ROD 'ROCKET' TURNER will be the first to admit that he didn't get the best out of himself during his football career. The key position player had stints at East Lavington, Jindera and Henty and it's fair to say that he enjoyed the social side of the game. Turner caught up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE.
BRENT GODDE: You are well-known for your nickname 'Rocket'?
ROD TURNER: I rarely get called by my christian name, if somebody calls me Rodney the alarm bells start ringing because it usually means that I have done something wrong.
BG: Where did you play your junior football?
RT: I started off at Lavington Little League before playing for St Patrick's while at school.
BG: You made your senior debut for North Albury?
RT: Back during that era there was an affiliation between St Patrick's and North Albury so I went to Bunton Park with a couple of school mates including Matt 'Chopper' Marshall.
BG: You got to rub shoulders with some Hopper legends?
RT: Peter Westland and Bill Mulraney were playing, Jeff Cassidy was coach and Tom 'Turkey' Carroll was there as well.
BG: You played one senior match at Bunton Park?
RT: I played thirds and reserves and played one senior match as an 18-year-old.
BG: You then decided to have a spell from playing?
RT: Once I turned 18, I lost a bit of interest in football. I think mainly because I had been playing football, cricket and basketball since I was six years old. I was more into having a few beers and partying.
BG: After a season off you decided to join East Lavington in the Hume league?
RT: Mainly because my uncle 'Flea' Culph was at East Lavington for a while and I knew a lot of the players who were at the club like Steve Steele and Greg Frank.
BG: How would you describe yourself as a footballer?
RT: I'll be the first to admit I didn't get the best out of myself and was fairly casual when it came to training. I thought I had better than average skills but probably only had the necessary fitness required for two seasons.
BG: What position did you predominantly play?
RT: Throughout juniors and early in my career I played centre half-back but then made the switch to full forward towards the end.
BG: Who was the coach when you first arrived at Urana Road?
RT: David Armstrong was coach and the Saints boasted some talented players at the time.
BG: It's fair to say there was a stigma associated with playing at East Lavington during the late 80s and early 90s?
RT: I think that stemmed mainly that there were several tough blokes playing who could handle themselves during that era including Ross 'Tosca' Hansen, 'Nobby' Butler and 'Flea' Culph that the club unfairly got tarnished with a bad reputation.
BG: Being in the inner sanctum, what were your thoughts on the culture at the club?
RT: It was like a family club for me with the Stamps, Moreys, Rules', Collins' and McMillans' all having a strong association with the club.
BG: In your opinion was there a lack of discipline shown by players on the field?
RT: Yes, we did have a few loose cannons running around that probably suffered from white line fever. Probably more so in the reserves than in the seniors.
BG: Can you cite any specific incidents?
RT: I remember one day David 'Smelly' Brouwer played reserves and then did the running for the seniors. 'Smelly' actually clipped the bloke I was playing on.
BG: What was your reaction?
RT: I gave 'Smelly' a spray and told him to get off the ground. Silly stuff like that was unacceptable in my opinion.
BG: You had several teammates on your side that could handle themselves on the field?
RT: I don't necessarily think my teammates went out of their way looking for trouble but if anything untoward happened they could finish it pretty quickly.
BG: Laurie Stamp who worked as a removalist for Kevin Hanley decided to take the removal truck to Lockhart one weekend?
RT: Being one of the longer road trips Laurie thought he could save us a bit of petrol money so about a dozen of us piled into the back of the removal truck.
BG: You also got into the ground for nothing?
RT: When Laurie pulled up we thought he was at the gate but he had driven through the gate and parked around the other side so we could all pile out.
BG: I'm guessing it would have been an entertaining trip home?
RT: We set up a table in the back and we had a light on. I think we stopped at every pub between Lockhart and Albury and took a few detours as well.
BG: I've heard rumours 'Smelly' Brouwer would quite often grab a six-pack for the trip to away matches and have a few before playing. Fact or fiction?
RT: That's a fact and I witnessed it myself. Blokes probably find that amusing but 'Smelly' could have been anything as a footballer and was very talented. Unfortunately he had a drinking problem.
BG: You were a big fan of 'Smelly'?
RT: He was a terrific bloke to have a beer with and wouldn't hurt a fly. Sadly when he passed away in 2018 at a relatively young age it was because he was an alcoholic.
BG: Was 'Smelly' the only player that you know of that used to drink before matches?
RT: To my knowledge he was the only one.
BG: East Lavington reserve players used to despise playing at Osborne because the Tigers never open the can bar before three-quarter-time of the seniors?
RT: I remember the ressie boys would always drive to Lockhart after they finished playing and buy a heap of slabs to drink while they watched the seniors.
BG: East Lavington were involved in numerous all-in-brawls with opposition sides?
RT: We were while I was at the club. The worst one was probably against Culcairn at Culcairn which got fairly ugly. It spilled over into the crowd and the trainers became involved as well.
BG: What sparked the brawl?
RT: I don't recall but a lot of clubs were the same during that era in that once something started everybody would get involved.
