Fierce rivals draw at Rochy in the opening round of 1954

ROCHESTER and Echuca fought out a torrid draw in the Bendigo Football League’s opening round 60 years ago.

Trailing for most of the day Rochy added 3.4 in a hectic last term while holding the Murray Bombers to a mere three behinds.

The Bendigo Advertiser’s reporter at the Rochester ground on April 24th 1954 wrote that the home side surprised the large crowd by the way they fought back in the last term to draw with Echuca: 12.12 (84) apiece.

In other first round fixtures Sandhurst sneaked home by nine points over QEO co-tenants South Bendigo, Golden Square accounted for 1953 premiers Eaglehawk by 34 points, while Castlemaine registered 41 scoring shots to dispose of Kyneton by 62 points.

The only black note for the Maine came when recruit John     Kinnard fell and broke his wrist during the final term of the seconds game.

And in a minor last quarter sensation at the Wade Street ground Square follower Max James grabbed the ball, burst through the pack and booted the leather the wrong way.


ECHUCA looked the better team for three quarters in the big clash at Rochester between the arch-rivals.

The Murray Bombers led 12.9 to 9.8 at three-quarter time with Joe Kenna and Len Johnson (3 goals) starring for Echuca.

Rochy gradually chipped away at Echuca’s lead despite the hard work of Murray Bombers’ defender Preston.

In the closing few moments Walsh added a single, followed up by a goal, for Rochester to reduce the margin to a single point.

Herb Zegelin and Ron ‘Pottsy’ Watson (four goals on the day) combined to give Jim Brooks a chance. His kick would decide whether the Round 1 match would end up as a win, a draw or a defeat.

“Brooks could manage only a behind, and the crowd cheered for the tie,” the Addy reporter at the game wrote.

Votes in the Ashman’s Award went to – 3: Ron Watson (Roch). 2: L. Johnson (Ech) and 1: E. Sinclair (Roch).


EAGLEHAWK blooded two teenagers in Round 1 six decades ago.

Sixteen-year-old ‘giant’ Denis Strauch booted three of the Two Blues’ eight goals. Strauch had taken the berth vacated by super-boot Harry Morgan.

Strauch had played ruck and half-forward for Eaglehawk towards the end of the 1953 season after being moved up from the Thirds.

Neville Gray, 19, had been handed George Ilsley’s spot on the Borough half-forward line. Unlike Strauch, Gray had not played with the Two Blues in 1953.

He didn’t boot a major against the Square. Golden Square’s playing coach Norm McDonald, the former Essendon and Victorian interstate star, completely blanketed Gray.

At full-back Vin Lapsley was another sound player for the Square along with co-defenders Budge and Catto.

Square led by five goals at the long break before the Two Blues unleashed a third quarter revival.

The Hawks scored 3.4 with the Square almost keeping up with a score of 2.4. With Keith Elliott (6 goals) in charge up forward Golden Square banged home 5.5 to 2.2 to run out easy winners.

Elliott led the BFL goalkicking table at the end of the first round with his teammate Hunter (4 goals) close behind.

Votes in the Ashman’s Award – 3: J. Hunter (GS). 2: R. Harvey (Eh). 1: N. McDonald (GS).


THERE was a pre-game sensation at the Camp Reserve.

Players wore guernseys sporting different numbers from their official ones.

In the Monday newspaper wrap-up under the heading ‘Briefs From Games’ it was noted that Castlemaine’s and Kyneton’s players ran out not wearing the jumper numbers registered in the BFL’s official publication or guide.

“Spectators are hoping that there will not be a repeat performance next Saturday,” the item read.

The Magpies were ahead by seven goals at half-time and had restricted the Tigers to just 2.5 for an entire half of footy.

Centre half-forward Les Murray (four goals), ruckman Heinz Tonn, Des Fitzpatrick and full-forward Doug Cracknell — a 20-year-old draughtsman who had played with Chewton in the old Castlemaine District Football League — were in the Maine’s best.

They had to withstand a bit of a revival from Kyneton in the third quarter. The Tigers added five goals to four with rovers Slee and Quinn (three goals for the day) sharking a lot of the hitouts from Tonn and Fitzpatrick.

Votes in the Ashman’s Award – 3: L. Murray (Cm). 2: H. Tonn (Cm). 1: J. McCarthy (Kyn).


GRAHAM Arthur (later to captain Hawthorn in the VFL) and Don Blackmore led the Hurst attack as the Maroons always held a slight edge over South in the QEO clash.

Arthur (3 majors) and Blackmore (four) combined for seven of Sandhurst’s 13 while Salathiel (3) and Jim Elvey (2) were South Bendigo’s main avenues to goal.

