Yallourn Football Club YFC - 1945-1965 - Mike, Geoff & Jack Collins

SEASON 1965 …. MIKE, GEOFF & JACK COLLINS

PART: I SEASON 1965

Although Yallourn FC finished well outside the Final Four in 1965, the club had been successful in bolstering the list and building upon the foundations laid by Garry Butler and John Hutchinson. Fostering the development of young players is the best recipe for success in country football and Yallourn FC was definitely on the right track in 1963 and 1964.

Despite a long list of injuries in 1965 the team had shown, at times, real potential to take the club forward in LVFL football. The crop of youngsters that had been blooded into senior football had displayed the ability and flair to match it with the best in the LVFL. Gary Keating, Adrian Sexton, Con Kelly, Gavin Smith, John Duncan, Mike Smith, Brian Rochford, Rob Robinson, Jim Carlisle, John Wild and Peter Dell were prominent names in match reports during that season. The highlight of the 1965 season for the Blues was Murray French’s brilliant ruck play. Although Morwell’s Steve Szabo (ex-Yallourn) won the Trood/Rodda Medal that season, Murray shared second place with Heyfield’s running midfielder Graham Eddy and Jim McGrath from Warragul.
A story regarding Murray’s win and his outstanding service for Yallourn Football Club was posted on Virtual Yallourn in 2013. (Nid 24189)

At the 1965 Annual Presentation Night there was an air of confidence regarding the club’s prospects for the following season. The major award winners in 1965 were….
Seniors….
Best and Fairest: Murray French
Runner-Up Best & Fairest: Brian Rochford
Most Determined: Peter Dell
Best First Year Player: Gavin Smith
Best Clubman: Murray Jackson
Most Improved Player: Eon Edmondson

Reserves…
Best & Fairest: Barry Coad
Runner-Up Best & Fairest: Jock McGregor
Most Promising Player: Stan Emerson
Most Improved Player: Robert Mulligan

During the evening President Roy Norden presented special awards to the following officials for their willing service throughout the season…
Trevor French, Mike O’Callaghan, Terry Larkins, Harold James, Morrie Cooper, Tom Carter, Graham French, Mike Lafferty, Joe Gordon, Jim Harriott, Joe Dell, Steve Osborne, Dick Marshall and Alan Newton.

The YFC Ladies Committee members Mesdames Menner, Norden, Broberg, Botten, Sloan and Osborne also received gifts of appreciation for their contribution to the life of the club during 1965.

One of the club’s most durable and elusive rovers Barry Coad won the Reserves Best and Fairest Trophy that year. Barry gave over a decade of loyal service to the club. His most notable game for the YFC Senior XVIII was in the 1955 LVFL Grand Final against Sale. Barry kicked a vital goal and along with Jimmy Shaw led the last quarter fight back in that unforgettable match. Barry was listed in ‘The Argus’ as one of the best players for Yallourn that day. Barry won the Yallourn Churches’ Best & Fairest award in 1954. Barry’s younger brother Alan had been a prominent player in junior football and had also won the YFC Third XVIII Best and Fairest trophy in 1963. He played his first senior game that year when John Hutchinson was club coach. Alan developed into a strong player at LVFL senior level.

Note: Gavin Smith, who debuted in 1965, went on to play one VFL game with Fitzroy in 1967. Gavin was a burly and competitive follower who had the ability to take strong overhead contested marks.

Eon Edmondson (a ruckman) was the third of the Edmondson brothers to play for Yallourn FC. Gavin Edmondson was also a ruckman and brother Brian was a dour and reliable full back who played more than 90 games of senior football with the Blues. Former Yallourn stalwart Norm Hall ranked Brian as one of the Blues best defenders in that period. Most opposition forwards would readily agree with Norm’s assessment.

Adrian Sexton was a tall and versatile player who could play either in defence or in attack as required. Adrian was later appointed as captain and coach of Yinnar in the MGFL. Adrian’s sons Ben (Footscray/Carlton), Damian(St Kilda) and Michael (Carlton) all distinguished themselves at AFL level. Michael played in a premiership team at Carlton FC, represented Victoria on two occasions and was selected in the All-Australian team in 1996 and 1997.

