Gary ‘Alby’ Menzel: The Social Butterfly

 

Photo:
http://www.redlegsmuseum.com.au/ON_FIELD/PLAYERS/MENZEL__Gary.aspx

 

Gary Menzel, aka Alby, is a social butterfly, knows everybody and is the life of the party. He is the numero uno of the mayor’s parlour half time functions at Norwood home games, but back to the beginning…..

 

Gary is the son of Frank and Mary, and has brothers Wayne and Raymond and a sister Dianne. He grew up in Murrayville (home of Rachel Sporn and Larry Perkins). Incredibly Frank and his brother Alan married sisters Mary and Joan who lived next door to each other at one stage.

 

Gary was chopping wood at the farm for Alan who went to check on the pile that Gary had chopped. Lo and behold very little there, Gary had taken it all home so Alan called Gary a pommy bastard hence the original nickname Pom which subsequently became Alby re the albino blond hair (the great man John Wynne called Alby cotton top).

 

Gary at the tender age of ten started playing for Ngallo Colts. He played in Ngallo’s only Colts premiership in 1973 and in 1974. He also won the Lameroo Districts Colts mail medal and leading goal kicker, starting the last round 12 goals in arrears. He runs into his main competitor who happily informs Gary he kicked 8. He didn’t believe him when Gary informed him he kicked 27! (Alby let on the instructions were to to feed him ridiculously by the coach – mission accomplished to win the goal kicking trophy).

 

In 1975 Gary played under the coaching of Gary Sporn, winning a senior premiership for Ngallo against arch rivals Pinarroo. During the season great Norwood recruiter Wally Hearn had ventured to go and have a look at Alby, subsequently the legend administrator
Wally Miller came out to the sheep farm to sign Alby up.

 

In 1976 Alby started his career at Norwood, winning the under 19’s best team man award and in 1977 under the coaching of Malcolm Smith came 3rd in the Tompkins medal and won the Norwood under 19s best and fairest as well as playing 2 reserves games.

 

In 1978 Alby made his League debut against West Torrens as a late call up for Rod Pope and played in a back pocket for the first time in his life (Alby wasn’t shattered that he was never requested to play in a back pocket ever again), he also played on a wing standing the late Bruce Light, definitely a battle of the blond bombshells.

 

Alby played in 11 league games including in the finals only to hurt his driver and miss the preliminary final against Port and missed selection in the League side for the wonderful bolt in 1 point centenary premiership win against Sturt, but had the satisfaction of playing in the reserves premiership against West Adelaide.

 

In 78-79 Alby played in Darwin for St Mary’s and made the Northern Territory state side. Alby had a sensational week playing in a Victoria cricket ompetition for Murrayville (he was a swashbuckling opening batsman, a real goer), then on the
Tuesday played in a victorious Norwood side against Hawthorn in a trial game, the Legs winning by a point (have a look at the Hawthorn side they were at full strength back in the good old days when the SANFL and VFL comps were comparable) and St Mary’s had won a preliminary final but had lost 3 players to suspension contacted Norwood to get permission for Alby to play, Bob Hammond gave his permission and Alby delivered the chocolates in the grand final.

 

The Norwood and Hawthorn teams from the trial game the Redlegs won by a point

 

Gary Menzel signing to play for St Mary’s

 

Alby continued his progression playing 17 games in 1979, but it was in 1980 Alby really arrived at SANFL level forming a lethal roving combination with Greg Turbill, both being very efficient around the goals. Alby played all 26 games and won the most improved award with the Legs storming home from 5th spot, losing the grand final against a star studded Port Adelaide side, Alby had a fantastic finals series.

 

 

In 1981 Alby continued on his merry way, winning the goal kicking award with 37 from 21 games until he broke his leg late in the season (Alby ironically broke his leg trying to even up after he felt Graham Cornes had delivered a elbow to Robert Barton, Alby you bloody idiot you were competing with Rob Barton for a spot and just think if you had done it properly what you could have done for the SA public!).

 

 

 

 

Alby hurt his leg again against South Fremantle in a trial game at the start of the 1982 season, it turned out that his leg hadn’t healed properly from his 1981 injury and had to be rebroken and reset, he was in plaster for 8 weeks only returning late in the season to play 1 league game and several reserves games.

 

In 82-83 Alby played for St Mary’s in Darwin in a losing grand final.

 

In 1983 Alby played 11 league games and came runner up in the reserves best and fairest.

 

In 1984 injuries again restricted Alby and the arrival of Greg Thomas and Rick Neagle limited his opportunities, he was informed he was lacking the X factor and missed selection in the history makers redlegs premiership team.

