Former Barnawartha ruckman Errol Gibb was a talented player is his prime, winning three Tiger best and fairests and runner-up in the Barton medal. The big-hearted Tiger caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: How old were you when you made your debut and what are your memories of the day?
ERROL GIBB: I was 14 and it was a wet day up at Mitta about half-way through the season in 1970. I played seconds earlier in the day as well. Back then there was no thirds or fourths in the Tallangatta league.
BG: How do you think you performed?
EG: Terrible. I had one kick and kicked into the man on the mark.
BG: For those who don't know you, how would you describe yourself as a footballer?
BG: What position did you play most?
EG: When I first started I was a scrawny wingman but once I developed I rucked for most of my career. Towards the end I just sat in the goal square and played full-forward.
BG: How many matches did you end up playing?
EG: It was more than 250. We haven't got exact records at Barnawartha because they all got burnt years ago when the club secretary, Laurie Hibberson, had a house fire and they all got destroyed.
BG: How old were you when you retired?
EG: I was done and dusted by 27 because of my dodgy knees. Over my footy career I had 13 operations on my right knee. I had three ACL reconstructions and numerous clean outs as well. When I turned 50, I got a replacement.
BG: Were you ever close to joining another club?
EG: I had a run at Wodonga when John Smith was coaching. I was painting and worked on the railway at the time and couldn't really commit to O&M. Chiltern legend "Rowdy" Lappin was also at the Bulldogs at the time.
BG: What would you consider the highlight of your football career?
EG: I represented the TDFL quite a few times and won three B&Fs at Barnawartha and was runner-up on three occasions as well. I also finished runner-up in the Barton medal behind Holbrook's Alan Curtis. I also won a flag in the twos in 1983.
BG: Back in the 1970s and 80s, it meant a lot to players who were fortunate enough to represent the league?
EG: There was a lot of passion involved in inter-league footy back then. I just used to enjoy meeting the blokes from other clubs within the league and ended up becoming good mates with them.
BG: Any good stories from your representative career?
EG: I remember we had to play the old Northern Riverina league one day at Condobolin. We had to catch the bus by about 6am. We drove up there and then about a mile out of town we hopped off the bus to walk the rest of the way so we could stretch our legs. Half-way on the walk it starts pouring rain and it hadn't rained in Condobolin for seven years. We got there and the ground was red mud and like glue. The opposition had a lot of rugby players and we ended up flogging them by a fair margin.
BG: My Barnawartha spies tell me you use to like the social side of football?
EG: I remember playing Mitta a few times and heading to the pub after the match. I usually had a few scuffles during the day but you would get to the pub and have a few beers with the opposition. Next thing you are getting home and it's 2 or 3am in the morning. My wife still reminds me about that quite regularly.
BG: I'm guessing by the sounds of it you would have loved your footy trips away?
EG: I remember I went to Sydney one year with a few of the boys that are still involved with the club including Ray Klepiak. It's hard to believe but I was only 15 at the time. We went to South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club one night for a drink. Most of the blokes I was with were 21 and got asked for ID and I got straight in. They hated that.
IN OTHER NEWS
BG: I heard you were also a bit of a prankster around the club.
EG: I didn't mind being involved in the odd prank. One of my best efforts was on the Thursday night training before the 1983 preliminary final. Everyone was out on the track training and back in those days the lights at the footy ground were ordinary. A mate of mine Russell Braybrook and myself snuck off into the change rooms and proceeded to put deep heat in everyone's jocks, except for one bloke who never wore jocks so we put deep heat in his jeans. Everyone came in after training and got changed and were running around blaming different blokes for doing it but we never got pinned. So on the following Thursday night prior to the grand final we snuck off but made sure everyone saw us. The guy who never wore jocks was Steve Rogers, so we whacked some deep heat in his jeans again and never touched anyone else's gear. All the boys came in after training and were sniffing their jocks which was hilarious, I just wished I could have filmed it.
BG: You don't mind a flutter on the ponies for a bit of fun?
