Orbost or bust – celebrating a triple treat

In 1975 Orbost Football Club won all three premierships in the East Gippsland Football League – Seniors, Reserves and Thirds. It was the first and only time this proud club achieved such a feat and the first time in the league’s history – Lakes Entrance later did it in 2003.

It was the glory days of country footy when clubs and rivalries were strong around the state. The then VFL was also booming and football was a huge part of the fabric of many people’s lives in the city and country.

City families watched or listened to VFL games on a Saturday afternoon, while locals flocked to their town’s ovals to cheer on their sons, brothers and mates. Generations of families were involved at all levels.

I lived in Orbost in 1982 when my parents co-owned the Commonwealth Hotel, known as “the Top Pub”.  For that reason, we supported the Snowy Rovers, whose ground was directly over the road. Orbost’s ground was down near “the Bottom Pub”, so they were the enemy.

While I went to Melbourne when I could to watch my beloved Richmond, my family followed the local competition and loved it, watching games from the back of panel vans and spending up big in the tuck shop with 20 cent pieces pinched from the pub’s Pac Man machine and pool table.  My brother Paul also played in the juniors.

After a thrilling drawn Grand Final in 1982, the Snowy Rovers won the following week and prevented me from seeing Richmond lose to Carlton in the VFL Grand Final – both were on the same day. After following the local team all year, I decided I should stay for the Grand Final replay and luckily chose the right game.

I remember grabbing snatches of the VFL game on the club rooms TV and feeling relieved that I hadn’t missed a Richmond premiership. There’d be plenty more chances for flags, I thought, with the Tigers having won easily in 1980. Ha! Since then, Richmond has played in just two finals series – 1995 and 2001.

Thankfully for Orbost locals, its teams, including the Orbost Busters, fared much better.

Brian Turner coached the victorious senior Orbost team in that famous 1975 year and his son Michael played with the thirds. Michael, who now works for the Orbost Fire and Land District, is organising a reunion to celebrate and relive that famous afternoon.

“Some members of these teams have recently passed away, which has prompted others to push for a reunion celebrating this wonderful achievement,” he says.

The team has many links to the VFL and AFL. Brian Turner played at Richmond under the great Jack Dyer and lived just off Lennox Street. His brother Jack also played at Richmond as a full back in the early 1950s.

“I myself spent four years at Tigerland in the fourths (Essex Heights), Under 19s and Reserves,” Michael says. “My cousin Mark, uncle Jack’s son, played 35 games with Hawthorn when they were a powerhouse in the 80s.”

Ted Potter, the great Collingwood backman, came to Orbost as a school teacher in 1975 and played in his only premiership with the Busters.

A key defender, Potter is often remembered as the player whose wayward handball was intercepted by Barry Breen, who then kicked the winning point for St Kilda in the 1966 VFL Grand Final.  He retired in 1972 with 182 games, the most ever by a player without scoring a goal.

Brian Turner came to Orbost for two years to coach Orbost and stayed for 20.

“During this period he coached Orbost Senior team for a remarkable 18 years, securing nine Premierships as well as being runner up on six occasions – a total of 15 Grand Final appearances,” Michael says. “Brian Turner owns one of the best coaching records seen in country Victoria.”

In 1999 Michael returned to Orbost to coach the senior team after stints at East Ringwood, Maffra and the Snowy Rovers. That year Orbost won another premiership, defeating Lakes Entrance. “Securing this victory made my father and I the only father and son combination to coach senior premierships at Orbost,” he says.

Under Brian Turner, Orbost won flags in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967-69, 1972, 1974 and 1975. They also won in  1979, 1981, 1987, 1990, 1996 and 1998–99.

Reflecting the tough economic times faced by many country footy clubs, Orbost merged with the  Snowy Rovers in 2003. The new team, Orbost-Snowy Rovers, is yet to win a flag.

The reunion will be held on August 3 at Lochiel Park, Orbost. For more details contact Michael Turner on 0428 595 097 / 03 5154 1410 or michael.turner@depi.vic.gov.au, or Ellis Stevens on 03 5154 1336.

 

Comments

  1. Rocket Nguyen says:

    Don’t reckon too many Rovers players would have got out of order with mine host Ron Critchley!

  2. Congratulations Cheryl, I remember that year very well, my now husband Graham Dooley played as a 16 year old, my brother in law Ron Dooley played in the Senior’s brother Michael played in the 3rd’s and my dad Brian was coach. It will be a great week end for all . I believe most players have been contacted and will be attending.
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane !!!!!!!!

  3. Cheryl Critchley says:

    It probably would have been dad causing the trouble :-)

  4. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Suzanne. Sounds like it’ll be a great catch-up for a lot of people. The community spirit was fantastic when we were there and I’m sure that hasn’t changed!

  5. Jeffrey & Lynnette Dent says:

    Hi

    Great article I remember this as Jeffrey played for Orbost, do you know of anywhere where you can get copies of photos of Orbost players.

    Jeffrey and his brothers (Tommy, Max & Michael) played for Orbost Jeff won best and fairest in 1970 for the Demons he stillhas his cup but no photos of when he played he was still playing when we were married in 1975 thanks

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