A history of the Bethanga Football Club from its origin back in the late 1800's - By Danny Steel
Updated: Jun 11, 2021
BETHANGA FOOTBALL CLUB - Part 1
Bethanga is located 31 kms from Wodonga, tucked away in the hills in the northeast region of Victoria. A half hour drive out to the Hume Weir across Bethanga Bridge, over Bethanga gap and your there. It might not look much at first sight but once you delve into the town’s history and meet the locals of this quiet hamlet you become quite attached to this place.
Just over a decade after Hume and Hovel’s exploration into the North East/Upper Murray Area in 1824 opened up the area, the first settlers moved into the region. Around 1845 most of the North East Upper Murray Region of Victoria was settled and the Bethanga run of 40,000 acres was established. A run was a tract of land used for cattle and sheep grazing by herdsman from the drought affected areas of NSW. Gold was discovered in the area in 1867 and in 1876 Bethanga Common was proclaimed. Today about 300 acres is still Crown land. Due to the gold rush the population grew from 100 to 1500 fortune seekers and even though there wasn’t a lot of gold found, the township grew from the gold dust with shanties, shops, schools, churches, 14 pubs and a Football Club.
Back in the 1860’s Football was played in the North East in unofficial games way before any organised competitions. It was known as Victorian Rules up until 1908 when it was changed to Australian Rules. The game was a variation of Gaelic Football and Rugby with constant rule changes adopted and eventually becoming our nation’s number one winter sport.
Bethanga first fielded juniors in 1887 playing against Bungil, Granya and Tallangatta. However in 1888 the population had dropped to 500 because of problems in the mines causing the miners to leave and look for work elsewhere. This article appeared in the Upper Murray and Mitta Herald on Thursday the 27th May 1897. “Bethanga means to boast a football club, and can assure the neighbouring clubs that they will find it a very lively club indeed”. Bethanga played a game against Sandy Creek on Sat 28th May 1898 at Sandy Creek but the footy team must have played very few games during this period as there was no other mention of them or the results in the papers at that time.
On the 2nd of May 1907 Bethanga Football Club was officially formed joining the Mitta Mitta Football Association. Playing in the Essendon strip the Bombers played their first game against Tallangatta at Bethanga Park on the 18th May losing by six goals. Bethanga Park was always used for sporting events, picnics, and meetings etc, and now would become the footy clubs home ground. Bethanga Park is still used today for cricket, soccer, gymkhanas, and other various events. There was another Bethanga Park located five or six miles outside the village on the road to Tallangatta or the old Tallangatta as we know it today. Back in the 1860’s David Mitchell selected about 6000 acres of prime land and during the period when his family owned it, it was known as Bethanga Station. David Mitchell was Dame Nellie Melba’s (the famous opera singer) father who would have spent her youth there. In 1905 his family sold the land to the Bowman family who renamed the area Bethanga Park. The Park was regarded as the best stock fattening property in Australia at the time but in 1929 4,613 acres of the property was acquired by the River Murray Water Commission and the prime land was soon swallowed up by the rising waters of the newly constructed Hume Dam. After the Weir filled there was only about 1300 acres left which was sold by the Bowman family to Ellen Bragg on the 21st October 1945
The 1907 team was Sangster, Gould, McClure, Martin, Miller, Hyland, Dickenson, Packer, Wild, Bell, Parkhill, Cavanagh, Cousens, Rowley, McGill, Williams, Percy, Marchant, Willet, Ladd, Mooney and Harris. The Mitta Mitta Association had six teams in it which were split up into two divisions. Division A consisted of Eskdale, Mitta Mitta and Sandy Creek. Division B was Tallangatta, Bethanga and Granya playing for the Rosenberg Trophy sponsored by D. Rosenberg from Eskdale. In the teams second game against Tallangatta the boys lost by 14 points in a credible performance but lost to a rampaging Granya combination with the visitors defeating Bethanga by 39 points a few weeks later. In the 1907 Grand Final Granya defeated Sandy Creek at Eskdale on the 25th August by 28 points.
In 1908 Bethanga played in the Tallangatta Football Association consisting of Division A-Granya, Tallangatta and Bethanga. Division B-Eskdale, Sandy Creek and Mitta Mitta. The clubs played for the McKay/Fagan Trophy with Sandy Creek reversing the previous years disappointment by defeating Granya by two points at Tallangatta and taking the cup home. Bethanga’s squad that year was Hyland(capt), Bell, McClure, Parkhill, Ladd, Ryan, Cummins, Williams, Bohun, McClure, Pfeiffer, Sangster, Mooney, McGill, Ryall, Hollands, Packer and Martin. The Martin bloodline goes back five generations with the first three males all known as Thomas Martin. Thomas Martin 1st, Thomas Martin 2nd, Thomas Martin 3rd, Norman Martin 4th and Robert Martin 5th is the geneacology order. Thomas Martin (1st) was a former manager for the J.A Wallace mining company in Bethanga about 1880 and died in 1904 and is buried at Chiltern. In later years his son Thomas Martin (2nd) who was born in 1888 was also a manager for the same company and played for Bethanga in the 1907/08/09 seasons and he died in 1948. Norm and Robert Martin had long associations with Bethanga Football Club years later.
