Yarrawalla, a proud club with a brief history: 1946-82

by Richard Jones


KYNETON’S slide into senior recess for the 2013 season got me burrowing through old files searching for other local and district footy clubs which had periods of recess or which are no longer with us.

Kennington-Strathdale, as we know, wound up in early 1994. The Saints, formerly the Parakeets or Keets for short, had a chequered history but at least they’d kept the Neale Street Oval viable for Bendigo F.L. play during many, many winter months over an extended period.

And of course the once-mighty Northern United, BFL premiers from 1984-87 inclusive, toppled over in the early 1990s with no local junior base to support the club.

Then a colleague with whom I’d worked on the Sandhurst 150th celebrations committee in 2011-12 alerted me to the history of his very first club.

This was Yarrawalla, a club I’d known as the Loddon Valley League’s Hawks.

I’d been aware of Yarrawalla in the late 70s and very early 80s, of course. They were mentioned in the previews and match reports of LVFL stalwart John Forbes who was the correspondent for his league with the Bendigo Advertiser.

Before my early years as the paper’s sports editor, Yarrawalla had won senior LVFL flags in 1972, 1973 and 1975. John Plim had taken over as senior playing coach from Laurie Maxted in 1975.

Among the recruits he brought to the club that season were Ian Tyack (eventual club best and fairest) and Ron Lake: like Plim’s, well-known Bendigo footy names.

Yarrawalla booted 6.1 in the third term of the ’75 grand final to eventually account for Bridgewater.

Just before that Yarrawalla had snared the 1972 flag with a 22-point victory over Inglewood at Newbridge’s Riverside Park: 10.9 (69) to Inglewood’s 7.5 (47).

Graham Maxted celebrated his second year at Yarrawalla with a flag and the club best and fairest award.

Then in 1973 Yarrawalla accounted for Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the second semi by 13 points. They repeated the dose in the grand final by accounting for the Bears by two, straight kicks: 8.11 (59) to Bears 6.11 (47).

So after premierships in 1972-73-75, in 1979 Yarrawalla changed strips. They moved from their distinct blue and gold guernseys, worn since 1950, to the Hawks’ brown and gold vertical stripes.


HOW did all this get started up on the flat country of northern Victoria in the farms area between Charlton and Lockington, and south of Boort?

By late 1945-early 1946 with World War 2 over and life gradually returning to normal, football in the many and varied competitions started up again all over Australia.

Yarrawalla was just one of hundreds of farming districts which found itself with an abundance of men — young and not-so-young.

They all wanted to have a kick. Options, however, were still pretty limited.

Still, just as happened in similar parts of rural Australia, people of the Yarrawalla district got together to see how footy could be brought into their area.

Quite a few Yarrawalla born and bred men were playing with nearby district clubs — Pyramid Hill, Calivil, Mologa and Mitiamo.

Those clubs were overflowing with players. Approaches were made to see whether Calivil was interested in lodging a second side into the Mitiamo District Football league.

Calivil declined. So a public meeting was called and it went ahead in the Yarrawalla Hall on August 25th, 1946. Councillor Marfleet chaired the meeting, there was a sizeable crowd in attendance and it was decided the Yarrawalla Football Club be formed.

The office-bearers that night agreed to run a full term until the AGM of 1948. Fred Smith was elected as the inaugural president and he was joined by Bill Gray sen. (vice president) and Alan Miles (secretary) on the executive.

Yarrawalla applied to join the Mitiamo District Football league and applied to Council for permission to play on their local Recreation Reserve.


THE very first game was played against Lockington on the Yarrawalla ground, but only after a fierce clearance battle with Calivil to clear locals Wes and Merv Miles.

Skipper Hedley Miles led the 1947 team onto the field (Jack Butterworth was the non-playing coach) clad in their mauve and green jumpers.

The young Yarrawalla side could not keep up with their more experienced opponents from Locky and went down: 2.2 (14) to 9.9 (63).

Home games were fine but travelling to away matches presented a challenge. Petrol was still in short supply straight after the European War and then the Pacific conflict with Japan which had ended later in ’45.

The Yarrawalla side sat on kerosene tins or benches on the back of Dave Hercus’ truck to get to district grounds. And facilities at all grounds were very ordinary.

The change sheds at Tennyson were inside an upturned water tank. At Hunter it was a cabin. And, of course, showers did not exist.