Gary Keating (also ex- St Pat’s) had formerly played at St Kilda and North Melbourne and was a dynamic utility player with Yallourn. He was highly skilled, tough and possessed great stamina. Gary won the YFC Best and Fairest award in 1968 when Don Palmer (ex-North Melbourne/Sandhurst FC) coached Yallourn.
(Note: at the time of this article being written the sad news of Gary’s death was received).

One of the club’s veterans Jack Vinall announced his retirement from football in 1965. Jack, who had trained at Carlton and Footscray in the early 1950’s, joined the club from Morwell FC in 1954 as part of trade deal for Bruce Crawley. Jack played 235 games (reserves and senior games) at Yallourn and a further 90 games with Morwell FC. Jack was aged 34 when he retired from football. He was well known across the Latrobe Valley region for his participation in civic affairs, local politics farming, and cricket. A story regarding Jack was posted on this website in 2012. (Nid 24074)

In 1965 Mike Collins was appointed as the YFC coach. The Collins name is a major chapter in the history of the Yallourn Football Club. This is the story of Mike Collins, his brother Geoff and his father Jack and their considerable and lasting contribution to the Yallourn and Melbourne Football Clubs.

PART:II MIKE COLLINS
Mike Collins was Jack and Koromiko’s third son born at the Yallourn Hospital in April 1939. As a youngster Mike attended the St Therese’s Catholic School. In 1951 Mike was enrolled at St Pat’s College at Sale as a boarding student. At that time St Pat’s had a remarkable reputation in sport, particularly football. An indication of the strength of the college football team was that St Pat’s was affiliated with the senior competition of the Sale-Cowwarr FL. Mike was the captain of St Pat’s First XVIII team in 1956 and 1957. Being skipper was a strong indication of his potential leadership qualities and playing ability.

One of the highlights of Mike’s teenage years was to play in the 1957 Heyfield premiership team with his brother Geoff and ex-North Melbourne /Yallourn star Gerald Marchesi. (Note: See the details of this Grand Final win against Bairndsale below).Michael was only eighteen and his ability in GFL was a attracting attention from various quarters. Mike remembers that Gerald was known as ‘Butcher’. (Note: Gerald was a butcher at Wilson’s Meat Supply in Yallourn and continued in that trade when he relocated to Heyfield).

Mike left St Pat’s and for two years was a student at Corpus Christi College at Werribee. While lectures were of the highest priority for Mike he also gained a reputation as an outstanding footballer in these years.
(Note: Mike and his brother Geoff were both selected in the Corpus Christi College ‘Team of the Century’ which was announced by a panel of judges in 2013. Geoff, who attended the college in 1945-46, was named at centre half back and Mike was selected as full back.)

In 1960 Mike won the Most Consistent Player trophy at Heyfield FC and it wasn’t any surprise that Melbourne Football Club persuaded him to play in the trial matches in 1961. Initially Mike was denied a clearance from Heyfield FC. However after some frenzied negotiations, related to VFL permits, he was eventually listed with the Demons that season.

‘The Age’ (12th April 1961) reported the clearance wrangle in some detail…
“Melbourne settled the worst of its recruiting problems yesterday when Secretary Jim Cardwell returned from a rushed trip to the country with match permits for Sale rover Ray Dawson, Bairnsdale rover John Thorpe and Heyfield defender Mike Collins.

The article went onto explain the conditions that Heyfield FC had set for Mike to be granted three match permits. ‘The Age’ also commented that Heyfield would only support Mike’s clearance application if he was assured of success at VFL level. Mike was cleared after his three match permits with the MFC reserves had expired.
Note: Readers may be interested to know that Bairnsdale’s John Thorpe was profoundly deaf and his handicap could often create difficulties for the central umpires in some match situations. Although a brilliant on-baller, John was never selected to play in a senior game of VFL football. John is no relation to Alister Thorpe who played with Yallourn FC.

In 1961 Mike played in the MFC reserves until eventually winning senior selection (on the bench) in August. According to VFL archives, on that day (Round: 18 ) Melbourne played Carlton at Princess Park and in a ‘lightning finish’ the Demons came from behind to steal victory by one point. Melbourne kicked three goals in five minutes in the final stanza to win. What an introduction to VFL football for Mike! Ray ‘Smokey’ Dawson (ex-Sale FC) played that day and kicked one goal. Another well known Gippsland footballer Bob Turner, from Traralgon, played for Melbourne in that round with Mike. Bob later coached Warragul and in 1966 led his team to victory over YFC in the LVFL First Semi Final (see details further down).