Horse drawn Drags, horseback or walking was the common mode of travel back in those days with each drag holding about 20 people. Royal Mail Line Coaches operated by Crawford & Co, linked the North East and Upper Murray area from Wodonga to outlying settlements such as Bonegilla, Ebden, through to Bethanga, Talgarno, Tallangatta, across to Kiewa, Yackandandah and Beechworth and up the river to Cudgewa and Corryong until the arrival of the rail. Even after the rail Coaches still linked up with the outlying regions until motor vehicles took over. The Melbourne to Wodonga rail link opened November 21st 1873 and in 1889 the rail extended from Wodonga connecting East Wodonga (which was renamed Bandiana in later years), Bethanga Road Station (which was later renamed Bonegilla), Ebden and Huon Lane. Huon Lane and Tallangatta (old Tallangatta) as we know it today was linked up in 1891. Tallangatta and Cudgewa were finally linked up in 1921.
BETHANGA FOOTBALL CLUB HISTORY - Part 2.
In 1909 Jim Stewart, an ex-Melbourne player and Bill Twomey organized the Twomey/Stewart Association. Bethanga, Wodonga, Tallangatta and Dreadnought competed. Dreadnought was formed when Sandy Creek and Kiewa merged that same year. It was a late start to the season not starting until 19th June. Wodonga won the comp by defeating Dreadnought at Wodonga. The 1909 Bethanga squad was Griffiths(capt), McClure, Mooney, McGill, Martin, Miller, Marchant, Parkhill, Scammell, Chanter, Hackett, Webb, Scott and Rowley. Granya didn’t play in the trophy comp but still managed to play a few non trophy games also quite a few of their players went and played for Bethanga and the newly formed Tallangatta Valley. The 1910/11/12 seasons Bethanga did not field teams however in 1913 Bethanga Football Club won their first premiership by defeating archrivals Granya in the Granya/Wymah//Bethanga Football Association on the 2nd August 1913 at Wymah. The club had withdrawn earlier that year from the Mitta Mitta Valley Football Association in the Blanchfield Trophy Competition. Unfortunately, there were no score or results in the papers. At present the 1913 premiership cup is proudly on display in the Bethanga pub. Years ago the cup went missing with no one knowing its whereabouts until one day the publican received a call from an ex Bethanga resident living in Melbourne saying he had found the cup in his attic. Dusting it off he said he would return it on one condition, that it would be on permanent display in the Bethanga pub for all to see and its been there ever since. In 1914 Bethanga joined The Wodonga and District Association along with the newly formed Federal Railway Football Club (ex Tallangatta), Sandy Creek and Wodonga. The 1914 team consisted of Parkhill(Captain), Goulds, Degraves, Bohun, Bohun, Wheeler, Pooley, Packer, Hill, Lees, Bradshaw, Meredith, Toohey, Cole, Collins, Swain, McGilland Rowley. As World War One was raging in Europe there was no football played from 1915 until 1919. Bethanga did not field a team until 1920 and still played in Essendon colours when it joined The Kiewa Football Association along with Kiewa, Bonegilla, Tallangatta and Sandy Creek. The teams played off for the Henderson Cup a silver cup offered by a local identity. Tallangatta were the premiers that season defeating Kiewa in the Grand Final. The 1921 footy season saw Bethanga compete in The Kiewa District Football Association against teams from Tallangatta, Tallangatta Valley, Talgarno, Kiewa and Granya. Granya won the Grand Final that year defeating Kiewa at Kiewa.
In 1922 The Kiewa District Football Association became The Tallangatta District Football Association with Tallangatta Valley dropping out and Eskdale coming in. Bethanga played in the Grand Final that year losing to Tallangatta 3.5.23 to 9.8.62 at Tallangatta’s Ormidale Oval. Bethanga’s team that day in the Grand Final was Lees(Capt), Pooley, Cole, Toohey, Crocker, Cole, Collins, Meredith, Cole, Collins, Parkhill, Summers, Trewella, Clough, Summers, McCallum, Eaton and King. They had a pretty good team that year and were the minor premiers after the home and away season.
Here’s an excerpt from the Upper Murray and Mitta Herald the 19th August 1922.
