‘The Hopper who flew to the Sunshine State……..’ by KB Hill

Whenever Kevin Weule’s Parkinson’s affliction begins to give him the ‘irrits’ he grabs his paint brush and begins to work feverishly on a portrait.

 

“Funny,” he says, “When I got the first symptoms of this prick of a thing in 2007 my hands used to shake like hell. Then I took up Portrait Painting…….It was amazing how that seemed to stop the tremors. It became my hobby……..I’ve been doing it ever since.”

 

Ovens and Murray fans of the sixties might remember ‘Turkey’ as a feisty North Albury defender – slight of build, but big on attitude……..one of the all-time favourites of Bunton Park’s resident cheer-leader Kenny Bruce – the bloke responsible for that timeless catch-cry: ‘Go Hoppers, Go, Go, Go……’

 

***

 

They dubbed him with his famous nickname when he was playing Midget footy with North Albury.

 

“The coach promised us some Turkey if we won our Grand Final. All we got was chicken…I started whingeing and asking where the turkey was………So I’ve been ‘Turkey’ ever since,” he says.

 

He was born in Brunswick nearly 77 years ago. When his dad moved the Weule clan to the Border, and began operating Lavington Car Sales they gravitated to the nearby North Albury Footy Club.

 

Turkey rose through the ranks, and made his senior debut in 1961, aged 17, under the coaching of the great Donny Ross, who’d returned home after a fine career with Footscray.

 

 

 

“Rossy played the game hard and fair, but could get fired up. He took exception to something a Myrtleford player did one day; chased him into their dressing rooms and got stuck into him. By gee he was cranky……”.

 

Ross was succeeded as coach by big-names Graeme McKenzie, Ian Aston, Ralph Rogerson and, finally, John Sharrock, during Turk’s time in Green and Gold, but they were unable to lift the Hoppers into the upper echelon.

 

“We usually finished about mid-ladder (and snuck into the finals twice, I think) despite having some brilliant individual players like Stan Sargeant, ‘Sam’ Donovan, David Sykes, Geoff Doubleday and Bobbie Barker. It’s just that we never had enough of ‘em.”

 

 

But by the mid-sixties ‘Turk’ was rated among the League’s star defenders. He played the first of his seven rep games for the O & M in 1966, in front of 12,000 fans at Bendigo’s QEO. Inter-League footy was a big deal in those days, and sides usually contained their share of recently-retired VFL players.

 

The VFL introduced country zoning in 1968, and he was one of a handful of O & M players to be invited down to train with North Melbourne.

 

After performing capably in practice matches against Carlton and Collingwood, he was named in the back pocket for another pre-season game – against an O & M rep side, coached by Mick Bone.

 

 

“I was picking up a few kicks, too. But ‘Boney’, the bastard, sneaked an extra couple of blokes up forward in the third-quarter. Keith McKenzie was North Melbourne’s coach at the time…..He was yelling out …’Pick up your man, Turkey…..Pick up your man……’.”

 

“The umpie got wind of it and stopped the game for a head-count…..and two of the O & M fellahs sneaked off…….”

 

As luck would have it, a week later, Turk’s foot got tangled up in an Arden Street pot-hole and the resultant broken leg put paid to his dreams of the big-time………He headed back home to Bunton Park.

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, he took over his Dad’s business.

 

“My brother Peter had been killed in a car accident near Corowa, and it broke Dad’s heart. He never really got over it. We ended up selling the land and everything up, and I went over to work at Baker Motors ……….

 

***

 

It was late 1970…….Turk was considering an offer to coach Ganmain. He’d chalked up 161 games for the Hoppers and thought it was time to test himself. Almost on cue, he received a call from powerful Brisbane club Coorparoo.

 

Their Patron, Jack Handasyde – an ex-Corowa lad – flew down to interview him, and painted a rosy picture of the Club and its prospects. By the time Jack had climbed into the plane to head home, Turk had accepted the job as playing-coach of the ‘Roos.

 

“Old Jack was a very convincing, self-made man. He’d moved up north in his younger days, got into selling cars and built up his business, Handasyde Motors, to be one of Brisbane’s biggest. He was passionate about Aussie Rules – and Coorparoo – and didn’t mind putting his money where his mouth was.”

 

So Turk and his wife Marg packed their belongings and headed north with, he reckons, the princely sum of $1,200 to their name.

 

“Jack offered me a job as a Car Salesman. I stayed with him for the next 30-odd years…….Best move I ever made…….I loved the car game; it was the makings of me.”

