Blokes Who Grew Up On Dairy Farms Team Of The Century

By John Harms 

A few months ago, I attended a gala function in the Jim Stynes Room at the MCG at which the Blokes Who Grew Up On Dairy Farms Team Of The Century was named. It was part of The United Dairy Farmers Presidents’ Dinner held in conjunction with the 2013 Annual Meeting and Conference held over the last couple of days.

I had been invited to be part of the evening by Vin Delahunty, who is one of those industry types who either organises lunches or attends them. Vin and I met in typical Australian bush fashion – at the Murtoa Races. I had once been a part-owner of a Murtoa maiden winner and have since thought of the place as something of a spiritual home. The racing game will do that to you.

In the Wimmera dairy cattle have cameline humps. Yet Vin being Vin has been able to talk himself into a plum role in the dairy industry.

But I digress.

I enjoy speaking at dinners especially, given that I grew up in the country of parents of rural sensibilities, when they involve good country folk. I like talking about the weather, the flow of rivers, the type of country people are from, footy and cricket grounds, and the matches played on them.

Given the dinner was going to be at the MCG and that Scott Lucas, a terrific player at Essendon for over a decade, was going to be the guest of honour, I thought I should go in search of those VFL and AFL players who had grown up on dairy farms just as Scott had.

I called for nominations at the sportswriting site, and received plenty. Certainly more than enough to select a team, which I did. And it soon became obvious that this team deserved the title:  The Blokes Who Grew Up On Dairy Farms Team Of The Century.

So I announced it at the dinner before interviewing Scott who was named captain. Scott last milked the cows in January this year when his family was staying there and his father was called out to fight a fire.

Of course, in naming the team on the basis of such thin methodology, good players were always going to be left out, which I found out from some very nice hecklers around the room.

So this is the provisional team:


Backs:              Francis Bourke              Jeff Fehring                 Stephen Theodore

Half-backs:      John Devine                 Peter Knights               Gary Farrant

Centre:            Brendan Edwards        Paul Couch                  Neville Bruns

Half-forwards: Doug Farrant               Scott Lucas                  Gary Rohan

Full forwards:  Adrian Gleeson           Josh Fraser                  Ronny Wearmouth

Followers:        Darren Flanigan          Anthony Stevens          Garry Wilson

Interchange: Josh Newton, Ben McEvoy, Craig Cleave, Smirky Dwyer.

Emergencies: Nifty Neville Wilson, Stuart Appleby


No doubt a few dairy farm champions have been ignored. If you have a suggestion you can post it via a comment here.

It’s a pretty handy team already.

We can name the definitive team next year. It will give me an excuse to go back to the dinner.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Loved the team as someone who grew up and worked for a time on a dairy farm. Reckon they would be hard to beat. Great to see Pomborneit’s Scott Lucas as captain!

  2. Jim dandy says

    Hi John,
    Alistair Lord and John mopsy rantall I believe are a couple of farmers.

    Other thoughts – Were the Abletts Drouin townies or farmers ?

  3. Great to see Peter Knights in the team. There must be a few more from his neck of the woods though?

  4. Barkly St End says

    Not only did Footscray’s Ian Salmon grow up on a dairy farm, he continued to work the farm while playing for Footscray, having to undertake the 2 hour drive to West Footscray (from somewhere around Gippsland/La Trobe Valley) for training and on match days.

  5. I’d like to nominate Cowshedend as coach.

  6. cowshedend says

    Peter i am truly moooooved! tsss boom, any one here from outa town, i’ll be here all week!

    For the record Ian ‘Sockeye’ Salmon came from Leongatha, and did continue farming through his career at the Dogs, he was a big powerful bloke who could kick the ball a mile.
    There was a gimmick shot of him in the Sun or Herald in kicking motion attempting to roost a hay bale over a silo on his farm.

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Proud to see Sth West Vic well represented – Couch, Gleeson, Lucas, Smirky, Rohan, Ronny, Theodore, Devine. Good Irish names.

    What about Bernie and Leon Harris? Dairy?

    Could’ve added a few more Couches.

    Old Bill, Paul’s Dad, was considered the greatest never to go to the big smoke. Built like a London bus, I can recall him coming into dad’s butcher shop. Shot his fingers off before a gf. Strapped it up and played. Or so the legend goes.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Humphrey Gleeson was in yr 12 at CBC Wbool when i was in yr8(?). Another one of those Koroit boys. Better not say too much.

