A Season in the Country: 1975 in the Wimmera and Farrer Leagues – Episode 12

Lockhart Football Ground

Episode 12: a double header


Grasshoppers eat Lions alive –

Rup outclassed by Murtoa


Featuring Holbrook’s John Cornish and Rupanyup’s Graham Brandt



Before the run down towards the finals we focus on both leagues in this week’s episode. We visit the towns where 1960s South Melbourne football teammates and enduring friends Doug Priest (Holbrook) and John Sudholz (Rupanyup) grew up and cut their teeth as young footballers.



Farrer League





Grasshoppers                        v                             Lions



Farrer League match of the day: Holbrook v Culcairn

Saturday 5 July 1975

at Holbrook


Hume Highway town Holbrook is familiar to all Melbourne to Sydney motorists who travelled route 31 before the town was by-passed in 2013. A long, straight main street, Albury Street or simply the highway, gave travellers a glimpse into the rich agricultural and pastoral history of the district.


Nowadays you have to take a detour just off the freeway to find that old charm. Soon you will find: The Wool Pack Inn Museum; a submarine – HMAS Otway; many old veranda-clad buildings and shops, including Mackies Store; the Museum of Australian Pottery, and much more. Like country towns that once had three hotels, such as Mathoura, located deep in Murray country, Holbrook’s watering holes were named the “Bottom”, “Middle” and “Top” pubs.


Holbrook is a town that has undergone a series of name changes over its 200 year history, among the former names was ‘Ten Mile Creek’. Prior to World War I the settlement was called ‘Germanton’, in sync with the immigrant German heritage of the district, but patriotism demanded that name to be changed. An Australian submarine commander, Norman Holbrook, was recognised for his deeds in battle with the new name for the town.


Jim Eames, author of The Country Undertaker (2005), observed the rivalry between his hometown, Holbrook, and the similar-sized neighbouring town of Culcairn back in the late 1940s and early ’50s. In the eyes of Holbrook folk, Culcairn people seemed to carry an air of superiority due to their imagined prestigious location beside the Main Southern railway line from Sydney to Melbourne compared with Holbrook’s lesser location straddling the Hume Highway. Holbrook was linked to Culcairn by a 30km road trip and a branch railway line that was in a state of disrepair. That fact seemed to add to Culcairn’s “loftier place in the scheme of things.”  After turning up for a game in the early 1950s the Lions threatened not to play because the grass on the Holbrook ground was too long and would pose a threat to their trademark fast style of play. Antagonism between the two clubs prevailed whenever and wherever they met.


In 1951 the two sides were pitted against one another in the Albury and District League (pre Farrer League) grand final. The fact that Holbrook had not won a premiership in the previous 17 seasons added to Culcairn’s condescension. But the ‘Brookers took the honours that year and bragging rights for a while. Culcairn, not to be outdone, were to win the next three A &DL premierships.


Holbrook have won 18 senior premierships in their 130 year history, which includes membership of six different leagues in the eastern Riverina and north east Victoria. They claimed their most recent flag in 2004 in the competition they currently belong to, the Hume League. Their old rivals Culcairn are similarly affiliated.




The Wagga Daily Advertiser tipped Holbrook to win noting that for their finals chances they needed to take seven premiership points (under the Clear Incentive Points System) from the match by winning all four quarters. Culcairn were not without hope, but would need more than their share of luck to upset rivals Holbrook.


The match


Holbrook bolted out of the blocks to run up an unassailable 68 point lead at half time, thereafter the match evened out. The Grasshoppers did not earn the seven points they were aiming for, after losing the third quarter, but were happy enough with the size of the win and the form of their younger players in particular. Full forward Rodney Culph led the way for the home side with 11 goals. For the visitors, many of Harry Gardiner’s young Lions were also prominent.



