ALRIGHT, admittedly we’ve been pretty south-west Victoria heavy in our Bush League articles and it’s caused some concerns from our readers elsewhere.
Ryan from Maffra writes: “Hey dickheads, when are you going to write about Gippsland? Maffra deserves some love!”
Well Ryan, given your town’s name deprives us of our natural compulsion to pronounce words with a ‘th’ sound, you’re pretty much thucked – we’re never going to write about Maffra.
Instead we’ve decided to focus our attention on everyone’s favourite town in Victoria that starts with ‘Warr’ that isn’t Warrnambool or Warracknabeal … it’s Warragul!
Situated east of Warragul West and west of Nilma which is south of Nilma North, Warragul is populated by about 15,000 people in the town itself, with about 35,000 in the urban area that includes nearby Drouin.
Two clubs play out of Warragul, with the Warragul Gulls (see what they did there?) the major team in town, competing in the Gippsland Football League, while the Warragul Industrials slug it out in the Ellinbank & District Football League against Teletubbies understudies Lang Lang, Buln Buln, Neerim-Neerim, and Poowong.
With the Gulls formed in 1879, and the Industrials formed in 1948 to accommodate the scores of ex-soldiers who couldn’t get a game with the Gulls, plenty of top footy talents have been raised on the mean streets of Warragul before making their way down the highway to the big league.
GARY AYRES: (Hawthorn: 269 games, 70 goals)
NOT a great start, Warragul. Not a great start at all.
If there’s one thing we don’t like at The Hickey Stand it’s former Geelong coach Gary Ayres.
Dead set, bringing in a Hawthorn legend to succeed Malcolm Blight as coach was like taking the keys to Hogwarts away from Dumbledore and giving them to Voldemort.
A two-time Norm Smith Medal winner and five-time premiership player – including the 1989 victory against Geelong – Ayres inherited the Cats in 1995 and proceeded to dismantle them from the inside. And he did it all with a rubbish haircut.
Our blind hatred aside, Ayres’ story of growing up on the farm outside Warragul is one painted with heavy strokes of grief and sadness. In 1980, with Ayres living in Melbourne as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, he was told the devastating news that his father had died in a tractor accident. His dad – a former police officer – was only 43.
“That was one of the biggest, shocks, disappointments, loss in my life and it continues to be, even though it’s some 31 years ago,” he told Brittany Shanahan on her blog in 2011.
On that note, we might go a bit easier on Gary from now on.
But probably not.
EDWARD ‘CARJI’ GREEVES: (Geelong: 124 games, 17 goals)
WHILE Carji Greeves mostly grew up in Sleepy Hollow – attending school at Geelong College – the champion centreman was born in Warragul before being shipped off for the sake of his education.
Etching his name into Australian Football history as the inaugural winner of the Brownlow Medal, Greeves might never have existed had his grandmother’s engagement to another Aussie Rules legend – namely the game’s founder Tom Wills – broken down when she was a young woman.
Now honoured with Geelong’s best and fairest medal named after him, it’s worth noting that Greeves’ distinct nickname is the result of some good old fashioned casual racism.
BARRY ROUND: (Footscray/South Melbourne/Sydney: 328 games, 293 goals)
A PRODUCT of the good old days when ruckmen were big and burly and could still win Brownlow medals, Barry Round openly admits that he might not have had a career had the game been as athletic as it is today.
Zoned to Footscray from Warragul, Round played second fiddle to fellow Brownlow winner Gary Dempsey for eight years before being given the opportunity to move to South Melbourne, where he won the league best and fairest in 1981.
Sticking with the Swans during their relocation to Sydney, Round became the new club’s first captain, fighting the good fight under their first coach Ricky Quade.
It wasn’t long before Round and Quade scratched the ‘good’ from the fight though, and the pair came blows during a training session in 1984, resulting in the coach being hospitalised and forfeiting his position, while Round was stripped of the captaincy and only played one more season in the big league.
On a completely unrelated note, Round had replaced Quade as the club’s skipper in 1980 after then coach Ian Stewart dumped him for his poor form. But we’re sure the fight was completely unrelated to that.
Round – who now lives on the Gold Coast – was eventually inducted in to Sydney’s Hall of Fame and snagged himself a spot in their Team of the Century.
ALAN NOONAN: (Essendon/Richmond: 192 games, 434 goals)
A SEVEN-time leading goalkicker at the Bombers, the centre half forward was known for being as good at ground level as he was in the air.
One of just 94 players in the game’s history to kick more than 400 goals, Noonan sits ninth in Essendon’s list of goalkickers and represented Victoria on seven occasions.
A teacher when he wasn’t playing footy, Noonan sadly died aged 63 in 2011 after a long battle with cancer.
ROBERT MURPHY: (Western Bulldogs: 312 games, 183 goals)
IT’S sort of ridiculous how ‘Melbourne’ Bob Murphy is, so it’s easy to forget his roots are all the way out in Warragul.
Likely wandering the streets of Footscray as you read this, wearing some sort of jacket with a woollen collar whilst drinking a long black before heading to a backyard concert headlined by Dan Kelly but with Paul Kelly making a guest appearance, ex-Bulldogs skipper Murphy is the product of a Catholic priest father and a nun mother.
Breaking the ice by asking ‘so, the virgin Mary. Reckon she was legit?’, the pair fell in love and moved to Alice Springs to work in an Aboriginal residential college, before packing up again and moving to Warragul, where they raised young ‘Robbie’.
An odd looking unit with a heart of gold and an unrivalled determination, there’s not much more that we can write about Bob that hasn’t already been written in the past 12 months, other than he’s genuinely one of our favourite players from a rival club and we want to be friends with him.
BERT TAYLOR: (Fitzroy: 50 games, 7 goals)
ONE of 31 men to coach the Geelong Football Club, Taylor played four seasons at Fitzroy as a back pocket, notching his final game in the team’s 1922 premiership with a starring role in defence.
Moving to Geelong in 1923, Taylor took up the role of non-playing coach for a season, taking them to the finals, before he was replaced by captain-coach Lloyd Hagger the next year, who promptly missed the finals.
Hagger was then replaced by the great Cliff Rankin the next season, who took the club to their very first premiership in 1925.
Taylor died on April 1, 1980, as an 80-year-old.
HARRY WEIDNER: (Richmond: 96 games, 128 goals)
WE know a Richmond supporter who watched almost every Tigers game in their life but had booked an overseas trip for the 2017 finals series, missing every one of his team’s drought-breaking victories.
Harry Weidner was even less lucky than that bloke.
An elusive half-forward, Weidner played in Richmond’s losing 1927, 1928, and 1929 Grand Finals, before retiring halfway through the 1932 season due to a leg injury – a season in which the Tigers won the flag.
Oh we’re from Tiger *SHIT OUT OF LUCK*, oh we’re from Tigerland.
GEOFF WILLIAMS: (Geelong: 121 games, 1 goal)
WHILE most Cats supporters these days know of the all-conquering 1951 and 1952 sides, led by the likes of Bob Davis, Bernie Smith, Fred Flanagan and Russell Renfrey, not many people know much about Geoff Williams – and they probably should.
The club best and fairest winner in the flag-winning 1952 season and in 1955, Williams formed part of the formidable backline with Smith and Davis that led the Cats on their record 23 straight victories.
Awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016 for services to football and the Geelong community, Williams is one of just seven surviving members of the 24 men that played in the back-to-back premierships, with George Goninon, Russ Middlemiss, John Hyde, Bill McMaster, Terry Fulton and Les Reed.