The six newest members of the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League's Hall of Fame were unveiled on Wednesday night. Glenn Page (Albury), Kerry Bahr (Lavington/Wodonga Raiders), Peter Westland (North Albury), Jim Deane (Myrtleford), Rebecca Cameron and Steve Murphy (Wodonga) joined the exclusive group in front of more than 200 people at the SS&A Club.
STEVEN MURPHY, Wodonga
THE imposing presence of Steve Murphy made a monumental impact on Wodonga's fortunes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Born and bred in Wodonga, the man mountain ruckman was the foundation rock on which the Bulldogs were a competition powerhouse.
Murphy made his senior debut in 1985 and two years later played in the first of three Bulldogs premiership teams.
A serious shoulder injury cruelled his second season before returning and booting two goals in Wodonga's crushing grand final victory over Lavington the following year.
Murphy suffered another injury setback in 1989 when representing the Ovens and Murray at Morwell with a badly damaged ankle derailing another season which ended with the Bulldogs losing the grand final to Yarrawonga.
Murphy made a late season return, but missed the senior decider and played in the Bulldogs' reserves victory.
He was back on deck in 1990 when the Bulldogs won a famous premiership in the "Bloodbath" grand final.
All hell broke loose at the Albury Sportsground before Wodonga pulled away late for an upset win over Lavington.
Murphy's standout season was undoubtedly 1992 when he captained the club to the premiership, won the Bulldogs' best and fairest and claimed the Morris medal.
At his peak, he could single-handedly dominate a game either in the ruck or resting up forward with one match against Albury in his standout season of 1992 underlining his ability to influence a match.
Murphy was credited with taking 20 marks and booting seven goals as the Bulldogs charged to an easy win against the Tigers.
Injuries and a short stint with West Perth in the WAFL under dual Wodonga premiership coach Jeff Gieschen limited Murphy to 119 appearances for the Bulldogs.
"He was a match-winner and could turn a game in a matter of minutes," Gieschen said.
"The thing that is under-estimated about Steve Murphy is that even though he is six foot, five or six and a big unit, he was very, very courageous.
"He was a gentle giant and never went out of his way looking for trouble, but he was extremely courageous and I can never recall him taking his eyes off the ball.
"It was why he was able to take so many marks and win the ball in such contested situations, but it probably did contribute to the number of injuries he suffered."
But when he was on the park his Bulldogs teammates walked taller and was an undisputed fan favourite among the Wodonga faithful.
Premierships: 1987, 1990, 1992; Reserves: 1989
Best and fairest: 1992
Morris Medal: 1992
Ovens and Murray representative
Wodonga Team of the Century and life member
KERRY BAHR, Lavington, Wodonga Raiders
KERRY Bahr was hot property at the end of 1987 which culminated with him being a runaway best and fairest winner in a premiership side at Hume league club Walla.
The skilful left-footer was high on the recruiting radar of many clubs with Lavington landing the services of the midfielder who would carve out a distinguished career at O and M level.
The boom on the rover's talents were justified when he was Lavington's best player in the 1988 grand final with his four goals unable to halt a youthful Wangaratta Rovers surge to victory in the second half.
In 1989, Bahr won the first of four best and fairests at Lavington which cemented his standing as one of the premier onballers of his era.
Premiership success eluded Bahr and Lavington again in 1990 and after another best and fairest with the club in 1991, he followed team-mate Peter Copley to Culcairn where they helped the club win its first Hume league flag in 1993.
The pair returned to the O and M in 1994 at Wodonga Raiders with Copley laying the foundations for their first flag and Bahr a joint best and fairest winner with Hall of Famer, Simon Bone in 1995.
"Kerry had nothing left in the tank when his career was over," Copley said.
"He was the guy who would work his guts out and get you 20 to 30 possessions every week.
"I saw him play on John Brunner one day and the two of them just went hammer and tongs.
"It was as good a duel as you would ever want to see."
Bahr was lured back to Lavington the following year and had to endure two more grand final defeats before tasting O and M premiership success in 2001 and 2005 against Myrtleford.
In the twilight of a fine O and M career which ended on 356 senior appearances at two clubs across three decades, Bahr turned tagger and applied the brakes to opposition primemovers.
