Merged clubs manage to struggle on

IT DOESN’T seem all that long ago that the Kennington-Strathdale Saints were competing in the Bendigo Football League.

But the club based at the Neale Street oval has been gone for quite some time now.

Never a league powerhouse, it did occupy a significant geographical spot in the city’s football structure.

It was the only club east of the railway line which divides Bendigo and was within easy reach of not only the Flora Hill Secondary School – now Bendigo’s South East College – but also the LaTrobe University campus with plenty of young men and women domiciled close by.

There was a fairly long and drawn-out process before the Saints bit the dust. Who can forget that dramatic early 90s afternoon over at Maryborough’s Princes Park when the senior Saints walked off the field, alleging rough tactics from the opposition were causing unnecessary injuries.

The Magpies snatched the four premiership points following the walk-off.

Then there was Provincial which operated out of Weeroona Oval.

The Hawks had been an integral member club of the Golden City Football League and when the early 1980s amalgamation of the Bendigo and Golden City leagues came into force Provincial was still around.

Part of the original BGCFL Division 2 structure, Provincial managed a few seasons before folding.

There wasn’t as much press hullabaloo about the sink-without-a-trace demise of Pros, but old players and supporters still remember the club fondly.


AND I vividly recall a special meeting called for the then spanking new North Bendigo clubrooms, adjacent to Shadforth Park.

It was the early 90s and a couple of Bulldog benefactors, Bendigo business people, were calling for the club to be wound up.

To his undying credit North stalwart Keith Robertson bounced to his feet. The club was an important and integral part of Bendigo’s sports culture and was quite capable of continuing on, he stressed.

Admittedly there was a bit of a financial hole, but with dedicated people to assist the Dogs could soldier on, Mr Robertson said.

And soldier on they did. The doomsayers were wished a speedy ‘good night’ and North Bendigo seemed never to look back.

This season the Atkins St. Dogs played off against Lockington-Bamawm in the Heathcote DFL grand final. Had it not been for Mr Robertson, Francis Boyd and a handful of die-hard Bulldog fans the club might not have survived that tumultuous evening.

North played in the BGCFL when it first came into existence during the early 1980s. When the league was back to being known simply as the BFL, the club made the finals later that decade under the astute leadership of captain-coach Wayne Walsh.

Players such as Ross Alford, David Graham, Peter Young, David Bakes, Peter Hamilton, Abdul Halibi and century goalkicker Andrew “Nibbet” McClellan were key players for the Atkins Street Dogs.


THINK of all the clubs not very far from Bendigo, now long gone.

Northern United, BFNL premiers in 1984-87, retains a tenuous link. Calivil these days is called Calivil United but I’ll bet very few of the under-17 players know the background to the “United” bit, even though the Loddon Valley F.L. Demons play a game or two at Northern United’s old base, Raywood, each season.

Korong Vale and Yarrawalla, once proud members of the Loddon Valley league, have been gone for decades.

So, too, in the Bendigo region have Dingee, Axedale, Hunter, Knowsley and Goornong. Add Campbell’s Forest, Neilborough, Sebastian, Tandarra, Drummartin and Tennyson — even out to the east to Tarnagulla and Rheola — onto that list and just in central Victoria the number of clubs which have disappeared is staggering.

In the Maryborough-Castlemaine DFL Primrose and Chewton went under.

Up north Gunbower almost did, as well, but was saved by a merger with Leitchville and that club now competes in the Heathcote DFL.

This article doesn’t pretend to have named all the district clubs which have folded.

It’s offered as something to think about.

Once your club has gone under, not saved by a merger or an amalgamation, it’s almost impossible to revive it.


OVER the Melbourne Cup long weekend we drove through Ouyen on the way to Mildura to visit friends.

And even though it’s deep in Mallee country, the Ouyen United oval was in top condition

There’s a nice little piece of local history celebrated along a perimeter of the ground. Nine totem poles, painted in club colours, tell the story of all the local club amalgamations.

Ouyen Rovers, the Demons, is the ninth club formed from a succession of Mallee mergers. Three clubs — Tempy, Gorya and Patchewollock — amalgamated to form TGP [Tempy-Gorya-Patchewollock].

TGP competed from 1971 to 1996.

At roughly the same time Tiega, Kiamal and Ouyen (the oldest club, founded in 1910) merged and Ouyen Rovers was formed.

Rovers ran around from 1982 to 1996.

Then in 1997 Ouyen United was announced with TGP and Ouyen Rovers combining — and bowing out under their own names. The Demons have been competing ever since.

Because Ouyen United came into existence, the old Northern Mallee F.L. had been reduced to just four clubs.

So the Northern and Southern Mallee leagues merged before the ’97 season to form the present day Mallee Football Netball League, an identical name to South Australia’s Mallee League over the border.

