Mention the name Craig Ednie and the discussion invariably turns to is he Yarrawonga's greatest ever player? If Ednie isn't, he is certainly on the podium. After a brief stint with Richmond, Ednie enjoyed an outstanding career with the Pigeons. The highly skilled midfielder has three flags from seven grand final appearances at Yarrawonga, five best and fairests, a Morris medal and was selected in the O&M's Team of the Past 25 Years. It's no wonder Ednie was dubbed 'The Little Master'. The Pigeons' little champion caught-up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: Your father Russell and yourself hold a unique record at Yarrawonga and are the only father and son to notch 200 plus matches?
CRAIG EDNIE: Dad played in the 1989 premiership side against Wodonga. There was footage of the match on social media this week.
BG: I saw that your father was swinging a few punches?
CE: He had a bit of a dust up. Dad's story was that it was his sister's former boyfriend, I'm not sure how true that is though.
BG: Your grandfather C.T. Runnalls is a legend of the Pigeons with the club's best and fairest named in his honour?
CE: C.T. is obviously mum's father and she was one of 11 kids. Christmas is pretty big and Steve McKee is one of my cousins.
BG: You boast a glittering career and have five best and fairests at Yarrawonga and finished runner-up on three occasions. Is that a club record?
CE: The great Les 'Salty' Parish won five who I rate as the biggest legend at the club.
BG: You were an outstanding junior talent and won the Pigeons under-18's best and fairest in 1998 despite only playing nine matches?
CE: The late and great Neil Davis was coaching that year and must have looked after me and threw a few votes my way.
BG: You played for the Murray Bushrangers in the second-half of the year that season and finished runner-up in their best and fairest?
CE: I missed playing in the losing grand final for Yarrawonga thirds but played in a winning flag for the Bushrangers.
BG: Who were some of your Bushranger teammates that went on to play AFL?
CE: Josh Fraser and Ryan Houlihan were the standouts and top-ten draft prospects. Derek Murray, Ricky Symes, Adam Butler and Kayne Pettifer were also in the side.
BG: In your two seasons with the Bushrangers you won a best and fairest and finished runner-up?
CE: Kayne Pettifer beat me by a vote one year which he likes to remind me about quite often. As people would know 'Petts' has a high opinion of himself but is a very funny man.
BG: You were also named in the Bushrangers Team of the Decade?
CE: I was fortunate enough to get picked but missed out on their Team of the Past 25 Years.
BG: In 2000 you were invited to do a pre-season with Collingwood?
CE: I missed out on the draft that season and Collingwood weren't that interested in me. I think Josh Fraser might have put in a good word for me and they gave me an opportunity to train with them.
BG: It paid dividends and Richmond selected you on its rookie list?
CE: I was lucky enough Richmond saw something in me and I was reunited with Chris Hyde and Kayne Pettifer who I had played a bit of junior football with.
BG: You were promoted to the senior list in round 10 in 2001?
CE: I got promoted mid-season but didn't play a match. I was named first emergency for the preliminary final against Brisbane but missed out.
BG: The following year you made your AFL debut in round six against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium and played on Mark Riccuito?
CE: I was a bit young and dumb back then and run straight into him at the first bounce to make my presence felt. I remember he just looked at me and laughed. I don't think it worried him too much when he saw me considering I weighed about 72kg and could have been a jockey.
BG: Andrew McLeod impressed you that day?
CE: I remember McLeod won possession in the centre, had two bounces and kicked a freakish goal. I was that impressed I felt like clapping him but didn't want to risk getting delisted by Danny Frawley.
BG: You must have been happy with your debut after having 17 possessions and kicking a goal?
CE: I was fairly satisfied and had a heap of support back home from Yarrawonga and it was disappointing to get beat. But I got to play on some quality players and got a taste of the big time.
BG: You ended up playing seven AFL matches before you were delisted. Were you surprised to be cut from the list?
CE: I was a little bit, especially after the club had given me some indication I was a part of its long-term plans. But the club had to make some tough decisions at the end of 2002 after missing finals considering it made the preliminary final the previous year.
BG: You recently attended a reunion in memory of Danny Frawley?
CE: I had only been back to Richmond once previously and a lot of former coaches back then told me I was unlucky to be cut.
