Wangaratta Rovers Football / Netball Club – History Summary (up to & inc 2017)
Senior Football Premierships : 15 – 1958, 60, 64, 65, 71, 72, 74, 75, 77, 78, 79, 88, 91, 93, 94
Reserve Football Premierships : 8 – 1958, 62, 76, 77, 80, 83, 84, 07
Thirds Football Premierships : 10 – 1980, 85, 88, 95, 96, 98, 99, 02, 03, 08
A Grade Netball Premierships : 4 – 1993, 94, 05, 06
B Grade Netball Premierships : 1 – 1999
C Grade Netball Premierships : 1 – 1996
Total Senior Games Played in O & M : 1347 , Wins : 800 , Losses : 531 , Draws : 16
Longest Sequence of Wins : 36 , Rd.1 1993 – Rd.2 1995
Longest Sequence of Losses : 13 – 1950
Highest Score Kicked : 37.19.241 (V’s Lavington 1994)
Highest Winning Margin : 205 points (V’s Lavington 1994)
Lowest Score Kicked : 2.6.18 (V’s Myrtleford 1955 , Yarrawonga 2017)
Highest Losing Margin : 175 points (V’s Albury 2017)
Total WRFNC Life Members : 140 , Total O & M Life Members : 8
Total WRFNC Hall of Famers : 36 , Total O & M Hall of Famers : 11
O&M Football Medals: Morris Medals : 10 , Leo Burke Medals : 5 , Leo Dean Medals : 7
O&M Netball Medals: Toni Wilson Medals : 3 , B Grade Netball Medals : 2 , C Grade Netball Medals : 5
O&M League Leading Goalkicking : 6
Wangaratta Rovers – 1920’s
When did the Wangaratta Rovers FC start ?
Possibly 1922, when there was a team bearing the name “Rovers” or “Wangaratta Rovers”, (depending on who wrote the newspaper article) who started playing in the Wangaratta Football Association (WFA).
The team first played in the colours of black with a white circular band, collar and cuffs.
The “Wang Rovers” lost the 1922 WFA Grand Final to Milawa FC, 9.12 – 66 to 4.10 – 34.
In 1923 on 18th July, the Wang Rovers played Moyhu at the cricket ground (now the W J Findlay Oval), at 1.30 pm so the main OMFL match between OMFL leaders, St. Patricks FC of Albury & Wangaratta could play at the Showgrounds at 3.00 pm.
The Wang Rovers referred to the Wangaratta FC as the BIG club and seemed to be under its auspices and had to get permission for use of the Showgrounds and any changes that might have been proposed. Wangaratta FC, however, promised to help the Rovers in whatever way it could.
The Wang Rovers once again played Milawa in the 1923 WFA Grand Final and lost, 9.7 – 61 ti 8.11 – 59.
In 1924 the Wang Rovers changed jumper colours to light blue and did not play in the finals series.
The “Rovers” entered the O & K Football Association in 1925.
They lost to Gapstead 51 to 49 in the 1st Final of 1925.
The “Rovers” once again changed their jumpers in 1926 to red, black & white strips and were known as the “tricolours” and the line up of the Rovers team for the first match of the year was –
R. Archman (c), W McCormack, L Lowther, J Peacock, C Kidd, R McDonald, G Laff, W Guard, F Archman, R Staff, G Keir, N Gow, G Patrick, C James, W Harris, E Trotman, L Twamley and K Thirkell.
In 1927 Mac Hanna was appointed coach of the Rovers (OKFL) and later Wangaratta (OMFL), but accepted the Rovers offer because they had approached him first.
They lost the 1927 Preliminary Final to Whorouly 3.13 – 31 to 3.9 – 27.
The highest score in 1927 was the Rovers – 20.25 – 145 to Tarrawingee 0.1 – 1, the lowest score for the year.
In 1928, the Rovers lost their 1st Final to Milawa, 12.16 – 88 to Rovers 10.12 – 72.
In 1929, Gilbert Patrick, a star Rovers player played 3 games on permit with Footscray in the VFL.
In the final round of the 1929 season, Rovers & Everton, both of whom couldn’t make the four at that late stage, agreed to abandon their match and save the costs associated with running the match, as the effects of the Great Depression were starting to bite.
