That was the year that was


Would it be fair to say that you came from humble beginnings in Warrnambool to now ride some of the most expensive horses in the country?

Yeah. When I think back it’s been an amazing journey to this stage of my life. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, one or two have been big mistakes, but believe me, I’ve learnt from them. I must admit when I was younger I had an attitude problem, but I think I’ve matured over the past few years. I’ve got responsibilities and I understand them now. I’ve been given the chance to ride for the Freedman stable and I don’t want to mess that job up. I’m very grateful to Anthony and Lee Freedman for the support which they have given me and the rest of the staff down at the Freedman stables.

PORT FAIRY boxing fanatic Terry Miller

Does it get pretty tense in the corner during the fights?

Yes. I never realised until I saw the replay of the fight (in Brisbane). The cameras did come up close. My wife Kathleen informed me that I might have swore once but I must admit that I might have sworn on more than one occasion. It was embarrassing to hear me swear but when you are in the corner and the fists are flying everywhere in the ring, you tend to forget yourself as it gets a bit hectic. The funny thing is the cameraman didn’t try and get any close-up shots in the corner for the second fight.

FORMER Cobden footballer Ben Cunnington

People who play sport at the elite level often make sacrifices. What sort of sacrifices have you had to make to play AFL footy with North Melbourne?

I always wanted to play AFL, so when I was young I knew that I would have to work hard to achieve my dream. I don’t have the most ability and I’m not the most skilful player, so I knew I had to work hard to achieve my dream. I’ve had to make various sacrifices on the way, but they are nothing to playing footy at the elite level. I’ve been off the grog for a fair while. I don’t think I will have a drink this season. I don’t miss the grog. I just want to stay focused on my footy. When I went home for the two-week break over Christmas I went down to the Port Campbell oval each night to do running with (brother) Sam. After we finished down at the oval we came home to the farm and did weights in the shed. They are only basic weights, including old tyres, but I knew if I never put in the hard yards at home over the break, all my other hard work would go out the window. Things like the trip to Utah, which we did in early November, would be lost if I didn’t keep working on my fitness and my skills.

CAMPERDOWN football coach Bernard Moloney

How does modern footy measure up against the old times?

Tough question. I find it really tough to compare different eras in any sport. There are some people that will tell you that footy was tougher years ago. The tough part might have centred around that a player’s head was not protected back in the old days. But that has changed, which is good for footy. I think it was good to introduce the send-off rule. It’s cleaned up the game. I think the interchange bench and netball have also been big bonuses for local footy. I don’t think the fitness has changed that much I just think the pace of the game has increased — players have less time to dispose of the footy. It’s disappointing to have seen the drop kick taken out of the game. I think that took some skill from the game.

FORMER South Warrnambool footballer John Burns

Did you play in South Warrnambool’s 1969 senior premiership side before you went on to be a premiership player at North Melbourne after being interviewed by Fitzroy?

No. Fitzroy’s Arthur Wilson and another bloke from the club came to see me in the pre-season of 1969. I was at Jack and Kitty Fisher’s house. I was lying on the couch when they knocked on the front door, but Pat Fisher and I decided to play a practical joke. Kitty answered the door and told the two Fitzroy blokes that I was on the couch, but they didn’t know that Pat had come out of the bedroom and taken my place on the couch and I had gone into the bedroom. I’m sure Wilson and his mate got a shock when they saw Pat lying on the couch. They thought they would have been looking at a fast-moving centreman but they were looking at an overweight bloke who had his guts hanging out and struggled to get a kick. After a few minutes I came out of the bedroom. I think the two Fitzroy blokes were relieved when they saw me.

WARRNAMBOOL athlete John Keats

Over what distance are ultra-marathon races run?

Marathons are run over 42 kilometres. Ultra-marathons are races which are run over more than 42 kilometres. I’ve taken part in a fair few ultra-marathons. The hardest one would be in 2009 when I ran in a race in the Blue Mountains called the North Face. The race is over 100km. You’re just running up hills and stairs everywhere. It got to the stage where I could run up the hills but could not run down them. I was totally exhausted after running in that race. I was presented with a special belt buckle for finishing the race in 13 hours, 45 minutes. They give out the buckles to any runner who finishes the race under 14 hours. Another ultra-marathon which I’ve run in is the one at the You Yangs outside Geelong. It’s 80km and takes eight hours. I won the race in 2010.

Netballer Elisha Carter

What are your memories of winning the 2008 HFNL A grade netball  best-and-fairest award?

