Revelling in the Riverina: Episode 5 – On the banks of the Lachlan

REVELLING in the Riverina

 

The vintage years

 

 

Episode 5                                                                    

On the banks of the Lachlan

 

 

Hillston, NSW (The Swans, Northern Riverina Football Netball League) 

 

Stage 5: Ungarie to Hillston

 

Curving our way around the Northern Riverina towards Hillston on the Lachlan River we pass through Tullibigeal and Lake Cargelligo… both big mouthfuls. But before we get ahead of ourselves, a detour to the locality of Four Corners is a must. Midway between Ungarie and Tullibigeal, on Kikoira Road, lies an abandoned ground where football was played for seven decades (1920s -1990s) with typical bush vigour, enormous pride and great success. After parking the car we take a stroll around the ‘Corners footy ground.

 

Providing some background for our visit to Four Corners, among several other sources, are a video by Nathan William Media, a description written by country football historian Paul Daffey and a publication (‘Flying High’) prepared for the club’s 50th anniversary in 1987. 

 

All football clubs experience extreme highs and lows over the course of their lifetimes. Supporters of one former Northern Riverina League club, Four Corners, certainly experienced both emotions – excruciating pain and exultant jubilation during their club’s 67 years of existence. The pain was inflicted in nine grand final defeats in twelve seasons between 1960 and 1971 before fortunes suddenly changed and Four Corners rediscovered the secret to winning grand finals. The jubilation came earlier, from the five consecutive premierships won by the infant club, between 1928 and 1932. Vintage years indeed! 

 

But those premiership droughts and floods are not what Four Corners is remembered for today. The club’s former home ground, located on its own without an accompanying settlement, is the characteristic that football followers from afar find most interesting and unique. The football club is so named because the original Four Corners rural settlement lay at the junction of four sheep and cattle stations. It is red sandy soil wheat country stretching for miles and miles in all directions. Alongside a quiet country road the Four Corners football ground, abandoned in 1994, can still be seen today. It is set within a Travelling Stock Reserve amidst grey box and cypress pine trees (the football oval is in the centre of the block of native vegetation alongside Kikoira Road in the Google satellite image below).

 

 

Four Corners Football Ground 

 

Location of Four Corners and the Four Corners Oval

(Ungarie 1:100 000 topographic map)

 

 

The bush-hewn goal posts are still standing at either end of the oval. Although 30 years have passed since football was last played at the ‘Corners ground, the galvanised iron changing sheds, toilets and kiosk remain intact.

A commemorative plaque attached to a large granite boulder at the entrance to the  ground reveals a little of the club’s history. It states:

“In commemoration of the Four Corners Football Club that played Australian Rules Football on this ground in the Northern Riverina League from 1927 to 16th April 1994.”

The inscription lists the club’s football and netball premiership years and proudly declares:

“Four Corners was a remarkable club of enormous pride, great spirit and unique character through which many life-long friendships were formed.”

The ‘Corners’ ground was the scene of many footy games that live long in the memories of visiting players from places such as Kikoira, Ungarie, Tullibigeal, Burgooney, Lake Cargelligo, Tallimba, Forrest Vale, Rankins Springs and West Wyalong.

Take a moment to watch a video, filmed in 2011, of the Four Corners footy ground courtesy of NWM Studios:

 

 

In 1927 a group of former Victorian farmers decided to form a football club to be known as Four Corners. It was a breakaway club from Tullibigeal and was originally known as the ‘Redbreasts’. The bush team quickly enjoyed success winning their maiden premiership in only their second year of competition. But that was no fleeting success. Four Corners backed that up, winning the next four flags. The commemorative plaque lists 1928, 1929 and 1930 as premiership years but curiously omits 1931 and 1932. Part of the answer for missing years lies in the fact that the Depression of the early 1930’s caused a temporary halt to competitive football in the association, with only social games played in 1931. But the newspapers of the time recorded a slightly different version of the facts and actually proclaimed Four Corners as premiers in both 1931 and 1932. 

 

With Second AIF enlistments from the district on the rise, Four Corners struggled for players and went into recess in 1941. Some remaining Redbreasts’ players joined Kikioira and contributed to back-to-back flags for the neighbouring club.

 

Later, Four Corners became known as the ‘Redlegs’ and wore a maroon guernsey with a gold ‘V’.  Among the identities associated with the Four Corners club the names Husking and Ireland stand very tall. Jack Husking played over 400 games, while Dud Ireland captained Four Corners for an incredible 17 years before his retirement in 1966. Dud and John Ireland also amassed close to 400 games. Following in their footsteps, Terry Ireland won the NRFL best and fairest award on an incredible six occasions.

 

Four Corners won 13 flags and were runners-up 18 times across the span of years 1927-94. Remarkably, it was not until the 1970s that the club had its first coach, Geoff Hanns, who coached the team to the 1977 flag. He was followed by Stan Hague who took Four Corners to the 1980 premiership. The Redlegs’ next, and ultimately their last, premiership was in 1984 under the leadership of Peter Ridley when they enjoyed a 30 point victory over Ungarie. 