Mike was selected in the Semi Final against Hawthorn. He kicked one goal (with his first kick in VFL football) but the Hawks won in a tough and bruising affair. The final score was Hawthorn 12.8.80 defeated Melbourne 11.7.73. Hawthorn went on to win the club’s first ever VFL premiership that year.
At the Annual Presentation Night of the Melbourne FC it was announced that Mike had won the Reserves Best & Fairest trophy. Mike played again at MFC in 1962. His last senior game of VFL football was against Collingwood at Victoria Park in May 1962. In total, he had played 4 senior games and 24 reserve grade games for Melbourne FC.

Mike returned to play with Heyfield FC in 1963 but he was still working for the SEC in the city which meant a long journey each week by car to play.
As mentioned in the Garry Butler story earlier this year, Mike transferred in his employment as an administrative officer with the SECV to Yallourn. Consequently he was cleared to play at Yallourn in 1964 after accepting the role as assistant coach. His VFL experience was invaluable to the young members of the team that season.

There is no doubt that Mike, along with Garry Butler, played a significant role in re-shaping and strengthening the Yallourn senior team in 1964. That season he became the keystone of the YFC defence and his brilliant performances made him the best of LVFL back men. In a stellar season Mike won the Trood/Rodda Medal for the Best and Fairest Player in the LVFL. Details of the voting were:-
1. 17 vote~Mike Collins (Yallourn).
2. 15 votes~Brian Hammond (Traralgon).
3. 14 votes~Ted Heesom*( Sale), Dev Beaumont (Stratford) and Ken Leeson (Drouin).

Mike clearly remembers that he was genuinely surprised with the final result as all the ‘big money’ was on Traralgon’s champion forward Terry Hunter to win the award that year.

Mike’s two vote victory in the medal underlined the leadership that he had shown in the YFC backline throughout the season. Yallourn’s defence was the second best according to the LVFL statistics that year.

His win received wide publicity in the local papers and Leo Sedunary of ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ gave extensive coverage to the win under the banner…
“LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD.”

Mike was the third Yallourn footballer to win league honours in that era of LVFL football. Steve Szabo (1960) and Rick Belford (1962) were the previous winners of the Trood/Rodda Medal. Mike Collins was the last Yallourn FC player to win the award.
From the commencement of the LVFL in 1954 until the club’s last year in 1977 Steve, Rick and Mike were the only Yallourn players to win the Trood/Rodda Medal. Jim Shaw won the Rodda (later Trood/Rodda) Medal when the club was affiliated with the CGFL in 1953.
Note: Steve Szabo was also the medallist in 1965 when playing for Morwell FC. Ray Mildenhall won the award (1981 &1983) when playing with the combined YYNFC.

Yallourn won 10 games in 1964 and narrowly missed the final series. In September that year Garry Butler indicated that he was returning to Melbourne because of work duties and the YFC committee did not dither in appointing Mike as coach for the 1965 season. The Blues finished 8th in 1965. Injuries to key players dogged the team throughout the season but Mike was successful in laying the foundation for the revival of the team for the following season. In 1965 Mike polled four votes in the Trood/Rodda medal and was selected in the LVFL squad to play in the VCFL championships. (Note: Mike was also named in the LVFL squad in 1966 but was unable to play that year).

Mike was appointed coach again in 1966 and Yallourn played an exciting and enterprising brand of football that season. The young and enthusiastic Blues team won the right to meet Warragul at Morwell in the LVFL First Semi Final. In what the ‘Live Wire’ described as a “heartbreaking loss” Warragul won by 11 points. There is little doubt that inaccuracy in front of goal denied the Blues the chance to go deeper into the finals that year.
The details of the match were:
Warragul 10.7. 67 defeated Yallourn 7.14. 56.
Goals for Yallourn: Borg 3 Gavin Smith 2 Cowley 1 Keating 1
Best for Yallourn: Cowley Rochford Borg De Bono M. Smith Hutchinson Finlayson Keating.
The gate receipts were reported as $863.00.

Mike coached Yallourn in 1967 but a serious leg/ankle late that year injury saw him sidelined for the remainder of the season. The club missed the final four that season with Moe and Bairnsdale being the big improvers in the LVFL.

