KEN PIESSE FAVOURITE SON’S FROM THE WIMMERA

Wimmera boy Tim Watson in the early 90's

McKenzie Creek is a near-forgotten whistlestop outside Jeparit, but for footy fans, especially down Geelong way, it will always be notable for being the childhood home of iconic Cat’s goalkicker Doug Wade, a true 1960s and 1970s goalkicking great.

Doug may have been recruited direct from Horsham, but he played his first senior footy as a 13-year-old for Tyrendarra and also represented Jeparit when Teddy Jarrard was coach in the late ‘50s.

“Ted was tough and very strong, beautifully proportioned as Denis Cometti would say today,” said Wade.

“My all time hero was John Coleman but guys like Ted and Kenny Smale who was from Warracknabeal weren’t far behind him. Kenny played in three Grand Finals, including the famous ’58 side.”

The Wade’s originally had a 100 acre farm halfway between Port Fairy and Portland, Wade’s father being one of the renowned shearers in the district. Later the family moved to Portland for a time and then onto Jeparit, young Doug going to school in Dimboola.

Wade and his eldest brother would kick the football back and forth just about from dawn to dusk. To preserve the footy they’d rub kidney fat from dead sheep into the leather, Doug reckoning they got an extra two years out of their football, even if it smelt bad and in the end resembled the shape of  a basketball!

One of Doug’s heroes, goal kicking record holder Fred Fanning was coaching Hamilton and Wade learned to mimic his long strides. In time he was to rival his prodigious kicking abilities, too.

Having played both firsts and seconds with Horsham in 1959, Wade’s breakthrough year of 1960 saw him playing at centre half-forward in Horsham’s grand final victory over a Stawell XVIII which included another Geelong premiership player to be in Roy West.

Stawell’s side that day also included flanker John Brown who was to also play with West and Wade in Geelong’s 1963 premiership team.

Back then, Wade had more than his fair share of puppy-fat, but said Big League training was never a problem.

“We didn’t do the hard physical training. I wouldn’t get through the warm ups now. Most of the players wouldn’t,” he said. “We’d do kick to kick for half an hour, a little bit of circle work and as a full-forward I’d then go and have shots at goal and then in. Things picked up later though, especially when I went to North Melbourne under ‘Barass’ (football legend Ron Barassi).”

With an average of four goals a game over 16 years with two clubs, Geelong and North, Wade remains one of football’s great goal icons. He led the goal kicking at his two clubs in 14 of his 16 years and topped the League charts three times.

As a young football writer at the Sunday Observer, I’d go down to Doug’s place of work, a fitness and swim gym at the back of the old South Melbourne football ground. He always loved a yarn and we became good mates. He even came down to train at my cricket club Port Melbourne, but baulked at  doing a warm-up lap or two. ‘Just let me have a bat, Ken,” he’d say.

Like many of the old-time country boys, he loved cricket as much as footy, but soon realized he could make a buck out of the winter game so went with that.

We caught up again last year for a meal close to Arden St. and the conversations re-started like it was yesterday. Doug is modest about his achievements and a truly great Australian.

He still can’t understand how footy has improved in just about every area except for goal conversion!

He could just about kick his torps around corners. And having played senior footy at such a young age, he learned to look after himself, many a full-back backing-off when Doug had his ginger up.

He remains my favorite footballer from the Wimmera, but again it was a crack field, led by a 300-gamer in Tim Watson, who was so good he played League footy at 15.

Most of my list excelled in the city, but some like Rupanyup’s Ian  Morgan preferred to stay a bushie. He was boarding with Wade as a potential new chum at Geelong. “But he lasted only a couple of weeks. He simply didn’t like it,” said Wade.

Geelong’s great coach Bob Davis says Morgan and the great South Australian Barrie Robran were about the only two he targeted who weren’t to come to the Cats.

“Ian kicked all these goals (eight) in a (Wimmera League) Grand Final but still said no,” said Davis. “But not all was lost. On the way back we picked up the fat fella (Wade) at Horsham, Roy West from Stawell and Johnny Brown too. They were all part of the ‘63 (Geelong) premiership side. It was a good trip that one.”

