Almanac Footy History: Keogh and Lenaghan – two Bendigo FNL champions

Richard Jones continues with more stories of champion Bendigo footballers.


Trevor Keogh and Frank Lenaghan were two of the champion players of their eras with both having important connections to Sandhurst.


Keogh made the grade via the Marist Brothers under-15 side while Lenaghan’s career began with Ballan in the then Melton and Ballan District League.

Let’s look at Keogh’s career first.


His family had enjoyed a long association with Bendigo footy and after his junior days were over he joined the Hurst.


Trevor’s older brothers were already in the maroon and blue jumpers as the youngster went on to win the club junior best and fairest award.


He made his senior debut for the Hurst on June 3 1967 against Kyneton and turned in a best-on-ground performance.


The Advertiser report of the day lauded Trevor’s performance. “Although beaten by Kyneton a redeeming feature of the match was the brilliant debut of another champion direct from the Thirds. It came in the person of Trevor Keogh who joined his illustrious brothers as a first-18 player. Trevor’s cool and clever play combined with some delightful drop kicking earned him the best player award,” the match write-up said.


He returned to the under-18s following another best-on-ground performance the following week before playing his first full senior season in 1968.


Playing as a half-forward Trevor took out the club best and fairest award at just 18 years of age.


It was a great effort considering he’d left school to work in Melbourne, travelling back to Bendigo every Friday to play footy with the Hurst.


At this stage Keogh had been courted by several VFL clubs. He’d actually trained with Carlton although coach Ron Barassi thought he was “too small.”


As it turned out Keogh hated city life but managed to train on-and-off with Carlton again in 1969 although he spent that year playing with Sandhurst.


He decided to take Carlton more seriously in 1970. He was sick of travelling, wasn’t receiving the right training at work and snared six match permits with the Blues.


Trevor played four Reserves games early in 1970 before making his senior debut against North Melbourne at Princes Park.


He played again the following week against Fitzroy before returning home to Sandhurst.


The Maroons were emerging as the league’s real power side. In the team were Geoff Southby, Brian Walsh, Des Dickson, Kevin ‘Shifter’ Sheehan and Shane Higgins.


With Keogh at centre half-forward, Sandhurst made the 1970 grand final but went down to Echuca by one kick: 15.13 (103) to 14.13 (97).


Convinced by Carlton players who’d come to Bendigo to watch the grannie Keogh decided to give the VFL one last tryout.


It’s history now that he went on to become inducted as one of the Blues 100 greatest players racking up 208 games, booting 196 goals and playing in the Carlton premiership teams of 1972 and 1979.


He won the Blues best and fairest trophy in 1976 and 1978 and wore the famous Big V jumper in 1978, representing Victoria.


No one at Princes Park ever again doubted his talent with even Barassi admitting his initial assessment of the Sandhurst boy had been way off the mark.


Frank Lenaghan was born at Dunnstown, near Ballarat in 1928. His father ran the Commercial Hotel at Ballan and so after the WW2 years Frank pulled on the Ballan guernsey.


By the age of 19 he’d won the league best and fairest and then, because his brothers had signed up with South Bendigo in the BFL, Frank followed suit and became a Blood.


He enjoyed a nine-year stint with South during a golden age for the Red and Whites with Alan McDonald in charge as coach when Lenaghan arrived.


They didn’t win the flag in Lenaghan’s first year, losing the grand final, and prolonging South’s premiership drought to 25 years.


But then ‘The Fox’ and his boys turned in a period of domination through the early Fifties which has hardly been equalled since.


They won the 1950, ’51, ’54, ’55 and Olympic year 1956 flags with Lenaghan a member of South’s on-ball division which became known in Advertiser reports as the Bloods’ “mosquito fleet”.


The other members were the great Alan Nalder, Kerrin Walsh and Ron Munro, all fed by ruckman Jim Elvey.


Frank later recalled the epic 1950 play-off. “Echuca hit us with everything but we had tough players in Ron Robertson and Bob Dryburgh who bore the brunt of the onslaught,” he said later.


However it was the 1951 grand final which was Lenaghan’s top memory.


In a high-scoring shoot-out which resulted in 44 goals being kicked the Bloods beat Eaglehawk by 28 points.


Frank nailed four first-term majors for the Bloods as South eased home: 24.12 (156) to the Borough’s 20.8 (128).


The talented left-footer’s skills did not go unnoticed by VFL scouts. Lenaghan played two games with Carlton’s reserves in the early Fifties and was later signed by St. Kilda.


Despite being guaranteed a number of senior games by the Saints these never eventuated and because Carlton hadn’t signed the necessary permit Frank was forced to withdraw from St. Kilda’s senior side.


This happened moments before he was due to make his debut.


Disillusioned by all the politicking Lenaghan returned to Bendigo and it wasn’t long before he was back in the Sandhurst camp.


Frank moved on to be the Hurst senior coach in 1958 after notching 176 games and five premierships with South Bendigo.


But his Maroons’ coaching career got off to a poor start. Sandhurst lost six of their first seven games before Lenaghan got them firing and they reached the first semi-final.


The Hurst beat Kyneton in the knockout final but couldn’t compete with the BFL powerhouse of the time, Rochester, so he coached for just one more season.


Lenaghan played out his decorated career with Sandhurst retiring at the end of the 1962 season.


But there was one more Hurst highlight for Frank Lenaghan.


He watched his three sons Peter, Denis and Michael (best known as ‘Mick’) play together in the same premiership team for the Maroons.


Peter went on to coach the Hurst while Denis and Mick both made it into VFL ranks. Mick had won the 1981 Michelsen medal before moving into VFL footy.


Trevor Keogh and Frank Lenaghan were inducted into the BFL Hall of Fame on August 23rd, 1996.


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  1. Paul Daffey says

    IT seems amazing that Sandhurt’s 1970 team failed to win the premiership despite having so many young stars. The Echuca team must have been good!

    Well done, Richard. Another great yarn.

  2. Rocket Singers says

    You’re right Daff, but the Murray Bombers were physically stronger and more experienced.
    Under Graham Arthur as coach, Echuca had assembled a very good side from the district and beyond.
    Ruckman P.J. Ryan from Woorineen, full back P.M. Ryan (Moama), the Tolls (Gunbower), and the best of all, Ralph Todd from Deniliquin. St George coach Col Harris claims Todd was the best he coached at Saints.

    Mort trained them hard in the Hawthorn tradition. He had them running up the levee banks of the Murray carrying bags of grain. They were the fittest team in the league and outlasted the younger, inxeperienced Sandhurst team on grand final day.

    Trevor Keogh played CHF.

  3. Rocket Singers says

    As always an interesting, well compiled piece from Richard.

    Always, always, I like a reference to the Rochy footy club, none better than this phrase from the piece:
    “…The Hurst couldn’t compete with the BFL powerhouse of the time, Rochester”.

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