He later coached the club's under-18 team, played in a flag team at Osborne under former Lavington team-mate Graham Hart, and coached Jindera into a grand final last year.
Games: Lavington 319, Raiders 37 (Total 356)
Premierships: 2001, 2005
Best and fairests: 1989, 1991, 1996, 1999 (Lavington). 1995 Wodonga Raiders.
Life member: Lavington, Ovens and Murray
PETER WESTLAND, North Albury
From the moment he arrived at Bunton Park more than 40 years ago, Peter Westland has not stopped contributing to North Albury in some capacity.
His early years were spent playing for VFA club Preston and suburban side Aberfeldie before heading bush where he would make his biggest mark.
Aged 23, Westland debuted for the Hoppers in 1976 and four years later his wizardry on the half-forward line helped the club to a famous premiership.
No club since the introduction of the top five in the early 1970s had won a flag from the elimination final, but the Hoppers went on a barnstorming September run under the coaching of Col Trevaskis to beat Wangaratta Rovers, who had made the decade their own with seven flags.
The crowning glory of Westland's career came in 1984 when the Hoppers completed a "rags to riches" against the odds success.
The club was in a parlous state financially with a mid-season revelation player payment deals couldn't be fully honoured.
Westland, in his first season as captain of the Hoppers, played a pivotal role for coach Martin Cross in holding together the majority of the playing group as off-field dramas swirled around them.
"The club was battling with a lot of stuff going on, but as a leader he was absolutely crucial in keeping the boys who were at the club together," Cross said.
"He was a loyal bloke as were a fair few of the other guys, but Pete was no doubt the leader and proved to be a great captain."
The Hoppers reward came on grand final day when they downed Wodonga in the grand final with a last-minute goal to Morris medallist Rudy Yonson ensuring a famous three-point victory.
Westland booted three goals in the grand final to fall just four short of a century of goals for the season.
In total, the hard-leading forward topped the Hoppers goal-kicking four times with his best haul in a match being 12 against Corowa-Rutherglen in 1983 with another day out in front of goal coming a year earlier when he booted 11 against Wangaratta.
Westland played 205 senior matches for the Hoppers with his final season being 1986 when the club reached another grand final.
He then coached the North Albury reserves and junior teams for the next eight years before serving in various administrative roles for the next two decades.
Westland was made a life member of North Albury in 1990.
Premierships: 1980, 1984.
Club leading goal-kicker: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986.
Career goals: 422. Most goals in a season: 96
North Albury reserves coach, life member
JIM DEANE, Myrtleford
The 1950s and 1960s have long been regarded as the Ovens and Murray league's golden era with Jim Deane part of a cavalcade of VFL greats lured to the competition.
Myrtleford had only been in the competition eight years when Deane made an unlikely venture into the hills from Richmond via a brief detour to his native South Australia where he won a second Magarey Medal with South Adelaide.
He knocked back the chance to coach West Perth to take over as coach of the Saints in 1958 and dazzled fans for five seasons with his sublime foot skills and inspirational onfield leadership.
The ball magnet made an instant impression in his first season by finishing level on votes in the Morris medal with former Collingwood captain Bob Rose, who joined Wangaratta Rovers as coach two years earlier.
Deane took the Saints into finals for the first time on his watch in 1960 after topping with local talent who had tasted VFL level in Len Cotterill, George Barton and Jack Cooper and came up against reigning premiers Yarrawonga in the first semi-final.
They were in a match-winning position, leading by 21 points at the last change, before the Pigeons reeled them to win narrowly.
Mick Flecknoe, who was also lured to Myrtleford when Deane was at the helm, said the coach comfortably sat among the great players of the era.
"He only had one foot, his left, but he was a tremendous kick," Flecknoe said.
"I played in front of him at centre half-forward and full-forward and he would hit you on the chest from 45 metres, no trouble at all.
"They were drop kicks in those days, none of those drop punts.
"You only had to be in front with your hands out and you were right when Jimmy had the ball."
Deane added a second Morris medal to a long list of personal accolades before agreeing to head back to South Australia at the end of 1962.
As well as being an outstanding player and revered coach, Deane's legacy included a string of players who played under him going onto the play in the VFL including O and M Hall of Famer, the late Frank Hodgkin.
His talents across two states were also acknowledged recently with induction into the Australian football Hall of Fame.
