Sporting royalty and entertainment

By Robert Muir

By Robert Muir

About 300 people had a wonderful night of entertainment listening to six champions in four fields of sport at Corowa Golf Club last Saturday night.

It was a big part of the seventh annual Marcus Fraser Ambrose golf event.  Our 40-year-old star international golfer has loved all six previous Sporting Night events.

“But this was the biggest and best we’ve had,” Marcus told the big crowd. “I especially thank ‘Magro’ (tournament organiser Shaun Whitechurch).

“It’s a great turn out, attracting 300 people. Thank you all very much. It was Magro’s idea seven years ago to have this event. To see so many people in this club is just amazing.”

Attendees loved hearing from all six sporting celebrities in a near three-hour Question and Answer format with Master of Ceremonies Magro firing questions, many of them leading or loaded ones.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic however, as some, particularly Balldale/Corowa king John Longmire returned fire with fire. So much so, that “you’re speechless Magro!” the Sydney AFL coach claimed at one stage.

All six sporting celebrities had common traits – they didn’t expect anywhere the ultimate success they achieved in their fields but worked hard, they reached great heights and have handled success impeccably.

“All I wanted to do was to play for Corowa-Rutherglen in the O and M alongside Dennis Sandral who I idolised,” North Melbourne great and Sydney premiership coach John (Horse) Longmire admitted.

The 47-year-old, however, played for the O and M Roos at the tender age of 16-years, in the side with club games equal record holder Sandral (333), played 200 games with and booted 511 goals for the bigger, AFL Roos, won the Coleman Medal and is the highly respected eight-year-coach of Sydney Swans, with a premiership to his name.

In answer to MC questions, John said: “Lance Franklin loves his footy. And what a player.” “To have a ‘Duck’ (Wayne Carey) and a ‘Horse’ in the same team was really special for me (the pair booted a combined 768 goals – Longmire 464 – in six seasons).  “What’s most exciting about the job is working with younger players – to see that wide-eye enthusiasm. “The hardest things are telling some player he is to be dropped from a final and to tell him the club is cutting him loose. There’s an emotional commitment as coach.” 

Longmire booted 98 goals to win the Coleman Medal in 1990 at just 19-years-of-age but copped friendly abuse from Collingwood legend Peter Daicos who finished on 97 that year. “Selfish (something)!” ‘Daics said.

There were stacks of laughs when Daics and Horse spoke. A brilliant, freakish goalkicker, 57-year-old Daics, nicknamed the ‘Macedonian Marvel’ by Lou Richards, kicked 549 through the big sticks in his 250 games with the Pies.

Explaining his enormous goal-kicking ability, the still very fit looking former No. 35 said: “I practised and practised, always looked after myself fitness-wise, and did a lot of kicks in the changerooms on the right hand side of my right foot.”

Peter’s 20-year-old son Josh, who has played 10 senior games with last year’s runners-up, will “make his own way” according to Daicos senior. 

At Collingwood, there is the Peter Daicos Academy which welcomes the sons and families of past Collingwood legends back the club. 

Royalty continued with Keith Greig MBE. What a career - as detailed recently in The Free Press. Such was the Victorian and North Melbourne captain’s talent, the 67-year-old received an MBE in the 1975 Queen’s Honours list for contribution to Australian Rules.

“From 1971 to 1975 I received $30 a game and paid $3 in tax,” he said. “When I retired in 1985, I was paid $30,000 for the season and paid $12,000 in tax. I would have played for nothing.”

A qualified plumber, the red-haired Brownlow Medallist of 1973 and 1974 explained the clash with Richmond after the Tigers believed the Charlie handed to him by one vote from Kevin Bartlett should have been Bartlett’s. 

Greig also explained the fall-out with his coach Ron Barassi, after two regretful, personal sprays from the highly successful coach.

“We get along alright now,” 1996 Hall of Famer Greig said. He addressed the question of state representative football which was so popular yesteryear, especially with the input of the greatest footballer of all time, Ted Whitten. 

“Teddy was the driving force. He dragged you forward to play for the Big V. Bobby Skilton and John Nicholls were other great advocates.” 

Keiran Pratt, 30, is on the comeback golf trail after a longish break. But the professional, who beat Tiger Woods in 2010 at the Australian Masters at Victorian Golf Club in Melbourne, is working hard again and if he goes well in next month’s Victorian Open, his future could be bright.

“The golf course here is grouse. I really liked it,” he said.

Other fine insights into their sports talks were given by Betfair’s Jack Dickens who explained his specialist role as horse racing mounting yard expert and Robert Starr, the 28-years-to date Holden Racing Car engineer.

The Sportsman’s Night was free and wonderfully received. “It was fantastic,” Ovens and Murray League Hall of Famer, Dennis Sandral told The Free Press.

“It is interesting the changes in the way the administration works when we heard from Keith Greig in the one-coach days to Sydney Swans’s eight coaches today.”

The Sportsman’s Night Auction was a huge success, with a total of $8,000 raised. “The auctioneer was charismatic, entertaining and enthralled the crowd,” Federation Council Deputy Mayor Whitechurch said of Marcus’s dad.

The MC and the club greatly appreciated the memorabilia provided by the guest speakers. For example, a bidder paid $3000 for four friends to attend a Sydney home game and have a tour. “These six speakers donated their time to help the club out,” Magro said.