“No rest for ‘Wobbles’…….” by KB Hill

 

 

 

The first question I put to this dapper super-veteran is how he happened to acquire one of Wangaratta’s best-known nicknames.

 

“It was back in my younger days, when I’d been invited down to train with Collingwood…….” he explains. “During the course of some heavy socialising one of the players, Bill Twomey, remarked that I’d got a bad case of the wobbles. It seemed to stick, and I’ve been ‘Wobbles’ ever since………”

 

Kevin Allan invites me into the spare bedroom of his Thomson Street house, and produces a small batch of yellowing newspaper cuttings, which he proceeds to spread out on the bed.

 

“Nell (his late wife) kept these. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got. I suppose I should’ve put ‘em in some sort of order, but never got around to it,” he says.

 

No matter…..’Wobbles’ has enough memories of his almost-80 years in football to fill a couple of books……

 

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He’s the eldest of six kids…..Grew up on a dairy farm at Milawa…..He tells me his dad, Jack, who was mad-keen on footy, was President of the Redlegs for many years, dating back to the thirties.

 

“I can remember when I was about 9 or 10. Dad had a ‘28 National Chev which he’d drive into Wang to pick up players for training. Our first stop was Bullock’s Store in Murphy Street, where a bloke called Vin Coram would jump in, then he’d collect the three Oates boys, and a few others.”

 

“In the end the sedan would be chock-a-block. I had to stand on the running rail. You couldn’t have players standing there…..They might have fallen off !…….”

 

He was 14 when he debuted with Milawa in 1940, and had played just two seasons when the O & K League was forced into recess because of the War. It was 1945 before he could again pull on the beloved Red and Blue guernsey.

 

Kev’s first job was on the farm. He hated it but, because it was classified as a Restricted Industry, had to stay there for the duration of the war.

 

“The moment the whistle blew at the Butter Factory, to signify the end of the War, I high-tailed it into Wang on my bike to join in the celebrations and start looking for a job,” he says.

 

He became one of Milawa’s stars of the post-war era, and played in both the 1945 and ‘47 Grand Finals.

 

“They were good times, but it’s amusing when you look back. For instance, the Methodist Minister, Reverend Perry, had a three-tonne truck. When we played away games, he’d throw a couple of church pews on the back and we’d all pile in. We used to call it Perry’s Circus, and it’d cost us two bob each for the trip.”

 

But the blossoming Allan career almost drew to a close one late-summer evening in 1948, soon after he’d bought a Motor-Bike off a mate, Tommy Hourigan.

 

Apparently Tommy’s family had pleaded with him to get rid of the Bike after he’d had a prang, but Kev thought he was Christmas when he took delivery of it and headed off on his first jaunt.

 

“I came to grief at Thompson’s Bridge, just off the Hume Highway. Old George Robbins found me there, unconscious, and drove me to hospital.”

 

“When I came to, all the family were at my bedside. A list of my injuries included burst ear drums, a broken collarbone and facial paralysis. I was ever-grateful to Doctor Phillips, who pulled me through. But he gravely advised me that my footy career was over.”

 

‘Wobbles’ was ever-grateful to the old ‘Doc’, but says on this occasion his prognosis was about 20 years premature.

 

He missed the 1948 season and, somewhat injudiciously in the opinion of a few, pulled on the boots again in ‘49. Just to show that he’d lost none of his class and ball-winning ability, Kev took out Milawa’s Best & Fairest – the J. Allan Cup.

 

The award, which acknowledges his dad’s lengthy contribution, was re-named the Jack Allan Memorial after his death later that year. A succession of Jack’s offspring have had their name etched on Milawa’s prized gong over the succeeding seventy years……

 

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Wangaratta, after being on his hammer for a few years, finally enticed him into town. Milawa were reluctant to release their star, and agreed to give him six match permits to see how he performed.

 

“But I’d fallen off some scaffolding in the meantime, and did an ankle, so it was half-way through the 1950 season before I started playing.”

 

“I’d decided, though, that I was definitely staying at Wang……Best thing I ever did,” he says.

 

‘Wobbles’ timed his move to perfection. He slotted onto a wing in those magnificent Mac Holten sides and figured in a hat-trick of premierships.