The final matches in connection with the Tallangatta District Association were concluded on Saturday last when Bethanga (minor premiers) and Tallangatta met in the Grand Final at Ormidale Oval at Tallangatta. The game attracted a good crowd despite the threatening appearance of the weather. A large contingent of Bethanga supporters accompanied their team to Tallangatta. The sum of 26 pounds and 10 shillings was taken at the gate. The game was somewhat disappointing as the local players asserted their superiority almost throughout the whole game. It was only in the concluding stage of the struggle that Bethanga showed anything approaching what was regarded as true form. On the other hand the local team excelled all over the field and played their best game for the season. In the final rounds of the competition Tallangatta have vanquished in succession redoubtable opponents in Kiewa, Granya and Bethanga and is safe to assume that all good sporting enthusiasts associated with these and other competing clubs will not begrudge the winners the fruits of victory earned by them after a keen and strenuous season. Goals-Jack Sommers 2. Lees 1. Best-Lees, Collins, Eaton, Pooley, Sommers, Meredith, Toohey, McCallum.
The following season Allan’s Flat District Association kicked off with Allan’s Flat, Tangambalanga Rovers, Dederang and Kergunyah competing. Kiewa were the Tallangatta and District Association premiers for 1923 defeating Granya. Tallangatta, Eskdale, Talgarno, Bethanga and Mitta Mitta also fielded teams. After a fairly ordinary 1923 season for the bombers they attempted to join the Yackandandah League in 1924 which consisted of Yackandandah, Kiewa, Ebden Wier and Huon Lane but the move did not eventuate. Season 1925/26 saw Bethanga compete in the Kiewa and District Football Association along with Yackandandah, Kiewa, Dederang, Allan’s Flat, Tallangatta and Granya. Tallangatta were premiers in 1925 defeating Allan’s Flat and in the 1926 season Granya defeated Bethanga by 4 points at Granya in a heartbreaking loss with the final score Granya-4.18.42 to Bethanga-5.8. 38. In 1927 Allan’s Flat departed and Mitta Valley Purples formed and joined the Kiewa and District Association. Once again Granya 8.11.59 defeated Bethanga 3.1.19 in the Grand Final by 40 points. In 1928 in the Kiewa and District Association Yackandandah pulled out of the League but saw Ebden Rovers join the comp. As well as playing in the Kiewa Association in 1928 Bethanga fielded a team in the Yackandandah B-Grade Competition playing in the red, white and blue. The team also played a practice game against Wodonga at Wodonga easily defeating them with the score Bethanga-14.14.98 to Wodonga-2.6.18.
In 1927/28 local brothers Albert and Arthur Mills who grew up and attended school in Bethanga were two of Bethanga Footy Clubs star players however Arthur the older of the two brothers and some say the better footballer was struck down with Meningitas which curbed his career. Doctor Frank Grant drove from Wodonga to Bethanga in a record time of 25 minutes to treat Arthur and considering the condition of the road and speed of the vehicles in those days it wasn’t a bad effort. In 1929 with the completion of the Hume Dam and the rising waters of the Mitta river many families, including the Mills family, were forced to pack up and leave. Arthur and Albert’s father Bill was Bethanga’s policeman at the time but he decided to move his family to Wangaratta for work. Both brothers played for Wangaratta for a season where Albert was picked up by Hawthorn Football Club. During his time at Hawthorn which spanned 13 years from 1930 to 1942, Bert played 196 games for the Hawks was captain in 1932/34/38 and capt/coach in the 1940/41 seasons. He went on to kick 60 goals, win three club best and fairests and was made a life member of Hawthorn in 1939. He won the Argus medal in 1939 which was the equivalent of the Brownlow Medal awarded in later years. The Argus Medal was an award sponsored by the then Argus newspaper. Coincidently in 2001 Hawthorn announced their team of the century and Albert Mills was named in a back pocket. He was considered a hard working follower and excellent back flanker.
In 1929 Bethanga departed the Kiewa Association and joined the Yackandandah Football Association and won their second Premiership with the Cup on Permanent display in the clubrooms. Following the Hume Dam completion and families uprooted one can imagine the impact this mass exodus had on the area and to football itself. Who knows how many more premierships alluded our once powerful club.