Walpeup-Underbool def. Sea Lake-Nandaly 26.13 to 9.6 to win the 2012 MFNL flag.

The years 9 and 10 art students from Ouyen P-12 College provided the explanatory board notes and totem poles at the Ouyen footy ground. The poles were unveiled and dedicated in 2009.


A BIT further down the road back towards Bendigo are plenty more ovals. Sea Lake had merged with Nandaly and the merged side had many battles with Berri-Culgoa.

But at the end of the 2002 season Berri-Culgoa was forced to join Sea Lake and forego its name.

The one saving grace was that the Berri-Culgoa yellow and black guernsey was retained, hence the new entity known as the Sea Lake-Nandaly Tigers was born.

And in the Central Murray league there’s just Kerang these days. Former Kerang District F.L. clubs the Appin Grasshoppers and Kerang Rovers had joined Kerang to form Kerang Rovers-Appin.

That club is now known merely as Kerang as the 21st century unfolds! Kerang won the 2012 CMFL flag.


  1. Rocket Nguyen says

    Thanks Comrade,

    What happened to the Kamerooka part of Northern United? Do they come into Elmore to play for the Bloods?

    The Kerang example shows what happens when the big town takes over…
    the little village loses its acknowledgement,

    Although its still Leeton-Whitton in the Riverina FL. Eventually the Whitton bit will eventually drop off. They were once bitter rivals. This year at the club’s centenary reunion they wore Leeton’s original colours of yellow and black, which just happened to be Whitton’s for most of its existence. Leeton wore red and blue and were known as the Reddies for most of its history. The rugby league club are the Greenies.

  2. Barkly St End says

    I guess it has become a bit of a cliche to say that local footy clubs are a barometer of the local economy.

    Basically, rural Australia has been losing population on an annual basis since almost the founding of white Australia (with the boom and bust mining towns being an occasional anomaly).

    Australian Football suffers (in a generic sense) from being a game that is resource rich: big playing space, lots of players, lots of officials (on and off the ground), lots of posts, and even the football (as in the ball itself) is expensive.

    I wonder whether many bush leagues have considered the VFA option of playing 16-a-side to relieve the pressure somewhat?

    Of course then we have the opposite problem of the bigger towns, with the playing numbers, having blokes not getting a game.

    Where whole regions are struggling, the newly introduced AFL 9s route might be a viable option.

    Otherwise, we will see the indigenous game supplanted in its entirety in these areas, because it’s much easier to assemble 11 blokes per team with one ref.

  3. Rocket Nguyen says

    You’re right Comrade Scragger!

    There needs to be some radical solutions to this problem. In the Central Riverina League in the 70s we often played 14-a-side when we went west to Barellan and Boree Creek….

    18 a-side, black nicks at home, home & away matches etc in the context of the bush today needs a radical oversight.

    Paul Daffey has long been an advocate of carnival style matches where all the teams go to one ground for a round-robin – to avoid travel costs, etc. Potential to be even more social than home & away!

    The Northern & Southern Mallee leagues have both gone. If the Mallee League lose one more club then it could easily fold – when they do they just go…..

  4. THE huge Kamarooka ground is still there, Rocket, but I’m not sure whether Calivil United still uses it, just on a once a year basis.
    Will check with LVFL and HDFL sources and get back to the Knackery, with a 2nd post.

    Trout Fliedner, Bluey Southcombe and other Northern United stalwarts transferred allegiance to Elmore as you’d suggested. Trout was Bloods’ prez. for a period and Bluey coached Elmore to a HDFL flag. That was when Damian Lock was Colbo playing coach, so in mid-2000s.

    How about the Rochy signings …. Daniel Anderson [South Bendigo], Callum Sharp & Brayden Dorrington [both G. Square]. We were spot on with rumours, ehh ??

    Kyneton has today announced Brian Walsh, 120 games Carlton & Essendon, Bendy Pioneers and Square and Sandhurst coach as Tigers’ 2013 coach.
    Been special comments man on local Bendigo sports station the last 3 years.

    Nathan Thompson, ex-Hawks and North Melb., stays on as a Kyneton player. Will obviously play FF under Walshie.

  5. Corowa-Rutherglen have performed quite well since the 1980’s. I’d haver prefered the old Spiders to stay as they were, but an expanded league, with a need to accomodate the growth areas in the Albury-Wodonga ‘complex’ means clubs either merged, or moved on, like Benalla. Corowa-Rutherglen have done quite well, thankyou.


