Roos down Hillies to win 1960 GCFL flag

By Richard Jones

It’s not very often that central Victorian footy writers or historians get to write a story headlined: Roos run out as premiers.

But that’s what they could do six decades back as Kangaroo Flat won the 1960 play-off against White Hills in the old Golden City Football League.

In his first season as Roos playing coach former Sandhurst backman Alan Rohde was determined to take the Green and Whites from their preliminary final finish of 1959 to the ultimate prize.

They had a great start to the season winning their first three games: against Chewton, Northern United and Kennington.

The first-up victory over 1959 grand finalists Chewton was extraordinary. The Flat was goal-less at half-time but inspired by dominant ruckman Bill Forrest they got up by 10 points.

Then Bendigo Addy footy writer Peter Nally was an early prophet of Flat’s likely success as he wrote in early May, 1960.

“You can put your money on Kangaroo Flat!

“League leaders, three wins in a row and an unbeatable combination, they are early favourites for the pennant this year.”

Rohde had assembled a very strong goal-to goal line.

Rex Kelsey at full-back and Geoff Harding in the centre half-back spot were his key defenders and Alan Cowling filled the full-forward berth.

With Forrest and Alan Langley heading up the ruck section the Roos were a dominant force in the GCFL.

But it wasn’t all roses for the Roos. Langley played his 100th senior match against YCW and the defending premiers adopted a very cagey system.

Realising that the Flat had the dominant goal-to-goal line strengths they mounted attacks around the wings and flanks and ran out two-point victors.

For the match against Northern United Rohde named Keith Shelton at full-forward, replacing Cowling, and the Roos returned to the winners’ list.

In the round 7 match against Provincial at Weeroona Oval playing coach Rohde took over at centre half-forward for the final quarter with the Flat a goal down.

The Roos unleashed a stunning last term burst of 8.3 to 1.1 to grind the Pros into their home turf.

Just past the halfway mark of the 1960 season and Kangaroo Flat filled top spot on the ladder and faced their round 1 nemesis YCW in the GCFL match-of-the-round.

The Roos reversed that early season loss with Forrest and Albert Webster on top in the ruck and coach Rodhe chipping in with a valuable five goals.

Kangaroo Flat ended up downing the Eagles by seven points.

Following a fortnight’s bye the Flat took on North Bendigo and dished out a 114-point belting: 18.21 (119) to the Bulldogs’ 2.3 (15).

But a reality check was looming for Rohde’s team.

Just before the finals were due to start White Hills downed the Roos by 14 points to ensure the Hillies finished in one of the top two spots for 1960.

At the end of voting Forrest tied with Chewton follower Ken Franklin in the league’s 1960 fairest and best Stevenson Medal count.

But after a count-back Franklin was adjudged the 1960 medallist as he’d polled five three-votes to the Flat’s Forrest with four.

Undeterred by this upset Forrest led the Roos to a second semi-final win over YCW at the Kennington oval (Neale Street) with strong backing from rover Jimmy Hill and coach Rohde.

White Hills had won their way through to the 1960 grand final and awaited their grand final opponent.

In the end it was White Hills and Frank Budge proved a tough opponent for Rohde. He nailed three of the Hillies’ first five goals up to three-quarter time

Rohde made his match-winning move for the final term.

He moved crack half-back flanker Wal Shelton to the back pocket onto Budge and Shelton negated Budge for the rest of the grand final.

Noel Hindson booted the Flat’s match-defining goal to give the Roos a six-point lead late in the final stanza and they hung on to win: 6.9 (45) to White Hills 5.8 (38).

Not surprisingly Bill Forrest won the club’s 1960 fairest and best award.

Rohde’s Flat career lasted from 1960 to 1963, Forrest played from 1959-1963 while Alan Langley enjoyed a much longer career: from 1954 to 1968.

As the only remaining member club from firstly the Golden City F.L. and then the amalgamated Bendigo-Golden City F.L. from the early 80s onwards the Flat won the senior BFL flag in 1996.

In an absolute thriller the Roos defeated Kyneton by one kick: 18.8 (116) to 15.20 (110).

Looking back on that great clash of a quarter-of-a-century ago it’s amazing to recall the Roos went into the final quarter 50 points ahead of the Tigers following a brilliant third term burst of 9.2.

But they only just managed to hold on with the Tigers only six points down and a little more than two minutes left on the clock.

Jamie Barkmeyer, as I frequently remind him to this very day (and to his anguished embarrassment), kicked the Flat’s only last term major.

And with the Tigers pressing hard key defenders Troy Rodda and Brett ‘Growler’ Gloury worked extra hard to keep the Tigers at bay.

Eventually the Roos hung on in one of the best grand final finishes I’ve seen in 44 years of covering local footy.

Key Kangaroo Flat on-ballers in coach Simon Jorgensen (Nalder Medal) and skipper Chris Harrington (VCFL Medal) were rewarded for outstanding performances.

But it was far from an easy run to the flag.

The Flat managed to finish in second place on the BFL ladder thanks to a thumping win over Eaglehawk late in the 1996 season.

‘Hollywood’ David Lancaster banged home 11 goals and the Roos marked Scott Tully’s 100th game with the huge victory.

However, the early final was a different matter. Kyneton comfortably won the qualifying final meaning Jorgensen and his boys faced a straight sets exit.

But they turned their series around with a dominant first semi-final performance slotting 7.2 in the opening quarter against Castlemaine.

Noel Shelton led a very stingy Roo defence and Kangaroo Flat ran out big first semi-final winners by 70 points.

Next up was the 1996 preliminary final against Maryborough.

Once against Jorgensen’s boys turned in an outstanding quarter. This time it was the opening term again, just as it had been against Castlemaine.

Kangaroo Flat swamped the scoreboard posting 8.2 with the Roos adding to their margin by each quarter break.

With Scott Tully contributing eight majors and Barkmeyer five the Roo attack dominated the Magpies’ defence with Jorgensen and Harrington feeding the ball inside the forward 50 time after time.

The Roos booked their grand final berth with a massive 109-point win: 27.16 (178) to Maryborough’s 10.9 (69).

And as I’ve noted earlier in this story the Roos hung on to win the ’96 flag by one, straight kick.

One thing I didn’t know until recently was that long-serving timekeeper Keith Bailey had come out of his hospital bed to press the button for the final siren.

I’d sat with the late Keith many, many times in the Dower Park timekeepers’ box, taking notes for my eventual Bendigo Addy match report, as he and the opposition club’s clock-watcher kept a close eye on proceedings.

That timekeepers box is known as the Keith Bailey Box in recognition of Keith’s 30-plus years of service to the club.

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