As a little bloke playing footy in the 1970s, John Bianco needed courage and determination.
When he played in Myrtleford's shock 1970 premiership win, he was eight stone, nine pounds (55 kgs). The club didn't want that in the grand final program, so they bumped it up to 10 stone (64kgs).
He came on, at three-quarter time as planned, largely for his own safety, and kick-started what remains the club's only flag in its 71 years in the Ovens and Murray Football League.
Sadly, the fifth member of that team in the likeable John Bianco passed away on Tuesday night. He had turned 72 on July 9.
"He was about the quickest bloke in the league, he was lightning," coach Martin Cross revealed on Friday.
"But he was very skilful as well, he was a good kick and the idea was to use him late in the game, he just about had his own football."
When The Border Mail caught up with John last September, to celebrate the 50-year anniversary, he fondly recalled the last quarter, where he kicked the first goal.
"I was fresh and they were buggered," he suggested.
For a kid who was born in Myrtleford, words can't describe how important the flag was.
It was also his last game for the club as his teaching took him around Victoria, before he settled in Wangaratta in 1984.
He was the first male prep teacher in Wangaratta and the kids loved him.
John wasn't a music teacher, but he came from a musical family and ended up teaching the entire Wangaratta Primary School the subject until his retirement in 2015.
Ex-students have spoken about a rush of excitement when it was music time.
He could play any guitar or double bass and featured in the first Wangaratta Jazz Festival.
"John also taught himself the piano and, taking after his grandfather, became a highly respected and talented piano restorer and tuner," older brother Paul offered on Friday.
"John's first band, "The Devil's Disciples", was formed in the 1960's with mates from school. Later, John was a founding member of the well-known local band, "Bush Telegraph", which along with Ron Dawson and others entertained many at wineries in the King Valley, weddings, parties, anything."
Five years ago, John started seeing his high school sweetheart, Vicki Williamson, who he hadn't seen in 50 years.
When he was diagnosed in November, 2018, the pair decided it wasn't going to hold them back.
So they travelled, anywhere they wanted to go.
"John loved his fishing and would tell stories of the big trout at Bogong (not always "tall") or at Lake William Hovell, the cod in the Ovens or even a few "reddies" at Buffalo Dam," Paul recalled.
"He also loved a joke, sing-along and a nice red with his famous barbequed steak."
John might have left Myrtleford as an 18-year-old, but it's the old line about taking the boy out of Myrtleford, but not the town out of the boy.
He desperately wanted to make it to the club's 50-year premiership reunion, but COVID intervened.
"I won't be able to attend (another), I'll be under the ground," he explained.
On May 1, he walked through the door and there was barely a dry eye. He never lost that courage, that determination he needed as that little bloke in 1970.
"The highlight was having him there, above anything else," Cross said proudly.
John is survived by his daughter Natasha, his partner Vicki and his huge extended family.
IN OTHER NEWS:
A private funeral service will be held at Mason Park Funerals in Wangaratta on Friday, July 30, at 10.30am.
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