Mike continued as a player in 1968 and played his last game for Yallourn in the Semi Final against Moe. The Lions prevailed that day and went on to play Traralgon in the LVFL Grand Final. Don Palmer {ex-North Melbourne /Sandhurst…see Ron Lee’s story (Nid 24241)} coached Yallourn that season.
In his five seasons with Yallourn Mike played approx 80 games either at centre half back or full back and a number of games at full forward in 1968. Mike also coached the YFC Third XVIII in 1968.

Asked to nominate some tough opponents in these years Mike named Kevin Coverdale (Bairnsdale/Hawthorn), Terry Hunter (Traralgon), Jim Beha (Heyfield), Ian Jennings (Moe), Keith Browning (Trafalgar/South Melbourne) and Alan Steele (Moe). It may be of interest to readers that Jim (1960), Kevin (1961), and Allan (1963) Terry (1966) were all recipients of the Trood/Rodda Medal.

Ian Jennings won the LVFL leading goal kicking award on six occasions. In 1971 Ian kicked 112 goals and was the first player in the history of the LVFL to ‘crack the ton’ in a season.

Looking back on his years with the club, Mike recalls a long list of terrific players for YFC but believes that Brian Rochford, Gavin Smith, Tony Borg, Adrian Sexton, Michael Smith, Barry Mathison, Alan Coad and Peter Dell were hard players who performed consistently and gave their utmost for the Blues.
Mike’s life after leaving Yallourn could be the subject for another story on the Virtual Yallourn website. His work took him far and wide to Papua New Guinea (Goroka, Rabaul & Port Moresby), Perth and Geraldton then to Darwin before returning to Melbourne in 1985-86. Mike returned to Perth and has lived there since 1987. In all locations he remained involved in football (mainly in junior development) at both a coaching and administration level.
Mike’s interest in coaching and helping young people enjoy sport has never waned. Lack of space prevents further details on Mike’s remarkable career in Aboriginal Affairs and football. However, his dedication to football and the development of the game was recognized in 2000 when Mike was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his services to Australian Rules football.

Looking back on his time with YFC Mike wrote…
“….that his years at Yallourn were some of the best times in coaching the football club I grew up with as a kid. I made great friendships… it was a united and cohesive group of players and there was such a wonderful spirit at Yallourn.”

PART: III GEOFF COLLINS 1926-2005.
Born in Kew in 1926 Geoff Collins was eldest of six children born to Jack and Koromiko Collins. Geoff played only one season (1947) with the Blues after coming from the city where he had been a member of the Kew Amateurs (VAFA) in 1946.
The match reports in ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ in those days give little insight into Geoff’s ability but ‘Mossie’ Williams remembers that Geoff was a … “robust and spirited player for YFC”.

Geoff came to prominence in the CGFL as a centreman and displayed the attitude and skill necessary to play at the next level. At the start of the 1948 season Geoff was listed with the Melbourne FC and consequently left Yallourn to try his luck in VFL football.
He was selected to play his first game for Melbourne against Richmond in Round:4 that season. He was 21 years of age and he wore the number: 3 guernsey. Geoff’s debut was a most painful affair as his jaw was broken in a clash with Tiger legend Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer. Melbourne won the match by five points but Geoff would miss most of that season nursing a ‘fractured’ jaw.

Geoff played only three home and away games in 1948 but the Demon’s coach ‘Checker’ Hughes must have recognised something special about Geoff’s fighting qualities and resilience. He was selected on the half back flank for the Second Semi Final against Essendon. Although being trounced by the Bombers, Melbourne regrouped and bounced back to defeat Collingwood in the Preliminary Final by 65 points and set up the Grand Final clash against Essendon.

In front of a crowd of 85,658 fans the match was a tied result. Research reveals that it was the first tie ever in a VFL Grand Final. Melbourne fans can thank their lucky stars that the Essendon forwards couldn’t find the big sticks (7 goals 27 behinds) that day.

The Grand Final Replay the following Saturday was an anti-climax as Melbourne romped away in the second half to win the flag by 39 points. Geoff Collins had played in four finals in his first year of VFL football…..an incredible experience for a young man from Yallourn. Perhaps this is some sort of record in VFL/AFL football?

