PHIL STAR was a talented Walbundrie junior who played in the Teal Cup as a teenager before forcing his way into the senior line-up. The solidly built Tiger was a strong contested mark and instrumental in Walbundrie winning its most recent flag in 1989. Star's world was turned upside down after his younger brother, Reg, took his own life in 2011 which shocked the close knit Walbundrie community. Star spoke toThe Border Mail'sBRENT GODDE.
BRENT GODDE: Because of your surname, you have been handed a stack of nicknames?
PHIL STAR: I've had dozens of different nicknames including Oy-star, Lob-star and Roo-star to name a few. My brother, Reg, was nicknamed Ra Ra.
BG: You played A-grade cricket for St Patrick's?
PS: Excuse the pun but I was no star at cricket. Some of my teammates were Tony Maher, Jack Duck, 'Chuck' Chalmers, David Martin and Paul Azzi.
BG: Your father John played in a flag with North Albury in 1955 alongside Walbundrie legend Bill Thomas and Tim Robb?
PS: Bill would later become heavily involved in the recruiting at Walbundrie and landed Tim Robb as coach in the late 1970s which was a huge coup at the time which culminated in the flag in 1978.
BG: You had a tough initiation to senior football in 1983?
PS: I remember we didn't win a match all season.
BG: You played seniors alongside a lot of teammates who you also played juniors with?
PS: We had a bunch of local kids including Mal, Allan and Steve Thomas, Wayne Voss, 'Moose' Seidel, Kevin Wardius, Warwick Kendall, my brother Reg and myself.
BG: You went close to beating Brocklesby who was a flag contender?
PS: We were a goal up with a couple of minutes to go and got beat. The Roos went on to make the grand final but got rolled by Walla.
BG: Brocklesbly coach Col Trevaskis wasn't happy with his side's performance against Walbundrie?
PS: Col made his players stay out on the ground to train and run laps for half-an-hour after the match. Meanwhile, we went into the club rooms and decided to sing the club song because we went so close to beating them.
BG: You also played Teal Cup in 1983?
PS: I had a few handy teammates in Paul Spargo, Mark 'Fridge' Roberts and Gerard Butts.
BG: Roberts went on to play more than 200 AFL matches?
PS: I remember he sat on the bench next to me a fair bit during the Teal Cup carnival at Brisbane. 'Fridge' went on to play more AFL matches than anyone in that side and won a flag with North Melbourne.
BG: Walbundrie finally won a match in the opening round the following season in 1984?
PS: It was my first win in the seniors and we had a fair lick to celebrate.
BG: Where did you predominantly play?
PS: When I was younger and could run, mainly as a defender. As I got older and slower, I went forward.
BG: What did you regard as your biggest asset as a player?
PS: Probably my contested marking even though I never got off the ground that high. It's no secret that I have got a fairly large sized arse and I tried to use that to my advantage.
BG: Finals appearances were fairly rare for the Tigers until the late 1980s?
PS: They were until Ted Miller signed as coach.
BG: Did Miller play for Walbundrie or was he a non-playing coach?
PS: From memory he played one season but had dicky knees and was a non-playing coach after that.
BG: Miller landed a huge recruiting coup after signing star forward Darryl 'Dobby' Jordon?
PS: 'Dobby' followed Ted from Jindera and was a massive signing at the time. There were a few other big signings in Wayne Edwards, Mark Hallinan, Wayne Ross and Dick Hetherton.
BG: You have a classic story about Hetherton on a footy trip to Tasmania?
PS: Ted loves his Chinese food so he took us to a Chinese restaurant in Launceston. We had already had a big day at the races and Dick had a headache and asked the staff for a couple of panadol.
BG: A reasonable request?
PS: It was but the only problem there was a bit of a language barrier because the staff couldn't speak English.
BG: What kind of tablets did Dick cop?
PS: The waitress brought out a couple of panadol and Dick said 'can I trouble you for a glass of water as well?'
BG: Another reasonable request?
PS: It was but because of the language barrier, the waitress raced back into the kitchen and came back with a middie glass of boiling hot water.
BG: What was Hetherton's reaction?
PS: Dick looked at us, then looked at the waitress and said 'can you grab me a teabag while you are at it?'
BG: You were heavily involved in the fundraising for the Tigers' trips away?
PS: I organised a few memorable trips. We decided to go to Tasmania one year because that's the closest we could get to going overseas. All the country boys used to get excited about getting on a plane and going somewhere.
BG: Did you have a major fundraiser for the year?
PS: The major fundraiser was a chicken and prawn morning at the Walbundrie Pub. We used to organise a bus to come out from Albury.
BG: No doubt a popular event?
PS: It used to pull a good crowd and we would fill them up with chicken, prawns, hot spuds with butter and give them plenty of beers to wash it all down with. The profits paid for most of our trip away.
BG: One year you couldn't get enough players to go on the trip?
