‘Old Pie treads down Memory Lane……’ by KB Hill

We first encountered him in the late-summer of 1965, on a sporty Princes Park wicket.

 

After back-to-back Country Week victories, our reasoning was that a third win, against the formidable Warragul, would have Wangaratta on the cusp of a spot in the Provincial Group Final – within reach of the most prestigious prize in country cricket.

 

But we hadn’t factored in Trevor Steer – a quickie with a high action, who could move the ball and make it steeple off a good length.

 

He and his slippery opening partner John Kydd proceeded to scythe through our batting; routing us for 71; then having us teetering at 8/55 when we followed-on – eons away from their total of 201……

 

***

 

Fifty-five years later, Trevor’s hazy about the finer details of that game, but distinctly recalls a large group of kids from Princes Hill Secondary College clustered in the Robert Heatley Stand, giving him a ‘razz’ as he ran in to bowl:

“They must have been mostly Carlton supporters, and obviously twigged that I was the big, lanky bloke they’d seen trying to get a kick for Collingwood…….”

 

Less than two years on, he was still wearing a Black and White guernsey, but now it was as the newly-appointed captain-coach of Wangaratta…

 

***

 

He’s 81 now, and has a trove of sporting memories:

….Like the time an uncle, George Hulett , took him for his first visit to the MCG: “I was nine years old, and Australia were playing a Test series against India. I’ll never forget laying eyes on that green oval , the huge stands, and seeing Bradman, Lindwall, Miller, Hasset, Barnes, Morris, Johnston and Tallon in the flesh,….”

 

“And to top it off Bradman scored a century. It made me determined that, one day, I’d get out there and play on that magnificent arena.”

 

He was raised at Drouin, spending his early years on a Dairy Farm before the family moved into town. He credits Bruce Tozer, a legendary teacher at Warragul High – and future State cricketer – as a tremendous sporting influence on he and his school-mates.

 

When Trevor headed off to boarding school at Scotch College he was a skinny, little tacker – just on 5’8”, and barely able to hold his place in Scotch’s Fourth 18 footy side.

 

But in his 18th year he grew roughly 7 inches. “I was playing with a church side, St.George’s, East St.Kilda. From struggling to get a possession one season, the next I was kicking bags of goals and starting to kill ‘em in the air. I thought: ‘How good’s this ?’ “

 

He travelled back home for a season, and played in Drouin’s 1958 premiership, before spending two years with University Blacks whilst completing his teaching degree.

 

That’s when Collingwood came knocking.

 

“Actually, they offered me a couple of games in late 1960, but I knocked them back. I couldn’t let Uni Blacks down by leaving during the season.”

 

The Steer VFL career ignited early in the opening round of 1961 when the Sherrin floated over the top of a charging pack, he ran onto it and nailed a goal with his first kick in League football.

 

He booted two goals on debut, but learned how unforgiving the ‘Pies fans were, as they reacted savagely to a 39-point mauling at Geelong’s Kardinia Park.

 

That boyhood dream of treading the hallowed MCG was realised two months later, in the Queen’s Birthday clash with Melbourne, in front of 78,465 fans. He nailed four out of Collingwood’s seven, in a 69-point defeat.

 

Trevor was teaching at Wonthaggi at this stage. His random training appearances at Collingwood mainly came during School Holidays. But the Magpies made sure to arrange a job for him back in the city in 1962.

 

For the next six seasons he revelled in the big-time atmosphere of League football. He occasionally muses how, but for two cruel twists of fate, he could easily have been a dual-premiership player.

 

In 1964, it was a dramatic goal from Melbourne’s pocket player Neil ‘Froggy’ Crompton which stole victory from the ‘Pies…….And St.Kilda fans still relate, with glee, Barrie Breen’s long, tumbling kick in the dying seconds of the ‘66 Grand Final, which registered a point and delivered their only flag.

 

 

1965, though, was Steer’s finest season. Big Ray Gabelich, the club’s key ruckman, went down early on and the 6 ft 3 inch, 84kg Steer was thrust into the role. He adapted so well that he took out the Copeland Trophy – Collingwood’s B & F – and was rewarded with the vice-captaincy the following year.

 

 

Trevor still found time, with his busy footy schedule, to return home to play cricket at Drouin. “Our coach Bob Rose, being an old cricketer himself, had no objection, as long as I organised it around practice-matches.”

 

His new-ball partner Des Nottage – an accurate medium-pace swing bowler – was a quality back-up, and the pair ran through most batting line-ups in the district. Along with prolific run-scorers like Tom Carroll and Stuart Pepperall, they helped Drouin Gold to five successive flags.

 

Besides fitting in two years of Country Week cricket (including the 1965 Final against Warrnambool at the MCG), Trevor also made two cameo appearances with District club Northcote.

 

“Someone from school who was tied up with the club invited me down there to train. I remember Bill Lawry was in the nets when I started bowling. They said: ‘Don’t upset him by giving him anything short, he’s got a Shield game on tomorrow’. I decided to try and get one to move away from him and bowled him. That must have impressed the experts; they picked me for a Cup-Day game.”

 

“Thinking back, I should have kept on at Northcote, but it was just too big a commitment at the time……..”

 

 

***

 

A young Collingwood ruckman, Len Thompson, had arrived on the scene in 1966, and was being touted as, potentially, the finest big man in the game.

