Almanac Footy – Corowa ‘Last to First’, a Glory Days Podcast review

 

Logo of the Corowa Spiders [Source: Author]

 

The Corowa footy club went from last to first Ovens and Murray Football League in 1968.

 

 

It was a famous victory. Much celebrated…and it is still being lauded.

 

Albury-based broadcaster Robbie Mackindlay, who still plays cricket for his hometown of Holbrook, has been putting together podcasts of footy seasons past by district football clubs.

 

Mackindley works for NSW Cricket as the regional manager, has so far put together podcasts on Holbrook’s premierships in 1954 and 1970, Daysdale’s emotional premiership triumph in 1994, and Myrtleford’s controversial 1983 season when Gary Ablett Sr played.

 

But it is the Corowa Spiders’ 1968 premiership win that is the subject of this review.

 

Richmond’s 1967 premiership captain Fred Swift had been lured to the NSW side of the Murray to coach the Spiders, who wore a black guernsey with a red sash. He went to work in Brac’s furniture store and was accommodated in the club’s allocated coach’s house.

 

The Spiders retained previous year’s captain-coach John Hoiles who had come to the club from Footscray where he was a member of the 1961 grand final team that lost to Hawthorn.

 

Rugged St Kilda ruckman Ike Ilsley was recruited from Koroit along with players from the district including defender George Tobias (Wahgunyah) and rover Lindsay Jacob (Walla Walla).

 

A star recruit was rover-forward Jack Clancy from West Heidelberg YCW, who was picked up after a pre-season practice match against Corowa. Clancy is a legend of the O&M. He won two Morris medals in 1970-71 and coached the club in 1972 and later coached Albury. He kicked three goals, one behind in the grand final and gathered 19 possessions.

 

A further boost for the Spiders was the return of Peter Chisnall from North Melbourne (aged 19) after the opening two rounds of the VFL season. Chisnall would have a brilliant season in the centre and then return to North to play in their 1975 premiership team.

 

Mackindley tracked Corowa’s season game-by-game, riding the ups-and-downs of the season.

 

Corowa only secured a finals spot on percentage with a last-round win over Wangaratta Magpies, then went all the way through to beat reigning premier Wodonga led by the tough ex-Collingwood rover Mick Bone in the grand final at the Albury Sportsground in front of 12,000: Corowa 14.11.95 d Wodonga 12.16.88.

 

As usual there is drama in the lead-up to the decider with Fred Longmire (father of Swans coach John) injuring his ankle in the teeth-gnashing preliminary final victory over Myrtleford.

 

Robbie reveals that Fred was extremely doubtful to play in the grand final but visits to chiropractor Harry Brittain in Shepparton got him up to play.

 

Corowa coach Fred Swift adopted an unusual ploy by arranging a church service for the players the night before the grand final. The service was conducted by the Rev Tony Winter, who played in the Seconds. Fred and the Rev Winter would often meet to discuss club matters at the furniture store. Robbie interviews the Rev Winter for the podcast.

 

Robbie Mackindlay captures all the excitement and drama of the Corowa premiership win. He interviews some of the players including Fred Longmire, George Tobias, Bert Tait, Terry ‘Ollie’ Phipps, and Peter Chisnall.

 

His grand final summary includes part of the call of the game by legendary Benalla football writer and commentator Keith Sherwill on GMV 6 that telecast the game live.

 

But Mackindley’s best work is reserved for a description of the celebrations in Corowa.

 

The team returned from Albury by bus stopping at Wahgunyah – 4km from Corowa – and getting up on the back of Bernie Bott’s semi-trailer for the trip across the river into town where over 3,000 people had gathered in Sanger St to welcome home the victors.

 

‘Bernie did three laps of the main street!’, Georgie Tobias told Robbie for the podcast. ‘I’ve never seen so many people in the main street’. Eventually the truck pulled up outside the Memorial Hall for a civic reception by the Shire President, Cr Fred Nixon.

 

Then the players and supporters adjourned to the club’s home ground, the picturesque John Foord Oval on the banks of the Murray River, for more celebrations for Corowa’s first O&M flag since 1932 that went well into the night and for the rest of the following week! Celebrations continued when the Corowa footy club went on their end-of-season trip to New Zealand.

 

 

The podcast consists of two episodes which can be found HERE and HERE.

