Under Wimmera Skies

by Robert Allen

The Wimmera Football League (WFL) is a nine team competition based on a string of towns along and adjacent to the Great Western Highway.

For many years, the Minyip Double Blues and the Murtoa Kookaburras were bitter rivals in the League, and in its various antecedents dating back to the early 1900s.

This all changed in 1995, when the two clubs accepted the reality of shrinking talent bases and agreed to combine. The merger was amicable – they combined the colours of the two jumpers, kept Murtoa’s nickname and played alternative home games at the two towns. They also merged their netball teams for good measure.

Minyip-Murtoa held its own for a few years, even winning the WFL premiership in 1997 and 1998, but since 2003 the Horsham Demons have won eight Grand Finals on the trot.

With most League fans resigned to a long reign by Horsham, the most hotly contested contests are once again between the smaller towns.

This game between the M-M Kookaburras and the Warracknabeal Eagles took place on a bitterly cold, wet and windy Minyip day in July 2010. All but the hardiest spectators retreated to the social club, or their cars, and the sun was not sighted until the last quarter.

Warracknabeal led all day in a game that didn’t reach any great heights as a spectacle. The last quarter was close but the Eagles came home by a goal, despite M-M’s captain Hayden Lanyon exhorting his players to “just give me another 30” at three quarter time.

About Robert Allen

Robert is a football history tragic who lives in Brisbane with his three children and a ginger cat named Thomas O’Malley. He recently completed a biography of Roy Cazaly, in which he endeavoured to avoid what Gideon Haigh has called the two facets of most Australian sports biographies: cut-and-paste and tongue-in-bum.

Comments

  1. El Rocket says:

    Always good to read about country footy on this site!

    The Warrack Eagles are also a result of a merger too.

    I think it was Brim from the Horsham & District league – or maybe they were from the Southern Mallee?

  2. I think we should’ve Photoshopped the ball out of that first photo and had a “spot the ball” comp!

  3. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Love the first photo.

  4. UFO?

  5. John Butler says:

    Great shots Robert.

    I’m shivering as I look at that sky.

    Cheers

  6. johnharms says:

    Love the big-sky of the first photo.

  7. Paul Daffey says:

    Hi Rob,

    In 1996 I went to visit a friend who was playing for Minyip (principle of the local Catholic primary school) and ended up playing a practice match on the ground you’ve photographed so well. I had a great time, before getting to the Minyip Hall just in time to vote in the federal election by 6pm.

    Minyip was in the unusual position of merging with Murtoa when it had just won a string of premierships as a single entity. It was much like the North Melbourne situation if they had merged with Fitzroy after winning the 1996 premiership. Minyip then won another flag as a merged entity before the reality of the declining population set in. (My mate moved over to Wycheproof to be the principal there.)

    It now seems unlikely that any club but Horsham will win the flag, which is sad. It’s all to do with population.

    Anyway, your photos revived great memories. I, too, love the big sky.

  8. Robert Allen says:

    Thanks Paul. Your classic Beyond the Big Sticks was a key influence on me wanting to go and experience some country footy. I spent a great weekend in Minyip starting off at the local historical society, where the Sec and Pres plied me with soup and sandwiches on a bitterly cold day. Footy Club Sec Peter Haney really looked after me on the Saturday and I even met Clinton Young’s dad. One of the other highlights that weekend was going to the club’s annual talent night in the hall you referred to where there were acts of dubious political correctness and a buffet with five different meats. Great country hospitality all round.

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