• Part one
By Glenn Sullivan
Glenn Sullivan, of Wonthaggi, is currently writing the History of the Wonthaggi Blues FC, his third local history book. The history will run from 1950 through to 2004. If you have a story to share or would like to follow progress, go to facebook.com/BlueBoys.
IN THEIR time in the Bass Valley League, the Wonthaggi Blues were the dominant team with many premiership cups heading their way.
They missed the finals in their first season but then appointed Ken Robinson to coach the side with immediate success to win the 1970 pennant.
In 1971, Wonthaggi dominated local footy with Blues and Rovers finishing at the top of the table, each with 15 wins.
Their rivalry was about to hit new heights when they met in the second semi-final.
The Rovers had their chances early, but poor kicking let Blues into the game. Peter Hanley and Trevor Pugh dominated the second half and the Blues walked into the grand final with a five-goal win.
It was 50 years ago, on September 11, 1971, that the rivalry was cemented with the first-ever Blues/Rovers grand final.
At the start, the Rovers were ready too and got the jump early. There was a lot of feeling with all 36 players involved in an all-in brawl in the first term.
Pud Fraser was in the centre of it, reported for striking. A Blues trainer had to sit on him to restrain the ruckman. The Blues fought back in the second quarter to take a four-point lead into the main break.
The Rovers went to the lead early in the last quarter but then the Blues pounced to draw level and then go to the front by the narrowest of margins.
“The last quarter was a real ripper, with 36 players throwing everything, regardless of cost, in a desperate effort to win a premiership.”
With the time clock in the red, Phil ‘Hooter’ Studham goaled for the Blues to set up a seven-point lead. Blues looked home.
It wasn’t over yet as the Rovers went forward, but their shot on goal went wide.
The Blues tried desperately to clear the ball, but it came back, and a pack of players flew at it.
As the dust cleared, big John Gilliland had pulled down the mark within range of goal. He absorbed the pressure and kicked straight. Scores were level well into time on. As the ball was bounced, the siren sounded! The grand final was drawn! Blues 9.12 to Rovers 10.6.
Move forward another 20 years to September 1991 with the Blues v Phillip Island; the rivalry having really developed in the previous decade.
Phillip Island had won a very tough grand final in 1982 and the ill feeling from that game carried through the years.
Blues and the Islanders were the clearly dominant teams in 1991 and Blues moved into the grand final with a strong semi-final win.
Grand final day was a beauty.
There was a draw in the Thirds game and then the Blues Seconds broke their premiership drought with a one-point win.
The senior game didn’t disappoint. It was a spiteful and fiery clash with a number of players reported.
Ruck rover Paul McDermid was outstanding for Blues and Geoff Isbister had a big influence on the result.
Dean Chambers was a powerhouse at CHB, impeding many of the Island goal attempts.
The final minutes of the game were frantic.
The Blues were seven points up as an Island player had a successful shot on goal. He was hit after he kicked the ball and was awarded a second shot to give Phillip Island the lead.
Blues went forward and immediately won back the one-point lead. They lost the next centre clearance, and an Island forward had a long shot on goal. It went wide and scores were level!
Football was frantic in the closing seconds; players on both side were desperate, but the siren beat both teams and on September 7, 1991, almost 20 years to the day after the first grand final draw, Blues and Phillip Island players walked off to prepare for the replay the next week. Wonthaggi Blues 18.10 had drawn with Phillip Island 17.16.