 

In 1985 Alby played 5 league games playing his 100th game and Captained the reserves Premiership team. He repeated the dose in the star studded 1985 and 1986 reserves flags. Rodney and Brenton Maynard, Andrew Aish, Jim Michlanney, Brenton Klaebe, I could go on and on. The hardest part of captaining the side was tossing the coin and the Grand Final was a cliffhanger at the opening bounce with the Legs predictably winning both by margins of 102 points in 1985 and by 83 points in 1986. This turned out to be his last game for Norwood, Alby spoke to several other league clubs but alas nothing eventuated.

 

Alby again played in Darwin in 87-88 and after kicking 5 goals in the preliminary final was a more than controversial omission from St Mary’s grand final side, the coach actually apologised explaining he just had to pick a local. Alby was understandably having trouble getting motivated for the reserves grand final, he heard he was at odds of 14 to 1 to win the Grand Final best on ground Clarke medal. He may have had a flutter on himself and duly saluted, ironically the medal as it turned out being presented by the bookmaker (named after his father), the cash may have been given through gritted teeth!

 

Alby returned to his home club Ngallo from 1987 to 1994 and it was a fantastic successful era winning 5 flags in a row, winning a mail medal in 1989 and the club best and fairest and the flag.

 

Ngallo FC reunion (+ some ring ins) at a Norwood FC game in 2018

 

Alby coached the club in 1993 and 1994, including a flag in 1993.

Alby then returned to Adelaide, coaching the amalgamated Payneham and Norwood Union football clubs who became the Payneham-Norwood Union Falcons. This was around the time when SAFA and SAAFL competitions had also amalgamated so it was an era of uncertainty and almost trial and error in which grade clubs should be in it, it wasn’t an easy gig, certainly a time when Alby’s ability to connect relationships and have fun was important at Payneham, finals were narrowly missed in both seasons.

 

In 1997 Alby returned to The Parade and it understandably gave him immense satisfaction to be an assistant coach under Peter Rohde in winning a league Premiership. Alby coached the Norwood under 19’s in 1998 and 1999.

 

Bob Hammond was the major influence on Albys career and loved playing with the salt and earth of the club in Frank Stemper, Danny Jenkins, Greg Turbill and the late Jim Thiel. Alby played in 15 senior grand finals for Norwood, St Mary’s and Ngallo, winning 11, admitting the frustration is not playing in a senior Norwood League premiership side but is very proud to have represented such a proud and professional football club.

 

Alby is proud of his children Rhys and Alecia and their mother Sue.

Alby first worked in the meat game then in the quarries under Nerio Ferraro and has been the much loved groundsman at Marryatville HS for 20 plus years.

The Mayor’s Parlour is the half time function at Norwood home games, yes hosted by the Mayor Robert Bria, the guy on the door is not nicknamed Adolph for nothing.

Alby is the only person who could bluff his way into each game with out a ticket often accompanied by his great mate, Sturt and St Mary’s champion Michael ‘Flash’ Graham.

Alby went over to China for Port Power’s first game in that country, Keith Thomas may have been more nervous about Alby gate crashing Ports official function than the game itself!

 

James Fantasia, Rick Neagle, Neville Roberts, Tom Warhurst, Michael Taylor, Gary Menzel, Justin Scanlon, Gary McIntosh & Brenton Klaebe

 

Alby is a mover and shaker and is a social butterfly. He is a vital part of the Norwood FC past players group, always chasing guys up to join and attend events, every sporting club needs folk like Alby! (love folks to add their Alby experiences, please share the article, thank you!)

Comments

  1. Great story on a great club man and a really nice guy
    I run into Albyeverywhete, Melb Adelaide bars clubs etc etc, a very social man is Alby

  2. Bill Drodge says:

    Great read Malcolm!

  3. Manny Koufalakis says:

    Really appreciate these write ups Malcolm. Old enough to have seen these players play for Norwood and love the background information about them. Hopefully when the club rooms are finally built I may actually meet some of them personally.

  4. Jill Tathra says:

    Another great read mate. Its great that the players stay with their clubs even after retiring as it must become a family to them. Yes I know he moved around but it looks as if he has always been a Norwood man.

  5. Angela Rawson says:

    Really enjoyed the article Malcolm. We had one of those little plastic Norwood players who sat on top of birthday cakes and he had very blonde hair, so no surprises his name was Alby. Thus, Alby was an integral part of all our family’s celebrations!

  6. G’day Rulebook,

    Thanks for your story.

