It's hard not to draw comparisons between Brendan 'Bundy' Cornell and Barry Hall. Similar to Hall, big bad bustling 'Bundy' was a prolific goalkicker with a shaved head and an intimidating presence. Cornell had a tough initiation into senior football in the Diamond Valley league where you were made to 'earn every kick.' This led to the strong marking forward having a take no prisoners mentality which saw him reported on 'eight or nine occasions.' Cornell caught-up with The Border Mail'sBRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: You are well-known for your nickname 'Bundy'?
BRENDAN CORNELL: I didn't get the nickname until later in my career when I joined Jacana in 1992. I didn't have a nickname and I was sitting on the couch in the clubrooms and gave the 'jatz crackers' a bit of a scratch and pulled a face. The boys saw me do it and said that's 'Al Bundy off Married With Children.' The nickname stuck from then on.
BG: You were a talented teenager and spent two years playing for Collingwood under-19s?
BC: I played a handful of matches at Victoria Park but Iooking back probably lacked a yard of pace to get a game consistently.
BG: You took training one night at Victoria Park?
BC: I thought I would take the boys on a bit of a road run and I was leading the way. I made a bit of a fool of myself when I went down the wrong street and it was a dead end.
BG: You made your senior debut for North Heidelberg in the Diamond Valley as a 17-year-old?
BC: It was tough footy back in that era and you were made to earn every kick.
BG: How did you go mixing it with the big boys as a skinny teenager?
BC: I was playing key back and I'm not exaggerating but I would have been badly concussed at least six times in my debut season from hits to the back of the head.
BG: There was no concussion rule back in that era?
BC: There was no education about concussion back then. If you copped a heavy knock you would come off, have a sniff of the smelling salts and get back into it.
BG: You decided to wear a helmet the following year?
BC: I was sick of getting concussed every second week so I bit the bullet and wore a helmet.
BG: Did many players wear helmets at the time?
BC: Not many and I copped a fair bit of flak about it from the opposition.
BG: Did you wear the helmet for most of your career?
BC: I only wore it for one year. The year I wore it I didn't get concussed again and I got my confidence back and didn't need it anymore.
BG: Did you ever get knocked out during your career?
BC: Only once. I filled in for the Corowa-Rutherglen reserves one day and I went into a contest and I woke up in the Corowa hospital. Apparently I clashed heads with one of my own players but I don't remember a thing about it other than I woke up with a split head and concussion. The cheeky prick I ran into was bragging about being the only bloke to ever knock 'Bundy' out.
BG: There were some gun players at North Heidelberg at the time?
BC: Kevin Grose was coach and had come from Collingwood. I rate Gary Massey as the best coach I've had and he is a triple premiership winning coach at North Heidelberg. Steve Hamling was another bloke I looked up to and was a magnificent player.
BG: You spent four seasons with North Heidelberg and arrived at Corowa-Rutherglen in 1985 as a 23-year-old?
BC: Dad was working in the bistro at the Wahgunyah pub and rang me up and told me Corowa-Rutherglen were trying to recruit a centre half-forward.
BG: Didn't you play all your football at North Heidelberg as a key defender?
BC: I met with the club and told them a few 'porkie pies' that I was a key forward, so they signed me up.
BG: Who was doing the recruiting for the Roos?
BC: Paul Rippingale was and made my family feel welcome at the time.
BG: The first year you travelled from Melbourne?
BC: I travelled in 1985 and then relocated to Corowa in 1986.
BG: You did a pre-season with Collingwood at the end of 1986?
BC: I went down to Victoria Park to do a pre-season with Mick Gayfer. There was about 150 hopefuls training and each week Collingwood would cut a few off the list.
BG: How long did you and Mick last?
BC: We both go through to the end and were picked to play in a pre-season hitout against West Coast.
BG: How did you perform?
BC: I pulled the pin at the last minute and decided to stay at Corowa. Mick ended up getting drafted and went on to play almost 150 matches at Victoria Park.
BG: Do you regret your decision?
BC: I lacked the confidence and probably knew deep down I didn't have the commitment it takes to play at the elite level. As I said before I knew I lacked the necessary pace and I honestly didn't think I was up to that level.
BG: You ended up luring a few of your North Heidelberg teammates to the John Foord Oval in 1986?
BC: Steve Hamling and Les Pugh came with me and we all relocated to Corowa. Hamling polled nine votes in the Morris medal in the first three rounds and then packed up and went back to Melbourne because he didn't like living in the bush. Pugh got injured not long after and moved back home as well.
BG: How did the standard of the O&M compare to the Diamond Valley.
BC: The O&M had some really good footballers running around. I found the competition to be a lot quicker than the Diamond Valley and there was a lot more space on the bigger grounds. I was used to playing on small grounds in Melbourne that were bog holes 90 per cent of the time.
BG: The lush surface and wide expanses of John Foord Oval would have been appealing to you?
BC: I thought how good is this and I wore joggers for the first five rounds when I played.
BG: How did you adjust from switching from defence into attack?
BC: I found it quite easy because you learn to read the play as a defender and I had played on some handy centre half-forwards and learnt a lot from that.
