Almanac Footy History: Eddie Dillon Remembers football and life in Gippsland

The Footy Almanac received an email from Citrus Bob Utber with information from his  friend Terry Dillon.


Terry was reminding Bob about his father,  and football life in Cora Lynn, Gippsland. 


As Terry explains, ‘along with many other Catholic families on the peat soil and potato lands of the KooWeeRup Swamp, the Dillons played their part in the history of the area. The O’Sullivans, Dineens, Corcorans and Cunninghams all came from the swamp. Chris O’Sullivan (Bears), John Dineen (Hawks), Jack Cunningham (Hawks ’61), Matt Cunningham (Fitzroy) and administrators Terry Dillon, Danny Corcoran, Shane O’Sullivan, Garry O’Sullivan all played a part in the VFL/AFL.  A unique part of the world.  Cora Lynn has one of the finest football grounds as well – nothing else!’


Terry has given Bob permission to allow the following account from Eddie Dillon to be published on The Footy Almanac site. The manuscript was written over 25 years ago.



 (Especially for my mate Albert Bow)


It was before the age of 17 that I became involved in football and football administration at Cora-Lynn. First I played for and was Secretary of the Cora-Lynn/Bayles Club. The original Cora-Lynn Club was in recess at the time. I really don’t know the circumstances that brought that decision about.


Some years later the Cora-Lynn/Bayles Club was launched with Len Finck, Secretary, and Bert Cox, President, and some years later I became the Club Secretary. We used the boiler room at the Bayles Factory for our dressing room. It was terribly hard on a freezing cold day to leave the lovely warmth of the boilers to head for the ground. We had to walk about 200 yards towards Cora-Lynn and cross a bridge which was there until fairly recent times, then wade through about 20 chain of tee-tree and finally came to what was a nice football ground.


It was my task before the game to collect two shilling from each player to pay for the football and the umpire, although the facilities were bad the footballers certainly weren’t. Two champion players in Jack Egan (poetry in motion was Jack in fullflight) and Tom O’Brien. Tom was a star aggressive full back – both players went on to play League football with Melbourne.


Then for survival sake we combined with the Catani Club (merged is the new word). We played on an improvised ground at Cora-Lynn on Kinsella Bros. property about 200 yards from the store. The reason for the improvised ground was that the Recreation Committee thought that the ground was too rough for cricket – which was a big deal at the time. So it was decided to lease it out for a year for potatoes and then regrade it, and it was Terry McMillan who grew the biggest crop of spuds in the West in that beautiful soil.


But problems can develop Lynn/Catani Football Club in partnerships and so it was with the Cora.­ My old mate the late Clem Pitt, perhaps the number one sports journalist in Gippsland for many years and myself were joint secretaries of that club. We had the maximum of success in the one and only year of the club with a premiership. The main obstacle that couldn’t be resolved was where the games should be played the following year. Meetings were held in the big cities of both Cora-Lynn and Catani. Finally a meeting was called at Cora-Lynn and chaired by Cr. Dan Kinsella with nearly 100 men in attendance (no women those days) and on a secret ballot the club was disbanded officially that night. So it was literally back to ‘as you were’ with Cr. Dan Kinsella and myself as President and Secretary. On reflection, the meetings’ decision that night was the only way to go. Both clubs are now successful clubs in their own right, the best of neighbours, and  both happily enjoying their own venues.


While we have only won one premiership we could have with an ounce of luck had a few more. We played in a grandfinal at Bunyip one day, we had so many brilliant players and we would have won the flag. This day there was a gale force wind blowing straight down the ground and Drouin had the first use of it. At about the 30 minute mark of that quarter we were only a couple of goals behind but at the 45 minute mark – (yes that’s right) through some sort of a misunderstanding, there were no timekeepers – and we finished up 8 goals behind. Pompy Cunningham stopped the ‘quarter’ by following up the umpire banging a 4 gallon tin with a stick. The delegates were summoned together and it was decided to play another 45 minute quarter and two 15 minute quarters. But our blokes were a spent force after the first stanza and couldn’t take advantage of the gale. Of course it couldn’t happen today as the umpire has to get the signal from the timekeeper to start proceedings.


In that era the boys were staying on the farms and we were fortunate to have 12 really good players from 4 families. There was the 4 Dohertys, 3 Matthews , 3 McMillans and 2 Cunninghams all automatic selection players so it wasn’t much trouble to get another six.


Then there was the time when the parents couldn’t afford to keep the boys on the farms. So we found ourselves in a situation where we had to bring in outside players or fold up.


