This is the first in a series of articles that looks at great sporting moments for Boolarra.
The aim is to focus on team achievements, although often there will be a focus on individual performances within that achievement. There will also be a focus on the personalities and context of the achievement.
Given that we are still basking in the glory of the footy club’s great performance in winning the 2011 Premiership against red hot favourites, Trafalgar, it seemed appropriate to start the series with the club’s first ever win against Trafalgar in 1985.
I began playing football with Boolarra in 1983 and hadn’t realised that our 1985 win was a first until I read the statistics in the 2011 Grand Final edition of the “Spectator”.
Nevertheless, it was a win that provided me with a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction. The previous year we had played Trafalgar at Trafalgar, and as they normally did, they had given us a thumping. As usual, I went upstairs to their social room for a quiet drink with our opponents and my teammates and heard the most extraordinary speech from an opposition President I had ever heard. No names, no pack drill, but I had nothing but contempt for him as a player and every word I’ve heard him utter since has merely strengthened the feeling. On this occasion he mocked Boolarra as a pack of losers and questioned whether they should even be in the league.
Pardon a brief history lesson here but Boolarra was one of the founding clubs of the Mid Gippsland Football League in 1935. We haven’t been a traditionally strong club and quite frankly given our geographic position and population, we never will be. Our success is putting as many teams out on the field each week as we can, playing with spirit and commitment and occasionally through good administration and luck reaching the high spots. Trafalgar came into the league in the late 1960’s coming down from the higher Gippsland League. They were an immediate powerhouse and have rarely missed the finals. That the President of Trafalgar, who fled the Gippsland league because it all got too hard, should query our right to membership of our league was quite frankly a bit hard to stomach.
The day before the fateful game I was speaking to umpiring legend, Don Wight, who asked how I thought we would go. “They’ll thrash us by 20 goals plus”, I replied. We were a mid-range side, who would go on to finish 6th on the ladder, while Trafalgar were a very strong unit with great players on every line. I remember little about the actual game. After I’ve written this I may contact Lindsay Cook, who I am pretty sure played, because he remembers every kick and every bump of every game he ever played.
It was early in the season, April or early May, and the ground was still hard. This was important because it rained all day, but the ground didn’t soften; instead the ball just became incredibly slippery, like a greasy pig, and almost impossible to handle. We kicked to the Southern (or Slaughterhouse as Rick and Grant like to put it) end, while Trafalgar kicked to the Northern (or Fish Farm) end. I don’t recall any particular breeze to explain what happened next but in the first 15 minutes we kicked four goals to nothing.
In dry weather this would not have been of any great significance. Trafalgar were quite capable of kicking 10 goals a quarter against us. However, we got the score while the ball was still relatively dry and in the incredibly slippery conditions Trafalgar outplayed us for three quarters but simply couldn’t hit the front. One incident I recall in the first quarter, and I think it led to our fourth goal, was a dash by 16 year old Craig Francis. This was fairly late in the quarter and already it had basically become impossible to handle the ball in any normal fashion, however, Craig got the ball on the defensive side of centre and proceeded to take four bounces through the centre of the ground and then roost it long into our forward line. In my memory there is no one chasing him and I suspect this was right, because everyone just expected him to kick it; no-one could bounce it in those conditions and expect to retain control.
By the third quarter Trafalgar had got back within a kick and I recall my delight when some good Boolarra play got the ball to our very skilled full forward, Ken Reynolds, in the goal square. Ken proceeded to run to the goal line and drop the ball onto his boot. Unbelievably it went off at right angles and went through for a point. However, we hung on and in the conditions any score was a massive achievement. Late in the last quarter it all seemed to be wasted as Alan Blaser, Trafalgar’s wingman, who was an interleague regular, swooped on the ball in the goal square and ran into the open goal; and kicked it at right angles for a point.
Shortly after, the siren went for one of the great underdog victories.