FOOTBALL is a big part of Mid West life and always has been – that is clear from match reports written as far back as the 19th century.
That intertwining became even more closer with the founding of the highly successful Great Northern Football League in 1961. And it has been a big part of my life since I moved to Geraldton in 1984.
When I say football, I mean of course Australian Rules, the best form of football there is. I think I have some authority on this as I grew up in Sydney when rugby league was undisputed king while rugby union and soccer were also popular. League was better then. Rule changes have made it predictable and the players - let’s be blunt - are usually inarticulate boofheads. League is now run-the-ball up from the play-the-ball five or six times to barge into better field position and then kick and hope. Scrums have become meaningless so there’s little difference between backs or forwards. These days they’re all big, mobile men happy to repeatedly run into a wall of steel flesh. Union was a game for the sons of lawyers, doctors and bankers and treated with disdain by working class suburbanites like me. Every now and then a union player would switch to league for the money. Few succeeded. Playing a contact sport against a CEO's son who also played for fun was painfully different to facing a labourer aware he had limited time to make money before age and injury caught up. Such men don’t play for fun. Union is a better game now but its complex rules and mad scoring system are frustrating. It is now mostly played by working class stock - often imported from New Zealand, usually Maoris, or various Pacific Islanders. Of course there is soccer and given my background I should love it but frankly it leaves me cold. I know it’s the world game and that the World Cup is bigger than the Olympics etc etc but there’s something, well something unmanly about it. Aussie Rules is different. It’s fast, exciting, takes courage to play and requires precise hand and foot skills. It's a game where little things count - shepherds, manning up, creating options by running into space and talk.
The first game of Aussie Rules I saw live was between Towns and Northampton at Wonthella. I only went because a girl I fancied was going but ended up entranced by the on-field action instead (never got anywhere with the girl). I'd seen Aussie Rules on TV but as the camera follows the ball, you don’t see those little things. For the first time, I saw the game’s mechanics. Aerial ping pong was wrong, aerial chess was more like it and I was a convert. 30 years later, I'm still following the GNFL.
There are many people I would like to thank for their encouragement and assistance in preparing these records. Foremost is Gary Clark. Though he made a bigger name for himself as a quality runner, even into his 50s and 60s, Gary was a fine footballer who as a 17-year-old kicked a record 12 goals on debut for Brigades. Gary was also an outstanding manager of the Geraldton branch of the Department of Sport and Recreation for many years. There were times I took a break from compiling these records and those for the clubs. The longest was when I had completed records up to 1980 and at that time left the Geraldton Guardian in not the best of circumstances. Gary told me I'd done enough but added he would support me if I wanted to continue. I did and he did.
When I resumed, I needed to speed up the process and hit on the idea of hiring a team from India to assist. I was inspired by a show on the ABC about telemarketers. I figured if these people were willing to call legions of strangers with the same sales pitch for 10 hours a day, collating stats from some game they didn’t know existed might appeal. I contacted the Australia/India Business Council which put me in touch with a man named Shyam Rajamani. After discussions on method, I sent him photocopied results in batches of three or four years a time. Shyam’s people would transcribe details to computer, adding up goal scorers and best player listings, and email them back. It sped up the process immeasurably and the cost was minimal.
There are also many people at the clubs I wish to thank and though I’ll miss naming a few, wish to mention some. At Brigades, Bob Bryant. Bob played in the early ‘60s and though not a star, was a great club man and still keeps the club’s statistics. His record keeping is faultless. Chapman Valley was hard as more than any other club they have neglected their history (which has been addressed) but Bernie Knight, Bob Cope, Ian Elliott and Derek Farrell came to the party. Irwin was tricky as the club disappeared long ago but I had help from Barry Caulfield and Clive Cross who was a Railways legend but did play and coach Irwin. At Dongara there was Jock Patten. He worked so hard to make Dongara a success in the GNFL but needed more like-minded people around him. I still believe Dongara could have made it and recall how hurt Jock was when Dongara pulled out. I thought Mullewa would be tough but thanks to Mick Wall, it was easiest aside from Brigades. More than any other club, Mullewa has strong family links with Tunbridges, Simpsons, Comegains, Walls and others. To make matters worse, many players were better known by their nicknames. For instance Graeme Taylor was called Crummy and could be listed as either G or C Taylor. Trouble is, there was also a C Taylor, Crummy’s brother Claude. Clem Keeffe was also a help, especially with names from the ’60s. At Northampton, I had help from Ross Drage and Bob Johnston but the deepest well I drew from was Haydn Teakle’s memory. Haydn also gave a me a list of players’ nicknames and many were wonderfully inventive. At Railways, Ron O’Malley was very kind. He is a remarkable man and our oldest surviving Clune Medalist. He was a great player true but has given as much to the Blues off the field. At Rovers, I am indebted to Alf Fiorenza and his records were an excellent cross-reference while at Towns, Graham (Podge) Jackson was a help even though gravely ill at the time. While Podge was handy with later Bulldogs history, I would have been lost without Trevor Monger with regard to the early days. I rang him and he invited me to his house. I had tea with Trevor and his lovely wife Edna and we worked our way through my list. Thankfully his memory is impeccable (perhaps Edna would not agree) and I think Trevor is one of Towns’ five greatest ever players because Towns were strugglers throughout most of his career. The club's success over the past 20 years must thrill him.
I would also note Courtney Keeffe. He was Mullewa president when I attended a GNFL president’s meeting and asked for money to offset the cost of the above mentioned Indians. (Gary Clark had sourced other funding). I showed the presidents what I'd done to that stage and though they were interested, I wasn't really getting my message across. Courtney was also a cricketer so knew I had produced detailed records for A-Grade cricket and promised I would deliver for football. He committed money from Mullewa but I appreciated even more that he put his credibility on the line for me. One or two other presidents, trusting Courtney’s word, did too. I remember Haydn was one of them. What follows is not quite complete - I still have representative football to include for instance but it will do for now.
To conclude, I hope you enjoy these records and if you spot any errors or think you have something of interest, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org