Behind by 29 points at the final change, Bloods’ coach Alan McDonald realized changes were needed to get his side functioning better. The changes helped but they were too late, the Addy scribe noted.

With so many big players in his side, Maroons’ coach Kevin Curran was able to play as a defender for most of the match.

South added six goals to three in the final quarter but it was too little, too late.

The Advertiser man at the game said best of the many recruits on display were Sandhurst’s Peter Dinsdale from Rutherglen and Jack Byrne, formerly of YCW, also of the Maroons.

“Dinsdale is a reliable mark and a fairly accurate kick,” he wrote.

Ashman’s Award votes — 3: D. Carter (SB). 2: K. Curran (Sh). 1: F. Lenaghan (SB).


Final scores

Rochester 12.12 (84) drew Echuca 12.12 (84).

Castlemaine 16.25 (121) def. Kyneton 8.11 (59).

Sandhurst 13.11 (89) def. South Bendigo 12.8 (80).

Golden Square 13.15 (93) def. Eaglehawk 8.11 (59).

*In three final practice matches held before the start of the 1954 Bendigo Football Association season White Hills, North Bendigo and Kennington ran out winners.

North’s forwards Graham Thompson (seven goals) and coach Bill Redmond dominated in the clash against Kangaroo Flat.

At the suburban Atkins Street oval North won 11.18 to 8.4.

At the White Hills Oval, YCW thrashed Provincial 11.13 to 3.4 while Kennington downed White Hills at Neale Street after running on a completely different side for the second half.


From the Bendigo Advertisers of Friday April 23rd and Monday April 26th, 1954. Accessed at the Bendigo library’s Goldfields Research Centre, Hargreaves Street, Bendigo.


Richard’s tips for Round 1, 2014: Gisborne by 33 points, Sandhurst by 28, Eaglehawk by 13, Strath Storm by 9 and Kangaroo Flat by 21.

2013 season total (including grand final): 62.

Predictions for 2014’s Top Five: Strath Storm, Golden Square, Gisborne, Sandhurst and Eaglehawk.

Premiers: Strathfieldsaye Storm. Season’s big improver: Gisborne. Biggest slider: Eaglehawk.

Michelsen Medal: Ryan Maldenis (Sandhurst). Ron Best MedaL: Stephen Milne (Storm). Wooden Spoon: Maryborough.









  1. Cat from the Country says

    I was 5 when this footy was played. I spent many Saturday arvos supporting the Castlemaine Magpies at home at Camp Reserve and, when I could cagde a lift at Kyneton, Golden Square, Bendigo, Eaglehawlk, Rochy and Echuca.
    Those were the days of very small player payments, if any.
    Training Tuesdays and Thursdays an all games played on Saturday. I would love all games to be played on Saturdays again.

  2. Doctor Rocket says

    Always good to read about Rochy. Even better if they beat Echuca.
    But in this instance a come from behind tie over the Murray Bombers will suffice.

    Played with sons of guns, Jim Brooks son of Joe, who kicked the behind, and Bruce Sinclair, son of Eric. Bruce was a massive unit, pig shooter by profession. Together with Crowbar Williams, son of Ron and brother of David, they thoroughly intimidated the opposition in the late 70s/early 80s – and were always at their best against Echuca!

    Not so sure about it being the era of lower match payments…
    Noel McMahen after captaining Melbourne to the flag in 56 went to coach Rochester for more money in 1957. And, of course, Bobby Rose famously went to Wang Rovers in 1956 for a big quid.

    Mick Grambeau was the highest paid footballer in Australia when he went to coach Ganmain in the Riverina in 1956. Reputedly, he was paid 70 quid a week, free rent and a milking cow!

  3. Richard Jones says

    COUNTRY cat could be referring to homegrown BFL products Rocket Nguyen.
    They certainly didn’t attract huge payments — unlike today — during their 1950s–1960s playing careers. Of course the VFL stars lured to regional & rural clubs did pocket very handy sums in those decades.

    Off-site you have asked about payments to ex-Hawk Kevin Curran when lured to Sandhurst and Alan ‘The Fox’ McDonald at South Bendigo. The Fox went on to coach Richmond after five BFL flags as South mentor, early to mid-Fifties.

    Not sure how much cabbage he held onto. In the Eighties he was a barman at the QEO-adjacent Rifle Brigade boozer/blood house. And lived in a modest inner-city dwelling.
    Will do some more checking on Curran.
    Golden Square had ex-Essendon Norm McDonald as coach while Country Cat’s Maine had Wally Culpitt in charge.

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