A Season in the Country: 1975 in the Wimmera and Farrer Leagues – Episode 5


Lockhart Football Ground


Featuring Graham ‘Curly’ Ion and Henry ‘Splinter’ Liston


The Farrer League




Lions                v                Saints                    



Match of the day: Culcairn v North Wagga

Saturday 17 May 1975

At Culcairn


Culcairn, or simply ‘Cul’ to local folk, sits proudly on the Main Southern Railway line between Wagga and Albury. Like many country railway towns the rail line divides the settlement. The Olympic Way, named in honour of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, passes through the wheat belt town. Motor meets rail at the Culcairn level crossing where boom gates with flashing signals determine the right of way.


Culcairn is an archetypal Riverina country town adorned with the ubiquitous peppercorn trees found in settlements throughout with the region. But ‘Cul’ adds a touch of the exotic, with its main street clad in date palms. It is ‘Mad’ Dan Morgan country, identified by an historic marker perched on a hill south west of the town at the site of the lookout used by the Riverina-roaming bushranger over a century and a half ago.


The Culcairn footy ground is situated just a hop, skip and a jump from Billabong Creek whose claim to fame is that it is arguably the longest ‘creek’ in the world. Culcairn was a powerhouse in the Albury and District League in the early ‘50s winning three flags in succession (1952-4). After a long stint in the Farrer League the Lions moved to the adjacent Hume League in 1992.



The teams




B:         G. Campbell, P. Schultz, B. Godde

HB:      P. Brown, G. Chomatek, T. Gardiner

C:         S. Pitson, S. Paul, M. Schultz

HF:      C. Odewahn, J. Lee, T. Smith

F:         R. Mackie, W. Box, H. Gardiner (c)

Foll:     T. Godde, K. Hallows

Rov:     F. Ravenna

Res:     J. Pannach, W. Meredith



North Wagga


B:         R. McInerney, M. Landrigan, C. Harrison

HB:      P. Pascoe, T. O’Keefe, P. Sedunary

C:         R. Robinson, P. Evans, K. Withers

HF:      A. Merrigan, A. Hayes (c), J. Fury

F:         R. Crivellaro, P. Hyland, H. Jansen

Foll:     N. Polsen, G. Ward

Rov:     K. Dash

Res:     G. Lang, L. Withers



The Crier: official publication of the Farrer League



Stirred into action by captain coach Alan Hayes after a poor performance against Temora in round four, visitors North Wagga hammered Culcairn. The Saints’ smooth working forward line swamped the Lions. For the home side the main shining light was full forward Bill Box, who kicked five goals against the league’s top full back Mick Landrigan. After the win, the Saints stood on top of the Farrer League ladder while the Lions languished on the bottom.


Drawn to meet Wagga in round six, things did not look like getting any easier for Culcairn. Meanwhile, the clash between North Wagga and Collingullie promised to be a mouth-watering contest.


Final scores:            North Wagga 20.17 (137) defeated Culcairn 8.15 (63)


The Farrer League introduced an “incentive based” premiership points system in 1973 which rewarded clubs not only for wins but also for winning quarters. It was instigated by Eastern Riverina VCFL district councillor Gerald Clear on the basis of its potential to provide a more equitable premiership points system. A win was worth three points and a winning quarter one point (both halved in the event of a draw/even quarter).


After five rounds the Farrer League premiership table was as follows:


North Wagga 30 points

Wagga 25

Henty 24

Temora 17

Collingullie 17

Lockhart 17

MCU 16

TR-YC 13.5

Holbrook 10.5

Culcairn 5




Around the Farrer League grounds

Wagga Tigers enjoyed a 16 point win over Henty; Collingullie came home better than Temora and earned the points; Lockhart had a comfortable win over Holbrook; and the battle of the ‘combines’ went to MCU.



Next week in the Farrer League:


Holbrook v MCU, Henty v Lockhart, Wagga v Culcairn, TR-YC v Temora, Collingullie v North Wagga



Wimmera League



Ararat, led by Gary Todd who kicked 10 goals, thrashed Rupanyup; Warracknabeal had a solid win over Dimboola; Jeparit enjoyed a comfortable win against Minyip; Horsham got home in a close one against Murtoa; and Stawell were untroubled by 9th placed Nhill. The match of the round between Horsham and Murtoa was a see-sawing contest until the final term when centre half forward Wes Richardson stamped his authority on the match and assured the Demons of the four premiership points. We will catch up with Wes in Episode 19.



Next week:


Dimboola v Ararat, Rupanyup v Minyip, Stawell v Horsham, Jeparit v Nhill and our match of the round Warracknabeal v Murtoa. Next episode’s featured player is Max Deckert from Warracknabeal.


