1964 SANFL Mobil Cards – Part 1: Central District

 

 

This is the first in a club-by-club series on the players who appeared in the SANFL Mobil Card 1964 series and their individual stories.

A similar series on the 1971 cards was published here progressively a couple of years ago – that series can be found at this link.

Sixty years ago, Central District and Woodville were admitted to the SANFL League ranks, after spending 1959-63 on footy probation, fielding teams in the Second Eighteens, Senior Colts (U18) and Junior Colts (U16). The under age grades were recast into Thirds (U19) and Colts (U17) from 1962.

1964 was in many senses the dawn of the SANFL’s Golden Age and this series of glorious colour headshots was a great place to start as was the always colourful Central District Bulldogs.

(17) SAM DONOVAN (Central District)

Born December 3, 1943

6’ ½ “, 14st 1lb, Games – nil

Denis ‘Sam’ Donovan – 1964 SANFL Mobil Card (from author’s collection)

Denis ‘Sam’ Donovan grew up in the very working class ‘cabin homes’ area of Salisbury until his family moved to the ‘new’ area of Salisbury North when it was established by the Housing Trust in the mid-50s. He shared this progression with other well-known local sporting identities such as the Daly and Window families. At the time, Blair Athol was considered the outer limits of northern Adelaide so Salisbury was still regarded as a country town.

Sam’s uncle Pat Donovan, a Wallaroo boy, won the Mail Medal in the Whyalla League playing for South Whyalla in 1934. He spent two seasons at Subiaco and was a member of South Adelaide’s 1938 premiership side.

Sam’s early football was played with the Abattoirs Colts with future South Adelaide champion Lindsay Backman. Attending Nailsworth Tech, Sam Donovan played for North Adelaide’s Junior Colts on Saturdays and Salisbury North on Sundays. Schoolmates Bob Geisler and Graham Farrell were also teammates at North Adelaide.

With the addition of Central District to the SANFL from 1959, Donovan became zoned to them instead of North Adelaide.  In his first season at Centrals in 1959, Donovan finished close behind Woodville’s Bob Simunsen in the Senior Colts Tomkins Medal voting despite being only fifteen years old.

In June 1960, Donovan was selected in an SA Under 18 side that played against a Victorian Under 18 team as the prelude to the senior Vic v SA match on the MCG. His teammates include future SANFL league players Geisler, Terry Short, Chris Hunt and Glenn Pill. Despite being in the losing side (Vic U18 10.10 def SA U19 6.7) Donovan’s game at centre half-forward was noted carefully by the home state’s scouts when he was awarded the SA best player trophy.

 

Vic v SA U/18 teams 1960 (from author’s collection)

 

Wanting a chance to play at League level, Donovan had requested a clearance to West Torrens at the start of 1961 but Centrals said “no”.

The strongly built left-footer graduated to Central’s senior side, playing in the SANFL Seconds competition. Centrals also entered a side in the pre-season SA Midweek Night Football competition at Thebarton Oval, involving sides such as Police, Payneham and Brighton. Future Bulldog League players such as Mick Daly, Gary Window, John White, John Hasiuk, Peter Page, Murray Thompson and Trevor Jarman played alongside Donovan in the night comp. He won the comp’s best player award which was presented to him by Bob Hank. In his twelve senior (ie SANFL Seconds) games for Centrals, Donovan proved handy around the sticks, kicking 29 goals.

1962 was a season of football turmoil for Donovan. He was recruited by Footscray in the VFL under Ted Whitten and was written up in The Age as a possible boom recruit. He made the VFL Bulldogs supplementary list and kicked five goals in their final trial game. However, Centrals yet again declined the 18-year-old Donovan’s request for a clearance on the spurious basis that he had been ‘fostered’ by the club and “that he should be prepared to give the club a few more years of service”.

 

Donovan at pre-season training with Ted Whitten (Source: Sam Donovan)

 

Footscray helped find him a job with Smorgon’s Meat, also arranging for Donovan to play for Glen Huntly in the Federal League, a strong metropolitan competition that operated outside the prevailing clearance regulations governing most of Victoria and South Australia. Donovan dominated at centre half-forward and this footage from the local Footy Show has been found, showing him kicking a booming left foot dropkick after the siren to win the Preliminary Final against Caulfield.

In 1963, Donovan moved to Albury, making the trip north in a Volkswagen split-screen Kombi, intent on playing in the very strong Ovens and Murray League. It was thought that Donovan had been cleared via telegram by Centrals to North Albury but after three games it was realised that his clearance had again been refused, so his O & M season was curtailed. The telegram’s source was never confirmed.

Despite playing no further club football, he played for an O & M combined side against Geelong’s VFL side on the Queen’s Birthday weekend (such mid-season matches were then commonplace), giving a very good account of himself. So much so that Geelong coach Bob Davis said of Donovan in the 2003 book Tales Of The Inner Sanctum, “I went up to watch him at Albury [in 1963]… Oh, he was fantastic. One of the best I’ve ever seen.” Davis regarded Donovan as ‘the one that got away’.

Without any chance of a clearance, he returned to Centrals somewhat reluctantly late in the 1963 season. Donovan was selected in Centrals first ever League game in 1964 against West Torrens at Thebarton, making the best players. Donovan was regarded by the Football Budget as one of the Bulldogs’ most promising players, alongside experienced players such as Magarey Medallist Ken Eustice, ex-Richmond Tiger Alan Hayes and Gary Window.