Bethanga did not field teams in the 1930 season but rejoined the Yackandandah Association in 1931 only to lose the Grand Final to Talgarno with the final score being Talgarno-11.14.80 to Bethanga-10.8.68. In the 1932 Yackandandah Association season Bethanga competed against teams from Yackandandah, Tallangatta, Kergunyah, Granya, Sandy Creek, Mitta and Kiewa Rovers. The 1933 season saw Bethanga playing in the Tallangatta and District Football League against Tallangatta, Mitta, Granya, Sandy Creek and Kiewa. Granya defeated Mitta Mitta at Tallangatta in the Grand Final by 21 points and were 1933 Premiers. In the 1934 season in the Tallangatta League there was no senior grade teams however a junior competition or reserve grade competition was organized and was known as Tallangatta Junior Association. Teams from Sandy Creek, Tallangatta Valley, Mitta Valley and Tallangatta Rovers. Sandy Creek were the Premiers that year defeating Tallangatta Rovers at Sandy Creek. Bethanga joined the Hume League in 1934 where they played until 1938. Doug Dower who was born in 1918 played his first game of senior footy at Bethanga in 1934 at age sixteen and played all his footy for Bethanga football Club. Doug went to War in 1939 and resumed his football career after the War in 1945 and retired in 1949. Still playing their home games at Bethanga Park which consisted of a footy ground, tennis court, cricket pitch and a golf course. In those days there were no paid players, no coaches though each club did have a captain and training was limited if not at all due to the fact that the majority of the players worked at least 12 hour days.
As times were a lot tougher back then with the harsh conditions the players were a tough breed. On the away games transport came in the form of the local milk truck. A tarp was thrown over the back to shelter the players from the elements and off they went. In the thirties buses and trucks had to have a permit to travel ten miles or more into NSW. As most of the Hume League teams were in NSW this made transport to the games difficult unless you had a car. So when Bethanga played Jindera, which was eleven miles over the Border and the driver not having a permit, he had to park his truck on the side of the road at the ten-mile limit forcing the players to walk the remaining mile to the Jindera football ground. One Hell of a warm up.
After the game and a stop at Jindera Pub the boys would walk back to the truck and head home to milk cows or finish their daily jobs etc. Saturday nights they would usually congregate at the local dance hall letting loose and winding down after a hectic week. One of the best bush rovers at the time was a local called Jack Sommer. A couple of tough nuts playing for Bethanga then was Jack Sommer and Norm Martin. Jack played for Bethanga in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. At 32 years of age he was recruited by Albury Football Club in the Ovens and Murray. Norm Martin was a top fullback in his day and played for Bethanga from 1932 to 1938 and played in the infamous Bloodbath Grand Final in 38’.
BETHANGA FOOTBALL CLUB HISTORY Part 3.
In 1938 the Hume League clubs were Bethanga, Burrumbuttock, Gerogery, Jindera, Lavington, Wagga Road, Walla and Walbundrie. Bethanga and Lavington played off in the infamous 1938 Hume League Grand Final Bloodbath against Lavington at Jindera Football Ground on the 3rd Sept of that year. Lavington had a reputation in those days of being dirty mongrels. Bethanga’s Captain Jack Mortlock and player Jim Stapleton were felled behind play in the first quarter and sent to hospital. Back then teams only had 19 players with just one interchange player so that left Bethanga with 17 fit players for the remainder of the match. The umpire was threatened and intimidated by the Lavington players so he made no reports during the Grand Final and they went on to record an easy win.
Here’s An excerpt from the Border Morning Mail dated 5th September 1938.
BETHANGA OVERWHELMED IN ROUGH GAME.
From start to finish there was only one team in it. Furthermore on various occasions blows were struck, and in one instance, the umpire, who rushed in to stop a melee, was violently thrown aside. Tripping and elbowing, which appeared deliberate, was an order of the day, and only on rare occasions was good and systematic play in evidence. By way of comparison, this match was miles behind the first semi final played on the same ground between Bethanga and Walbundrie the three weeks previously. Lavington won the toss, and with the help of a strong breeze blowing diagonally across the ground soon had Bethanga in difficulties. The side was on the defense throughout the quarter, and failed to score. Opening with several behinds L. O’Connell then kicked two goals, which were followed by a string of seven behinds. Only on one occasion did the ball cross the centerline in Bethanga’s favor. Rough and congested play excluded good football, and the game was held up several times in order to quell disturbances caused by pugilistic encounters. At the change Lavington led by 21 points to nil. It was expected that with the wind in its favor, Bethanga would make up the leeway in the second quarter, but supporters were disappointed when Lavington quickly added three goals to their score (T.Farley-1 goal, R.Gulson-2 goals). Play was again interrupted by fighting and when the goal umpire fell over a boy who got in his road, he was unable to signal the score, and play ceased for about 10 minutes to give way to arguments and explanations. Order being restored, play was resumed and Bethanga seemed to wake up. Wally Butler kicked two goals and several behinds gave them more points. Then the game swerved in Lavington’s favor again, and with the help of 4 behinds and a goal by Jack Livermore, they led by 35 points at half time. Although Bethanga opened the third quarter well, and early scored several points they were for the most part defending desperately and were unable to add further to their tally. Lavington was now definitely on top, and did as it liked. By adding 4 goals (Jack Livermore 2 goals, T Farley, Spud Prater 1 goal each) and eight behinds, they drew away from their opponents, who were beaten in the ruck, in the air, in fact anywhere. The issue was no more in doubt, and the players, realizing that the game was won and lost, managed to keep their ruffled tempers in check. As in the previous quarter Bethanga again scored first in the last term. Wally Butler raised the two flags. Rowley Gulson replied with a sixer, and Tom Barnett gave Bethanga another goal. W. Dawson, T. Farley and L. O’Connell in turn kicked correctly, and Tom Barnett once more gave Bethanga a goal. Three goals by Lavington (Jack Livermore, Spud Prater, Harold McIntosh) made the margin still wider, and large numbers had already left the ground when the final bell proclaimed Lavington premiers of the Hume League for 1938.