Not a game was won in 1947 but the Yarrawalla men were just happy to be playing footy. They finished the season with a B grade semi-final loss to Tennyson.

Dingdarra thrashed them early in the 1948 season and then Pyramid Hill took advantage of blustery conditions at Pyramid to win comfortably.

Finally Yarrawalla broke through on May 31st to win their very first encounter: 6.12 (48) to Tennyson’s 3.4 (22).

It was to be the sole victory of the ’48 season as Lockington inflicted a 122-point drubbing but better things were in store.

Yarrawalla won its first two games in 1949 over Calivil and Bamawm, just going down to Pyramid Hill in another early season close one with two ‘posters’ in the final term.

THE Fifties was a decade of building although the Mitiamo DFL had been reduced to four clubs in 1953 when Lockington and Pyramid Hill departed.

Fortunately Dingdarra re-formed after spending 1952 in recess. Yarrawalla made its first grand final that season but went down to Mitiamo in the decider.

Women’s basketball or netball was introduced in the 1954 season but the Yarrawalla team went out of the finals in straight sets.

The footballers played Mitiamo at Dingee in the MDFL grand final, reducing the three-quarter time deficit of 43 points to 29 by the final siren.

And then, for the first time in their short history, Yarrawalla finally nailed a premiership in 1955. Grand final scores were level on 31 points at the end of time in the grand final.

In the replay, held at Calivil because of floods in the Mitiamo locality, Neville James booted four goals as Yarrawalla downed Miti making Wes Miles the club’s first premiership coach.

It was to be the last match played in the Mitiamo DFL. Dingdarra disbanded again and Yarrawalla applied for admission to the much more powerful Loddon Valley F.L.

In 1956 Yarrawalla defeated LVFL opponents Bealiba (twice) and Newbridge (by 2 points) to record their first wins in the bigger and more powerful league.


INTO the Sixties and the club faced a major hurdle in early 1960. Lack of numbers was the killer and an amended motion was passed on February 16th stating that unless recruits could be obtained the club should go into recess.

In early March president Bill Gray used his casting vote to break a 6-6 deadlock to ensure Yarrawalla would continue in the Loddon Valley league for 1960 -– and beyond.

Just two wins would be their lot in 1960 but Joan Hamill won the LVFL’s basketball best and fairest award at the league’s end of season vote count night.

In 1961 Yarrawalla fielded junior footballers and they made the finals, defeating Mitiamo in the first semi.

It was ‘struggletown’ for the club from 1962-67 with the club’s LVFL opponents bolstering their playing lists with handy players from the BFL. Yarrawalla won just the one game in ’62, against fellow battler Korong Vale, and copped the wooden spoon.

Three wins in 1963 and a junior basketball flag, victory in 1964’s opening round against reigning premiers Bridgewater and a smattering after that, more wins in 1965 under new coach — former South Bendigo player Geoff Wilkinson — to avoid the spoon and then two successes early in 1966 augured well.

Big man John Calverley and Wilkinson were the club’s prime movers in 1967 and Yarrawalla won a handful of matches. Best efforts were victory away from home at Inglewood and a home win over Newbridge.

In 1968 Coral Hercus won the first of her three LVFL senior basketball awards. Basketball became ‘netball’ in 1972.


THEN after the successes of the early to mid-70s the club wavered in the late part of that decade despite new clubrooms being opened in 1977 and new jumpers being worn from 1979.

With Peter Young as the coach and Terry Stacey kicking bags of seven goals in victories over Mitiamo and Inglewood the brown and gold Yarrawalla finished just outside the four in 1981.

But just 12 months remained for the club in the LVFL. With a dire shortage of players, 1982 was to be the club’s final season with no senior wins recorded.

The annual general meeting of September 7th 1982 moved to investigate the option of merging with other nearby LVFL clubs. Neither Calivil nor Mitiamo showed much interest.

And so it was moved at a public meeting on December 7th in 1982 that the club go into recess with a caretaker committee of five elected.

This caretaker body was formally wound up in June 1991 and only an informal  meeting at life member Graeme Hercus’ funeral in February 2012 resulted in a decision to hold an official reunion.

This was held on April 21st this year with more than 250 people present — and the official club history was commissioned.


Thanks to Ash Smith for his abiding interest in his old club along with thanks to historian Darren Lewis.