As the season progressed, the Budget had Jock O’Brien and Sonny Morey as other standouts, so the Mobil Card selection panel was certainly on the ball. In Donovan’s 17 league appearances for 21 goals, he was on the losing side each time. This was to be his only SANFL league season and the last time that he set foot on the Ponderosa.

 

Action from Centrals first League game against West Torrens. Graham Klose (CD) looks on as Sam Donovan gets his kick away under pressure from Bob Morrell (WT) (Source: Sam Donovan)

 

In 1965 Donovan was appointed Captain-Coach of Spencer Gulf League club West Whyalla (and cleared by Centrals) making a huge impression. In that season he won the competition’s Madigan/Mail Medal, emulating his uncle Pat. (North Whyalla’s teenage Barrie Robran was third). He also took out the £100 Terry Noble ‘Footballer of the Year’ award. He represented the Spencer Gulf League in a mid-season match against East Fremantle and Donovan (6 goals) and Robran (3 goals) were the standouts in a combined Whyalla v Port Augusta encounter.

 

Sam Donovan – Winner 1965 Spencer Gulf League Madigan/Mail Medal (Source: Sam Donovan)

 

This one season was enough to see Donovan selected in the Whyalla Football League’s Team of the Century in 2001 – other members included Ian McKay, Clarrie Window (father of Gary), Jack Broadstock (a mate of Pat Donovan – read into that what you will), Barrie Robran and Neil Kerley. Donovan was also named in the Budget by Centrals in the final Seconds game of the season but he was already on his way to Albury once more, so that was wishful thinking on the Dogs’ behalf.

Donovan’s passage back to North Albury in 1966 was slightly smoother than his previous attempt, gaining a clearance early in what was to be an excellent season at his latest footballing home. He won North’s B&F and was runner-up in the O & M’s Morris Medal, pipped by one vote by Neville Hogan of Wangarrata Rovers. Noted local expert KB Hill provided this 1966 nugget:

“O & M fans got a sample of Sam’s class when he starred in the Country Championship Final against Hampden League. It was a ripper of a game, which Hampden hung on to win by three points. Best afield in a game which featured many good performances, Donovan was the one O & M player who continually challenged Hampden’s aerial superiority, and played what was often a lone hand in the heavy work around the ground.”

 

Sam Donovan in his O&M gear at training (Source: Sam Donovan)

 

1967 saw Donovan just as dominant, repeating his second placing in the Morris Medal, this time to ex-Richmond ruckman, Wodonga’s Gary Williamson. He starred in both 1967 O & M interleague games too. Donovan was paid $60 per match in 1967, which was very close to the Commonwealth Statistician’s male average weekly earnings at the time. This gave Donovan plenty of free time during the week to enjoy the company of Albury identities such as Murray Weideman.

Despite his efforts, North Albury missed the finals 1966 and 1967. Donovan was selected by local experts as a member of the Ovens and Murray All-Stars from the 60s, 70s and 80s. He was named as a follower, along with others such as Brian Gilchrist, Gary Ablett Sr, Jim Deane, Peter Tossol, Stan Sergeant and Bob Rose.

There had been some interest expressed by North Melbourne, but Donovan’s next move was up the road to Canberra in 1968, joining CANFL club Eastlake. Donovan’s pending arrival was met with these words from Ray Donnellan in the Canberra Times:

“On his form in Eastlake’s practice game against University … Donovan looks like the recruit of the year. His high marking and kicking were outstanding and for a big man he shows great agility and quickness. Not far behind Donovan was [future North Melbourne player] Paul Feltham.”

Coincidentally, Keith Stewart, the Captain of Donovan’s SA Under 18s side, was already at Eastlake.

Donovan’s weekly exploits led to him being regarded as the ‘personality player’ of the league although he took a while to show his best for his new club. A mid-season interview where he stated that the Ovens and Murray sides were about 20 goals better than those of his new league may have had something to do with the RULES FANS LOVE OR HATE SAM DONOVAN headline.

 

Donovan in action for Eastlake in 1968 (Source: Sam Donovan)

 

Having been selected earlier for an inter-league match against the VFA, Donovan was the obvious selection at centre half-forward for the ACT in the 1968 Minor States Carnival held at Manuka Oval. The ACT was pitted against NSW in the first round and edged them out by four points.  Donovan kicked three goals, the first of which was a ’65-yard drop kick’ and he was rated high in the ACT best. However, they were no match for the Australian Amateur side and lost the final by 99 points, Donovan supplying three of the ACT’s five goals.

Donovan finished sixth in the CANFL Mulrooney Medal count which was won by Feltham. Donovan and Feltham were Eastlake’s two best in its thrashing of University in the Prelim Final. Eastlake went down to Manuka in the Grand Final by a single point with Donovan again high in his team’s best. He was runner-up to his captain Ross Bowe in Eastlake’s Best and Fairest.

Sam suffered from bursitis for much of the season and his body did not appreciate Canberra’s cold conditions, so a move south to Eastern Districts Football League club Ringwood in Melbourne’s outer-east was sought for 1969.

Donovan was the standout player winning the 1969 Chandler Medal for the best player in Division 1 of the EDFL.

