Local footy: Memorable administators in the Bendigo Football League

By Richard Jones

JUST as in football’s playing ranks, there’s never a shortage of memorable characters running affairs at club or league levels.

Here in the Bendigo league we’ve had controversial and colourful presidents and chairmen, feisty secretaries and treasurers, but also a sound quota of extremely gentlemanly and thoughtful people.

But it doesn’t matter whether these people are quiet or colourful. Being gregarious obviously helps, especially when dealing with potential sponsors.

What counts with the club supporters, their electorate if you will, is how well players are performing on the netball courts and on the football fields.

JACK JEFFERIES, DOUG CRACKNELL (Castlemaine): these men embodied the gentlemanly side of running a football club.

Neither of them ever seemed to become flustered – but then, again, I was never buried deep in the Magpies’ inner coterie when delicate matters were under consideration.

Nevertheless, to outsiders such as myself, Jack and Doug as club presidents conducted themselves with decorum.

Jack even served as the vice-president of the amalgamated Bendigo Golden City F.L. in the early 80s and his level head saved many a heated meeting from tipping over into turmoil.

ROY BAKES (South Bendigo): the Bloods’ supremo for more than a decade when South dominated the BFL, he came from a senior administrative post in one of the city’s major businesses.

Following a fiery semi-final between South and Castlemaine, a Magpie wingman was left nursing a broken jaw. Strangely, no official umpire reports had been lodged.

After I’d written an article or two calling for justice, the BFL Independent Tribunal launched an inquiry. The investigating officer and witnesses viewed that weekend’s BCV-8 television footage, shown on the Monday night news program, at the channel’s Lily Street headquarters.

Subsequently two senior South players were suspended for lengthy periods.

Bloods’ president Roy called it “trial by media” and barely spoke to me for years afterwards.

SANDRA TURNER (Sandhurst): just about the only female club president I can recall. It was a sight to see Sandra standing on a chair in the Dragons’ rooms on a Saturday evening announcing the club’s best (in all grades) and reminding the Hurst faithful about upcoming social functions.

I believe Sandra was drawn to a senior position because of her disillusion with the top ranks of the merged Bendigo Golden City Football League back in the early 1980s.

I don’t remember the exact details of the transition period or who followed whom but at some stage Sandra’s husband Terry Turner, a well-known Bendigo anaesthetist, also served as Sandhurst president.

BILL COLLARD (Eaglehawk): many’s the afternoon I’ve spent sitting with Bill in the drafty old pressbox at Canterbury Park.

We’ve gazed out through the grubby glass panes as Bill’s beloved Two Blues went through their paces. Sums of money — in general terms, not specifics — were mentioned through clenched teeth as a fairly well paid winger or half-forward would spray a shot at goal.

Or, alternatively, fail to lay a fingernail on an opposition player as he took a shot at the big sticks.

But then someone such as 100-goal full-forward Johnny Price would nail the sealer and Borough secretary Bill would explode: “See, Richard. I told you he was worth those #*^@*!# (match) payments we were talking about at quarter-time.”

AILEEN RIORDAN (Kyneton): a softly spoken but dedicated treasurer who has served the Tigers for decades. Not only has she looked after Kyneton’s finances with due diligence for so long, Aileen can also be found working in the kiosk on match days.

The glory days of the mid-90s, when Kyneton played in three consecutive grand finals for two flags, are long past, yet Aileen continues with her selfless work at the Kyneton Showgrounds.

DAVID McCANN (Castlemaine, BGCFL): served as the Magpies’ secretary for ten years over two stints. Also served as BGCFL secretary during the tumultuous period when the Bendigo and Golden City leagues were merged under a VCFL edict.

Was the person who rightly informed me that Castlemaine captain Filo’s Christian name was spelt ‘Derrick’. I had used the incorrect form ‘Derek’ over a period and it had grated with David for longer than he could bear.

In recognition of David’s services the trophy for the BFL’s leading club, presented annually on Michelsen medal day, is called the ‘David McCann Memorial Champion Club Award’. It’s based on overall standings in the three football and four netball grades at season’s end.

