Neville Strauch: A man for all seasons and age groups

By Richard Jones

NEVILLE Strauch was one of those rare people in football who was able to make the transition from club footy to the bigger arena of football development.

In Neville’s early years he showed great promise culminating in his award as the Bendigo Football League’s under-18s fairest and best award in the mid-1950s.

He made his senior debut in 1957.

With his slender build and height — he was six foot 1 ins. (185 cm) —- Neville possessed a modern day footballer’s physique.

His play, particularly in defence, for Golden Square soon made the VFL clubs sit up and take notice.

Geelong secured his signature and the young Bulldog went down to Kardinia Park to try his luck in the big league.

Unfortunately he broke his collarbone and was forced to return to Bendigo to recover. Neville eventually reconciled himself to playing footy with his beloved Bulldogs in the BFL.

In many ways Strauchy was well ahead of his time with the way he played. In the era when football was a more static game, Strauch was an attacking runner out of defence.

His performances at centre half-back re-defined the role of a key position defender and in many ways Strauch’s style was a forerunner of the way footy is played now, in the 21st century.

Neville was also ahead of his time with his ability to use both sides of his body with equal proficiency.

This before-his-time skill level enabled Strauch to wriggle his way out of trouble on countless occasions.

Combining his great skills with a cool head, Neville always appeared to have plenty of time to get out of difficult situations and hit a teammate further upfield.

Players of his era frequently remarked that it was rare for Strauch to get tackled, such was his poise in pressure situations.

He was a strong mark and always backed himself in contested marking situations.


APART from a stint coaching the reserves and then coming back to help the Square seniors in 1977, Neville’s abilities as a coach were never fully utilized at Wade Street.

His greatest contributions as a coach were to come with the blue and gold guernseys of the BFL itself.

Taking over in 1988 Neville set about building a pride and desire to wear the jumper. His passion led to the BFL reaching an inter-league level of success which has not been equalled, let alone surpassed, since.

With his signature thoroughness and ability to communicate Neville assembled a powerful group of players who wanted to represent the league.

Sandhurst and BFL defender Chris Greene frequently described the late 1980s inter-league group as “another BFL club”, so binding was the camaraderie among the representative team.

Even though the Blue and Golds were belted by the Geelong League in 1988’s inter-league grand final (at the East Geelong oval) the following season Strauch led them to the pinnacle.

Nothing was going to prevent Bendigo from re-establishing itself as the premier league in country Victoria.

Victories over Ovens and Murray in the semi-final and the revenge for the ’88 loss with a victory over Geelong in 1989’s country championships grand final at the QEO saw the Blue and Golds at the top of the VCFL pyramid.

Neville was recognized for his outstanding service to Bendigo footy — throughout the region, as well as the city — with the awarding of the 1989 Bendigo Football League Personality of the Year.

Strauch’s influence wasn’t quite over.

The Blue and Golds reached the Div. 1 grand final in 1990 after again downing Ovens and Murray at Lavington in the semi-final.

The scenes in the Lavington clubrooms after the O and M had gone down for the second successive year to the Blue and Golds had to be seen to be believed.

Senior O and M officials seemed almost ready to fall on their swords — collectively.

Fortunately after some strong debate back and forth from the Bendigo and O and M tables, punctuated by colourful language not best suited to official proceedings, the awards for the top players in the respective leagues were handed out.

However in the 1990 play-off, this time the Strauch-led team wasn’t quite able to get over the line. LaTrobe Valley won the big game in Gippsland.

Strauchy stood down as inter-league coach after three seasons in charge with a record no one has come close to matching since those heady days.


NEVILLE was than appointed as Carlton’s development officer for the area. When the then VFL decided it would assume the regional development roles in its name, Neville was appointed the VFL development officer for the Bendigo region.

Committed to the growth and promotion of junior football throughout the Bendigo, central and north central area Strauchy became one of the best-known faces in under-age footy.

He held the positions of president of the VCFL Junior Board as well as spending many years with the under-17 Caltex competition and a variety of schoolboy teams.

His final great commitment to the Bendigo district came when he assumed the role of manager to the Bendigo Pioneers in the TAC Cup under-18 division.

This was a role he held until his untimely death.

During his time with the Pios, his professional approach and ability to communicate with everybody firmly established the Pioneers as a legitimate football entity in Bendigo.

Neville’s commitment to developing young talent and the search for excellence is his legacy to our district.


“STRAUCHY’S here!” That would be the cry from the reception window at the old Bendigo Advertiser building in Pall Mall.

It would signal that Neville was in the building, with a press release relating either to the Pioneers or to junior footy matters. Sometimes both. Occasionally, information by word of mouth.

At the time when I was working there it seemed that Neville would appear out of nowhere, virtually every day.

Looking back, however, it seems more credible that it was two or three times a week. Most especially, naturally, during the winter-early spring months.

Neville knew a thing or two about the print media, too. He was well aware that Saturday’s editions were the prime issues of the Bendigo Advertiser, so we’d see him pretty frequently on Friday afternoons.

Apart from keeping we journos and the wider reading public up to speed concerning the Pioneers, Neville’s wide breadth of footy knowledge could be tapped into. On the spot, so to speak.

He had a vast knowledge about footballers, clubs, coaches, administrators and things which often got swept under the club carpets around the region.

As long as we quoted “a reliable source told us” –- or a like pseudonym — Neville was prepared to share his knowledge with us.

The following week he’d let us know in his quiet and unassuming way whether we’d hit the nail on the head with our revelations about what had transpired at such-and-such a club, or league!


With thanks to BFNL Hall of Fame executive officer Darren Lewis and the Hall of Fame selection committee.

The late Neville Strauch was inducted into the BFNL Hall Of Fame on October, 29th, 2010. His award was accepted by his son, Dean Strauch.

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