South Warrnambool’s 1954 star rover relishes Roosters' reunion

Roosters legend Ron Hoy, 81, of Warrnambool, with some of his football memorabilia.  
140714AM11      Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Roosters legend Ron Hoy, 81, of Warrnambool, with some of his football memorabilia.  140714AM11 Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Three-time Maskell Cup winner Ron Hoy is one of South Warrnambool’s most decorated players. The 1954 premiership star spoke to JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY about his career a month out from a club reunion to celebrate its nine flags won in years ending with the number four. 

ONE of the enduring memories from Ron Hoy’s 1954 Hampden league premiership sits on his mantelpiece. 

But it’s not the South Warrnambool team photo or his medallion.

It’s a doll, dressed in red and white, with his number 17 on the back — a gift from a young Roosters fan elated with their grand final win over Terang. 

Hoy, 82 next month, won the first of his three Maskell cups that year but he would finish his illustrious career, which included one VFL game for Hawthorn and a stint at Warrnambool and District league club South Rovers, with one flag.

The former rover will celebrate that triumph and reminisce about how South Warrnambool coach and ruckman Don Grossman would “knock it down to you every time” at a reunion next month. 

The 1954 triumph is one of nine premierships — four seniors, three reserves and two under 18s — from years ending in the number four the August 16 get-together will recognise.

The other senior flags to be honoured are the Roosters’ ’64, ’74 and ’94 wins.

Kevin “Cowboy” Neale played in the 1964 premiership and two years later kicked five goals in St Kilda’s only VFL/AFL premiership to date — the Saints’ one-point win over Collingwood.

Terry Board, who went on to play for Carlton, also represented South Warrnambool that day.

The fathers of three current Roosters — Pat Pritchard (father of Michael), Sam McCluggage (father of Hugh) and Stephen Anderson (father of Paddy) — played in the ’94 premiership. 

On top of that, Paul Fairbank was part of that team — his father Eric, played in the ’74 triumph.

South Warrnambool will also commemorate its ’64, ’74 and ’04 reserves grand final wins and its ’84 and ’04 under 18 successes. 

The Roosters are hopeful more than 180 players will attend the reunion, which coincides with their round 17 home game against Camperdown.

It’s been 60 years since Hoy’s team savoured premiership success and the number of his teammates at the function will be low, maybe as low as three.

For Hoy, the lasting memory of the grand final is from after the final siren — time has made individual on-the-field acts hard to recall. 

“Joy Bolden (nee Rayner) was only a young girl at the time and she came up after the game, all excited — her family were very strong South Warrnambool supporters — and she had a little kewpie doll with a red and white cap on, jumper and my number on the back,” he said this week. 

“She gave me that, a little doll, and her mother Daisy Rayner said ‘Joy you won’t sleep tonight without that doll’.

“And she was that excited she said ‘no I want him to have it’.

“She is a member of the (Warrnambool) golf course and I said to her a few weeks back ‘Joy, you know I still have that little kewpie doll you gave me, would you like it back?’

“And she said ‘no you keep it’.”

Hoy was a rover-cum-forward pocket. Not tall, he relied on his fitness to help impact every contest he could and for a few years he had Grossman to help him out. 

“All I had to do was follow him on his left side. At boundary throw-ins I’d be on his left-hand side and he’d knock it down to you every time,” Hoy said. 

“He was a wonderful player, Don. He knew the game so well.

“He knew other players and how good their ability was to do things and we’d have a Friday night meeting and he’d go through players he’d studied over the times, what their strengths and weaknesses were.

“He used to be able to relay that to the players and it helped a lot on game day.”

Hoy’s career went from strength to strength since the 1954 flag.

He won the second of his three Maskell cups in 1955. That pre-season Hawthorn had come calling but the lure of home was too much.

He spent six weeks with the Hawks but opted to return to Friendly Societies’ Park for the Roosters’ premiership defence tilt.

The chance to play on permit ensured Hoy joined the VFL’s honour roll.

“It was against St Kilda — all I got was a broken nose,” Hoy said.

“The only one regret I have about playing football is the opportunity I had to have a (regular) game in Melbourne and I let it slip by coming back to Warrnambool. I didn’t give it a try. 

“But still I enjoyed my football with South and I had a season over in South Australia with Norwood and I enjoyed that.

“All these things happen in your life. You make decisions and sometimes they’re the right decisions.”

A photo of Hoy after one of his Maskell wins hangs in South Warrnambool’s memorabilia room.

“I am, gee, so proud to have done it but you don’t get those sort of things without your teammates,” he said of his league best and fairest triumphs.

“If you’re lucky enough to get the umpires’ nod on the day, fair enough.

“I really appreciate it and what goes with it. There’s a Ron Hoy Medal for the best player of the grand final.

“I appreciate the honour but I told them at the start I wouldn’t be up there presenting it, it’s just not my go.”

Hoy relished playing against old rival Warrnambool, recalling crowds “five or six people deep around” the grounds, and cherishes the friendships he made through football.

Club facilities have changed a lot — for a hot shower “you had to get in early” — but he knows camaraderie at clubs about six decades later remains high and is an important ingredient. 

Hoy appreciates football, past and present. 

He described himself as “footy mad” in his youth and still regularly watches AFL on the television.

For Hoy, every era has its strengths. 

“Blokes were about my height when they were rovers and now they’re over six foot and they’re much quicker,” he said.

“In the early days it was mark and kick. You had the bigger blokes who’d be able to mark the ball and they’d stop and go back.

“Today I admire how fit the young fellas are who play AFL because it’s just go, go, go and they’re absorbing knocks and bangs all the time and they just keep going.

“Young blokes today are just as good on their left side of their body as they are on their natural side.

“I sit back in awe and watch some of these young players and just some of the things they do.”

Hoy hopes the Roosters’ next generation can enjoy the same successes he did and have mementoes to show for it as the decades pass.

The club would like anyone who played in any of South’s nine premierships but was yet to hear from the Roosters to contact football manager Kevin Rhodes on 0418 555 951.

justine.mc@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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