Country footy: Leitchville-Gunbower put on a premiership reunion weekend

The Leitchville -Gunbower Football Netball  Club (red and black /Bombers) who play in the Heathcote District Football Netball League celebrated Gunbower’s Northern District Football League premiership years of 1954, 1965 and 1980  at the Gunbower Recreation Reserve on Saturday May 16th. For the re-union game  Gunbower  wore their former red and navy blue colours  with the names of the players from the three premierships printed on them. After the game the jumpers were auctioned.


Roger Brereton, member of the 1965 premiership team enjoys the celebrations. (pic: Pamela Sherpa)

Roger Brereton, member of the 1965 premiership team enjoys the celebrations. (pic: Pamela Sherpa)


The hall was suitably decorated with premiership flags, a display board with old newspaper reports and clippings from the three grand finals, the premiership cups, the 1954 football and a copy of Footy Town. 1980 team member Richard Oliver brought  along his classic photo album which as well as  having pictures of the grand final included pictures of the old sheds, the party afterwards, the day afterwards aftermath, the end of season trip and the next next years pre season training camp.

Current day President and club stalwart, Noel Gundry hosted proceedings at the luncheon, which began with him giving an outline of the club today, mentioning the development of the junior players, the travel involved to give them a game each week and how senior players who live in Melbourne  train together with other country players at organised sessions.

In attendance were five players from the 1954 team. Fred Bawden (v.c), Angie Rigoni, Don Oberin, Barry Foster, who travelled down from Queensland, and Bobby Kairns who also played in the `65 team. Don Little sent a lovely letter of apology.


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Angie Rigoni (left) and Bobby Kairns – 1954 players. Bobby Kairns was only 17 in 54 and was best on ground for Gunbower in 1965 final. He loved Pam’s account of Gunbower FC in Footy Town; ‘Bower Boys’.


During  the lunch of delicious lamb from John Toll’s farm ‘ cooked and sliced just as it should be ‘ according to uncle Bill, Don Oberin  from the 54 team entertained the guests with tales from his era. Then Don Healy, captain coach of the 65 team recalled Gunbower’s form that year. Gunbower lost the first 6 games , but then won eight of the last 11. They were thrashed in the second semi but Don said after that he knew they could win the flag. He spoke about what creates team unity and how community support is vital at footy clubs. Gary Fletcher, captain coach of the 1980  team then spoke about  the enjoyment of playing footy in a small country town and he too emphasised that community support was the backbone of any successful club.

After the lunch the crowd adjourned outside in glorious sunshine to watch Leitchville -Gunbower claim a good win against Elmore.

Then  it was time for the jumper auction which was fittingly spirited and chaotic at times as it had caused much discussion leading up to the game . A can of worms had been opened whilst researching the original jumper numbers of the `54 team . The number 11 which my father, Dick McGillivray wore wore during his career became the captain’ s number. Gunbower won the `54 Grand Final on September 11th then 11 years later in `65 Don Healy wore the number 11 and then Gary Fletcher wore it in 1980. However records revealed that dad in fact wore number 24 in 1954 and my uncle Sar who everyone remembers wearing number 2 had worn 21. This presented a dilemna for relatives who wanted to buy the jumper numbers.  My cousin Troy couldn’t decide which one to bid for so ended up buying both dad’s numbers. His mother remarked “Oh well we’ll probably  have to sell a couple of cows”. All up the auction raised $21,000 with one player from the 1980 team paying $5000 for his old number.

Being the year of the sheep it was fitting that our family, the McGillivrays gathered out at the plains near the old shearing shed on Sunday for lunch. We all love the peace and  space of the plains .


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Aunty Sis arrived playing her piano accordian. She played old favourites ‘On top of Old Smokey’ and ‘Good Night Irene’.


Aunty Sis leads a verse or two of 'On Top of Old Smokey' (Pic: Pamela Sherpa)

Aunty Sis leads a verse or two of ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ (Pic: Pamela Sherpa)


Then uncle Tyke – aged 80  arrived with his portable shearing set up in the back of his ute and, of course, sheared a sheep. Tyke was a timekeeper in the Northern District League for 40 years and still likes to keep a stop watch in his car on game days.


Uncle Tyke sets to work at his portable shearing shed. The Wool Team may have found its official timekeeper. (pic: Pamela Sherpa)

Uncle Tyke sets to work at his portable shearing shed. The Wool Team may have found its official timekeeper. (pic: Pamela Sherpa)


Reminiscing continued long into the glorious autumn afternoon and as I reluctantly left I had no doubt there would be continuing jumper discussion and probably some negotiated trading going on between the relatives.

Pamela Sherpa(McGillivray)



  1. G’day Pamela.

    Hmm, McGiliivray hey: are you related to the young McGilivray who played a few games for Geelong way back in 1977?

    I’m trying to remember VFL/AFL footballers from Leitchville. Neville Bruns, the late Jeff Fehring, who else was there ?


  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Hi Glen . Yes cousin Andy McGillivray was at Geelong then

  3. Ta Pamela. To my memory he was a tall centre half forwrad with a mop of curly hair.


  4. Dr Rocket says

    Wonderful piece Pamela.

    Great to read of such familiar names as John Toll, Don Healey, Gary Fletcher and of course the McGilvrays – all of whom also played for Echuca.

    What a shame Jim Clark has recently passed on… he would have loved it. He always talked with great fondness about coaching Gunbower.

    Great to see the current team – even if it includes the mob from Leitchville going so well in the Heathcote league.

  5. Great read great footy at its best

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Pam, well done, great piece and obviously a sensational weekend. Love the name Gunbower. Such a classic country Austn name.

  7. AND now today, Pamela, [May 23rd] the combined Heathcote DFNL teams are taking on Central Murray at the QEO in Bendigo.
    The main footy game, too, as those 2 are ranked higher in the AFL Victoria structure than Loddon Valley which plays the 1.30 pm fixture at the Q.
    So the Heathcote DFNL vs. Central Murray starts at 4 pm and will finish under lights.
    Think they’ve got a pact side, coach Rick Coburn attests.

  8. Michael Nelson says

    Hi Pam
    Enjoyed the read. Remember playing against Gunbower when at Kerang …but more memories of Larobe. Soul like to catch up. Try FB
    Michael Nelson

  9. Dustin Pearson says

    Hi Pamela
    Great article I am a footy fanatic and whilst not born in Gunbower, have deep Gunbower roots being of Pearson, Munzel, Norman
    Heritage all old friends of the Mc Gillvray family. I was looking up the history of the Gunbower football club and came across your piece on the premiership reunion. Well done for archiving part of Gunny’s history, I believe there should be more of it online.
    Regards Dustin Pearson

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