“I’ll be a Saint for sure,” said Hanrahan: by KB Hill

It was a red-letter moment for Frank Hanrahan, that early-January morning in 1956…….

The family had just arrived home from Sunday Mass when he noticed a big Yellow Plymouth sedan pull up outside their Kyneton residence………

A deputation from the St. Kilda Football Club – President Graham Huggins, and star players Alan Jeans and Jack McDonald – alighted, and began enquiring whether the young fellah might be interested in doing a pre-season with the Saints………

“That’s for sure. I’ll be down as soon as I can,“Frank blurted, almost before Huggins had time to complete his salutations………..

At that moment, he envisioned, his boyhood dreams were on the verge of materialising……..

***

Frank is derived from solid Irish stock…….”My forebears virtually lived on potatoes in the old country……..When things went bust they headed out here…….Mum’s family were Harts from Trentham…….Dad’s mob ran cattle and sheep at Reidsdale……….”

He was born and bred in Kyneton, where his dad Martin was a Cinema Projectionist….He attended the local Marist Brothers College…..

“It was one of the best things that happened to me, going there…..the discipline, their ability to teach…..they loved their sport…….it was all about footy in winter; cricket in summer……I loved it…..”

“The Brothers must have seen something in me because when I was about 16 they sent one of their ‘Recruiters’ around to ask if I’d consider becoming a Marist Brother……..I must admit I had a bit of an interest in it at the time……The Noviciate was only 20 minutes away, at Mount Macedon, so I thought: ‘I’ll give it a try……it might show a bit of a lead to some of the other boys who may be thinking of it…..”

“I lasted about three months, but it wasn’t for me……..I was too keen to play footy…….”

***

Frank’s active involvement with the Kyneton Football Club began when he started running the boundary for the Reserves.

“Mum warned: ‘You’re not to play Seconds, because you’re too young’……But they were short of players when we went up to Golden Square one day, and they talked me into playing………I hurt my leg…..instead of my parents giving me a burst when I arrived home, they said: ‘Bugger it, you might as well keep going now…..”

Next year, aged 17, he lined up for his first senior game, on Bendigo’s spacious Queen Elizabeth Oval, opposed to Sandhurst’s highly-rated mid-fielder Brendan Edwards………..

They were to renew acquaintances in League ranks a couple of years later, but in the meantime, both came under attention for some eye-catching displays with their respective BFL clubs in 1955.

That’s what prompted the visit from the Saints, who’d been given the mail that, after one senior season, the lightly-built, 5’10”, 70kg Hanrahan was a likely prospect………….

***

“I arrived down there at the same time as a few other boys from the bush……..(Alan) Killigrew had just been appointed coach…..He turned over a lot of the old list, and would jump in his car and drive around the country on recruiting trips…..”

“He got ‘Jeansy’ from Finley, Peter Clancy and Brian McCarthy from Yarrawonga……Geoff Feehan from Wodonga……..picked up Billy Young and Big Bill Stephenson from Sale, Eric Guy came from Carrum and Jimmy Guyatt from Maffra…….”

 

 

Frank Hanrahan, Brian McCarthy and Peter Clancy

 

“ ‘Killer’ became famous for his ‘hot-gospelling’ speeches….That’s where the Saints got wind of him….they went up to see him coaching in a Ballarat League Grand Final and liked what they saw ……He brought Paul Dodd and John Mulrooney down from there as well………”

“We liked ‘Killer’; everyone respected him…..he helped put St. Kilda back on the map………But he wanted things done his way, and got into a bit of bother with the committee at times………..”

Frank found work as a junior clerk at the SEC (Transport Branch) at Fisherman’s Bend, for the meagre sum of two pounds seven and sixpence a week…..He was boarding at Moreland, and what little money he had would be gone by the end of the week.

