A Season in the Country: 1975 in the Wimmera and Farrer Leagues – Episode 17


Lockhart Football Ground


    Play on Dimboola



Wimmera League










Kangaroos         v            The Blues



Match of the day: Dimboola v Minyip

Saturday 9th August 1975

at Dimboola


Featuring Dimboola’s Merv Neagle and Richie Kalms



Dimboola, or simply ‘Dim’, is a place many of us feel familiar with even though we may not have visited the town. We didn’t all actually attend a wedding in Dimboola, but we can picture the setting and ‘remember’ the alcohol-fuelled celebrations and shenanigans as if we had been among the invited guests thanks to Jack Hibberd’s play, ‘Dimboola’. The comedy play hit the theatre in 1969, with a film version in 1979, both adding to the town’s notoriety on the Australian cultural map. ‘Dimboola’ the play, is still performed locally every year with proceeds going to local causes and charities.


Dimboola, the town, is a wheatbelt service centre located in western Victoria beside the Wimmera River, halfway between Nhill and Horsham. Apart from the river, its natural attractions include the Little Desert National Park and Pink Lake.



The history of Australian Football at Dimboola can be traced back to the 1880s. Participation in an organised competition did not start until 1908, a few years after the Wimmera District Football League had been formed. Dimboola competed irregularly until after World War I when it became a member of the West Wimmera League. The club’s halcyon days, when it won five premierships from eight grand finals, occurred between 1927 and 1937, playing in three different leagues. Dimboola won the inaugural Wimmera Football League premiership in 1937 with another flag following in 1946. After that success a thirteen-year premiership drought ensued until 1959 when the ‘Roos won the WFL grand final by a solitary point over Warracknabeal. Following that victory another premiership drought set in until 1985. Thereafter the club had to wait a further 28 years, and overcome many disappointments, before ‘Roos stood on the podium again. Dimboola’s 2013 flag broke a long sequence of WFL premierships won by Horsham.




The Wimmera Mail-Times predicted that the ‘Roos would stop the Blues’ climb up the ladder, “turning policeman at Dimboola Park.”  The charge against Minyip would be “false pretences in trying to upset the five late in the season.”  When football matters came under examination it was argued that the physical strength of the ‘Roos, combined with their unpredictability, would be evidence enough to favour them. Both sides were in good late season form and were fairly evenly matched, so a good match was in prospect. Whether Blues coach Bill McGrath was foxing or not, Minyip did not reveal their positional line up before the match.


The teams


B:           D. McLennan, P, Avery, G. Watson

HB:        R. McRae, B. Noonan, M. Skeen

C:           M. Neagle, G. Exell, H. Baker

HF:        P. Taylor, R. Gazelle, L. Rauert

F:           T. Emmerson, R. Kalms, G. Schneider

Foll:      K. Ryan (c), M. Watson

Rov:      W. Lynch



From: D. Maher, S. Boschen, W. McGrath(c) , W. Coxall,

Jelly, G. Liersch, P. Niewand, E. Ross, A. Habel,

Brady, P. Wood, M. Tobin, R. Clarke, J. Uebergang,

Schurmann, N. Goodgame, A. Niewand, W. Gaskell,

Barnett, D. Petering, L. Power


The match

It was anyone’s game until three quarter time as Dimboola squandered a four goal lead. From that moment the ‘Roos found added spirit and put the match out of the visitor’s reach. It was the small men who made the difference for Dimboola. Wingmen Harold Baker and Merv Neagle provided open avenues to goal, while other small men, back pocket Greg Watson and rover Graham Schneider, played their part. Dimboola full forward Richie Kalms had a quiet day by his lofty standards, booting three goals. The ruck advantage of Minyip’s big men Gary Liersch and Peter Niewand kept the Blues in the contest and with a chance until late in the match. The 15 point win by Dimboola helped stabilise their place in third position and almost certainly knocked Minyip out of the race for the final five.