Scores: first quarter, Lavington 2-9 Bethanga nil. Second quarter, Lavington 6-13 Bethanga 2-2. third quarter, Lavington 10-21 Bethanga 2-4. Final scores. Lavington, 17 goals 23 behinds (125 points). Bethanga, 5-6 (36 points). Goal kickers-Lavington. L. O’Connell 4, T. Farley, Rowley Gulson, Jack Livermore and Spud Prater 3 each, W. Dawson and Harold McIntosh 1 each. Bethanga, Wally Butler 3, Tom Barnett 2. Best Players. Lavington, Rowley Gulson, E. Collins, L. O’Connell, T. Farley, W. Dawson, Charlie Lee, A. Lord. Bethanga. Jack Sommer, Tom Barnett, Jack Mortlock, Norm Martin, Joe Packer, Arthur Dower, Wally Butler.
Lavington had a reputation in those days of being dirty mongrels. Bethanga’s Captain Jack Mortlock and player Jim Stapleton were felled behind play in the first quarter and sent to hospital. Back then teams only had 19 players with just one interchange player so that left Bethanga with 17 fit players for the remainder of the match. The umpire was threatened and intimidated by the Lavington players so he made no reports during the Grand Final and they went on to record an easy win.
The Bethanga team selected that day was a squad of 20 players. They were Claude Rowley, Norm (cocky) Martin, Norm Trewella, Joe Packer, Bill Park, Jim Stapleton, Alan Lees, Norm Lees, Chappy Butler, Hughie Bennett, Tom Barnett, Jack Mortlock (capt), Arthur (clarky) Mortlock, Garth Butler, Wally Butler, A. Mitchell, Tom Lonergan, Jack Sommer. Emergencies- George Chisnall and Keith Cadman. I’m not sure if Norm Trewella played in the Grand Final even though he is named in the squad. George Chisnall and Keith Cadman were carrying suspected injuries so they had to pass a fitness test on the day to determine if they would play or not. George was Bethanga’s blacksmith, Bill Park was from Talgarno and Tom Lonergan was known to mix it with the opposition quite often. The Butler brothers Wally and Chappy and their cousin Garth Butler were all from Tallangatta and came across to Bethanga to play football as Tallangatta didn’t have a footy club then. Tom Barnett, Chappy and Garth Butler played for Wodonga Bulldogs in 1937 in the Ovens and Murray. Anyway in the following season during a game against Walla, Lavington were up to their old tricks again but this time the umpire officiating was made of sterner stuff and was not putting up with any more crap. He reported all but four of the Lavington team with some players receiving life penalties Harold McIntosh was one Lavington player who was banned for life. The life bans and reports decimated Lavington footy club forcing them to fold. Arseholes. Norm Martin recalls Jack Livermore, Finch and two other Lavington players, he can’t recall their names, were the four players not reported. Norm remembers these blokes as being gentlemen on and off the field.
After the 1938 season Bethanga departed the Hume League and joined the Dederang and District Association as it was known then in readiness for the 1939 season. Tallangatta, Kiewa, Eskdale, Sandy Creek, Kergunyah and Granya were in the other teams in the Association. With Dederang Football Club having already departed two years previous the League delegates voted unanimously for a name change to the Kiewa and Mitta Valleys Football League in 1940. The League consisted of Bethanga, Granya, Kiewa, Mitta Valley, Sandy Creek and Tallangatta, much the same as previous years.
BETHANGA FOOTBALL CLUB HISTORY Part 4.
As World War Two was raging in Europe and the Pacific football went into recess for the next few years. Young men were going off to war and some never returned. Reg Rowley was born in Wodonga 17th Feb 1914 and went to Bethanga Primary School and later on to Albury Grammer School where he was school captain. Reg and his older brother Claude both played for Bethanga. After Grammer Reg joined the Victorian Police and was a motorbike cop during his time in the force. In the mid to late thirties Reg had a crack at Hawthorn Football Club but I couldn’t find any records of Reg cracking a senior game at Hawthorn though he did play in practice and reserve matches for the Hawks. Claude also went to Melbourne but came home during the depression to work the family farm. Reg enlisted in the RAAF Oct 1941 seeing action in England and Europe and reaching the rank of flight Sargeant piloting Lancaster Bombers in 460 Squadron. Sadly Reg never came home. He was killed when his plane was shot down over Germany the 2nd Jan 1944 at age 30. Another local from Bethanga John (Jack) Mitchell who was in the same squadron last saw Reg and his plane taking off on what was to be his last flight and Jack actually wrote home to inform Reg’s family that he never made it back from the mission. Jack survived the war and came home in 1945 and in later years both his sons Max and John both played for Bethanga.
