Hard as Cement

 

“Where is this bloke from?” asked Channel 7 football comentator Lou Richards.

 

“North Wagga” replied co-comentator Peter Landy.

 

It was just before half-time of the National Escort Championships between New South Wales and VFL club Fitzroy at the Sydney Showgrounds and the “rotund full-forward” from NSW had just kicked his 5th goal to give the Blues an eleven point lead at half-time.

 

The player in question was Laurie Pendrick, the NSW skipper, who had kicked his first 3 goals in quick succession early in the first quarter on the Victorian representative full-back Harvey Merrigan.

 

“When the Fitzroy runner came out to change him (Merrigan) over with the bloke wearing the head-gear (Chris Smith), I told him he’s no good either! I’ve played on better in the Riverina!”, Pendrick told me in the interview for this piece.

 

Such was the supreme confidence that was the trademark of arguably Wagga’s best-ever locally-produced player not to go to the VFL/AFL, although he did receive multiple offers to go to South Melbourne in the mid-1970s.

 

NSW playing under legendary VFL coach Allan Jeans took the game right up to Fitzroy in that pre-season game at the Sydney Showgrounds but faded in the second half to lose by 56 points. Pendrick ended up kicking six goals and being named best for NSW.

 

 

Laurie Pendrick was a young Wayne Carey’s hero when “Lozza” ruled the roost at North Wagga in the 1970s through what has been the club’s most successful period. Carey told Neil Cordy in a recent interview for the AFL NSW Hall of Fame nominations that:

“Laurie was my first football hero. He was a very good player and a standout in Wagga. He played in the centre but could go forward and kick goals. He was tough and hard and opposition fans hated him and North Wagga fans loved him”.

 

 

Pendrick grew up over the back fence from the Careys in the Mt Austin area in Wagga.

Laurie recalls playing kick-to-kick with Wayne’s older brother Dick in the back-yard; later, they would play and coach together at Collingullie in the twilight of their illustrious careers.

 

 

The Turvey Park Midget League is where Laurie began his football at the age of five. He would graduate through the ranks and make his debut at 16 for Turvey Park in the South West League in 1967. Like so many other Wagga boys he also played rugby league.

 

 

The pivotal moment that turned Laurie into a top-line footballer, and ultimately a successful coach was the arrival of Graham “Curly” Ion to coach Turvey Park in 1969. “Curly” was a star in Footscray’s 1961 grand final team under Ted Whitten but went to coach Deniliquin in 1966 leading them to a premiership and winning the competition best and fairest award.

 

 

“I was in awe of ‘Curly’. I wanted to be just like him, both on and off the field!” said Pendrick. “I became assistant coach to him and travelled to games with him in his brand-new Monaro GTS 350. He taught me everything.”

 

 

In 1973 “Lozza” went across the river to North Wagga to be assistant coach to Allan Hayes. Together they led the Saints to their first premiership since 1935.

 

 

Pendrick took up his first senior coaching appointment at Grong Grong Matong in 1975. He lifted the combine from the bottom rungs of the ladder into finals contention. He recalled his time at “Grongy” with great affection: “Great people, passionate about their football club. If we won the farmers would give me a fistful of dollars in the change rooms, buy me drinks at the pub, and leave a side of dressed lamb on the back seat of the car”.

 

 

He returned to North Wagga as captain-coach in 1976. He led North Wagga to a premiership over Collingullie and topped the Farrer league goal-kicking with 114 goals.

 

 

The following season “Lozza” had probably his best season of football: he won the Baz medal, topped the goal-kicking with 132 goals, and led the Saints into another grand final.

 

 

It was during this season that South Melbourne tried its hardest to entice Pendrick to the VFL. The Swans offered him $10K to sign and two players on the senior list to North Wagga as replacements. But North Wagga insisted he honour his contract to coach the club.

 

 

Pendrick would continue on as captain-coach of North Wagga, but then would embark on a remarkable football odyssey that would see him play and/or coach Newtown in Sydney (1979), QAFL club Coorparoo (1980 & 1984-86 including two premierships), North Wagga in 1981-83 (winning a Clear Medal) and again in 1987-88, Palm Beach-Currumbin on the Gold Coast (1989-90), Latrobe in Tasmania (1993), Collingullie (1996-1998), and Yarraville in the Western FL in Melbourne (2000-2001 including a premiership).

 

 

As captain-coach of Cooparoo he promoted Churchie school-boy Jason Dunstall to full-forward, who, of course, went onto forge a legendary career at Hawthorn following “Lozza’s” recommendation to his old NSW coach Allan Jeans, with whom he maintained a close relationship. Mary Jeans called him, at Allan’s request, just before he passed away.

 

 

According to long-time Wagga Tigers’ opponent Bevan Rowe, “Laurie was almost an unbeatable opponent. He had wonderful skills, enormous confidence, and was just so hard. He had massive influence on his teams, they followed him, and were absolutely fearless with him in charge”.

 

 

Laurie Pendrick represented NSW 11 times including captain-coach, and Queensland nine times including coaching the Maroons to the Division II championship wins in 1985.

 

 

He has been nominated to the inaugural AFL NSW Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

Comments

  1. Dan Hoban says

    Good article. NSW beating Fitzroy would be like Ireland beating England in cricket.
    So Pendrick was a Bush Bradman!
    I read Carey once kicked 15 goals from the centre (15.7 so 22 scoring shots) after his brother Dick offered to pay him a dollar a goal.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Rod – enjoyed this. I love hearing the stories of country football stars who were clearly good enough to make it at the top level if they had so desired. There were quite a few in this category, obviously.

  3. Dr Rocket says

    Thanks Kevin,

    The classic case is Pat Quade, the older brother of Rick and younger brother of Tom and Mick, who both went to North Melbourne. There were 14 in the family! Charlie Dixon is a nephew.

    Pat would shun all attempts to recruit him to the VFL; once Graeme Richmond visited the family farm at Ariah Park loaded with incentives, but when Pat saw the car coming up the drive he went down the back paddock to do some work on the tractor!

    It took countless visits by Norm Smith to get Rick to go to South Melbourne such that Norm developed such a strong rapport with father Leo, that Rick eventually went to the Swans.

  4. Dr Rocket says

    Thanks Dan,

    One of the stories about Lozza that didn’t make it into the piece was the time he kicked 18 goals against Holbrook – after kicking 6 he’d injured his right knee. Kicked the next 12 using his left foot!

    He tells me he used to have kick-to-kick with the kids including young Duck out the back of the change rooms at North Wagga before home games….and then buy them an icy pole!

  5. Hi rod great article was a great player and personality in the 70s in the Riverina coached me in the mt Austin under 10s big crowds in the 70s and plenty came to either cheer or jeer pizza

  6. Great article rod coached me in under 10 great player bigger personality big crowds in the Riverina in the 70s a lot came to watch Laurie at gissing oval and McPherson oval north Wagga

  7. Thanks Dumb,

    Great to hear from you and get your comment on Lozza.
    What a great coach to have had in the Under 10s!?
    Shame he never came back to Turvey…
    but with Spiros running the show there could only be one sheriff in town.

    Well done on all your work for junior footy in Wagga over the years.

    Rocket

  8. Yes spoke to spirit recently still the sheriff but now in the racing game another great personality and player

Leave a Comment

*