FOUR mates sit side-by-side on a bench in the town hall where they completed handball drills 50 years prior, chuckling about that one teammate who always felt the need to kick the ball despite the rules.
Much has changed since Leo Dunne, 82, Basil Ryan, 80, Sam McCosh, 73, and Bob McCosh, 71, helped etch Grassmere football club into history books but the camaraderie and sense of place remains strong.
They were part of a mighty Magpies side which toppled Dennington - going for premiers and champion status - in the 1972 Warrnambool and District league grand final at Friendly Societies' Park.
Grassmere - or Grasmere with one S, depending on your take - merged with Bushfield in the 1980s to become Northern Districts which then developed into Hampden league club North Warrnambool Eagles in 1997.
Ryan, Dunne and the late Pat Gleeson played in the Magpies' 1960, '68 and '72 flags.
The McCosh brothers, including youngest Ken, enjoyed the special feat of playing together in the '72 triumph.
"It is special, going back to that period, it was such a tight-knit community - you weren't just playing for yourself, you were playing for your neighbours, playing for the township of Grassmere. It was just so personal," Ryan recalled.
"There was a functioning post office and store which has now closed and there were two functioning churches at that time.
"Back at that time we also had cricket clubs, tennis clubs and table tennis."
The farming community, 16 kilometres north of Warrnambool, is where they feel most comfortable.
"Grassmere was the best place in the world to live in those days. Everyone knew everyone and everyone helped everyone," Dunne said.
Tales of the grand final have been re-told over the past five decades and will be recounted again when Grassmere celebrates with a 50-year reunion at Bushfield Recreation Reserve on Saturday, June 18.
Dennington had won its 18 home-and-away games; Grassmere finished second on the ladder with a 12-6 record.
The Dogs were red-hot favourites going into the decider with media reporting "it should have too much all-round strength for Grassmere today".
The Magpies were labelled "giant-killers" after recording a 28-point victory on the back of a "brilliant seven-goal burst in the third quarter". It stopped the Dogs' winning run at 19 games.
"The start of the game, Kenny McCosh didn't know where I was playing," Ryan said.
"They'd written it up in the paper that Pat Gleeson and I and Halley Jenkins used to rotate.
"It was picked up by teams and the reporter in the paper that we had a rotation system that was hard for the other teams to follow.
"That was written up before the grand final and at the start of the grand final, with this in mind, I purposefully ran into the centre when I think I was meant to be centre-half-forward or full-forward.
"The umpire is about to bounce the ball and Kenny McCosh says to me 'are you in the centre? I thought I was in the centre?
"So not only were Dennington fooled, Kenny was fooled."
The McCosh siblings brought different skill-sets to the Grassmere line-up.
"We were all different builds - Bob is bigger, I am in between and Kenny is smaller," Sam said.
"It was a great thrill for the three of us to play in a grand final and to win."
Ryan - the 1968 league best and fairest winner - had high praise for Dunne, describing him as "a tremendous wingman".
"He was the Keith Greig of the Warrnambool league. He was a beautiful kick," he said.
"For us who were playing in the forward line, our eyes would light up when Leo Dunne got the ball on the wing and started running towards us.
"It was either a little stab pass or a perfect drop punt to you."
Dunne enjoyed working in tandem with Ryan but still remembers a day he was left to carry a heavy load.
"The '68 one, I can remember Basil got hurt and went in the ambulance to the hospital and at half-time, 'Jakes' (coach John McDonald) came up to me and said 'you're on the ball'," he said.
"I said 'oh yeah, righto, who am I changing with?' and he said 'no one, you're playing on the ball for the rest of the game'."
Gleeson, who won the 1972 Warrnambool and District league best and fairest, was a character on and off the field.
He was the player renowned for kicking the football in the town hall.
"I still remember up at Purnim one day we played Merrivale and Brian McMahon was playing on Pat Gleeson at centre-half-back and well they belted one another all day," Dunne said.
"There was blood, they elbowed, they kicked.
"After the game I saw Pat running towards Brian and I thought 'oh god' and he ran up a put his arm around him and said 'I'll see you at the pub later'.
"He was like that Pat, he was everybody's friend."
Ryan said his mate would always make people laugh.
"We used to assemble on the stage and there was only three on each side so we had a target at each end," he said of the touch rugby drill inside the town hall.
"We used to handball up and down the hall and it was great fun and great exercise. There was one rule: no kicking the football.
"And there was one fellow, who always came into the hall, would grab the ball and try and kick a goal - Pat Gleeson."
The hall, a centrepiece of the district which has undergone a restoration, had its share of dents and scratches.
"The windows were barred up and there were no photos on the side of the walls because they wouldn't last very long," Bob McCosh said.
Now it's adorned with premiership photos featuring heroes of yesteryear.
There's 29 people in the 1972 picture including coach Trevor Fulton - a talented rover - and committee members who helped steer the ship.
"The one thing about the little clubs was you always had fringe players who missed out all the time but they were always there when someone was injured, always there to fill in," Ryan said.
"That was the beauty of the little country teams - everyone had a role to play, some it was major and some it was only minor.
"But without them, you don't function, you don't have a team."
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