Sam was on the move again in 1970, joining Yarra Ranges club Woori Yallock. In a very successful year, he was Best and Fairest in a premiership season. The Tigers made it two flags in a row in 1971. Donovan is at the left of the top row below.

 

(Source: Woori Yallock FC Facebook page)

 

Woori 450-game club legend Trevor Selby nominated Donovan as the best player of his time in Ken Piesse’s book Football Legends of the Bush.

Donovan’s final footy destination was the Montrose Football Club, where he coached and played out the rest of his career into the early 1980s.

Sam Donovan made an impact wherever he played. He would certainly have held his own at VFL level had Centrals not callously refused to release the extremely talented teenager to Footscray in 1962. Sixty years later, in his home state he may be one of the lesser-known players from the 1964 Mobil Cards series. However, his playing record and the opinions of opponents, teammates, fans and the press lead this writer to conclude that he was one of the best going around.

 

(18) Jock O’Brien (Central District)

Born September 19, 1937

5’ 10“, 12st 10lb, Games – nil

 

Jock O’Brien – 1964 SANFL Mobil Card (from author’s collection)

 

John Francis ‘Jock’ O’Brien grew up at 19 Wood Street, North Melbourne, noted for the SP bookmaking and two-up schools in nearby Donovan’s Lane.

He came with three seasons for North Melbourne under his belt, the best of which was 1959, where he had 16 appearances for the Kangaroos and was awarded four Brownlow votes.  Wins were very scarce over the next two seasons and O’Brien only tasted victory once more in his next 17 League games. His last senior appearance was in Round 9 of 1961 against Richmond. He then he lost his senior place despite picking up three umpire’s votes. His form in the Reserves was so good that he took out the VFL Reserves Gardiner Medal with 12 votes during the second half of the season.

 

Jock O’Brien captured at North Melbourne training in 1959.

 

O’Brien moved on to Ulverstone in Tasmania’a North West Football Union and was captain-coach there in 1962-63, taking them to fourth place and runners up in those two years. O’Brien took out the Wander Medal for the Best and Fairest in the competition.

O’Brien was also a very handy cricketer, opening the bowling. He represented a pre-Sheffield Shield Tasmania in a two-day match against the MCC at the TCA Ground in January 1963. The visitors ended the first day at 0/139 in reply to Tasmania’s all out for 203. O’Brien came out firing on day two, possibly due to missing out on Parfitt’s wicket the night before as he bowled opener Pullar without addition to his overnight tally of 63. Ripping through the MCC batting, O’Brien took 7/73 including the scalps of Cowdrey, Barrington, Smith, Knight and Illingworth.

As Centrals embarked upon its first SANFL League season, O’Brien provided some valuable experience around the ball. His VFL experience made him an obvious selection for the heady world of Mobil Footy Cards. O’Brien was unavailable for the Bulldogs’ first ever SANFL League game, but played the next seventeen. He was invariably in the best half-dozen players in each of Centrals remaining matches, which were all losses. The big-bodied on-ball player with a deceptive turn of pace played his heart out for the newcomers every week in what was to be his only season at Elizabeth.

The Western Border Football League consisted of teams from Victoria’s south-western region and SA’s south-east. East Gambier (also the Bulldogs) was one of the twelve clubs that formed the newly created league in 1964. East Gambier had never won a premiership up to that point and they recruited Jock O’Brien, hoping that he would make a difference in 1965. They were on the money.

O’Brien made the WBFL team that played against Richmond in a pre-season match and looked the goods in his new environment. His good form in the pivot continued and he was named there in the WBFL team against the Ballarat League in June. (East teammate Jack Pannenburg was also selected, prior to moving to West Adelaide that year.) O’Brien’s brilliant last quarter in the Preliminary Final against North Gambier gained the Bulldogs a berth in the Grand Final against Heywood. East held off a persistent Heywood in the last quarter to prevail by 8 points.

 

Jock O’Brien (East Gambier) is typically first to the ball against Portland

 

Team-mate Brian Lane remarked that O’Brien “always had your back” and that O’Brien trained as hard as he played and made sure that his wingmen did not shirk an issue. “He used his hand skills to get the ball out … and away we went”, Lane said. “O’Brien was an amazing drop kick on the run and could kick 60 metres without any effort”.

O’Brien took out the local media award in 1966 but his final match for East was that year’s Preliminary Final loss.

He was appointed playing coach of Kongorong in the Mid South East Football League in 1967 and took out that league’s Mail Medal in 1968.

O’Brien’s class as a cricketer benefited his club Mil Lel. He was a scary proposition to bat against on the local wickets and had enormous stamina. Early in his first season he managed a hat-trick in one innings and a second hat trick was foiled when the opposition declared with nine wickets down. He was an instant hit when representing Mount Gambier in the Whitty Trophy, hotly contested by South East cricketing associations in the south east.

Although Jock O’Brien returned to Victoria in the late 60s, he is still held in high regard in Mount Gambier according to Mount Gambier historian Graham Greenwood (whose Facebook posts have been very useful in compiling this article).

O’Brien took a very active interest in the North Melbourne Past Players group and was its President for a decade. He passed away in 2022.