EG: I love the Melbourne spring carnival and try to get down there when I can. One of the biggest wins I had was when Plastered won the Ascot Vale on Cox Plate day. I had $50 each-way on it at 50/1 before it resumed. Then another $50 each-way at 50/1 a couple of weeks later. A group of us went up to the car races on the Gold Coast and went to the races on Cox Plate day. I was tipping Plastered to everyone who would listen who was now favourite to win the Ascot Vale. There was seven of us, so we done a collection and had $1000 on the Queensland TAB. It won easily and paid $3 in Victoria and we got $7.80 on the Queensland TAB. We had a huge drink to celebrate.
BG: Barnawartha is a proud club but it's getting tougher for footy clubs to survive. Can you see the club merging in the foreseeable future?
EG: I feel we are a strong club and the town is growing. I think we have got a good local base which is a key to success. When we won our most recent flag in 2013, there was only three imports at the time. Tom Anson was one and now he lives in the town.
BG: There is a fair contingent of that side playing in the grand final on the weekend?
EG: Barnawartha has only ever had one dual premiership player, Steve Ramage, in 2002 and 2013.
BG: What do you think is the biggest issue in country football at the minute?
EG: Money is the biggest problem and there are some clubs who are playing a fortune for players. It's quite obvious the salary cap is not working. I've got no doubt there are heaps of clubs around the district rorting the salary cap. Clubs are buying premierships and then get themselves in financial trouble, the supporters drop off and it becomes a real struggle.
BG: Did you ever coach Barnawartha?
EG: I was assistant coach in 1980 under Greg Hooper.
BG: Hooper played at numerous clubs around the district, did you ever play against him?
EG: Yeah, I rate Hooper and Frank Ravenna from Culcairn as two of the lippiest and most annoying little blokes I ever played against. They didn't mind slipping one into you either when you were on the bottom of a pack. I remember Hooper could always start a blue.
BG: Hooper was a talented player though?
EG: Yeah, he won the league medal one season when he was at Barnawartha. I remember he was presented with the medal and a big bottle of whiskey as well. We all helped him polish off the bottle on the night.
BG: Who do you rate as the best player you have seen at Barnawartha?
EG: Peter Woodford is the standout for me and an unbelievable footballer. He was full-forward and still holds the league record of 141 for the most goals kicked in the home and away season in 1980. He didn't look like a footballer and had a bit of a pot gut but had a huge leap, strong hands and was a beautiful kick.
BG: Did you play in any flags?
EG: I played in quite a few finals but never a flag. I got one in the reserves in 1983 at the end of my career.
BG: You used to play twice most weekends?
EG: When I first started we were short and I would play reserves and seniors. I used to ruck both games but in the seconds I used to bludge a bit and not get out of the square too often so I still had the energy to play seniors.
BG: That's a fair effort rucking for two matches.
EG: I'll never forget one day at Mt Beauty in the mid 70s and we ran out onto the ground and the mud was a foot deep. It was raining, then there was sleet and it ended up snowing. We were flogging the opposition and it was freezing cold. Back in those days the ruckmen used to change in the back pocket. I rucked for two-and-a-half quarters because I didn't want to sit down in the pocket and freeze. I eventually swapped with Graeme Seymour and it was that cold I only lasted two minutes in the back pocket before I called out for Graeme to swap again. I couldn't believe when he fell for it.
BG: What other roles have you performed at Barnawartha?
EG: I've been on the committee quite a few times, sponsor the club and recently got the past players club going.
BG: Barnawartha have had some handy ruckmen start their careers at the Tigers?
EG: Ash Eames played a couple of years in the seniors while Dawson Simpson and Jon Ceglar played juniors.
BG: What are your memories of big Dawson?
EG: I remember holding the bag one night at training and he was leaping into it and practicing his jumping. I was egging him on to hit the bag harder. The next day I was that sore I couldn't lift my shoulder up for a week.
BG: Barnawartha will head into Saturday's decider as underdog. Can it spring an upset?
EG: I rate them a big chance. We haven't had a full-side all season but we finally will be on the weekend.
BG: Who do you rate as the Tigers' best current day player?
EG: Cameron McNeill and Josh Spence are brilliant players. I would have loved to have rucked with Cam in the midfield.