KEITH ROBERTSON (North Bendigo president, Heathcote League chairman): led the Atkins Street Bulldogs for many seasons in both the Bendigo and Heathcote District leagues.

My most enduring memory of Keith is his refusal to bow to the doomsayers who wanted North placed in recess. Inablity to raise finances to keep the Dogs viable during the summer recruiting frenzy was one of the oft-quoted reasons.

Keith would not accept defeat. In the face of barbed and often vitriolic criticism at the club-defining, mid-’90s meeting held in the then new Anderson Street social rooms, Keith and his supporters won the day. They might have changed leagues, but the Bulldogs stayed afloat.

North Bendigo will contest yet another HDFL season in 2010 with gun forward Damien Houlihan (brother of Carlton’s Ryan) the replacement for 2009’s 100-goal sharpshooter Aaron James.


  1. John Butler says

    Great stuff Richard

    Every sporting club I’ve known depended on such stalwarts.

  2. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    A fine list Richard.

    However, I want to share with you what I know about BFL secretary from the 60s though until the 70s. Namely Ivan O’Donnell. I think he became the VCFL District Councillor in this period.
    He is the one Rochester blames for keeping the club out of football in 1972 when it wanted to transfer to the Goulburn Valley Football League. The BFL refused the clearance and the appeal by Rochy was turned down by the committee led by Ivan O’Donnell. Understandably the BFL wanted to keep Rochy in its league, after all it had been the powerhouse all though the sixties. However, by 1971 the club was heavily in debt and wanted to rein in costs of travel player payments by moving to the neighbouring GVL.
    Fortunately, the GVL allowed Rochy the chance to enter a team in the thirds competition – then Under 17s. I played in that team under club great Bob Kinght. The year out of senior footy cost Rochy dearly. Many of its players found new homes in the surrounding district league clubs.
    It took a long time to re-build – it was until 1979 that the club finally made the finals in the GVL. Rochy had finished fourth in its last season in the BFL – alas beaten by the dreaded Echuca under Graham Arthur in the first semi. Eaglehawk with the mighty Greg Kennedy (from Wycheproof) at full forward won the flag.
    Echuca followed Rochy into the GVL in 1974 – the BFL refused the clearance, but the Murray Bombers were cleared on appeal. The fall-out from the Rochester case had been damaging to this process. Echuca lost few of its players and immediately became a power in the GVL by winning premierships in 1977 and 1979.
    I always remember Ivan O’Donnell as host of the footy program on BCV 8 on Sunday afternoons at 2.30 immediately after World of Sport. Panel members included Basil Ashman and I think, Kevin Curran. All Bendigo blokes, so no credibility in Rochester. Its always been us against them. Now its the Shepparton clubs…

  3. Dicky,

    Most of your administrators were before my time, but I can vouch that Jack Jefferies is one of the gentlemen of country footy. He’s not a sap; he can be fairly direct when you first meet him. But it’s clear straight away that he’s a genuine person with the welfare of his club and its people at heart.

    At 80-odd, he’s also got plenty of stories. He played in the Maine’s storied 1952 premiership team, their only post-war flag team until the famous 1992 victory. He speaks highly of Wally Culpitt as a footballer in that team. Jack himself can’t have been too bad. He was invited down to Melbourne but he couldn’t take the opportunity.

    Jack’s son John is a ripper bloke, too. John, a dentist in Castlemaine, played at centre half-back in the ’92 team.

    During the process to gather material for the Castlemaine FC history book that was published last year, Jack met Darren Lewis and the Almanac’s Steph Holt once a week in the waiting room at the Castlemaine train station. They bought take-away coffees and had their meeting there because one of them had to catch the train to Melbourne.

    Steph says it was such a shame when the hour allotted for the meeting was up, as Jack would always be just getting into swing with stories from over the years. I gather that he enjoyed getting the book together.

    You and I have written about the claim of the book that Castlemaine started in 1859. No doubt it was a point much discussed in the train-station waiting room.

