Once were Lions!
In the days before cyberspace and mergers the
local football club was timeless. As a kid I used to wander
up with my mates and grab a spot after half time on the hill alongside
Coburg High to take in the ritual. Blokes with long white
shorts, steep rectangle side burns and boots that enveloped the
ankle and weren't made by little fingers in a Nike sweatshop were
just so chic. And there at half back in the days before we
could spell multiculturalism was Tony Tancredi, our own Italian
stallion. Those were the days!
Although Coburg will survive thanks to a partnership
with Richmond, there's no mistaking the impact of the AFL on suburban
football since its fledgling first steps twenty years ago.
For although there are a some AFL officials who'd prefer to forget
it, or rather believe it never happened, the VFA of the 70s was
truly something else. So too was the Coburg Football Club
I entered in 1975.
Freddie Cook grabs another one at Port in the early '80s.
Look at the crowd! Cook was simply the best.
The dramatic loss to Port at the Junction in 1980 in front of 20,000
people will remain one of the most disappointing moments in my football
career. We'd led all day against a more talented opponent
only to be pipped in the last 10 minutes of the game. It hurt even
more when long time Port secretary Norm Goss senior remarked to
the media 'we're so good we only needed to play for twenty minutes
to win the grand final. Imagine if we'd played four quarter.'
I vividly remember at Coburg the next year when,
with Port trailing by 10 goals, Gary Brice belatedly moved Cook
into the ruck prompting my sarcastic 'where have you been?'
'In the goal square shining last year's premiership
Forty years earlier Norm Goss has been given
the task of running across the leads of the unstoppable Bob Pratt
in the 1941 grand final at the MCG. After kicking 179 goals
for the season Pratt was held to four goals, all kicked after half
time. The 36 000 people at the MCG were stunned. Nineteen
eighty must have been deja vu for Goss. These days there isn't
the same level of defiance among the VFA/VFL officials.
Bob Pratt (back row third from
left) at Coburg/1941. Do you know the lolly boy?
Four along from Pratt is Rob Sitch's
Back Row from the left. Bill Brown, Milte
and Bob Pratt at Coburg in 1941.
From the left - capt-coach Lance Collins, Murray and
the club's oldest living player Bob Atkinson.
|Giant ruckman Jim Jenkins
|Champion, premiership rover Clarrie Mears.
|Jack Harris - emergency in the Team of the Century.
Another Coburg legend of the 20's and 30's.
Harris played in 6 grand finals.
THE LATE JEFF ANGWIN I KNEW
AS TOLD IN INSIDE FOOTBALL
When talk turns to football it's easy to regale a crowd with stories
about characters, rogues, tough men and whackers. In eighteen years
of playing and coaching at Coburg in the old VFA I met them all.
George Allen, Fred Cook, 'Frosty', Paddy Flaherty and Harold Martin
and even the Mohawk himself, Mark Jackson; it was a cavalcade. Some
however came without the fanfare.
In 1985 a sinewy 19-year-old kid from Foster sheepishly unpacked
his bags and told me he'd like to have a go at the VFA. By the end
of 1989 he'd assumed a remarkable status at Coburg. Quiet and unassuming
he never spoke about himself or cast a word of criticism of anyone
else into a conversation. We called him 'Seagull', the nickname
he'd inherited as a child on the bus collecting what the other kids
left behind. His real name was Jeff Angwin. Unlike today's players
Angwin arrived at training bearing the residue of a day's manual
work. Blasting and spray-painting iron left him literally as black
as the ace of spades.
On Friday 15 June he died suddenly at home of natural causes.
A week later we buried him in a simple plot on a tranquil green
hill as serene as the bloke himself. On the bus we recalled his
feats and the impact he had on the team. To those who witnessed
his bone crushing collisions and reckless lunges into heavy football
traffic the thought thta we could lose him at 35 years of age was
incomprehensible. Jeff Angwin was simply indestructible.
When I look back at that 1988/89 premiership side it's easy to
see why we were too good for those truly great Williamstown sides
and why we lost only one game in 1989. Angwin, with his courage,
loyalty and selflessness typified the spirit and character that
drove those sides. The role of men such as Jeff Angwin in the evolution
of Aussie Rules is something that's never quite been captured by
those who write and talk about the culture of the game. Too often
the blowhards, the technically gifted or the flawed of character
take centre stage.
Yet every successful coach understands the value of having a bloke
whom when asked whether he'd like to take the opposition side's
best player says 'sure, I'll give it my best'. For Angwin that meant
VFA goalkickers like Ian Rickman and Mark Eaves, the brilliant Grant
Smith or the Bullants captain, David Brine. As the VFL evolves and
old VFA clubs grapple with the impact of AFL alliances on their
culture and identity the memory of Jeff Angwin could not have more
|Jeff Angwin marks at Windy Hill in the 1989 grand final.
As with Windy Hill in 88/89 it was standing room only in the church
in Foster. On the wall was a photo of Jeff at Windy Hill in the
red and blue of Coburg, arm stretched above the head searching for
a dangerous ball. He grabbed it and we won another flag; simple
as that. As the gathering laid testament, Peter and Nancy Angwin's
boy Jeff was someone special.
COBURG PICKS ITS TEAM OF THE CENTURY