John, I note that you just turned 80. What did you do to celebrate that significant occasion?
Lyn and I live in Adelaide but we came back home to Warrnambool for the weekend to enjoy a party with family and friends to mark the occasion in the Crossley Hall on Saturday.
I must acknowledge the work of the Friends of St Bridget's who catered for the party.
It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with so many family and friends.
The memories of my primary school education and attending church at Crossley as a young child came flowing back to me.
My family had a dairy farm in my younger years at Killarney.
We milked 39 cows on the 43 acres.
I've still got fond memories of working at Nestle's for six years.
It was an amazing place.
There were so many lovely people who worked at Nestle's.
Working there was just like having an extended family.
John, let's talk about your time playing footy for Tower Hill. How old were you when you started playing footy for Tower Hill?
I can still remember running the boundary for Tower Hill when I was 10 years old.
Tower Hill used to play at a ground called the MCG back in that era.
The reason it was named that is because Tower Hill played in Mahoney's Cow Ground.
There was always plenty of cow dung on the ground hence the name.
We had timber saplings for goal posts.
The ground was only fenced on the road side.
The ground was not down at the Killarney caravan park but on a property called Ballyhurst on the right-hand side of the road before you got to the caravan park.
I would have been 15 years old when I started playing for Tower Hill.
What are your memories of the grand final win in 1961?
We defeated Old Collegians at South Warrnambool's ground.
The great Don Grossman was our coach. He was a wonderful coach.
Don got the best out of all the players.
We had some great players including Max McKenzie, Brian Lane, Peter Madden and Dan Darmody.
Don Grossman was really sick and had to go home at half-time.
I can vividly remember the after game celebrations.
The rooms were full of supporters after the game.
Players struggled to get a shower because there were so many people in the rooms.
Gus Mugavin had the Killarney store back then.
All the players and officials were invited back to the Killarney Store, which sells ugg boots now, for a dinner.
The function was held in the garage side of the store.
It was an enjoyable night and you must remember back then there was no .05 in Victoria so it finished up a huge night and a few big days for players and fans of Tower Hill.
Where did your footy career go after Tower Hill?
I went and played for Dennington in 1963.
I was living in Warrnambool at that stage driving a fuel tanker.
George Noonan and Leo Giblin transferred out to play for Tower Hill from Dennington.
As part of the swap I joined Dennington.
I was offered a job down in Geelong in the fuel industry before I got involved in the tyre game.
While I was in Geelong I played footy for St Mary's for four years.
We moved back to Warrnambool and I set up a tyre business on the highway in 1972 and stayed in the business until August 1986 when I sold it to Lindsay Cottee.
I'm proud to see the business is still going today.
John, you played a large role in local politics. When did you get involved in politics?
I was a financial donor for the National Party in the late 1970s before becoming a member of the party.
I was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1985 as the member for Warrnambool and in that year I was appointed National Party Spokesman for Housing, moving to Transport and Labour in 1988 and had the additional responsibility of Party Whip.
I was appointed Deputy Speaker in 1992 and Chairman of Committees until my retirement from politics in 1999.
John, you have also been a great advocate for mental health. How did your involvement in that come about?
My son Shane took his own life in April 1993.
Shane's passing had a great impact on our family as it does to so many people and families who suffer with the same dreadful fate.
It was an extremely difficult time and I just thought 'is there a way that I may be able to help people that are struggling?'.
I will never forget I received a phone call from the late Victoria Premier Joan Kirner after Shane's death.
Joan said: "Nothing prepares you for the loss of one of your children". Joan's words have stayed with me since 1993. They are so true.
I started advocating for families at state and national levels. I was the first chairman of Mental Health Australia and was a founding director and deputy chairman of Beyond Blue.
I've been involved in various organisations and other groups which have tried to promote the mental health message.
I've spoken at functions across Australia and the world about this subject because I've had first hand knowledge about the matter.
I can relate to the hurt and suffering which happens to families and friends.
It's something that you never get over.
The advice I give now as I'm in the twilight years of my life is to sit down and talk to someone.
It's a well known fact blokes tend to keep things locked up inside them but they should be encouraged to talk about their problems and issues.
- Anyone who needs help can phone Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636