  4. Richard Jones says

    YEP, Rocket I knew Ivan well. He and BFL prez. Kevin Coyne formed a formidable team, apparently, but they’d just about bowed out by the time I took up the pen and typewriter at the Bendigo Addy.

    Ned Flood was the BFl boss and Ken Anderson the league secretary when I got to Benders. However, before he passed on I did see Ivan reasonably regularly, including at the annual Sandhurst F.C. breakfast in the Dragon clubrooms under the QEO grandstand.

    I think Jack J. did have at least one gallop with his Melbourne F.C. idol Don Cordner. It was not long after World War 2 in a pre-season training session, say around 1946 or so.

    He worked with the State Electricity outfit and I think employment and family matters intervened so he couldn’t continue with the Redlegs. Were they the Fuchsias then?
    I’ll check it out and file another comment on this thread.

    I saw the painting of Castlemaine’s 25 Greats at the historic Market building in the Maine this summer.

  5. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Just wanted to add a thread about the impact on a town’s economy of a where footy teams play.

    When Rochester left the Bendigo league, it led to some significant changes in consumer patterns.
    The most noticeable and immediate effect was that sales of the Bendigo Advertiser declined – as did the Riverine Herald (Echuca stayed in the BFL) – and the newsagent Mick Baker started getting the Shepp News in for sale.

    Rochy people began to do their regional shop in Shepparton instead of Bendigo – going over to Shepp to shop before a game against a Shepp club or Mooroopna.

    And also people began to listen more to 3SR rather than 3BO – as it broadcast games and news about the GVL where Rochy now played.

    Eventually the Provincial Motors branch in Rochy closed – Prov Motors were based in Bendigo. I suspect that was based on other factors, but Rochy people are still unforgiving about being kept out of football for a year by a Bendigo decision!

    Fortunately Gillies Bros pies continued to be available at Major’s corner store (the shop run by Noel McMahen when he coached Rochy)- “It’s the pie that fills but never kills!”.
    As did Cohns Bros soft drinks – Rochy people still needed to eat and drink – even it did come from Bendigo!

  6. Richard Jones says

    DAFF: it was actually 1948 when Jack Jeff. did some pre-season work with the Dees.
    He’s born in 1927.

    Rod: the occasions where Ivan O’D. and I met up was at the annual Sandhurst grand final b’fast.

  7. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Richard – I should have known that with a name like O’Donnell that he was a Sandhurst supporter…

    Daff – was Sandhurst pretty much a Catholic club from inception?

  8. Rocket,

    The Rochy example (your favourite kind) is a fantastic example of the effect of footy on a local economy. I’ll have to think hard to come up with a similar example.

    As for whether Sandhurst has always been a Catholic club, I’m not sure. But I suspect not. Sandhurst was formed in 1861, making it the oldest club on the Bendigo goldfields. (Ballarat footy club was formed in 1860.)

    As a rule, the original club in any town is the establishment club; it was formed by the administrators and burghers, who tended to be of Protestant ascendancy stock.

    The second club is the Catholic club. Think Wangaratta and Wang Rovers, and Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials. Rovers and Imps were both formed in the years after World War 2 by Catholic dissidents.

    Quite why Hamilton Imperials and Mildura Imperials are two of the most identifiably Catholic clubs and yet take a royalist name is one of the mysteries of Victorian country footy.

    To my knowledge, Sandhurst’s Catholic flavour bucks the trend of most Victorian towns.

  9. Richard Jones says

    In my early days in Bendy football Sandhurst was quite definitely the Catholic club and South Bendigo the Proddies.
    But in more recent times the lads who have attended Catholic College, Bendigo no longer slavishly sign up with the Hurst. They go where their mates go, so they might end up at South or Golden Square or Kangaroo Flat.
    It’s not so much a done deal any more.

    And Rocket and Daff: how about a club formed in a working class Borough such as Eaglehawk adopting England university colours. And not just any old universities, either.
    Eaglehawk’s Two Blue-banded colours are derived from Oxbridge: the light blue of Cambridge and the dark blue of Oxford. How many diggers emerging from the underground workings or the battery presses crushing the ore ready for Wed. arvo footy would have attended either august tertiary outfit do you think?
    That’s right. Absolutely no one.

