City-based football followers in this early part of the 21st century probably don’t realise that some of their district clubs boast a long and proud history. Such is the case with Inglewood, a town of 1,100 sited 45 kilometres up the Calder Highway from Bendigo.
It holds a special fascination for me because I was born there during WW2 and my maternal grandfather owned and ran the biggest pub in town: the Empire State. In fact Grandpa took a photo of me in my pram in the Inglewood pub’s back garden with the pram guarded by his special Alsatian dog. We’ve still got the black and white print. Somewhere.
The Inglewood Football Club date back to 1876 when the club played Wedderburn at Serpentine and although it’s fallen on tough times in recent seasons is still going. Inglewood will front up again if, and when, the 2020 season ever gets underway.
When I say a long history consider these two dates: Inglewood, founded in 1876, hosted Melbourne and Carlton in 1877 and 1879 respectively and yet the Loddon Valley FA didn’t kick off until 1903.
And in that season’s historic play-off a VFA umpire was appointed while to retain the neutrality the goal umpires were the captains of non-participating sides: Newbridge and Arnold’s Bridge.
One of Inglewood’s stars in that historic 1903 grand final win over bitter rivals Bridgewater was Jack Turpie, known as the ‘Thurgood of the North’. That was a reference to Essendon’s early 1900s champion Albert Thurgood. Turpie nailed two of Inglewood’s three goals as the side (wearing blue and red guernseys, not today’s Carlton-style strip), downed Bridgewater by 19 points: 3.10 (28) to 1.3 (9).
If Turpie was famous in the early years his fame was soon out-stripped by another local product in Percy Martyn who first played for the club as a 17-year-old in 1909. The following year Martyn was a member of the Inglewood premiership side. The VFL in Melbourne beckoned so Percy headed off to the big city and played for St Kilda in 1912 and then Richmond in 1913. In his debut season at Punt Road Martyn won the Tigers’ goalkicking award with his set shot place-kicking style especially remarkable.
By 1915 Percy was at Windy Hill and he settled into the Essendon backline as a regular. He represented Victoria in 1920. Martyn was nothing if not a restless traveller. He coached in Tasmania with North Hobart, Devonport and North Launceston and then on return to Victoria coached Bendigo league clubs Eaglehawk and South Bendigo. The Bloods, in particular, have Percy up on their honour board quite prominently in their QEO rooms.
He completed a full circle by returning home to Inglewood to coach just before World War 2, returning after peace had been declared to coach the home club once again.
So delighted were footy fans of the Loddon Valley district that competitive games had resumed that 1,400 people turned up to the Newbridge oval to watch the 1946 grand final. And it was the old rivals playing off again: Inglewood and Bridgie. Bridgewater kicked the only goal of the final term, but Inglewood hung on to win by two points. George Vanston, who’d played for the RAAF in inter-service games during the war years, booted three goals for Inglewood while big ruckman/centre half-back Windsor Rochester was best on ground.
Before that post-war triumph, however, Inglewood had landed another coaching coup. In 1935 ‘Carji’ Greeves had been signed as coach. Playing for Geelong he’d won the very first VFL/AFL Brownlow Medal in 1924. It was a big coup for a country club.
Other important Inglewood facts…
• Premiers in 1895, and then in the LVFL in 1903, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1923, 1924, 1926 and 1927.
Then again in 1930, 1946 and five in the fifties: 1951, 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1958.
The two most recent flags were won in 1971 and 1986, a total of 18.
• Record score (and record winning margin), in 2003 vs Dunolly: 57.23 (365) to 3.1 (19), a margin of 346 points if you don’t mind!
• George Vanston, mentioned above, topped the LVFL goal kicking in 10, consecutive seasons: 1946-1955. His best returns came in 1946 and 1948 with 82 majors in both seasons. Next best were 1947 (76), 1950 (66) and 1953 (65). He finished up with 818 goals during his Blues’ career.
• In more recent times Kelvin Dows topped the century with 105 goals in 1987 – including 15 in that season’s finals series. Dows had nailed 90 majors in 1985 and went seven better the next season with 97, the Blues’ last premiership year of 1986.
I mentioned earlier that Inglewood had fallen on tough times in recent seasons. In 2007 the club broke a winless run of 51 Loddon Valley league games with victory over Marong. The much-celebrated win came in Round four 13 seasons back. Two years earlier in 2005 the footy and netball clubs had amalgamated to form the Inglewood Football and Netball Cl8b. And in 2013 the guernseys were changed to navy with a white V. The “IFC” monograms on the former navy and white jumpers were dropped. Last season the Blues didn’t win a senior match, but managed a single victory in both 2017 and 2018. However, they did manage five wins in 2016 to finish seventh in a nine-club LVFL competition.
To come: with assistance from country footy guru Paul Daffey, second instalment on Inglewood and more broadly the Loddon Valley Footy League with input from Mitiamo legend John Forbes whose knowledge of the LVFL is unrivalled.