This episode’s featured players: MCU’s Graham ‘Curly’ Ion and Culcairn’s Henry ‘Splinter’ Liston


Graham ‘Curly’ Ion


Graham ‘Curly’ Ion came to the Riverina as coach of Deniliquin (Murray League) in 1966 after a 107 game career with Footscray (1958- 65). In his VFL days, ‘Curly’ played alongside his brother Barry (1961-65) including the 1961 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn.


Graham Ion had immediate success with the Deniliquin Rams, guiding them to the 1966 premiership and rewarding them for their 1000 pound investment in him. He moved to South West District Football League club Turvey Park in 1969 before joining Mangoplah-Cookardinia United in 1973. ‘Curly’ was at Mango for three years before ending his Riverina football coaching days with Marrar (Central Riverina League) in 1977. He then moved north to coach Lismore (1978-79) and Cooparoo in 1980. After his return to the Riverina, ‘Curly’ was a selector for the NSW team that famously defeated the VFA at Lavington in 1987.


‘Curly’ had many of the attributes of a successful VFL footballer – balance and poise, plus speed and an uncanny ability to read the play. Playing in the centre and on the ball, he delighted football spectators in the Wagga area and was also a highly regarded coach.




‘Splinter’ Liston was one of those country footballers who simply endured, outlasting all of his contemporaries and some of their sons. Apart from Harry Gardiner, ‘Splinter’s’ cohort had long since hung up their boots by 1975 when the legendary Culcairn forward shifted down a gear and continued his long career for a handful of years in the two’s. He was a Farrer League and a Culcairn institution, booting big bags of goals and putting fear into opposition backmen season after season throughout the 1950’s, 60s and 70s. He amassed the amazing tally of 608 games for Culcairn, played many interleague games and once kicked 20 goals in a match.


‘Splinter’ Liston



In the VFL Geelong defeated St. Kilda, Hawthorn rebounded with a big win over the Lions, Essendon outclassed Footscray, Richmond hammered Melbourne and Carlton staged a powerful second half demolition of South Melbourne.


North Melbourne’s slow climb up the ladder was halted by Collingwood. New signing Brent Crosswell kicked three goals and was best for the ‘Roos, while Phil Carman led the way for the Magpies. Placing Collingwood’s win into perspective, Age (19 May 1975) reporter Mike Smith put it delicately with these words of warning: “Collingwood should realise more than any other club that victory orgasms around this time of year often turn out to be premature congratulations.”



Meanwhile …


In Federal Parliament a landmark bill to overhaul family law in Australia dominated debate. Key elements of the bill were the introduction of the “no fault” divorce clause and the establishment of the Family Court.


1975 was International Women’s Year and is also remembered as the year in which the first ascent of Mount Everest by a woman was successfully made. A Japanese housewife, Mrs Junko Tabei, achieved the feat.




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.



To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?

And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help things keep ticking over please consider making your own contribution.


Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE.

One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE.

Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE.




  1. Riverina Rocket says

    Great to read of one of the great characters of Riverina football, Curly Ion.

    He was able to buy a new Monaro when he took on the Turvey Park coaching job.
    Curly used to take a young Laurie Pendrick to away games in the South West League with him.
    They cut a swathe through the Riverina both on and off the paddock.

    Culcairn’s Billy Box was a fearsome character – usually sporting a #1 crewcut.
    He also endured. Started out with Whitton in the South West in 1957, then he went to Essendon.
    An offer to captain-coach Culcairn trumped offers from Essendon and Canberra clubs.
    He got Cul up for the 1968 flag. He also coached rivals Henty.
    Good to see him still playing in 1975!

  2. Spent a night in Culcairn a few years back. A nice big pub, in a sleepy town.

    Old Dan “Mad dog’ Morgan was a interesting character. Brutalised by his time in the prison system he wasn’t a man for trifling with. The episode at Round Hill station, the fatal shooting of two police officers, Smythe/Magginity, are among the behaviours that earned him the ‘Mad dog’ sobriquet. However he was apparently a friend to the swaggy, the bush worker. It is said he helped them get looked after by the cockies/squatters for food, boardings. When he died apparently signs were put on farm gates, fences telling swaggies to ‘keep away, your friend Morgan is dead’. Morgan’s look out is worth a visit for its wonderful view across the landscape.

    Using the word ‘Orgasms’ ; in The Age 1975, unbelievable. This was the time of ‘The Box’, ‘Number 96’ on channel 0, whilst we had Graham Kennedy’s crow calls on channel 9, but seeing that language in print makes my eyes open. As a 12 year old boy if I’d have seen that term inn the paper I would have told everyone around the school yard. My mother must have purchased the Sun that day.


Leave a Comment