LAWRIE Casey wouldn’t have won a sprint race, but when it came to finding and getting the footy in the field of battle he was an absolute genius.
He didn’t use leg speed to get the Sherrin and then burn off rivals. What he did have was generous helpings of guile and skill, and these qualities combined with a herculean work ethic made him one of the star players in the GVL in his time in the late 1970s through to the early 1990s.
Lawrie found himself coaching Kyabram halfway through the 1988 season when its then coach, the former Tongala dual premiership player Mick Lovison, suddenly stepped down.
One of Kyabram’s best and most admired players at the club at the time, Lawrie was offered and took on the job to finish the season as the Bombers’ coach. He was then re-elected again for the 1989 season when the club just missed playing finals, beaten by eventual premier Mooroopna in the last home-and-away round.
Always a sporting talent, Lawrie also excelled at cricket.
In summer in his sporting prime he spent nine years playing District (now Premier) League cricket with the Melbourne and North Melbourne Cricket Clubs, chalking up a total of 60 games in the first XI.
He made two centuries for North Melbourne when the competition had fewer teams and the overall standard was much stronger than it is today.
Girgarre-raised Lawrie made his mark early in his football career.
At 16 years of age in 1976 he played in the John Murphy-coached Girgarre side that won the Kyabram District League flag for the first time since 1952. His father, Frank, is one of five survivors of that team, along with Brian Quirk, Kevin Doolan, Bill Atkins and Eric Todd.
The 1976 Girgarre flag was one of only two premiership wins Lawrie savoured in his long career in the game and gave him some friendly ammunition to fire back at his father in the years to come.
‘‘Dad was also 16 when he played in that 1952 side but I was 10 days younger when I played in the 1976 side so I’ve got the bragging rights. Remind him of it too, when I get the chance,’’ Laurie says with a giggle.
In 1978 Lawrie really made his mark in the Kyabram League, etching his name into the record books by winning the league’s highest individual award, the McNamara Medal.
Lawrie’s services were naturally a target for GVL clubs but he chose Kyabram to further his career because two close friends in Russell Barrett and Steve Sharp were playing with the Bombers at the time.
His Kyabram and GVL records speak for themselves.
Best and fairest awards in 1982, 1983 and 1986 were highlights of his 242 games with the Bombers.
And in those years with Kyabram he represented the GVL on no fewer than 12 occasions.
There were breaks from Kyabram in 1984 when he spent the Australian winter playing cricket in England and in 1985 when he played with the Keilor Football Club in the strong Essendon District Football League and won its best and fairest award despite playing only 11 games. Keilor also provided Lawrie with his second and only other flag win of his career.
He also spent 1990 coaching Narrandera in the former Riverina Football League for a season.
But his love of the Kyabram club lured him back to finish his GVL playing days. The Bombers’ shock 1993 preliminary final loss to Shepparton after going through the season undefeated was his last game in Kyabram’s red and black.
Then there were four swansong years with his home club, Girgarre, three as coach, before hanging up the boots in 1997.
Lawrie rates Rod Bray as the best player he played with at Kyabram and said personally he played his best football with the Bombers under the coaching of Chris Salter.
As far as the best players in the GVL he played or coached against, Gary Cooper (Tatura, Shepparton United and Mooroopna) and Shepparton’s David Code get his nod.
And he rates Tatura’s Phil Nicholson and Shepparton United Garry Kitto as his hardest opponents he encountered during his GVL days.
An avid student of the game, Lawrie is one player who has stuck with his club after his playing days, spending many seasons as an assistant coach and selector and also a confidant to many Kyabram coaches down the years.
Here’s Lawrie’s best Kyabram team in his time with the Bombers:
Backs: David Long, Barry Williams, Mick Ryan
Half backs: Daryl Argus, Barry Ough, Craig Dyson
Centres: Bill Fry, Rod Bray, Ian Bloomfield
Half forwards: Maurie Wingate, Wayne Deledio, Andrew Johnston
Forwards: Denis Ryan, Chris Stuhldreier, Shane Loveless
Rucks: Ian Burgess, Peter Gittos, Peter Warburton
Interchange: Tony McDonell, Steve Kerwin, Kevin Williams, Shane Fitzsimmons
● Mansfield Football Club is seeking a new senior coach.
Former Richmond player Andrew Browne, who coached the GVL Eagles last year and was to take the job again this season, has resigned from the post due to work commitments in Melbourne.
