GENESIS: THE BIRTH OF THE BULLDOGS
Contributed by several club Life Members
Geoff Crawford, Bert Brownlow and Ron Mills were founding members of North West Hobart Hockey Club in 1946-47. Bert and Geoff started the planning meetings together in 1946, they both played cricket for the North West Hobart Cricket Club and Geoff recruited Bert to hockey and he started in 1943 with Baptist. In 1946 they were both selected in the State team to play in Melbourne in the first championship since the war. It was there that they recruited Ron Mills who had been selected in the championship to play in goals to join with them in their efforts to form a new club.
The three founding members, Geoff, Bert and Ron, organised two teams to enter the competition in the 14th season at Risdon Park in 1947. They had recruited a sound side of players over the year of 1946 and at the end of the war it was not fair that they encourage any more as the army team had disintegrated and players were scarce for all teams with only around seven or eight at that stage in the competition.
They knew they would need plenty of support so for their second side they found a player/coach Arthur Laughlin, a goalie and ten other men who had never played but were willing to get started. The uniforms and equipment were ordered from Sydney and arrived by post on the Saturday morning prior to their first game. Everyone got a shirt which fitted them – it was so amazing that they reckoned they must have something going for them. The shirts were ordered in the two blues but when they arrived ‘primrose’ was included (this is the gold which has remained to this day). A felt badge with the ‘bulldog’ was created and attached after washing by pressstuds on the front left. The deep “V” on the front and the collar was navy blue.
There was no training facility at night so only those in representative sides trained on the Domain pushing a ball and running around the gravel road in the dark. In the first season this newly formed club North West Hobart Hockey Club not only did well, it won both the A Grade and Second Grade premierships and the State premierships. They appointed an outside President to lead them. Dan Kenna was an older gentleman who knew Geoff well and encouraged other people outside the club to join and to look after the “behind the scene” work. It was a great start and Dan was a great President. They continued with the same two teams but did not win another premiership until 1951.
Before the war hockey was first played on New Town football/ cricket ground. The following year Clare Street Oval, then West Hobart Oval and finally, after Alan Preshaw liaised with the Hobart City Council, it was established that all games be moved to Risdon Park, as it was known, which was closer to the Cornelian Bay Cemetery than the grounds today. It was at this time North West was formed.
In the early days many of them played cricket with North West and it was a shame that their vision of joining the hockey and the cricket club together for the purposes of grounds and facilities did not eventuate. These three men were truly the ‘Founding Fathers’. They had the vision and it was for this that they were made Life Members. Geoff was first in the early 50’s, then Bert and Ron around 1956. In the early days they shared the responsibilities of the club with two teams to begin with and some men outside hockey to support them. Geoff and Bert were both captain/coaches. Ron served as Treasurer for the club and the Association. It was his careful diligence to this responsibility that created the sound establishment of the affairs of both. Ron was best known for his cool ability as a goalie and how he smoked a pipe for most of the games only putting it down to defend (obviously not often).
Geoff was an inspirational player reported in memorabilia and scrapbooks as a great striker and scoring in most games he ever played. He was a great club man and he introduced his son Bruce to the game who in turn was a great forward for North West. It was a tragedy that his life was cut short in his early 40s by a stroke. Even then the vision was for strength in personalities, some outside support and a sound financial footing.
When Bert and Geoff commenced their work with SHA they decided that junior development was the way to go. They visited the Headmaster and Sportsmaster both of Hobart High School and the Technical College (New Town High). They asked for 22 boys for two teams and stated they would teach them the game. A date was set and when Geoff and Bert turned up at the ground there were 100 boys running around. It started from there !!! Most schools were not interested in being involved in hockey as football was the game fostered, so it was up to the club men to take care of them and arrange all the competitions, umpires, coaches, etc., which they did. This was the first sport to be organised totally outside the school sports which were managed by the Sportsmasters.
A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE . . .
