DURING the early 1980s turmoil in Bendigo football one of the stranger proposals floated was to introduce a college or university team into senior ranks.
A football team from the then College of Advanced Education now LaTrobe University, Bendigo, was suggested as an additional senior club.
The Bendigo and Golden City leagues had been amalgamated in 1981 following a seemingly never-ending series of fiery meetings and discussions. There had even been a march through Bendigo city streets by chanting, die-hard GCFL supporters and banner-wielding officials.
In the 1982 off-season, BGCFL president Dick Turner held talks with BCAE officials.
I remember interviewing Councillor Turner about the situation in November, 1982. Well, to be truthful, I had to refer to diary notes and newspaper clippings: my memory’s not that good!
After all the ructions before and after the BFL and GCFL amalgamation – including cowering inside the old Red Cross building in View Street as rocks pounded onto the roof during a VCFL-initiated meeting – nothing surprised me any longer.
“I’ve been speaking to a senior BCAE official and will be taking the matter forward to our BGCFL committee,” he told me on 29 November that year.
“And we’ll also raise the matter when we go down to Melbourne for the VCFL investigation committee hearing on December 11,” he added.
The other interesting matter – amazing really, considering how recently all this happened – was Cr Turner’s support for the College team.
“I don’t know why everyone is so surprised at this turn of events. It would not be the first college football team in Bendigo. There was a team called the School of Mines in the league’s under-21 competition before Word War 2,” he said.
The league president added he well remembered the late 1930s School of Mines team. He’d been a member of Golden Square’s under-21 team of the same era and played against them.
As it turned out all sorts of secret meetings and secret deals were hammered out between former BFL clubs before the VCFL December meeting went ahead.
On 2 December a number of clubs were represented at a ‘secret’ meeting at the South Bendigo rooms.
At least the meeting was supposed to be secret. We knew about it at the Advertiser and Cr Turner said the next day he and his officials “had heard” something was afoot.
“We reckon they were only meeting to discuss what they will put forward to the Victorian Country Football League on December 11th,” he said.
To add further fuel to the flames a Bendigo footy identity told me another ‘secret’ meeting had been arranged by former Golden City officials to reactivate their league and break away from the merged body.
I wrote in a comment piece at the time: “It’s been mooted that the former eight GCFL clubs reform to re-establish a league which had proved undeniably to be extremely viable in the late 1970s. Such a suggestion, though, is just another development in the unending saga of proposal and counter proposal which has reduced the once great Bendigo football establishment to farce and fiasco.”
At that time it seemed unlikely that Kangaroo Flat, one of the eight former GCFL clubs, would agree to the re-formation project. The Roos had won the 1982 Division 1 reserves flag after trailing all day.
Six last quarter goals to none for South Bendigo cemented the Flat’s 11.7 (73) to 8.7 (55) win. Carl Louchard kicked two long bomb majors from centre half-forward in the final term to ensure the Roos took home the premiership cup.
But Kyneton was struggling. The club’s planned 1982 annual general meeting was aborted when insufficient numbers were present to form a quorum.
Tigers’ president Mick Brown said it seemed Kyneton people were not interested whether football was played in the town, or not. A second AGM was planned for the following week. It went ahead with promising numbers in attendance and the Tigers stayed afloat.
SO what happened to the suggested College team for the BGCFL ?
BCAE officials made it quite clear they wouldn’t be able to field a team until 1984, at the earliest. The College’s recreation director, Ian Everitt, said the BGCFL’s 1982 structure of two divisions would have to continue into the 1984 season for a BCAE team to be able to affiliate with the league.
“There would be a continuity of players because most students enrolled at the BCAE are enrolled for a minimum of three years,” he said.
But as 1983 and 1984 came around – and receded into the distance – no College team ever entered the Bendigo league (which reverted to its more common BFL name in 1983). The whole proposal was ultimately scrapped.
However, there was a VFL precedent for a College or University team in a senior competition. Along with Richmond the University club entered the VFL in 1908 and played until the first year of World War 1.
University won eight games in its inaugural season and finished sixth in a 10-club competition. Richmond won six and finished second last with Carlton on top, boasting a 17-1 record. After its promising start the Uni club dropped away, losing its last 51 VFL games and going winless in 18 rounds in 1914. Before the start of the 1915 season University disbanded.