“I don’t know how I ever lived in those days, but it didn’t matter……I was living my dream…….I loved it at St. Kilda…. the best three years of my life…..socially…. whichever way you look at it………”

 

Frank Hanrahan, Alan Jeans, and team-mates, at a St. Kilda social function

 

“I formed some lasting friendships and became great mates with Clancy, McCarthy and Jeans..”

He played 17 senior matches with the Saints, interspersed with 45-odd Reserves appearances.

It was a massive thrill when he made his senior debut, on a wing, pitted against Essendon star Greg Sewell (who later coached him back at Kyneton)………But he just wasn’t consistent enough to command a regular spot……..

“My best run of form came towards the end of 1957…….I managed seven games on the trot on a back flank, alongside Eric Guy and Neil Roberts……I thought, gee this is terrific…..”

 

 

St. Kilda v Melbourne, 1957. Hanrahan is in the middle of the photo.

 

At the end of ‘58 he was gone from the Junction Oval…..

“A bloke called Norm McLeod had resigned as Secretary of St. Kilda and had become involved with Glen Waverley, in the Oakleigh & District League…….He obviously thought Peter Clancy and I were not going to kick on at St.Kilda, so he talked us into going with him…….”

Glen Waverley played off in Grand Finals in successive years; losing both of them to East Malvern………. Hanrahan’s direct mid-field opponent in each game was Tommy Hafey, who’d recently departed Richmond……..The games were as tight as they come…….

“We drew the 1959 Grand Final, and in the re-play they pipped us by a point……It was a tragedy from my viewpoint…….” Frank recalls.

“With seconds remaining I took hold of the ball just forward of centre…..had a bit of space……and launched into a drop-kick…….The centre half-back just got his finger-tips to it and deflected it……”

“If I’d tried a punt kick I’m sure it would have cleared him and we’d have scored……..It still sticks in my mind, you know….”

***

Frank’s health wasn’t all that flash, and he missed a bit of footy. He was working at Girton Tyre Service in the city when he decided to travel back each week to play at Kyneton in 1963.

It evolved into a brilliant season, in which he took out Kyneton’s B & F, and was selected to represent the Bendigo League in the Country Championships.

Rochester and Kyneton had ignited an intense rivalry over recent seasons, having met in three of the previous four Grand Finals.

The encounter in 1963 represented Frank’s best opportunity to clinch an elusive flag with his beloved Tigers.

But it wasn’t to be……..He picked up 24 possessions in a dominating display in the centre, but ‘Rochie’, guided by hard-hitting policeman Con O’Toole, proved too strong, as they ran away to win by 44 points.

Later that year, a Wodonga livestock agent, Mick Vague, was visiting family in Kyneton when he and Frank crossed paths.

“We were still pretty downhearted after the Grand Final loss, and I was a bit restless, so I asked Mick what sort of a place Wodonga was………I said I’d come over and play if they could line up a job……”

“The Club President, Bill Black, shot back a letter, inviting me to come up……Bill was the Manager of Bradford-Kendall Foundry at the time, and arranged employment there as a Safety Officer.”

“They teed up some board….it developed into a good job….and I played some pretty good footy….so it worked out well all-round……It’s hard to believe that, 58 years later, I’m still here…..”

***

Hanrahan was one of a number of classy O & M mid-fielders in the mid-sixties. He says he keenly anticipated his battles with players of the calibre of Billy Gayfer, Neville Hogan, North Albury’s Bill Barton and Benalla champ Neil Hanlon.

“Hogan always gave me a bit of trouble……He’d just been announced as the 1966 Morris Medallist the week we met the Rovers in a First-Semi at Yarrawonga…..I said to Ron Harvey ( our coach) that he loomed as a threat: He said ‘Don’t worry, Frank, we’ve got full confidence in you’…”

 

 

Wodonga’s First Semi-Final side of 1966. Hanrahan is kneeling,(far left).
Coach Ron Harvey is centre, back row.
This was the nucleus of the great Bulldog sides of the late-sixties.

