MOST footy followers would be aware of the never-ending stream of talent which flows from central Victoria, and especially the Bendigo Football League, into the clubs of the VFL/AFL.

Consider the four Selwood boys, Nick Dal Santo, Greg ‘Diesel’ Williams, Rod Ashman, Peter Dean, Geoff Southby, Peter McConville and Jimmy Buckley: and that’s less than a dozen.

But what about ex-top tier players who made the reverse trip up the highway to Bendigo. Here’s the second in the series of players who made their mark.

Phil Carman (Kangaroo Flat): for his first game as the Roos playing coach in the mid-80s, a semi-final sized crowd turned up at Dower Park.

South Bendigo was the opposition but everyone had come out to the Flat to see the much-travelled ‘Fabulous’ Phil in action. He didn’t disappoint, marking strongly and kicking long into the forward line. And no biffo in that debut match.

Carman played with three other Bendigo clubs: Sandhurst, North Bendigo and Kennington-Strathdale and was the non-playing coach at Kyneton in the noughties. But at Sandhurst he was solely a player and there was a little bit of biffo during this period.

One day at the QEO, Carman reckoned the crowd hadn’t had their money’s worth. As the half-time siren blared — he was a forward with Sandhurst at this stage -– Carman grappled with South Bendigo defender Martin Harrington.

“Come on, son, let’s give them something to talk about,” he growled. A bemused Harrington fended off Carman initially, before the older man wrestled with him and threw him to the ground. It was then Harrington got a bit interested, and so did the spectators.

Peter Bradbury (South Bendigo): brought the “all for one, one for all” coaching philosophy to the Bloods who had been languishing for many years.

In his first year in 1989 the former Essendon and Collingwood half-back took the Bloods to the grand final, only to lose to Golden Square. But with Bradbury at the helm premierships followed in 1990 and 1991 as South threw off their easybeats tag and became well-nigh invincible.

Bradbury’s long, probing runs down the QEO’s swimming pool wing remain a vivid memory and he was a bruising competitor around the packs.

He left central Victoria to take up a coaching appointment in Mt Gambier, a move he told me years later probably hadn’t been his best decision.

It was during Bradbury’s stint at South Bendigo that the Bloods recorded the highest ever BFL score and the league’s biggest winning margin. In early 1990 the Bloods posted 49.28 (322) to Kennington’s 3.3 (21). The margin: a lazy 321 points!

Two cameos — 1/. Vinnie Catoggio (Northern United): the Swallows were always looking for an edge whatever way they could find it.

With the former Carlton small man in the forward line, the United brains trust fancied they had a winner. Only trouble was Vinnie ‘The Cat’ didn’t stick around for long.

He’d played 88 games with Carlton, Melbourne and the Swans and booted 121 goals.

Legend has it that one or two of the United staff manning the canteen were the trustees for Vinnie’s quite substantial remuneration.

2/. Andrew Wills (Eaglehawk): Wills, the Geelong and Fremantle speedster, played the 2002 season with the Two Blues.

He’d kicked 127 goals in 148 games during his AFL career. From time to time ‘nude nut’ Wills thrilled the Eaglehawk faithful with characteristic dashes down the Canterbury Park wings and a ping at the big sticks.

Peter Curran (South Bendigo): after two years with the Brisbane Bears the ex-Hawthorn half-forward arrived in Victoria to take up a teaching appointment at Bendigo’s Catholic College. Also vacant was the senior coach’s job at South Bendigo.

Following an ‘off’ season in 1992, Curran restored the Bloods’ aura of invincibility at the top of the BFL ladder. South trounced Sandhurst by 65 points to win the premiership in 1993, followed by an eight-goal mauling of the Square in the ‘94 flag decider.

In his final season, 1995, Curran’s Bloods went down to Derrick Filo in his first incarnation as a coach. Filo took the Kyneton Tigers to an 18.13 to 11.10 grand final victory over South.

Nevertheless, Curran had been a great target at centre half-forward in his three seasons with the Bloods and was a fine orator before and during matches. AFL roles beckoned following his stretch in central Victoria.

One who went the other way — Lazar Vidovic (Castlemaine to St Kilda): now there are dozens and dozens of players who graduated from the BFL to the VFL/AFL as everyone knows.

But I couldn’t resist slipping Lazar into this story. Why?

Well, in my time reporting on footy I can’t think of anyone else  — player or coach — who actually REFUSED to collect his match payments.  What? Turned them down? That’s correct.

Recruited from Melbourne and a key player in the Camp Reserve Magpie team in 1987-88, ruckman Lazar wouldn’t take his match payments early on in ‘87.

Jack Jefferies, longtime Castlemaine stalwart and a member of the club’s storied list of 25 All-Time Greats, remembers Vidovic knocking back his payments “until his form improved.”

Apparently once he felt he’d earned his pay Vidovic put his hand out. It took some weeks for this to happen.

Castlemaine finished 1987 in the Top 5, downed South in the elimination final and Kyneton in the first semi-final, but lost to Eaglehawk in the preliminary final. Lazar had another season at the Camp Reserve before he went on to Moorabbin and the Saints for the ’89 season.

Richard’s tips for Round 9: South Bendigo, Golden Square, Sandhurst, Eaglehawk, Maryborough.

2010 season total: 34.


  1. Richard,

    Phil Carman was a funny one. He seemed to delight in creating a stir and then complaining when the stir was created. I reckon Robbo got a big leg-up in journalism because he wrote Carman stories for the Herald Sun when he was working at the Bendigo Advertiser.

    One day I was playing at half-back for Square. The game was at Neale Street. Phil must have been 40. He was in his last year with Kennington.

    He couldn’t get the ball, so he spent most of the match arriving late to contests and driving his knees into the backs of any players in blue and gold guernseys. He didn’t get a kick.

    I lost respect for him that day.

Leave a Comment