This year Lewis wrote “We’re All Great Mates: A History of the Yarrawalla Football and Netball Clubs: 1946 to 1982”.


  1. Paul Daffey says


    Mauve and green jumpers!

    Great stuff.

    Thanks Richard. Loved the piece.

    I remember I’d just started at the Bendigo Advertiser (under your good self) when I had to write a few stories about Korong Vale’s last desperate attempts to stay afloat. It didn’t mean much to me at the time, but I’m still reminded of it when I’m driving north of Bendigo and I see a sign for Korong Vale.

    From memory the town was a railway junction but when the railway jobs were lost the town was done for, and therefore the footy club. I think they wore Footscray jumpers.

    For the life of me, I can’t imagine why any club would change jumpers and choose the Hawthorn strip. What was wrong with the old guernseys?

    Ten or twelve years ago a bloke approached me with a list of all the Victorian clubs that had folded since the war. The list was astonishing – all one-pony towns, like Yarrawalla, Dingee and Tennyson. Two ponies at most.

    I wish I’d kept a copy of the list.

    The Parakeets!

  2. TA, Daff. I had a copy of your early 2000s Age article where you chronicled clubs which had gone under, or at the very least, merged.. I’m going to go and search for it now before nightfall.
    Yep, Dingee and Tennyson not all that far from Yarrawalla. Gone.
    How about these from the Bendigo/central Vic region — Provincial, Epsom, Axedale, Hunter, Knowsley, Tooborac, Goornong.
    Add Campbell’s Forest, Neilborough, Sebastian, Tandarra, Drummartin, Tarnagulla, Shelbourne, Eddington & Rheola.
    Chewton and Primrose from the Maryborough-Castlemaine DFL. All these would have been on your Age list.
    Korong Vale not only lost its footy club but the local copper stationed there was moved on. Town not big enough for a police station, apparently. Think the Vale did wear Doggies’ colours.
    Saw Mt. Korong out to our right as we were driving to Mildura for a Melbourne Cup jazz weekend recently.

  3. sadly the only sporting club using facilities at the walla these days is the billiards club
    plays in the hall on Monday nites consider the number of teams/clubs which used to proudly flaunt the name ‘yarrawalla’ back in the day:-
    3 cricket teams; the tennis club (the grass courts now used only by the calivil north outfit); 3 footy teams (seniors, ressies and u-17)s; four netball (A, B, C and juniors).
    in the summer months young blokes used to play junior cricket in the mornings and then on to tennis in the afternoons.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A enjoyable read people who aren’t in to sport just do not realise the importance of the sports clubs and how important there survival is for the overall health and well being is for the residents inevitably it is the social life of the town and each club which passes on the fabric of that town does also . Not for the first or last time that a funeral of a prominent member results in the positive action of a reunion .
    Thanks Richard as some one who has been involved in the pain staking research of clubs and associations of various sports I no how much time it would have taken to gather the information for this article well done you !

  5. Corop Rocket says

    Thanks Comrade Dick for this piece on dearly departed clubs.

    Corop never reformed after WWII – most of the lads went down to Colbo or if they were any good, into Rochy.

    Of course, Rochester had one year of enforced recess when your beloved Bendigo FL refused to clear them to the Goulburn Valley League after the 1971 season. Shame Ivan O’Donnell Shame.

    Good to see mention of my old Maths teacher at Rochester High, Ron Lake, who played footy for Rochy before he was seduced by the bright lights of Bendigo.

    I wonder if Northern United had of just been content to play district football instead of going into the Bendigo League and paying big $$$ for Best, Southcombe, et al if they would have survived?

    Of course, Calivil United have been incredibly successful as a result of Northern United’s demise with Raywood getting behind the merger – and Elmore picking up a few players from around Kamerooka. Not so United?