    You’d have to reason that 1 or 2 of the founding fathers in 1979-80 — Eaglehawk started playing competitive footy in 1880 — were products of the Oxbridge system. Or maybe wished they had attended either Oxford or Cambridge.

  10. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    I can’t think, off-hand, of any other country club that wear the two blues…
    maybe there’s an amateur club because they really are “school colours”.

    Sturt is of course the Double Blues – but emphasis the light blue in their guernsey.

    The Borough have been a great footy club down the years – I remember the day Rod Ashman kicked 18 goals against us (Rochy) in the Under 18’s. I played back pocket; I was the only one they didn’t put on him to try to stop him. He was the same size then as when he went to Carlton.

  11. Richard Jones says

    THE medal presented annually to best afield in the Bendigo F.L. under-18s grand final each September is called the ‘Rod Ashman Medal’.
    Rod is always on hand to present his B.O.G. medal. I stood beside him on BFL grand final day last year — as I have on many, many September Saturdays — to introduce him to the crowd via the QEO loud speaker system. I don’t think he’s missed a BFL grand final day since the medal was struck in his honour.

    The award ceremony is given even greater impetus these days, Rocket, because the BFL hires the Big Screen outfit for the entire grand final day and their cameramen stationed in the historic old grandstand focus in on Ashy.

    Incidentally, you’d be delighted to know the BOG award for the Ressies on grand final day is known as the ‘R.F. (Dick) Turner’ medal. Not many people know that the affable, roly-poly Dick Turner never ever had ‘Richard’ or ‘Dick’ among his Christian names.

    The ‘R.F’ stood for Roy Francis!!

  12. Richard,

    I’d forgotten about the Two Blues of Eaglehawk and the Oxbridge connection. Seems very much a product of civic fathers rather than the rank and file. It’s a great little oddity of country footy.


    I can’t think of any Two Blues in the country, either. A couple in the Ammos: St Leo’s (blue and light blue hoops in the old days) and Old Camberwell (who for some reason wear dark blue with a light blue yoke with black and yellow striped hose).

  13. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says


    Great to hear that Rod Ashman is honoured in this way – a great tribute both to him and the Ashman family name.
    Equally as pleasing to hear that he turns up every grand final day to present the medal.

    Fancy, Dick Turner’s given names being Roy Francis…
    Pleased to hear that he is also honoured on grand final day.

    So, what is the name for the seniors’ medal for BoG in the grand final?


    You’re so right about the first club formed in a country town being the establishment club.
    That was also the case in the Riverina – the original Wagga club was formed in 1881 in by the town’s elite.
    The next batch of clubs were mostly formed on a geographic basis, e.g. North Wagga, Lake Albert.
    However, out in the farming districts closer settlement provided for masses of Catholics.
    Ganmain, of course, formed as Boggy Creek in 1894, has always been of the faith.
    But as I have pointed out elsewhere footy has been a secular device.

    The Experimental Farm (where William Farrer developed the wheat grains) had a footy team in the 1890s.
    It would be a long bow to suggest that this team was the antecedent of the Bushpigs – but Charles Sturt University claims its origins from this institution.

  14. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    More on country footy & economics…

    On a smaller scale, when I was at the Bushpigs we managed to get the Red Steer pub (at the time steakhouses were very popular) to sponsor us – not on the basis of our support – mine host Geoff Perriman (ex-Collingullie) really didn’t want us – but on the basis of attracting the opposition players and supporters after the match – particularly, the outlying villages like Marrar, Boree Creek, Whitton & Barellan.

    Barellan people used to enjoy coming to the big city for the day (its 90 miles away) for shopping & footy, and a night out. They moved to the Northern Riverina league in the late 80s, no bright lights, big city up there!

  15. Rocket,

    I did Barellan as our town of the week on SEN during the Australian Open. A lot was spoken about the Big Racquet that’s been put up in the centre of town in honour of Evonne Goolagong.