 

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE

 

 

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Comments

  1. Good stuff Dr Rocket. I’ve listened to both podcasts over the last few weeks since you first posted the links.

    Names like Phipps, Witherden, Tobias, all are names i’ve heard over the years. The finals campaigns to have those fighting, come from behind wins over the Hoppers, and the Saints to win a grand final berth makes you proud. Then of course the premiership.

    1968 I was in grade prep at Footscray North primary;another world away. My mother came down from Corowa to work at Western Hospital in 1954, seeing a Footscray premiership win that season. The tricolors next premiership victory was the year she died; 2016. Though she wasn’t in Corowa in 1968 there were plenty of friends, like the Box’s, the O’Donoghues, the Millers, the Forbes’s still there. Yes, there was still family in Corowa. My nan, Margaret Johnstone, nee Conrick would have been busy making the sandwiches and cuppas to keep the Spiders supplied. I’m not sure what my grandfather Norm would have been doing, though he would have been involved. He was at the race track for many years being the clerk of the scales. Uncle Frank played for Corowa in the 60’s, though i don’t think he was playing in 1968.

    Fred Swift VFL premiership captain one year, leading a NSW bush side to a premiership the year after. We won’t see that again. Dr Rocket, do you know where Peter Chisnall is? We caught up a few times when he had the pub in Tungamah, but that’s over 5 year since he left there. Curious?

    As always Dr Rocket, great work. Look forward to your next posting of footy away from the big smoke.

    Glen!

  2. A memorable time for Corowa. Robbie Mackinlay’s podcasts of Corowa’s triumph in ’68 are gems. I especially loved the commentaries of former players. A wonderfully told story. Well done again Dr. Rocket.

    Glen, you mentioned your Uncle Frank – is that Frank Tuck?

    Peter

  3. G’day Peter.

    My Uncle Frank, is Frank Johnstone, played for Corowa in the early 60’s; when i was a nipper. We’re catching up with him and Aunty Lona this Friday at the Commercial Club, then on Saturday it’s Corowa Cup day. My gee -gee isn’t running there, but after his last few runs i’m not complaining. I’ll see how his stable mates run.

    Glen!

  4. Dr Rocket says

    Always good to get some favourable comments from the two country footy aficionados, Glen! & Peter.
    Thanks boys.

    Yes, I love Robbie’s work too!, He captures the essence of the story and the emotion around it all, especially the celebrations!

    His next project is on Hay’s all-three grades premierships in 1992.
    I recall the Hay Lions president talking to Paul Daffey about a piece on the club for The Age.
    The president said he didn’t understand why they sang Its a Grand Old Flag…
    they wore red and black in the Barellan league and most clubs wearing those colors used that as their theme song.

    Great to learn of your close association with Corowa Glen!
    And your support for them.
    Chizza now living in Numurkah according to KB Hill
    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/chewing-the-fat-with-chizza-by-kb-hill/

  5. Looking forward to listening to these, Rocket.
    Thanks

  6. Thanks Dr Rocket for posting and the feedback from Peter and Glen – it is indeed a wonderful story like so many others that I have and will continue to bring back to life ! Cheers Robbie

  7. ,Terry barnstable says

    Peter Chisnall live’s in Numurkah now,in The Murray Valley.
    Former Fitzroy player Leigh Robertson is also a Numurkahite,moved here as a teacher after his VFL/VFA day’s

  8. Hayden Kelly says

    Glen
    Listened to this over the past 2 days .In a word MAGIC ,well done . Radio commentary brought back memories of the legendary Dick Turner calling the Bendigo league on 3BO

  9. Rochester Rocket says

    Thanks Hayden,

    Robbie has the Riverina master caller 2WG’s Bert Schmidt doing the call of the 1970 Farrer league GF in his podcast of Holbrook’s 1970 premiership win at Yerong Creek.

    But your evocation of the greatest country caller, the Bendigo truant officer Roy Francis Turner aka Dick of 3BO brings back some great memories…vividly recall him “Calling the board” from the back of a furniture van parked backwards up against the fence at the Park Oval in Echuca.

    ” You call the footy Russ (Pilley), and I’ll call the fight!” was another of used line. Along with colourful nicknames for players as well as their occupations.

    His favourite, of course, was “the fleet-footed Epsom market gardener Peter Moroni from Golden Square.

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