Echuca too good for Hurst in 1970 grand final

By Richard Jones

Regional or country clubs have been a vital part of the Bendigo Football League since the immediate post-World War 1 years.

Think of Castlemaine (joined 1925, 5 flags), Kyneton (6), Echuca (3), Rochester (4), and Maryborough United (early 1930s to World War 2), the forerunner of Maryborough the modern club, which has nailed two premierships: 1998-1999.

Maryborough United made two BFL grand finals, but went down in 1933 to Sandhurst (by 117 points) and to the Square in 1939 (by eight points).

Into the 21st century and Gisborne have saluted in four grand finals: premiers in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

There were a host of Bendigo city clubs in the late 19th century, a number which just made it into the 20th century.

These included Charing Cross, Coachbuilders (my old broadcasting buddy Geoff Morris’ favourite name), North Sandhurst, Golden Square Imperials (just one season), Ironbark, West Bendigo, Long Gully Alberts and later on Echuca East (1940) while Elmore contested just one season: 1946.

Bendigo F.C. one of the three founding clubs from the 1880s with Sandhurst and Eaglehawk just made it into the 20th century before folding.

They were premiers (finishing on top of the ladder did the job in the early days) in 1880, 1888 and 1892.

Long Gully (period of existence -- 1905-1911) and California Gully (1904-14 in two, separate stints) fared better. Cal Gully lasted until the start of World War 1 and actually made it into one early 20th century grand final.

South Bendigo won the 1910 flag: 5.9 (39) to Cal Gully’s 3.10 (28).

Long Gully won a hotly contested flag during the split in Bendigo footy in 1906.

With two leagues in action, Long Gully won the short-lived Bendigo and Northern District Football Association premiership while Eaglehawk took out the time-honoured Bendigo Football Association flag.

There were just three clubs in each league and thankfully by 1907 things were back to normal.

Long Gully saluted again in 1907, that season where the former two leagues reverted back to just one.

Then there was Bendigo City for a few short early 20th century years just before WW1. The league’s equal highest-ever single day goalkicker Dave Mahoney (24 goals) played for City.

And Bendigo East (in Collingwood colours) lasted just six seasons: 1919 to 1924.

But enough of that. Let’s look back at one of these country club’s grand final victories.

This one came in 1970 when Echuca won a thriller by one kick over Sandhurst: 15.13 (103) to the Maroons 14.13 (97).

Nearly 12,000 people were crammed into the QEO and they witnessed a torrid, very physical season decider.

The Maroons almost pulled off victory keeping the Murray Bombers scoreless in the final quarter.

However, Echuca playing coach Graham Arthur had ‘imported’ a new era of pressure footy into the BFL and after defeat in the 1969 preliminary final ---- a loss brought about by poor kicking for goal --- the Murray Bombers were determined not to go down that path again.

It almost ended in a drawn result. Sandhurst half-forward Len Rodda marked on the half-forward line with a minute to go.

He elected to play on and his pass to Trevor Keogh was swept away by the Echuca defence and the Murray Bombers, leading by just one kick, hung on to win.

The Advertiser writer at the game said the grand final was won and lost in the third quarter.

“Echuca’s six goals against the wind was superb football  But Hurst’s three goals with it was suicide.

“The Murray Bombers with their strong, direct play ‘went for the doctor’ while the Hurst too often resorted to foolish, fancy football.”

Advertiser special comments writers attributed Echuca’s win to “a strong team effort.”

The defence with Mel Crawford in dashing form and Peter M. Ryan as solid as a rock kept the Sandhurst forwards on the run through tremendous pressure.

“Arthur Wickham, Bernie Phyland and Bryan O’Neill were in control across the centre while vice-captain Bob Vagg, David Fox and Julien Vise contributed well, also.
“But the hero of Echuca’s eventual victory, though, was tiny Roger Teasdale. He eluded the Dragons defenders time and time again to kick morale-boosting goals.

“Teasdale finished with six,” the Advertiser reporter wrote.

Playing coach Arthur and his team manager had done a great job in recruiting for that 1970 season.

Crawford was from Tongala, P.M. Ryan and Teasdale had been playing for Moama while Vise was picked up from Bamawm.

And there were some great names in the Sandhurst side. Trevor Keogh, Brian Walsh and Geoff Southby (although out injured for the grannie) all went on to play for Carlton.

All three were in the Blues’ 1971 Rd. 1 side which watched on as the 1970 VFL pennant was unfurled.

Paul Hurst and Kevin ‘Shifter’ Sheahan also played for the Maroons in that 1970 BFL decider. Hurst made his debut for the Blues later in the 1971 season while Shifter was rejected by Carlton but later debuted for Geelong in the VFL.

The Hurst defence was obviously weaker on BFL grand final day in 1970 without club and inter-league full-back Geoff Southby.

He’d been a stalwart of the Maroons’ defence and as I noted above was in Carlton’s Round 1 side the following season --- 1971.


To come: The BFL’s 1980 decider won by Eaglehawk: one of the greatest grand finals ever. Just two points in it!

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