 

Four Corners team c. 1988 at the Four Corners ground

(Memories of Lake Cargelligo 2672 on Facebook)

 

Loyalty and team spirit were the secrets to Four Corners’ success. Their demise in 1994 was due to a lack of numbers, a familiar story wherever football is played across the country. Premierships were always celebrated with a big function, usually a ball in the local hall. Let’s go back in time to the Kikoira Hall in October 1954 for the Four Corners Football Club Victory Ball.

 

Over 400 dancers, some of whom travelled more than 50 miles to be present, thronged to the dance floor and overflowed outside. Perfectly organised, the function went with a swing from start to finish. Prior to supper, the club president Mr Fred Hill introduced the players who grouped in front of the stage. He thanked the large crowd for its presence to assist in celebrating the club’s 1954 triumph and wished them all a happy evening and a safe return home. Representatives of the competing clubs in Jim Daniher (Ungarle). “Bloudie” Delahunty (Burgooney), Dave Imrie (Tullibigeal), Ron Spinks (Milby), J.Templeton (Naradhan) and J.O’Brien (Lake Cargelligo) all voiced their congratulations to the winning team and the sporting manner in which the season’s activities had been conducted. Dudley Ireland responded on behalf of the Four Corners team, and added his congratulations to the Ungarie team as runners-up both this and last year. Supper, prepared by the ladies’ committee associated with the club, was tasty and ample for all who partook of the viands, and was served without a hitch. Two M.C.’s in “Brownie” Vallance and “Blue” Madden had dancers on their toes all evening, to the music of the popular Tullibigeal Orchestra, who were in their best form.”

(West Wyalong Advocate, 14 Oct. 1954)

 

Back on board the GTHO, let’s fire up some foot stomping bush music as we head towards Tullibigeal followed by Lake Cargelligo and the Lachlan beyond. The shearing song is titled ‘The Lachlan Tigers’ and the rendition is by a former band from Tooleybuc – the Barry Bodak Bush Band.

 

 

 

 

As we pass through Tullibigeal we acknowledge another NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee, Leanne Imrie. Leanne is recognised for over 30 years of service as an official and administrator of the Tulli football club and the NRFNL. Our next whistle stop is at Lake Cargelligo, the northern-most point of our trip, where we acknowledge another inductee in the NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame, Stan Hague. Originally from Rand (see episode 17 later in the series), Stan has given more than 60 years of service to football in the Riverina as a player, coach and administrator. As noted earlier, he also coached Four Corners, guiding the Redlegs to the 1980 premiership.The survival of the Northern Riverina League owes a good deal to the hard work of Stan Hague.

 

Arriving at Hillston, on the banks of the Lachlan River, we have reached the place where the Riverina gives way to the Far West region. Here the soil is as red as a Sherrin and grows crops as diverse as citrus to grain and vegetables to cotton, all supported by water from the Lachlan supplemented by artesian sources. The timber-clad welcome to Hillston sign advises us we are in the midst of the Carrathool Shire.

 

An Australian Rules Football club was formed at Hillston in 1925 and played games against Merriwagga, Goolgowi, Monia Gap, Bootheragandra, Woolarma and Lake Cargelligo in a competition named the Hillston and District Football Association. At the time Rugby League was already well established, but the new code soon attracted interest and support in the Hillston district. Australian Football in the town of Hillston proved to be a novelty and was not sustained, however neighbouring towns including Goolgowi and Merriwagga kept the game alive in the 1930s.

 

The Hillston ‘Swans’ joined the NRFNL in 2000 where they have won a respectable tally of three flags (2007, 2019 and 2023). The Swans’ first flag was the result of a massive 88 point victory over Lake Cargelligo at West Wyalong. Their next premiership was a hard earned three point win against Tullibigeal (the ‘Grasshoppers’), while in their most recent triumph the Swans comfortably defeated the Grasshoppers by 29 points at a cold and windy Lake Cargelligo Oval.

 

Seconds before the final siren in the 2023 NRFNL grand final at Lake Cargelligo

(Hillston Swans Football and Netball Club Inc. on Facebook)

 

Hillston in 2024

 

Round 6

 

Lake Cargelligo 15.11 (101) defeated Hillston 10.10 (70) at the Lake Cargelligo Recreation Ground on Saturday 18th May

 

Riverina Spotto: 

 

Sherrin kicked out and 14 to go

 

the last post Irish pub a slice of pizza
faithful canine sheep and dog the family club
22 yards two felines 31.12.74
truckie’s stop submarine a shearing team
all among the wool one pub town Sherrin
three  bees square footy hub

 

Next episode: Stage 6 – to Griffith

 

Previous episodes of Revelling In The Riverina, and more from Peter Clark can be read Here.

 

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Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The Four Corners story is fascinating Peter.

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