    Played seniors at Koroit in the Hampden League when it was a comp for grown men , unlike today, when still at school. Champion runner – distance events. Finsihed school, helped out in the PE dept for a year and went to Carlton and played in their 87 flag.

  9. Mark Doyle says

    I am curious about how many of these blokes are genuine dairy farmers or whether they grew up in a dairy farm area or their parents were dairy farmers. I am not sure that blokes such as Peter Knights or Paul Couch had a great career of getting up at daylight and rounding-up the cows for milking.

  10. hmmm…I’m not sure that “Coach” Cowshedend even puts milk in his coffee.

  11. mickey randall says

    I reckon 1988 Magarey Medallist and Hawthorn footballer Greg Whittlesea hails from a Fleurieu dairy farm. He was a handy midfielder as i recollect.

  12. congratulations on an innovative idea, John – but like Mark Doyle I am curious as to how many of them actually qualify as ‘dairy farm grown-ups’. The criteria should be fixed – getting up at daylight, rounding up the cows and cleaning out the bails should surely be part of the experience? Otherwise it become ‘whose parents were dairy farmers’?
    Oh, whatever!

  13. Andrew Starkie says

    maybe you should interview the cows, Harmsy. Go to the source.

  14. Philip Kelly says

    Lindsay White came from a dairy farm in Orford near Port fairy he played for Geelong 1941,1944-1950
    due to Geelong not fielding a team in 1942 & 1943 because of world war 2 he played for South Melbourne. He was VFL leading goalkicker in 1942 (swans) & 1948 (cats).
    he was Geelong captain in 1948 he played a total of 142 games and kicked 540 goals.
    Lindsay should be included in this team of players who came fro dairy farms.Lindsay is my great uncle.

  15. Sal Ciardulli says

    Not sure Tiger Number One draft pick Anthony Banik would make the cut, but hailed from Won Wron Woodside in South Gippsland.

  16. Skip of Skipton says

    Lindsay White deserves the full forward spot for sure. Fourth highest goal scorer for the Cats.

    @Mark Doyle. Paul Couch used to rise before daylight and run behind a garbo truck up until he won the Brownlow, so I don’t see why getting up early to milk would have been a problem?

    I know for a fact that a cousin of mine (who is in this team) used to get up early, along with his brother, and help with the milking before they went to school.

    As for Peter Knights, I don’t know, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Dave Nadel says

    The story that I heard when I lived in Warrnambool was that Paul Couch had told Fitzroy (to whom he was zoned under the old rules) that he was needed at home to milk the family cows and that if Fitzroy wanted him they would have to hire a farm labourer to milk his Dad’s cows. When the Lions gave up and cleared him to Geelong, Couch did not require help with his Dad’s cows from the Cats and he was quite happy to move to Sleepy Hollow and run behind the garbage truck.

    I heard this story from at least two separate sources at the time but it may be a local myth. Andrew S, you would know more about Gleeson than I would. There are hundreds of Gleesons around Illowa and Koroit – I worked with one of his female cousins. I had the impression that the Gleesons were more likely to be spud farmers than dairy farmers. But I could be wrong.

  18. Gerard McAloon says

    I grew up in the Western District Hampden League and Kevin O ‘Keefe was a handy player at Fitzroy.What about Bill McMaster he was my idol when he played for Mortlake the cats. I think he had a few cows up at Lake Bolac

  19. James Sprunt says

    Although his parents weren’t dairy farmers, Jonathan Brown spent a lot of time growing up milking cows on his uncles and grandparents farm at Killarney. Even helped is uncle Tim milk on afternoon of his Grandfather’s funeral in early 2008.

  20. John Williams Essendon- Collingwood Defender, represented Victoria on many occassions, state CHB hailed from a dairy farm at Ballendella, was recruited from RochesterFC early sixties as a teenager ,surely must not be left out.

  21. Julie Kenna says

    John I think Bernie and Leon Harris and Kevin O’Keeffe should definately get a mention in your almanac. Bernie Harris did return to the family farm and has continued to milk cows until only a couple of years ago.

  22. Margaret McDonald says

    The McDonald Brothers Alex, Anthony , James and Phillip all grew up on a Diary farm at Waubra.

