Wool and Footy: Remembering the blue and gold

Toolibin footy from Janice Sieber

From left: Geoff Orchard, Ed Reynolds, Laurie Whyte, Syd Martin, John Kemp (Toolibin’s last captain), Bruce Halliday (holding a Toolibin footy jumper), Peter Elson, Ray Halliday, Ian Easton, Frank Bird and 99-year-old Harry Read (seated) at the unveiling of the plaque and sculpture. Photograph courtesy of Heidi Astbury.

Remembering the blue and gold

It may have been faded and old but the sight of an old woollen blue and gold footy jumper brought back many memories at the Toolibin Football Club gathering in September 2014.

Players, supporters and former members of the old Wickepin Football Association got together to unveil a memorial sculpture and plaque at the club’s old ground north of Toolibin in Western Australia.

Many memories were shared and stories told, including the one of Dave Astbury providing sweet sherry as a ‘heart starter’ to players at three-quarter time.

The sculpture, commissioned to commemorate the old club, was constructed by local farmer Geoff Sims. It is an impressive sculpture of a large football on a stand and is located on the eastern side of the oval site. A plaque attached to the structure records Toolibin’s premiership successes at the ground and the teams which made up the Wickepin Football Association. The plaque was unveiled by former Association players Frank Bird and Bruce Halliday.

The ground, which was carved out of a paddock on Maurice Green’s farm on Oval Road, was cleared using a modified General Grant tank. It was used as the Toolibin Football Club’s home ground until 1959 when the club folded through lack of numbers and the land was converted to Government land.

Toolibin Football Club was part of the Wickepin Football Association which is located in the heart of WA’s sheep and wheat agricultural area. Football games were played at the north Toolibin oval from the time of re-commencement of organized sport at the end of World War 2, 1946, until the folding of the Wickepin Football Association in 1959 due to declining player numbers.

The Wickepin Football Association was made up of teams from the districts of Dudinin, Harrismith, Toolibin, Wickepin and Yealering.

Toolibin Football Club won five premierships in the years 1948, 1949, 1951, 1954 and 1955.

When the Wickepin Football Association folded, Toolibin merged with Wickepin to form a new Wickepin Football Club which joined the Upper Great Southern Football Association and the club, to this day, still continues to field sides in this competition.

The men in the picture above all proudly wore the blue and gold and players for the club came from around the district as there were large families of boys living in the area, including three English boys, three Halliday sons, three Martin boys, three Ballard sons and two Reynolds boys.

As well as pulling on a woollen footy jumper each week, players for the Toolibin Football Club also worked with wool – either directly as sheep breeders, shearers or wool buyers or indirectly through associated industries such as livestock transporters or stock agents. Their connection to the land and the Wickepin/Toolibin area in particular remains strong with the majority of the men pictured still residing and in some cases working, within a 50km radius of the old Toolibin oval.

The connection between footy, farming and wool in particular remains strong in the Wickepin Football Club.

Many of the club’s past and present players come from a farm background and names such as Keith Doncon, Greg Astbury, Ken Martin, Keith Miller and  Rowan Astbury  are well respected in both football and farming circles.

Geoff Sims, the creator of the sculpture, is himself a former footballer. Geoff was a player and coach for the Wickepin Football Club and also enjoyed success in the Western Australian Football League (WAFL) playing for both East Fremantle and South Fremantle.

It is a connection which will remain strong as clubs like Wickepin and the people who support them, continue to honour their past and the traditions and heritage which bind their club.

Compiled by Syd Martin, Heidi Astbury and Janice Sieber.


  1. That’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.

    I’ll find it next time I’m passing through.

    You might be interested in this….


  2. “Sweet sherry as a heartstarter”, oh the memories. But for us it was a sip of the old green ginger wine. Still available at bottle shop sales for about $5.00.

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