‘Waging war on a relentless opponent…..’ by KB Hill

A weak sun has just started to peek through the heavy fog as I head down River Road, Tarrawingee on this ordinary July morning. “It’s not far past McCormick’s Bridge,” were my instructions, ” ……..on the left-hand side. You can’t miss it.”


Yes I can……. I’ve travelled too far. Luckily a young girl with a dog in tow, guides me back about 500 metres. There, she says, I’ll run into Terry Greaves………


The old fellah’s waiting on the front verandah and looks fitter than I anticipated…… “Been a lot worse, that’s for sure,” he quips.


If you reckon 2020 has hurled one crisis after another at the community, what with bushfires, Coronavirus and the resultant financial pressures, Terry can add a few more layers to that. We’ll broach the state of his health later but, for the moment, we start to unpack his long and winding footy career……….




The Greaves clan (five boys and two girls) grew up on an 800-acre property between Goorambat and Benalla, where his dad, who’d had oodles of experience as a market-gardener, ran livestock and grew pumpkins and potatoes.


The boys all cut their footy teeth at Goorambat. “One of my brothers, Barry, ended up being a 200-gamer there. I was 17 when I played in the 1978 flag…And we won it again the next year. By then I reckoned it was time to give it a good crack at Benalla,” he says.




Terry had already done a couple of pre-seasons with the Demons without creating a huge impression. But he’d now developed well physically and walked straight into the senior side.


Bill Sykes, the former Fitzroy star, had just taken over as coach from Brian Symes. “Sykesy was an old-fashioned coach…..suited me down to the ground……..He taught me to work hard……. He’d be too straight-down-the-line for blokes these days. They’d get upset.”




Benalla already had four 6’6”-plus ruckmen – Malcolm Ellis, Tim Llewellyn, Tim Symes and Terry’s brother Paul – so he was groomed as a centre half-back. Even at 6’4” he had a good turn of pace and was a raking left-foot kick.


By 1985 he’d developed into one of the best defenders in the game. He took out the club’s Best and Fairest and polled 14 votes to finish equal third, just two votes shy of the Morris Medallist, Lavington’s Ralph Aalbers.


The Demons shaped as a genuine flag prospect as that season unfolded. Terry had represented the O & M at centre half-back earlier in the year, and was a pillar of strength, but there were quite a few other ‘guns’ in a well-balanced side, coached by former Bomber Wayne Primmer.


They’d kicked 11.1 to half-time of the Qualifying Final, to lead Albury by 14 points, but faded in the last half.


The First Semi against the Rovers the following week was a nail-biter. After holding a seven-point lead over the Hawks at three-quarter time, Benalla battled gamely to hang on but were overpowered in the dying minutes, falling short by five points.




According to Terry, it was one Final that got away. “We’d recruited a bloke called Mick Horsburgh, another ‘giant’ from Collingwood, to boost our side that season. But he was taken apart by a young kid, Paul Bryce, who marked everything, and made the difference in the end.”


As meteoric as their rise up the ladder had been, Benalla tumbled to the bottom in 1986.


“Heather and I had just married and we were keen to get away for a bit of a change. A Benalla boy, Brian Symes was coaching A.C.T. club Tuggeranong and convinced me to head up there. It wasn’t quite O & M standard, but nevertheless good footy. We made the Elimination Final and I finished runner-up in the B & F. But gee, it was cold,” Terry recalls.




After returning for another two seasons with Benalla he moved to the other side of town, as assistant-coach of All Blacks. It was assumed that he would step into the coaching role the following year, but the incumbent leader wasn’t keen to hang up the boots. So Terry pulled on the Red and White guernsey for another couple of seasons.


Then Violet Town dangled their coaching job in front of him. “A broken arm ruined my first season and we didn’t have a lot of success either year,” he says, “….but the coaching aspect of it was enjoyable………”





Terry and Heather shifted to their superbly-located 170-acre property, within kicking distance of the Ovens River, where he could run his Murray Grey cattle. He began working at Brown Brothers, whilst undertaking an apprenticeship as a ‘Chippie’ at the age of 35.