BG: Did the club let you know the reason behind its decision?
CE: My size and height didn't do me any favours. At the time Brisbane were the powerhouse and were physically one of the biggest sides in AFL history. They had just beaten up on Collingwood in the grand final and Leon Davis didn't get a kick which didn't help my cause.
BG: Did many AFL clubs show interest in you once you were cut?
CE: Kelly O'Donnell who coached me at the Bushrangers was involved at Fremantle and invited me over there to train but I thought they had Peter Bell who I would have to compete with for a spot, so I decided to move back home.
BG: 2006 proved to be a standout season for you winning a flag under Bob Craig as well as the Morris medal?
CE: It's funny looking back, I had had enough of football half-way through that season and was close to pulling the pin.
BG: You weren't a big fan of Craig's coaching style where he heavily rotated players off the bench?
CE: That had a lot to do with it. 'Craigy' liked to have players on for seven minutes, off for seven, then back on for seven. I found it a bit frustrating at the time. But it was certainly one of my best seasons because I played Vic Country, made All-Australian, won the league medal as well as a flag.
BG: You replaced Craig as coach in 2008 and led the Pigeons for three seasons. Did you find it a tough gig coaching your mates at your home club?
CE: It was a tough gig and I was only 24-years-old at the time. One of the hardest things I had to do was drop my best mate Dean Bigger for the grand final after he had played all year. I was the best man at his wedding and he was the best man at mine.
BG: Do you regret your decision?
CE: We lost the grand final and if I had my time again, I would have picked him. We laugh about it now over a few beers but it was the hardest decision I had to make as a coach. I'm just lucky Dean is a good bloke and still talks to me.
BG: Being only 24 is relatively young to coach. Did you have coaching aspirations at the time or were you pushed into the role?
CE: I didn't really have coaching ambitions but Glenn Brear must have seen something in me as a coach that others didn't. I would like to think it was the right decision because we made finals the first year and played off in the grand final in 2009-10.
BG: 2009 coincided with Albury re-establishing itself as the powerhouse of the competition?
CE: In 2009 Albury were a class above and flogged us by more than 10 goals. The following year we were finishing hard but didn't make the most of our opportunities.
BG: In 2011 Chris Kennedy and Drew Barnes replaced you as co-coaches and you dropped a bombshell and joined Mulwala?
CE: Nic O'Bryan was a good mate of mine and coaching Mulwala and had played under me when I coached Yarrawonga and I wanted to repay the favour.
BG: You backflipped on your decision once Yarrawonga signed Brendan Fevola and Joel Smith?
CE: All the Yarrawonga boys were on the drink one night and came and got me. They tipped a few drinks into me and convinced me to come back and play.
BG: I'm guessing after signing Fevola and Smith it would have been an easy decision to make?
CE: Getting two players of that calibre provided an opportunity that I didn't want to miss out on. I also felt I had some unfinished business after losing two grand finals in-a-row to Albury.
BG: Was it a controversial decision at the time?
CE: Not really, Nic fully understood my decision but maybe there were a few Mulwala supporters disappointed at the time. At the end of the day I had only done a pre-season with Mulwala and was returning to play at my home club and not against them.
BG: Could you believe it when you heard Yarrawonga signed Fevola?
CE: I don't know how they did it but Glenn Brear is a genius. I think Allan and Matt Tripp had a lot to do with it through their contacts.
BG: Fev was at the crossroads when he first arrived at Yarrawonga after just being sacked by Brisbane the previous year and dealing with a number of personal issues?
CE: At the time he was having a bit of a break from his wife Alex and the kids would often come to watch him play. I think he openly admits his time at Yarrawonga helped get his life back on track.
BG: Had you had much to do with Fev before he arrived at Yarrawonga?
CE: I did get to know Fev a bit when I was playing with Richmond. I used to live with Ryan Houlihan and Fev would often crash on our couch after a night out on the town. Now I think about it, Fev basically lived at our house but didn't pay rent.
BG: Did you have anything to do with Fev signing at Yarrawonga?
CE: I can't take any credit for that, as I said it was Glenn Brear and the Tripps who pulled off the masterstroke.
BG: No doubt you would have dozens of stories about Fev, give us one of your favourites?