Final score: Dimboola 12.14 (86) defeated Minyip 10.11 (71)


The match was umpired by Geoff Morrow, who later became both a VFL and a First Class cricket and International cricket umpire.


Around the Wimmera League grounds

Horsham broke away from Jeparit in the final quarter to win by 13 points. Stawell maintained their high scoring form winning by 40 points over Murtoa. Ararat did likewise, and made the long journey to Warracknabeal worth it. And in the battle of the bottom two sides, Nhill came out on top of Rupanyup.


The makeup of the final five was not yet set in concrete, with only Ararat and Stawell certain to play in September. The Jeparit v Murtoa clash in round 18 was looking likely to determine who would claim fifth place and who would miss out. Dimboola appeared a good chance to remain in the five, while Horsham still had some work to do to sew up a position.


 Next week in the Wimmera League:

Horsham v Rupanyup, Nhill v Dimboola, Minyip v Warracknabeal, Stawell v Jeparit, Murtoa v Ararat


This episode’s featured Dimboola players: Merv Neagle and Richie Kalms


Dimboola was very productive turf for the Essendon Football Club in the mid 1970s, supplying two young footballers who would become premiership players and favourites at Windy Hill – Tim Watson and Merv Neagle.


Got him! A young Merv Neagle in the 1975 Wimmera League Preliminary Final

(source: Wimmera Mail-Times 15.9.75)


Merv Neagle arrived at Essendon in 1977 as a 19-year-old and quickly established himself as a creative, classy wingman. Known for his trademark loping and swerving running style, he was speedy, tenacious and courageous. Merv played 147 games for the Bombers and was a member of the club’s 1984 premiership team. Neagle’s highest individual feat was his second place in the 1980 Brownlow Medal. He also represented the ‘Big V’ on three occasions. In 1986 he moved to the ‘harbour city’ with a number of high profile recruits and spent five seasons with the Swans, playing a further 56 games.


Next, the bush beckoned for the truck driver Merv. He gave great service to a string of country Victorian and NSW footy clubs – Merbein, Sale, Balranald, North Albury, Mangoplah-Coorkardinia United and Walla Walla. He also coached across the continent at Mount Barker in Western Australia and St. Mary’s in Darwin.


Of his final coaching gig at Walla Walla in the Hume League, the Albury newspaper (the Border Mail, 24.8.2012) said:


“He came from Dimboola, made his name at Essendon and didn’t set foot in Walla until he was 30. But to the people of Walla, Merv Neagle was a local. He married a Walla girl, played cricket and tennis for Walla, drove trucks and, after a nomadic coaching career, finally took the reins of the Walla Hoppers as senior coach this year.”


After his tragic death in a road accident in 2013, Walla Walla football legend Garry Mickan said he had lost a friend first and coach second. “He was respected as Merv Neagle the person and not Merv Neagle the former Essendon champion. Merv was a larrikin, but a lovable larrikin. He could come down hard as a coach and then have a joke. He loved his family, his footy and the town and has made a remarkable impact in the time he was with us.” (Border Mail 19. 3. 2013)



 Richie Kalms


Murrayville, located on the western edge of the Victorian Mallee, produced a highly talented footballer who dominated in the Mallee Football League in the 1960s, the Wimmera League in the mid 1970s and the Mid-Murray League in the late 70s.


Richie Kalms was on the radar of at least four VFL clubs and two SANFL clubs, but it was Essendon who enticed the 17-year-old to try out at Windy Hill in 1963. But like so many young country footballers at the time, the city was not for him. He returned to Murrayville and took part in a Mallee League premiership that year. A prodigious left foot drop kick, eighty metres or more was well within his reach when lining up the goals from centre half forward. Richie once kicked ten goals in the last quarter of a game against Patchewollock, to end the day with 19. He was a champion and a big drawcard across the Mallee. Some old timers are still waiting to see a better player in the bush, likening his kicking to that of Gary Ablett Snr.