An interesting coincidence was that Geoff’s Father (Jack) was President of Yallourn FC that year and the Blues also won the CGFL premiership. Two pennants for one family in one year was something to ‘talk about around the family dinner table’ that night.
In 1949 Geoff played 17 senior games. In rounds 7 & 8 Geoff played with Yallourn’s champion rover Jimmy Shaw who played three games with Melbourne that season. Jim Dorgan, who was later to coach Yallourn FC, also played with Geoff and Jimmy in those games.
Geoff steadily consolidated his position as a tough and vigorous half back flanker in VFL football.

By 1949 Geoff had made his mark in the competition and he became a permanent fixture in the Melbourne defence. In 1950 Percy Taylor, a leading Melbourne sports journalist, wrote….
“Geoff Collins is a player from Yallourn, is the brilliant type of defender, with the habit of unsettling the opposing half-forwards with his dash, determination, and accurate disposal. He is the cool type and gives his opponent no quarter. He joined Melbourne in 1948, and was unfortunate enough to be hurt in his first game-the fourth of the season. It was serious enough to keep him out of the senior side for eight matches. Then he kicked three goals in his next match, missed five more games, and played in the last five, which included the grand final and replayed grand final…….. Now, however, he is playing well. Geoff is single, plays a good brand of tennis in the summer, and is a salesman. (‘The Argus’ July 1st 1950).

It is well documented that Geoff missed the entire 1953 VFL season because of his duties with the RAAF during the Korean War. (Note: Geoff had enlisted in the RAAF on the 1st January 1953). As a fighter pilot officer with the No: 77 Fighter Squadron, he flew more than 100 missions in Gloster Meteor jets. Geoff received a commendation for courage in action during his active service in Korea. Geoff was discharged from the RAAF in August of the same year.

In March 1954 there was some optimism that Geoff may have returned from Melbourne FC to coach Yallourn FC. ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ gave considerable column space to Vic Johns’ comments at the YFC Annual General Meeting…
“The president stated that, as the result of several conferences, with the Melbourne Football Club committee, he was hopeful of obtaining a clearance for former Yallourn player, Geoff. Collins, whom the Club had appointed coach”.

‘The best laid plans of mice and men’…while the YFC may have appointed Geoff as coach the club’s hopes were well and truly dashed when Geoff returned to play with the Demons in 1954. It is believed that on his return from Korea Geoff was posted to South Australia for some time. However, because of the existing circumstances at Melbourne FC, a negotiated transfer was arranged for Geoff to return to MFC as captain for the 1954 season.
Note: Yallourn was aggressive in searching for a new coach in this period of the club’s history. It is known that YFC had made a lucrative offer to entice Tasmanian champion John Leedham to transfer to Yallourn.

Leedham refused and Morwell’s rover Jack Aitken was appointed as the Blues’ coach for that season. Jack’s appointment was announced in the middle of March only a month or so before the season ‘kick off’.

Geoff led his team to the VFL Grand Final in 1954 but without luck. Melbourne was defeated by Footscray by 51 points that day. In a strange twist Footscray’s full forward Jack Collins (no relation to Geoff) kicked 7 goals for the Bulldogs and destroyed the Demon’s hopes of victory. Melbourne’s best included Cordner, Collins, Barassi and Mithen. The 1954 Grand Final was to be Geoff’s last game of football at VFL level. Geoff had played 88 games and kicked 5 goals for Melbourne and he had represented Victoria in 1952.

Geoff’s age at retirement from VFL football was 28 years of age …
“…the loss was not enough to hold Collins to city life.” (MFC ~Heroes)

In a major announcement in the metropolitan papers it was reported that Geoff had been appointed coach of Heyfield FC.
“Geoff Collins, captain of Melbourne, V.F.L. runner-up to Footscray, has been signed as coach of Heyfield for 1955.This was announced yesterday by Heyfield officials. Mr. V. Howell made a rush trip to Melbourne on Saturday and took Collins back to Heyfield where it was announced he had signed, subject to Melbourne granting the clearance. It was reported from Heyfield that Collins, who is an R.A.A.F. officer, would settle on a farm at Heyfield after his discharge. Melbourne officials said last night that if Collins wanted to go to Heyfield, they would not stand in his way, because he had given the club good service and was now aged 28 years”. ‘The Argus.’
‘The Age’ also gave prominence on the back page to Geoff’s decision to ‘go bush’ that week.

