Square comes out on top in 1988
By Richard Jones
Golden Square snapped Northern United’s charge at a fifth, successive premiership with a 14-point win in the 1988 decider.
The Bulldogs led match-long and got over the line by a touch more than two goals as the leg-weary Swallows, playing their fourth, finals game in as many weeks, just ran out of puff.
Fed by Alan Paterson’s outstanding ruckwork midfielders Dean Strauch and Christian Lister helped the Dogs’ aggressive forward line gain the edge over the United defenders.
Square’s lead was 15 points at the first change, 17 at half-time and had increased to 27 points by three-quarter time.
Swallows’ stalwarts in the midfield Ian Marlow, Eddie Shiels and Darren Trickey tried desperately to rally their teammates, but the Bulldogs’ defence allowed only eight majors on the day.
Andrew Lethlean played as the “backline general” and he held Darren Brooks all day while Phil NcEvoy, Craig Lefoe and Darren “Coolers” Kulbars all played significant defensive roles, as well.
As was the case three-and-a-half decades back the grand final was punctuated by some tough, physical clashes.
No fewer than five players were reported and had to face the BFL Tribunal the following week.
The Swallows went into the grand final without important midfielder/forward Ron Pangrazio.
He had his right arm and hand in plaster because of a broken scafoid bone in his right hand.
Pangrazio had injured his hand in the prelim. final a week before against Castlemaine, but it hadn’t been until the following Friday --- a day before the big grand final --- that a break had been properly diagnosed.
United had the wind in the opening term but it was Square who made all the running. Goals to Rod McConville, Ray Byrne, Tom Cannon and Paul McConville, with only one reply from Trickey, gave the Dogs a valuable advantage.
Early in the second stanza, the Swallows’ Brooks managed to evade Lethlean on a rare occasion and passed accurately to Gerard Geary.
The key United forward marked and goaled to reduce the gap to 13 points.
Hard-working Trickey found Chris Foran outside 50 at the Barnard Street end and a marvellous set shot resulted in the Swallows closing the gap to seven points.
That seemed to fire the Bulldogs up. Centre half-forward Russell Parkes, who was a lively player match-long, intercepted a loose United handball from a pack and snapped truly from 30 metres out.
With the wind in the second term Square started to gain dominance. McCormick flew high from the back of a pack to take the mark-of-the-day.
His goal and another from Lister, when he took a Strauch handball, resulted in the Square gaining a handy break.
But the Swallows weren’t going home to their nests just yet.
Trickey kicked a long ball into the United forward line and “Bluey” Southcombe soared high to pull in a great grab.
His major from the Camp Hill flank (the new scoreboard flank, today) reduced the gap before Geary dashed through half-forward, but recorded a point only seconds before the half-time siren.
United desperately needed majors in the third term. However, Lefoe was on top of key Swallows’ forward Tony Barnes although Lefoe botched his record when he pushed Mark Brodie face-first into the turf after running him down --- and gave away a free kick.
Golden Square bombarded the city end goal without early success,.
Finally, a string of behinds was broken when Cannon goaled to finish off sparkling midfield work started by Strauch and Ray Byrne.
Osborne replied for United after being tackled high, but that was nullified when Paul McConville grabbed the pall out of a pack and snapped his second major of the grand final.
The Swallows loose field kicking continued on in the final quarter even though they outsored the Square 3.3 to 1.2.
Had Trickey been able to convert from 20m out at the city end the Swallows’ run might have ended up in victory.
Although United’s Mounjoy and Holt combined to find Eddie Shiels on the edge of the 50m arc, and he converted with a long, spiral torpedo, Cannon replied for the Square to keep them handily in front.
Square coach Brian Walsh said Golden Square’s opening 15 minutes was first class.
“Really we had control of the match all day and United was forced to play ‘catch-up footy’.
“We were the best side in the competition. After all we ended up beating Northern United four times during this season,” Walsh said.
Swallows’ coach Southcombe emphasised that 14 points in a grand final “was nothing really”.
“We’ve been six years in the league for four premierships, a second and a third. That’s a pretty fair effort,” the coach said.
Southcombe stressed that the loss of Pangrazio pre-match had “left a huge hole in our line-up, but we still had our chances.”
Early finals scores – Elimination: Kyneton 23.12 (150) def. South Bendigo 15.10 (100). Qualifying: Nthn. Utd. 11.14 (80) def. Castlemaine 6.8 (44).
First semi-final: Castlemaine 26.22 (178) def. Kyneton 15.9 (99). Second semi-final: G. Square 12.13 (85) def. Nthn. Utd. 12.11 (83). Preliminary final: Nthn. Utd 9.20 (74) def. Castlemaine 8.10 (58).
Grand final: Golden Square 10.13 (73) def. Northern United 8.11 (59).
Goals – Golden Square: T. Cannon 3, P. McConville 2, Ray Byrne, R. Parkes, P. McCormick, R. McConville, C. Lister. United: D. Trickey 2, E. Shiels, A. Southcombe, D. Brooks, M. Osborne, G. Geary, C. Foran.
Best – Square: D. Strauch (best on ground), C. Lister, A. Patterson,A. Lethlean, R. Parkes, C. Dowsett, D. Harris, R. Byrne. United: I. Marlow, E. Shiels, D. Trickey, G. Mountjoy, R. Muir, M. Osborne.
Umpires: Rod Threlfall, Alan ‘Boofa’ Smith. Gate takings: $19,000.
Awards, Nalder Medal: Dean Strauch (GS). VCFL-Tooheys award: Christian Lister (GS). Alexander Stenhouse coaching trophy: Brian Walsh (GS).
Other grand final scores, Reserves: South Bendigo 11.16 (82) def. Castlemaine 6.2 (38). Under-18s: South Bendigo 12.8 (80) def. Sandhurst 8.10 (58).
1988 BFL season awards -- Personality of the Year: Harold Hall (Northern United secretary and earlier BGCFL president, 1981-82).
Life members: Dick Turner (3BO), Basil Ashman (Eaglehawk premiership coach, 1957, BFL’s youngest ever flag-winning coach), Harrie Sims (clearance and Tribunal secretary), Garry Mountjoy (G. Square/Northern Utd, 300 gamer (135 games with Square, 165 with United), Michelsen Medallist 1984, grand final Nalder Medallist 1985.
Previous winners of the BFL Personality of the Year awards were -– 1983: Dr. Wally McGregor. 1984: Jack Jefferies. 1985: Jack Harper. 1986: Aileen Riordan. 1987: Harrie Sims.
1988 3CCC $1000 coaches’ award: Alan Patterson (GS), Murray Collins (E’hawk): tied.
3CV Player of the Year, $3600 travel voucher to Port Vila (Vanuatu): Dean Strauch (GS).
Rookie of the Year: Steven Oliver (Castlemaine).
Nominations for 1988: Michael Sexton (S’hurst), Tom Kavanagh, Rodney Keogh, Steven Oliver (all Castlemaine), Jeremy Crough and Mark Keck (South Bendigo), Darren Moorhead (G. Square), Matthew Symons (Bridgewater, LVFL) and Jason Draper (Rushworth, HDFL).
Because the VFL had become a joint sponsor of the Rookie award, the nominations were extended to include one candidate from each of the other leagues in the VFL development officer’s area.
Previous Rookie of the Year winners -- 1983: Francis Burke (Sth. Bgo), 1984: Leigh Trethowan (C’maine), 1985: Sean Driscoll (Golden Square), 1986: Derrick Filo (C’maine), and Scott Langan (Northern United), 1987.