Local Footy: The day the Murray league beat the Saints

This Friday marks a special occasion for the Murray Football League: it’s the 50th anniversary of the day a hastily cobbled-together team of Murray league players became one of the few country teams to defeat a VFL visitor.

Practice matches between country teams and VFL teams were common from footy’s earliest days right up until about 1970. It often happened that a VFL team headed bush on the weekend that Victoria played an interstate match.

The Murray league’s feat in knocking off St Kilda was rare. AFL stats guru Col Hutchinson combed through club annual reports and checked with club historians for victories by country teams against VFL visitors.

He could verify only two: in 1901 the Rutherglen Football Club defeated South Melbourne by 13 points at Rutherglen; in 1914 a Goulburn Valley league representative team defeated Carlton by 12 points at Tatura.

The match between the Murray league and St Kilda in 1960 is significant because it was Allan Jeans’s last game. Jeans played for Murray league clubs Tocumwal and Finley before joining the Saints.

In 1960, when he was 26, Jeans was battling to overcome strained rib cartilages but he was determined to go home to play against the Murray league. After the game, he gave in to his injuries and became St Kilda’s non-playing reserves coach.

In 2006, Murray league stalwart Tom Danaher and his wife Vanessa tracked down all members of the 1960 team with a view to inviting them to that season’s Murray league grand final. Seventeen were able to make it; the other three, Laurie Murdoch, Ron Walsh and Graeme Sutton, had passed away.

The players were all set to enjoy a cavalcade around the boundary when Wayne Burrows, the Murray league general manager, ruled out the idea at the last minute for insurance reasons. Effectively, he was worried about the old players’ chairs toppling of the backs of their utes.

No celebrations have been planned for this weekend, but the 1960 feat lives on for Murray league fans. The team was led by Cobram captain-coach Les Mogg, who had played on a wing for North Melbourne in the 1950 VFL grand final.

Mogg said this week that the Murray league players did not even have a training run before the St Kilda match. Some players were unfamiliar to each other. In the first quarter, Mogg was amused to hear Finley teenager Ted Maher call for the ball using honorifics: “Over here, Mr Mogg, over here.”

St Kilda was without several stars, including Neil Roberts, Verdun Howell, Lance Oswald and Bill Stephenson, but took advantage of their hosts’ nervousness to shoot out to a seven-goal lead at quarter-time.

In the second quarter, Mogg shifted himself from full-forward to ruck-rover and put his Cobram teammate, George Hocking (the uncle of former Geelong stars Steve and Garry), into the goalsquare. The Murray league worked into the game. St Kilda led by four goals at half-time and two goals at the final break.

In the last quarter the lead changed four times. Mogg said the decisive moment was when the Murray league’s former Essendon centre half-back Jim McColl and his St Kilda opponent Laurie Stephenson (Bill’s brother) set themselves for a marking duel. Murray league half-back Phil Lewis, a builder from Finley, flew over the hefty pair to take a screamer.

Lewis’s mark fuelled his teammates. The Murray league overcame the Saints to win by 14 points. Hocking was the highest goalkicker, with four. According to newspaper reports, Mogg was best on ground.

After the match, players from the two teams adjourned to a Tocumwal hotel. Mogg was having a beer with Lindsay Fox, St Kilda’s 23-year-old ruckman, when he asked Fox what he did for a living.

Fox replied that he had a small trucking business in Melbourne. He drove one truck and another bloke drove the other one. Mogg, who at 80 continues to head into his old accounting practice in Cobram to help his son, still loves that story.

Murray Football League 18.9 (117) d St Kilda Football Club 15.13 (103), 25 June 1960, at Tocumwal

Murray FL—B: Laurie Murdoch (Numurkah), Evan Thomas (Deniliquin), Graeme Sutton (Strathmerton); HB: Phil Lewis (Finley), Jim McColl (Strathmerton), Col Barton (Cobram); C: Barry Allen (Deniliquin), Lyle Stuart (Cobram), Ivan Bryan (Tocumwal); HF: Keith Platfuss (Deniliquin), John Ryan (Strathmerton), George Hocking (Cobram); F: Herbie Tasker (Deniliquin), Les Mogg (Cobram), Ted Maher (Finley); Foll: Peter Brown (Nathalia), Keith Thompson (Tocumwal), Len Sexton (Berrigan); 19th: Ron Walsh (Numurkah); 20th: Russ Milne (Berrigan).