BG: Did the cops ever lob at Urana Road while the Saints were training?
RT: Not that I know of.
BG: Having a few beers at the ground after training on a Tuesday night was a common occurrence?
RT: Quite often we would get the fire roaring in a couple of 44 gallon drums and have a bit of a session and sometimes you wouldn't get home until 10 or 11pm after training.
BG: I'm guessing you would have been to some interesting after match functions?
RT: We used to have the awards at The Garrison and most Saturday nights there could be up to 30 players heading to Lavington Sports Club for the disco which was always pumping.
BG: The Saints were a tight-knit group?
RT: We were all mates and hung out together all the time.
BG: There were a lot of other footy players from other clubs at the Lavington Sports Club during that era. Did it lead to any confrontations?
RT: Sometimes it did, for sure. I saw some ripping fights in the carpark. I don't why but a lot of the fights involved my teammates and O&M players more than players from rival Hume league clubs.
BG: Did you witness many unsavoury on field incidents by teammates?
RT: Not really, most of the ones I did see, I was on the receiving end of.
BG: One incident involved Howlong's Jamie Macri when you were playing for Jindera?
RT: Some people may find this hard to believe but I was fairly fit and playing in the midfield and Jamie was my opponent. I was having a good match and had the better of him.
BG: You were knocked out in an off the ball incident?
RT: All I remember is waking up and I was on the bench.
BG: There were conflicting stories at the tribunal?
RT: Three witnesses from Howlong said that I provoked Jamie and he reacted after I apparently got him with a squirrel grip which was just a blatant lie.
BG: You both got suspended?
RT: I was filthy at the time and seriously contemplated appealing before deciding against it.
BG: Who were some of the other coaches you played under during your time at Urana Road?
RT: I played a fair bit of football under Dave Coulston and had stints under Jason Anderson and Glenn Wilkinson as well.
BG: You were at East Lavington when it originally went into recess in 1996?
RT: In my opinion having no fence around the ground had a lot to do with the demise of the club. Even though the club had its fair share of supporters they would often walk in the other side of the oval without paying.
BG: It would cost the club thousands of dollars each season?
RT: It's no secret gate takings are a major source of revenue for all clubs and East Lavington was no different.
BG: Your father, Les, was treasurer of the club?
RT: Mum and dad were both long-time supporters of the club. Dad was a bank manager and lobbied to the council to have a fence put around the ground.
BG: It fell on deaf ears?
RT: The council were sympathetic but because the ground was on a reserve it wasn't allowed to be fenced off.
BG: The club attempted to raffle a Harley Davidson motorcycle one year for a major fundraiser?
RT: To the club's credit they tried to think outside of the box in regards to fundraising but couldn't sell enough tickets to make a profit and had to cancel the raffle.
BG: The club also started to struggle when rival clubs targeted the Saints' best players with better offers in regards to match payments.
RT: That was another issue, you could drive 20 or 30 minutes out the road and be on twice as much money as what you were on at East Lavington.
BG: There was a player exodus that led to the club folding?
RT: Jindera signed a few of our best players and it started a domino effect with players leaving the club.
BG: You never played finals at the Saints?
RT: The club played in back to back grand finals in 1988-89 but I wasn't involved back then. They never played finals again after that.
BG: You beat Osborne at Osborne one season which the club had never previously done?
RT: I can't remember what year it was but we beat Osborne at Osborne which had been a hoodoo for the club. We celebrated like we won the flag that day.
BG: You decided to join Jindera when the Saints folded?
RT: I was going to take a break from football because I was getting married and building a house. But Jole Styles and Mark West were coaching Jindera and lured me out to the kennel.
BG: You had a pre-season camp and stayed overnight at the Lake Hume Resort cabins?
RT: The first day we went for a run and did a few different things and were staying the night at the cabins. We had a few beers and it got to 10pm and someone suggested we head into town.
BG: There were quite a few of your teammates keen to party on?
RT: We took Jarrod Cooke's ute and there was Kade and Luke Styles and myself squashed in the front and another half-a-dozen blokes in the back under the tarp.
BG: You ended up having a fair lick?
RT: We ended up back at the Astor Hotel because it was open 24 hours. We all got back out to Lake Hume where we were staying at about 5am.
BG: Nobody went to bed?
RT: It wasn't much use because we knew we had to be up and get ready for training again at 6am.
BG: How was training with a hangover?
RT: It was like torture. We started with another road run, did a heap of other drills and finished off jumping in the canoes and paddling all the way down to Noreuil.
BG: East Lavington temporarily reformed for one season in 1997?
RT: We still had a chronic player shortage and Greg Frank even came to training a few times and was contemplating a comeback despite being over 40.
BG: You decided to stay at Jindera?
RT: I had three seasons at the Bulldogs before having another break after the arrival of my oldest son Joel.
BG: After a couple of seasons off, Wayne Styles lured you out to Henty after he was appointed coach of the Swampies for a second time?
RT: Henty were struggling to find a suitable coach and I guess you could say Wayne answered their SOS call.
BG: You had two seasons at Henty?