(36) Gary Window

Born January 11, 1941

5’ 11 “, 12st 7lb, Games – nil

 

Gary Window – 1964 SANFL Mobil Card (from author’s collection)

 

The son of Glenelg and State player Clarrie Window, Gary Window spent his early years living in the ‘Cabin Homes’ area of Salisbury. His first taste of competitive footy was as a ten-year-old for West Whyalla Colts where Clarrie was senior coach in 1951-52.

The family lived in Salisbury North when they returned from Whyalla and Gary played for the newly formed Salisbury North club in the junior grades of the Gawler Football League. Clarrie Window was one of the founders of the new club and chose the green with a gold sash guernsey as it was the same as West Whyalla’s.

In 1958, a PMG colleague pointed Gary towards West Adelaide Senior Colts in the SANFL and he was training regularly with the senior side under coach Jack Oatey whilst in the Colts.

The introduction of Central District to SANFL Seconds ranks in 1959 meant that Window was now zoned to the new club. Centrals would not grant Window a clearance to West Adelaide (turning down six applications), so he spent the season playing for Salisbury North’s senior side. While briefly working at Port Pirie, Gary played a couple of games for Proprietary that year also.

Window begrudgingly joined Centrals in 1960 which meant playing in the SANFL Seconds competition. During this time, his career paralleled Woodville’s Bob Simunsen who was also required to play Seconds until his club entered League ranks in 1964. The pair quinellaed the Seconds’ Magarey Medal in 1962-63, with Window taking the overall honours in 1963.

The vigorous, high-leaping centreman played over 70 Seconds games from 1960-63 and was a member of the State Seconds sides each year, playing against combines from Broken Hill and Port Pirie. He was also Centrals’ captain in 1963.

From an early age Window was always confident that he would play League football, not in a conceited way, he just knew that his continued hard work and approach to training would bear fruit. He has carried this optimistic outlook throughout his life.

It is fair to say that by the time Centrals entered the SANFL League competition in 1964, Gary Window’s entrance at the highest level was well overdue and he was already thought of highly as shown by his selection in the Mobil Cards roster.

As Centrals’ vice-captain, he was the Bulldogs’ first League skipper while new Captain-Coach Ken Eustice awaited his clearance from West Adelaide. Window more than held his own against his opponent, triple Magarey winner Lindsay Head, in Round 1 against West Torrens but Centrals were outclassed that day and in fact every day of the club’s opening League season. It was a torrid introduction for the club and to this day Gary feels sorry for coach Ken Eustice, who was expected to carry the Elizabethans over the line single-handedly.

 

Gary Window leads Centrals out for its first League game in 1964 (Source: Poms To Premiers)

 

Such was his form in the centre that Window was selected twice for South Australia against Western Australia after a dozen or so League appearances, becoming the first senior State player from the Bulldogs. His first season at the top level ended with 18 games and 12 goals and he was the only Centrals player selected in the Advertiser Team of the Year.

Centrals tasted victory for the first time when they beat Woodville in Round 2 of 1965. Fittingly Window was pitted against Simunsen. They had to wait until Round 11 for their next win and there were plenty up until then thinking that Centrals didn’t deserve its League status. Centrals then won seven of the last ten games and rose from the foot of the table. This resurgence was helped by Eustice moving Window from the pivot, giving him a free rein at centre half-forward. Centrals became more free-flowing and Window’s exciting brand of play took the eye of the umpies. Window was at the Royal Show with his family on the evening of the Magarey Medal count but they rushed home when Glenelg player Colin Richens gave Gary the tip that he was likely to be in contention. In a tense but manufactured count, Window overtook the leader Neil Kerley with the last three votes of the count to win by one vote. The captain of the club in its first game and Centrals’ first State player was now Centrals’ first Magarey Medallist (and the first ever to win both Seconds and League Magareys). He also claimed his first Best and Fairest for the Bulldogs, kicking 20 goals from 18 games. As Window stated when interviewed by Graham Cornes in 2023, his immediate thoughts were, “I’m from Salisbury North, we don’t win Magarey Medals”. A second Advertiser Team of the Year selection was also his.

 

(From author’s collection)

 

With Centrals now ranked above West Torrens, West Adelaide and Woodville, 1966 proved a disappointing year for both the club and Window, with only four wins and indifferent personal form. Window brought up his 50th game but by season’s end he was looking to secure his family’s future and made some modest requests to the club which were not accepted.

Allan Scott was a business titan, President and main financial backer behind the East Gambier Football Club and an offer was made to Window to Captain-Coach the 1965 Western Border Football League premiers. Many observers were surprised that Window was considering the move after only three League seasons. It was almost as if some of the Centrals powerbrokers were wanting Window to move on, as Scott’s offers went up and up by telephone number amounts until they finally landed their man.

 

The Elizabeth Lineman (From author’s collection)

 

The move was beset with serious bad luck, namely a car rollover involving Window and his heavily pregnant wife Val, Gary contracting hepatitis and also suffering a cartilage injury which robbed him of his trademark leap. East Gambier looked after the Window family very well and the club still performed well enough to make the finals, but they came back to Elizabeth after two years.

In 1969 Window found a Centrals that was now coached by Dennis Jones but the behind the scenes personnel was unchanged. Returning with some misgivings, the now 28-year-old Window had moved down the pecking order in some eyes and Centrals were still languishing near the bottom rungs. Despite that, Window topped the club’s Magarey Medal polling.