Did you that the in early 1930, the Rovers FC of 1929 amalgamated with the Wangaratta FC after Rovers President, Ray Barker and the rest of the Rovers committee realised the extent of the club’s debt and lack of town support for two Wangaratta clubs.
Wangaratta A & B team were therefore born with the A team playing in the O&MFL & the B Team playing in the O&KFL .
In every other aspect the make up of the teams was the same as 1929.
* This information has been supplied by Neil Barter’s recent book –
“All Links in the Chain”…..The Centenary History of the O&KFL.
The “Waratah” FC – 1933 to 1940
The “Waratahs” are most likely the team that sowed the seeds for the Wang Rovers to reform in 1945, after the “Waratahs” folded in 1941.
The Waratah’s first began because of the pulling out of the O & K F L by the Wangaratta FC & re entering the the O & M F L in 1933, the pressure was on for at least one team from Wangaratta to be involved in the local O & K F L.
Some cricketers from the St. Patricks Cricket Club in Wangaratta, started the ball rolling and within a few weeks the “Waratahs” club was born.
Former Hawthorn FC player, Arthur Mills became the Captain / Coach of the Waratahs in 1934 & won the O & K F L “Bulter” Medal.
The Waratahs beat Myrtleford and won the O & K F L premiership in 1935. The Waratahs were very fortuntate to be playing in the 1935 grand final, as it had come from behind to defeat Whorouly by one point in the premliminary final.
The Waratahs were runners up to Beechworth FC in 1939 by seven goals.
Bob Milne and Claude Bedson carried out the club secretarial duties, while at various times, Jack McDonald, Bill Cowan, Bill Curran and Jack Beecham occupied the presidential chair. Jack Hoystead was treasurer.
The Waratahs disbanded in the summer of 1940 / 41 due to a lack of numbers because of the 2nd World War. They then supplied quite a few players for the two Wangaratta FC sides that were entered in the O & K F L in 1941, named the Magpies & the Rainbows, who played out in the 1941 O & K F L Grand Final, the Rainbows winning.
There is no link which can officially tie “The Waratahs” with the Wang Rovers FC of today, but local historians claim that the two clubs had many common interests.
Many of those who directed the affairs of the Waratahs Club, threw in their lot with the Rovers when the club was formed but that was all. Neither assets nor liabilities of the Waratahs were taken over by the Wang Rovers in 1945.
The Waratahs wore red, black & white strips.
O&K Years – 1945 to 49
Wangaratta Rovers – O&KFL – 1945
The orginal club jumper was in maroon & a gold vee of the Wang Rovers FC when it entered the O & K F L in 1945. This jumper was worn only in its first year in the OKFL in 1945.
The support for the Wangaratta Rovers was mobilised very astutely and quickly by a few of the sports loving people of the town at a meeting in the supper room at St. Patrick’s Hall, in January, 1945.
The club’s first President was Maurie Walsh, a local policeman, with Kevin Ward & Ron Chamberlain carrying out the secretarial duties.
Under the leadership of coach, George Healey and Don & Wally Richards, they put a side on the arena each week with fifteen of the eighteen regular players being schoolsboys.
The first match was against Tarrawingee on the Wang Showgrounds, which they won 7.15 – 57 to Tarra 7.4 – 46 !
They only won 2 games in 1945, beating Tarrawingee twice.
Ken Dodemaide won the club’s first B & F award.
Wangaratta Rovers – O&KFL – 1946
President was Sam Alexander in 1946, 47, 48 and 49.
Initially coached by Ron Petersen, then by Ron Clayton who took over later in the year.
B & F Winner in 1946 was Maurie Curran.
In 1946 the club won 6 games, lost 11 games & the Rd. 13 match V’s Myrtleford was postponed !
In Rd.3 Bill O’Callaghan kicked nine goals against Eldorado !
Bill is now a well known local Wangaratta historian & former mayor of Wangaratta.
Wangaratta Rovers – O&KFL – 1947 & 48
The club wore a vertical black & white stripe jumper for the two years of 1947 & 1948.
The 1947 WRFC coach was initially Ernie Ward, who resigned after a Rd. 2 thrashing by Milawa, 154 to 43.