Final score

Holbrook 18.11 (119) defeated Culcairn 7.8 (50)


Around the Farrer League grounds


TR-YC looked finals material after they bounded away from Henty to win by five goals. There was no stopping Wagga as they scooted away to a 63 point win over Collingullie at Robertson Oval. MCU gave their finals chances a boost crushing Temora with a ten goal to one second half, while North Wagga maintained their winning ways with a big win over Lockhart.


Next week in the Farrer League


First placed North Wagga meet finals aspirants, fifth placed MCU. Ninth placed Collingullie meet Lockhart, another club chasing a finals berth.

The match of the round sees top four teams TR-YC and Wagga in action, while Holbrook will be looking to catch up on Henty, who are in fourth spot. The Culcairn v Temora match sees one team without a win in 1975 at home to one with only a very slender finals chance.



 This episode’s featured Farrer League player: John Cornish (Holbrook)





John Cornish commenced his football career in 1959 with Narrandera (South West District Football League) and played a significant part in the Imperial’s 1961 premiership. He was runner up in the Gammage Medal in 1960 and represented the league on several occasions. Cornish played six games with Geelong during 1961 but found the travelling to and from his job as a jackaroo at Narrandera too much. He then moved up the rail line to Grong Grong-Matong for two seasons before taking up a farm near Holbrook and joining the ‘Hoppers in 1964. He enjoyed great success at Holbrook, both as a player and a coach, highlighted by the 1964 and 1970 premierships. The 1964 team, coached by Brian Prior featured a young Doug Priest who later played for South Melbourne before returning to the Riverina, firstly at Ariah Park and later at Wagga.


Versatility was one of his strengths. John Cornish could play at centre half back, the centre and the half forward line with equal effect. Farrer League spectators were treated to one of football’s most captivating sights whenever Cornish broke free from the centre and drove the ball into attack with a long, penetrating drop kick. As playing coach, he was the key to Holbrook’s 1970 premiership. In 1971 he had the honour of captaining the Farrer League in the zone semi-final of the VCFL Country Championships against the Ovens and Murray League. John then moved to Upper Murray League club Tumbarumba for three years before returning to Holbrook for a second stint in 1975. He went back to the mountains in 1976-77 at Tumbarumba before finishing his football career with Strathbogie in the Benalla and District League in the mid-1980s.


Although John was a very competitive footballer, he was well respected for his sportsmanship as well as his friendly manner off the field.



Wimmera League



Wimmera League match of the day: Rupanyup v Murtoa

Saturday 5th July 1975

At Rupanyup Oval




Panthers                    v                      Magpies



Rupanyup, or simply ‘Rup’, is located on the Wimmera Highway between Horsham and St Arnaud. Its economy was originally based on wheat and sheep farming with the town’s flour mill adding value to the local golden grains. Today, crops of a different kind have added to the diversification of local rural industry. Lentils and chickpeas are now contributors to the town’s economic activity with local processing of the pulses providing employment and an interesting new food source. Rupanyup identifies itself today as “the town with a pulse.”

One of Rupanyup’s claims to fame is the establishment of the first branch of the community-based Bendigo Bank there in 1999. Another notable first at Rupanyup is the location of the first and southernmost silo murals in the Wimmera-Mallee Silo Art Trail. The steel silos of Rupanyup feature two young local sporting talents: footballer Jordan Weidemann and netballer Ebony Baker. 


The Rupanyup Football Club was an original Wimmera District Football League Club dating back to 1921. Rupanyup joined the Wimmera Football League after World War II. The Panthers won three Wimmera League premierships (1961, 1963 and 1973) prior to joining the Horsham and District Football League in 1981. The club has won seven premierships in the H&DFL.





Rupanyup were not given a chance by the Horsham press of upsetting Murtoa. The Magpies’ fighting win against Minyip the previous week was seen as a turning point in their season which until then was fast slipping away.