Mansfield is hoping he will still find time to play next year, but has launched a hunt to find a replacement to lead the club.
● My Moulamein mate China Gibson tells me his footy club is fighting for survival.
The club, which competes in the Golden Rivers League, last week discussed a proposal to amalgamate with the bigger Central Murray League club Swan Hill. But the overture was rejected by Moulamein members and it will try to survive under its own steam for the 2021 season although it has a severe shortage of players at this stage.
One player who will be hoping Moulmein won’t fold is club stalwart and life member Darrel Pearse, who needs only one game to bring up the magical milestone of 700 games with the club.
● Murray Football League club Barooga has appointed a familiar face as its new senior non-playing coach.
Following the resignation of Zac Brain, the Hawks have named former AFL player Tim Hargreaves to take on the job.
Hargreaves, who played 62 games with Hawthorn and 20 with Geelong from 1994-98, is a former star Barooga player who was with the club between 2015 and 2017. He is originally from Berrigan but has coached and played with Yarrawonga, Rennie and Mulwala footy clubs.
● Kyabram-trained trotter Sultan Sass returned from a spell in winning form at Echuca last week.
The three-year-old filly, driven from a 20m handicap by James Herbertson, took on the older horses and proved up the challenge in accounting for the pacemaker Gus Or Bust and the 50m marker Daquiri.
Sultan Sass, who is prepared by young horseman Wes Shellie, is building an impressive resume. The Echuca run was only the sixth time she has been to the races, for a record of two wins and three placings.
● The Kyabram syndicate that has an interest in the Anton Golino-trained trotter Orlando Jolt celebrated his fourth career win at last Sunday's Kilmore meeting.
● Moama Cricket Club has suffered a blow with the departure of talented opening batsman Anthony McMahon to the Sandhurst Cricket Club in the Bendigo District Cricket Association.
McMahon amassed 538 runs, including a century against Echuca, at an average of 41.3 in Goulburn Murray Cricket last season. He joins another former Moama player, Joel Murphy, at Sandhurst, with speculation the pair may open the batting.
While Moama is losing a star player, Echuca Cricket Club continues to boost its ranks under recently appointed coach Jon Varcoe.
Tim Wood is returning from a break from the game but brings good credentials having played with Bendigo District Cricket Association teams Golden Square and Strathfieldsaye after starting his career with the Bruck Cricket Club in the Wangaratta District Cricket Association. He averaged 47 with the bat when he last played.
● Heathcote Football League clubs Colbinabbin and Mount Pleasant haven’t been letting the grass row under the feet while the COVID-19 lockdown has been on.
Colbo have signed up the Fitzgerald brothers — Laine, Logan and Nash — from the Bendigo area for the 2021 season.
Midfielders Laine and Logan have played with the Bendigo Pioneers and have been members of the GWS Academy.
While Colbo is building its ranks another HDL club, Mount Pleasant, has lured former Bendigo League star Adam Baird to the club for next season as assistant coach.
Baird is a four-time premiership player with Golden Square and an eight-time Bendigo League representative, who also represented the Victorian Country side on two occasions.
Baird’s brother Travis joined the Mounts last year.
Another Heathcote League club, Lockington Bamawm United, has named its new coach.
Brodie Collins will take on the job. He was originally appointed to coach with Kahl Oliver, who has stepped down.
Heathcote League clubs are facing an 18 per cent cut in the player salary cap next year.
AFL Central Victoria a proposing a cap of $106,000, compared with this year’s $130,000.
● The GV Veteran Golf Association and the Goulburn Valley Croquet Association have put their upcoming seasons on hold until 2021 due to COVID-19.
The veteran golfers have pencilled in a January 18 start at Kyabram’s Parkland Golf Club.
Goulburn Valley Croquet Association’s golf croquet season has been cancelled due to the withdrawal of some clubs and the current uncertainty of the COVID-19 restrictions.
The annual Barrie Beehag ski race conducted by the Moama Water Sports Club has also been cancelled for this year.
● Another Goulburn Valley League footballer has made his AFL debut.
Jordan Butts played his first game for Adelaide in its recent loss to Geelong.
As an 18-year-old Butts played in the Shepparton side that upset Kyabram in the 2018 GVL season decider.
Butts impressed Matthew Nicks in first game, with the Adelaide coach saying "he looked composed and at home".