Approaches were made to Len Hill to take over as coach.
Len was a member of Wangaratta F C 1946 O & M F L senior premiership team.
A clearance was granted and Len took over the reins & continued on as coach in 1948 & 1949.
The 1947 side finished with 8 wins & 10 losses.
The 1947 & 1948 B & F winner was Fred Booth.
The 1948 side was undefeated from Rd. 6 onwards, winning 15 games straight. The WRFC also won the first 5 games at the start of the 1949 season.
This traditional Collingwood style jumper was worn for one year only, in 1949.
The Wang Rovers won 16 out of 21 games in 1949.
They lost to Myrtleford four times during the 1949 season, twice during the home & away season, as well as the 2nd semi final & O & K F L grand final.
Wang Rovers lost the 1949 grand final to a undefeated Myrtleford side –
Myrtleford 16.9 – 105 d Wang Rovers 9.14 – 68
The 1949 WRFC B & F winner was – Frank “Curly” Gleeson.
Leading goalkicker was – Len Hill.
A Proud History…
We were there…
On a sunny September day in 1958, the Wangaratta Rovers clinched their first Ovens and Murray Premiership. Proud old Hawks broke down and wept that day, as they saw the culmination of their dreams.
We were there to record what is probably the most important moment in the Club’s history, just as we saw at first-hand almost everything else of significance that has happened to one of the finest of all country football Clubs.
It seems like an eternity now, yet it is just over fifty years since the fledging Club (a mere five years old at the time) overcame stern opposition from many quarters, to win the right to play Ovens and Murray football. We were at that league delegates meeting, arguing the case for admission and helping to smooth the path to recognition.
Most of the time we have been involved in some way or another – working behind the scenes, playing, chronicling and just plain watching – as the Club moved through its formative years, the fifties, sixties, the glorious seventies onto the heady successes of the late eighties and early nineties. The Hawks met the challenge to their very existence – the threat of financial ruin – in recent years and the way the players and administration overcame it is a story in itself and ranks among the Club’s finest achievements.
We look back on the pioneering spirit of those early days and recall long-serving secretary Frank Hayes describing the Club’s endeavors to build a new ground: “I only wish we had taken a photo of the ground when we started.” Hayes said “people don’t believe us when we tell them what it was like. We had to grub out very large trees. The oval had to be re-fenced. The Clubrooms had been a camp for swaggies, who used to light fires inside. I recall when we had to cart gravel from Eldorado for the banking. We had as many as fifty players and supporters helping. It a great team effort.”
It is teamwork which has been the backbone of the Club’s achievements off the field as well as on it. Men of vision, like Sam Alexander, Len Hill, Mannie Cochineas and Jack Maroney had the courage to make crucial decisions which rapidly propelled the Hawks from battler to football power. Successors of the ilk of Tom Tobin, Geoff Welch and Sam Perna continued to run a very tight ship, but by and large it was the hundreds of behind-the-scenes people who were the strength of the Brown and Gold and helped to provide the Rovers with a legion of on-field highlights.
We remember the flashbacks of triumph and skill and brawn and moments of taut drama and sometimes they merged. Les Gregory, slithering and sliding as he controlled the slippery sphere with the class of a juggler; Len Greskie belligerently turning back opposition attacks; Neville Hogan ranging far and wide to pick up countless possessions and pump the ball further afield with extraordinary
precision; a seventeen year old, Paul Bryce pulling down nineteen marks in a final – a performance which was to prove a stepping-stone to AFL ranks; a nippy blonde rover called Shane Wohlers helping to pull the Hawks back from a 40-point H time deficit to snatch a miracle win against a rampant Albury.
Rovers fans recoiled at Benalla one day, when crack centre half back Mervyn Holmes was caught awkwardly in a pack and carried from the ground in considerable pain. Holmes, the invincible… it was unthinkable that this great man’s career could be threatened. But, in a feat which stunned the medical men he fought back to fitness and a place in the Grand Final team only a couple of months later.
