When Oliver topped 1,000 BFNL goals by Richard Jones

Ace full-forward Steven Oliver passed the magic 1,000-goal mark in the Bendigo footy league’s round 17, in 2005, when he banged home 13 against Golden Square.

The baker’s dozen gave Olly a then-career tally of 1,008 career goals a total second only to BFNL Legend, the late Ron Best, who booted more than 1,600 in a star-studded career.

Steven’s 13 goal-total was launched by a five-majors blitz in the opening quarter.

A week earlier against the Hurst in round 16 Oliver had reached the 995-goal total in a season where huge scores were posted in Victorian regional leagues. Tungamah booted 57.30 (372) to beat Wunghnu by a mammoth 349 points while Glen Thompson-Dunkeld nailed 56.28 (364) to beat Moyston-Willaura in the Mininera and District FL by close to 360 points.

There’d been some pretty mighty scores as well nailed a year earlier, in 2004. Best I could track down was Murchison’s 50.17 (317) as they thrashed Merrigum in the Kyabram’s DFL’s round 18 clash while two other clubs each speared home 49 goals in their fixtures. These were Sorrento with 49.23 (317) against Carrum Downs in the Mornington Peninsula-Nepean FNL and Drysdale’s 49.21 (315) over Portarlington in the second round of the Bellarine FNL. Geelong Amateurs went close to the magic 50-major mark as well in their round 10 clash, also against Portarlington, in the Bellarine FNL.

They nailed 48.32 (320) leaving Port well and truly in the Bellarine league’s cellar with a percentage barely above zero.

The BFNL’s highest-ever club score was posted back in 1990. Peter Bradbury, in his second season as South Bendigo’s playing coach, led the Bloods to a 301-point win over Kennington-Strathdale. Final scores: South Bendigo 49.28 (322) def. Kennington-Strathdale 3.3 (21).

Just a tip, though, if you’re reminiscing in the Bloods’ QEO social rooms. Don’t mention the Kennington Saints’ final tally or the overall winning margin in former South president Rick Townsend’s hearing. Why? He was a member of the Saints side which spent the whole afternoon getting ready for the next centre bounce! Rick doesn’t particularly want to remember the occasion. But he’s pretty keen on Richmond so it’s okay to talk about the latest exploits of the Tigers.

Back to the amazing Olly and his exploits. Footy followers might have forgotten but Olly coached South in 2015. Present day BFNL CEO Cameron Tomlins was a Bloods’ player back then. Of course Steven’s exploits which landed him in the BFNL Hall of Fame in November 2019 were all recorded much earlier with the Maine Magpies.

He was first drafted to Carlton as a 16-year-old in 1987.

At the age of 21 he played in the first two rounds of the 1992 AFL season, but returned to the Camp Reserve for the remainder of that year. In a Castlemaine-premiership winning season Steven booted 100+ goals during the home-and-away season to win the Ron Best medal. His 1992 total was 136 majors. He was the BFNL’s top goalkicker in three more seasons: 1996 (84), 2000, another premiership year (132) and 2005 (77).

So four Ron Best medals, in all. But even though he was the league’s top goalkicker in 2000, Steven didn’t land a single major in the grand final win over Kangaroo Flat.

Didn’t matter really. The Roos had to play two defenders on him to give the Roos’ full-back Troy Rodda a bit of extra help. Final scores: C’maine 12.11 (83) def. Kangaroo Flat 9.17 (71).

Olly had returned to Carlton in 1993 for a further six games filling in for an injured Stephen Kernahan as the Blues’centre half-forward. In all he played 13 senior games for Carlton, booting eight majors.

He won three Castlemaine senior fairest and best awards in a career which stretched past the 200-game milestone. And he was named captain of the 3CCC 1995 BFNL All-Stars side. He also played 10 inter-league matches for the Blue and Golds, including on one memorable occasion when he pulled the boots back on while serving as the BFNL’s CEO or league manager. With the BFNL short on committed representative players, Olly turned out for Bendigo as we won an important away clash against arch-rivals Ballarat.

Before his behind-the-desk career took off Olly had coached Castlemaine for five seasons in the Nineties, returning for a second stint in 2003. And he served two years as Newstead captain-coach in the MCDFL in 2006-2007.

Surprisingly Oliver wasn’t in the local radio station’s top seven poll-leaders after 16 rounds in 2005 where the leader was South’s John Hardinge on 30 votes. Next was Kyneton’s Brett Cook (27), Oliver’s Maine teammate Guy Walters (24), and then ‘Breezer’ O’Bree (South Bendigo) and Square’s Jason Griffin on 23. Rounding out the leading seven were Gisborne’s Luke Saunders (22) and Flat’s Damien Brown (20).

Steven is a life member of the Castlemaine Football and Netball Club, a member of the Maine Team of the Century and was the BFNL’s CEO from 2007 for the next five years. And it was Steven who reinvigorated the league’s Hall of Fame after it had gone into ‘recess’ since the 1996 season.

The first two inductions were held in 1986 and 1996 and then everything ground to a halt. Steven brought the Hall back to life and in 2010 there was the induction ceremony for 10 new members.

Two more ceremonies followed in 2014 and 2019 and BFNL aficionados can expect another Hall of Fame – the sixth, overall – to follow in around 2023 or 2024.

Remembering that the first five Legends and first netball Hall of Fame members were inducted in November, 2019: the most recent of the five overall ceremonies.

And who was one of the 2019 inductees into the Bendigo Hall of Fame? Why, Steven Oliver, of course.

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