Kalms won the Mallee League best and fairest award on three occasions (1964, 1969 and 1970) and the league goal kicking award. He was one of a handful of Mallee League representatives in the combined interleague teams, with the North Central League, that played in the VCFL Country Championships. He shifted south to Dimboola in the Wimmera League in the early 1970s. In 1975 he was a huge factor in Dimboola’ climb from bottom place the previous year, to make the finals. He kicked 100 goals in the home and away rounds and 22 in the finals that season. In 1978 Richie was on the move again, this time to Swan Hill in the Mid Murray League, winning the league goal kicking with 77 goals, and playing in another premiership.



The Farrer League

Round up


The top two clubs, North Wagga and Wagga, continued their push towards September with solid wins over TR-YC and Lockhart respectively. Holbrook easily accounted for Temora but a finals place was beyond their reach. MCU had a big victory over Henty keeping their finals hopes well and truly alive.


Next week in the Farrer League:

In our match of the day next week we travel out on the Sturt Highway for the game between Collingullie and The Rock-Yerong Creek. Although the ‘Gullies disappointing season is drawing to a close, they traditionally give it their most against neighbours TR-YC, who need no extra motivation with their place in the four at risk. MCU’s game against Wagga would be their big test but also a golden opportunity. North Wagga hosts Holbrook and will be flat out for a big four quarter effort to consolidate top spot. Playing for pride, bottom-placed Culcairn take on Lockhart, while Temora have a chance to celebrate their last home match of the year on a positive note by upsetting the hot and cold Henty.


Next episode’s featured players: Ron Murray and Colin Hounsell (Collingullie)



In the VFL

North Melbourne answered some of the critics and went a long way towards eradicating any lingering doubts they may have had in their ability to overpower their 1974 nemesis, Richmond. But it took them all afternoon and a couple of fight backs to get the job done. In the end a five point win was hardly season-defining, but psychologically it was significant. The player who resurrected himself and set the game alight for the Kangaroos was the unreliable and unpredictable Slammin’ Sam Kekovitch. He booted three goals, marked strongly and turned on his power-game against Francis Bourke on the half forward flank. Veteran rover Barry Cable was superb for North with his immaculate footpassing and handballing. For the Tigers, ruckman Neil Balme was best on ground. The Kangaroos won the battle for third place and in doing so, tipped the Tigers into a battle for fifth with the Magpies.


Melbourne upstaged Carlton at VFL Park, while their rivals for top spot, Hawthorn, gave the Cats a bath at Princes Park. St Kilda kept its good form rolling with a 68 point win over a disappointing Footscray. Collingwood, spearheaded by Phil Carman, bolstered its finals prospects with a run away win over Essendon, while Fitzroy got the four points against a gallant South Melbourne.


Meanwhile …

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam flew to Singapore on a British Aircraft Corporation test flight of the supersonic Concorde jet. The dream flight from Melbourne to Singapore took just 3 hours and 43 minutes. Meanwhile, his opponent Malcolm Fraser, was hovering at a slower pace around country Victoria by helicopter, visiting horse races and motorbike race meetings.


The 1970s was an era of the devaluation of many national currencies. In August 1975 New Zealand shaved 15% off its dollar in an attempt to help struggling farmers. Australia had devalued its currency by 12% a year earlier. A whopping 17.5% devaluation of the Aussie Dollar followed in 1977. By the early 1980s the prevailing economic thinking was to float the currency and allow it find its level within international currency markets. The Hawke government acted accordingly in 1983.




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

    Good to read about Dim where my grandfather was recruited to in that golden era of the late 1920s from Eltham for a few quid and a job as a chippe. And where my father was born.

    Merv Neagle told me that Pop was the best centreman to play for Dimboola…
    over Mad Monday drinks when he was at the Swans. Terrific fella.

  2. Peter Clark says

    Is there more to be told on your Pop’s days at Dim Riverina Rocket?

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