  6. Patrick O'meara says

    Northern United never chose to enter the BFL. They were forced! The Golden City Football League was flying in the late 70’s and the BFL WAS FLOUNDERING. The VCFL saw to a very confidential merger,effectively making the GCFL a second division BFL. Kangaroo Flat and Northern United played off for that Div 2 flag in 1980 I believe and that was effectively the death of their league. Provincial became Huntly. White Hills fled to the HDFL, YCW eventually ended up in the LVFL as did Marong. North Bendigo struggled, eventually joking the HDFL. I remember marching through the streets of Bendigo as a young lad, protesting to save our league. United spent a lot of cash and effort to stay afloat but just couldn’t sustain it. Mind you playing and training alongside the like of Bluey Southcombe, Gary Mountjoy, Gavin Excell, Russel Muir, Ian Marlow and in later years the Niemann brothers is an experience I will never forget. Northern United were a terrific club,supported by incredibly loyal supporters and run by a very dedicated group of people. It’s a shame the BFL’s poor management of its own competition lead to its ultimate demise. Only Kangaroo Flat survives into the 21st century

  7. Richard Jones says

    Correct Patrick. But you will concede the Swallows did little or nothing to nurture an under-18 side.
    Tony Southcombe told Geoff Morris and I on our 1990s BFL radio Panel Show that had United moved in2 Benders, preferably at the Kenningon ground, they would have had all the LaTrobe Uni–Flora Hill Secondary College as recruiting campuses for their junior club..
    Bluey’s plans were vetoed by the old blokes at Raywood and United stayed put. Eventually to fold.

    I remember the March with people carrying banners through Bendigo. Were you in the old Red + building in View Street where the VCFL honchos were addressing the footy public.
    We were hardly able to hear them. Golden City F.L. supporters were hurling rocks onto the roof. Heady days, indeed.
    Kangaroo Flat is celebrating 150 years in 2014. Craig Niemann is now the CEO of the City of Greater Bendigo.

  8. Paul Daffey says

    Street marches!

  9. Richard Jones says

    YEP, Daff.
    A street march down View Street and along Pall Mall.
    Each of the Golden City F.L. clubs represented with placards and flags. Couple of loud hailers, too gee-ing up the astonished onlookers.
    Police escort along with the marchers.
    Clubs in the GCFL had moved across from the old Bendigo Football Association, of course. More of a re-naming, actually.

    Kangaroo Flat is still a member club of the Bendigo Football and Netball League, of course. Northern United gone to God along with Provincial and Kennington-Strathdale. Although Calivil is now Calivil United in the Loddon Valley F.L. with 1 maybe 2 games a season played at the Swallows’ old Raywood fortress.
    North Bendigo and White Hills compete in the Heathcote and District F.L.
    YCW and Marong in the Loddon Valley F.L. Harcourt hasn’t played in a Bendigo-based competition for decades and is now a valued member of the Maryborough Castlemaine DFL.

  10. john sutcliffe says

    Having played football at Yarrawalla(2 premierships),Provincial and Kennington I have experienced the demise of these clubs…..Money being the major problem,you always had players if you could pay them!John Plim destroyed Yarrawalla with his “circus”of imported players who squeezed out locals never to return…the club never recovered.
    The golden city league was hugely successful(I coached Maldon) but the struggling Bendigo league sort survival by pirateing that comp to prop up their dwindling numbers.Progress I guess,But there was a time you could not take vehicles into the QEO as there was too many pedestrian supporters attending the games to allow this to happen…..Still a great game

  11. GREAT to hear of your memories, John.
    We used to go down on the 6 pm train to a Castlemaine pub every December in 2011-2012-2013, mid-month, for the annual Xmas quiz and drinks night.
    One of the friends of a great friend of our was guess who? John Plim and partner.
    Didn’t talk footy of the old days variety much. Concentrated on the present when we could get a word in between the publican’s questions for the quiz.
    John’s son Tony was still going around in the ruck, aged 37, a couple of seasons back.
    First for Eaglehawk and then for North Bendigo.
    Talking of North, they’ll celebrate 70 years in 2015. Colbinabbin will toast the “ton” [1915–2015} and I think Calivil is up to 120 years.
    The gent who penned the Yarrawalla booklet will be busy getting all 3 club histories together for the launches later this year. I imagine books/booklets will be printed for each club.
    I’m having a spell. I did the research and background writing for the booklet on the BFNL’s 4th Hall of Fame induction last October.
    You’ll recall some of the names: John Ledwidge, Harry Watts, Don McHardy ()he’s 91 now), Kevin Parks, Stan Plowman, Phil Byrne [Ray’s twin brother].

  12. UPDATE, John
    Calivil United — so known after merger with now defunct northern united — celebrates 125 years at special day on July 18.
    Calivil: 1890–2015.

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