Dick Turner remembers: calling footy back in the day
By Richard Jones
IN THE very early issues of the 1981 Bendigo Footballer program renowned local broadcaster Dick Turner wrote a column for the weekly guide.
In the May 2nd edition he recalled some of the bizarre commentary ‘boxes’ he’d used in 31 years of calling.
“From the dog box at Eaglehawk’s Canterbury Park to the back of a furniture van at Echuca: that’s my story of broadcasting Bendigo footy over 31 years for radio 3BO,” he wrote.
“Out at Eaglehawk 30 years ago I broadcast football from the dog box on the side of the grandstand.
“Then there was the old tin shed at the Rochester ground, the furniture removal van backed into the side of Victoria Park in Echuca plus the old fire tower down at Castlemaine.
“There was an old weighbridge pavilion at the Golden Square ground plus the ‘chook pen’ at the Queen Elizabeth Oval --- these are just some of the places I’ve broadcast from over the past 30 years,” he observed.
[Dick made some running repairs to the QEO box which was freezing in mid-winter by pasting some cardboard over the ventilation grilles. The grilles were handy during the cricket season, but no good at all on a windy June or July day.]
One day at Echuca Dick and co-commentator Russ Pilley were refused permission to use a table and chairs from the Murray Bombers’ clubrooms.
“Fortunately the head teacher at the Echuca High School handed us over the fence a school desk. We put this up in the Victoria Park grandstand and broadcast from the school desk,” Dick said.
“HOW I can remember the day down at Castlemaine where Russ Pilley and I were broadcasting and the supporters took away the fire ladder.
“That left Russ and myself stranded up on the top of the old fire tower.”
Dick recalls up at Rochy on another occasion he was clambering out of the old tin shed when he heard a lady supporter’s remark.
“She said: ‘That’s the greatest disappointment of my life. I really thought Dick Turner would be tall, dark and handsome.
“Instead he’s fat, short and bloody near bald,” she said. “What a lovely lady!” Dick remarked in his column.
Turning to the best kicks of the footy he’d seen over his three-decade journey the old 3BO match caller reminisced about some talented footballers.
“My best-ever kick of the footy was Ray Poulter, the Castlemaine captain and coach and ex-Richmond backman. He would boot the leather off the pill.
“Perhaps the greatest drop kick was the now station officer of the Bendigo Fire Brigade in Vin Lapsley.
“Laps would drop kick the ball virtually to the centre of the ground he was playing at each Saturday. And he did that almost every time.”
[Vin Lapsley is the father of the past State Emergency Services chief, Craig Lapsley.]
Other fine kicks of the football Dick listed in his column were Sandhurst’s Max Elliott, Ron McHardy of Golden Square (who’s now in his 90s & still watches Square home matches) and Frank Kyne of South Bendigo.
Sandhurst’s Frank Scholes (a magnificent punter) and Les Murray of Castlemaine, who had a toey drop kick, were also excellent kicks of the ball, Turner remembered.
THE opening round of the two-tiered 1981 BGCFL season had got away to a good start. Massive scores were posted just about everywhere.
Kyneton beat Eaglehawk by two points in Div. 1 with Golden Square winners over Castlemaine by three goals.
In Div. 2 Marong downed North Bendigo by nine points with Kangaroo Flat, later to join Div. 1 and remain there permanently, 10-point winners over the Northern United Swallows.
Final scores – Division 1 (6 clubs): Kyneton 15.17 (107) def. Eaglehawk 14.21 (105); S’hurst 27.12 (174) def. South Bendigo 15.17 (107) and G. Square 15.23 (113) def. Castlemaine 14.11 (95).
Division 2 (8 clubs): Kang. Flat 20.13 (133) def. Nthn. United 18.15 (123); White Hills 24.24 (168) def. Kennington-Strathdale 11.14 (80); YCW 14.12 (96) def. Provincial 10.10 (70) and Marong 16.17 (119) def. North Bendigo 16.8 (110).
Top Fours, Div. 1: Sandhurst, Golden Square, Kyneton, Eaglehawk.
Div. 2: White Hills, YCW, Marong, Kangaroo Flat.
Leading goalkickers, Div. 1: Wayne Pickering (Sh) 8; Wayne Crosbie (Cm) 6, Bobby Beare (Kyn), Kevin ‘Kotta’ Price (Eh), Gavin Exell (Sh) and Peter Davey (GS) all on 5.
Division 2: Russell Roulston (NB) 7; Trevor Curram (KF) and David Purdy (Mar) 6; Gerard Geary (NU), Robert ‘Bunny’ Wallace (YCW) and Steve McCaw (WH) all on 5.
DENNIS Higgins featured as the Personality of the Week in that season-start edition of the Bendigo Footballer.
He was accorded pride of place in the very early part of the 1981 year as over summer he’d been appointed as captain-coach of the BFL inter-league team.
The Blue and Gold back in the day contested the Winfield Championships: bizarre, when you think about it, having a tobacco company sponsoring sport.
But that’s what happened in the Eighties.
“Last season he led Eaglehawk to possibly their greatest ever win,” the editorial reads.
“It was the premiership in their centenary year of football: the 1980 flag.
“Dennis led by example both on and off the arena to achieve victory for the club in possibly their finest hour.”
And when he’d accepted the Bendigo Advertiser Cup on the QEO balcony he’d probably reflected on the personal battle he’d had to overcome in order to reach the top, the editorial writer observed.
“One of six sons of Len Higgins Dennis followed a fine family tradition. Len had been a topline follower with Deniliquin and footy was in the family’s blood.
“His mother Nell was also a topline sportsperson. She’d represented the state in netball.”
THE Higgins boys Shane, Kevin, Len, Paul and Dennis started footy early in life.
Most of them lined up in Sandhurst junior sides when they started out.
“Kevin enjoyed a brilliant career notching up more than 150 games with Geelong and later Fitzroy. But for Dennis the path was much harder,” the Personality Profile stated.
“After graduating from Nildo Munari’s third 18 he spent 40 matches in the Sandhurst Twos.
“I just wasn’t good enough,” Higgins recalled “They had a top side at that time, but ‘Delicate’ Des Dickson gave me great encouragement to persevere with my game.”
The next move for Higgins was to Tongala under coach Paul Rowe, a mentor described by the Eaglehawk premiership coach as the best leader he’s ever played under.
Higgins was a teacher and when he was transferred to the Goulburn Valley he transferred to the Shepparton club.
His stay in the GV lasted seven seasons. Then it was onto the Murray League as playing coach of the then ‘chopping block’ club, Nathalia, for the 1978 season.
“We managed to pick up a few reasonable players, had a few early wins and it wasn’t hard to get the adrenalin flowing as we’d been on the bottom for 15 years,” he recalled.
The rest is history. Nathalia went on to win the premiership under Higgins’ leadership, reversing a 30-goal defeat against Deniliquin in the process.
In 1979 Higgins was appointed principal of St. Liborius School on Eaglehawk Road.
“I thought I might try and get a game with Sandhurst, but Eaglehawk was looking for a coach and they took the punt and appointed me.
“Eaglehawk people are very close-knit and give great support right through the community.”
The premiership arrived a year later in 1980 with Higgins in early 1981, aged 30, looking forward to coaching Bendigo’s inter-league side.