Three icons

 

In the past few weeks we have lost three notable people of Victorian sport, in particular of country Victoria.

 

I refer to Brian Weightman (Mildura), Tony Osler (Mildura) and Michael Bowden (Darwin).  Whilst Michael Bowden will be familiar to VFL/AFL followers via epitaphs in the papers this week and the name Weightman ‘rings a bell’, the name Tony Osler would be nearly foreign to those west of the divide.

 

I do not use the word ‘icon’ lightly but these three men pass the test easily. In their own ways each has left an indelible mark in their rural past; with Michael Bowden his passionate work has extended to our First Nations Peoples in Sunraysia and the Northern Territory.

 

I knew of Brian Weightman many years before I became a resident of Mildura.  In my involvement with the Victorian Country Football League (VCFL – yes another body that has disappeared) Weightmans’s name always came up as the doyen of football people in Sunraysia let alone the father of Richmond great Dale.

 

“Reg”, as he was popularly known, was instrumental in the careers of many young sportsmen in the area.  According to former Richmond player Nathan Bower “hundreds of young men were guided by Reg”.

 

Bower (a Mildurian) said that one of Reg’s endearing factors was his ability to get the message across without ranting and raving even though he was one of the most vocal wicketkeepers ever to play the game.

 

Weightmans’s time in sport needs a book to cover it but he played cricket with Mildura East from 1948 – 82 (team of the century), Imperials FC (team of the century).  He coached or mentored football and cricket nearly every weekend until 1997 and in his spare time curated the ovals at Mildura recreation reserve from 1990.  The number one oval was named the “Brian Weightman Oval” in January this year in honour of his services to Mildura and sport.

 

He was also team manager of Sunraysia’s Under 15 football team for many years that saw players such as Mark Lee, Dale Weightman, Matthew Knights and the Bower boys pass through his hands.  Nathan Bower said he owed a tremendous debt to Brian for being a mentor to him as he made the transition from junior country star into the AFL.

 

Besides Dale, Reg had three other sons and two daughters.  Although they don’t have the same surname two of his grandchildren Leigh Colbert (Geelong/North Melbourne) and Will Parker (Victorian cricketer) have kept the family legacy going in sport.

 

Brian Weightman was one of those rare breeds of sporting people who excelled both on and off the field.

 

 

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I have known Tony Osler for about 50 years, mainly through our time together in sport.  Tony may not have been the greatest player and he would have admitted that he loved motor bikes more than footy as a youngster.

 

However it was as a sportscaster on radio and at sporting venues throughout Victoria that Tony made his name.

 

With a voice similar to Dennis Cometti  he was an instant success on what was then radio 3UL Warragul.  He started with a Saturday morning swap market and graduated to covering football when the great Alf Walton retired. Walton, by the way, covered matches on the radio by himself, which must have been a difficult exercise.

 

In those days 3UL covered a match live every Saturday in a variety of leagues in Gippsland by mainly in the strong Latrobe Valley Football League (Templeton, Royal, Alvin, Quinlan, Round, Noonan to name a few).

 

Osler became and instant success along with his colleague Graham McGowan and even if you were at another match you would listen to their colourful comments. McGowan was the straight man of the duo as Osler was bound to make a comment that needed clarification at times.

 

Every Friday Osler would read out the teams from a variety of leagues and Saturday night was always the scoreboards from around Gippsland; a must for club diehards.

 

Country radio lost its identity when it became corporatised; the loss of the football which virtually disappeared from the scene was especially devastating.

 

Tony then was pursued by The Sun Cycling Tour – which in those days was a huge event – and he became the official course broadcaster travelling around with the tour for at least 10 years.

 

It would be hard to estimate just how many sporting events Tony MC’d in his time, the majority of them “gratis”.

 

He was a favourite of my league (West Gippsland) where he hosted all functions for at least 15 years at no charge.

 

Osler was of Irish Catholic stock and had myriad of Irish jokes that he would bring out at these events.

 

In recent years he spent his time in a retirement village in Warragul and died in March at the age of 82.

 

 

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Michael Bowden OAM played 59 games with Richmond, was part of the 1969 premiership side and noted for his ballwinning skills and handball. His three sons Joel, Patrick and Sean all played with the Tigers as well, two other sons Rhett and Kane both played with Port Melbourne in the VFA.

 

However it was in Sunraysia and then the Northern Territory that Bowden made his mark on society. Not so much on the football field (though that helped) but in the greater community.

 

During his time in Sunraysia he was captain/coach of Robinvale  from 1972 to 1974 and won premierships in his first and last year with the club. He also coached Red Cliffs and Imperials.

 

Whilst teaching and coaching in Sunraysia he became well aware of the plight of many of the indigenous people living in the area and his subsequent move to Alice Springs to teach came as no surprise.

 

It was in Alice Springs that Michael Bowden developed a depth and understanding  of the ways of Indigenous Peoples of the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte mobs. He learnt their languages to further understand and work closer with them, particularly with women.

 

His understanding of the spirituality of the people endeared him more to them and despite overtures to play a wider role with Indigenous Australians Michael believed that to work closely with the people at a micro level was more important.  He has been quoted as saying: “Being in Government is not what is important, working at the core level will give greater understanding and benefit.”

 

Close family friend Annie Davis said: “Michael was a remarkable man whose social justice platform, intimate knowledge of Aboriginal spirituality and of course his footballing background made him an outstanding person. His depth and understanding backed up by a beautiful golden voice and a great sense of humour endeared him to all who crossed his path”.

 

He moved to Darwin when the first signs of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) arose, where he and his wife Judy lived with his daughter Majella and her husband Gordon.

 

It was a true indication of his family’s love when by 2016 his entire family had moved to live in Darwin. He lived long enough to see son Joel become a local member in the Northern Territory government earlier this year. Richmond CEO Brendan Gale described Michael as a “remarkable father and husband”.

 

He was recently awarded an OAM for devoting his life to improving the lives of Indigenous People in the Northern Territory.

 

 

 

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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About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.

Comments

  1. A tribute to Mike Bowden from a player at Camberwell in 1975/76

    https://www.vflfooty.com/node/10556

  2. Frank Taylor says

    Thanks Bob.A fitting tribute to 3 great men.
    Ta

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