Junior coach Paddy a HFNL legend

Paddy Dwyer played 255 HFNL games with Koroit and Warrnambool, including two premierships. 140811LP45 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

Paddy Dwyer played 255 HFNL games with Koroit and Warrnambool, including two premierships. 140811LP45 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

PADDY DWYER lived opposite the Koroit football ground and was destined to play for the Saints. He later played in back-to-back premierships for Warrnambool and he chats to TIM AULD about his career.

Paddy, you have to be ranked as a very under-rated footballer. During your career you played in back-to-back premierships with Warrnambool and you’re also a life member of the Hampden Football Netball League. Where did your footy career begin?

We lived opposite the Koroit footy ground so it was obvious I would play with Koroit. My dad Tom passed away a few years ago but mum still lives in the house. I started out playing in the under 12s with Koroit. I went on and played in the under 14s at Koroit. I will never forget we beat St John’s to win the premiership. We had some very good players playing back then — Glen Keane, Chris Wakefield and Des Mugavin. I went through and played in the Koroit under 16s and then under 18s before getting my first senior game in 1987.

Who coached Koroit when you made your senior debut?

Mick Hamblin was the senior coach at Koroit when I made my debut. Bob Hyland was the footy manager at Koroit at the time. I’ll never forget Bob passed me a jumper and I just took it. I never realised until later it’s number was 55. The funny thing is in the 255 games I played in the Hampden league between Koroit and Warrnambool I wore number 55 in each game. My first game was against Cobden at Koroit. It was wonderful. The game was at Koroit as our house was straight across the road from the ground. I was chosen to be on the bench and came on when Marty Williams was injured. I did enough to hold my place in the senior side for the rest of the year. The club started to get a bit more depth through its ranks in the era around the late 1980s and the early 1990s when Brian Brown took over as the senior coach.

What did you think of Brian Brown as a coach?

Browny was an excellent coach. He was inspirational. He was playing coach of the club for a while and he led from the front. I’ll never forget we played in the 1990 preliminary final down at Terang. We played Colac. I reckon we were down by more than 40 points at half-time and ended up getting beat by a point. It was one of the most amazing games of footy I have ever seen. Gary Keane had come back to Koroit after a stint in the AFL. He absolutely killed them late in the season and his effort in the preliminary final was incredible. Another good player we had in that era was Brendan Broadbent. He was one of the best players on the ground in that preliminary final. I stayed at Koroit for the 1991 season but we bottomed out as we lost a lot of good players. The club was in the doldrums in the mid-1990s. 

Where did your career take you in 1994?

I had moved to Melbourne. Suzanne and I had got married and I went and played for Box Hill in the VFL. I played in Box Hill’s reserves side before I got a game in the seniors. Box Hill had some very good players. Blokes like Matty Bishop who went on and played in Port Adelaide’s grand final win. Tim Livingstone was also a very good player. Bruce Cohen, who came up and played for Camperdown, was at Box Hill in that era and so was big John McNamara who had played at Port Fairy. I injured my right shoulder in my second season with Box Hill and then half way through the 1996 season I got a call from Noel Mugavin who was coaching Koroit. Muggsy asked me if I was interested in coming back to play with the Saints for the last half of the season. I had been enjoying my time with Box Hill but I decided to travel home each weekend for the rest of the season to play for Koroit. We had a very good side. Muggsy had recruited blokes like Tony Russell, Nick Hider and Matt McKinnon. They really topped off the side. We ended up getting beaten in the preliminary final by Terang. A young Terang player called Chris Heffernan tore us apart. He went on to play with Essendon and Melbourne.

Koroit must have entered the 1997 season full of confidence after the way the club finished in 1996?

Yeah. Suzanne and I travelled around Australia for a few months at the end of 1996. I was really excited about what the 1997 season held for Koroit but everything tipped upside down in a hurry.

What do you mean by that comment?

The club had a few injuries but there was a fair bit of unrest among the group. We basically had the same group of players that was there in 1996 but we just never fired in 1997. It was really disappointing. It was probably the toughest time of my footy career back in that era.

Can you elaborate on that comment?

We had so many good players but we just failed to gel in 1997 and I would say the same thing happened in 1998. We were still competitive but everyone knew we were better than the results were showing. We lost a few players going into the 1998 season but I knew the wheels were right off the cart in 1998 when we lost to North Warrnambool. A few players decided not to attend training. Instead they went to the Warrnambool May races. That really tested the patience of everyone. My uncle Jack Hurley, who is an avid North Warrnambool fan, reminds me to this day that the Eagles first victory in the Hampden league was against Koroit.

Did you stay with Koroit in 1999?

No. My brother Mark and I had decided to leave the club. There was a lot of conflict at Koroit and I was basically told that I would struggle to get a senior game in 1999 so Mark and I chose to leave the club. We spoke with North Warrnambool, South Warrnambool, Terang and Warrnambool in October 1998 about what our plans were for the 1999 season. I had a long chat with Michael Pollock who was coaching Warrnambool at the time and Alan Robb. Polly was really great. He told me not to rush my decision about changing clubs. Mark and I decided to join Warrnambool. The decision has proven to be the correct one as it opened new doors for me and I’ve been fortunate to have played in two premiership sides at Warrnambool.

It must have been difficult to leave Koroit after being involved with the club for so long. What was the real reason you left the club?

I really don’t want to comment on that much. All I will say is it was really a tough time. I was Koroit through and through. It was really an uncomfortable time for me at the club. When I think about it I really had no other option to leave. 

Who coached Warrnambool to the back-to-back premierships wins you had in 2001 and 2002?

Scotty Turner was the coach. We had some great players playing in those flags. Polly played in 2001. Shane Garner played in 2002 and so did Craig Deckett. Brad Sullivan also played and so did Josh Walters but as I said we had great players in both years. The funny thing is we beat Koroit to win the 2001 flag and Terang in 2002.

How many more years did you play at Warrnambool?

I kept on playing at Warrnambool until the end of 2005. Scott Turner was appointed non-playing coach for 2003. We bottomed out in 2003 when a lot of the premiership players left the club. Former St Kilda player Jason Heatley took over as coach of the Blues in 2004. We were like “Dad’s Army”. We had a lot of old players including Nick Hider, Wayne Billings, Simon Perry and myself. I thought Heatley was a very good coach. We made the grand final in 2004. We got beat by Terang Mortlake. Adam Dowie coached Terang Mortlake to win that flag. Nigel Kol took over as coach of Warrnambool in 2005 and he asked me to stay on as a player but I was mentally finished as a footballer. I had played over 250 Hampden league games between Koroit and Warrnambool and got life membership in the HFNL so I can’t complain about my lot as a footballer.

Did you have any ambition to coach?

I coached Warrnambool’s under 12 side last year and this year I’ve been coaching the under 14s. I’ve really loved coaching the kids but have not given any thoughts to coach at a senior level. I reckon coaching at a senior level would be very difficult as I work a lot of night shift as a tanker driver at Murray Goulburn.

Your brother Mark played footy at the highest level with Fitzroy and St Kilda. Did he have much impact on your footy career?

Mark has always encouraged me to give it my best shot in whatever I was doing. He was a great player during his career. Injuries took their toll. I would say one of the best things about Mark is he’s a straight shooter. 

During your career who are some of the better players you’ve seen play in the HFNL?

Wayne Billings was an amazing player. He was tough and skilful. I had the chance to watch Nick Hider play. He was sensational. I rate Craig Deckett as a top ruckman and Josh Walters has also been a wonderful player.

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