1958 Premiership

1958 Premiership


I went to a reunion in Warburton some years ago and meant to get up and say a few words then about Warburton’s 1958 premiership win and, in particular, to pay tribute to three of the great stalwarts of the Club. Jim Wandin, that great Healesville centre-half-forward (had a couple of seasons with St Kilda) was at the reunion which was poignant because one of the Warburton players and clubmen I wanted to mention was Ron ‘Clancy’ Walker, Warby’s Vice-Captain and centre-half-back, who was killed in a work accident a few years after our premiership win. One of the great highlights of Yarra Valley football in those days was the clashes between Wandin and Walker. Clancy was big, strong, determined and a marvellous high mark. Jim was fast, highly skilled and also excellent overhead. It was worth going a long way just to see the battles between them.

The other two I wanted to pay tribute to were the inimitable Ralph Story whose long coaching record was quite remarkable, and Alan Wheeler, former player, great clubman, true gentleman, and father of Terry. Ralph and Terry were present at the reunion; Alan had died (prematurely) some years earlier. It was Ralph who got me interested in football in grade 6 and who coached me then. He used to stay back until dark if there were kids interested enough and keen enough to learn. I played footy until I was 33 and had tremendous satisfaction and pleasure from that career and it wouldn’t have happened had Ralph not taken me under his wing so to speak. That reunion was the last time I saw Ralph.

We made the 1958 grand final via wins in the first semi-final and preliminary final having finished third on the ladder (I think – but it may have been fourth). Marysville had finished on top (minor premiers). They had a number of players (reported to be 8) paid to come up from Melbourne each weekend to play. Their coach was Kevin Dynon, ex North Melbourne star. We had no paid players as far as I know – I remember we had to pay 2 bob a week for insurance – although I think Lee Kidman, our Captain, might have got a petrol allowance. We were a young side, more than half of us under 23 or 24, with a few veterans.

Grand final day. The match was at Lilydale.

Marysville were favourites to win of course. The day was overcast and the ground damp. Marysville had three players who were the ‘playmakers’ and worked as a very effective unit – Dynon and a rover, and one other whose names I don’t remember. Ralph picked me, the youngest player in the team and probably on the ground, to shadow the rover. I still remember exactly his instruction to me before the start “When he turns left I want him to run into you and when he turns right I want him to still run into you.” I like to think it was an effective tactic and certainly Ralph saw fit for me to play that role for the whole match. It worked well enough for him to put me on Dynon in a match the following year.

Nonetheless we were down 6 goals to one at quarter time and the task should have daunted our young side but we gradually pegged them back. We were still down but within reach at three quarter time and I remember Ralph’s impassioned address with ”guts and determination” and “b’s from the bush” against the city boys figuring strongly.

Still 15 points down with time on to play. Three goals in the next five minutes—one a left foot snap from the wrong pocket by Dick Holliday, another by Graham Priest after he somehow dodged and weaved his way past 5 or 6 defenders. And a third I can’t remember clearly – I think it was kicked by Alan (Garron) Story, Ralph’s younger brother but oldest player in the side – to give us a three point lead. And then a mark by Marysville centre-half forward (West?) just before the siren, about 40 yards out. Heavy ball, heavy boots, tired legs- he didn’t make the distance. As we trooped off the ground, weary but ecstatic, we were greeted by a very emotional, indeed tearful, but speechless coach; indeed I think it was nearly half an hour before he found his voice.

A bit more about some of my team-mates. On the day of the reunion I mentioned earlier, I watched Warburton grind out a gutsy win against somebody from down the line. But I was thinking after the match that:
I saw no player that day:

  • with better ball handling skills than Lee Kidman
  • who could mark as well as Ron Walker
  • as tough as Bluey Trenfield
  • who had the stamina of Norm Clinch
  • or the determination of Luke Vennell (dislocated his shoulder in the Preliminary Final) but played in the Grand Final)
  • or the pace of Barry Marshall
  • or the natural athleticism of Bert Caneva.

These are treasured memories and I hope your readers get some pleasure from them.

Bernard Robinson