 

Unbeknowns to him, he was replacing a QAFL legend, Wayne Stewart, who had coached the Roos to a flag in 1968, followed by successive Grand Finals.

 

Stewart had crossed over from his original club, Mayne, and was renowned as a tough, ruthless defender. As a youngster he’d tried his luck at St.Kilda and was named in the senior side for the opening round of 1961. But the QAFL refused to grant him an interstate clearance, and he returned to the Sunshine State, where he was to become a 289-game star.

 

“He was hugely admired, both for his demeanour, and his courage in playing with just one kidney. He played his career with a leather guard protecting that kidney,” Turkey recalls.

 

“The Club made a mistake though…..They should have brought me in a year later. Instead, they gave ‘Stewie’ the arse,” he says.

 

“Was he shitty?” I ask.

 

“Nah, the type of bloke he was, he’d have said to them: ‘Give Kevin a go’. But it took me half a year to get the players on side – to thinking my way. They were pissed off with the job being taken off ‘Stewie’, who remained a great support to me as a player………”

 

***

 

I happened to play against Turk two or three times when he was at North Albury. But the first time I was introduced to him was on the way to idyllic Stradbroke Island, where Coorparoo’s playing list – and recruits – were being ferried over for a Training Camp.

 

Brisbane was the first port-of-call on my Northern Sporting Safari, and by the end of that week-end Camp, I was stiff and sore, heavy-headed, and had signed with the ‘Roos.

 

Turk had many virtues as a leader. He possessed a breezy, quick-witted personality and was an inspirational player. I loved his style and believed he had the ideal components to coach.

 

The Roos moved to their new headquarters, Giffin Oval, that season, but before the finishing touches were added to it, ‘The Gabba’, complete with dog-track, Moreton Bay Fig trees and a hotch-pot of stands became our home ground.

 

But Turk was unable to drag the side; a mixture of expat Tasmanians and Vics (a few of them from the O & M), along with the diehard regulars, any higher than the middle rungs of the ladder in his time at the top.

 

 

He quickly adapted to Queensland footy, though, and became one of its big names, earning his first State guernsey in 1973, against South Australia. His fellow Roos Bill Ryan (the high-flying ex-Geelong star), winger Chris King and the full-back, my brother Denis, were also part of the side, which fell to the Croweaters, by 26 points – 19.16 to 15.4.

 

The QAFL judiciary became well-acquainted with Turk in his sporadic appearances before them. He recalled one instance after a fiery clash against arch rivals Mayne:

“We were playing over there one day, when a bloke threw a full can of beer at me. It missed me and hit Wayne Stewart on the back of the head.”

 

“I just dropped everything and decided: ‘That bugger’s gotta go.’ I jumped the fence, climbed three rows of seats and knocked him on his backside…….He came up again, like a little puppet, and I hit him again…….”

 

“So I go back on the ground and the umpie comes up and says: ‘I wasn’t game to go near you before, but I’ve gotta report you Turk’………….”

 

***

 

He played 116 games with Coorparoo and, after retirement, remained heavily involved with the Club, which experienced its next period of glory in the mid-eighties, when it snavelled two flags. A young Jason Dunstall, the Roos’ greatest-ever product, ruled the goal-square in that era.

 

With his three kids (Daniel, Benjamin and Ziade) blooming and business burgeoning, Turk threw himself headlong into selling cars.

 

Eventually he ran his own Car Yard, and also co-founded and operated hugely-successful Queensland Motor Valuations with old mates Jack Handasyde and Bernie Thiele.

 

For 21 years he became the familiar voice of ABC Radio (Qld and Tasmania), as the host of his own motoring show. He would advise listeners on the value of their car, how to go about purchasing a new vehicle, and answer their queries.

 

His love affair with North Stradbroke, which began with that first footy training camp back in 1971, was entrenched years later, when he and Marg built a house on the Island. They sold it after a couple of years, but now have a 30-foot Van in which they stay once or twice a week………..

 

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Kevin Weule stays abreast of the fortunes of his old club, and was chuffed to be invited back to Bunton Park in 2018, as one of the initial Inductees to North Albury Football Club’s Hall of Fame.

 

His mind wandered back more than half a century , to those days when he was the General of the Hoppers’ backline…..And, when the siren blew, would thrive on the laughs and cameraderie of team-mates and opponents alike. That, he reckons, is what footy’s all about……..

 

 

This story appeared first on KB Hill’s website On Reflection and is used here with permission. All photos sourced from KB Hill’s resources.

To read more of KB Hill’s great stories, click HERE.

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