I well remember my eldest daughter Anne who was just a little tot at the time – lovely too – coming home from school most distressed and in between sobs announced that Fay Doherty said that Cora-Lynn had paid players. So we must have been bringing in outside players for a heck of along time (sorry about that Anne).


Of course the criteria for outside players at Cora-Lynn has always been – good types of men, number 1, good footballers, number 2.


The most primitive thing in the old days was the mode of transport. We used to travel in Kevin Fahey’s cattletruck. I used to ride the bike down the road and help Kev put the tarp on. For those privileged to have known the late Kev, they would know he used to be a little temperamental to say the least. He used to call me E.J. and poor old E.J. used to get a hard time if K.J. happened to be running late. After delivering a load of cattle in the morning the old truck didn’t get a very thorough clean out either sometimes – but once inside we felt safe with K.J. because he was an extraordinary good driver.


One particular drive in Kev’s truck I’ll always remember was the day I broke my leg playing the prisoners over at French Island. There were no sealed roads those days and by the time we got to Dr. Alan Hewitt’ssurgery (Dr. Ian’s father) at Koo-Wee-Rup the corrugations felt a foot deep and they probably were.There were no stretchers those days nor was there any street lights. And in the pitch black darkness Bill Doherty and Mark Shade who were carrying me walked my broken leg into the gate post. Oh my God, the pain! The leg couldn’t be put in plaster for a week because of the swelling.


There has been some great characters at Cora-Lynn over the years but two stand out above the others.


Number 1 of course would be George Krygger, known throughout Gippsland by his many aliases – such as Dynamite George, Gorgeous George, The Gippsland Gun, etc. Only for two wonky ankles George would have played League football at Carlton. George was the master of the spectacular mark. And even in the most tense of situations he would hold the ball aloft for all to see. One day a very technical umpire was giving George a hard time – so at quarter time he went over and approached the umpire. “Big crowd ump”, said George, which drew the reluctant reply, “yeah huge”. George then raised his voice a little as he said, “now look here young fella, every one of those people came here to see me play football, not you blowing that bl…y whistle all the time.


In his sixties now, George still maintains he has the body of an Olympic athlete.


Another great character and one of the greatest charmer’s I’ve ever known was Bill Hornsby who came to Cora-Lynn from Wagga Wagga and was stuck with the name of ‘Wagga Bill’. Bill used to do the most wonderful things on the football field, and some of the most dreadful. One day in a final at Garfield he had the chance to be a hero. With a minute to go we were two points behind and Bill soared above the pack and took this glorious mark no more than a yard out from goal, but we were all very apprehensive as to what this perfect physical specimen who could have won Mr. Australia would do. Now up he comes to take the kick. “My God! My God!” I said. I think he’s going to run around the man on the mark. Then in the shockingly muddy goal square he opted for the drop kick. The elevation of the kick was such that the man on the mark was doubled up in excruciating pain. Wagga Bill wasn’t unduly upset after the game and kept asking, “Why are they all blaming me”? I shouldn’t have brought this subject up because I just know it is going to trigger off again the dreadful nightmare I had for ten years over that kick.


Jack Carroll was another great character and outstanding player. I still remember the satisfaction I got watching Jack sign the clearance form down on the Bayles’ farm. He had just come from the strong VFA club, Brighton (now defunct), the previous two seasons were played with Collingwood. The country young fellows those days were not very keen about playing League football.


I remember the day Jack kicked a vital goal with a broken ankle. I remember the day too when he split my eyebrow that necessitated six stitches. With blood streaming down my face he chastised me for getting in his way – said Jack, “I was going to grab it off the pack, throw it onto my boot and bash it through”. Apologetically I said, “Sorry Jack”!


One day at Koo-Wee-Rup, we were playing the last match before the finals and the team that won took the fourth spot. A farmer from Yannathan named Jack O’Connor was umpiring this day and at the final bell we were 4 points behind. Jack obviously didn’t hear the bell and allowed 2 more kicks, which landed the ball in our Digger Miller’s hands. About 35 yards out, and Jack showing uncharacteristic sternness (if that’s the right word) insisted that Digger have his kick. Then all of a sudden all hell broke loose as people came from everywhere. Next thing poor old Jack was prostrate on the ground with the Koo-Wee-Rup legend Carbine Shelton astride him with both hands around his throat threatening to finish him once and for all. In the meantime one of the Colvin’s whizzed off down the street with the only ball in the place. Finally, somehow we got the ball back about 20 minutes later. During all of the commotion Digger sat placidly with a cigarette in his mouth on the spot from where the kick was to be taken – every now and then moving his big backside a bit to improve the angle. And after what seemed an eternity, Digger still with the cigarette in his mouth, took his kick -with nearly everyone at the match on his mark, he drove it right through the middle. Digger was such a calm bloke we didn’t have any doubt that he would kick the goal. Was that cheating? Sorry Koo-Wee and if you happen to be looking down from up there Carbine – sorry mate!


