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Echuca Football Club - It’s History, Past and Present - By T.A. Brown

Echuca Football Club

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The 1926 football season, as far as Echuca is concerned, has closed, but before the stirring events of recent months have passed into the realm of things forgotten, it might be of interest to review the history of the club from its inception beck in the eighties when, on May 24, 1886, a team from Mooroopna drove to Echuca and played a match against a local combination which was captained by Peter Noble, with Jack Dickson as vice-captain. Echuca won. In 1887 two teams (Echuca and Echuca East) were formed, and played a series of games. Echuca was led by Peter Noble, and Echuca East by Jack Dickson. Behinds were not counted in those days, and three successive games were drawn. Echuca’s colors were blue and white, while Echuca East wore yellow and black. There was bitter rivalry between these two teams, which existed right up till 1908. Fighting was frequently indulged in, and before each match members of the Echuca team would dress a dummy in their rivals colors (yellow and black) and drag it through the town behind a vehicle. This generally led to trouble, in which fists were freely used.

A competition was formed in 1892, the clubs being Echuca, Echuca East, Moama, Cummeragunja, and the Sandhill Tigers. The aborigines played in bare feet, but they withdrew from the competition after three or four years had elapsed. Mr James Shackell (M.L.A., was president of Echuca at this time, and Messrs J.H. Abbott, J. Sternberg and J.H. McColl were patrons. Mr A.J.O’Dwyer was secretary. Peter Noble captained Echuca. His four brothers and C.A. Lenne, K. Stewart, W. Grimwood, F. Turner, the Hick’s bros., M. Bowles, R.Irwin, the late E.R. Reilly and the Lamb Bros. were prominent players. Bob Noble afterwards played for Bendigo under the leadership of Fred Prior. Echuca East won most of the Premierships H Crapp (the first Melbourne Umpire) officiated in the final match in 1904 between Echuca and Echuca East when the latter won after one of the best games ever played in Echuca and which is still talked of. Tom Nolan captained the Echuca team and George Duncan the East. “Janey” O’Neill, Dune Campbell, George Morgan (of Cycling fame), Jack Ferguson, J. Beresford, J. Hansen, H.Gelardie, Paddy McKeown, F. Bear, J.P. Stokes and W.Wragge were prominent players. Mr Hector McKenzie was president of the association that year.

In 1909 Echuca was admitted to the Goulburn Valley League. Dr Kelly was president, Mr L. Seward secretary, and Mr G.Campbell treasurer. The colours were changed to green and white. On June 3 of that year Echuca played its first game in the Valley League competition, journeying to Shepparton accompanied by the Ranger’s Band. The team was badly beaten. Frank Mueller (formerly of Sandhurst and South Bendigo) captained the team. The first “at home” match was played in the present park oval one week later. The gate receipts amounted to £10- fairly large “gate” for those days. On the following Saturday Echuca had the bye, so it played a team from Rochester for practice, and won handsomely by 15 goals 14 behinds to 1 goal 11 behinds. On August 6 the northerners were beaten by a visiting South Bendigo team. Prominent Echuca players at this period were “Dud” Flower, Frank Mueller, Fred Hill and the Cowley Brothers (Sid and Bert, who afterwards played with Carlton), and A.E. Ferguson. There were no semi-final or final matches, and Shepparton finished on top, Echuca filled second position.

In 1910 Echuca was the minor premier team, losing only one match up to the semi-finals, but it was beaten in the grand final by Murchison. Mr Tom Barnes was president, and the total gate receipts for the season amounted to £148. The captain, Bert Cowley, was one of the team’s best footballers from 1909-1912.

In 1911 Echuca was runner-up for the third successive year, losing the final game against Spepparton. Mr Kyme, a champion from Brunswick, was non-playing coach, and is still remembered in Echuca as a football personality. The scores on that occasion speak for themselves today – Shepparton 10.6; Echuca 4.21. “Rusty” Pattinson (Bendigo) was captain and Constable Proudfoot (Collingwood’s former full back), Birch (Carlton), Jack Riordan, the Cowley Bros., Charlie Stewart, J.Ecans and Dick Evans were prominent players. A.C. (“Shooter”) Ford (Carlton) coached the team in 1912, but it had a lean year and was not among the final four.

In 1913 there was an alteration in the Valley League, Rochester was admitted, and Murchison, Rushworth and Nagambie left. Mr J.C. Chanter was president, Mr J.Lahey secretary, and A. Woolhouse (Port Melbourne) coach of Echuca.

It was in 1914 that Echuca made a memorable bid for the premiership. It imported a paid coach and several paid players. However, the team was again second, being beaten on this occasion by Rochester. Percy Forbes (now with Sandhurst) was the best man on the ground, and “Rust” Pattinson, C.Brown, Fred Hill and the coach “Freddie” Fielding, were outstanding players during the season. Play was abandoned during the war, and when it resumed in 1919 Echuca joined up again. It reached the final four in 1923, but was beaten by Mooroopna in the semi-final. Prominent players that season were “Pom” Seaddan (South Bendigo), George Oglive, Billy Hicks, “Pooley” Berryman, Pat Gallagher, the Muir Brothers, “Mud” Aspinal, “Yorkie” Taylor and Roy Ferrier. In 1920 Tom Darcy came to the town, and further interest was added to football. Mr Waldron was president. The colors were changed to red and white that season, but in 1924, when Echuca joined the Bendigo Football League, it changed back to green and white again.

Mr F.Oldfield was president of the club during its first year in the Bendigo League, Mr T.A. Brown was secretary for the third consecutive year. Roy Ferrier was captain and the following present day players took the field with the team I the first Bendigo league match against Rochester at Echuca:- Jackson, Shugg, Pedrans and Foster. Rochester won. The team did not do too well in its first year, but last year a vast improvement took place, when Len Gale was appointed captain and coach, and Mr J.A. Thomas president, The team got into the semi-finals, but ill-luck in its match against Eaglehawk lost it the game and the chance of contesting the final match.

During the second half of last season Gale, who came from Fitzroy, brought to Echuca an old Fitzroy club mate of his, Steve Donnellan. This player did fairly well on the field, his best game being against Eaglehawk in the semi-final match. This year Donnellan was elected captain and coach, Mr E.T. Eddy president, and Mr T.L. Scott secretary (second year), and under their guidance Echuca has risen to a stronger position that it has ever before occupied in the football world. Donnellan is not only the most popular captain in the Bendigo League, but he is also one of the most dashing and finished footballers in the competition. His motto is: “Fair play is bonnie play” and he set the team a splendid example both on and off the field.

And now I think it is time we got back to the district competition again with Echuca the cenre. This is a bit too much Bendigo in this league. With the new line and a good district an association could be formed if Melbourne umpires were provided, and Echuca with its population should be able to form two good teams. Even if we did not get good football for a start there would be much more interest. There are too many young men on the fence today instead of in the field. There should be a football match in Echuca every Saturday as in Bendigo, as it becomes too expensive as well as inconvenient to travel away as is being done at the present time. The interest would be more widespread than at present, and I think there was more fun in the old days, was we knew all the players better.


Note - This Article has been reprinted from the Riverine Herald 23-Sep-1926 p3. The original version is available on trove at http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115131587

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