Bill Bailey is a wool farmer from Wannon in Victoria’s famous Western District. Like so many from the area he grows wool, raises kids and barracks for Geelong.
He played footy for Coleraine in the late 1960s and, while he made good use of his Coleraine footy jumper on the field in his day, he’s made even better use of it round the farm since. Warm, and with the perfect fit around the gentle contours of his athlete’s frame that only wool can give, this jumper is Bill’s pride and joy. What a beautiful thing it is!
I ring him up for a chat and catch him just before tea.
“Good photo,” I say. “Good jumper: Coleraine, the Maroons. Did you play much footy?”
“I was more of a cricketer,” Bill says, “but I played a few years for Coleraine. I wasn’t that tall, but believe or not I was a ruckman. I had an outstanding vertical leap. Yeah: about six inches!”
He played in the glory days when Coleraine were in the Western Border League.
“We lost to Portland in the ’66 Grand Final,” he remembers. “Col Saddington – the Richmond bloke – had come across from Adelaide. Then we won it in ‘67.”
He’s been on the land all his life.
“Dad bought Park Hill before the war: 3000 acres, 6 pound an acre. Big money. But the wool boom helped.”
His Dad, Bill senior, was a sportsman. When he went off to Melbourne to study Medicine he was at Trinity. He did one year, but he won a triple blue: cricket, footy, and billiards.
Bill’s family had interests around Victoria. His great (?) grandfather (yes, William Bailey as well) became a wealthy man. He was famously known as Weeping Bailey. Having arrived from England in 1848 he eventually worked as a mine manager in the Ballarat district for the Learmonth family. They were so impressed with his work, including his role as agent in selling a major mine, they gave him 5% commission which amounted to 675 quid. Overcome with emotion, tears cascaded down William’s cheeks and he was forever Weeping Bailey after that. He features in one of Geoff Blainey’s books.
The Bailey family became involved in farming and other enterprises, including racehorses, and that all remains in the blood.
So there is quite a story to Young Bill, and the Baileys. And quite a story of the jumper.
These days the Maroons play in the South-west League. They’ve won six out of the last nine flags and are in the mix again this season. Matt Dunne coaches them.
They play at a magnificent oval nestled into a ridge above a creek.
Bill will buy you a beer if you get along.