Last week The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE caught up with Barry Edmunds who spoke about his playing days. This week Edmunds reflects on his coaching career at Albury Sportsground and one of the most bizarre incidents that ever occurred in O&M history.
BG: How did you get into coaching?
BE: Luckily I got the coaching gig at St Patrick's which I thoroughly enjoyed and was a good outlet away from the business. I coached for seven years and we won four flags and two runners up during that time.
BG: You coached Albury from 1991-93. How did you get the gig?
BE: Merv King called me into his office one night and asked me if I would be interested in coaching Albury. I nearly fell over.
BG: How was the club travelling at the time?
BE: Financially the club was on its knees.
BG: So you still took the coaching job?
BE: There is no doubt there was a lot better candidates out there than me but nobody wanted the job because of the rumours that Albury was going down the gurgler. "Cowboy" Neale was the favourite at the time but decided against it for whatever reason.
BG: How tough was it?
BE: The board called a meeting to explain the club was broke. It got 25 people to guarantee $5000 each to go guarantor for a $125,000 bank loan. I still remember the deathly silence when Brian Curphey made the announcement.
BG: Did the plan work?
BE: To the great credit of the board at the time they wiped the debt.
BG: How did you turn it around?
BE: I remember the second year Brian Curphey, Merv King, Jack Clancy and myself travelled all over the state to try and get recruits. We landed some big names including Tim Scott, Dale Carroll, Corey Whittaker, Tony Way, Matt Fowler and Graeme Terlich, just to name a few. We also landed a few travellers which in my opinion now is not a good thing. But we had to do something. We made the finals in my second year.
IN OTHER NEWS
BG: You were coaching Albury when one of the most bizarre incidents in O&M history occurred. The day Albury captain Jeff Duck was struck by Jay McNeil who was also playing for the Tigers. What are your memories of that day?
BE: It was the most bizarre incident I've ever seen on a footy field, especially considering the level. It was a wet day and the incident happened right in front of the coaches box at the Sportsground in the first-quarter. David McNeil was Jay's brother and had crossed to Lavington from Albury the previous season. Neville Shaw was coaching Lavington. Anyhow there was an incident between both David and Jeff and there were some punches thrown. Jay obviously didn't like what he saw and came running in and got Jeff. There was a huge crowd that day and most people would have seen it.
BG: You must have been dumbfounded watching it all unfold?
BE: I was. Looking back I think I did the right thing and immediately got Jay off the ground. I went straight into the rooms and spoke with him. After I spoke to him I'm pretty sure he just left the ground but I'm not 100 per cent sure.
BG: What was the atmosphere like after the match?
BE: It's fair to say you could the cut the air with a knife. I think everybody was just dumbfounded about what they had witnessed. The story spread like wildfire and made the front page of the Herald Sun on the Monday.
BG: Did you address the players about what had happened after the match?
BE: Very much so. I think I handled a delicate situation as best I could.
BG: What was the fallout?
BE: The club decided to bar Jay and he never played for Albury again. Jay finished his career at North Albury.
BG: That must have been a hard decision given Jay's high standing at Tigerland?
BE: Jay was a legend at Albury. A premiership player, best and fairest winner and one of the greats.
BG: Did you have much to do with Jay after the incident?
BE: I was concerned for his mental welfare and in the weeks after went and visited him and spoke to him on numerous occasions. I asked him when, why and how and all sorts of questions about what caused him to do it. I tried to console him but he was inconsolable. He was mortified. He was good teammates with Jeff and it really hurt him. Jay couldn't believe he done it.
BG: During your coaching tenure what else did you find was a real eye-opener?
BE: The ugly parent syndrome. I experienced it in junior football and it was just as prevalent in the seniors.
BG: How do you look back on your coaching tenure?
BE: It was a battle because of the financial position the club was in at the time. In my opinion the club was in a much better place when I left then when I took over. I reckon I got at least seven blokes to the club that went on to be multiple premiership players. I remember we only won three or four matches during my first season as coach. It was a huge thrill to get that first win I can tell you. I never got introduced into the sacked coaches club and left of my own accord.
BG: What was your main reason for calling it quits?
BE: The Jay McNeil incident upset me greatly and I found recruiting a tough gig because I wasn't a high-profile coach. I wasn't a Paul Spargo or Martin Cross who could recruit players because of their stature.
BG: I believed you coached your son, Manny, in your final year at the Sportsground?
BE: Manny was only 15 when he made his senior debut and I believe the youngest ever at the Sportsground.
BG: Did you ever have a nickname?
BE: Being a Bombers supporter, I was an unabashed fan of Kevin Sheedy. I sort of based my coaching style on Sheedy and was a passionate coach. Anyway "Wrecker" Leahy used to write a column for The Border Mail at the time and he nicknamed me 'Sheedy' or 'The Motivator.' It caught on and when I was working at Paull & Scollard people always used to ring me up and say it's Kevin Sheedy here.
BG: Ha, ha, that's not bad.
BE: It gets better. It would happen to me twice a day for ages. Anyway the secretary said to me one day it's Kevin Sheedy on the phone. I said don't you start, just put whoever it is through to me. I said 'hello' and the bloke on the end says 'it's Kevin Sheedy here.' I said 'I'm under the pump and haven't got time for games, who is it and what do you want?' You could of knocked me over with a feather when I realised it was the great man himself.
BG: Why did Sheeds call you?
BE: Because I was coaching Albury he just wanted to know if we had any young talent that the talent scouts should be keeping an eye on.
BG: Did you meet him personally?
BE: We ended up having lunch and a few wines quite regularly. One time I dropped Sheedy off at the airport. We got chatting and he told me the Bombers had just got a gun recruit that would kick 100 goals that season, Doc Wheildon from Fitzroy.