St Kilda—B: John Delanty, John Kilpatrick, Brian Muir; HB: Jim Guyatt, Ray Walton, Eric Guy; C: Leo Garlick, Allan Jeans, Bruce Sellick; HF: Kevin Roberts, Laurie Stephenson, Graeme Lee; F: Ian Rowland, Bill Coady, Bob Hay; Foll: John McMillan, Lindsay Fox, Gary Holmes; 19th: Peter Burns; 20th: Brian McCarthy.

Comments

  1. John Delanty and Graeme Lee now both live on the NW Coast of Tasmania.

  2. pauldaffey says:

    Phantom,

    I think the St Kilda team had quite a few Tassie players as well as players from the Sale-Maffra area of Gippsland in Victoria. In those days, before zoning, clubs seemed to have specialist areas.

    The Saints did very well out of Tassie: Barry Lawrence, Ian Stewart, etc.

  3. Phantom says:

    Verdun Howell, Darryl Baldock, John Bingley all premiership Players

    Howell, Bingley and Delanty all came from City South (now South Launceston). Brent Crosswell played an unders practice match there in mid sixties.

  4. pauldaffey says:

    The Crosswells are Launceston Footy Club people. I interviewed Darrell, Brent’s father, in Ross last year.

    Great old fella. Still loves shootin’ at 80 years of age. Debonair, pencil-thin moustache, too.

    Jodi Arnol also went from Tassie to St Kilda. We could go for ages!

  5. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    Daff,

    I’m pretty sure the only player from Sale in that team is Laurie Stephenson – Big Bill Stephenson’s brother; Bill, who along with his great mate, Alan “Mocca” Morrow from Sale were major forces in the Saints’ push for success in the early 60s.

    “Mocca” would have to be one of the most-loved Sainters of all time, certainly up there with the Doc and “Barks” (Trevor Barker). A lion-hearted ruckman he gave his absolute all to the Saints.

    “Doggy” Rowland must have enjoyed his trip up to play a game on the Murray – after the 1965 GF he went back to coach Strathmerton. His team-mate Brian Walsh, who didn’t play in this match, had already gone to coach Cobram, while policeman Bill Coady went to coach nearby, Tatura.

    Together they led a combined Strathy-Cobram-Tat team that played St Kilda in a practice match circa 1967 – the Saints were at the peak of their powers and won easily.

  6. Ken Woolfe says:

    Hi Paul,

    I was very interested in your article re- the 50th anniversary of the St
    Kilda v Murray League game. I umpired that match and on reading your work,
    it brought up memories. I was 32 years old, married with a son & one on the
    way. I also was running my own business and I was finding it difficult to
    get back in the big time.

    However I was appointed to this game. I caught the St Kilda bus at 7am at
    Harrison House and we were on our way. I got along with the players, who
    were mostly around 20 years of age. There was not much discussion re- the
    forthcoming game Murray League game.

    During the first quarter it was easily noticeable that the Saints were more
    skilled, but they did not wish any physical encounters. The country boys,
    however, were as keen as mustard, and they were well supported by the large
    crowd. A high scoring game, it was easy to officiate.

    I can confirm the conversation with Lindsay Fox. We were both Melbourne High
    School Old Boys. In 1960 he was a real rough diamond – and he hasn’t
    changed!!

  7. Rocket,

    Jim Guyatt and Ray Walton were from Maffra.

  8. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    Jimmy Guyatt was a terrific player – was at his peak – had just played for Vic – when struck dowwn by a knee injury in 1964, I think it was, maybe a year earlier.