1955 must have been quite a season for the Gippsland League and the battle for ‘bragging rights’ with the LVFL was fierce. Both leagues had a strong sprinkling of ex-VFL stars and the open rivalry between the Gippsland ‘tribes’ created an atmosphere akin to a heavyweight title fight. Geoff was named as the captain of the Gippsland FL team to play LVFL at Morwell in June. Two of Yallourn’s greatest footballers ‘Mossie’ Williams and Laurie Shipp had been selected for the LVFL team that season. Geoff also captained the GFL in 1956 against the LVFL and he led Heyfield FC to another Grand Final (only to be runners-up).

1956 was a significant year in Geoff’s life because, as a returned serviceman, he took up the opportunity under the provisions of Soldier-Settler Scheme (i.e. Returned Soldiers Act administered by the State Government) to establish a dairy farm at Nambrok (about 17kms from Rosedale).
In 1957 Geoff (and his brother Mike) played in the Heyfield premiership team which defeated Bairnsdale by almost ten goals in the GFL Grand Final.
It is interesting to note that Heyfield was coached by Yallourn’s former coach Gerald Marchesi. Gerald had coached Yallourn FC to the LVFL Grand Final against Sale in 1955. Gerald played again with Yallourn in 1956 and was then cleared to Heyfield for the 1957 season.

One source claimed that Heyfield had….
“…the rare distinction of containing two players who had captained VFL sides”.

Following that victory, Heyfield then travelled to the city to play the Hampden Football League premiership team Warrnambool FC in an ‘exhibition fund-raiser’ match at the Junction Oval, St Kilda. This was an annual match between the two country leagues. The fixture was sponsored by ‘The Sporting Globe’ and the proceeds of the day were donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal. Heyfield won a thriller by one point and it is recorded that Gerald and Geoff both starred for the Kangaroos (as Heyfield FC was known). Frank Goode (ex-Yallourn High School /Moe FC & 73games with North Melbourne FC) and Mike Collins were team mates for Heyfield in that exciting match.

Despite being a charity game, Mike remembers that… “it was a tough and bruising affair!” Mike remembers that the game was played on the Sunday after the VFL Grand Final. It must have been some weekend for the boys from the bush!
Note: Former Yallourn star Peter Cook (Melbourne 1956-58) was to later coach Warrnambool in 1959….see Peter’s story on the website in 2013.

At the start of 1959 Geoff was cleared from Heyfield to Nambrok FC (which was affiliated with the Sale-Cowwarr FL) where he played until his retirement in 1960. It was the end of a remarkable career for the ‘boy from Yallourn’.

Geoff had seven children. Geoff’s grandson Luke Collins won the Trood/Rodda Medal for the Best and Fairest Player in the Gippsland FL in 2012. At the time of winning the award Luke was playing for Sale FC after a long career with Frankston (VFL) and two seasons with St Bede’s (VAFA). Luke finished runner-up in the ‘A-Grade VAFA Best and Fairest Award’. Luke has also represented the GFL and has been selected for the Victorian Country XVIII on two occasions.

Geoff died in August 2005 and is buried at the Sale Cemetery. It is fair to say that Geoff was a brilliant leader, a tough competitor and a humble champion in AFL and Gippsland football.

PART: IV JOHN ‘JACK’. A. COLLINS 1904-1968.
John (aka Jack) Aloysius Collins was born in October 1904 and resided in Melbourne. Jack first came to sporting prominence when he attended St Kevin’s College in East Melbourne (now located in Toorak). The college was founded in 1918 and had gained a reputation for sports excellence.
Jack was a champion athlete/footballer of the college in 1923 and was College Captain. He also played football for the Christian Brothers’ College (St Kilda) in that period.

Jack was a student when he crossed to Melbourne FC in 1923 and played his first game for Melbourne in Round: 5 against St Kilda at the Junction Oval. There is not a lot to report on Jack’s VFL debut but it is known that he was part of a winning team that defeated the Saints by 22 points in front of a large crowd of 22000.