  23. Mark Schwerdt says

    Scott Burns came from a “100-hectare farm” in the Birdwood/Gumeracha area of the Adelaide Hills – bound to have had a few dairy cattle there

  24. The Black Prince says

    200 games with the Cats and a further 20 with the Saints would have to see Robert ‘Scratcher’ Neal get a gig surly! This freckled young lad cut his teeth in some of the country’s finest diary pastures in North-West Tasmania. Yolla to be precise.

  25. Peter McIntyre from the inaugural Adelaide Crows team ‘Grew up on a Dairy Farm’ in Deniliquin NSW.

  26. chris bracher says

    Max Robertson South Melbourne Centre half back in the 70’s – dairy cocky from Cohuna. Now once again a resident in dairy country in Gippsland

    And lately…..Gary Ranga Rohan for the Swans from Cobden

  27. Thanks to everyone for their nominations. Please keep them coming in.

  28. What about Brian McKenzie and Daryl Salmon?? They grew up on neighbouring farms at Ecklin.

  29. James Green says

    From memory many of the Cobden player list to make it in the big time come off dairy farms
    John Rantall
    Jim and Gary Rohan
    Colin Hammond
    Rob Howarth
    Hugh Worrall
    Mick Giblett
    Ben Cunnington
    Glen Ward
    Stu and Al Lord were off a Sheep Farm (Delburg), but did become dairy farmers off the Cannibal Hill Farm after there VFL playing days.
    Thorald Merrett may have milked a cow in the back Yard??

  30. terry Barnstable says

    big query on Josh Fraser, from mansfield, mainly beef cattle?

  31. Neil Stewart says

    Colin Watson was a dairy farmer and also the winner of the second ever Brownlow Medal. Stuart and Alistair Lord were also on a dairy farm. All or any would be worthy inclusions to your team.

  32. John McVean says

    Hi John

    Alan Jarrott who played for North Melbourne & Melbourne was raised on a dairy farm at Moyhu in North-East Victoria.
    He should be included in this team.

  33. Colin Watson was a dairy farmer at Cudgee near Warrnambool when discovered by Roy Cazaly playing for South Warrnambool and recruited to St.Kilda. Before he was 25 he had represented Victoria for three years, won St.Kilda’s B&F and the second Brownlow. He went ‘bush’ after his win and returned to later Captain-Coach St.Kilda and make the Vic team again. He was a dairy farmer most of his life.

  34. Pamela Sherpa says

    David McLeish from Kerang who played for Sth Melb might be another to consider.

  35. Laurie Holden says

    James Hird – he milked everything

  36. Justin Staunton says

    Played footy with Paul Couch when at Terang, wasn’t a pinch on his brother Billy, but I’d rather have Paddy Heffernan and Chocolate O ‘Keeffe in my team any day, they are still milking cows, not sure about old Dick Wearmouth milking cows for Niel Black, but they say he was the best ever country footballer to come out of the South West, played for terang in the fifties , legend says when the Noorat League matches finished the crowds would go and watch the Bloods if they were playing at home to see Dick play. He was never out of being in the best three on the ground week in week out.

  37. I’ll second Hird’s nomination Laurie. You wanna chuck in Bomber Thompson there as well?

    Peter Knights certainly grew up on a dairy farm. As a fodder merchants in a previous life I delivered bran & pollard to his old man. Although I can’t honestly say I saw him put the cups on. Has a date for the interim report’s release been set yet Harmsie?

    Didn’t the Abletts run a stock trucking business? Or was that the Coverdales?

  38. I wouldn’t know where to begin re footy, but one of America’s best baseball writers, Buster Olney of ESPN and, grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont. His primary job was baling hay. I bet he would appreciate your efforts.

  39. Boston Rocket says

    Col Watson milked cows at Cooma south of Kyabram until he died.

  40. Rocket, Col is a very strong candidate for the leadership group. JTH

  41. mickey randall says

    As they’ve been on the calf blood injections can we suggest most on the Essendon list?

  42. Brian Opray says

    Ian(Curly)Salmon is still milking cows at Leongatha.Also I think Bernie Toohey(Geelong,Sydney Swans)was from a dairyfarm in Barooga NSW.

Leave a Comment