I wasn’t going to go to the count on the Sunday because I was suffering a massive hangover from the Saturday night. I went to the old C59 nightclub with some mates and had a good session. Sarah Madden had told me she would take me to the count but I was feeling really crook. I tried to get in contact with her but I couldn’t reach her. The next minute she was standing at my front door ready to go, so I went. I was gobsmacked when they kept on calling out my name. It finished up a big day for North Warrnambool, as Liam Ryan won the Maskell Medal.

PORT Fairy-born jockey Pat Hyland

What can you tell me about the champion racehorse Vain?

He was a sensational horse. He won the 1969 Golden Slipper on his ear. He should have been undefeated. He won 12 of his 14 starts. I was beaten on him once and Roy Higgins got beat on him the other time. We knew Vain had ability the first time he came into the stable. I’ll never forget his first start. The bookies had him at 8-1. There was an odds-on favourite in the race. Vain was backed into a 4-1 chance. He won by five lengths in that 900-metre race. I’ve got no doubts that Vain was the best horse that I ever rode.

Netballer Danielle McInerney

Your career highlight was Koroit’s 2001 premiership win. What are your memories of the game?

The thing that stays in my mind is we got hypnotised by Paula Hills a few days before that grand final. We were the underdog in the 2001 grand final. I think Warrnambool had won eight grand finals in a row before that one. They were probably a better side. In saying that, I mean they had some big-name players. We had a very young side. Helen Gleeson was our oldest player. I think being hypnotised gave us the confidence that we could win. The game was a close affair. Probably the saddest thing about the win is we’ve got no video of the victory. I think someone was supposed to video the game but they never did it. We had the last five minutes videoed by someone but I think that has been taped over. We made a couple of inquiries to see if Warrnambool had videotaped the game but I don’t think they did. 

WARRNAMBOOL basketballer Tim Gainey

What was it like growing up in Colorado?

It was all right. My family never had much. Things have been tough over there for many years. The main employment in Colorado was at either the army base or the air force base. It gets terribly cold over there. There’s always a fair bit of snow over there. When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was to play basketball. My dad played a lot of basketball and so did my three brothers. Unemployment was big over there — still is. There have been a lot of people that have lost their houses because they lost their jobs. I think the population is about six million. When I was growing up I think there were about 300 who were trying out for different sports but sadly out of that 300 only three are still involved in sport and I’m one of them.

Netballer Megan McKenzie

You listed playing for Spirit in State League netball as one of your sporting highlights. What was so special about that time?

I would say it had to do with playing against the best netballers in the state. The competition was really fierce. When I think back it was a big commitment from the girls down here to play for the Spirit. We used to catch the bus at 3pm each Wednesday and go down to Royal Park to play. We would end up arriving home about midnight. Our training would be at Ballarat, Geelong or Warrnambool on Sundays. It was great to play at the elite level. I’m sure all the girls that played for the Spirit derived great benefits from the experience. I’ve also played a lot of local netball competition in Terang.

Netball stalwart DOT Jenkins

When did your netball career begin?

We used to live out on a farm at Glenormiston. It was a 180-acre (72-hectare) farm. I was 11 years old when Dad passed away, Mum did a big job. She ran the farm and took us kids to our various sports, like netball. Mum used to take me in to Terang on Saturday mornings to play netball. I had a stint playing junior netball with St Joseph’s at Noorat. We used to play against sides from Garvoc, Ecklin and from the state school. I then went on to play night-time netball in Terang before getting a job in Camperdown. I played night netball in Camperdown for years before going out to Mortlake. 


We’ve just had another classic Melbourne to Warrnambool cycling event. What has been your involvement in the race?

I’ve been a director of the Melbourne to Warrnambool for the past 17 years. The event last Saturday was my last as a director. Caribou Publications, which is my company, has handed over some of its events to Cycling Australia to take over. I’ve done sports promotions for 33 years and I suppose I’ve just run out of steam. The costs have just gone through the roof. I’ve been lucky to have worked with some great people over the years on various events, whether that is the members of the police force or local governments, cyclists or workers, but there is a minority group which has made things difficult. I think you are always going to have minority groups, but I don’t need the drama now. The Melbourne to Warrnambool is one of the most prestigious events on the cycling calendar. It’s the second-oldest cycling race in the world. 


Another important role you have played in the community was as a gravedigger at the Tower Hill cemetery. How long did you hold that position?

I dug graves at Tower Hill for 33 years. I started in 1977. I reckon I dug 35 graves a year. Otto Schultz, who used to be the gravedigger at Tower Hill, gave me some good advice before he hung up his pick and shovel. His advice was to dig the grave early in the morning. It’s the best time of the day to dig a grave. I would be at Tower Hill at 6am if I had to dig a grave.

Ben Cunnington in action for North Melbourne.

Ben Cunnington in action for North Melbourne.


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