Almanac (Footy) History: Osborne FNC – a reflection

 

 

 

“My father was actually my first coach starting out, my mother wasn’t too happy I was playing U14s at the age of 10. But in country footy you helped out other grades when they were short so by the age of 13 I was playing U14s, U17s and reserve grade all in the one day and had 3 different coaches.”

 

Adam Schneider, Osborne Football and Netball Club

 

Mention the name Osborne anywhere in the NSW Riverina and chances are most peoples thoughts turn to their glorious footy teams through the years. When researching their remarkable story I consulted the local newspaper the Eastern Riverina Chronicle. ( A footy ground without a town is on the map was the most-read story on the Eastern Riverina Chronicle website in 2017.) It seems everyone is intrigued by Osborne’s perennial success against the odds.

 

The footy club is not the epicentre of Osborne; It is Osborne. The ‘town’ has no pub, no school (it closed in 1972)  or even a shop. Yet, it wins Premierships with ridiculous regularity.  (15 since entering the Hume league in 1970). By contrast its arch-rival Lockhart (pop 1000), just 14km up the road has won just two pennants in that time (not that Osborne supporters would dare raise this apparent anomaly).

 

Some years ago on ABC radio after a Swans game Osborne’s own Adam Schneider was  questioned by commentator Stan Alves-

 

Alves- “What’s the population of Osborne?”

 

Schneider- “About ten during the week but 1000 on Saturday if the footy’s at home.”

 

If I was likening the OFNC to an AFL side over the last decade or more, I would be nominating the Swans: a perennial force in the competition where there are no egos just role-players on and off the field. The Swans underrated playmaker Luke Parker, for instance, would fit into the Osborne midfield and play his role.

 

Last year the club had all four of its Football teams competing in their respective Grand Finals- seniors, reserves, under 17s and under 14s. It triumphed in the seniors and under 17s confirming yet again Osborne’s reputation as a powerhouse of the Hume Football and Netball League.

 

Osborne is located 2kilometres off the Lockhart-Walbundrie Road. It’s almost 90 kilometres north-east of the border city of Albury and 80 kilometres south-east of Wagga Wagga. You first see the sign Osborne then a road sign saying ‘Beware- long queues’. There is no other vehicle in sight, is this a joke perhaps?….. and then it makes sense when on the right you see the entrance to the Osborne Recreation Oval- ‘Welcome to Tigerland’.

 

Osborne, which has always worn black and yellow guernseys, was known as the Tigers until entering the Hume league in 1970. Walbundrie, which wears black and yellow stripes, was already the Tigers, so Osborne was forced to choose another nickname. The club became the Cats while continuing to refer to themselves as the Tigers. (Ref 1)  When the Rand-Walbundrie Tigers merged with the Walla Walla Grasshoppers in 2016 the new conglomerate chose a neutral AFL-endorsed moniker, the ‘Giants’. Instead of being The Cats, Osborne was now free to reclaim its original name, The Tigers.

 

As drivers pay their $12 admission charge at the gate they are confronted with a huge marauding yellow and black Ned Kelly-like farm sculpture which is made from a 44-Gallon drum and other tins for arms and legs with a pair of boots dangling from it. If any opponent was not already intimidated by the prospect of playing Osborne on their own turf they would be now!

 

There is a rustic charm about the Osborne Recreation Oval. It is typical of many country sports grounds but the lush green oval is curated to perfection by hard-working volunteers and is flanked by canola crops which form a golden yellow blanket in springtime when Finals are played. The facilities by any standard are top class. Current senior coach Joel Mackie, a decorated veteran in the bigger Ovens and Murray league, joked that the clubrooms were now more spacious than he remembered as a kid which was probably needed to ‘display all their memorabilia’!

 

When the Hume League recently decided to abandon its season due to COVID-19 it left Osborne with no choice but to apply to join the next-door Riverina Football League for the remainder of this season which is scheduled to start competitive matches in late July.  It is a bold move but with contractual obligations and other fixed costs it allows the club to recoup some losses in these disastrous times.

 

After some high-level Zoom meetings the radical move was sanctioned by both leagues. It opens the door for the mighty Osborne Tigers to go back-to-back in two different competitions. (Not sure if this feat has been done before!)

 

With all this success the club has spurned some handy players but naturally some leave for bigger leagues like the O and M, and a few, notably Adam Schneider, have even gone onto the VFL/AFL. Osborne is a farming community and like all rural communities has suffered its share of financial hardship in recent years due to drought.

 

Adam Schneider was known as a clever player who could smell a goal coming down the race (228 games- Syd,St Kilda, 259 goals). He is now back in Sydney as an assistant coach with the GWS Giants.

 

Adam’s path to the elite level was a bit unusual compared to today; he had played Seniors with his mates and two older brothers at Osborne since the age of 14, enjoying three Premierships, before getting drafted in 2001 from the NSW/Rams Under 18s with the Sydney Swans’ 4TH Round selection (no.60 overall). His relatively late selection in the draft suggests that the youngster from remote country NSW may have slipped under the radar of some recruiters.

 

After some niggling injuries and the inevitable homesickness after moving to the big smoke Schneider cemented a spot in the Swans team that won 2005 Grand Final. He was yet again a Premiership player!

 

Schneider was traded to St Kilda in 2008 and retired in 2015 with 130 games for the red, white and black adding to his 98 games for the Swans.

 

A lot of players are lucky to play in one Grand Final but Schneider played in five over his career including the famous drawn game in 2010. Unfortunately, his five Grand Final appearances only yielded the one flag (with the Swans in 05).

 

Osborne F.N.C will, no doubt, also add to its burgeoning trophy cabinet sometime soon.

 

This place in the middle of nowhere always makes its mark!

 

 

Bibliography

 

1 ‘Club from nowhere on the map at last’ The Age June 30 2002

 

 

Aerial photo of the picturesque Osborne Recreation Oval.

 

 

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. Colin Ritchie says

    You’re absolutely right! Many footy clubs are the heart & soul of a community. It’s pity so many of these clubs have folded in recent times, and it will tough in the current circumstances for others to continue to survive.

  2. Shane Reid says

    Great piece. So much uncertainty about the things that feed local footy in 2021 and beyond. I wonder what the potential changes in employment as a result of COVID will do to a lot of bush clubs.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    What an impressive club. My former team, the South Purrumbete FC, also existed without a pub or shop, the club lasted from 1888 to 1999, while the school was in operation from 1883-1993.
    Really like the idea of a club flanked by canola fields.

  4. Very interesting move by Osborne to swap leagues in search of a game.
    Interesting times indeed.

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