Castlemaine legend Peter Fyffe on wine and flags

A NEWSTEAD boy through and through, Peter Fyffe came in to play major league football with Castlemaine in the Bendigo league while still a teenager.

It was 1969 and 17-year-old Fyffe played on permits with the Magpies.

He’d already played senior footy with Newstead at the age of 16 under Castlemaine legend John Williams and established a reputation for his performances, both at centre half-back and in the centre.

Peter actually signed on with Carlton as an 18-year-old and was to spend four seasons with the Blues before playing with Cooee in northern Tasmania in 1974.

Blues’ powerbrokers had done a deal with Cooee to snare Greg Towns to Princes Park. Effectively they had traded Fyffe.

Peter remembers his Tassie stint as his worst year in footy.  So he endured just the one season before returning to Victoria and taking a year away from football.

He realized it was vital to devote time to studies so he spent 1975 getting his academic career sorted before returning to the Camp Reserve in 1976.

Despite his reputation as a top defender, Peter played his early football in the BFL as a centreman or a centre half-forward.

There was the occasional game at centre half-back. Maine coach Malcolm Stevens realized what damage Peter’s keen mind and competitive nature could do from the key defence position, so he moved him there.

And so Peter made the full-back spot his own. His uncompromising approach to defending his goal square and his fearless play stamped Fyffe as the league’s premier full-back.

OVERALL, times were better for Castlemaine after some bleak and tough seasons and Fyffe’s play from full-back was a critical factor in the Magpie resurgence.

His leadership through example made assuming the role as club captain a foregone conclusion. He held the role from 1978 until his final season at the Camp Reserve in 1982.

Unusually, Peter’s two club best and fairest awards were won in his first and last seasons as skipper: in 1978 and in 1982.

Most pundits considered he was at the top of his game when he surprisingly retired at the conclusion of the ’82 season.

Peter hung up the boots only briefly, though. Newly-appointed Northern United coach Tony “Bluey” Southcombe convinced him to continue playing, this time in the maroon and blue jumper of the Swallows.

Southcombe knew the value of a great defender — someone who could get his fist to the ball regularly in goal square marking contests — and he felt that Fyffe was critical to his team’s make-up.

Fyffe did not let “Bluey” down. He had three more great years at full-back, walking away with two premiership medallions.

“I had a great time out there with United,” Peter told me this week.

“Two flags came along, but on the Thursday night before the third grand final they won (in 1986) I tore a hammie and missed out on that one.”

For Peter who had not been sidelined through injury all season it was a bitter blow.

He realized at that point it was time to hang the boots up for good.

The Swallows went on to win four BFL flags in a row: 1984-87, inclusive.

And Peter was a regular member of Bendigo’s star-studded inter-league Blue and Gold teams through the seventies and early to mid-80s.

His calm and determined play in defence ensured he was always one of the first team members picked.

PETER and his wife Cherryl own Glenwillow Wines, based at Peter’s old stamping ground – Newstead.

“I’m virtually full-time at the vineyard. It’s a tough game and we work really hard at it.

“It can be difficult to obtain regular sales so we have quite a bit of stock at Wine Bank in Bendigo’s View Street,’’ he told me this week.

And last year they added opal mining to their list of enterprises.

Their mine is close to the NSW town of White Cliffs. “It’s midway between Broken Hill and Burke: about three hours drive from Broken Hill,” Peter said.

“We go around four times a year to White Cliffs.”

As I’d driven with my wife in March through Coober Pedy en route to Uluru and King’s Canyon, Peter compared White Cliffs to the outback South Australian opal mining town we’d visited.

“It’s very similar. A bit like a moonscape, just like Coober Pedy, but also with a welcoming, friendly community,” he said.

Peter’s wife Cherryl is a printmaker with her own gallery at Bendigo Pottery.

“She makes her own plates, and then prints patterns on the lino,” Peter explained.

“A lot of Cherryl’s work comes from sketches and drawings she makes during the time we spend up at White Cliffs,” he explained.

Peter Fyffe was inducted into the Bendigo Football and Netball League’s Hall Of Fame in October, 2010.

The previous year, in 2009, Peter’s value as a footballer and leader at the Castlemaine Football Netball Club was recognized when he was announced as one of the 25 all-time Magpie legends.

That induction formed the core presentation of Castlemaine’s 150th celebrations: 1859-2009.

Comments

  1. Stephanie Holt says:

    Very nice piece – always great to get the “where are they now” updates. The sporting prowess is in the genes – have enjoyed watching Peter’s niece Kelsey playing netball for his old Castlemaine team too.

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