PS: We had a stack of money but a lot of blokes couldn't go on the trip for varying reasons. So we decided to donate the money to the club and paid for the lights to be put up around the ground.
BG: One trip you took a huge risk and paid the bond for the motel out of your own pocket?
PS: It was a fairly big outlay at the time. Fortunately there was only one incident when Brian Trethowan flooded the bath but I got my money back.
BG: Was 'Dobby' on big coin at the Tigers?
PS: There were heaps of rumours going around that he was on $100 a goal and stuff like that. But it wasn't true. 'Dobby' kicked 153 goals in 1989 so there was no way the club could afford to pay him $15,000. I'd imagine the whole side would have been on less than that.
BG: Did you ever receive match payments at Walbundrie?
PS: To my knowledge none of the locals got paid. We were happy for the club to spend the money on recruits so we could be successful and play finals.
BG: Any favourite stories about 'Dobby'?
PS: I remember he used to say to me that he didn't need the ball lace out, he said 'Just get the ball near me and I'll do the rest.'
BG: Did you find that being arrogant?
PS: Not at all, he was just being honest. 'Dobby' had a great set of hands and could jump like a frog. I used to marvel how he could just jump over the top of blokes. Defenders never knew how to play him because wherever they stood he would find a way to get on their shoulders and take a hanger.
BG: Was there any defender who could stop Jordon?
PS: I wouldn't say stop him but Greg Frank from East Lavington and 'Dobby' had some enthralling battles because Frank had a great leap on him as well.
BG: Jordon uncharacteristically dropped a few marks one match?
PS: We got to the quarter-time huddle and 'Dobby' yelled out 'boys can we start bringing the ball down the opposite wing, I can't see the ball for the sun when we go down that other wing.' Once again, he wasn't being arrogant, just being smarter about the delivery.
BG: What was Jordon like off the field?
PS: 'Dobby' is a bit of a different cat but he loved a beer and could talk your ear off. He used to love chatting to all the supporters like 'Snow' McMaster, Bruce Trethowan, Barry Gibbons and the Clear boys.
BG: Jordon injured his ankle badly playing interleague?
PS: I think it was in 1988 and 'Dobby' wanted the week off but it was compulsory to play interleague back then. It certainly put the spanner in the works for a few weeks.
BG: Steve Thomas suffered a horrific broken leg in 1989 against Henty?
PS: I was injured that day but Steve suffered a compound fracture and the bone was sticking out the side of his leg.
BG: Did you see it?
PS: I was running across to help and Rick Clancy was the boundary umpire and was running towards me. Rick said 'don't go over there, trust me you don't want to see what's happened.'
BG: They didn't wait for an ambulance?
PS: No, they just threw poor old Steve onto a stretcher and put him on the back of a ute and drove him down to the hospital.
BG: Did Thomas ever play again?
PS: Steve missed playing in the 1989 grand final side. But he got back playing again a couple of years later. Steve had a noticeable limp but didn't seem to lose much of his pace.
BG: Thomas wasn't the best kick you saw?
PS: I think if he had gone into town to have a crack at the O&M the coach would have pulled his hair out trying to get him to kick properly.
BG: Did Miller deliver many sprays during his time as coach?
PS: Ted was going off his nut at one huddle about too much short passing but instead yelled out 'I'm sick to death of you kicking it to short people, I mean short.' I think Ted was looking at Mick Erdeljac when he said it.
BG: What was Erdeljac like as a teammate?
PS: I learnt early on to never expect to get a handball off Mick unless it was at training. If he was inside 50m he was never going to handball. But I'll give 'Erdel's' credit, he was an asset for us and could play.
BG: What are some of your favourite memories of Wayne Edwards?
PS: Wayne was a good bloke to stand behind in a fight. I never saw 'Edo' pick a fight, he just used to finish them.
BG: You used to love getting on the end of his passes?
PS: 'Edo' was a beautiful left foot kick and could hit you lace out from 60m. It would take the wind out of your sails when he hit you on the tit.
BG: Edwards was a great clubman?
PS: 'Edo' used to bring dozens of his family and relatives out to matches and they all fitted into the club and there was never any trouble.
BG: In the 1989 decider against East Lavington, Miller decided to start you a wing?
PS: I lined-up on Mark Aalbers and in the first couple of minutes there was a contested ball situation, I was running one way, Aalbers the other. Having more than a few kgs on Aalbers there are no prizes for guessing who came out second best.
BG: What was the rivalry like with East Lavington after you met in successive deciders in 1988-89?
PS: We loved playing them but probably didn't know their players as well socially as we did the other bush clubs. Because the Saints were based in town they used to be able recruit blokes a bit easier because they didn't have to travel.
BG: Border Mail sports journalist Mark Mulcahy riled Tiger president Wayne 'Bluey' Milne in his reporting of the 1989 grand final?
