PETER White was king of Kyabram on a late September Sunday evening in 1996.
The man they call Chopper had just steered the Kyabram Bombers to the most unlikely of premiership triumphs in the Goulburn Valley League and had the key to the town.
This wasn’t any old premiership win.
Peter’s immediate predecessors and higher profile coaches, goalkicking machine Chris Stuhldreier and legendary GVL coach and player Des Campbell, both couldn’t do what Chopper did that afternoon against the Paul Hawke-coached hot favourite Tatura.
And Peter — and the Bombers — did it with only 17 players for three quarters after Kyabram defender Brendan (IQ) Ryan was red-carded at the end of the first quarter and under the rules at the time couldn’t return to the ground — Deakin Reserve, Shepparton — for the rest of the game.
Ryan was later exonerated on video evidence and the injustice later led to the rule of umpires acting as both prosecutor and jury being changed.
Kyabram’s 1996 premiership win was significant for another reason as well.
It terms of time, it ended the longest premiership drought in the club’s history. The longest period between Kyabram flag triumphs previously was the 20 years between the premiership hat-trick-completing team of 1928 and the Bob Hornbuckle-coached 1948 flag-winning side, which still boasts one survivor: Bob Vick.
But this winless streak represented only 15 playing seasons, as no GVL premierships were decided for five years from 1941 to 1946 due to World War II.
Peter White could draw on the knowledge of five Kyabram senior coaches he played under — Barry Sullivan, Greg Kirkman, Rob Egan, Barry Ough and Chris Salter.
After starting his career in three Kyabram thirds teams coached by John (Bugle) Roberts, Tom Connors and Peter Warburton, Peter went on to play five seasons with the Bombers between 1976 and 1983, chalking up over 50 senior games with the club.
One season was even spent in Queensland playing in an Aussie Rules competition in Bundaberg.
A move to Merrigum in 1984 for two seasons as assistant coach to Peter Warburton launched him as a career coach.
Taking the coaching reins at Merrigum from Warburton in 1986 he proceeded to lead the Bulldogs to successive flags — and also a lot of interest from clubs throughout the Goulburn Valley.
An added bonus that helped his reputation and credentials as a coach and player was winning the KDL’s McNamara Medal in 1987.
After Merrigum it was two years in charge at another KDL club, Undera, and one at Stanhope, then competing in the Heathcote League.
Then there was his swansong season as a player back with Merrigum in 1992.
Peter had done his apprenticeship in coaching in the minor leagues and now bigger fish were biting, with GVL clubs well aware of his credentials.
After two years as an assistant coach, Peter took that reins for that unforgettable 1996 season at Kyabram, where he remained at the helm until the end of 2001.
Tongala signed him on for three-year stint before he took the senior coaching jobs with Shepparton Swans and then Rochester, also both for three years. He finally pulled down the shutters on his coaching career in 2014 when at Rochester.
The Shepparton Swans made the grand final under his guidance in 2007, their first appearance in a season decider since 1983 when the Swans were beaten by the Des Campbell-coached Tongala.
Peter’s coaching career spanned 24 years as a senior coach, six years as an assistant senior coach and two years as a reserves coach (with Kyabram).
He names Wayne Deledio, Barry Ough, Bill Fry, Maurie Wingate, Mick Ryan and Lawrie Casey as the best players he played with at Kyabram.
During his GVL days Peter coached the GVL interleague teams to title wins in 2010 and 2011.
From his GVL days he rates Brad Campbell as the best player he has coached and Paul Hawke and Echuca’s Craig Sholl as the best coaches he faced.
In the Kyabram League the best player he played with was Tony Aceri in his days at Merrigum while Nagambie’s multi league medal-winning Eddie Shiels gets his nod for best rival player he played against.
These days Peter’s interest in racing pigeons — a love inherited from his grandfather, the late Bert Withall — keeps him busy, along with watching teams he has coached down the years, when he gets the chance.
But recently retired Peter is adamant his coaching days are now well and truly over.
He stressed his best Kyabram team comprises only players he has coached and not necessarily played with.