    While the Barellan footy club plugs away in the Northern Riverina comp, the Barellan rugby league recently died. A few old-timers have thrown their support behind the footy club.

  16. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Barellan footy club always had to play in a Saturday competition so their players could play league on Sundays.

    Rugby league struggling in the bush – pretty sure Group 17 where Barellan used to play has folded. Think the likes of Hay & Weethalle have to play in the 2nd grade of Group 20.

    Of course, once upon a time Barellan had its own footy league – that Hay played in.

  17. Richard Jones says

    BEST afield gong in the Bendigo F.L. senior grand final is called the Nalder medal.
    Named after a great stalwart of the old Golden City Football League: Alan Nalder. Think he might have been a long-serving secretary of the GCFL.

    Anyway when a medal was struck for senior BOG grand final day, a name was needed. Seeing that the Bendigo and Golden City leagues had just been amalgamated (it was the early eighties) someone from the now defunct GCFL needed recognition. That was the general consensus among league officials of the time, I seem to remember.

    A representative of the Nalder family is always on hand grand final day to present the Nalder medal. Sometimes male, sometimes female. Either way, BFL board of management chairman Damian Drum is delighted to introduce the family member.

    One little quirk came very early on. Bill Nalder had been sacked mid-1983 by South president, Jim Summers. So big Bill marched out of the South rooms and down the hill 100 metres to the Sandhurst den. Grand final day 1983 when Hurst beat Square by 7 points in the big one, Bill Nalder won the Nalder medal.
    Nice little touch. No, I’m not sure what relation he is to the Alan Nalder family.


  18. Richard,

    Love the Bill Nalder story. I bet it added a real frisson to relations throughout the Bendigo league.

    About 10 years ago, Sonny Lindsay and Robinvale parted ways halfway through the season. Mildura Imps, not usually a club to get involved in recruiting buy-ups, picked up Lindsay. He won them a final and then had a big hand in them winning the flag.

    Lindsay is originally a Port Melbourne boy, but has made a real name for himself as an enormous talent throughout the Wimmera and Mallee. The stories about his erratic ways are legendary.

  19. Richard,

    Yes Aileen Riordan 30 years straight as treasurer of the club. Is off the committee as such this year but still looks after the catering for bus bookings and the hall bookings a remarkable effort when as well as the football club theres the tennis, bowls and church work to be done.
    She will at the old time dance making sandwiches and still in the canteen to start the day off. Also prepaired to listen and move with change and Kyneton football netball club will be forever indebted to her work.
    You can ask dekka not to much got past Aileen.

  20. Sandra Turner says

    Hi Richard,
    What a surprise to stumble on this, very interesting read,. But just wanted to correct my reasons for taking on Presidency of Sandhurst. The Golden City/BFL thing happened well before my time, but I took on the job really because no one else wanted to do so at the time and I was talked into it!. Money was very tight and at that time we had decided in the interests of responsible administration, we would not pay players except for travel expenses. We were fortunate to have an extraordinarily loyal player group who understanding the problems, played for virtually nothing those years.Best wishes

  21. Richard E. Jones says

    TA, Sandra. Will amend the paragraphs concerning your goodself when this story hits the 2010 BFL Guide in the next 3 weeks or so.
    After taking Paul Daffey’s suggestions for possible stories for the weekly programme, I penned this yarn back in late January/early February, from memory, to get a bit of a bank for future use.

    I remember the Hurst struggling for money, not just in your time as prez. but over an extended period.
    I think the biggest problem facing South and Sandhurst is that neither club has a suburb or locality they can call their own.
    Think Golden Square, Kang. Flat or Eaglehawk. Even White Hills in the Heathcote DFL. All of them have suburbs where there are businesses which can support and sponsor their footy clubs.

  22. Neil Harrington says

    I remember some great games at the QEO in the sixties. Some tremendous players and legendary close finishes. Dick Turner ‘calling the board!’ Some times fights broke out after a close finish and even spectators would get involved. Never to be forgotten!

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