Square Hall of Famers from the Golden Era
By Richard Jones
Golden Square recognised a total of 20 club Hall of Famers at its inaugural induction ceremony back in May, 2019.
No fewer than eight of the 20 came from the years described by Bulldog historian Shawn McCormick as ‘The Golden Era: the 1960s to 1979’.
In no particular chronological order these Hall of Famers are Bill Bonney, Peter ‘Charger’ Davey, Shane Rodda, Neville Strauch, Ron Best, Peter Moroni, Tony ‘Bluey’ Southcombe and Garry Mountjoy.
Today I’ll concentrate on just four of these stars with a second article to include the remaining four.
So let’s look back at the highlights in the careers of Strauch, Rodda, Moroni and Mountjoy.
And there’s plenty of them: highlights, that is.
Strauch played 217 games in 13 seasons from 1956 to 1968 in Square’s Blue and Gold, represented the BFL in five seasons (1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1966) and was the league coach during the BFL glory years: from 1988 to 1990.
Included in this three-year stretch was Bendigo’s Division 1 championship victory over the Geelong F.L. at the QEO in the middle year: 1989.
Neville’s career started off way back in 1956 when he was known as the ‘lad from Huntly’.
Nev., like many teenagers back in the day, rode his pushbike to training and games but by 1957, in just his second season at the Square, won the BFL’s under-18 fairest and best award.
That same season Neville made his senior debut under former Footscray premiership player Alan Martin, the man who gave Square the nickname the ‘Bulldogs’.
Strauch was 185 cm (6 ft. 1 inch) tall and had the build of a modern day footballer.
Additionally he possessed skills on both sides of his body --- not common back in the day --- with his ability to launch attacks from centre half-back, where Martin positioned him, key weapons in Square’s game plans.
His abilities didn’t go unnoticed. In 1962 Neville signed with Geelong but a seriously broken collar-bone cut short his VFL career and he ended up back at Wade Street.
Without the saturation print media and television coverage of the current-day VFL/AFL seasons footy followers were totally switched on to local footy in the Sixties.
Fast forward to 1964 where Neville played a critical role in coach Bertie Rowe’s drought-breaking senior premiership side.
‘Bertie’s Boys’ downed Rochester in a classic BFL grand final: 10.10 (70) to 9.7 (61).
It was the Square’s first senior premiership in almost 20 years (the last one came in 1945) and the Bulldogs became the first BFL club to win the senior, Reserve and under-18 flags all in the one season.
But a broken wrist saw Neville miss the winning 1965 back-to-back premiership victory, although he was in the side in 1966 when the Dogs went down to Kyneton by 12 points in the decider: 12.12 to 15.6.
But it was off-the-field where Neville’s crucial roles in game development came to the fore.
He was president of the VCFL junior board, a key figure in the Caltex statewide under-17 competition, and other school-based footy competitions in north-central Victoria.
Additionally Neville was one of Carlton’s development officers, along with a later similar role with the VCFL, plus he coached Bendigo in a famous inter-league period between 1988 and 1990 when the Blue and Golds made three, consecutive A division country championships play-offs, taking the title in 1989.
In 1993 he took over the running of the newly formed Bendigo Pioneers : a position he held until his untimely and sad passing in July, 2000.
Neville, known as ‘Strauchy’ to everyone in local footy and netball, was awarded a BNFL life membership in 1973 and was posthumously inducted into the BFNL Hall of Fame in 2010.
Garry ‘Mountie’ Mountjoy enjoyed a brilliant career, not just with the Square but later on with BFL powerhouse Northern United.
In his 136 senior games at the Square Mountie was a premiership player in 1975, 1976 and 1979, including taking home the Advertiser’s ’79 Player of the Year award, and then represented the BFL overall on no less than 12 occasions and was inducted into the BFNL Hall of Fame in 1996.
He started his Square senior career aged 17 under mid-Seventies coach Bill Bonney. It was 1974.
He took no time at all to establish himself as a deep forward and ended that initial season with a staggering 65 goals for the Wade Street Dogs.
When Bluey Southcombe took over as captain-coach in 1975 Mountie continued on with his great form with his vice-like marking hands to the fore.
Mountie was pivotal in Square’s 1975-76 premiership-winning line-ups. In ’75 he was key to Square’s 14.13 (97) to 12.14 (86) grand final win over Sandhurst.
The next season Garry won Golden Square’s senior fairest and best award not long after the Bulldogs had downed Kyneton in the 1976 play-off: 15.13 (103) to the Tigers 9.7 (61).
Carlton talent scouts had pricked up their ears, as well. So down to Princes Park went Mountie, committing to a pre-season in 1977 and to reserve grade VFL matches for the Blues whenever Square had the BFL bye.
But he was back at the Square for the majority of the ’77 season. again winning the club’s fairest and best award.
Like clubmates Ron Best, Tony Southcombe and Peter Moroni the pull and lure of regional footy ended Mountie’s Carlton career and he was part of Square’s ’77 grand final side which went down to Hurst in the Big Dance by 21 points.
By 1978 Mountie was playing under his third coach: full-forward and playing mentor, Ron Best.
In one of modern footy’s great BFL grand finals Square went down to arch-rival Sandhurst by three points: 18.13 (121) to the Dragons’ 19.10 (124).
Garry won his third club fairest and best award and the next season revenge was sweet for the Dogs as they crushed Sandhurst by 77 points.
Even though he stood at just 180 cm (5 ft. 11 ins) Mountie was a great overhead mark, clunking great grabs under pressure, and constantly racked up a huge number of midfield possessions when moved into an on-ball role.
