by 34 points.

Rehn appointed Norman captain in 2004, and he responded with a fine season, taking out the club Best and Fairest and Best Team Player awards.

He was again voted the Best Team Player the following year, but at the age of 34, knew that the end was nigh.

He retired at season’s end, after 67 games with Wests and a total 105 SANFL games under his belt. Sean Rehn, in farewelling him, said that : “……Norman was a player who extracted 100% effort from himself every time he played. As captain of West Adelaide, he typified the best qualities in a footballer and a person………..”

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Luke took on a role as Assistant and Forwards coach at Woodville-West Torrens in 2006. The SANFL colossus of the 2000’s that was Central Districts, were chasing their fourth straight flag. But WWT dismantled them by 76 points in a boil-over of a Grand Final, that shocked the large crowd.

Rick McGowan, who had been a fellow Assistant at Torrens, was appointed coach of Sturt in 2007, and snavelled Luke as Reserves and Assistant-Coach of the Two Blues.

Then, when McGowan was lured to Hawthorn in 2009, Sturt opted for Norman as senior coach.

“There are only nine people who can coach League footy in South Australia, so it was a privilege, and a great opportunity,” he says.IMG_3512

He took Sturt to the Grand Final in his first year, with a young, talented side, but found Central Districts too strong. It was Centrals’ eighth SANFL flag in ten years.

“We reached the finals again in 2010, despite missing a bunch of kids who’d been drafted. Then we had to deal with the loss of 18 players at the end of the year. It put a hell of a whole in the list, and in 2011, I played 24 first-gamers. We finished equal-bottom.”

“I’d been busy recruiting for six or seven weeks when I was called in early in November and told  I was being replaced. There was still a year to go on my contract.”

“But that’s footy. I was a bit hurt, but pretty philosophical about it. Coaches come and go…..and the club’s bigger than the individual.”

“It gives me a bit of satisfaction that Sturt have won the last two premierships with many of those 24 kids we introduced in 2011 playing an influential role.”

“I loved coaching. It’s an emotional roller-coaster. There are a lot of negatives, of course, like telling a player he’s been dropped……..But I enjoyed playing my part in educating kids about footy……and life.”

Luke stayed in touch with coaching during another two-year stint as Midfield Coach at Woodville-West Torrens in 2014-15, before moving over to Glenelg as Assistant, and forward coach last year.IMG_3513

He’s been running his own business – Norman Family Transports – since he retired from footy. It involves plenty of interstate travel and long hours, and Luke and Mardi have been contemplating re-locating back to Wangaratta with the kids – son Carter and the girls, Tommi and Milla.

The ‘welcome mat’ would certainly be rolled out for this local boy made good………….IMG_3515