CE: I don't want to throw the big fella under the bus but it was funny the day we played Wangaratta and the umpires paid a few free kicks against him. Fev thought the umpires were cheating and told them so and copped a yellow card just before half-time. Fev had had a gutful and stayed in the rooms after half-time, had a shower and got changed and was going home.
BG: So he didn't play at all in the second-half?
CE: I was injured that day and Glenn Brear came and grabbed me and said 'can you go and talk some sense into Fev, he has had a shower and is going home.'
BG: What did you say to the big fella?
CE: I just said if you go home mate, the media is going to have a field day writing stories about you and Channel Seven and Channel Nine will also give you and the club bad publicity - you have to go back on.
BG: Did he listen?
CE: We were a couple of points down at the last change and Fev came back on and kicked seven and ended up with 10 for the match. He also decided to stay the night and have a few beers to celebrate and everything was back to normal.
BG: I suppose you could say that's Fev in a nutshell and why he is such an enigma?
CE: Fev makes headlines when he does the wrong thing but he is a champion bloke and has a heart of gold. I remember when Myrtleford paid Fev $5000 to play against them at Myrtleford just so they could draw a crowd. I think it coincided with a Breast Cancer Awareness day and Fev donated the whole lot back to the charity.
BG: Fev is a likeable larrikin?
CE: When he was at Yarrawonga he would call into the aged care home quite often and have a beer with the oldies just to put a smile on their face.
BG: You played in front of some massive crowds when Fevola played?
CE: It was unreal and most weeks we would be playing in front of 4000 to 5000 people.
BG: The Easter Sunday match at Mulwala for Fev's debut for Yarrawonga drew a grand final sized crowd?
CE: That was unbelievable. I remember Wally Brear had to get a truck to bring another pallet of beer during the match and they ended up selling the lot.
BG: What are your memories of playing that day.
CE: It was just the Fev show basically and the crowd was walking from end to end just to watch him. I didn't realise just how big and popular he was until that day.
BG: The crowds when you played against Albury were massive also?
CE: There were 8000 to most matches against Albury. Brayden O'Hara was based in South Australia but came to watch before he joined Albury and said one of the reasons he signed for the Tigers was because of the chance to play in front of big crowds like that. I kicked three on Daniel Maher that day that I like to remind him about.
BG: You were always an advocate for interleague football and represented the league on numerous occasions. Were you surprised when Fev got caught on CCTV footage out late and drinking before coaching the interleague side the next day?
CE: I was fuming that I didn't get an invite that night (laughs) because maybe I could have stopped him. Looking back I know what he was trying to do and was just trying to get a bit of team bonding. No doubt he took it too far and was out far too late.
BG: You were a lippy Pigeon and didn't mind getting involved in a bit of sledging out on the field?
CE: I tried to give as good as I got.
BG: You gave it to O'Hara one day not long after he broke up with his fiancee Teegan Dolling who works for Channel 7?
CE: I asked Brayden quite a few times how much would he sell the engagement ring for. A few of the Albury boys had a bit of a chuckle at the time.
BG: Yarrawonga played in six successive grand finals against Albury from 2009-14 with the grand final ledger 4-2 in favour of the Tigers. Would it have been 6-0 without Fevola?
CE: If you asked Fevola he would say yes. But no doubt he was the X-factor and sometimes would have four players on him because the opposition were so conscious that Fev was a match-winner.
BG: Some of those early grand finals were brutal contests physically?
CE: They were games you always loved to play in. But I think the psyche of the players changed forever the day James McQuillan got injured in 2014. While it was an unfortunate accident it changed the dynamic of the rivalry. It was never the same after that day. It was the most tragic incident you could see on a football field with James such a ripping young bloke. It soon puts into perspective that football is just a game.
BG: Would it be fair to say the rivalry changed from hatred to mutual respect?
CE: Pretty much in the early days it was to try to and belt the crap out of each other. But after James' accident the clubs socialised more off the ground and started having a few beers with each other and there was mutual respect.
BG: Do you think rival clubs were jealous of Albury's sustained success?
CE: There's no doubt about that. I remember Glenn Brear and Chris Kennedy said to the playing group one day being envious and jealous of Albury is going to get us nowhere. Their motto was Albury was the benchmark that we all have to strive to beat.