“I had a short spell with Milawa, then returned to Benalla for their swan-song in the Ovens and Murray League, in 1997. It was a bit sad, really, that they decided to move over to the G.V. A lot of us old Demons still retain a strong attachment to the O & M.”




So, for Terry Greaves, veteran of 225 games, Team of the Century member and Benalla Life Member, it spelt the end of his active association with the Demons.


But he still felt there was some footy left in those ageing legs.




He decided to join his brother Paul at the Wang Rovers. “I’d actually rung Laurie Burt a good while earlier about joining the Hawks, but when it came to the crunch I couldn’t bear to play against Benalla,” he says.


It was planned to use his experience to help out a young Reserves side in 1998, but his form was strong enough to warrant a senior game. Aged 37, he became the Rovers’ oldest debutant, when he ran out against North Albury.


After interspersing some assistant-coaching at the Murray Bushrangers and an odd game with the Hawks in ‘99, Terry spent three seasons with Moyhu.


Then, when his brother Paul was appointed coach of North Wangaratta, he decided on a last hurrah as a player, barely missing a match throughout 2003-‘04.


“My body was pretty well buggered by then,” he says. As well it might be……He’d played just over 400 games and, but for a damaged knee, broken jaw, arm and sundry niggling ailments, would have chalked up plenty more.


Goorambat turned to him to guide them through their early, faltering years of O & K footy. He coached in 2010-‘11.


“It was a bit of a struggle, but no-one expected big things,” he says. “To be honest, we were out of our depth at that stage. But I was privileged to be able to help out my home club.”




Terry’s original brush with ill-health came 12 years ago when he had a melanoma removed from his shoulder.


“Thoughts of that came flashing back just before last Christmas when I was putting up a fence for a mate in Melbourne. I had a bad pain in the middle of the night….so bad that I couldn’t finish the job,” he says.


“So the doctors started doing tests…X-rays of the heart and chest. I kept going back for about four weeks……..I felt like a hypochondriac, because I’m not used to going to the doctors. Then I had a blood test and a lung X-ray, and the cancer showed up there.”


His next step was to oncology in Albury, for more X-rays.


“I came home and started vomiting after lunch, then ended up in Wang Hospital for a week, and headed to Royal Melbourne for a bowel operation in mid-January.”


After his first treatment, Terry was diagnosed with Grade 4 Melocstatic Melanoma.


He spent five out of the first seven weeks in hospital, contracted pneumonia and had a brain seizure. The cancer just tore through his body and was in the lungs, liver, bladder, bowel, brain and bones.


“They told me not too many get through Grade 4 and that I was extremely lucky I started the treatment, as I wouldn’t have lasted six weeks otherwise.”


“They started this treatment, immunotherapy, and said I’d last till Christmas to start with, but now I’m in remission. Remarkably, the last scan showed that the tumours had gone. That means I could get 2-5 years, or even more.”


“It fixed Jarred Roughead……..I hope it’s done the job on me, too. I can’t praise the Albury-Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre enough.”


The only problem was that there were a lot of side-effects. Doctors had stopped his treatment because it was attacking his liver. He reckons he’s about 80 per cent fit physically and mentally.


“But that’s great because they say only 15 per cent of people who have the treatment get to remission. I’ve been blessed.”




Terry is fighting his health battle in the same manner he played his footy……full-bore.


“The thing I cherished about football was the mateship. I loved the training and all the banter that went with playing the game…..Really enjoyed having a beer with the opposition after you’d been going hammer and tongs with them all afternoon.”


“Many of those same people have been contacting me recently and wishing me well. I really appreciate it….”



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 unless otherwise acknowledged.


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


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  1. It seems that they could have coined the phrase ‘G&D’ about Terry Greaves! All the best as you continue your battles, Terry.

    Another beauty, KB!

  2. Dr Rocket says

    As always another superb piece.

    KB nearly got away from Wang….
    he always manages to find a connection.

    It took Benalla a long time to find their feet in the GVL – finally winning a flag in 2015.
    They seemed to punch above their weight in the O & M.

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