OVENS and Murray royalty gathered last night to celebrate six additions to the O and M’s Hall of Fame.
League icons Frank Elkington, Bill Sammon, Phil Nolan, Neil Currie, Kevin Mack (represented by his son Kevin Mack Jnr) and Tim Scott were all inducted at the annual function at Albury’s SS&A Club.
Family, friends and teammates packed the room.
FRANK “Chooka” Elkington was just 16 when he made his senior debut for Wodonga under the coaching of Jack Eames in 1950.
More than a decade later and after a career spanning 202 matches, Elkington had rightly earned a place among the finest players to pull on a Bulldogs’ jumper.
Fast and elusive, he was one of the best rovers of his time.
Elkington had up to five VFL clubs circling for his services, but resisted their overtures at every turn.
Blessed with natural pace, Elkington excited Bulldogs fans when he regularly broke away from packs and was a dangerous player around goal when resting up forward.
He kicked 304 career goals, including a personal best of 11 against North Albury in 1953, when he was the club’s leading goalkicker on the first of three successive occasions.
Elkington also booted bags of eight and seven goals against Wangaratta and Albury respectively.
He won the Bulldogs’ best and fairest award in 1953-54 and was runner-up in 1955 and 1961.
But the ultimate success of a premiership eluded him.
The Bulldogs went close twice under the coaching of Collingwood star Des Healey — losing to the Bob Rose-led Wangaratta Rovers in 1958 and 1960.
Elkington was an integral member of the Ovens and Murray’s inaugural country championships success in 1954 and again represented the league four years later.
He played his last game for the Bulldogs in 1962 and has since been selected in the club’s team of the century.
BILL Sammon was determined to make his name in the Ovens and Murray league when he arrived at Benalla in the mid-1960s after attending Assumption College and playing for Thoona.
And he definitely succeeded, firstly as a star player and later playing coach, before stepping into administration ranks upon retirement.
Sammon’s talents were obvious from his debut game as an 18-year-old when he booted three goals and left the ground with some missing teeth due to his on-field courage.
His talents attracted the attention of VFL clubs — Geelong, South Melbourne, Fitzroy and Melbourne showing the most interest.
But, the opportunity was fleeting — dashed by a farm accident which landed him in hospital for 10 days.
In the O and M, Sammon thrived under the coaching of Vern Drake and was vice-captain when the Demons stood up to a testing physical examination from North Albury to win the club’s first flag in a decade in 1973.
Sammon, a star ruck-rover, was among Benalla’s best.
Premiership celebrations had hardly subsided when he accepted the Yarrawonga coaching job.
A natural leader, Sammon relished the chance to lead the Pigeons and immediately took them to the grand final.
But, back-to-back flags eluded him as Wangaratta Rovers inflicted more grand final pain on Yarrawonga.
The Pigeons were blown away in a first-quarter blitz led by rival coach Neville Hogan.
Sammon was a highly respected figure at Yarrawonga, but the Pigeons could only finish fifth in his next two seasons in charge.
He contemplated retirement at the end of 1977 before returning to coach Benalla.
Twelve months later, the Demons were in another grand final on the back of a 15-match winning streak before the Rovers returned to torment Sammon and claim another flag.
Some of his finest moments came in the mid-1970s when he coached Ovens and Murray interleague teams against the VFA.
The O and M was temporarily in VCFL exile due to its reluctance to admit Lavington to the league.
Sammon led from the front when the O and M won the first encounter before legendary VFA goalkicker Fred Cook helped square the ledger in the return bout.
Sammon played 251 Ovens and Murray games and won two best and fairests for Benalla.
He was a long-serving O and M board member and has been a Hall of Fame committee man since its inception a decade ago.
FEW could have predicted the impact Phil Nolan would have on many levels of the Ovens and Murray league when he started working at the Wangaratta Chronicle in 1973.
Nolan started his football career at Echuca, but was recruited by Wangaratta from Tasmanian club Devonport.
Tall and slightly built, Nolan used his natural spring to good effect to climb over the other great ruckmen of the time.
The era was dominated by the Magpies’ arch-rivals across the road, Wangaratta Rovers, and Nolan was a central figure in some of the legendary battles between the two clubs.
After three seasons as a player, Nolan was appointed coach of the Magpies in 1976.
That season was a memorable one for the Magpies, as they temporarily halted the Rovers’ unprecedented run of success through the decade.
The Magpies peaked late in the season and jumped the Rovers in the first quarter of the grand final.
Inspired by Nolan’s rousing addresses, Wangaratta scored a famous win.
The Hawks turned the tables on the Magpies the following year, with Nolan ending his first stint as coach 12 months later.
In 1977, Nolan coached the Ovens and Murray interleague team and capped off a great season by winning Wangaratta’s best and fairest.
He played 175 games for Wangaratta — mostly in the ruck, but was a tough match-up for rivals when resting up forward.
Nolan’s contribution to the Ovens and Murray league extended into administration.
He served on the board between 1991 and 2004, including a long reign as deputy chairman, and has since become an inaugural AFL North-East-Border commissioner.