The match


With captain coach Graham Brandt and ruckman Ken Newall on the sideline injured, Rupanyup could not match it with the improving Murtoa side. The Magpies led from start to finish with fast play on football that had the young Panthers battling to control. One of the shining lights for the home side was 16 year old Glen Tyler who fought hard against the Magpies general, Peter Morrison. Best for Murtoa was rover Paul Williams.




Final scores: Murtoa 23.12 (150) defeated Rupanyup 9.9 (63)




Around the Wimmera League grounds


Horsham pushed Ararat all the way but fell short by 6 points. Atrocious kicking by Dimboola (12.27 – 99) did not cost them victory over Jeparit, whose one point loss was very costly as they slipped from first to third place on the ladder. Stawell took Warracknabeal apart at Anzac Park and Nhill could not escape the Blues, losing to Minyip by 39 points.


Next week in the Wimmera League


In a possible preview of a big September clash, Stawell meet Ararat at Central Park. Western Wimmera clubs Jeparit and Warracknabeal face off at Jeparit. Rupanyup host Dimboola, Horsham are at home to Minyip and Nhill take on Murtoa.




This episode’s featured Wimmera League player: Graham Brandt (Rupanyup)




South Melbourne player (1969, 1971) Graham Brandt arrived at Rupanyup in 1975 with very big shoes to fill. John ‘Jumbo’ Sudholz, himself a former Swan, had hung up the boots and Rupanyup were an inexperienced team. With only one win for the season, it was a year in which the new captain coach gave opportunities to youth. Brandt played as a ruck rover during his time in the Wimmera League. He joined Stawell in 1977 and was a key player in the Redlegs’ drought-breaking 1978 premiership win over Horsham.



Next episode’s featured player: Graham Warner (Nhill)



In the VFL


At Windy Hill the football was marred by an ugly all in brawl between Essendon and Carlton players which resulted in eight players being reported. The Age described the scenes as “degenerate thuggery”, “violence” and “a series of nasty premeditated assaults.” In the football, Carlton destroyed Essendon with a second quarter blitz when they kicked 14 goals. David McKay booted 8, Robert Walls 5 and Craig Davis 4.


In the mud at VFL Park, Hawthorn scratched and scragged their way to a 25 point win over South Melbourne. Geelong waited until the final quarter to convert their dominance over Collingwood around the ground into scoreboard ascendancy, kicking eight goals after the last change. The Cats ran out winners by 31 points. St Kilda gave Melbourne a lesson in wet weather football at Moorabbin. At a wet and chilly MCG Richmond regained their bite with a convincing 38 point win over Footscray.


North Melbourne climbed into the top five with a nine point win over Fitzroy. Most of their old hands contributed, but it was ‘Sandgroper’ Graham Melrose who led the way with five goals in his best performance since crossing the continent from East Fremantle. The big test for the Kangaroos was about to come against Carlton at VFL Park in round 15.


Victoria defeated South Australia in the final of the National Football League Championships in Adelaide. The ‘Big V’ were uninspiring in their 37 point win over the Croweaters. In Hobart, Tasmania thrashed NSW by 102 points with champion Peter Hudson booting eight goals for his state.



Meanwhile …


Prime Minister Gough Whitlam sacked his Deputy Dr Jim Cairns over the murky ‘petrodollars’ loans affair.


American Arthur Ashe won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, crushing the defending champion favourite Jimmy Connors in four sets. In the women’s singles Billie Jean King defeated Evonne Goolagong Cawley 6-0, 6-1.



Read more episodes of A Season in the Country – 1975 in the Wimmera and Farrer Leagues HERE 


To read about Geelong’s Record Run, click HERE.


Peter also wrote about St. Kilda’s premiership season in his 1966 and All That series. You can read that HERE.



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  1. Riverina Rocket says

    So Dim ends Jeparit’s run…
    wonder if that is the start of a spiral…?

  2. Peter Clark says

    Dim were on the rise as Jeparit slipped … only to meet again in the First Semi-final … when the result was repeated … but the margin was a different story.

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