Sheeds’ most outstanding Bendigo district team by Richard Jones


• John Nicholls: the captain.

To say that legendary AFL coach Kevin Sheedy had multiple player selection worries during his coaching stints with Essendon and the GWS Giants would be putting it mildly.

Over the past few weeks he has released – line by line – his best 24 footballers to have hailed from the Bendigo district and in particular from the Bendigo Football League post-World War 2. He was to have named the complete team at a special function at the end-of-March’s Bendigo Jockey Club’s $1 million Golden Mile raceday, but with the coronavirus restrictions in place spectators, punters and BJC committee guests were banned from turning up to the track.

So the team featured only online and in regional newspapers – those which have managed to remain open during the current crisis, of course.

Those of us asked by the BJC committee to help Sheeds with a list of names from which he’d pick his best 24 had their recommendations only partially followed by the AFL legend.

He named two players from central Victoria who never, ever played in the BFL. These were eventual skipper John Nicholls – who hails from Maryborough  – and a fellow AFL Legend with Sheeds, Ronald Dale Barassi. He was born in Castlemaine but lived his early years at nearby small-town Guildford.

And full-forward Ron Best who snagged 1,624 goals during his BFL career, only played VFL/AFL practice matches. Never a proper season fixture.

So as Sheeds pointed out: “Not everyone is going to be happy with my decisions, but that’s okay.

“When there’s that much talent coming out from the one district like you have in Bendigo then some very good players are going to miss out.

“For instance, I’m still wrestling with the decision to leave out (Hawthorn premiership player) Brendan Edwards.

“I had a lot of time for him and he could quite easily have made it.”

Here’s the 24 Sheeds picked (and including his emergencies also):

B: Ray Byrne (from Golden Square to: Carlton,Collingwood, Geelong), Geoff Southby (Sandhurst – Carlton), Fred Swift (Sandhurst – Richmond), deputy vice-captain.

Hb: Peter Dean (South Bendigo – Carlton), Michael Sexton (Sandhurst – Carlton), Leigh Colbert (South. Bendigo – Geelong, North Melbourne).

C: Jimmy Buckley (Kyneton – Carlton), Greg Williams (Golden Square – Geelong, Sydney, Carlton), Nick Dal Santo (Sandhurst – St Kilda, North Melbourne).

Hf: Nathan Brown (Golden Square – Western Bulldogs, Richmond), Graham Arthur (Sandhurst – Hawthorn) vice-captain, Trevor Keogh (Sandhurst – Carlton)

F: Joel Selwood (Sandhurst – Geelong), Ron Best (Golden Square, Sandhurst, Northern United), Peter McConville (Golden Square – Carlton, St. Kilda).

Foll: John Nicholls (Maryborough – Carlton) captain, Dustin Martin (Castlemaine – Richmond), Ron Barassi (Castlemaine – Melbourne, Carlton, North Melbourne, Sydney Swans).

Inter: Wayne Campbell (Golden Square – Richmond), Jake Stringer (Eaglehawk – Western Bulldogs, Essendon), Rod Ashman (Eaglehawk – Carlton) Peter Francis (South. Bendigo – Carlton, Fitzroy, Richmond, Essendon), Adam Selwood (Sandhurst – West Coast), Greg Kennedy (Eaglehawk – Carlton).

Emergencies: Brendan Edwards (Sandhurst – Hawthorn), Des English (Eaglehawk –  Carlton) Ollie Wines (Bendigo Pioneers (TAC Cup) – Port Adelaide), Peter Rohde ( Sandhurst –  Carlton, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs)

And an explanatory note for those unfamiliar with the history of BFL country clubs.

• Castlemaine joined in 1925 and apart from the World War 2 shutdown has been a member club ever since.

• Kyneton joined in 1932 and again has had only the recess for WW2 as an interruption to its continued membership.

• Maryborough has had a more stop-start career. The Magpies were part of the BFL as Maryborough United from 1932 to 1940, but then after resuming in the post-war Forties era with the Ballarat FL didn’t re-join the Bendigo league as Maryborough until 1992. They won the premierships in 1998-99. Castlemaine has taken home five flags (including the 1926 premiership, just one season after joining the Bendigo FL), and the Kyneton Tigers six, including two in three seasons in 1995 and 1997.

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