Yallourn Football Club was formed in 1922 and there is a possibility that some Yallourn footballers may have played VFL without the early club records actually acknowledging that fact.

The history of many early country footballers is elusive and open to conjecture. Anecdotal evidence can be unreliable and often early written records were incomplete, inaccurate or simply non-existent. In earlier times the coverage of country recruiting lacked the resources and in-depth details that are apparent in today’s intensive media scrutiny on emerging AFL players.

It cannot be ‘set in concrete’ but it is likely that H.J. ‘Peter’ Reville was the first player from the Yallourn district to travel to Melbourne and play VFL football. Peter started his senior football with the Brown Coal Mine team (later to be known as Yallourn North FC) and in 1925 he played for South Melbourne. Peter became a genuine champion in VFL & VFA football and represented Victoria. (Note: Anyone who would like a copy of the story of the story of Peter Reville can contact Virtual Yallourn).

Another brilliant Yallourn footballer of the 1930’s was Jack Turner. Jack may have played one game at Essendon but this cannot be validated because of the lack of detailed VFL records. It is known that one of the VFA’s greatest footballers, Les White of Prahran (winner of the VFA Recorder Cup/Liston Medal in 1935) left Yallourn in 1932 to play in the city. It is likely that Les would have trained with a VFL club during his long and distinguished VFA career. However, it may never be revealed if any VFL club actually sought his signature.

While most VCFL leagues and clubs have historians these days, it wasn’t always the case. Carlton FC records show that a ‘certain’ Stan Comber was named on the Carlton Supplementary List in 1946. It may be the ‘same’ Stan Comber shown in the Yallourn FC (Blues team) photographs in that period. It is hard to confirm more than sixty years later and underlines the importance of maintaining accurate records in country football clubs.

There is no doubt that the following Yallourn players played AFL prior to 1945….
1. Jack Sambell (Melbourne 1933-34. 24 games & 6 goals).
2. Fred Godfrey (Footscray 1938. 6 games & 5 goals).
3. Leo Hillis (Footscray 1939-44. 5 games).
4. Ken Williams (Collingwood 1940.12 games & 2 goals).
5. Stan Attenborough (North Melbourne 1943-44. 8 games).

After World War: II recruiting country players to play VFL football became well structured and organized. As VFL clubs became more competitive and ‘hungry’ for success, a network of scouts and ‘spotters’ was developed to monitor the talents of bush footballers. Gippsland clubs, including YFC, were prized ‘hunting grounds’ for VFL scouts in this era. Many local footballers left the Latrobe Valley and other Gippsland football leagues to pursue VFL careers.

Note: In earlier times a country player could seek ‘match permits’ to play with a VFL club and/or apply for a clearance from the country club to play VFL. For example, John Hutchinson was granted three match permits to play with Fitzroy in 1957. He played the first three VFL games of that season and returned home to YFC. John was then cleared by YFC to Fitzroy in 1958 for the entire season.

In another instance, Peter Cook’s clearance to VFL caused a brief but heated dispute between YFC and Melbourne in June 1956. Peter had used his six permits with Melbourne FC but then MFC sought a clearance by using the ‘incorrect procedures or channels.’ (‘The Argus’ June 1st 1956) The YFC secretary (Tom Hayes) was ‘incensed’ and didn’t ‘mince words.’ His strident criticism of the Melbourne Football Club hit the city newspapers. Having fired a salvo, Tom and the MFC soon reached agreement and Peter left for the ‘big smoke’ to pursue his career in League football. (See Peter’s details below).

In the period 1945-65 the following footballers left Yallourn FC to play Senior Grade VFL football. (Note: There is no guarantee that the list below is exhaustive).

VFL club: Carlton. Years: 1944-51. Position: Wing. Ht: 175 cm. Wt: 71kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 11 v Footscray 1944. Age: 21. Guernsey No: 12.
Games: 120. Goals: 7.
Highlights: 1945 &47 Carlton FC premiership teams.
Career Brownlow Votes: 5.