Jack played only five games in 1923 with the Demons but was, in time, to become a VFL star. By 1925 he had established his place in the Melbourne team as wing man but it was in defence that Jack gained a reputation as an attacking and vigorous half back flanker…
‘Our brilliant and reliable defender’ (Heroes MFC publication)

In 1926 Jack played on the wing in the 1926 Grand Final against Collingwood. Melbourne 17.17.119 defeated the Magpies 9.8.62.
AFL history reveals there are two interesting facts about that match in 1926 which are related to the Yallourn Football Club. Firstly, Reg Baker (Collingwood), who was appointed as a non playing coach of YFC in 1952, played in that game. The other coincidence is that Colin Deane, who was also later to coach Yallourn, took the field for Melbourne that day. Colin kicked one goal for the Demons in a memorable victory. Jack played his 50th VFL game in that 1926 Grand Final.

In 1928 Melbourne drew with Collingwood in the first semi final but it is recorded that Jack suffered a serious injury which affected his performance in the following week’s replay.

Jack was selected for Victorian team that played against NSW in Sydney in 1929. A magnificent old photo of that team, taken by Melba Studios, still exists. Unfortunately it is difficult to decipher the names which are written on the bottom of the frame.

Jack played his last VFL game against Fitzroy in round: 12 in 1931. In a distinguished career Jack had played 127 games and kicked 7goals for Melbourne FC. He was cleared from Melbourne to the Ballarat Imperials FC in 1934 where he was appointed captain and coach of the club. It was in Ballarat that Jack first gained employment with the SEC and with that job came new career opportunities and future travel.

Jack came to Yallourn to work with the SECV (Yallourn area) in 1937. He held the critical position of Industrial Officer. Later his role changed within the SECV when he was promoted to the Chief Personnel Officer. The family lived in the township and Jack became quite a personality around the town. He became involved in many aspects of community life and civic affairs. Jack was an inaugural member of the Yallourn Town Advisory Council. The YTAC was established by the Victorian Government by the SECV (Yallourn area) Act of 1947. The first meeting was chaired by Tom Forristal and the first councillors of the YTAC were Edgar Chisolm, Brigadier John Field, Rex Hamilton, Arthur Fewster, Bob Edmondson and Jack Collins. The nominated secretary of the YTAC was David Langhorne. The inaugural meeting of this austere body of men was held at the Yallourn Fire Brigade Hall on the 7th January 1948.

Jack was also a Justice of the Peace in Yallourn. In that pre-electronic age, the semi-judicial duties of JP’s were constant. Often the myriad of court related matters could prove time consuming and extremely demanding for JPs.

Note: Jack would have known a truly unique character named Amos Wood. Amos was a storekeeper who had arrived in Yallourn in 1928. Apart from being a JP, Amos was the registrar of births and deaths and also an honorary magistrate. He was known to be a teetotaller and it is said that he possessed a most incredible stamp collection. In one text written about the early characters of Yallourn, it was stated that Amos smoked 38 cigars a day! Amos Wood JP was a genuine personality around the town and to the residents who lived in or near Ridgeway East he was a ‘local hero.’

Jack became President of the YFC after World War II and his term as president was one of the Blues’ most fruitful periods. Yallourn won the CGFL Premiership in 1948. The energy and time that Jack committed to the club during that memorable season was a foremost reason for Yallourn’s success.
He was a diligent, eloquent and forceful leader of a club that had strong administrators, willing committee members and a long list of enthusiastic footballers.

From reading the press reports of those times, Jack had a ‘sense of occasion’ and relished in presenting local football in the best possible light for all to enjoy. Jack appreciated the importance of public image in promoting the YFC as an innovative club in country football. He placed great emphasis upon tradition at presentation nights, dinners and club functions. Jack also stressed the importance of purchasing quality silverware for players’ trophies each season.

One of Jack’s major initiatives at YFC was to initiate a campaign to raise funds to build a club house and to establish a central place for the safe-keeping and exhibition of the club’s various and numerous trophies. It was reported in ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ on November 11th 1948…
“… Mr Collins stressed the need for a club house for the exclusive use of the club….he felt that all the club’s trophies and pennants would find their proper home there rather than being scattered around the town in homes.”

Jack was a different kind of country football administrator. Perhaps the influence of the proud traditions of Melbourne Football Club, earlier in his life, had given him an insight into how the off-field organization of a club directly influenced the on field-performances of a team. Jack led by example and set new standards of administration in bush football in that era.