BG: How many did he end up kicking?
BE: I used to love my footy bets, so I bet one of my mates $100 that Wheildon would kick 100 that season. He played a few practice matches and kicked eight in the wet and then five the following week. The week before the first game he went to a nightclub in King St and got hit by a car when he was leaving and broke his leg. He didn't play again. I went to pay the bet not dreaming that my mate would even think of taking the money after what happened. But I was wrong, he pocketed it without batting an eyelid. I can't say my friends name because his wife doesn't know he bets but some people might know him as Mr Plummer and he drives taxis.
BG: I heard in your younger days you were a bit of a crime fighter and caught an underwear thief?
BE: It's a true story. Lucky I had a bit of pace at the time. My wife, Margaret, before we got married was living with two of her girlfriends in a unit in Kiewa Street and they were getting their underwear stolen off the clothesline. So for four nights in a row I hid in the backyard until about 2am with a cricket bat waiting to catch him. I was just hoping it wasn't a big bloke but I never caught him.
BG: So he got away with it?
BE: No, one night I was heading back down Kiewa Street near Albury High school and I saw this bloke charging down the street and I recognised who it was. When I got to the unit where Margaret was living, the girls were crying and screaming that the saw the bloke that was flogging their underwear. So I took off after him, he was only a little bloke and I used to go to school with him. I ran up George St past the Star Hotel and caught him. Because he was only little I knew I could handle him. So I threatened I was going to kill him and tell his wife what he had been up to and then let him go. He never did it again.
BG: Another one of you passions is racing, how did you get involved in the sport of kings?
BE: I love the racing game and I will always be a punter. I remember one day when I was playing for Albury I had $50 on Cellaboy in the Grand National hurdle. $50 back then was like $500 these days. I was playing so I teed up with one of my mates to have the radio up as loud as he could on the half-forward flank. So I was hanging around the forward flank trying to listen to the race. The ball came in my direction so I had to zip back and try to get it. Then I went back to listen to the race and my bloody horse ran second. I never got another kick that day.
BG: What would you rate as your racing highlight?
BE: Whenever you get a local win with your mates. We had a horse that won the Towong Cup and then went on to run third in the Albury Cup called Out Of The Pack. I've raced a lot of horses with a lot of mates over the years and its been great fun. I hate to think how much I'm behind but that's irrelevant. I've won four or five races on Albury Cup day which is a huge thrill. We won the Snake Gully Cup with Greipel at 15/1, that was a huge day. At the moment I race Cash Crisis with friends and he still occasionally bobs up. Cash Crisis won the City Handicap on Albury Cup day last year. He is also the reigning Horse of the Year at Albury. I've also got a share in two young horses that both haven't been beaten. They haven't had a start yet either but that's irrelevant.
BG: You are well known for your phantom calls at the Newmarket Hotel punters club. Is race calling something that you aspired to do?
BE: Many years ago I aspired to be a caller because I loved the theatre of it all. About five or six years back I was doing about six calls for different organisations but I had to give most of them away because I was losing my voice.
BG: They are hilarous to listen to. What are some of your favourite sayings?
BE: This horse is in more traffic than a Bangkok tuk tuk. He rounds them up like a kelpie dog. He has had more hits than Elvis. He has got a grip on him the Boston strangler would be proud of. He has got them stretched out like Monday's washing. Racing at tight as patrons on a Bombay bus.
BG: You make a bit of money for charity with your calls?
BE: All the proceeds go to the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre which I'm proud of. The last couple of years it has been around $1000.
BG: I believe you are a life member of the Commercial Club?
BE: I'm proud to say I am.
BG: You held the prestigious role of president of the Commercial Club for a decade. What did you love most about that?
BE: I enjoyed being part of the forward planning of the club, creating the bylaws and providing the entertainment for the members. I might be biased but I think the club is underappreciated by the general public in Albury-Wodonga. It is without doubt the best club in NSW. It's not the biggest or most profitable but pound for pound it's the best in the state. One of the best things I was involved in was the sponsorship of the Albury Gold Cup which is huge for the local economy. The week of the Gold Cup are the club's biggest in takings every year. The city must benefit as well.
BG: What did you hate most about the role?
BE: It was amazing the number of people that would come to you with complaints. The broccoli was too hard last night or you have got the wrong brand of carrots. The band was too loud last night. You would rarely get a compliment, just complaints. No matter how trivial I would try and help that member with that complaint which was stupid of me looking back.
BG: Any bizarre incidents at the Commercial Club?
BE: A lady left her handbag in the Sevens Restaurant one night, I think she had had too much to drink. Somebody handed it in to reception. So reception looked for some ID to contact her and opened her bag and it was full of roast meat and bread rolls. It's fair to say she was a bit sheepish and embarrassed when she got the call to say her handbag had been found.
BG: No doubt you have been fortunate to marry Margaret who has been an enormous supporter right throughout your adult life.
BE: I felt like I won lotto the day I walked down the aisle with Margaret. She always chips me I can recall everything about my footy career, every player, every kick but I can't remember to put the bins out.
BG: I realise you are a humble bloke but you must be proud of your achievements?
BE: Very much so, I've done my best but have been lucky in that I've had great support from my wife, family and friends.
BG: You have been retired for around five years now. How is retirement treating you?
BE: There is always something to do. The grandchildren keep me busy, watching Maya and Noah play their sport. Our newest grandson, Ziggy, is learning to walk. We do a bit of travelling and I love watching my horses race. I also enjoy my Saturday morning ritual of having two hot dogs for breakfast. I go for a two hour walk most mornings and still manage to find my way home without getting lost.
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