A young bloke having a go

The news of the passing of Lionel Rose was very sad indeed and brought back a few memories.   I was appointed to Yallourn North Primary School in the early 1960’s and every now and then I would head back to Melbourne for the odd weekend.  One Sunday afternoon on my way back to Yallourn I saw a young lad hitch hiking just outside of Dandenong.  I stopped and picked him up.  He didn’t have a lot to say so I kept the conversation up for the journey home. One thing I do remember on that trip was he told me his name was Lionel.

He told me very quietly that he was training for a boxing match in the near future and that he went down to train at the home of his trainer in Essendon. He told me he hitch hiked to save money. Sometimes he would catch the train to Dandenong, and if he was lucky, get a lift pretty quickly, sometimes he was not so lucky. He said he loved boxing and football, but said he was going to give boxing a good go. He told me he lived near Drouin with his family, so as we got to the outskirts of that town , suggested I drop him off at a small track just off the highway.  He picked up his small bag from the back seat and said thanks and headed off.

A few months later I’m pretty sure I saw him playing footy for Drouin for an under 19 side, and he showed a lot of skill in all areas of the game.  Over the next couple of years Lionel appeared  fairly  regularly  on TV Ringside with Ron Casey and Merv Williams and he was class with a capital C. He went on to win the world title and the admiration of hundreds of thousands of Melbournians, which was pretty hard to do if you were indigenous in those days.

Many years later  while having an ale or two with some friends in a Moe pub, I saw Lionel enjoying himself  quietly with some mates in the same bar. I said G’day to him but didn’t remind him of the day I gave him a lift.

Rod Oaten

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