MEMORIES OF THE 50s (provided from tapes made reminiscing down memory lane with Bert Brownlow and John Bessell)
Grounds and Shelter – Bert
The first shelter we had out there was a tin roof with hessian bag sides. It was on the corner of a fence near the road beside the factory and the second year we played, it rained every day for about eight weeks straight. There was a creek that developed and ran down through the middle of the tent, it was about two foot wide, and just enough on either side to stand and get changed. I don’t know why we tried to shelter because it usually rained all the time anyway. The only washing facility we had, the only source of water, was one tap on the ground. We never stopped playing due to rain as we thought we would never get started again. More often than not we spent a good deal of time looking for the ball lost in the mud.
Umpires – Bert
As hockey grew we could not manage to provide the umpiring independent to the players, so we introduced a system where if you became a registered player you were expected to learn the rules and umpire. The rosters commenced to draw on the players to umpire men’s and school boy’s hockey and if you didn’t turn up you were immediately stood down the following week. I umpired a hockey match once and got into a lot of trouble about it. When David (Brownlow) first played he was only 15, and played for North West. They played OHA in the final and at that time the two best umpires in the south were Alan Preshaw and me. We knew it would be difficult but I stuck my name down anyway. There were all sorts of problems in that match including me having to threaten David I would send him off if he didn’t behave himself on the ground.
Secretaries – Bert
I am pretty sure that “Poley” operated pretty much the same way as I did and there wasn’t any doubt in anybody’s mind about who was running hockey in the south and if I was President I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s very difficult to assess people and get personalities to go and run an organisation like a hockey association the size of south and make it work without having some bastardy about you.
Goalies – John
It was a bad day when Ron Mills placed his pipe down in haste in goal near the post and it was hit and broke into about four pieces. He took weeks to recover.
Grounds – Bert
One of the members lived up on top of Mt Stuart and had a big milk business and he gave the cricket club a block of land so we had visions of a cricket pitch and a practice area for hockey as well. We also had visions of club rooms, but really it was beyond us because we had no transport, and we had to walk everywhere anyway. It was a hell of a long way to the top of Mt Stuart to practise hockey.
Training – John
The lights were erected on one end of Ground 5 and that was where all evening training was done. When you turned your back on the lights you had to be careful not to lose your ball in the dark and continuous mud in that area, because of the overuse of the ground by all clubs.
Players – John
I’ve got a lot of time for North West they taught me a lot about hockey and they were a great club. We had about 11 of our senior players all coaching in those days because that was the future of North West and it was where all our senior players came from. It was very competitive in those days but the social atmosphere amongst all players in all clubs was fantastic. There were numerous colourful players and also umpires.
MEMORIES OF THE 60s
John Bessell was President of the club in the early 60s. He was followed by Barrie Muir, one of the club’s longest serving Presidents. Significant contributions were provided by committee men such as Ivan Green and Bill Gifford. Neville “Brad” Bradbury was also one of the prime movers of the club in this era and of course would continue to epitomise the bulldog spirit for a long time to come in following years. Brad’s barracking shout of “Up you bullies!” still rings in the ears of many club members today. Other very active, enthusiastic club members were Gill Withington and Brian Johnson, the other half of the “Muirjon” trophy.
The club was not short of on-field success either as shown in this photo featuring some of the club’s past heroes. During the 80s the club’s two A grade teams were hugely successful with several premierships and state premierships being being won by both teams. The opening of the Astroturf ground in 1987 significantly changed the style of hockey played and the North West Grads teams were quick adopters of the new patterns required for success. The club also performed very strongly in the lower grades and in juniors under the leadership of Brad through this period.
Marty Bissett, one of the best players ever to wear the Bulldogs strip, joined the club in 1989 after a year with Derwent and became a driving force both on and off the field for the ongoing success of the club in the 90s and beyond.
