A HEYWOOD footballer will attempt to win a drought-breaking premiership this weekend, 58 years after his grandfather starred in the club’s last flag.
Leigh Malseed, a hard-nosed full-back, is part of a Heywood team which can complete a football fairytale in the South West District league grand final.
Heywood will take on Westerns at Portland’s Hanlon Park on Saturday, chasing what would be one of the most memorable flags in grassroots football history.
The Lions crossed from the Western Border league to South West District league at the end of last season out of fear for their future survival.
They had won two games in four years, had not played finals since the mid-1990s and were the only WBFL team without a flag since the league’s inception in 1964.
The league shift has revitalised the success-starved club, which is one match away from a remarkable premiership.
Heywood’s last flag came in 1954, a Western District Football League triumph against Hamilton which delivered the Lions back-to-back flags.
It also won in 1953, against Hamilton, during a brief period of dominance which today is little more than a fond memory.
Kevin Malseed was one of the club’s guns during that era.
Malseed made his debut as an emerging 17-year-old full-forward in ’53, but stunningly topped the league goalkicking with “about 115 or 116”.
He kicked eight in the ’54 grand final and finished his 16 seasons at the club with more than 1400 to his name and the ’65 league best and fairest award.
Come Saturday, his grandson Leigh and his teammates can add a rags-to-riches chapter in the Heywood Football Netball Club history book. “It’s nice to see them playing in the grand final on Saturday,” Kevin said.
“I went and had a look at the second semi-final hoping they could win.
“They’ve still got quite a lot of support. They didn’t have any option but to drop down a grade.”
Leigh is a Heywood boy who played juniors at the club before heading north for five seasons in the Horsham District league.
The 27-year-old returned to the Lions in mid-2010 and is into his second full season at the club he grew up at.
He knew of Heywood’s struggles while in Horsham, but even that couldn’t prepare him for the repeated thrashings last season.
“Rock bottom last year was nearly every game,” he said.
“As much as we got beat, everyone who played last year knew what they were in for from the start of the season.
“The playing group was a good group. Everyone expected to get beat. It was still a good atmosphere.”
Leigh said the presence of his grandfather — one of the true legends at Heywood — at the grand final would motivate him.
“I’ve always thought it would be great to play in a premiership myself,” he said.
“My father never got to do it so I’m hoping it’s skipped a generation and I’ll be able to do it.
“We have general chats about how everyone is going. Everyone knows him and speaks highly of him.
“A lot of the older blokes (at Heywood) remember when he was playing. They tell you how good he was at full-forward.”
Likewise, Kevin — these days a Warrnambool resident — said he was proud he could watch his grandson play in a grand final.
He said he was glad the club could enjoy success in a lower-standard league, but believed a change came two decades too late.
“In our days we relied on the district clubs quite a bit. There was never any thoughts they’d end up in the position they did,” he said.
“I’m pleased to see the change in Hamilton and Portland this year coming this way.
“I wanted to do it with Heywood 20 years ago. I thought the players would relate more with Warrnambool than they do with Mount Gambier.”