Wade heads my 10 favorites from the Wimmera area. In alphabetical order (to avoid squabbles) they are:

GLENN HAWKER: Just about the best kick I saw on both sides of his body, he could pinpoint a leading forward from 40 metres and hit them on the chest every time with either his left or right foot.  He was one of the stars who made Essendon one of the great teams of any era in the ‘80s. Later played at Carlton. Was originally from Kaniva.

TED JARRARD: Was an adopted son at Jeparit where he played and coached until he was 40 after a stellar League career at North Melbourne which included the 1950 Grand Final. Played more than 130 games as a Shinboner, almost all  across half-back where he was a true champion. He also played in the VFA and in the old Sunday league.

ROGER MERRETT: It’s rare for a footballer, especially of his size, to play 300 games but Merrett did in 10 years at Essendon and another nine  with Brisbane. Few could intimidate like Merrett, who  as a kid from Kaniva, first played League footy as an 18-year-old.

IAN MORGAN: A prominent farmer-footballer-cricketer, Morgan was the one who preferred to stay home and alongside his son Paul was named in Rupanyup’s Team of the Century in 2000-01. During a brief trial at Geelong, Morgan was accidentally flattened by Paul Vinar at training one night and Ian’s father complained to Bob Davis, saying he needed his son fit and back on the farm and that was that! Ian, one of nature’s true gents, says had he really wanted to play League, he would have, but his heart was always back in Rupanyup. Each of his three sons Craig, Paul and Glenn played more than 200 games with Rupanyup, giving the family almost 1000 matches, a magnificent record.

MERV NEAGLE: Another star Essendon player of the mid-80s, Neagle grew up in Dimboola and says all his mates played footy and cricket. “That’s all we ever wanted,” he said. “Now with computers and so on, it’s so different.” Merv’s love affair with footy saw him still playing into his 40s and coaching into his 50s, up in the Sunraysia to help a couple of old mates at Merbein.  Few are as travelled, his country clubs also including Mt Barker, north of Perth, Mangoplah-Cookardinia United, Walla Walla, East Devonport and Balranald.

DARRYL PEOPLES: A skilled and sometimes fiery half-forward from Ararat, Peoples lost far more games than he won at down-and-out Fitzroy, but still had six years of League footy from the mid-60s. He could outmark the ruckmen and would have been a real star at one of the power clubs like a Richmond.

JOHN SUDHOLZ: Was in his element in the late ‘60s at South Melbourne, football then being very much a mark and kick game. Barrel-chested and bulky, he was hard to manouevre out of the way and played more than 80 games, most at full-forward, at South before returning to “Rup” where he continued to play and coach. Three of  his four sons also played  with the club.

DOUG WADE: A member of North Melbourne’s first premiership team in 1975 having played a mini-lifetime at Geelong, Wade’s goalkicking CV includes a ‘13’ for the Cats against South Melbourne at the old Lake Oval and  10 on his debut with Victoria in a memorable interstate game with Western Australia. Was a true champion.

TIM WATSON: (Pictured) Father of current Bomber captain Jobe Watson, Tim was a 188cm (6ft 2in) ruck-rover who could mark, run and jump. Remember his uninhibited leap over a fallen pack at VFL Park during one night game? It was one of the great moments and resulted in a goal I can still recall like it was yesterday. Tim was to play in 307 games in 17 years and is just as well known now for his great work with Channel 7’s footy coverage.

ROY WEST: Lightly built and barely a Collingwood six-footer, West had great judgement and was one of the best drop-kicks of the day. Came to  the VFL from Stawell the same year as his premiership buddy John Brown.

* NEXT WEEK:  Ken Piesse selects his favourite 10 players from…..  the Goulburn Valley

About Ken Piesse

I am a journalist, commentator and the author of almost 50 cricket and football books. I also sell the new Wisden and cricket and football books and cricket cards and ephemera on the internet via my website www.cricketbooks.com.au

Comments

  1. Chalkdog says:

    Ken
    Just doing some “housekeeping” and saw this one.
    As a kid in Ararat in the late 60s we were told the best the town had produced was Barry Price [Collingwood 1965-1974ish]. He left town at a young age. A young Rene Kink was doing some neat stuff around town at the time as well, some of it involving football.
    Is the Ken Smale Doug refers to ex-Collingwood from the late 50’s?

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