BG: Who were the stars for Corowa-Rutherglen at the time?
BC: Dennis Sandral is probably the best defender that I have seen. Especially for a bloke that couldn't kick. Anthony 'Psycho' Carroll was the other bloke that stood out to me.
BG: You would have played on some good defenders during that era?
BC: Rod Coelli and Jeff Duck from Albury were right up there. Jamie Ronke from Benalla, Myrtleford's Peter Light and Lavington's Ray Mack also made you earn your kicks.
BG: You were never intimidated by defenders?
BC: I was the sort of forward who stood up for myself and wouldn't tolerate any niggling tactics from defenders. If you showed any weakness you would soon get exploited.
BG: You are a big unit, what was your playing weight in your prime?
BC: I was around the 105kg mark.
BG: So your mentality when playing was to be the hunter and not the hunted?
BC: I always liked to get the first one in. As I said, you had to show something or your opponent would just walk all over you. If you copped one before the first bounce and didn't retaliate, your opponent would have a mental edge over you.
BG: Myrtleford's Peter Light gave you one before the bounce the first time you played on him?
BC: He gave me one on the jaw and I gave him one straight back. He looked at me and I said 'we're square now' and he just nodded.
BG: You ended up becoming good mates off the field?
BC: We just had mutual respect for each other. We got to the stage where we would 'pretend' wrestle before the first bounce of every match, just to see what the umpires would do and then have a bit of a laugh about it.
BG: After two seasons with Corowa-Rutherglen, you returned to your home club North Heidelberg in 1987-88.
BC: It proved to be a smart move because I played in my first senior flag in 1987.
BG: But you are back at John Foord Oval in 1989-90.
BC: I missed playing on the big grounds.
BG: You played inter-league for the O&M?
BC: I played in 1986 with blokes like John Brunner and John Martiniello who were entertainers and good fun to go on a bus trip with. Unfortunately we ran into Gavin Exell who kicked 10 against us that day and ended up playing for Geelong.
BG: You missed out playing inter-league against the Diamond Valley in 1990 after you got suspended for head-butting North Albury defender Bert Hollands?
BC: Bert had got me in the pre-season night competition a few weeks earlier, smacked me in the chin.
BG: So I'm guessing big 'Bundy' doesn't get mad, he gets even?
BC: I tried to square him up that night but he ducked and I ended up doing a somersault over him and looked like a bit of a goose. We played North Albury in about round 4 and he got me again. I stood up and said that's 'twice in a month' and planted a headbutt on him.
BG: I'm guessing you got reported?
BC: I went to the tribunal expecting to get six weeks but got tickled with a feather and only got two.
BG: Do you do much damage to Hollands?
BC: It broke his beak but I think if you asked Bert he would be the first to admit that he deserved it.
BG: So two weeks was a good result?
BC: I was fuming really because I wanted to play against the Diamond Valley league. It was one of my biggest regrets because I was highly anticipating the game. I would have played on Russell Windsor who was a premiership teammate of mine at North Heidelberg. To rub salt into the wounds the O&M won by 15 goals so I would have had a good day out.
BG: You won the Doug Strang medal in 1990 with 72 goals?
BC: Before that season I played most of my footy at centre half-forward. But I was getting a bit slower so I went back and played out of the goal square.
BG: What was the social life like at Corowa?
BC: Quite often 'Dasher' Houlihan would come round to my place and we would cook a couple of chickens up on the spit and have one each and wash it down with a dozen cans.
BG: In 1991 you joined South Bendigo for a season?
BC: Peter Hall was a former Corowa teammate and got me to the club. I won my second flag so it proved to be a smart move. Peter Bradbury was coach and played at Collingwood and Essendon. It was the most professional club that I played at.
BG: In 1992 you are on the move to Jacana?
BC: I had split up with my first wife and wasn't that interested in playing football. There have been some star footballers start their careers there like Scott Wynd, Bruce Doull and Ross Smith.
BG: What were they like as a club?
BC: It's fair to say that they were the maddest club that I played at. You wouldn't take your wife into the clubrooms after a match, they would all want to punch on after five or six beers. I won the goalkicking that year then I joined Oak Park.
BG: How did you find Oak Park?
BC: It was a really good club and spent four years there. The grounds were a bit ordinary at the time though.
BG: You had your first coaching stint with Gladstone Park in 1997?
BC: I don't know why I did it because they didn't have a side and had disbanded and were trying to get back into the league. So I told them I wasn't interested.
BG: They wouldn't take no for an answer?
BC: I went home and the phone rang about 10 minutes later and they basically made me a Godfather offer. I said 'we'd better have another meeting then.'
BG: How did you go coaching?
BC: It was a pretty ordinary standard of footy but I ended up scraping a side together. We ended up getting beat by a goal in the grand final.
BG: In 2001 you signed with Coreen-Daysdale United?
BC: I was sitting on the couch and hadn't played football for 12 months and was as fat as a pig. The phone rings and it was dad telling me that 'Darkie' Collins is going to give me a call to see if I wanted to play at CDU.
BG: Were you interested?