  6. Basso Divor says

    I grew up in the Victorian Mallee in the 60s and 70s and recall the Tyrrell League being very strong. The Grand Finals were usually held at Sea Lake, probably for its central location within the district and witnessed by a crowd well into the hundreds. I recall most of the blokes playing were big strong men – blokes who worked long hours on farms during the week and more than happy to drive a few hundred kms on a Saturday for a game of footy and the social opportunities that it brought.
    The teams included: Nullawil (won the flag nearly every year in the 70s), Culgoa, Berriwillock (referred to in Richard‘s piece as “Berri”, Sea Lake, Nandaly, Manangatang (which combined at some point with Chinkapook) and Ultima. Like many other rural leagues, it appears that the Tyrrell League has now folded and the teams have amalgamated, disappeared or been absorbed into other leagues in the surrounding districts.
    The Nullawil guernsey was maroon with a white ‘NFC’ on the chest. I can’t recall the strip Culgoa wore, perhaps it was the Richmond Tigers’ guernsey now worn by the Sea Lake-Nandaly amalgam? Berriwillock’s was green and gold, Sea Lake borrowed from the South Melbourne bloods, Nandaly favoured the Essendon styled black with a red sash, Manangatang had the St Kilda tricolour red, white and black, Chinkapook wore the Collingwood black & white and Ultima had a blue guernsey with the ‘UFC’ motif on the front.

  7. Yes back to my old family territory, Corowa. The 1979 merger with Rutherglen saw the Spiders, and the Redlegs, become the Roos. I have seen paper clippings of Corowa’s 1968 flag, though as a little kid in short pants, living in the big smoke, i have no memory of it, this being one of the two flags the Spiders won. Rutherglen won fifteen flags, but all were very early on ,late nineteenth, early twentieth, century, with i think thirteen of those being within 20 years. The merged club has two flags in its three decades, so i can accept that .


  8. Rocket Nguyen says

    The Spiders were sensational in 1968!

    Recall watching the O & M grand final on GMV 6.

    However, as I understand it Glen, the Rutherglen blokes play for Rutherglen in the O & K or is it Tallangatta league and the Corowa guys play for the combine. Never really united the towns as such…
    Those colours are a turn-off!

    Corowa’s strength has always been getting guys in from southern NSW – the old Correen league, and out to Berrigan and beyond.

  9. Wayde Petersen says

    That makes for some sobering reading Rocket, but it’s a symptom of the movement of people out of small communities (I thought Provincial became Huntly & moved north to play in the Heathcote League ?, I thought I mention Toobarac (they folded in the late 80’s, and the the old metal, rickety changerooms stood there for years before it got knocked down a few years ago), as one of the clubs in that area, that’s disappeared (Geelong Colours).

    Where I live, we’ve had Invergordon go (folded 1987), the Hawks were a part of the Tungamah League for many years (that league disappeared, with most of the clubs ending up in the Picola League, such as Katandra & Shepparton East), the changerooms & hall still get used a fair bit, but the ground’s a bit lonely with only Cricket being played on it.

    Wunghnu (folded 2010) who were wound up by the VCFL, after going through many bad years in the Picola League (they were more known for the last 15 years as a club where 40 goal losses were commonplace, but before that, the Magpies were a solid club in the Picola League), now no-one uses the ground (the cricket club folded years ago, but there’s talk of equestrian & horse trials being based there in the future).

    Thornton-Eildon (folded 2010), they suffered from the loss of young people as a result of Black Saturday (they got a few players from Marysville), and general decline in work oppotunities (even though they won the flag in the Yarra Valley Mountain District League as late as 2007).

    But they were shunted around a lot of leagues from the 70’s after the Waranga NEFL folded (Seymour, Avenel, Mansfield, Yea, Euroa, Broadford, Alexandra), then they ended up in the Yarra Valley MDFL, then the Benalla League, then back in the Tungamah/GVFL Division 2/Central Goulburn League (they were the same league, despite the different names), then back in the YVMDFL Division Two and then going unde, they wore North Melbourne colours (they did wear Royal Blue with a white yolk in from the 80’s to mid 00’s, because of a jumper clash) & were called the Shinboners.

    Devenish is another one that won a flag & folded two years after (folded 2007, Premiers 2005), the Barbers (red & white stripes) folding caused the VCFL to shut down the Benalla League as they deemed a 5 team(Longwood went into the Kyabram DFL,and Bonnie Doon, Tatong, Swanpool & Goorambat went into the Ovens & King) league unviable , whether any of the 5 teams mentioned can survive in their current form remains to be seen.

    Although I know of one club of the top of my head that came back (twice) after folding, Kinglake in 1990 after folding in 1980 & 2002 ? after going into recess for 1 season, and nearly folding again after Black Saturday in 2007. Usually, once a team goes into recess, that’s it :(

  10. Most of these clubs which have merged over the past have been small town clubs which cannot sustain a football team because young blokes move to large regional cities to obtain work.
    The Corowa/ Rutherglen merger was nothing more than a Corowa takeover.
    My memory of the 1968 O&M grand final is that Corowa were coached by Fred Swift and Wodonga were coached by Mick Bone, who were both playing coaches. Did the great Jim Sandral play for Corowa in this grand final or had he retired? I am pretty sure that he played in a grand final team coached by Frank Tuck a few years before. I think that some of Corowa’s better players in 1968 were blokes such as John Clancy, Kevin Witherden, Peter Chisnall, Fred Longmire and Ken Eales.

