Ex-Blue gets leather poisoning

In the Sheds
By Paul Daffey

Readers may remember a bag-of-bones midfielder with blond hair who played for Carlton in the Denis Pagan era. His name was Jon “Hopper” McCormick, and although he impressed during his 26 AFL games he was offloaded after the 2004 season. In recent years McCormick has lived in his home town, Wangaratta, and played for the Wangaratta footy club. He’s won a Morris Medal for best and fairest in the strong Ovens and Murray league and he’s been the main reason Wangaratta has won the past two flags. All the while he’s remained his own man, as shown through his mane of hair, his predilection for surfing holidays, his reluctance to talk to the media, and his decision to miss half of last season because he was visiting his girlfriend in England. When he returned to the field it was if he’d never left. Most Wang fans believe McCormick is the best Ovens and Murray player they’ve seen.

A FEW rounds ago McCormick gathered 17 possessions in the first quarter against Wodonga. The following week, Wangaratta supporter Alan Mills decided to count the stringy midfielder’s possessions during the first quarter against North Albury. “There’s one,” he said. “There’s another.” Mills kept adding up as the midfielder picked up possessions whether in tight or as a link man. Supporters who were sitting with Mills realised they were seeing something special. By the end of the term Mills had counted 23 possessions. “And every touch went to a teammate,” he said. The club’s statisticians counted 22 possessions. McCormick also kicked three goals. Few who were at Bunton Park, North Albury, for that quarter are likely to forget it.

WANGARATTA coach Jason Lappin is not one to mention individuals during his addresses, but he made an exception at quarter-time against North Albury (who ironically are known as the Hoppers). “It was the best quarter I’ve seen anyone play,” Lappin said. North Albury playing-coach Travis Hodgson has a young team that he’s trying to develop. As McCormick wreaked havoc, Hodgson debated with himself before leaving 20-year-old Kane Goode on the Wang champion as an educational experience. “He would have learned more in those 30 minutes than he has in our other four games.” At quarter-time, Hodgson put a more nullifying player, 18-year-old James Brain, on to McCormick and the ploy worked — to an extent. McCormick ended up with 48 possessions as Wang won by five goals.

DURING the following week, while Hodgson was watching a tape of the match, he counted McCormick’s possessions in the first quarter to verify whether the reports of his possessions count were true. Sure enough, he counted 22. “He got most of them around the centre or forward or the centre,” Hodgson said. “They were all very damaging.” Hodgson, 32, who’s played for North Albury for the past decade, said McCormick’s quarter is the best he’s seen. But in terms of a full match, he can’t go past the performance of former Geelong and Hawthorn half-forward Tim Hargreaves while playing for Yarrawonga against North Albury in 1999. Hargreaves kicked five goals from the centre on a big day out.

IN THE Ovens and Murray round just completed, McCormick was kept relatively quiet on Sunday by a first-gamer from Wangaratta’s arch-rival, Wangaratta Rovers. Despite the performance of the Rovers’ Anthony Simpson, McCormick managed to kick two goals and finish among his team’s best players in its six-goal win. Jason Lappin estimated that McCormick picked up 35 possessions. “It was a standard day at the office for him,” he said. Lappin’s brother Matthew, the former Carlton half-forward, was set to make his Wangaratta debut against the Rovers before being a late withdrawal. As the forwards coach at Carlton, Matthew was forced to honour a late request to watch young Blues play for VFL club Northern Bullants. Jason said his brother’s Wangaratta debut has been rescheduled until the match against Myrtleford on May 30.

TRAVIS Hodgson’s North Albury went down to Wodonga by five goals on Saturday. Hodgson was very pleased with the performance of Kane Goode on Matt Shir, the Wodonga star who was on AFL lists at Adelaide and Richmond. But he was mostly impressed by the performance of his captain Daniel Leslie, who took 17 marks and kicked seven goals from centre half-forward. Hodgson said Leslie’s performance just about matched that of Hargreaves for Yarrawonga 10 years ago.

IF YOU’RE talking possessions in a country footy match, there’s no going past the performance of Damian Sexton for Blighty against Deniliquin Rovers in a Picola and District league match in 1999. Sexton played four games for St Kilda in 1990. He was also a country footy star for 20 years before retiring as a player in 2007, when he was 38. Yes, Blighty might play in a tinpot competition when you look at the scheme of Sexton’s career. And, yes, Sexton’s Redeyes might have beaten Deni Rovers by more than 50 goals in this particular match (with David Sullivan kicking 26 goals). But even so, any footballer who picks up 72 possessions in a game deserves credit. In 2009 Sexton is coaching the Murray league squad and the Victorian Country under-19 squad.

JEFF Andrews was Blighty’s statistician in 1999. His policy was to call the game for two thirds (under-17) players who took down the details. Andrews, a farmer in Blighty, which is halfway between Finley and Deniliquin, said yesterday he’s been asked a few times whether he’s sure about Sexton’s figures against Deni Rovers and his answer is always that they’re “legit”. “I don’t miss too much,” he said. Andrews said Sexton was renowned for taking the kick-out at full-back, receiving the ball back via a handball and then linking up downfield to have a shot at goal. “He never stopped running.” Andrews is now the seconds coach at Blighty. On the weekend, the Redyes’ firsts and seconds lost close tussles to Berrigan. “I can’t get my boys to train,” he said.


  1. Surely you wrote that while eating a pie? I almost choked when I read: “IF YOU’RE talking possessions in a country footy match, there’s no going past the performance of Damian Sexton for Blighty against Deniliquin Rovers in a Picola and District league match in 1999.” That is pure gold. But each para must have been punctuated by a roof-of-the-mouth-burning bite of goodness. There’s no other explanation.

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