Football resumed in 1944 with TDFL running an unofficial competition but Bethanga did not field a team that year. The following year saw the end of World War Two with people attempting to resume their lives and return to normality. At a meeting in Bethanga, it was decided to re-form the football club so for the first time since 1940 Bethanga Football Club played in the Tallangatta and District Football League which officially formed in 1945 with the season kicking off 21st April. Mr Greaves was elected Club President and Mr R. Cole was elected Secretary. The 1945 player list was as follows-Pat Lees, C.L. Lonergan, Charlie Lees, Roy Cole, Merv Packer, Keith Cadman, Drummond, Charlie Retallick, Vic Hertzog, Symons, Bros, John Packer, Ray Hill and Coog Meredith, Doug Dower. Most of the Bethanga players hadn’t played football before and were outclassed by their more experienced opponents but they acquitted themselves well. The 1946/47 seasons were lean seasons for Bethanga and the club did not field teams in 1948 but did see the return of the football club in 1949. The 1950 team consisted of Keith Lees (ex Wodonga), Vic Hertzog, Johnny Parker, Alan Lees, Bob Pearce, Max Mitchell, Ian Sirl, Jim Stapleton, D. Packer, D. Brown, Jim Sirl, Frank Retallick, Lees, Gordon Pritchard, Bill Nicholl.
In 1951 Bethanga did not field a team but returned again in 1952. The 52’ team list-Bill Hooper, Teddy Washington (ex Nth Albury), Evans, Carroll, Gordon Pritchard, Frank Retallick, Ross Bishop(ex Nth Albury), Chum Watson, Duffy Duncan, Johnny Vinge (Ex Wodonga), Harris, Ian Sirl. 1953 team list-John Mitchell, J. Cross, Ron Hucker, Atherton, Doug Dower, Stan McFarlane, Danier, Vic Prendergast, Teddy Davies, Ferdinand Rezuk, J. Carroll, Len Cottrell, Bert Hanley, Tom Beasley, Evans, Ian Sirl, Followers-Gordon Pritchard, Ron Hucker, Rover-Vic Hertzog, Boundary-Ron Herrin. 1954 team list-Ozzie Kimball, Tom Beasley, Lowrey, Len Cottrell, Gordon Pritchard and the club had about 5 wins that year. 1955 team list-Ozzie Kimball, Len Cottrell, Carroll, M. Sowrey, Gordon Pritchard, John Arnott, H. Moorley, J. Fietz, Neville Murray, Bros, Holt and Dally. Ozzie Kimball coached Bethanga sometime during this period.
Len Cottrell who played for Bethanga for two or three years was invited to play for Carlton in 1957 and stayed their for three seasons from 1957 to 1959. Len wore number 32 for Carlton playing along side Bruce Comben, John Nichols and Graham Donaldson to name a few and went on to play 8 Senior games and quite a few reserve games. (Check out Photo).
I met him at Bethanga Primary School reunion years ago and he shared a few memories. Len always took his footy serious and recalls being fairly fit during his playing days. One day Bethanga footy team caught a bus to Kiewa and one of the players pulled out a bottle of beer and passed it around. This was before the game and by the time they got to Kiewa they were well and truly fired up for the game. I think they lost that day.
Enjoying mediocre success in the TDFL since the war ended Bethanga Football Club departed the league in 1956 and joined the Chiltern League. Former North Albury player Norm Benstead coached that year but the move was short lived due to the Chiltern League folding the following season which saw the return of Bethanga to the Tallangatta League in 1957. Norm Benstead returned to Nth Albury the same year to coach their Reserves. Bethanga appointed ex-Barnawartha Premiership Coach Bob Wise as playing Coach in 1957. The 1955 Tigers Premiership Coach had the credentials and experience but unfortunately not the players winning just six games. The 1957 team list-Robert Wise-Capt/Coach, Ozzie Kimball, Ron Goodyer, Gordon Pritchard, Dave Pritchard, Frank Retallick, Barry Halpin, Ferdinand Rezuk, Ian Wise (Bobs brother), Len Cottrell, Ron Herrin, Tom Beasley, Chambers, Stevenson (Bethanga Policeman), John Arnott, Dick Danier, Neville Murray, Brereton, Doug Welladsen, Breardon, Summers, Johnny Parker, Gerry Chambers, Mott, Davies, Barton, Jimmy Schlue, Magnee, Brown, Jimmy Ryan and John Parker.