Bobby Rose probably did as much as anyone to put the Rovers on the map. “Mr. Football” was well-nigh unbeatable and a fair proportion of the people who saw him in his seven-year Ovens and Murray career, would rank him as the best player ever to come into the league. Many honors were bestowed upon him in the evening of his life, but few of these would outrank the satisfaction Rose gained from setting the downtrodden Hawks on the right path. “I was young when I left Collingwood, and things worked out well”, he once said. “My first duty was to get the Rovers on the road”. He brought a professionalism and enthusiasm to the Club and it has never really looked back.
In the Rose era, there were a group of personality players and local football reached a peak of appeal, which would be the envy of Clubs nowadays. It must have gladdened the hearts of young men like Les Clarke, Alan Bell and Keith Ottrey, who had shed plenty of blood and sweat for the success that was to follow.
The most colourful person to wear the Brown and Gold was Rose’s successor, Ken Boyd. Almost everything that big Ken said or did seemed to stir controversy. His appointment as coach prompted suspicious Hawks to bellow that their committee had made a calamitous “blue”, but soon he was idolised by those same people. His on-field toughness made him a legend and stories of his ruthlessness have lingered through the years.
It was partly Boyd’s enthusiasm and hundreds of hours of voluntary labour in 1965, that converted a second-rate Clubhouse into a magnificent two-storey edifice (later to be re-modelled and updated in 1980).
Boyd’s coaching prowess helped the Hawks to flags in 1964 and ’65 and he introduced many players to senior ranks who were to become champions.
Players like Neville Hogan, the 1966 Morris Medallist, who would, a few years later, lead the Club to its finest era – the “Super Seventies”. In an eleven-year period under Hogan and Darrell Smith, the Hawks played in ten Grand Finals and won seven of them. Whilst it may seem that they were well-nigh unbeatable, this was not exactly so. In quite a few finals they went in as underdogs, but pulled out the extra effort that earned them a fearsome title as “finals specialists”.
One of the Club favorites in that era was a giant of a man, Mick Nolan, whose wonderful nature endeared him to those who crossed his path. Mick found fame and carved out a career for himself with North Melbourne. One of his team-mates in North’s immortal 1975 Premiership team was John Byrne, who had also cut his teeth at the City Oval.
Rovers employed stop-gap full forwards for years until a lean, acrobatic youngster emerged from junior league ranks. Steven Norman was on his way to becoming one of the finest O&M spearheads and booted staggering 1016 goals in 242 games.
He was a key component in the Rovers successes of the seventies, as were the 1975 Morris Medallist Andrew Scott, Leigh Hartwig, Barry Cook, Eddie Flynn and others.
The trouble was that the good times had to come to an end. The constant striving by other Clubs to reach the Hawks standard led to a nine-year premiership drought in the eighties, although they had finished in the top three on five occasions.
But Rovers supporters could ‘smell’ a flag half-way through the 1988 season. With a coaching tyro, Laurie Burt, at the helm and a group of youngsters under his charge, they eclipsed Lavington in the ‘big one’ after dropping only four games for the season. The “Class of 88” was to provide the backbone of some great Hawk teams in the nineties. Seven of them were to play 200 games on more for the Club, as the Rovers swept to flags in 1991, ’93 and ’94. They cruised to an unparalleled 36 wins on the trot at one stage, as they responded to the astute leadership of Laurie Burt, whose eleven-year reign as coach earned him a hallowed spot among the Club’s legends.
But what great support he had from the likes of 300-gamer Mark Booth, Anthony Pasquali, Peter Tossol, Ron Ferguson and the redoubtable Wilson brothers, who chalked up a tally of more than 800 games in Brown and Gold. And let’s not forget Robbie Walker, the best country footballer of the decade, winner of eleven Club Best and Fairests and five Morris Medals – a player who ranks alongside Rose and Hogan as best Hawks of all time.
The Rovers have played 1347 O&M games and have dropped only 531 of these. They have
missed only 12 finals series since 1956 and have played in 22 Grand Finals, winning 15 of these.
In 1993, the Rovers Netball Club came into being and achieved instant success with senior flags in the first two years of competition. It has played an important role in the functioning of a vibrant club.
We have gained plenty of enjoyment from watching the cavalcade of Hawks, as they took the Club to its exalted status. As we move into the new century a lot of new champions will arise and the fans will embrace them. We will be watching their progress intently…