Window’s final League season, 1970, saw his club on the ascent under Jones but its much-improved form towards the end of the season coincided with Window finding himself in the Reserves. With the Bulldog youth policy working, after 82 games and 74 games his time at League level was over.

Ever the clubman, Window was appointed Captain-Coach of the Reserves for 1971. While the League side qualified for the finals for the first time, in what was to be Denis Jones’ final year, Window was making a great fist of the Seconds role, providing the depth that Centrals had lacked in earlier years. Window also led the State Seconds as Captain-Coach to victory over Broken Hill. Window’s winning Seconds Grand Final team contained fellow 1964 players Mick Daly and Sonny Morey, as well as himself. It was Daly’s last season but Morey went on the achieve multiple selections for South Australia, was runner-up in the 1972 League Magarey Medal and was Centrals’ first 200-game player before retiring in 1977.

The joy of this victory was evident , but Window’s time at Elizabeth as a player was now over. His 82 league games were topped and tailed by a similar number of Seconds matches for Centrals in a career that spanned 1960-71. In other circumstances, Window could have been a 200-game League player.

 

(From author’s collection)

 

The 1971 CDFC Annual Report praised Window for “… his fine coaching and understanding of the players under him. His leadership on and off the field has been excellent … create[ing] a team spirit which was evident throughout the year.”

Window was never short of a word or an opinion. When Channel Nine added him to its commentary roster in 1972 and 1973, his enthusiastic and entertaining style fitted in beautifully with former South Adelaide player Ron Kitchen and the always vocal Noel Teasdale.

In 1974, the now West Adelaide President Ken Eustice installed Fos Williams as the Bloods’ League Coach, with Window taking on the Reserves (formerly Seconds) coaching role and a role on the Match Committee. Keen to play on Football Park, Window pulled the boots back on for a late season Seconds appearance. He buttered up in 1975, learned a great deal about the coaching caper and enjoyed the role immensely.

Meanwhile, back at Elizabeth, the Bulldogs hadn’t consolidated upon the finals successes in 1971 (under Jones) and 1972 under new Captain-Coach Tony Casserly. The latter’s time was up after a torrid 1975 and the club interviewed Window for the League coaching position. The job was possibly in the bag when Window suggested to the interview panel that under him, the team “…wouldn’t handball as much as the last coach”. In hindsight, he may not have been ready for the job but Centrals were won over by his abundant zeal and love of the game.

Although it was hard to predict which Centrals side would turn up from week to week, there was distinct improvement in 1976 as Window’s more direct style of play yielded eleven wins and they missed fifth spot by percentage. The best of those wins was in Sonny Morey’s 200th game, played at Glenelg. The red, white and blue victory contrasted with the teams’ 1975 bayside fixture where the Tigers rattled on a never-likely-to-be-repeated 49 goals.

 

(From author’s collection)

 

After an optimistic start to the 1977 season, Central District fell apart in a hundred different directions. By late July, they were entrenched at the foot of the ladder with 3 ½ wins from 17 games, the General Manager Brian Ashmeade departed the club soon after and the finances were in disarray. Former seconds player Kris Grant was given the General Manager’s role – if it was sink or swim for Grant, he chose to swim for a very long time, remaining in charge of the club (apart from a brief departure) for more than forty years. Window sensed that his position was untenable when the Doggies collected some unwanted kitchenware at season’s end, finishing with 5 ½ wins. After a Special General Meeting in October, the entire club board resigned as did the Treasurer. The incoming board decided not to renew Window’s contract. Stephen Window, Gary and Val’s eldest son, played in the Centrals Under 17s premiership under coach (and long-time family friend) Alan Stewart – about the only thing that went right in 1977.

Throughout his playing days and beyond, the Advertiser school coaching clinics run by Les Favell used Window regularly and his keenness rubbed off on thousands of young footballers over the years.

Both Channel 9 and Radio 5DN were keen to employ Window’s unique commentary style once his coaching days were over. He appeared on Nine’s Football Inquest after the games and DN’s Saturday morning football panel. He is fondly remembered for his work on the Sunday afternoon direct telecasts of the South Australian Football Association (SAFA) match of the round, where he was again paired with Kitchen and, occasionally, Ian Aitken.

Window and Aitken formed a very popular SANFL radio commentary team for the next two decades at 5AD then 5AA. Window’s voluble, knockabout nature was a feature of his commentary, never afraid to say the controversial thing or shoot from the lip. Strong on-air disagreements were a feature of his earthy and robust approach to special comments.

 

From author's collection

(From author’s collection)

 

When the Adelaide Crows came into the AFL, their sometimes-parochial commentary continued to be part of the 5AA lineup.

Window’s television involvement with the SANFL competition continued for Channel 6 and finally a stint with the ABC’s commentary team, which included calling Centrals’ second premiership in 2001.

Sons Stephen (for West Adelaide) and Peter (West and Centrals) both played footy at League level.

Gary’s granddaughter Piper (Peter’s daughter) won the 2023 SANFLW Best and Fairest playing for Glenelg and has been drafted to Port Adelaide in the AFLW continuing the Window family involvement in top-flight footy..

Window was named in the centre when Centrals named its All Time Team in 2004.

Outside of football, Window was employed as a junior by the Post-Master General (PMG) as a telegram boy, then a linesman, finally in the drafting area, staying with them as they transformed to Telecom and Telstra, before retiring early this century and touring over 70 countries with his late wife Val.