LEADING THE WAY WITH THE WHISTLE AND ON HOCKEY SOUTH
From the 60s through to the 80s, the contribution of North West to the umpiring side of the games was extremely important. People such as Brian Streets, Neville Patterson, Noel Richardson, Rod Street, Richard Fowler, Barrie Muir and others made major contributions both on and off the field. Brian, Neville and Barrie were Australian badged umpires and conducted umpires’ nights and field testing of umpires for many years.
Barrie recalls that “It was rather embarrassing when it came to finals for several years as many of the best umpires in the South were members of North West and so our teams didn’t always get the benefits of our hard work”.
The club has had strong representation right from the 60s through to today on the Hockey South (and previously on the STWHA and SHA) management committee. People like Ron Mills, Bert Brownlow, John Bessell, Neville Bradbury, Noel Richardson, Rod Street, John Pratt, Graeme Canny, Christine Bennett, Lesley Harrison, Jill Klye, Monika and Michael Irwin have all provided tremendous service to the running of hockey in the south. Their efforts have made hockey arguably the best administered sport in the south over many years.
A FOCUS ON FAMILY VALUES AND JUNIORS
North West Graduates has always had a strong focus on family involvement in hockey. Families such as the Cannys, Richardsons, Muirs, Cliffords, Pratts, Lawsons, Fowlers, Irwins, Streets, Potters, Bennetts, Brennans, Carricks to name just a few have all had strong family involvement with the club over the decades and continue to have today.
The older members of these families, and of the club in general, have fond memories of the wonderful pub nights at the Empire and other pubs over the years. Many a youngster had their first (legal?) drink at the hockey club pub in days gone by. Some might say not a lot has changed but certainly the move from set game times on grass to the round the clock schedule of the turf has had a big impact on the social life of the club.
Over the years, our club has had its name added to such trophies as the Lord Mayor’s Trophy (and others) because of the excellent work done by our players in coaching junior teams. The reason that we have been so strong over the years is because of the hard work done with the junior teams. We have had a wonderful history of senior players and parents who have been prepared to spend time coaching our junior teams and school teams to ensure the continued participation and progress of junior players in our great sport.
THE FORMATION OF GRADUATES LADIES HC – by Julie Podmore
I was chatting recently to a 20-year-old Uni hockey player, who was asking me about my hockey history. She was pretty surprised to hear that A grade hockey was played elsewhere other than on an artificial surface – by someone who might be considered old, but definitely not on her last legs! So I told her about the fields, paddocks and country estates that we were rostered to play on – Sandown Park at Sandy Bay, Queenborough, an Ogilvie High School ground, an indescribably bad surface
in Derwent Park, and a roadside park in New Norfolk. These grounds may or may not have been mown, were of unpredictable evenness, of varying sizes, and were occasionally covered with pools of water, with goal circles that could be better described as mud circles.
Such were the fields that the Graduates Ladies’ Hockey Club played on. ‘Ladies’? – I hear you ask. Well, we didn’t swear (much), we didn’t show off our figures with skin-tight tops, and our skirts were of a very ladylike length. In fact at times we had to suffer the indignity of kneeling on the grass while a formidable lady with a ruler measured the length of indecently exposed thigh! But off the field? Perhaps not ladies! Indeed, in the 70’s, two of the most infamous scullers of the University Hockey Club came from Graduates – Julie Podmore and Rosie Laver.
The club was formed in 1966, and could be described as a ‘home for the aged’, as the impetus for its formation came from the dissatisfaction of members of Uni 2 who couldn’t get into Uni 1 because the ‘oldies’ used to hang around for years after they graduated. So a new team was formed, modelled on a Grads men’s team playing at the time – and took on their colours – blue and gold. It was made up of graduates from the Uni 1 team, a couple of third-year undergraduates from Uni 1, and a couple of
Uni 2 players. It was called Graduates but was still part of the University Women’s Club, and entry to the team was governed by their selection panel. Uni was a strong club, fielding three teams in the ‘A’ grade competition (Uni 1, 2 and Grads) – which inconveniently consisted of seven teams. Those historians amongst you may be interested in the teams playing in 1966 – Methodist, Friends, OTOSA, Wellington, Uni 1, Uni 2 and Grads. Uni 1 had won the premiership in 1965, and in its first season
in 1966, Grads was beaten in the preliminary final by Wellington, who then went on to beat Methodist in the grand final.
