League brings netball into play: 1991

By Richard Jones

The Bendigo Football League officially introduced netball into its structure in 1991.

So this coming season, 2019, will mark the 28th year of competition netball which has proved a great crowd attraction right from day one.

In the December ’91 annual report league chairman Rod Fulton and executive officer Bill Ashby both praised netball president Jenny Tardiff and her co-worker Mary Downing for their efforts in making sure the competition ran smoothly.

As many central Victorian sports fans will remember until the completion of the netball courts adjacent to the Faith Leech Aquatic Centre netball at the QEO was played on the sloping court behind the city end footy goals.

It was sloping because on every other day bar matchday that part of the QEO was used for car parking.

It says a lot for the athleticism and fitness of the BFNL’s early players that they coped with such a difficult playing surface.
Golden Square won the inaugural A grade netball grand final downing Sandhurst to win the BFNL’s first premiership cup in the sport.

Outstanding Northern United netballer Irene Kline had taken out the inaugural Rod Fulton Medal. The fairest and best award has since been re-named the Betty Thompson Medal.

In his remarks in the 1991 annual report Ashby remarked on how netball had “created a whole new field of entertainment.”

“The league through its 10 clubs can now draw an increasingly selective paying public through its turnstiles,” Ashby wrote.


Fast forward four years and we come to the end of September, 1995.

Sandhurst centre Rosanne Walgers had won the A grade fairest and best medal but she’d managed to put the euphoria of that behind her as the grand final loomed.

But it wasn’t just the medal Rosanne took home. She’d also claimed the $750 Thomas Jewellers’ diamond pendant, a five-night trip to the Gold Coast and the $300 Bart N Print award as well.

By September 23rd she was concentrated on the A grade grand final against Eaglehawk as the Hurst looked to defend their top division title.

Rosanne had captained the BFNL side at the inter-league match against Ovens and Murray and told the Advertiser she “lived, breathed and ate the sport of netball.”

“This has been my first year at Sandhurst. I had played at South Bendigo last year and at Kennington the year before that, so I’ve moved around a bit.”

Rosanne recalled she’d captained the Blue and Gold inter-league team at Wangaratta.

“The girls played really well and we won, so it’s been a really good year for me.

“I was proud to have been a member of that side up at Wangaratta.”

The Hurst centre had also represented the North Central region in the Mobil Country Cup during 1995 and additionally played for North Central in State League netball.

Looking back at the A grade medal count and Rosanne polled 29 votes to beat Square coach Karen Leahy who finished on 24.

Kyneton’s Carolyn Bloomfield, the leader after all the one and two-votes had been counted, finished third on 20 votes.


Castlemaine goal defence player Genine Peeler polled 22 votes to win the 1995 B grade netball fairest and best medal.

Genine, 25, beat three players who all finished tied on 20 votes: Jane Sadler (Maryborough), Joanne O’Meara (Eaglehawk) and Janelle Beagley (Sandhurst).

Genine lived in Castlemaine and at the time of her medal win was completing a training course in travel and tourism in Melbourne.

“I would like to be a travel agent, hopefully in a regional or country area,” she told the Addy.

“I like country people more than the people I’ve met who live in Melbourne.”

The B grade medallist said 1995 had been her first year back with the Castlemaine team after missing the previous year.

“I’d played the year before that (1993) so this is my first season back after having a break for 12 months.”

Genine won the $250 Thomas Jewellers’ diamond pendant and the Tip Top Bakeries award as well as her fairest and best medal.


And the 1995 grand final day was going to be a big one for veteran Kyneton trainer Maurie Smith.

With the Tigers in the grand final against South Bendigo Maurie --- who’s still with the club, incidentally --- was ready for the most important rub-downs of the season.

He’d started of as a player with the Tigers in 1949 before taking on the role as head trainer from 1970 to 1993.

The 1995 Tigers which included stars such as playing coach Derrick Filo, BFNL Hall of Famers Shane Muir and Tony Kelly, big men Nick Heath and Terry Mangan and full-forward Steven ‘Revenue’ Reaper rated as one of Maurie’s all-time great Kyneton sides.

“They compare very well with the team Clive Philp coached to premierships in 1960 and 1961 and the Kevin Parks flag-winning team of 1966,” Maurie said.

Early in grand final week an Addy photographer and I visited the Showgrounds to call in on Maurie.

There he was busy rubbing down a couple of players before Filo called them all out onto the training track.

He’d lost count of the number of players in Tiger colours he’d looked after but swore that Kyneton rover Shane Muir, the 1985 Michelsen Medallist, was the equal of the legendary Philp.

“When Clive came here in 1957, that was my last year as a player,” Maurie recalled.

“And when we won the grand final in 1960 he played at centre half-back. The year before (in 1959) he’d won the Michelsen medal playing in the same position.

“Then in 1961 we won again. Clive moved up the ground and played at full-forward that year. He kicked a heap of goals.”

[In fact Philp had won the BFL goal-kicking in 1960 with 75 goals so he must have alternated between defence and attack a lot.]


Despite Philp’s undoubted abilities --- he was one of the 20 players inducted into the inaugural BFL Hall of Fame in 1986 --- Maurie Smith rated Muir, Derrick Filo and Tony Kelly as three players “up there with the best.”

“Muir is just a great rover and also a terrific clubman. And don’t forget Kelly played 10 AFL games with Collingwood,” he said.

The long-serving trainer said 1980 Michelsen Medallist John Watts was a very strong centre half-back while the 1979 Tiger side, led by Lindsay Potter, went down to Golden Square in the grand final by just four goals.

“They got the jump on us by four goals to our nothing in the first quarter,” Maurie recalled.

“We more or less held them after that and and got beaten eventually by those four goals.”

The long-serving trainer said he’d loved his time and involvement with the Tigers.

“I’ve met everyone from shovel workers right up to bank managers,” he said.

Maurie is a Kyneton life member, bestowed in 1977, and BFL life membership came his way in 1984.

But he was a BFL boundary umpire from 1958 to 1963 and a goal umpire in 1964 and 1965.

He officially took up his training duties in 1966 and was appointed head trainer in 1970.


1995 trophy winners --- Michelsen Medal: Frank Coghlan (S’hurst); Ron Best goalkicking medal: David Lancaster (Kang. Flat. 105 goals); David McCann club championship award: Sandhurst; AIBA $750 club voting seniors award: Gavin Exell (Northern United) from Chris Giri (Kang Flat).

Life memberships: Keith Robertson (North Bendigo) and Mac Elvey (Eaglehawk).

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