Gary Window remains one of the SANFL’s great treasures and was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Earlier this week he proudly attended the addition of Centrals’ 2023 Magarey Medallist Harry Grant to Magarey Grove.

 

(37) Ken Eustice

Born August 4, 1939

5’ 9“, 11st 10lb, Games – nil

Ken Eustice – 1964 SANFL Mobil Card (from author’s collection)

 

Ken Eustice grew up in the tiny location of Maggea, located midway between Swan Reach and Loxton and south of Waikerie. His football world opened up when he was selected for the Upper Murray Under 14 schoolboys with his younger brother Brian in 1953. Playing in Adelaide against teams from the other SA regions, it coincided with the senior interstate Carnival. Eustice was enthralled by such players as John Coleman, Merv McIntosh, Bob Hank and Jimmy Deane when the boys were taken to one of the Carnival days. It was his first sighting of football away from his local club United.

As a scrawny fourteen-year-old travelling down to Alberton, he did well at a Junior Colts trial for Port Adelaide, but the Magpies did not follow Eustice up as he was thought to be too small.

Moving to Swan Reach after earlier leaving school at fourteen, he joined the local club and promptly took out the senior Best and Fairest as a callow fifteen-year-old. He was far more driven to achieve success that his older teammates and in 1956 he repeated the club B&F and also took out the Mail Medal for the best player in the Barossa and Murray Valley Association.

Earlier that year he had trialled with West Adelaide and gained selection in their Senior Colts but had decided to play out the year with Swan Reach.

Come 1957, West Adelaide arranged employment for Eustice and appointed him captain of the Senior Colts (Under 18s). He was an instant hit, finishing runner-up in the Tomkins Medal.

He was employed at Hansen and Yuncken, where one of his closest workmates was Neil Kerley. As expected, they were not afraid of physical work and loading and unloading truckloads of cement bags gave both men an edge in strength and stamina. Eustice had two-sided skills, lightning pace and the only thing he lacked was fear. He was ruthless and relentless.

He made his senior debut under Jack Oatey in a post-season night game against Norwood that year, played well, but a misunderstanding about training saw him dropped for the night series final after Oatey branded Eustice “unreliable”, but this could never be said about the kid from Maggea again.

Eustice made his debut in the season proper in Round 2 of 1958 against Port at Alberton. Spending most of the time on the wing, he soon settled in, gaining increasing recognition in the press. West faced off against Fos Williams’ Port side in the Grand Final, but a late Westies shot for goal that hit the post saw the Magpies win its fifth successive flag by a two-point margin.

In 1959, Eustice was selected for South Australia against Western Australia and was rated the Croweaters’ best in his State debut. In another Grand Final loss against Port, Eustice lined up on a half-back flank against Port champion Dave Boyd. Eustice was reported late in the game, but upon revealing his deeply bruised nether regions to the Tribunal, he was let off due to the evident provocation. The first of his eight Advertiser Team of the Year spots came this year.

The following season was Oatey’s last at West, a so-so season all round, finishing fourth.

West appointed Neil Kerley a Captain-Coach in 1961, which was also a Carnival year for Eustice. Doug Thomas’ return from coaching at Dimboola strengthened the Blood N’ Tars defence. They finished the Minor Round in second place behind Port Adelaide. West disposed of the Magpies in the second semi-final, but it was Alan Killigrew’s Norwood that qualified as their Grand Final opponent. In what came to be known as the ‘Turkish Bath’ Grand Final, Kerley played a standout role, easily best on ground in the oppressive 35C heat. In Eustice’s only premiership, he was nominated by Kerley as one of the players that Norwood were unable to quell. Eustice finished equal fourth in the Magarey Medal which was won by Sturt’s John Halbert.

Just three weeks before the start of the 1962 season, Ken’s father Frank Eustice passed away suddenly. Ken dedicated his season to Frank’s memory. In doing so, he won the Magarey Medal with an extraordinarily consistent season. During the season he attracted the interest of Footscray. He polled votes in 11 of the 16 games he played in, only 3 of them gaining best on ground votes, winning by the handsome margin of 5 votes, ahead of Port’s Peter Obst and Rick Schoff of Sturt. Kerley led West to second placing in the Minor Round, but they were thumped by Port in the Second Semi. West triumphed in the Preliminary Final over Norwood, but Eustice was concussed in the second quarter and pulled out of the Grand Final team on the morning of the match. West took the game right up to Port, who were a mere 3 points up at the final siren. It would be reasonable to think that a missing Eustice could have made the difference.

 

The Magarey Medallist (Source: Pound For Pound)

 

In late 1962, coach Kerley proposed to the club that his contract be re-negotiated to reflect the consecutive Grand Finals that he had led West to. In a monumental display of power and arrogance, club President Cliff Semmler instead removed Kerley from the coaching job and installed Thomas at the helm. This put plenty of players offside and set the club back by a couple of decades – it would not compete in another Grand Final until 1983’s premiership win coached by none other than Kerley himself.  Eustice had another stellar season at State level, a highlight was his performance in curtailing Ron Barassi in South Australia’s historic win over the Big V on the MCG. State coach Fos Williams was a great admirer of Eustice’s style of play and after this game he asserted that ‘pound for pound’ the West Adelaide star was ‘the best’. At that time, his pre-metric vital statistics were 5ft 9in/11st 3lb – about the size of a tallish jumps jockey. It was an epithet that stuck.