Morris Medal: 1958, 1961
Ovens and Murray representative
GLENN PAGE, Albury
RATED by Wayne Carey as the best junior footballer he had ever seen in their younger days together in the Riverina, Glenn Page was destined to leave his mark at senior level somewhere.
And from 1994, following short stints at the Sydney Swans and North Melbourne, Page made the Ovens and Murray league that place in a stellar 142-match career with Albury.
The Tigers were on the rebound from some lean times in the early 1990s with the return of a favourite in Paul Spargo as coach and the recruiting spotlight focused sharply on the Wagga area as they soon began to assemble a team which would transform their onfield fortunes.
Page won the first of three Albury best and fairests in 1994 as he quickly established himself as one of the O and M's top-end talents.
He was equally damaging in the middle of the ground or across half-back as the Tigers landed the first leg of a premiership hat-trick in 1995 with Page producing arguably his best season in yellow and black.
Albury prevailed in the mud on grand final day in a week which started with Page finishing runner-up to team-mate Ken Howe in the Morris Medal and later collecting a second club best and fairest.
The Tigers won an against the odds flag in 1996 before completing three in a row under first-year coach and another Riverina recruit Michael Buchanan.
Page had been made captain in 1997 and in addition to lifting the premiership cup with a former junior days rival he also won a third best and fairest.
"I can't ever recall him being beaten by his direct opponent," Buchanan said.
"He was gifted with ability, but he worked hard as well.
"He was always in the gym, he was always doing extra and it wasn't like he just rocked up and played."
His onfield heroics weren't solely reserved for Tigerland with Page a key member of the O and M inter-league team at a time when it was the undisputed kings of country footy.
Page played in three of the four country championships winning teams including captaining one of the most famous victories against fierce rivals Geelong at Birallee Park in 1998 in extra time.
He also captained Victorian Country and earned All-Australian honours in the 1996 carnival.
Page banked three more premierships as a player with Dederang-Mount Beauty and also coached the Tallangatta and District league club.
His son Jake is a modern-day Albury player.
Premierships: 1995, 1996, 1997
Best and fairests: 1994, 1995, 1997
Morris Medal: Runner-up 1995
Ovens and Murray representative and captain
REBECCA CAMERON, Wodonga
THE bar was set high in the Smedley family in terms of sporting prowess.
Father Ray was a dual premiership player for Wodonga when the Bulldogs were an O and M powerhouse in the late 1960s, winning two flags and narrowly losing another.
Oldest daughter Kellie was a star and inspirational leader in her own right when netball started in the O and M in 1993.
But, another daughter is without doubt one of the best to take the court in the first 25 years the sport has been played in the O and M.
A true professional in every sense, Rebecca Cameron went onto play 352 matches for the Bulldogs after making her debut in 1995 with her headline achievements being two A grade premierships, nine club best and fairests and a Toni Wilson medal.
She dominated the goal circle her entire career with her unnerving accuracy breaking many an opposition teams' collective hearts.
Across her whole playing career Cameron had an accuracy rate of 80 per cent plus in goal-shooting with nothing left to chance in terms of preparation to deliver on game day.
Tough, tenacious and supremely skilled, Cameron played in A grade premierships in 2002 and 2015 with a mid-season knee injury preventing her taking the court in 2004 when the Bulldogs also won the A grade flag.
The Bulldogs also played off in four other grand finals and their September showdowns with Yarrawonga were always memorable encounters.
Hall of Famer and former Pigeons coach Tracy Gillies said Cameron was a highly respected opponent.
"Always when we played Wodonga a lot of planning went into who played against her purely because she was the dominant attacking player," she said.
"She did a lot of the hard work outside the circle, but did a lot of hard work inside also and then shot the goal as well.
"There was never more than a couple of goals separating us and there is no doubt she was one of our toughest competitors."
Cameron's Toni Wilson medal victory came in a flag winning season in 2002 and finished runner-up three other times.
In an incredible family statistic, Rebecca and Kellie have won 14 A grade club best and fairests between them.
Premierships: 2002, 2015
Best and fairest: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014
Toni Wilson Medal: 2002; Runner-up 2000, 2004, 2015
Ovens and Murray representative
Wodonga and Ovens and Murray life member
Ovens and Murray Team of the Last 25 Years
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