The first team (1966) was: Ann Oosting (now Francis), Di Hodgman (now Vertigan), Julie Wells (now Podmore), Hilary Asten (now Hastie), Marg Bryant, Elizabeth Carter, Rosie Hughes (now Laver), Dianne Arnold (now Carrington Smith), Mardi Calder, Margaret Davies and Marj Lucas (now McFarlane). We trained twice a week on the university oval on Sandy Bay Road (no preseason
in those days!) and were coached by Don Proctor, who, amongst other endearing characteristics, used to implore us to sleep with our sticks under our pillows before important matches!
We wore very stylish uniforms – otherwise known as ‘sacks’. The uniforms were only a few years removed from pleats with a cord around the waist – and were considered quite modern. The wearing of shin pads was spasmodic at best – and mouthguards were almost unheard of. In these early years, we were a very serious-minded team. Nights before important matches were spent at the captain’s place with tea and sandwiches – to ensure that the more frivolous members stayed on the straight and narrow! Despite this discipline, we had to wait until 1969 to win our first premiership, beating Wellington 1-0 in the final. (Wellington had beaten us in the grand final in ’67, and in the semi-final in ’68).
In 1970, the character of the team changed considerably. The Sports Council at Uni required all non-fee paying players to pay the University Union fee. This hefty slug on top of club fees was too much for the team, so we disassociated ourselves constitutionally from the university club and became a separate club – but still recruited from Uni and were invited to their annual dinner – all female gatherings characterized by most undignified behaviour (to put it mildly).
Selection then was out of Uni hands and inclusion in the team was a result of the ‘feeling of the meeting’. Criteria for the extension of an invitation to join were that a person be a graduate, a good hockey player and a good sort. The first of these criteria could be waived in exceptional circumstances (viz. Mrs Margaret Pierce and Mrs Jill Mann, both of whom went on to represent Australia), but if potential players weren’t graduates, they had to be very good players and very good sorts – we were, after all, interested in winning.
The other criterion, rarely waived, was that potential players had to pass the ‘ASH’ (Australian Standard Handful) test, administered by male supporters only too willing to help. Despite the requirement to be no bigger than a ‘B’ cup, training usually included various exercises to improve our measurements – to little avail.
The one disadvantage of being a one-team club was the fact that we had no one from whom to draw reserves – and by reserves I mean people to fill in when someone was sick or away. We never had anyone on the sideline in case someone was injured! But such was the closely knit nature of the ‘graduates experience’, that past players would come out of retirement, leave their sick beds – or even their maternity beds – to fill in as required. When all else failed, total strangers were dragged in from the sidelines – or even recruited at traffic lights!
The close-knit nature of the team manifested itself in other strange ways, notably the year we took it in turns to be captain; in those days there was no interchange, and players could be substituted only on injury, so the year we had 12 players, we decided each week who wouldn’t play by drawing sticks, and the year we started the season without a goalie because there wasn’t a good enough sort on offer. After several hair-raising matches, we persuaded an old Grad to come out of retirement.
Accusations that Grads at this time was elitist were certainly justified, but it was a most successful team – winning the Southern premiership in ’71 (against Uni), ’72 (against Wellington), ’73 (against Uni) and ‘74 (against Wellington), and the State Premiership in ’72 and ’73. Our arch rivals in the second half of the 70s were University – and we lost grand finals to them in ’76, and, most memorably in 1977, when they scraped home 1-0 in a Sunday replay, after drawing with us 0-0 on the Saturday. The author can remember this painful match very clearly – having given birth to a son only 8 weeks previously, and being overweight and very unfit.