West was riven with discontented players in 1963 and went out of the finals in the first week. Players such as Jeff Bray and Don Roach were looking at offers in the VFL (which they both took) and Kerley left for lowly South Adelaide and famously took them from bottom to top in 1964. West’s star half-back/wingman wasn’t far behind, departing West Adelaide after six seasons and 108 games.

During the off season, Ken Eustice still had strong interest from Footscray, had a contract waved under his nose by South Melbourne and received a very good offer from Corowa in the Ovens and Murray League. It took the wiles of pharmacist Norm Russell, in cahoots with insurance salesman Charlie Pyatt, to coax the 23-year-old Eustice over to Central District as its first League Captain-Coach in 1964 leading to a starring role in the 1964 Mobil Card roster. West Adelaide held up his clearance and it wasn’t until Round 7 that he led the team out, resplendent in the blue with red and white hoops adopted by Centrals (thanks to Footscray’s kind donation). The Bulldogs were way off the pace with the rookie coach expected to compensate for the lack of experience and skill of the Centrals list, comprised mainly of locals. The main body of players were to to the mark, such as Gary Window, Jock O’Brien, Colin Stutley, Mick Daly, Sonny Morey, Alan Hayes and Sam Donovan.

 

(Source: Poms To Premiers)

 

Things improved markedly in 1965 when big-bodied key position player Tom Grljusich was recruited from South Fremantle. Centrals’ first half of the season saw only a single (but historic) win. Eustice and Grljusich made the SA team together in a huge win over Victoria in Adelaide and Centrals also turned the corner, winning seven of their last ten games. Eustice took out several media awards and was only a couple of votes behind clubmate Window in the Magarey Medal, despite carrying a nagging knee injury.

The only highlight of 1966 was Eustice’s selection in his second Carnival, but both his state and his club performed without distinction.

Off the field, Eustice opened his first car yard, a very forlorn looking lot in John Street, Salisbury but it was soon doing very very well. Without Gary Window in 1967, the on-ball burden borne by Eustice was even greater. By way of example, when South smashed Centrals by 74 points in one game, he racked up 41 kicks, 14 marks and 8 handballs (in a losing side mind you). He was also elevated to State captain and picked up Centrals’ Best and Fairest.

Eustice decided that he still had a few seasons of playing left in him but he’d had enough of coaching. After four years at Elizabeth and 65 games, he was off to his third club.

With his old mate ‘Kerls’ now at Glenelg as Captain-Coach, Eustice slotted very nicely into Knuckles’ plan to drag the Tigers from the bottom in 1968. It also allowed more time to continue building his motor vehicle business. The Bays missed the finals narrowly and Centrals showed some previously latent vigour when their former Captain-Coach returned to Elizabeth wearing the black and gold.

Eustice had an even better 1969. Playing more often in the pivot, his fearless ball-getting and peerless disposal was invariably finished off at full-forward by Dennis ‘Fred’ Phillis. The pair ran 1-2 in the Magarey Medal, with Phillis’ record breaking 137 goals resulting in 18 Magarey votes to Eustice’s 16 – an amazing result from two Glenelg players.

Playing in his third Carnival, on the turf where Eustice first saw big time football in 1953, any chance of finally gaining All-Australian honours was snuffed out when the courageous veteran was rested for the Tasmanian game. In the decider against the Big V, a huge bump on Victoria’s Daryl Griffiths had John Nicholls thirsting for revenge, but fortunately Eustice avoided the Victorian skipper. After the game, Eustice publicly criticised the ‘weak effort’ of some of his team-mates who did not push themselves to the limit as he, as always, had done.

 

(Source: author’s collection)

 

Glenelg was the best side during the minor round losing only three times, but Sturt inflicted two heavy finals defeats and the first of many Grand Final losses to be suffered by the Bays over the ensuing couple of decades. (To be fair, they also won three flags in that time). This was the famous ‘Royce Hart game’. Eustice winning the Best and Fairest was some small consolation.

Appointed Glenelg Captain in 1970 after Kerley finished his own playing career, Eustice’s team snuck into the top four on percentage thanks to Port Adelaide, managing a last-round last-minute draw against Norwood. In the finals, they bowled over North without Eustice, who broke two ribs and punctured a lung the week before. Still injured, Eustice came off the bench in the final quarter of the Preliminary Final to help drag his team over the line against Port to grab another chance at the Premiership. After a season marred by injury, Eustice finished his playing career on a low when Sturt won its fifth flag in a row the following week.

 

Ken Eustice leads Glenelg onto Adelaide Oval for the 1970 Preliminary Final

(Source: Pound For Pound)

 

Eustice initially intended to play on in 1971 but after a trial game against Footscray, he decided to finally put the world of trade-ins and overdrafts ahead of kick-ins and shirtfronts. In addition to his 221 SANFL games (West 107, Centrals 62, Glenelg 52) games he had played 25 games for South Australia and finished first, second, third and fourth in the Magarey Medal.

