Warrnambool's George McGrath played over 350 games of senior football, including 71 games in the VFL with Geelong in what was an illustrious sporting career. He goes Under the Auld Pump.
What are your memories of your secondary school education at the Christian Brothers College in Warrnambool?
I never liked school. I left CBC when I was 16-years-old. The best thing about my time at CBC was playing sport.
I used to love getting home from school and going outside to play either cricket or footy. I used to get into a lot of trouble for not doing my homework.
I would often get the cuts from the Brothers for not doing my homework or for not listening to what the teachers were saying. I'll never forget one of the Brothers said I would not do much good with my life if I never studied. I think I may have proven the old Brother wrong.
George, you mentioned you left CBC as a 16-year-old. What line of work did you go into?
I got an apprenticeship as a carpenter and joinery with Robertson and Woods. The business used to be located in Fairy Street before moving to Thompson Street.
I can still remember my first job as an apprentice was out at the Koroit Hospital. There were 30 workers on the site and I was the billy boy for the first year of my apprenticeship. It was a huge job working on the Koroit Hospital site as a first year apprentice.
There was a lot of heavy timber that needed lifting. We also built the Hawkesdale Methodist Church and the primary school in the town. We also built the Penshurst Hospital and the Penshurst Hotel plus plenty of houses around Warrnambool.
Can you remember which club was the first one that you played for ?
Old Collegians was my first club. I started playing there when I was 15-years-old. It was pretty obvious that I would play for Old Collegians because I grew up in Warrnambool's King Street.
The Ryans and McMahons lived in King Street and played footy with Old Collegians. I had two seasons with Collegians in 1951 and 1952. Warrnambool and South Warrnambool showed interest in me but I decided on Warrnambool.
Don Grossman who was coaching Warrnambool at the time and the 1953 Maskell medal winner John O'Neill who was playing there had chats to me. I respected both men so I chose Warrnambool.
My first season at Warrnambool was in 1953 and I also got offered to do a pre-season with Geelong in the same year. I played in a practice game with Geelong and ended up making the supplementary list in 1954 but I decided to come back home and play at Warrnambool.
I'll never forget I broke my left collarbone against South Warrnambool in 1954 and was out for four weeks and then I broke it again in a training mishap and was out for another four games.
Was 1955 a better season for George McGrath?
I played in practice games with Geelong and Fitzroy at the start of 1955 and made the lists at both clubs but after a few discussions I decided to sign on for Geelong. I played my first game for them in 1956.
Can you remember who your first game of footy for Geelong was against?
Yes. It was against South Melbourne at their ground. My first opponent was Ron Clegg who had won the Brownlow in 1949. He was a champion footballer.
Warrnambool would only give me three permit games to play for the Cats in 1956. I got really fit for the 1957 season to play with Geelong but I ended up injuring my shin and missed eight games but I came home and played in the Warrnambool premiership side in 1957.
We had seven players that had VFL-AFL experience in that premiership side. Geelong decided to play me at centre-half-back for the 1958 season. We only won four games for the year and finished on the bottom of the ladder.
The year was a great experience for me as I played on top players like Murray Weideman for Collingwood, Melbourne's Ron Barassi and North Melbourne's John Dugdale. We won a handful of games at Geelong in 1959 but on a personal note I was runner-up in the best-and-fairest at the club.
We had another ordinary year in 1960 before we won the night final at South Melbourne. We finished in second place at the end of the 1962 home and away season but got knocked out of the finals by five points in a replay of the preliminary final against Carlton.
Where did your career go in 1963?
I took over as the captain-coach at Stawell after playing 71 senior games with Geelong. Geelong offered me eight pounds a game in 1963 while Stawell gave me 30 pounds a game plus a house and car.
The offer from Stawell was too good to knock back. Hindsight is a remarkable thing. Stawell won six games in 1963 while the Cats won the flag. I played for Stawell for two years and then went and played at Rupanyup for a few seasons before moving back to Allansford in 1973.
West End Allansford offered me the senior coaching job for 1974 and 1975 before I coached the under 17 side for three years. Daryl Salmon who was coaching Warrnambool at the time got in contact with me to take up the job as assistant coach and chairman of selectors for the 1976 season. I did that for one year but because of work commitments I found it tough to do the job.
George over the years you witnessed a lot of local football. Who were some of the best players you saw play and played with at Warrnambool?
Tough question. Blokes like Terang's Dick Wearmouth and Len White from Camperdown were good players. Warrnambool had John O'Neill and Bill Couch. I used to think Mark O'Keefe, Daryl Salmon and Peter Sheen were also top players.
George I note you celebrate your 88th birthday next month. Any big celebrations?
No. It'll just be a quiet day. I'm lucky to have pretty good health. I've got a few niggles but you've got to expect that when you get to 88.
IN OTHER LOCAL NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.