 

“Hogan starred again, of course, but we were hanging onto a slender lead in the dying seconds that day, when Johnny Welch swooped on a loose ball on the wing, bounced it four times, evaded two of our fellahs, and kicked the winning goal…….”

That was one of Frank’s last games for the ‘Dogs……

“I’d been invited to a party out at Baranduda during the off-season……Half-way there I ran off the road, careered over a bank and missed a tree by a whisker…..Someone found me a few hours later and took me to Hospital….”

“They were all at me to come back, but I just wasn’t tuned in to playing again……I gave it away….” Instead, he watched on, as Mickey Bone’s Golden Era unfolded…….

He continued to play cricket, though, and was a member of the powerful Tower Cricket Club, sharing seven consecutive premierships with a side comprised mostly of Wodonga footy team-mates.

Then Wodonga Turf Club advertised for a Secretary, and Frank landed the job…….It was fulfilling, he says. Though he’s never been an avid punter, he’s always loved going to the races…… and meeting people.

His long-term service to the Race Club, as Secretary and later, as a Committeeman, was duly rewarded with Life Membership.

 

 

Hanrahan, an NEDRA Steward for 14 years.

 

 

With old Jumps Jockey Paddy Pearce, at Wodonga

 

His involvement with the Sport of Kings also included 14 years as a Steward for the NEDRA…..That, and his business – as a distributor of Quell Fire-Fighting Equipment – meant that life was pretty full-on. But his strong alliance to the Wodonga Footy Club continued long after his retirement………..

***

Thus, when John Perry was appointed coach of the ‘Dogs in 1977, Frank was prevailed upon to be his Assistant.

The return of favourite-son Perry elicited considerable excitement among their fans, but they were dumb-struck when he was badly injured in the season’s opening-round clash with Myrtleford.

 

 

Frank Hanrahan, with John Perry

 

It necessitated him spending the remainder of the year in hospital……..Suddenly, Hanrahan was thrust into the hot-spot as the replacement senior coach………….

Wodonga lost just four home-and-away games to finish second, and when they scraped to a 35- point lead over Wangaratta at half-time in the Prelim Final, a Grand Final berth beckoned……

Then they faltered……..the ‘Pies slammed on 7 goals to 1 in the third term, and, in a nail-biter, held on to clinch a five-point victory………

Chiltern came knocking in 1979, and appointed him non-playing coach…….

“(My wife) Helen’s a Chiltern girl, so I felt pretty comfortable there,” Frank says……”They were most welcoming……on the first training night Billy Peake, who hadn’t played for several years, arrived in a track-suit and said: ‘Do you mind if I lend a hand ?’…….From that day on Billy was my unofficial assistant-coach…….”

“We had 12 Lappins on the list and many of them were ‘guns’……Jock, who kicked 90-odd goals that year, was one of the most under-rated players I’ve seen.”

Chiltern were jumped by Milawa in the early stages of the Semi-Final that year, and couldn’t get back into the game…….

”That’ll do me,” Frank decided……..His coaching sojourn was over…….

 

 

Among the number of volunteer roles he’s take on since, he has been President, and a committee-member of the Association of Independent Retirees – an organisation which works to advance and protect the lifestyle of retirees.

But he has never lost his zest for footy……….or more particularly, the Wodonga Football Club in the six decades since he hung up his boots……..

You’ll still find him in a quiet spot, somewhere around Martin Park on match day, closely analysing the fortunes of his beloved Bulldogs……….

 

 

This story appeared first on KB Hill’s website On Reflection and is used here with permission. All photos sourced from KB Hill’s resources unless otherwise acknowledged.

 

To read more of KB Hill’s great stories on the Almanac, click HERE.

 

To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.

 

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 things keep 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. Another classic, KB. Your locals just seem to give so much!

  2. fantastic story KB thanks

  3. Hayden Kelly says

    Thanks KB your stories are a must read for me .

Leave a Comment

*