  9. Damian Watson says:

    Sad to hear that Laurie’s brother Bill Stephenson passed away recently in Sale, he was in his prime in 1962 when he was struck down with a severe knee injury in the days where a knee reconstruction almost signalled the end of your career.

    Another St Kilda stalwart from that era in Brian Walsh also passed away recently. I think he was the only defender who has ever been credited with scoring a goal for the opposition.

  10. Here is some information on Graeme Sutton.

    Played back pocket for Strathmerton, better known as ‘Chaffer’, he coached Yalca F.C until Yalca folded and formed Picola United. Came to Waaia as Assistant Coach in the early 70’s, played Full Back and his kick-in technique was quite unique. He preferred to drop kick the ball in a stab-like fashion, with no follow through, and the ball would famously land in the centre of the ground most times. He passed away in the early 80’s.

  11. Josh,

    I’m trying to imagine a drop-kick with no follow-through. Extraordinary.

  12. Does anybody have the quarter by quarter scores, the total goalkickers and the overall best players for both sides from this momentous Murray def St Kilda match please from 1960? Many thanks kenpiesse@ozemail.com.au

  13. Hi Ken,

    I do, but they’ll take some finding.

    I’ll put them up when I find them.

  14. Richard Jones says:

    COL Hutchinson …. off down to the pharmacist, old son, and grab a wider-toothed comb!

    September 1902: South Bendigo 7.11 def. Richmond 6.2. [OK, so Richmond was still a VFA club and not a VFL club until 1908 when the Tiges and University joined the then VFL}

    Mid-1880s: Bendigo (the club, not the league) drew with Port Melbourne, a VFA powerhouse

    Same era, Sandhurst def. South Melbourne which had won 3 VFA flags in the previous few seasons.

    And now my appetite is whetted, I’ll hunt down the year when the combined Bendigo F.L. team defeated the combined (yep, the representative outfit) Vic. Football League side.

  15. Ken,

    I’ve dispensed with my material relating to that match, but I recommend you ring Tom Danaher in Barooga. He has all the info.

  16. Russell Walsh says:

    My dad was apart of that team Ron Walsh from Nurmurkah, what a pleasure it was to represent him on the day at the reunion as he passed away in 2003, listening to the stories on the day made me even more proud of my father and his life, I was sadened to hear Les Mogg passed away recently, what a wonderful man and a brilliant footballer, Les was as sharp as ever his face lit up when he starting talking about the game, he had the ability to recall just about every kick by kick of the match, country football the heart and soul of the bush, long should it survive.

    Russell Walsh
    Ferntree Gully Vic

  17. Rick Nolan says:

    Fantastic research here. Well done all.
    My initial responses were :

    Not one of these plyers survived to make the 66 premiership team.
    Ian Rowland is an intersting talking point here.

    Who was coaching St.Kilda seconds up until this point ?
    What happened to him when Jeans took over ?

    Jeans vacated the seconds coach job to assume the senior job in 1961 . . . And Saints reserves went on to play in the next 3 reserves grand finals . . . Who was the coach ?

  18. Paul Daffey says:

    Not sure about the seconds coach, Rick.

    Might be one for Russell Holmesby, St Kilda’s unofficial historian and a very obliging man.

  19. Think the Saints 2nds coach was Brian Muir, not sure.

    Eric Guy took over in the latter part of the 60s.

    As for none of the players being there for the premiership team, Kevin Roberts was in the team up until he broke a collar bone late in the season.

    And, of course, Doggy Rowland was replaced as second rover by Alan Davis during the season. He was very popular with the players and supporters.

  20. Couple of points, i’d like to clarify. Brian Walsh, when did he score an ‘own’ goal? Was it for St Kilda V Carlton 1957 ?

    Curious re Rutherglens victory over South Melbourne in 1901. Is there much information on the match?

    Glen!

  21. Not sure on either count, Glen, sorry.

    Mark Branagan (Bloodstained Angels) might have an idea re- the Swans match.

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