Special Spiders put on pedestal
“It was a wonderful celebration. It was a wonderful day in our history,” ‘Bert’ told some100 attendees over a delicious twocourse meal at the in John Foord Oval.
He was one of four key organisers of the milestone celebration, along with Phil Godde, Nicole Griffen and club president Graham Hosier. The MC was introduced by Phil who arrived in Corowa 15 years after the 1968 premiership.
Phil emphasised the significance of the best 1968 O and M team: “We held the 1968 players in the highest regard. We were envious of them. They were put on a pedestal. Sadly, we’ve lost some players.”
The recruitment of Fred Swift as Corowa’s coach - the captain of the 1967 Richmond premiership team - was an outstanding coup, not only Corowa but for the O and M.
Leading Corowa to its first premiership since 1932, it proved what an outstanding champion he was. And then to retain previous coach, former star Footscray centre-half-back John Hoiles, was also a master stroke.
Players loved the club, were so proud to create history and make the town happy. They certainly did that with Sanger Street filled with adoring and admiring spectators welcoming the team back home.
John Clancy recalled “how passionate the people of Corowa were”. “The bus trip up
That memorable 1968 premiership win by Corowa over Wodonga at Wangaratta was re-lived by 10 of the players last Sunday. All spoke on centre stage and the youngest player that day, 17-year-old Robert Tait, again controlled the airways, as Master of Ceremonies.
Sanger Street was just sensational. It was just so uplifting and showed it meant a lot to the town,” the dual Morris Medallist in his five seasons with Corowa and Ovens and Murray League Hall of Famer said.
Players talked about certain aspects of the game, including highlights and the odd altercation - the latter so brilliantly demonstrated by centreman Peter Chisnall which produced laughter and applause.
All players were applauded. All spoke of the happiness of winning and seeing the town come out in full support, and the camaraderie and bond the players have since enjoyed. Hasn’t always been easy seeing each other in view of distances of residences between some past players.
Take Dennis Hutton for example,who left Corowa straight after the 1968 premiership, eventually moving to the USA in 1996. The retired painting contractor from Colorado “wouldn’t have missed the reunion for quids” and recalled how Freddy Swift tried to teach him how to kick. “I could ‘catch’ but couldn’t kick,” Dennis said. “So Freddy was teaching me but all of a sudden his kicking was going bad so he said, ‘We can’t have two bad kicks in the team, you just handball!’.”
Attendees stood and observed a minute’s silence in memory of five premiership players who have passed away: Bill Phibbs, Lindsay Jacob, Kevin Witherden, Fred Swift and John Lane. “These players were absolutely wonderful,” Bert said. “They played major roles. Their contribution was certainly significant. Fred Swift, John Lane and John Hoiles were great protectors to us kids.”
Many apologies were received due to illhealth of some players or that of relations. Ike Ilsley, Ken Eales, David McCooke and Geoff Maclean were unable to attend accordingly. That quartet’s importance on the footy oval was also referred to in glowing terms.
Fred Swift’s sister Betty from Mornington and wife Anita could not attend but corresponded with the club, wishing all, very best wishes.
Philip Scott Catering dished up the delicious meal, with ladies from the football/netball club impeccably assisting with the waitering.
Players spoke of the excellent support from the ladies committee. The MCA called ladies committee president of yesteryear, Lorna Chrisfield to the microphone, who deservedly made the most of her opportunity on centre stage, recalling great times.
O and M Chairman David Sinclair said it was “wonderful to have days like this”. “I think to have a reunion is very good and to have a reunion premiership is even better,” he said. “It was one of the great O and M premierships.”
Phil Godde’s description of the venue’s “outstanding memorabilia” display was apt. He concluded the formal part with the words he said Fred Swift used at day’s end of the 1968 grand-final: “It’s Corowa’s day.”
Through this premiership, the legacy of old Corowa Spiders lives on. And it was something special last Sunday when 10 players from that memorable seven-point,14.11.95 to 12.16.88 win, past and present club participants, officials and supporters including the hard working ladies, reminisced.
John Hoiles taking centre stage, alongside MC Robert Tait.
Ladies committee president of yesteryear Lorna Chrisfield addresses the audience.