His team is as follows:
Backs: Peter Cunningham, Ryan White, Bevan Clark.
Half backs: Tony McDonell, Ian Boyd, Ben Langley
Centres: Chris Atkins, Peter (Lippy) White, Ty Elliott
Half forwards: Denis Ryan, Brendan Ryan, Ash Gemmill
Forwards: Kayne Pettifer, Paul Newman, Gary Learmonth.
Followers: David Lucas, Brad Campbell, Ben Gugliotti
Reserves: Andrew Trimby, David Newman, Paul Burnett, Peter Learmonth, Scott Waasdorp.
● Mick Ryan’s best Kyabram team in these columns last week prompted a call from a reader who was a bit perplexed with his selection of Brenton Gray on a wing.
The reader couldn’t place him playing for Kyabram.
Well, Mick plucked him from one of the Kyabram thirds team he coached even though he went on to play all his senior career with his home club Stanhope and also Rochester.
‘‘He really showed he was a class player at Rochester and I had in my team for his efforts with the Kyabram thirds and at Rochester,’’ Mick explained.
● Kyabram Bowls Club members will have a change of attire in the coming season.
New coach Dan Gade has made his first move to invigorate the once powerful pennant club whose players will be seen in black and red colours in the new season.
Club president Mal Williams said the club had worn two-blues attire for the past 20 years after the traditional all-white uniforms were ditched.
‘‘The younger ones in the club thought black and red — colours of the Kyabram footy club — would be more suitable and may help in transitioning Kyabram footballers and netballers to the bowls club at the end of their playing careers,’’ Mal said.
● Big man Brodie A’vard will be back in action in the Murray Football League next season.
The ruckman, who has played for Jerilderie and Barooga previously and also had a stint with the Shepparton Swans in the GVL, has spent the past two seasons with Ovens and Murray League club Wodonga Raiders.
● Benalla Football Club’s 2015 premiership coach Luke Morgan and Wangaratta Magpies Football Club have parted ways.
The club, which reached the Ovens and Murray grand final last year under Morgan, is seeking a non-playing coach for next season. It is claiming a playing coach would not be feasible with expected player salary cap reductions due to coronavirus.
Half of a playing coach’s salary is included in salary caps and Wangaratta offered Morgan to stay on as a player or take on a non-playing coaching role.
But he is keen to continue playing and coaching, so will be looking elsewhere to settle next season.
● Echuca players Ash Byrne, Will Monahan, Cooper Barber and Ned Lanyon are currently completing a 14-day quarantine period at Howard Springs in Darwin to prepare for the summer Northern Territory Football League season.
Byrne has signed with the Tiwi Bombers club while Barber, Monahan and Lanyon will play with Waratah Football Club.
They will follow in the steps of Echuca co-coach Andrew Walker, Kane Morris and Cam Valentine who played with PINT in the Northern Territory last year.
● Two of the district’s biggest bowls events are among the latest victim of coronavirus.
The Moama-hosted Ultimate Bowls Championship to be held in December has now been cancelled while the Victorian Open Championships to be hosted by GV Bowls club East Shepparton and Shepparton Park has also had to reluctantly pull the pin.
● Three-year-old pacer Hesty was expected to return to his best form at last week’s Shepparton meeting.
And those expectations were more than realised when the son of Heston Blue Chip proceeded to run his rivals ragged in the biggest win for the meeting.
With reinsman David Moran in the sulky Hesty ran to the front from a wide barrier draw and gave none of his rivals a chance.
He had a whopping winning margin of nearly 38 metres over the runner-up, Chiquitta, with the Justin Torney-trained Lilbitofhenrytee filling the minor placing.
Hesty had not won since scoring at Gunbower eight starts previously in December of last year but was supported as if unbeatable and paid only $1.50 for the win on the tote.
Trainer Patrick Ryan, who prepares the pacer for a host of family members, including Kyabram brothers Brendan, Francis, Peter and Kevin, said Hesty had been badly checked at his previous start and flew home and had been working to suggest he was back close to his best form.
He had form at the top level of his age group as a two-year-old, which included wins at his first two starts.