    I always thought he was Alby because of Alby Mangels but now I’m thinking it’s the other way around.

    Is he related to Boo menzel of Kapunda fame?

    And of course Daniel?

    JTH

  7. Gary Bennett AKA Fisho says:

    A most enjoyable read Malcolm. In my mind’s eye I can still see a most courageous Alby giving his all for the team – wonderful memories. He and Turbs sure made a fantastic combo. After reading and enjoying your many sporting articles I believe you are far better than the sports writers in the press. Please keep up the good work.

  8. Michael Rehn says:

    A great write up Malcolm about a bloke who was a great player at Norwood, and an even greater person !!! Just about everyone who played, served or just supported the club, during the “Alby era” would have connected with him, such was his ability to impact and involve people. Many of us, no doubt, would have fond memories of some of the events Alby organized as player fund raisers too, though sadly in the politically correct world of today, we’re probably obliged to forget the fun we had then !!! Gary “Alby” Menzel, an all time Norwood favourite son !!!

  9. Alby has become a legend in his own time with an infectious enthusiasm for the game and life in general. He was a crowd favourite back in the day and still is among Redlegs supporters.

  10. Martin Rumsby says:

    Always good to read about the background of former Norwood players and to gain an insight of their lives beyond football. Thank you for the time you put in to research and write these articles, Malcolm. As a supporter, I really enjoy seeing former players attending games and contributing to the club – Alby is certainly one of those players!

  11. Another great job ‘Book. When I was a kid I remember Alby working with that other nimble ‘Leg, Greg Turbill. As one who also worked at Marryatville HS I knew Alby too, but only vaguely.

    I did gain an insight into Alby’s extra-curricular life when way back before the change of millenium I took some students to the North Adelaide golf course on an end of year excursion. I didn’t have a mobile phone then- many folks didn’t- so I was given a phone to take for the day. It was the work phone that Alby usually had. It was a Friday, and while it didn’t ring once per hole, it was close.

    I’d answer and a gruff voice would bark, “Is that Alby?” I’d reply no. The voice would say, “Oh where’s Alby?” At work, I’d offer. This is the phone he’s usually on. Can I take a message? “Yeah.” What’s it about, I’d invite. “I’ve got a tip for him. Race 5, Caulfield, number 7.” And, on it went. As the day progressed I was more PA to Alby than teacher/ golf course hacker. Judging by the background noise, the calls increasingly came from front bars like the Robin Hood, Norwood and Bath Hotels.

    I did hope that my having his phone that December Friday didn’t cost Alby an earn, or two.

  12. JTH- Alby and Boo aren’t related. But if I dwell upon it, they do share much in common.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Coke that does not surprise me in the slightest.Bill thank you.Manny thank you and definitely.Jill I think at Sanfl and community level both city and country is does become family.Angela very appropriate thank you.JTH not a close relation but may be distant I like the Alby Mangels part.Gary greatly appreciated I admit I do a fair bit of research.Michael yes re the title v much a social butterfly and yes those shows were interesting to say the least.Wynton well said.Martin yes our crowds would be far larger if all past players had the enthusiasm and connection re Alby.Mickey brilliant and yes I can hear that phone ringing and spot on re locations of the calls thanks folks

  14. Well done again Mal, but looks as tho Alby might have wrote it for you never one to down play his ability ?

  15. Mark Whittington says:

    A great read Malcolm, well done. Always look forward to seeing Alby at Past Player functions. He was always someone I looked up to in the early 80’s. see ya soon Gary!

  16. Another great read, seems like a really great bloke!

  17. Andrew Meaney says:

    Great write up mate. Shared.

    Didn’t know the link to NTFL and the Saints. A fantastic unique league. Off to Nightcliff this Sunday.

  18. David Campbell says:

    2 of the best social years I had at Payneham when Alby was coaching. Win loss wasn’t great on the field but had some cracking Sessions’s.
    It was always entertaining waiting for him to open that butterfly sanctuary of a wallet.
    Good times, good bloke and what a great career

  19. Kevin Hisee says:

    I worked at Alby’s current employ, Marryatville High School on a temporary placement. The locks have gone and he’s bald as a badger, but he’s a real top bloke. He’s the maintenance man and very respected by both staff and students.

  20. Paul Kassara says:

    A true Clubman! Had the pleasure of being playing under him when he was coaching the junior grades, and still enjoy catching up with him!

  21. Great article Malcolm. Would love to have a beer with Alby or Michael Graham

  22. Another great article Rulebook. Alby appears to have had quite a career, both on-and-off the field!

  23. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Keep ’em coming ‘Book, another great character. When are you going to cover Slippery Dick Anderson?