VFL Club: Richmond. Year: 1945. Position: Midfielder. Ht: 170cm. Wt: 73kgs
VFL debut: Round: 9 v Collingwood 1945. Age: 25. Guernsey No: 29.
Games: 3.

VFL Club: Geelong. Years 1946-48. Position: Ruckman/defender. Ht: 193cm. Wt: 83kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 1 v Melbourne 1946. Age: 21.Guernsey No: 20.
Games: 46. Goals: 3.
Career Brownlow Vote:1.

VFL Club: Geelong. Years: 1947-51. Position: Rover/wing. Ht: 173cms. Wt: 75kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 1 v Hawthorn 1947. Age: 24. Guernsey No: 24.
Games: 85. Goals: 13.
Highlight: 1951 Geelong Premiership team.
Career Brownlow Votes: 3.

VFL club: Melbourne. Years: 1948-54. Position: Half back. Ht: 178cm. Wt: 76kgs.
VFL debut: Round:4 v Richmond 1948. Age: 21. Guernsey No(s): 3& 8.
Games: 88. Goals: 5.
Highlights: 1948 Melbourne FC premiership team. Victorian rep ~1952. MFC Captain~1954.
Career Brownlow Votes: 3.

VFL club: Melbourne. Year: 1949. Position: Rover. Ht: 165cm. Wt: 70kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 6 v St Kilda 1948. Age: 24. Guernsey No: 34.
Games: 3. Goals: 2.

VFL club: Richmond. Year: 1953. Position: Ruckman. Ht: 193cm. Wt: 94kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 11 v Hawthorn 1953. Age: 24. Guernsey No: 21.
Games:3. Goals:1.

VFL club: Carlton. Year: 1955. Position: Back pocket. Ht: 180cm. Wt: 77kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 6 v South Melbourne 1955. Age: 23. Guernsey No:33.
Games: 4.

VFL club: Melbourne. Years: 1956-58.Position: Forward. Ht: 185cm. Wt: 82kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 4 v Fitzroy 1956. Age : 23. Guernsey No: 21.
Games: 14. Goals: 6.

VFL club: Fitzroy. Years: 1957-58. Position: Full forward. Ht: 183cm. Wt: 83kgs.
VFL debut: Round: 1 v Melbourne 1957. Age: 20. Guernsey No: 1.
Games: 3. Goals: 3.

VFL club: Richmond. Years: 1963-64. Position: forward/half back flank. Ht: 183cm. Wt: 83kgs.
VFL debut: Round:4 v Footscray 1963. Age: 20. Guernsey No: 21.
Games: 11. Goals: 1.

1. The list of YFC footballers (1945-65) who trained with VFL clubs is extensive. While some played VFL Reserve Grade, others pursued different paths in their football careers e.g. VFA or coaching country teams etc; VCFL records often fail to reveal where Yallourn players went after departing from YFC.

2. Those Yallourn footballers, who were ‘approached by’ or ‘trained with’ VFL clubs but were never selected for Senior VFL games in the years 1945-65 include the following:-
Keith Lawrence (Carlton), Pete Harries (Carlton), Kevin Fanning (Fitzroy & Richmond), Morris‘Mossie’Williams (Carlton), Jack Mangan (Richmond),Norm Hall (Essendon), Bruce Crawley (Essendon), Jack Vinall (Carlton &Footscray), Bruce Knight (Collingwood), Stan Brown (Carlton), George Bates (Richmond), Bill Jackson (Melbourne), Ray Kitney (Geelong), Kevin Gould (Essendon), Steve Szabo (Melbourne), Grant Cowley (Collingwood), Ted Heesom (Melbourne) and Gary Hurle (Melbourne).

3. According to ‘The Age’ (1/4/63), Rick Belford (Trood/Rodda Medallist~1962) played in trial games with Collingwood before being cleared back to Prahran in 1963 and then to Croydon FC.

4. Jack. T.Mangan, who played in the YFC premiership team of 1944, is not to be confused with Lou Mangan (South Melbourne 1942-44).

5. Ken Williams, who was cleared from Yallourn FC to Collingwood in 1940 and played 12 VFL games, is not to be confused with Keith (a brother of ‘Mossie’ and Doug Williams).