PS: Mark wrote in his match report something like 'good weather and the power of the almighty dollar determined the result of the grand final.'
BG: 'Bluey' rang Mulcahy?
PS: 'Bluey' had steam coming out of his ears and rang Mark and called him a few choice words. 'Bluey' also invited Mark to the Walbundrie Pub where he could take a look at the books and what the players were getting paid.
BG: Did Mulcahy accept the invitation?
PS: I don't know whether Mark ever saw the books or even really cared but he certainly rattled 'Bluey's' cage and got people reading the paper.
BG: You didn't play much after the 1989 grand final?
PS: I did my shoulder and had to relocate for work commitments with the ANZ bank. In 1992 my shoulder would just pop out so I had to have a reconstruction in 1993.
BG: How many matches did you end up playing?
PS: It was about 180 in the seniors plus a bit of reserves at the end of my career.
BG: You and a few teammates had an eventful trip home from Narooma?
PS: Erdeljac, 'Chuck' Chalmers, Peter Yensch, Wayne Voss and myself hired a car and went to Narooma for our trip away.
BG: Erdeljac drove home?
PS: I think 'Erdel's' was in a hurry to get home to see Anthea and we were half-way there and he said the brakes weren't working.
BG: You still kept driving?
PS: We had to use the handbrake and we didn't won't to waste any beer cooling down the brake pads. So when we needed to relieve ourselves we would cool down the brake pads at the same time.
BG: A lot of teammates would stay at your parents' family farm after matches?
PS: We had a coolroom and a few spare rooms so it ticked some boxes. A few blokes would come back home after the pub shut and we would have a couple more beers and then mum and dad would cook bacon and eggs for everyone in the morning.
BG: Did you suffer any serious injuries?
PS: I got kicked in the groin in 1988 which fortunately missed the family jewels but it tore my groin. I had to go to Adelaide to have surgery and missed a few weeks and carried it into the grand final.
BG: Who were some of the opposition players you rated highest?
PS: 'Nipper' Lieschke was phenomenal to watch. Warren Sykes was a freak and blokes will be still talking about him in decades to come. Warren was a great bloke off the field as well.
BG: What do you consider your highlight?
PS: To win three flags in three different grades as the same club means a lot to me. Winning the 1989 flag alongside some lifelong mates is a memory I will cherish forever. I'm also proud to have played state football as a junior.
BG: Any regrets?
PS: I probably wouldn't have minded having a crack in the O&M to see how I would've gone.
BG: Your brother, Reg, played O&M?
PS: Reg had three of four seasons with Corowa-Rutherglen.
BG: The whole community was left shocked after Reg tragically took his own life almost a decade ago. Did you see any signs that Reg was battling with his mental demons?
PS: I used to talk to Reg on a regular basis and he never really spoke about it. A few things transpired on the night he took his own life and Reg made the decision that he couldn't go on.
BG: It was a massive shock at the time?
PS: It was for our family and I think it's fair to say to everyone that knew him. I later found out that he had spoken to a few of his close mates and they thought he may have been having suicidal thoughts.
BG: Reg never confided in you?
PS: Reg always used to tell me not to worry about things and it was just his way of masking the pain.
BG: Reg was a loveable larrikin?
PS: Reg was such a well-known and well liked bloke. When you get more than 1000 people at your funeral a couple of days after Christmas, it is a fair indication of how popular Reg was.
BG: You were overwhelmed by the support?
PS: I still think of Reg every day and he is missed by a lot more people than just his family. We were well supported by the community at the time and it leaves a lasting impression on you.
BG: You have some favourite memories of Reg?
PS: I remember we went to a house warming in Wagga one Friday night before we had to play the next day. We weren't going to play up but we did.
BG: There's nothing worse than playing with a hangover?
PS: I grabbed a pie from the servo on the way to the footy at Burrumbuttock and got the shock of my life.
BG: What's happened?
PS: Reg was driving and I was tucking into my pie and I noticed a huge clump of human hair in my pie.
BG: Not ideal when you are nursing a hangover?
PS: I started dry retching and Reg looked over and saw what was happening and started dry retching as well. We had to pull over for a bit of fresh air.
BG: Did Reg and yourself get a kick that day?
PS: We got to Burrumbuttock and there had been three inches of rain overnight. So nobody really got a kick that day, so Ted couldn't tell that Reg and I were struggling with a hangover.
BG: Reg also did a bit of umpiring after he retired?
PS: One of his favourite stories was when he was umpiring Lockhart who had a high-profile full forward but he was struggling that day, so they decided to move him to fullback.
BG: How did he go as a defender?
PS: One of the opposition had a shot at goal and the Lockhart full forward tried to smother the ball. As it sailed through for a goal, he started yelling 'touched, touched, touched.' Reg looked at him and said 'I don't think it was touched but it would have been your first touch for the match if you did.'