  24. Nice one Rulebook. Alby is always welcome at the Mayor’s Parlour. It wouldn’t be the same without him.

  25. Good work Mal great write up
    Alby at Marryatville top bloke I remember

  26. Ross Dillon says:

    Alby Menzel is definitely one of Norwood’s favourites.. the personality alone demands it
    Ngallo .. I have driven past often but am still to locate the home of the Legend .
    Always courageous , always creative , never giving in , always great to play with ,
    would go under trucks to get the footy and a friend of all of us for life .

  27. Michael Aish says:

    Wonderful Norwood man is Alby. He was very good up forward taking many marks in the forward half. Probably got most of his votes on end of season footy trips.

  28. Luke Reynolds says:

    Another great read Malcolm, those Norwood and Hawthorn lists from that trial game look very impressive, top effort by the Redlegs to win.

  29. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff Book. Love learning about the history and characters of Norwood and the SANFL. Onya Alby !

  30. Michael Coligan says:

    Another great profile of a Norwood past player Malcolm. Alby is a true
    clubman, always at home games and club functions and is very entertaining.
    He also keeps all the bus passengers entertained heading up The Parade after
    Adelaide ‘Crows’ games. I got to know him and his ‘Port Adelaide mates’
    better at Sydney Airport in May last year when we were heading to Shanghai
    for the inaugural AFL match in China.

  31. Informative piece “Rulebook.” Like so many of the rovers in the 80s, Menzel did his best work ahead of centre, and formed a dynamic combination with Greg Turbill. Remember his clash with Cornes breaking his leg at Football Park and was never quite the same player after that unfortunate injury.

  32. Craig Fester Paech says:

    Love it Rulebook. More stories on our Club Characters are what we need, not just the “names” or “Premiership Heroes”.
    Summer series perhaps?

  33. Great read Malcolm

  34. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Schmaaly well played.Whitto thank you good to see you and Schmally on Friday.Campbell thank you.
    David socially def Albys strong point ahh yes the wallet opening.Kevin yes Albys character a huge asset for Marryatville.Raj I reckon I can arrange that.Paul thank you.Swish I reckon a stable of females would be running for cover if we did Slippery dick.Rob I reckon,Albys pinnacle was the game you welcomed him and he wasn’t there,Alby at the mayors parlour has become a institution.Brenton thank you.Ross yes bloody courageous in the packs and huge socially.Aishy yep a bloody good mark and no doubt what so ever in the votes on footy trips.Luke yep I know vics won’t agree but v little between the comps back then
    the hawks played virtually a full strength side and nothing like now days re time on the ground managed it was full on re both sides for the win.Phillip thank you.Michael yep great clubman I can just imagine re those bus trips and the airport.Lachlan thank you and yes never the same after breaking his leg.
    Fester thank you and yep intend to do at least one a month thanks folks

  35. Dispite his size I thought of him as an unofficial Centre Half Forward,he often popped up with a mark at CHF.

  36. Vince Musolino says:

    I got to play for Alby while he coached Payneham. He was tough as nails and very inspirational. He used to play” up there Cazaly” in the change rooms before games, great memories.

  37. Geoffrey Wilson says:

    Another great read Malcolm on a another true Norwood Legend to this day. I had the great privilege to meet Gary back in the early days when he was working for another Norwood legend in Garth Hutchinson, the Norwood ball steward, who were doing some work for my Father Norm at home and at the Norwood Aged Cottage Homes. Gary and Greg Turbill were a lethal roving combination in the Norwood sides of the early 80″s under The Great Neil Balme, unfortunately both were cut down before they reached there prime due to serious knee and leg injuries. To this day i believe Gary showed a duty of care unheard of back then, which resulted in his broken leg, which never allowed him to get back to the player he was. Gary forged on at Norwood, St Marys, Ngallo and Payneham, not worrying what might have been, but striving to be the best he he could be, which i truly admire. I always look forward to hosting Gary and all the Norwood Past Players in The Magnificent Coopers Box during the season and of course, the half time banter in The Great Mayors Parlor, well done Gary.

  38. Doug Wade says:

    Cheers Rulebook loved watching him as a kid…what an amazing squad 2 break into!

  39. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    DG Alby certainly had a ability to find a hole and take a mark inside fifty.Vince it would have been entertaining.Geoff yes Alby and Turbs were sensational together yes trying to do the right thing and even up didn’t help him unfortunately.Alby a huge part of all 3 clubs.Doug thank you,appreciate the comments and all who are sharing the article

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