A contributing factor to all this success was, I’m sure, the fact that we enjoyed ourselves so much. We had a very active social life – many players’ teas, song-writing sessions in the pub, end-of-season matches against husbands and boyfriends, and even the occasional trip to Melbourne. And as for training on freezing cold nights? I am (publicly) ashamed to say (but secretly proud) that
such nights – ‘Julie trainings’ – were spent at the pub!
In my humble opinion, the best team – ‘The Graduates Machine’ – was the ’72 team, which played the whole Southern season unbeaten, and won both the Southern and State premierships 5-1 – a pretty convincing score! This team had six players who represented the state at various times (including four state captains), and three players who represented Australia. But above all, it was a great team, who supported and appreciated each other – both on and off the field.
Long suffering coaches in the years after Don Proctor retired were Jon Burns, Bob Holmes, John Dean, Anne Williams, Bob Phillips and myself – and one year, a triumvirate of current players.
A drastic change in the direction of Grads came in 1978, when Christine Bennett, a crusading ASH graduate with missionary zeal and an empire-building fervour even the Poms would applaud, appeared on the scene. A one-team club was to be no more.
An even more shocking change occurred in 1983, when Graduates acquired a masculine arm, and became NWG. A memorable wake was held for the passing of the old order.
Around 1977, Graduates was having problems maintaining numbers – as women’s teams often do – people get married and move away with husband, or need time off to have children. As a one-team club, we had no other players to rely on to rebuild teams.
In 1977, Christine Bennett, Vicki Rayner, Alison Stevens (Mellor), Leonie Dick (Brennan), Lesley Harrison and Mary Kelly transferred from Uni 1 to Graduates to keep the competition open (Mind you, interrupts Julie Podmore, all these players were graduates of university anyway – and the University club were very strong at the time, winning all six premierships between 1975 and 1980 – it was time for those six players to move on!). This was the year when the regulars raced around picking up anyone in the street, gave them a hockey stick and put them on the field to make a quorum.
Meanwhile, some years earlier, Christine Bennett had been one of the main forces behind the establishment in 1974 of two Southern High Schools teams to play in the southern women’s roster. The impetus behind the entry of these teams into the roster was the mortification that Christine felt when she was coach of the Southern State Schools U16 team in the intra-state carnival –
a team that was beaten by everyone else, and which failed to get one player in the state team. The initiation of Easter Camps with some other former Graduates also helped improve the standard of southern schoolgirls. As these teams developed, the problem arose of where to recommend SHS players to go when they left school – if they weren’t going on to university.
So, despite some strong initial opposition from ‘real’ graduates, Christine Bennett suggested one solution to solve two problems – an amalgamation of the Southern High School teams with Graduates. In 1978, Graduates had four teams – Grads I in 1st Grade, Grads II in 2nd Grade, Grads III in 3rd Grade, and Grads IV in 5th Grade.
Some of those who ‘came through the ranks’ were Lindy Cameron, Robyn Hean, Deidre Johnson, Sharon Lacey, Sally Cooper, Helen Moore and sisters Barbara and Jodi, Marg Anning, Suellen Doran and Meegan Vittorio. Some SHS players made it to 1st grade in this period (1978-82) – and despite the fact that Tracey Cameron, Jo Traynor, Kathy Alexander, Margo Males and Maree Fish weren’t ‘graduates’, they were welcomed with open arms, as they met the original criteria of being good sorts – and very good players!
And they could party hard too!
In 1981, the 1st Grade team finally got back into the premiership records, but the more memorable year was probably 1982, when the Grads team did exceptionally well – being unbeaten for the season, and scoring 105 goals and conceding only 5! But then went on to lose the semi and the preliminary finals!!!! It may have had something to do with the rather unnerving custom in those days of declaring a break in the southern roster (in this case three weeks) at the end of the season to allow state teams to travel to play – rather a break in focus!)