BG: You produced some unbelievable finals performances. Have you got a personal favourite.
CE: Not really but you always wanted to perform on the big stage. But there were plenty of finals where I didn't have much of an impact as well.
BG: You kicked some incredible goals throughout your career including one in the 2010 decider when tucked up on the boundary near the grand stand at a clutch moment. Is that a standout for you?
CE: I didn't kick too many better goals but we lost the grand final. I would have been heaps better talking about it if we had won.
BG: What three Tigers do you personally rate the highest?
CE: Chris Hyde because he just keeps finding the football and hurts you with his disposal. Then Joel Mackie who was just like a rampaging bull in the midfield and nearly impossible to tackle because he was so strong. I also rate Andy Carey, Daniel Maher, Charles Gaylard, Luke Packer, Shaun Daly and Luke Daly highly as well. I'd hate to be picking their Team of the Decade, that's for sure.
BG: Speaking of Mackie you knocked the wind out of his sails one day at the Albury Sportsground?
CE: It was dirty but I got him nice and sweet in the guts and winded him. But Chris Hyde got me back shortly afterwards and I had a bit of a cut above the eye.
BG: You and Justin Koschitzke didn't see eye to eye during his time at Lavington?
CE: We were good mates at the Bushrangers and stayed in contact during his time in the AFL. But we did have a couple of run ins on the ground when he was at Lavington.
BG: What sparked the friction?
CE: We had a bit of a Twitter war and when the interleague side was selected his comment was 'Good to see Fev looking after his mates' with a fair few Yarrawonga players picked in the side. I tweeted back 'At least we put our hand up and not out like you Kosi.'
BG: It didn't go down well?
CE: It was just a bit of fun and banter really.
BG: One match at Lavington you both exchanged a few punches?
CE: We did, he gave me a few throughout the match when I ran past him. At one stage he was on the ground and I gave him one and there were a few punches thrown.
BG: How do you two get along now?
CE: There is no drama. He played for Berrigan in the reserves against Rennie last year and we had a couple of beers together that night
BG: You are regarded as one of the finest Pigeons ever to play and accordingly were heavily targeted physically by opposition sides. How did you used to cope with the extra attention?
CE: I probably just used to try to give as good as I got. I feel sometimes opposition got away with giving me a few cheap shots. Early on in my career I used to cop it but then decided later in my career if I was going to cop it, I might as well give a bit back.
BG: Would it be fair to say that you had an uncanny knack of provoking opponents and getting them to retaliate to receive a free kick?
CE: Definitely, I used to do that a fair bit. Tim Sanson jokes with me now that I was a master at it. I just thought if they are going to hit me, I'll make sure that the umpire sees it.
BG: Do you think rival sides used to love to hate you because you were such a talented player?
CE: I'm not sure you would probably have to ask them that. I definitely think opposition supporters used to love to give it to me from over the fence. I think I have a good relationship with most rival players and there is a mutual respect there.
BG: You were dubbed 'The Little Master which is a flattering nickname'. Is that a nickname you teammates call you or more the media?
CE: I can assure you that none of my teammates call me that and my nickname is 'Snout.' I think Jake Bourke started calling me 'The Little Master' in The Border Mail and I probably owe Jake a few beers for that.
BG: You obviously get 'Snout' from your beak. Did you ever get it broken?
CE: A few blokes have tried but so far I've escaped unscathed.
BG: Were you ever reported?
CE: I was reported a few times and copped a few suspensions. Most of them were for stupid things like tripping.
BG: The umpires weren't a big fan of yours?
CE: I probably had a bit too much to say about their decisions and the whistle blowers didn't do me any favours. Looking back I was fairly harsh and critical in the latter part of my career.
BG: One year you were favourite to win the medal and didn't poll a vote?
CE: Most of the media picked me to win the medal that year but obviously the umpires mustn't have liked the advice I had given them.
BG: You were set to coach Rennie for a fourth season before the Picola league was forced to abandon its season this week. How have you enjoyed the lower standard?
CE: I'm loving my time at Rennie and to win two flags has been great. It is obviously a lot more relaxed and I really enjoy the social side of it and it's a good way to end my career.