BC: Not really, I was 39 and 10kg overweight. I thought I would just over-price myself and then 'Darkie' would lose interest.
BG: How did your negotiatons with 'Darkie' eventuate?
BC: I told him what I wanted because I was travelling from Melbourne. He rang back and told me 'it's a done deal Bundy.'
BG: At 39 you must have had doubts if you could still get a kick?
BC: I was lacking in confidence but I kicked 116 goals for the season.
BG: That was the first ton of your career. Was that a reflection of the standard of the Coreen league or your ability?
BC: Probably a bit of both. But honestly no 39-year-old should be kicking a 100 goals in any competition really. The standard was fairly low but there were some good clubs like Rennie and Wahgunyah where you would get a tough game of football and then have a drink with the opposition later.
BG: You enjoyed the social side of the Coreen league?
BC: The country atmosphere really appealed to me. You don't see the spectators having a beer around the fire bucket in the Melbourne area.
BG: You were appointed coach the following season and coached the Saints for two years?
BC: It took me a bit to adapt and get my head around that most of the players were farmers and didn't have time to train during cropping season. It frustrated me initially because we were getting bugger all to training but then I realised it was their livelihoods and football was more of a social outlet.
BG: You struggled for numbers during your coaching stint?
BC: We had some good kids emerging through the junior ranks like Brad Talbot. But it seemed like everybody got a game in the seniors except the canteen ladies. I think we turned over 48 players in the seniors one year.
BG: Was anybody in the Coreen league game enough to poke the bear so to speak and try and rattle your cage?
BC: Not really expect on one occasion a player from Rand. I'm not 100 per cent sure but I think it was 'Spud' Webster.
BG: It's fair to say 'Spud' was out of his weight division. What did he do?
BC: Yeah he was half my size but was a lippy little prick and antagonised me all match. He gave me a clip in the back of the head when I was going for a mark. I walked towards him to remonstrate and the umpire reported me and sent me off and I didn't even touch him.
BG: Were you fuming?
BC: Fuming would be an understatement. It was at Rand and I walked into the changerooms and kicked the door off its hinges I was that angry. Then I just sat there and sulked for about 15 minutes.
BG: Did you get sledged much throughout your career?
BC: I did in the Coreen league because I was old, fat and bald. I remember lining up for goal and all the opposition kids calling me 'Shrek'. All the opposition ended up calling me 'Shrek' by the end of the season. But I used to slot the goals and have a bit of fun sledging the opposition back.
BG: You were playing against Murray Magpies in 2001 when Steve Hetherton contemplated calling the match off because of the violence?
BC: I thought it was fairly tame and Steve was lucky he never played in the Diamond Valley league because he would have been calling the match off every week. The Bloodbath was probably the worst all-in-brawl I have seen locally. So I think Steve needs to harden up a bit.
BG: So you deny that CDU headhunted the opposition that day?
BC: The Magpies had a reputation throughout the league for as giving as good as they got.
BG: Were you reported much throughout your career?
BC: Heaps, probably eight or nine times for striking. Usually from frustration.
BG: You could do some damage being such a big unit. Did you ever seriously hurt anyone?
BC: I never broke anyone's jaw or inflicted a serious injury. There is a difference between hitting a bloke and breaking someone's jaw.
BG: You were a player that opposition supporters loved to hate?
BC: I always seemed to cop it from the supporters. I remember some matches the supporters would follow me from end to end, just so they could give it to me twice as much. I remember Coleambally gave it to me one day and I was close to jumping the fence.
BG: You were a prodigious kick of the football?
BC: I felt comfortable having a shot from 55m. I always joke when I used to take a mark at the bowling green end at John Foord Oval I used to stop the match and make sure the oldies were off the green so they didn't get hit by the footy.
BG: You won a bet against Rennie one match when you kicked a goal from 55m?
BC: I took a mark 55m out and they had to stop play because Xavier Mardling was getting carted off on a stretcher. I was leaning against the fence waiting when a Rennie supporter said 'your dreaming Bundy if you think you can kick that, I'll bet you a stubbie you can't.' I went back and slotted the goal and as I was walking off after the match the Rennie supporter handed me a stubbie.
BG: Mardling was injury-prone?
BC: He was a bit untapped because he had dodgy shoulders. It's a shame he was built like a human praying mantis because he could have been a real talent if his body could have coped.
BG: You were left red-faced when playing Wahgunyah at Coreen one day?
BC: I always wanted to play well against Wahgunyah because you lived in the same town as most of the blokes. I took a contested mark and I thought I was in the goal square and turned around and kicked it as hard as I could. Then I heard 'Darkie' who was the goal umpire say 'I'm over here Bundy.' I had got my bearings wrong and kicked a point instead much to the delight of the Wahgunyah supporters.
BG: Your last ever match was for CDU in its reserves grand final victory against Murray Magpies?
BC: I remember I dropped about 15 stubbies the night before, turned up late and didn't get a kick in the first half. We were in front with not long to go in the decider and I took a mark and Duane Rhodes from Rennie yelled out from the sidelines 'kick a dropkick you old prick.' So I went back and slotted a dropkick and that was the last kick of my career.