The same year Bethanga had five players in the Kiewa Valley representative side playing against the Mitta Valley rep team. The five players were J. Welladsen, Frank Retallick, Bob Wise, Ron Goodyer and Ian Wise who were 19th and 20th man. Mitta Valley lost by two points. Bob Wise Coached the Kiewa Valley Rep side whilst Joe Radcliffe coached the Mitta Valley team. Bob went on to coach Kiewa for the next three seasons until his retirement at the end of the 1960 season. Norm Benstead returned in 1958 as Capt/Coach of the newly merged Bethanga/Granya Bombers. Granya had previously folded in 1954. The team did alright in 1958 winning 13 games and losing 5 games just missing out on the final four by one game. Bethanga had the highest percentage in the League with 213.4% and the nearest team had 159.7% at the end of the home and away games unfortunately they didn’t make the finals. One game against Kergunyah saw the Bombers-26. 25. 181. pump Kergunyah-5.6.36. here’s what the paper had to say. “Bethanga 145 point win. Completely outclassing Kergunyah, Bethanga/Granya scored an effortless 145 point win scoring almost at will throughout the game allowing Kergunyah five goals only for the match. Bethanga/Granya led by 30 points at the first change, 82 points at half time and despite an even third quarter in which Kergunyah scored 3 goals of their 5 goals, Bethanga ran up 9.10 to 1.2 in the last term to finish with 26.25 to 5.6. Norm Benstead kicked 8 goals whilst Ron Goodyer booted 6 for the day and had a field day for the home team. Norm went on to kick 100 plus goals that year but goalkicking was not a recognized award back then. Max Mitchell was Runner-up to Bert Kemp from Sandy Creek in the League Best and Fairest with 23 votes”. Goals-Norm Benstead 8, Ron Goodyer 6, Roger Williams 3, Les Hore 3, Ron Herrin 2, Noel Trewella 1, Ozzie Kimball 1, I. Webb 1. Best Tom Star, Ozzie Kimball, Roger Williams, Kevin Wortmann, Les Hore, Max Mitchell. Other players on the 1958 team list as follows-Les Eddington, Wally Phieffer, Ron Herrin, Jim Star, McPoyle, Greg O’Rielly, Dave and Gordon Pritchard, Johnny Vinge, Ken Champion and Richardson. The next season saw the Bethanga/Granya merger endure a up-heaval as Norm departed losing their full forward and several other players. Norm switched to Lavington in 1959 where one of his old Nth Albury team mates was playing so he ended up coaching Lavington Juniors and playing quite a few games and also playing in the 1960 Grand Final. Norm retired from football in 1962. Bob Wise and Norm Benstead first met in 1945 whilst Bob was playing football for South Albury in the Albury and Border League. He remembers Norm turning up at a South Albury training session on his pushbike asking if he could train and Bobs reply was you wont get a game here mate as South Albury was a powerful club in those days. However Norm went on to be one of local footy’s top full forwards and playing in South Albury’s Premiership.
Check photo. Norm Benstead and Bob Wise in 2003.
I tracked these two blokes down back in 2003 and just sat there and listened to them banter to each other and wrote everything down. They hadn’t seen each other for years and fantastic fella’s. Norm actually knew my old man and told me a few yarns about him. Bloody pleasure it was meeting these legends. Awesome. Sadly they both passed away a few years ago.
In 1959 with permission from the League Bethanga/Granya changed its name to Murray United and was coached by Alf Deane. Deane coached Dederang to a Premiership in 1958. The 1959 team list included Kevin Wortmann, Greg O’Rielly, Roger Williams, L. Hanley, Max Mitchell, Noel Trewella, T. Webb, Tom Star, Ron Goodyer, Ferdinand Rezuk, Dave Pritchard, Bill Nicholl and Jim Star. The team played their home games at Granya as the Bethanga ground was not fit to play on and mid season was graded and top dressed. The team struggled with numbers during the season winning the first game of the season and losing 16 and enduring a few floggings and having to forfeit the last game. As the merger wasn’t very successful on and off the field and the two clubs went their separate ways. Granya would not field a team again and Bethanga would not field a team again until 1976.
BETHANGA FOOTBALL CLUB HISTORY - Part 5.
