Sport

When Hafey’s boys were kings of league

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September 22, 2017

1965 GVFL premiers: Back David Alexander, Colin McCarten, Brendan Kelly, Frank Peck, Brian Noonan (Vice Captain), Frank Dalhstrom, Daryl Stephens, Peter Shepherd. Middle: Robert Dixon, Graham Pell, Des Brisbane, Tom Hafey (Captain Coach), Graham Cross, Tony Zappia, Gerald Howard. Front: Ian Furphy, John Shelton, Ken Barnett, Brian Scanlon, Ian Thornton.

Shepparton will be hoping to repeat a dose of 1960s dominance when it faces Kyabram at Deakin Reserve on Sunday.

The Bears remarkably won six premierships during the decade, but one certainly stands out above the rest.

It was 1965 — Sir Robert Menzies was nearing the end of his second stint as prime minister, Bart Cummings won the Melbourne Cup for the first time with Light Fingers and Shepparton took on Kyabram in a third consecutive Goulburn Valley Football League decider.

After defeating the Bombers in 1963 and 1964, the Tom Hafey-led Bears had cruised through the 1965 season with just one blemish to their name — a round-six loss to Tongala.

Kyabram had more than a few aces up its sleeve though — captain-coach Charlie Stewart (Footscray) and Graham Haslem (Hawthorn) already had VFL experience, while Dick Clay (Richmond), Frank Fanning (Footscray), Maurie Fowler (Carlton) and Ross Dillon (Melbourne) would all go on to play at the highest level in 1966 — and the Bombers had troubled Shepparton in all three clashes during the season, losing by just a combined 24 points.

Colin Scripps, who played in the Bears’ reserves flag that year, remembered the Bombers entering the game as favourites, despite Shepparton’s dominance.

As with all of the duo’s battles that season the grand final was a tight contest, but as time ticked over in the final term, Dillon had the chance to put Kyabram in front with a shot on goal.

‘‘He’ll tell us a bit of bull, he’ll be 60 yards out on the angle, but he was 10 yards square and kicked a point,’’ Scripps said.

‘‘Little things like that mean a hell of a lot in a grand final.’’

His miss, which hit the post, sent a wave of despair through the Kyabram line-up and had full-forward Peter McCudden sink to his knees in the goalsquare.

The Bombers still had one last opportunity though, with the ball locked in their half of the ground.

Enter Colin McCarten.

Recruited after the round six defeat, the full-back made an immediate impact at the Bears and even won back-to-back best-and-fairests at the club in the premiership years of 1965 and 1966.

But perhaps his crowning moment came after Dillon’s sprayed shot on goal.

Capitalising on the lapse in Kyabram concentration, McCarten played on from the kick in and went on a searching run down the wing.

His roosted ball into the Bears’ forward line found a friendly boot to help it on its way through the big sticks and, as they say, the rest is history.

Shepparton went on to win the game by seven points and Scripps said the message to this year’s crop of players should be clear.

‘‘You never, ever give up in a grand final. Grand finals are 50:50, you go in there and you beat your opponent and then the whole team keeps on going,’’ he said.

‘‘If you make one mistake, forget it and get on with it, because Ross was a great player and made sort of one mistake for the whole year, and another bloke picked up on the smarts and just came down the ground and bang, one goal and it was all over.

‘‘You’ve just got to keep going until the final siren.’’

Members from both teams who did battle on that day in September in 1965 will be just a few of the faces in the crowd on Sunday, with Scripps organising a reunion of sorts to watch what could be the start of the next great Goulburn Valley rivalry.

‘‘We’ll be getting in there (the Shepparton clubrooms) at half-time of the twos (about 1pm) for about half-an-hour and if you miss it, you miss it,’’ he said.

‘‘But I’ll be phoning every one of them just to make sure, to give these blokes the opportunity to say if you can turn up, do.’’

Only time will tell us which player will etch his name into the history books this time around, but the heroes of yesteryear will be looking on with a distinct glint in their eye, remembering those days when they were the kings of Deakin Reserve.

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