[As a footnote to Mountie’s overall BFNL career, it should be noted he starred in five 1980s grand finals with Northern United --- four premierships in 1984-85-86-87 inclusive, and runner-up to his old club Square in 1988 –-- and was the co-Michelsen Medallist with South’s Marty Graham in 1984.
He also took home the 1985 Nalder Medal as that season’s grand final best player and overall played a massive 330 BFNL games.]
Mountie was inducted into the BFNL Hall of Fame in 1996.
Shane Rodda made his mark as one of the BFL’s outstanding full-backs, called upon to line up on some of the BFL’s greatest ever key forwards.
In his 209 senior games Shane had to match-up on Sandhurst’s Steve McKerrow, South’s Peter Hutcheson, Eaglehawk pair Greg Kennedy and later Daryl Gilmore and Kyneton’s Peter Woodland.
“Coaches of the Bulldogs during this late Sixties-into the early Eighties eras were safe in the knowledge that they had a full-back in Shane who would be able to stifle the much vaunted key opposition forwards,” historian Shawn McCormick writes.
And throughout his career Shane formed a formidable defensive pairing with another key Bulldogs backman and Hall of Famer in Peter ‘Charger’ Davey.
He began playing footy in the under-15 Marist Brothers side and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of family members: three uncles, four cousins, two brothers in Peter and Bill and Aunty Joan.
Later Shane’s son Ben would also wear the blue and gold.
In 1968 Shane joined the Square under-18 side and in his first season topped the club’s Thirds goalkicking --- an ironic situation when it’s considered Shane managed just seven majors during a 13-season senior stint.
That senior run began in 1970’s season opener under newly-appointed Square top coach Bill Bonney and it didn’t take long for Shane to entrench himself in the senior line-up.
His sure hands, long kicking out of defence and his concentration made Shane a key part of the Square defence through seven grand finals which yielded four premierships.
He missed another three grand finals with injuries which included a broken collarbone, a broken leg and a foot fracture.
The flag-winning seasons came in 1972, back-to-back premierships under Tony Southcombe in 1975-76 and the 77-point destruction of Sandhurst in 1979 with Ron Best the senior playing coach.
His field kicking from the defensive half were key factors in all four victories with Shane’s unique kicking style --- reversing his grip on the ball with the footy’s lacing area facing towards his body ---- a feature of his play.
He represented the BFL in representative football eight times, including the classic 1979 country championships final when LaTrobe Valley downed Bendigo.
Shane played the last of his Square club games in 1982, received club life membership in 1983 and BFL life membership in 1984, but his off-field footy career hadn’t ended yet.
Shane was team manager of the BFL inter-league side from 1983 to ’87, and between 1986-88 was part of the Bulldogs’ senior selection committee which incorporated the 1988 flag victory over Northern United.
He was also a member of the Square committee of management from 2005 to 2015 (the final eight years as secretary) which oversaw the infrastructure of the Wade Street precinct.
Peter Moroni, famously named by 3BO radio caller Dick Turner as the ‘fleet-footed market gardener from Epsom’, rates as not only one of Square’s greatest-ever players but also as one of the BFL’s most outstanding.
The late club games record-holder racked up an incredible 368 senior appearances and when his other club appearances in the Twos are added on Peter’s total comes out at a staggering 456.
The very pacy wingman or on-baller played for the Wade Street Bulldogs from 1963 through to 1983, an era which included the four senior flags (1972, 1975, 1976 and 1979), turned out for the BFL no fewer than 17 times, was an inductee into the BFNL’s inaugural 1986 Hall of Fame, and was awarded a Square life membership (1974) along with a BFNL life membership (1975).
“Cabbage” as he was known, presumably for his Epsom fresh food connections, was vice-captain of the Blue and Golds’ victorious country championships winning team in 1972.
And he’s generally recognised as the greatest player never to have won a Michelsen. He was runner-up to Rochy’s Kevin Shinners in 1970 and had third, fourth and fifth-placed finishes throughout his career.
He started off his amazing footy career at Marist Brothers College, graduated to the Square club in 1963 and stayed there for the remainder of his time kicking the leather ‘pill’.
Starting off in the under-18s he was like teammate Neville Strauch. They both pedalled their pushbikes to the Wade Street oval: in Cabbage’s case, from Epsom.
Peter played three seasons in the under-18s (1963-1965) before starting an illustrious senior career in 1966.
It wasn’t long before the VFL scouts came knocking. Hawthorn, Melbourne and Geelong all came seeking a signature, but he signed on at the Cattery and made the senior list in 1967.
He played in Geelong pre-season practice matches in 1967 and 1968 but yearning for the Bendigo lifestyle (as Ron Best and Tony Southcombe also aspired to) Cabbage returned to the Square and played out his career there.
It was a great move. In his 26 years of senior footy at Wade Street Moroni missed out on playing finals in just one season.
The gut-busting runner trotted out onto the QEO in 11 grand finals. He was a real team player and extremely fair in his approach to footy, missing just four games on his way to the magic 300-game milestone.
One thing I’ll never forget which was told to me by Peter. “It was good to have a bit of speed and a bit of open space when you played at Echuca’s Victoria Park,” he said one evening after a Wade Street game.
“The pace was needed as they (the Murray Bombers) were pretty good at a spot of biffo up there and you had to sprint away.”
No one who ever goes to a footy game at Wade Street will leave without seeing Cabbage’s name. The outer, centre wing area is known as the “Peter Moroni wing,” with the name prominently displayed on the Square scoreboard.
To finish off this series: Bill Bonney, Tony Southcombe, Peter ‘Charger’ Davey and the late Ron Best.
*With thanks to Square footy historian and writer Shawn McCormick