Almanac Footy History: 50 Years On – Richmond Little League 1967

 

It will be precisely fifty years ago this Saturday to the day – May 13th – that the VFL Little League made its fourteen minute half time debut at VFL football grounds. It wasn’t an exact science I suspect. A squad of local boys cobbled together to form VFL aligned teams designed to provide some form of entertainment for football crowds during the long break.

The Richmond coach was a very young Blair Campbell. The 20 year old had made his VFL debut in penultimate round of the previous season. He enjoyed some celebrity too, kicking an after the siren winning goal in his first game. After the Tigers failed to catch the teams above them in the chase to the finals that year, Campbell returned to the VFL Reserves competition winning best on ground honors in that team’s premiership.

For photo of Richmond Little League 1967 CLICK HERE

An impediment his blossoming career came in the preseason – in the form of a year ending knee injury. Presumably, his disappointment was tempered with an invitation to orchestrate the Tigers Little League during his recuperation.

Not sure how the boys were selected. The Lloyd Street Central School in East Malvern provided six or seven of the players. Blair was ex-Lloyd Street himself. Pretty sure there were a few lads from De La Salle too. He also produced a weekly newsletter ensuring all the boys had nicknames that would stick like “Ironman Tom Montague”, “Dazzling Daryl Harbrow”, Graeme “Pelican” Pilkington and Rodney “The Bear” Bardon.

On Sunday afternoons, Blair would choreograph ad hoc football games at the local Hedgley Dene. The neighborhood kids would rock up, put down a couple of school bags for goals and off they would go. Blair umpired and modified some rules too. The big kids could mark and bump but they were not allowed to kick goals. For a team to score, they had to handball or kick to a little tacker – as they were the only players allowed to score.

After the game, Blair would walk us all around to the local milk bar in Darling Road and buy us all a milkshake. All fifteen or twenty of us! A similar number all seemed to fit into his blue Morris Minor and get a post match lift home.

I don’t recall having any pre-match tactical conversations or specific drills at training but Blair made sure we knew how to belt out the Richmond theme song. And followed up with the quintessential,“ Eat ‘em Alive!!!”

Half a century of football passion has since been enjoyed. My children and grandchildren too. I suspect my love affair with the game was somewhat influenced and nurtured with the melodrama, the fun and the selflessness that this man instilled in me that winter of ‘67. I think I owe this guy. I would dearly love to catch up with Blair Campbell one day – and buy him a milkshake.

About Warwick Nolan

Cricket tragic. Football tragic. However, he did enjoy glory early in his career. His zenith was as a ten years old when Simpson and Lawry opened the batting, Baldock wore a Collingwood jumper and a UFO landed on the school oval.

Comments

  1. Matt Zurbo says:

    Mate, a truely fantastic piece! Good on you!!

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    That photo is priceless Warwick. Loved this piece.

  3. Gee whiz Warwick you’ve combined two blasts from the pasts there.

    I recall Blair Campbell playing some shield matches for Tasmania in the late 70’s bowling ‘chinaman’ style. I know he played for Victoria about a decade prior. He also played VFL footy with both Melbourne and Richmond, being an early exponent of the ‘banana’ kick.

    Warwick, when was the last year of the little league? The generic ‘Auskick’ is the big thing in kids footy now, but i’m curious as to when the half time ritual of the little league finished.

    Glen!

  4. Warwick Nolan says:

    Thanks Matt & Swish.
    Ed – Surely you mean “yellow and black”?

    Glen – I can confirm that Campbell made his first class cricket debut in December 1969. The Lloyd Street Central School sent a contingent of feral students (and teachers) to the MCG on that Friday opening day to enjoy the debut of our ex-student. Sadly Victoria, won the toss and batted and finished the day at 8 for . . . with Campbell next to bat. Of the 22 players involved, only Campbell did not set foot onto the MCG that day.

  5. simon Brisbane says:

    Lovely piece of writing warrick. brought back many fond memories. It is true that we all sat quietly at the “G” that day only to watch Victoria bat. I think Leo Daly took us and there was minimal supervision. Blair called him the doyen of coaches. Leo loved this. Dont know where you got the blue morris minor from though….must be a crossed memory……”we are the boys of the blue triangle……every team we meet we mangle….rah,rah……………………….” simon brisbane

  6. The original Little League concept was replaced in around 1980. The Junior Football Council of Vic was given responsibility for organising this and Ray Allsop was the instigator of having the VFL clubs represented by a different school from their zones each week. No results or ladders were kept and this was revolutionary for the time and a difficult concept for the old LL team managers, and met with a lot of resistance initially. Most of these schools were involved in Vickick – which eventually became Auskick. Bob Keddie was the development officer at the time and I took over from him for a few years.

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