In 1948 Jack played a major role in organizing the ‘Football Championship of Gippsland’ which was a clash between the CGFL and the Gippsland FL. It was played at the Yallourn Oval in September 1948 and all proceeds from the match were donated to the United Nations Children Fund.
Jack played a vital role in the structure and organization of the SECV at that time. Power production and transmission (including maintenance of the grid) involved thousands of men and women. The coordination and deployment of workers created challenges for Jack and he worked long hours in dealing with the plethora of issues that arose in the rapidly expanding power industry.
In 1951 Jack was transferred to the city where he became the Chief Industrial Officer at the William Street Offices of the SECV.
Three years later Jack departed for a new role as Chief Administrative Officer for the Snowy Mountains Authority (SMA) in Cooma (NSW).

When he retired from the SMA in 1957 Jack shifted back to Gippsland. Jack purchased a milk bar-delicatessen in the main street of Heyfield. Believe it or not… the milk bar was next door to the butcher shop where Gerald Marchesi worked….or in football parlance Gerald’s shop was a ‘short sharp handpass’ from Jack’s business. It was not to be Jack’s last change of scenery as in 1963 he moved back to the city.

Jack passed away in Melbourne on the July 25th 1968. Jack was 64 years at the time of his death and he is buried at the Springvale Cemetery.

FOOTNOTES:
1. John and Koromiko Collins had six children Geoff (deceased), Joan (deceased), Barbara (deceased), John, Jennifer and Michael (Mike). At the time of writing Mike was living at Madeley WA.
2. Barbara married former Yallourn FC star forward Alan McIntyre. Alan features in several stories on the Virtual Yallourn website regarding club goal kicking records and, of course, the 1948 CGFL premiership win. Alan kicked 2 goals for Yallourn that day including the ‘sealer’ in the dying minutes of that unforgettable victory.
3. Alan kicked 80 goals in 1948 and tied in ‘The Oval’ goal kicking award with Wally Nash from Warragul. It is said that Wally kicked 246 goals in five seasons with the Warragul FC. Wally later played 17 games with Hawthorn FC(1953-54).
4. In 1949 Alan McIntyre kicked 18 goals for YFC against Trafalgar.
5. Murray French rated Alan as one of his favourite players and Mike Collins remembers Alan as a terrific player for the Blues.
6. Alan McIntyre played with YFC until the end of the 1953 season and in 1954 he was appointed as coach of the Yallourn North Football Club.
7. Jack and Geoff Collins are both listed in Garry Hutchinson’s book entitled ‘Heroes’. The book was a publication of the Melbourne Football Club and lists 150 of Melbourne’s greatest footballers from 1858-2008. (The book was published in 2008 by Hardie Grant of Prahran).

Special thanks to Mike Collins for his kind assistance in the validation and clarification of his family’s history in preparing this story for the Virtual Yallourn project. Mike also offered the use of football memorabilia for this story.
Written for Virtual Yallourn by Roger Spaull ~ August 2013.

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Yallourn Football Club YFC - Mike Collins

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Mike Collins - Ex-Melbourne and YFCs coach and LVFL Best & Fairest Winner

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Mike Collins at Melbourne FC

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Yallourn Football Club YFC - Mike Collins at Melbourne FC (Family photo)

Yallourn Football Club YFC - 1966 First Eighteen

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1966
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Yallourn Football Club YFC First Eighteen 1966
Back Row: Ron Lee, Grant Cowley, Mike Scully, Brian Rochford, Jim Carlisle, Gavin Smith, Graham Budd, Neville Gorman, Michael Smith, Jim Harriot
Middle Row: Bob McGregor, Stan Emerson, Tony Borg, John Duncan, Mike Collins (C.C), Keith Maughan, Rod Finlayson, Gary Keating, George Wright
Front Row: Alan Newton, Neil Ashmead, Alan Coad, Brian Dell, Peter Dell, Ron Dean, Fred deBono, G Jones/Lyons?

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Geoff Collins

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YFCs Geoff Collins, later to become Captain of Melbourne FC (Kornies Swap Card)

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Geoff Collins on duty in Korea

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Yallourn Football Club YFC - Geoff Collins on duty in Korea (Photo from Radschool Association Magazine Vol:34)

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Mike Collins YFC coach and LVFL Medallist

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Mike Collins YFC coach and LVFL Medallist

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Jack Collins

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Yallourn Football Club YFC - Jack Collins (Source: The Argus)

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Jack Collins

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Jack Collins in 1933. Jack was the President of YFC when the Blues won the flag in 1948.