RT: I decided to have another year off after that.
BG: Mark 'Bud' Sanson got you back out to Henty after he was appointed coach?
RT: I rate my first year under 'Bud' as one of the best of my career.
BG: You played predominantly out of the goal square?
RT: I ended up kicking 80 odd goals which was easily my highest return.
BG: You had a day out against Walbundrie in the elimination final?
RT: I kicked nine but we got flogged by Howlong the following week and were eliminated.
BG: What would you consider your career highlight?
RT: As I said, I never got the best out of myself but kicking nine in that final was probably one of the best matches I played.
BG: Any regrets?
RT: Probably my attitude towards football and I used to just go with the flow instead of being disciplined with training and preparation.
BG: Did you get reported much throughout your career?
RT: Once in the thirds and for that incident involving Macri. I didn't consider myself a dirty footballer.
BG: Did you suffer any serious injuries throughout your career?
RT: Not really, I did a tendon in my finger and copped a few stitches but they were relatively minor.
BG: Did you like to sledge or try to intimidate your opponent?
RT: Not really, I didn't consider myself a lippy player.
BG: Any memorable footy trips away?
RT: One trip I went to Canberra with East Lavington, we got kicked out of our accommodation on the first night.
BG: Were you involved?
RT: Not personally but I remember getting home around 4am on the Saturday morning after a big Friday night. I noticed quite a few of my teammates were asleep in their cars.
BG: You couldn't get into your room.
RT: The Federal Police had been called and had changed the locks to our rooms.
BG: What did your teammates do?
RT: I won't go there other than to say 'Smelly' Brouwer was the ringleader but we all ended up sleeping in cars until the sun came up.
BG: The Federal Police came back on the Saturday morning?
RT: They basically told us it would be in our best interest if we left Canberra and returned home.
BG: Being only Saturday, you weren't in a hurry to head home?
RT: It was the long weekend in October, so it was hard to get any accommodation elsewhere but after a few phone calls we found some at the Yass pub.
BG: How was Yass?
RT: We had one night in Yass but it was pretty dead and there wasn't much happening which was a bit disappointing.
BG: You also had an entertaining camping trip with some of your East Lavington teammates?
RT: We had a bye during the season and about half-a-dozen of us decided to go camping and we set up camp not far from the Jingellic pub.
BG: One of your teammates decided to pack some super glue?
RT: I don't why but temptation got the better of us and when Greg Thiess fell asleep, somebody suggested we should super glue his thongs to his head.
BG: No doubt a funny prank?
RT: It backfired a bit because when he woke up he had a thong stuck to head, the other stuck to his leg and couldn't open one of his eyes because we accidentally got glue on his eyelid.
BG: Excuse the pun but Thiess wasn't a happy camper?
RT: Greg went off his nut and jumped in his car and drove home back to Albury with a thong stuck to his melon and one eye shut.
BG: The joke was on you and your teammates when it came time to return home?
RT: Because Greg took off in his car it left six of us to get home in Scott McMillan's Gemini station wagon with all the camping gear as well.
BG: Thiess was sporting a new haircut the next time you saw him?
RT: We were roaring laughing because the only way Greg could get the thong off his head was to cut half his hair off.
BG: Who got the blame for the prank?
RT: Let's just say if the police were called they may have found 'Smelly' Brouwer's fingerprints on the super glue.
BG: It has been a whirlwind couple of months for your son Dan and the family after he was selected by Melbourne in the mid-season draft?
RT: It's been massive and it all happened in a blink of an eye really.
BG: You are a night shift worker and were punching out a few zzz's when Dan got drafted?
RT: I was speaking to Dan earlier in the day and to be honest we both thought he was only a slim hope of being picked up in draft and was a better chance at the end of the season.
BG: Melbourne had interviewed Dan in the lead-up to the draft?
RT: They had but we hadn't heard anything back from the club and were left a little bit in the dark in that regard.
BG: You were rudely awoken?
RT: My wife Tracey and Dan were watching the draft on TV and I heard these loud shrieks of 'Oh my god, oh my god.'
BG: You didn't know what was going on?
RT: I thought the house must have been on fire or something and the next thing the bedroom door flies open and the missus shrieking 'Daniel just got drafted.'
BG: No doubt a proud moment for you?
RT: Within 15 minutes a lot of Dan's mate's turned up home to celebrate and congratulate him. My head was spinning and I didn't even know what to say to him and was lost for words.
BG: Amazingly, Olivia Barber, who got drafted to Geelong this season in the AFLW and her father Graham 'Buster' Barber are your neighbours?
RT: 'Buster' is the self-appointed mayor of Thurgoona but what are the odds that both of our kids would end up on an AFL list? A million to one at least.
BG: Dan and Paddy Parnell who got drafted by Adelaide went to school together?
RT: Dan and Paddy went to school together, played footy together at St Patrick's, played a bit of state footy and both joined Albury. Olivia went to school with them as well.
BG: Dan is over in Perth with Melbourne for their finals campaign?
RT: Because he is on the list he has still been doing all the training which is obviously a great experience for him.
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