The Retallicks from Bethanga have had a long association with the footy club for years. Charles Albert (Uncle) Retallick was a well known local identity around Bethanga for years and a real larrikin. He was born on the 15th February 1909 in Bethanga and was one of four sons and four daughters of Bill and Anne Retallick. Bill was the local blacksmith at Bethanga back then and his family grew up during the depression. The four brothers Frank, Arthur, Charles(Uncle) and his twin brother Jack(Cocky) all played football for Bethanga at one time or another. Uncle married local girl Doreen Smith in 1938 and began farming at Talgarno. The following year all four brothers enlisted in the Army with Uncle being rejected as he was a farmer and their services were needed on the land. Uncle’s brother Arthur was killed in a car accident in the sixties at Katunga near Numurkah. Uncle was known to enjoy a beer or two at Bethanga Pub on a Saturday then he would head home to milk the cows but would stop at the footy on the way to support his beloved team usually from between the boundary and wing. Occasionally the umpires ejected him from the ground for being over zealous in his support of the team. Needless to say by the time he got home his wife Doreen had milked the cows and his tea was cold. Charlie was the clubs number one supporter but he never directed any of his passion in a malicious way or no malice intended. He just loved the game and people loved Uncle. Sadly Uncle passed away in 1980 from cancer at age 71 and out of respect for him and his wife Doreen the footy club had an award named after him “the Uncle Rettalick award”. It was a prestigious award given to someone within the footy club deemed worthy not necessarily football players basically anyone involved with the club. I had the pleasure of receiving this award in 1996 and treasure it very much. People still remember his voice echoing across the ground “spectators of the ground” and “happy days”. A real character. In later years Uncle’s nephew, Frank’s son Ian Retallick (Renta) played 153 games for Bethanga, won the 1977 Reserve Best and Fairest and coached Bethanga reserves in 1988 and even though retired Renta still has a keen interest in the club.
In 1975 local residents Eric Wood, Norm Martin and Glen Brown were having a beer at the Courthouse Hotel in Bethanga. Deep in conversation the talk soon turned to football. The lifeblood and future of any small country town is its youth and they noticed that the towns young people were often playing their chosen sport in Albury / Wodonga or other smaller outlying communities. This was due to the lack of sporting opportunities in Bethanga so Eric suggested forming a footy club to lure them back to the area. Both Norm and Glen agreed and the three called a public meeting to gauge support for the venture. The meeting was held at the Bethanga Town Hall and chaired by Norm, Eric, and Glen. They were surprised at the interest shown with sixty or so people attending. Eric Wood suggested to the packed hall a cooling off period of two weeks to think about the huge task ahead. All agreed and with the meeting winding up everyone went their separate ways two assess the situation. Two weeks later they were back, keen and enthusiastic as ever. The vote was unanimous-the footy club was a goer.
The first hurdle was to gain acceptance to The Tallangatta and District Football Netball League. A League meeting of all the Clubs and League delegates was organised and a vote was called for. Only two clubs voted against so the application was approved and Bethanga was re-admitted to the League after 18 years in limbo. Season 1976 would be Bethanga Football Club’s debut season. Next on the agenda was the election of the office bearers and committee members etc.
Eric Wood was elected President, Glen Brown and John Mitchell as joint Vice-Presidents, John Mollison-Secretary and Robert Alston as Treasurer. Vern Braunach offered to coach the fledgling club free of charge. Vern had played for North Albury in the Ovens and Murray League for a few years so with his playing skill and experience his offer was duly snapped up. Bob Martin (Norms son) was appointed Reserves Captain/Coach and from that moment on the Football Club began to take shape. The committee consisted of Norm Martin, Vern Braunach, Bob Martin and Ken Merkel. Club policy deemed that there would be no paid players until the Club became viable. A family and social atmosphere would be the rule and basically for everyone to enjoy the game. These policies would continue for quite a few years. Bethanga Recreation Reserve would be our home ground as it had always been used for various events since last century.
The ground needed to be up-graded in readiness for the coming season so work begun in earnest. Leveling of the Reserve was a huge task as there was an 18ft fall from one end to the other. Delaney’s Earthmoving Company in Albury supplied contractors, equipment, time and labour free of charge over the next few weekends to get the job done. Then the ground was aerated and grass sown and watered etc.
With the season not far off training began, slowly at first then gradually building up. Quite a lot of Bethanga boys who were playing footy elsewhere returned to play for the newly formed club. This was why the club was formed in the first place to give the towns young people an interest also it would bring the townspeople together to support their Football Club. Two of the better known players to return were Mick and Stuart Wood, Eric’s sons. Both had been playing for Tallangatta the last couple of years. Stuart was appointed Captain and both brothers went on to win League and Club Best and Fairest awards. Craig Brown, Glen’s son also returned and played for Bethanga. So with the first game fast approaching the Club colours were chosen. Bethanga would play in St Kilda colours, the mighty Saints. Everything was ready, the goalposts were up, the boundary drawn and the scoreboard set. The Tallangatta and Districts Football League 1976 Season kicked off on the 24th April and our first opponent was the clubs old nemesis Lavington. The town was abuzz with the excitement as football fever took over. The atmosphere in the town that day was electric, it was history in the making. Football had returned.
Photos. Uncle Retallick, Eric Wood, Norm Martin, Bob Martin.