MYRTLEFORD entered the Ovens and Murray league in 1950 and less than a decade later had its first Morris medallist.
Neil Currie joined the Saints in their second season in the O and M after landing a job at nearby Mount Beauty and soon established himself as one of the premier full-backs of his time.
In 1957, he won the Morris
Medal on a countback from Wangaratta star Lance Oswald, who, ironically, was the competition’s leading goalkicker in the same season before heading to St Kilda.
Currie was a prodigious kick and regularly landed drop kicks in the middle of the ground when kicking out from full-back.
He was also a fine overhead mark and thrived on the challenge of playing on big-name opposition forwards as the Saints struggled for early success in the O and M.
But Currie’s talents were obvious and he was picked to play for an O and M representative team which toured NSW at the end of the 1952 season.
His brother Ian was also a talented defender who played for Benalla in the same era.
The Currie brothers played together for the O and M in the inaugural Victorian Country Championships at Ballarat in 1954.
The Ovens and Murray won the carnival, with the Saints star holding his own against the state’s best.
In the same season, Currie was part of an O and M line-up which played WAFL heavyweight East Perth at the Albury Sportsground.
The visiting East Perth team contained an up-and-coming Polly Farmer, who starred in the match.
In total, Currie played 12 times for the O and M.
He chalked up 166 matches for the Saints in 11 seasons before retiring, but his contribution wasn’t done and went onto serve in administration roles after hanging up the boots.
** Apologies, The Border Mail is having trouble uploading Neil Currie's O&M video. We hope to have it added to the site by Friday, July 4
THE career of Kevin Mack was nothing short of remarkable.
He had already played 94 senior matches for Tyntynder in the Central Murray league when he landed at Wangaratta midway through the 1956 season at the age of 19.
His timing was perfect as he played in the first of two premierships for the Magpies in 1957 and soon earned a reputation of being one of the league’s finest.
Mack’s imposing frame struck fear in the hearts of rivals, with a dynamic mix of strength overhead and pace across the ground as a ruck-rover or ruckman.
He won the first of two best and fairests with the Magpies in 1959.
He was on the brink of joining St Kilda and South Melbourne in 1959 and 1960 respectively when he signed “form four” agreements.
But on both occasions he turned them down to remain in the country.
The Magpies were back in the premiership frame in 1961 and, with Mack at his peak, crushed Benalla by 63 points in the grand final.
Mack more than held his own against the influx of VFL stars into the O and M, including Bob Rose, Ken Boyd and Murray Weidemann, or alongside them when he represented the league.
More premiership success narrowly eluded the Magpies in ensuing seasons, but it was through no fault of Mack, who was a proven big-match performer.
In 1966, the O and M was rocked to its foundations when Mack broke his neck in a river mishap in the Warby Ranges following a one-point second semi-final loss to Albury.
Wangaratta won the preliminary fi nal, but sorely missed Mack’s mastery in the grand final as the Magpies were overpowered by the Tigers.
Mack was urged to retire, but midway through the following season he was back and eventually reached his 200-match milestone.
He finished on 210 games for the Magpies when his O and M career ended.
In 1968, Mack started his coaching career with Upper Murray club Corryong, leading them to back-to-back flags, before winning a third in 1972.
He career finally ended at the age 43 after more than 600 senior games.
His son Ray later became an O and M top-liner in a 164-match career for Lavington which included premierships in 1983 and 1986.
ALBURY was far from the dominant force of today when Tim Scott joined the Tigers from Henty in 1992.
But the Tigers soon discovered they had a ready-made star who could help build future success.
In his debut season, the pocket-sized rover tied with the late Jay McNeil for the Tigers’ best and fairest and also finished third in the Morris Medal.
Albury’s fortunes nose-dived in 1993 and the Tigers were lucky to dodge the wooden spoon.
But Scott’s trademark courage and ball-winning brilliance helped secure the first of back-to-back Morris Medals by six votes, while he claimed another club best and fairest.
The Tigers soared up the ladder in 1994 and a second Morris Medal, in a tie with Corowa-Rutherglen’s John Kingston, put Scott on the radar of the Sydney Swans.
Scott played one senior AFL game under legendary coach Ron Barassi against Fitzroy in 1995, but a double hernia dashed his long-term prospects at the highest level.
He returned to the O and M with Albury on its way to winning a hat-trick of flags.
Scott beefed up an already potent midfield of Stephen Ash, Travis McLean, Marc Duryea and Michael Buchanan, which had helped the Tigers become the competition powerhouse.
Individual honours kept flowing as Scott claimed the Did Simpson Medal for the best player in the 1997 grand final win against Wodonga Raiders.
He possessed a strong training ethic and was an exceptional high mark for his size.
Scott also loved to test himself against the best and regularly represented the O and M when it was an interleague powerhouse in the late 1990s.
He also played for Victoria and NSW with distinction at interstate country carnivals.
He claimed a third best and fairest in 2001 as the Tigers’ time at the top wound down.
Scott finished his career on 191 games at 33 due to increasing commitments on his cattle property at Table Top.
He remains involved on the Tigers’ match committee and is coaching one of Albury’s AWJFL under-14 teams.