6. Although regarded as a high flying forward when recruited to Richmond FC in 1963, Tom Garland played his best football at VFL level as a running half back flanker. The 1963 Annual Report of the Richmond FC regarded Tom as a player of ‘distinct promise.’ A year later ‘The Age’ (August 5th 1964) reported that Tom required surgery on a damaged cartilage. Cartilage operations were not always successful in those days and it is fair to say that Tom’s league career may have suffered. He was only 21 years of age when he played his last VFL match. In the 1970’s Tom emerged as one of the stars of the South East Suburban Football League and was a key player in Murrumbeena’s win in the 1st Division Grand Final in 1974. Tom also won the coveted SESFL Best and Fairest Award in the same year.

7. Felix Strachov lived in Yallourn but was recruited to Melbourne FC from St Pat’s College in Sale. Felix played with the Melbourne Reserves in 1961 and 62. Felix won the Best First Year Player Trophy at Melbourne FC in 1961. In 1963 he won the Best & Fairest Award in the Mornington Peninsula FL. Felix came from Poland only seven years prior to playing his first VFL Reserves game.

8. Mike Collins grew up in Yallourn but left to play at St Pat’s College in Sale, Heyfield FC and Melbourne FC in later years. Mike returned to Yallourn FC in 1964 and coached the Blues for three seasons (1965-67). (See Mike’s story on the Virtual Yallourn website).

9. Gary Keating played with St Kilda (Under: 18’s & Reserves) and later played 18 games with North Melbourne Reserves. Gary won the YFC’s Best & Fairest Trophy in 1968 and played in the VCFL Country Championships on one occasion.

10. While Merv and Ken Crane played with YFC, Gary Crane was recruited to Carlton from Yallourn North FC in 1964. Gary did play with Yallourn FC Third XVIII team in 1961. He went onto play 148 games for Carlton (including three premiership teams ~1968, 70 &72). Gary also represented Victoria and was named in the Carlton Team of the Century.

11. Gavin Smith, a strong over head mark and willing ruckman from YFC, played one game with Fitzroy against North Melbourne (Round: 5) in 1967. Gavin’s brother (Michael) was a spectacular high flying forward with Yallourn FC and was spoken about as a possible VFL player. It is believed that Richmond FC had taken some interest in Michael’s performances with Yallourn FC.

12. One of the most successful players to be recruited from YFC to VFL ranks was Colin Dell who played 66 games for Footscray from 1971-77. Virtual Yallourn would welcome a story or details about Colin’s wonderful career at Footscray.

13. YFC President Jack Collins celebrated a double premiership in 1948. Yallourn won the CGFL flag and his son (Geoff) played in a VFL premiership team (Melbourne) that same year.

14. In the 1950 VFL First Semi Final, the two former Yallourn FC champions Syd Tate (Geelong) and Geoff Collins (Melbourne) were on opposing teams that day. However, the pair experienced vastly different fortunes. Syd kicked two goals and was listed in the Cats’ best players. Geoff, on the other hand, collided with a Melbourne team-mate (Shane McGrath) in the first quarter and was forced to leave the field with a broken jaw.

Any readers who can amend or add to the above list of Yallourn footballers who played VFL (Senior or Reserve Grade in the period 1945-65) are kindly asked to contact the Virtual Yallourn website so that the above information can be updated. Thank you.

Written by Roger Spaull for Virtual Yallourn ~August 2013.

For further stories, photographs and memorabilia regarding YFC…click ‘Search’…type ‘Football’…press ‘Enter’.

‘Past players, officials and supporters of the YFC were saddened to hear of the passing of the former Blues champion Ron “Knuckles’ Lee on the 29th May 2014. A story about Ron and his remarkable contribution to the Yallourn Football Club can be found on the Virtual Yallourn website.’

Reference Photo

Yallourn Football Club YFC - Syd Tate


A rare photograph of former Yallourn wingman, Syd Tate.
Syd went on to become a start at Geelong FC. This photo was published in the VFL Football Records in 1951.