We have had some great players over 5 decades. It would be a very dangerous exercise to list them because I’m bound to leave out the one I shouldn’t have. But on second thoughts I’ll name John Dineen as my best player, a photo finish with several others. John’s long strides made it easy for him to break away from the pack and he could kick the ball out of sight. I was at the M.C.G. the day he made his debut in the centre for Hawthorn. He was opposed to established Melbourne champion centreman, in Laurie Mithen. John more than held his own that day.


Another thing I remember from years gone by was the club’s Saturday Night Dances. They were a great money spinner for years. Some of the young bucks didn’t think their day was complete unless they had had a fight. Yes it was a potent brew that C.U.B. made then. Half a dozen glasses and you were ready for anything. At one stage there were teeth all over the hall yard. The place was starting to get a bad name and this particular night I was on the door taking the money and had some minor role in running the dance. I could see that there was some sort of trouble going on outside so I went out and in a very authoritative voice I said, “What’s going on here!” and whack down I went. When I got up I don’t know how much later, I felt I had a broken cheekbone – it probably was broken, I don’t know if they had X Rays then. I also had a badly lacerated lip and a broken tooth. I never ever got around to asking Pat which of the boys got me that night, I suspect it might have been Pat himself. Yes I remember it well!


There has been so many wonderful people, officials and players associated with football at Cora-Lynn over the years. Again it would be a very dangerous area to touch on because I would again miss out on someone I shouldn’t have, but I know I’ll be forgiven if I single out two people – George Richardson and Phil Dillon. What the late George contributed to football at Cora-Lynn would fill a book and my late brother Phil did so much in his unassuming, unobtrusive way that people weren’t aware of 30 odd years as timekeeper for instance.


And the Dutch community – how wonderfully supportive of the club they have been for such a long time. And no Cora-Lynn story would be complete without mentioning Don. He used to live with his father at Cora-Lynn. Nowadays he is a resident at Berkeley Lodge at Garfield. Don, mildly retarded, lives for football at Cora-Lynn and is the worst loser imaginable. When we were having a bad trot some years ago he threatened he was going to do laps at Garfield.


Each year at the wind-up he marches up to the stage absolutely beaming to get his little silver cup trophy. His late father Cr Dick Wakenshaw, Shire President, Pakenham Show Secretary etc. presented the large ground clock at Cora-Lynn in appreciation of what the football fraternity at Cora-Lynn has done for Don.


The great Frosty Miller ex Garfield champ who went on to play well at Carlton and then went on to be a goal kicking sensation in VFA at Dandy was being interviewed on T.V. and was not too proud to say, although I forget the lead up question, “There’s not many better thrills in footy than to play well in a Grand Final at Cora-Lynn in the West Gippsland League” Ah yes, I remember it all so well!  I still call Cora-Lynn home.



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  1. Hey Bob, how is the Lang Lang book going?

  2. Roseville Rocket says

    Marvellous recollection.

    The fights after the footy.

    Not just all Catholics it seems with the Dutch involved.

    Footy really does draw a community together.

  3. citrus bob says

    Noelmc – the book is now running down the straight. Just waiting on a couple of things then of to the printers. Lanch? see how the AFL goes might do it at the GF between Geelong and West Coast. Better order your copy now!

    Roseville Rocket – yes, it was a treasure when Michael Dillon forwarded it to me. The Dillons and Egans were the lifeblood of football around Cora Lynn for nearly 100 years and STILL ARE!
    I have often mentioned the extraordinary people from that spud area who have made it to the top in sport and now I can also add Dr Analise Van Dieman the Deputy Health Office in Victoria.
    NOTE: Eddie Dillon died in 2004 and his family have only recently found these notes. Makes you wonder just what is out there of this nature.

  4. Hayden Kelly says

    What a wonderful read .I suspect most of the smaller bush clubs would have had similar characters and similar tales to tell . It is a pity they weren’t all captured and recalled in the style of Eddie’s writing .

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