His business interests boomed further once Eustice had hung up the boots and Ken Eustice Datsun became one of SA’s largest car sales companies. He returned to West Adelaide as its President from 1973-75, gaining Fos Williams (and indirectly, Gary Window) as coach and also set the strife-torn Westies back on a path to recovery, if not a complete one. At one stage, Eustice stood against the presumptive heir Max Basheer for SANFL President, but Max had the numbers. All of this despite Eustice initially saying that he needed the West presidency ‘like a hole in the head’.

In 2002, Eustice was one of the original inductees into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame. He was selected in the West Adelaide Team of the Century in 2017, Central District All Time Team in 1994 and is a currently a nominee for Glenelg’s Hall of Fame.

Ken Eustice the businessman came crashing down in the early 1990s, however Ken Eustice the man stands tall as one of the very best footballers seen in South Australia. He remains an active follower at all three of his clubs.

 

References

General References

Mobil football photos album 1964 (author’s collection)
Central District Football Club Annual Reports (author’s collection)
South Australian Football Record Year Books (author’s collection)
Poms To Premiers – Laidlaw and Mulholland (author’s collection)
Central District Football Club Thirty Year Almanac – Laidlaw (author’s collection)
South Australian Football in the Sixties – Gyss (author’s collection)
South Australian Football Budgets (author’s collection)
South Australian Country Football Digest – Lines (author’s collection)
australianfootball.com
afltables.com

Sam Donovan

Sam Donovan – Personal conversations with author, photos, cuttings
Trove – Canberra Times
The Age via Google Newpapers
Peter Clark – articles re clearance North Albury, youtube clip of O&M game
KB Hill – articles re clearance North Albury
Legends of the Bush – Piesse (author’s collection)
Tales of the Inner Sanctum – Reclink

Jock O’Brien

Graham Greenwood – Facebook articles from “Growing up in the mount” Group
Melbourne Streets website – melbournestreets.com.au/wood-street/
The Age via Google Newpapers

Gary Window

Career notes – Gary Window (provided by Stephen Window)
The History of the Magarey Medal – John Wood (author’s collection)
Conversations With Cornesy Podcast

Ken Eustice

Pound For Pound – Eustice and Cornwall (author’s collection)
The History of the Magarey Medal – John Wood (author’s collection)

 

 

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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Lyndon Andrews says

    Great read ,I played my first 3 league games with Ken as coach(1967)

  2. That’s really good historical work and an invaluable resource.
    Well done!

  3. Jim Douglas says

    . Great research of four players who are an integral part of setting down the foundations of this wonderfully successful and unique club.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Beefy, Ken was a good judge.

    Ta Barry, that was my intention.

    Thanks Jim, you probably gave all of them a rub down or two in your time. Say hi to Rabs for me too.

    I should point out that Centrals had been unable to track down Sam Donovan, but the club historian has now made contact and hopes to catch up with him in the coming months, which is a good result all round.

  5. Peter Clark says

    Well played ‘Swish’. Your thorough research effort is rewarded with these wonderful profiles.
    Sam Donovan made a big impact in the Ovens and Murray. It is football’s loss that he was denied a chance of playing in the VFL.

  6. george smith says

    Mr Schwerdt,

    Who is Peter Krieg? Was he as good as they say he was? And did he end up winning a premiership somewhere?

    Just asking…

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Peter, and thanks for your help with Sam’s story. If you have some contacts that might be interested in Sam’s story, please share this around.

    George, Peter Krieg was a gun junior, and Centrals played him on the bench in the u/17s in 1976 at the age of 12ish to ensure that he would be bound to them. For a while there in the 80s I used to stand with his parents Ron and June at home games. He won the B&F in his second season (1982) at 18yo playing in the pivot.

    Was he as good as they say? Depends on what they said, he was a very good player for a long time but I note that he didn’t play senior State footy. He played his last three seasons for North Adelaide (91-93) playing in North’s 1991 flag. Somehow I think you knew most of this already.

  8. Brilliant Swish and massively respect the huge amount of work that goes in to writing a article such as this

  9. Well played Swish.

    One of the many Barossa Lindners was in those early Centrals squads. You may be able to remind me of which one. He was quite tall, and far too gentle for Ken Eustice’s liking.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks ‘Book, it’s still fun.

    Ta JTH – I think that was Carl Lindner, 64-65, 14 games. (10 in ’64, 4 in ’65) – was 20th man in their first ever win (Round 2 1965)

  11. Really enjoyed reading this, Swish. Many thanks.

    An epic, amazingly researched piece. Well played.

  12. Swish, yes, that rings a bell. I met the late Carl Lindner at the Tanunda Oval when visiting here nearly 20 years ago. He told me he went to town to play for Centrals but lacked the aggro. Ken insisted he eat a plate of raw meat mid-morning on Saturdays. He decided Barossa footy was more to his liking.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks, it keeps me off the streets Smokie. When Jock O’Brien passed away in 2022, the Kangas had to fall back on his Centrals Mobil Card to use in their online announcement, a bit odd really.

    I’m surprised that Eustice didn’t expect them to catch their own meat barehanded as well JTH – he demanded a lot.

  14. Great writing Swish, true labour of love.
    Tom Grjulisch assume related to George.

    Randomly are the Footy Cards yours and if so what value they have now as they would not have been as mass produced being SANFL. (please don’t think I am smart a## Victorian, just thought they be a better collectors item)

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thank you Rodney – Tom is George’s younger brother. Yes, I have the whole 1964 (and 1965) collection, but they are not particularly valuable.

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