 

It was a team of stars, of course, but, in Kev’s opinion, Holten was able to get them pulling in the same direction.

 

“He just had a way about him. He was often able to get the message through without saying a word. A bit theatrical sometimes, I suppose, but gee he knew how to get us going.”

 

The 1952 side, he reckons, was the best he ever played in.

 

 

“We trailed Rutherglen at half-time of the Grand Final, but ended up knocking them over by 20 points. That was the year we played a challenge match over at Ararat at season’s end, against the Wimmera League premiers.”

 

He says it’s the only trip away he’s been on where he returned home with more money than he took……

 

“The Ararat people must have had plenty of dough. They came to our hotel on the Friday night with a swag of money to back the home team. Then they returned twice, to lay more money….We all got on. Holten asked the hotel-keeper to lock the money in his safe…….We had some sort of a ‘do’ when we won the game and ‘divvied’ it up, I can tell you……”

 

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Kev had played 128 games over seven years, including four Grand Finals, when he was lured back to Milawa as captain-coach. He was 30, but still playing top footy, and was keen to itch the coaching bug that lay within.

 

The side included his two younger brothers, Tom and Laurie, and a few old mates who had been loyal to the Demons.

 

 

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“I enjoyed coaching the boys, but I had a few run-ins with the committee,” he says. “I don’t think they were really fond of me in the finish. It didn’t help matters, either, when I took a few players over to North Wangaratta with me.”

 

The Northerners were playing in the Benalla & District League at the time, and finished Third and Runners-Up in his first two seasons.

 

When they – and Glenrowan – both sought admission to the O & K in 1961, Kev was the delegate who pleaded their case at a historic meeting, held at the Everton Hotel..

 

“Glenrowan’s delegate was a fellah called Bill Olliffe. We had a bet on the side about the result – a quid each – but after we’d both put our case we had to wait for the verdict in the bar. The meeting went on for ages, and we were both fairly merry, when they called us in to advise us that North had gained admittance…..”

 

Kev coached North Wang for six seasons, won five B & F’s and picked up the B.D.F.L Medal in 1960.

 

 

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He stood down in 1965, and played on for one more year under Billy McKenzie….

 

“Then I talked Ron Wales into doing the job. Walesy said: ‘I’ll do it if you keep playing.’ But I was 40, and buggered. Walesy wasn’t too happy with me for a while, but I became his off-field ‘adviser.’ “

So after a career, which had spanned 26 years and 426 games, ‘Wobbles’ hung up the boots……

 

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Inevitably, he drifted back to the Showgrounds Oval to begin a period of unstinting service which has even overshadowed his on-field achievements.

 

One of his titles for decades was ‘Bar Manager’, which included being on duty for every club function. All told, he devoted thousands of hours to the Magpies.

 

On match-days he’d collect the food and drinks for the kiosks, stock the fridges, organise till floats, operate the Bar and entertain the patrons.  It meant an 8.00am start and a 9.00pm finish or 2.00am if a post-match function was held).

 

One old Pie joked that modern technology had caught up with him in recent years, and he re-located to operating the Sav & Refreshment Stall in the Past Players’ Stand – ‘Wobbles’ Bay 13 Bar.

 

 

Each week-day morning throughout the year, ‘Wobbles’ and a a group of three or four stalwarts meet to clean up and effect any maintenance that’s required around the clubrooms.

 

“We carry on with a bit of ‘bullshit’ of course, and review all the subjects of the day over a cup of coffee,” he says. “But I really enjoy the company.”

 

One of their principal topics at the moment would be discussing whether Wang can live up to their hot-favouritism and take out their 16th O & M flag.

 

‘Wobbles’, the 93 year-old Ovens & King League, Ovens & Murray League and Wangaratta Football Club Hall of Famer, is confident that they can do the job…..provided they get away to a good start.

 

“It’s my only worry.” ……..That, and making sure I reach 94………..

 

 

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This article first appeared on KB Hill’s website www.kbonreflection.wordpress.com
To read more of KB’s great yarns about local sporting royalty, 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.

 

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Comments

  1. JASON ANDREW TOPPIN says

    THE CFIOLLIWOBBLES HHAVE ALWATYS BEEN WITH COLLINGWOOD ALAN MCALISTERDID NOT BURRY TYHEM

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