  11. Rocket, Corowa has alawys got players fro places like Buraja, Rennie, Coreen, etc. Where do youngsters from Wahgunyah align themselves?


  12. Rocket Nguyen says

    Thanks Wayde,

    Mention of Invergordon brings back memories of the Burgmann brothers who made their mark at Lemnos (both in 70 premiership team?) – Graham was a a burly ruckman and Lloyd a rangy winger who had a run at Melbourne. Ran into Lloyd in the early 80s when he ran a motel in Junee… think he coached Junee.

    Don’t know why they couldn’t have found a way to keep the Benalla & District league alive… could have gone to one-team/played all on one day/night in Benalla…
    Longwood really struggling in the Ky league.

    BTW, Tooboorac weren’t the same colours as Geelong – same design, but they had black and white hoops. They were very successful in the early 70s when they had natios from Pucka playing for them.

    The good natios went to Seymour who still couldn’t beat the Dick O’Bree-led Euroa!

    Mark/Glen – another ripper player for the Spiders was Johnny Hoiles ex Footscray who went up to coach Corowa in 1965 and stayed and played under Freddy Swift

  13. Again, good points in your comments Rocket. Re the Burgmann brothers, Lloyd played for the Dees circa 1970-1972, as a wingman/half forward. John Gallus from Lemnos?

    Johnny Hoiles son was on the Geelong list in the mid 1980’s, though i think he only played one senior game.


  14. BIG John Hoiles was always around the Bloods’ rooms when son Steve played 4 South Bendigo.

    Think there was another son too, although long time ago now and memory fading. As Glen sez one Hoiles went to Geelong. Played 4 Grovedale. That was Steve, I think ???

    Rocket, my old community sports broadcasting mate Geoff Morris tells me we have neglected North Central F. L. In these ramblings. Geoff points out Narraport merged with Wycheproof, and Watchem-Corack joined Birchip to form current club Birchip-Watchem. Corack has well and truly gone 2 God.

    So from 10 clubs NCFL is now 7 as we all know and the Corack entity has gone altogether. At least Wycheproof-Narraport and Birchip- Watchem retain two of the league’s long-time club names.

  15. Rocket Nguyen says

    Thanks Glen,

    John Gallus was from Warragul – not sure how he got to Melbourne during zoning – may have signed before zoning came in. Think he also coached Maffra. Played mostly in the Latrobe Valley FL. May have also played at Drouin.

    Ah, RJ, you’ve done it again! Reminded me of one of my favourite-ever country footballers, Greg Kennedy from Wychy. What a player! Saw him kick 7 magnificent goals in the pouring rain at Canterbury Park in 71 when the Borough beat Rochy.
    Naughty of Boort-Watchem to drop Corack off the name… Ganmain still call themselves Ganmain Grong Grong Matong.

    The loss of another club in the North Central would put the league in jeopardy. Fortunately the smallest clubs, Wycheproof-Narraport remains very strong.

  16. BOYS …. some were querying last month whether Huntly was just the natural progression for Provincial when Pros gave up the ghost in the early 80s — and folded.

    Well I cleared it up with 2 old Pros’ players last night. Each December missus and I catch the train to C’maine with a collection of folks for a Xmas night of carousing and playing silly, trivia games.
    It’s at the Railway Hotel, Rocket. You’ll recall that old boozer
    Much re-worked and ‘gentrified’ from its bloodhouse days of yesteryear. Even reasonably prepared meals.
    Not a gastro pub as with many in inner Melb., but a definite step up from parma or steak and chips!

    Anyway, two blokes on the way down reminded me that Pros wore blue and gold vertical stripes … not brown and gold as Hunrtly does in the 2000s.
    So no follow-through from Provincial to Huntly, as a sort of natural club progression.
    Provincial well and truly in the folded club bracket.

  17. from John Gallus via mail:

    Came across my name regarding where i started footy career whether it was Lemnos.I was recruited from Drouin before zoning in 1963 aged16-17.Did not get clearance until 19 and played 1965 season with Melb. After VFA season with Waverley and four country seasons with Maffra and Bairnsdale returned to melb in 1971 when I played in same team as lloyd Burgmann.In later years coached Warragul and Drouin and finished at Drouin in 1982

  18. jeff hosking says

    Now it looks like in 2016 Ouyen will join the Sunraysia League and good/bye to the Mallee League

Leave a Comment