 

“They didn’t really want ‘Thommo’ being stuck in the back pocket, guarding the resting ruckmen, so that job fell to me. It didn’t really suit me, and I wasn’t all that happy,” Trevor recalls.

 

“I was teaching at Murrumbeena, but had received a promotion to Monbulk, which would mean a fair bit of extra travel to get to training. I gazed out the window of the classroom one day and saw these two bushy-looking blokes wandering around the school……Someone knocked on the door and said there were a couple of chaps who’d like to speak to me.”

 

“That was my introduction to Jack White and Gus Boyd. They said: ‘We’re from the Wangaratta Football Club and we’d like you to coach us. Are you interested ?’ “

 

“Sure,” I said, “but there’s one problem, you’d have to do something about organising a teaching transfer.” “Leave it to us,” they replied.

 

“The long and the short of it was that I went to Parliament House and met the local Member, Keith Bradbury, who somehow negotiated a transfer to Beechworth High.”

 

So, after calling it quits on his 88-game VFL career, Trevor and his wife Jill settled into a house in Swan Street, and embraced their new Club.

 

Wangaratta had been the ‘Bridesmaid’ in the previous three Grand Finals, but held high hopes that their new coach, and ace ruckman, could guide them to that elusive flag.

 

Wodonga, led by an old Collingwood team-mate Mickey Bone, were a revitalised unit in 1967, and loomed as the early favourites, but the ‘Pies were among several other worthwhile claimants.

 

Their hopes were vanquished by wayward kicking in the First Semi-Final at Rutherglen. Former coach Ron Critchley booted 0.9, as the Rovers prevailed by 3 points.

 

They remained contendors in each of the four Steer years, missing the finals by percentage in 1968, losing the First Semi to eventual premiers Myrtleford in 1970, and bowing out to powerhouse Wodonga in the 1969 Grand Final.

 

They felt the loss of their skipper in that game. He watched on as the ‘Dogs gained control; having sustained a broken hand in Round 18.

 

Trevor ranked among the best of a talented band of big men who ruled the air during this strong late-60’s era of O & M football. He represented the League each year and turned in one of his finest performances in the Country Championship Final of 1968.

 

Trevor Steer (top right), listens intently to Mickey Bone’s half-time ‘roast’ in the 1968 Country Championship Final.

 

10,000 spectators converged on the Horsham City Oval, as O & M turned on a paralysing last half to defeat Wimmera by 35 points.

 

The Wimmera Mail-Times reported that : “……It was ruckman Trevor Steer who made sure the O & M’s dominance in the latter part of the game never flagged.”

 

“Assisted by a mere handful of players, Steer created sufficient energy to keep O & M alive in the first half, and was a giant among giants in the last……….”

 

 

Magpies Cricket Club recruited Trevor when he first landed in town. He helped transform them from battlers to a gun combination. In his three and a half years in the WDCA he captured 153 wickets, played in three Grand Finals and helped them to their second flag, in 1967/68.

 

His strong performances in the North-East Cup competition justified selection against the Victorian Shield side at Benalla. Two years later, and after 49 wickets in just 11 Cup matches he was chosen to lead a Victorian Country XI against the touring West Indies at the Wangaratta Showgrounds in 1969.

 

Victorian Country XI v West Indies, 1969

 

That, Trevor says, provided the highlight of his cricket career. “To be rubbing shoulders with legends of the game like Hall, Lloyd, Nurse, Gibbs……. I have a photo on the mantlepiece, of tossing the coin with Garfield Sobers……then to mix socially with them….it was a huge thrill.”

 

 

…….That was just one of the many fond memories of his time in Wangaratta, he says….”Two of the kids were born there…..we made some lifelong friends.”

 

 

***

 

The Steers moved to Healesville, and Trevor coached Kilsyth in 1971. In his final year of footy- with Healesville – in 1972, he snagged five goals in the Grand Final, to help the Bloods to a premiership.

 

“That was as good a time as any to go out, I thought. I was nudging 34. It was an privilege to have captained Healesville to both cricket and footy flags in the same year.”

 

But he continued to play cricket – at Inverloch, Bendigo, Mandurang and Mirboo North finally hanging up the spikes at the age of 53. School-teaching took he and Jill and their kids ( Peter, Leesa and Rodney) to East Loddon P-12 School as Principal, then to Mirboo North Secondary, also as Principal.

 

After leaving the teaching profession, Trevor operated a 288-acre Beef Cattle farm in South Gippsland for 18 years, but now, in retirement, the Steers are domiciled in the seaside town of Inverloch.

 

His passion for footy and cricket remains as intense as ever, but he admits that nothing surprises him too much about sport these days…….

 

Except for the occasion, six years ago, when Life Membership was bestowed up him by the Collingwood Football Club.

 

“That was the ultimate honour,” says the big fellah……….

 

 

 

This story first appeared on KB Hill’s website, On Reflection and appears here with permission. Read more of KB’s great sports yarns by clicking 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.

 

Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

Comments

  1. A player from before my introduction to the code but, hey, what a CV! KB Hill is a never-ending story teller of the highest calibre.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    What a career in both sports, great piece, a Collingwood player I knew very little about.

Leave a Comment

*