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Kennington’s sad footy story winds up: 1994

By Richard Jones

Last year I was asked a couple of times what the story was behind the demise of the Kennington-Strathdale footy club.

And even though I’ve re-traced the Saints’ history once or twice before in the BFNL Record’s Reflections column I’ll give it another crack.

Kennington’s final season in the BFL was in 1993. And what a tumultuous season that was for the Saints.

In the 14th round 27 years ago the Saints walked off Princes Park claiming the umpires weren’t cracking down on Maryborough’s alleged unfair, rough tactics.

It was at the 16-minute mark of the July 3rd game’s third quarter that the walk-off occurred.

Skipper Mark Blabey led the Saints from the oval, later informing reporters that he’d approached the umpires at half-time.

“I’d told them that if something wasn’t done we would withdraw from the match,” Blabey said.

Disquiet about Maryborough’s and the umpires’ performances had been aired even earlier, but it was in-house then --- at the quarter-time huddle.

Kennington executive club members, Blabey and the coaching panel had stood aside from the playing group to discuss the issue.

The Monday Advertiser report mentioned in the opening paragraph of the back page lead story the walk-off was “the blackest day in Bendigo football history.”

The inquiries and investigations ran for days that early July week in ’93 (I recall jotting down – and voice taping -- notes from many interviews at door stops and sit-downs), but as it turned out Kennington’s days were almost over, anyway.]

The Saints racked up their last-ever victory in the BFL in round 19, 1993: just five weeks after the infamous walk-off.

They sneaked home by six points over Kangaroo Flat: 14.18 (102) to 14.12 (96).

Three weeks later in round 22 -– the Saints’ final BFL match ever --- Kennington was swamped by Kyneton. The Tigers slammed home 10 goals to nil in the opening quarter.

They ran away with the game to post a comfortable 22.16 (148) to 11.12 (78) victory: a margin of 70 points.

The Saints formally folded during the 1993-94 off-season citing insurmountable financial dificulties.

Kennington was actually $23,000 in debt and unable to attract any players of note over the summer months.

They’d enjoyed a stormy history in the Golden City, Bendigo- Golden City and finally the Bendigo Football League with many seasons of unrelenting “lows”.

There weren’t all that many “highs” for the Keets, then Cockerels and finally the Saints to hang their collective hats on.

They did win the highly sought-after Melbourne Olympic year 1956 flag in the old Bendigo Football Association (the forerunner of the Golden City F.L.) coming from fourth spot and winning all three of their finals.

In the first semi-final Kennington downed Chewton by six points with assistant coach Jack Hargreaves nailing four goals and senior coach Alan Nalder contributing two.

Final scores: Kenn. 10.11 (71) def. Chewton 9.11 (65).

North Bendigo was the Keets’ preminary final opponents and they surged to what appeared to be a match-winning 14-point lead midway through the final term.

Kennington pegged back the margin with goals to Jack Hargreaves (6 for the match) and Kevin Boucher and took their narrow lead.

With just a minute to go North defender Fred Kirk marked on the goal-line but the Parakeets were in front and won: 9.12 (66) to North’s 8.12 (60).

Alan Nalder, after whom the BFNL’s senior grand final BOG medal is now named, was chaired from the QEO along with prolific goalkicker Hargreaves.

 

And so the stage was set for the 1956 grand final.

Kennington faced a tough opponent as YCW had appeared in five grand finals for four premierships since World War 2 days.

By comparison Kennington had played in three grand finals with not a premiership pennant to show for it all: White Hills winning the big dances against them twice and YCW once.

Kennington had bounced back from an ordinary start to their 1956 campaign and needed to win six games on end to qualify for the finals.

But they had a psychological advantage over the Eagles.

Kennington had beaten YCW twice in their three home-and-away meetings with all matches played on the clubs’ joint home ground at Neale Street: the Harry Trott Oval, today South Bendigo’s lair.

The big game was played at the QEO on October 8th and Kennington ran out eventual 17-point winners to snare their fourth flag since their foundation 19 years earlier: in 1937.

Leading by 16 points at the last change Kennington had to hold on in a desperately fought last term.

Captain-coach Chalkley added YCW’s only last quarter major after Stan Ross had goaled from an acute angle.

Final scores: Kennington 9.7 (61) to YCW 6.8 (44). Hargreaves five goals for Kennington.

Hargreaves was the BFA’s top goalkicker. He finished the season on 72 goals. He’d nailed 57 in the home-and-away rounds then added another 15: four in the first semi, six in the preliminary and five in the grand final.

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