1966 Premiership Recount

Includes pre-season commentary, crucial player recruitment, social events, Grand Final, & post Grand Final as recalled by Vincent Le Plastrier, Club President 1966. 

1966 was one of the highlights of my 62 years on this earth, I was twenty-five years of age, full of youthful enthusiasm, thought I could walk on water, had a high income earning job in real estate, and firmly followed the Napoleon Hill belief principle that whatever the mind of man could conceive and believe he could achieve.

One monday early in 1966 Alan Patten asked me if I would like to watch TV Ringside and have a few beers with some of the cricket club guys after the St. Albans Football Club Annual meeting, so I turned up for a few drinks and to watch the fights on TV.

In 1965 St. Albans finished last they were the standing joke of the Footscray District League.

A lot of beers later, I found myself nominated by John Doherty as the President of St. Albans Football Club. They say a new broom sweeps clean, well, little did I realise just how true that was going to be, our team Captain & Coach George Haynes was also the secretary, and our vice-Captain Allan Patten was also the Treasurer, the young Turks had arrived. Early meetings were so chaotic that I had a showdown with the old guard and banned alcohol during the meetings.

An event like this is a timely reminder for all of us as to understand where we have come from; the younger players of today need to know what the historical background playing from Errington Reserve was about, and how and why that has got us to where we are today playing at Kings Park. The decision to negotiate and take Kings Park as our future home has now turned out with hindsight to be the right decision, considerable angst has now been rewarded. Little did we realise at the time we were negotiating that our move to Kings Park would see the senior team leave Errington Reserve forever, but for the Premiership team of '66 Errington will be forever with us.

At this point, I would like to acknowledge the incredible and enthusiastic work that the late Jack Cameron and his wife Lorna Cameron put into junior football at St. Albans Police Youth club, the youth of the district had very little to do, their European parents were not VFL fans, and the district was seen by outsiders as "Wog" or "Balt" town, with the hindsight of the past 40 years, I strongly believe that without the effort put in by the Cameron's in planting the early seeds of Australian Rules in St. Albans youth, their would have been no 1966 St. Albans Premiership Flag, it would be nice to see them remembered in an award for U16 players.

George and I discussed what we could do to recruit more players to strengthen the club especially as we had decided to enter a reserves team in the Western Suburbs League.

I asked George where did the young players who had played with St. Albans Police Youth Club end up going after they finished their junior football, he said they just drifted off and went walkabout, or played other sport, surfing, and soccer, So we made a conscious decision to see if we could round up these very talented junior players and bring them back to the club.

Fuzzy Barabasz, Stepas Launikonis, Tony Wyka, Horst Penning, Leon Cameron, Gary Cameron, Martin van Liempd, Frans van Leeuwen, Wishi Dawidowicz, Felix Uscinas, Gus Hrygaites, Alex Duchouis, , Wally Kowalczuk, Andy Lubicz, all come to mind as junior players who came back to play in 1966 and who came from the St. Albans Police Youth Club junior teams, Fred Honey also came from PYC but was already playing with St. Albans seniors.

I may have missed a few ex PYC players nearly 40 years later, but I can be excused a few memory lapses. Tommy McIntyre came out of retirement until injured, and Doug Stevens who had played all his junior football with Sunshine came over from VFA senior club Sunshine.

The good news was, we had too many talented players, so many of the club senior veterans found themselves playing in the reserves, a bit of heartache for some as we started to win games and stay in the top four, St. Albans had arrived in the FDL as a force.

I suppose many of the old timers at the club have talked about playing conditions at Errington Reserve in those days. Well in the 50's and 60's for young men without cars and working in Footscray & Sunshine factories, or the CBD, getting to and from training and games was a major exercise in commitment; kids of today would not even consider playing footy if they had to face the same hardship.

No grass grew on the oval which ran downhill, but in winter onion grass grew with a very sparse cover, when it rained the oval was a quagmire. After training on a wet night the guys often had to walk or ride their bikes home in the dark, dirty and sweaty, and when it rained we were covered in mud and wet as a shag, we would arrive home about 7.00 to 7.30pm depending on where you lived, in those days most of the working class family homes were owner built and many did not have 60 gallon hot water services, they only had old wood chip heaters, so a bath/shower was often cold or just warm. By 1966 our club rooms were very new and even had showers.

The enthusiasm of the youthful playing team led to some innovative social occasions, who remembers the "Red Light Disco" organised at the club rooms by Murray Stevens, Wally Kowalczuk, and the "Dutch" bachelors, Frans van Leeuwen, Martin van Liempd, and Hank van Soort. Then we had a fantastic fancy dress dance at the Sydenham Hall, what great times were had by all at the old hall over the years, until we got barred because somebody damaged the Memorial Gates. I remember well at the Sydenham fancy dress Austin McMahon who worked at St. Albans Building Supplies with Alan Patten, arrived at the fancy dress all dressed to the nines looking very dapper in a very smart dark blue suit, white shirt, cuff links, tie, quick as a flash Patto's dry wit said; here comes Austin, dressed up in fancy dress as a businessman.

And who could ever forget the magic voice of our own "Jerry Vale" - Peter Hewitt, when we could get Peter to overcome his shyness, to sing Two Purple Shadows or If or Pretend You Don't See Her. Singing on the footy trip bus was never the same without Peter, especially if we had to put up with a very pissed Wishi Dawidowicz singing the Beach Boys song "The Sloop John B", don't ask him to sing, he is terrible.

Although the "Chook", and his Ukrainian Cossack dancing after a few beers, was quite spectacular to say the least. And the famous little Red mini owned by a well known female member of the Turner family, that always seemed to be arriving at the after match function or Sunday morning recovery session in search of a wayward partner, and then staying on and drinking beer with the boys until stumps.

That covers a bit of history and some of the social life.

So, we got into the Grand Final; it was bigger than Ben Hur for the whole of St. Albans, everybody in town who read the local paper knew about it because we were front-page news. The free local rag the St. Albans Observer had given us good coverage during the year and George and Alan used to do the game write ups, not just because we were news worthy but also because St. Albans Building Supplies and D.L.G Stevens Real Estate, and my employer W. J. Bell & Son, were big advertisers in this paper so Patto, Murray Stevens, Doug Stevens, and myself gave the sales manager a bit of a nudge about coverage when we got to the finals, on the game day St. Albans businesses were decked out with Red & Blue balloons, streamers, and signs of encouragement, some businesses even paid for notices in the Observer encouraging the team to win our first ever premiership, the excitement and pressure on the players and coach was un-believable.

The game played at Braybrook started with "Pudden" Saunders dropping Frans van Leeuwen, Frans went down like a bag of potatoes - bang - he did not know where he was, they tried to bash us out of the game, but it did not work, we were just too good, the 31 point winning margin did not really reflect our dominance we had 33 scoring shots to 17. St. Albans 11.22 88 df Kingsville 8.9 57 .

An aside; I began playing footy at Kingsville in 1955, and all my old mates were playing that day with Kingsville coached by Wally Saunders. I got heaps of rubbishing on Grand Final day from the Kingsville supporters about being a traitor, especially after we won so convincingly. Mal McBean a former St. Albans & Kingsville coach was the Kingsville President that year so he had two bob each way, and I think Mal was pleased to see the perennial cellar dwellers get up rather than Spotswood or Parkside.

So the party started at Braybrook, then moved to Errington Reserve where hundreds of supporters and ordinary residents came down to see what all the noise was about.

The Observer sent a photographer and we had a three page spread the next edition of the paper, the party went on all Saturday night, Sunday and finally moved to a local hotel on Monday, and back to the club on Monday night. Apart from a small fracas on Sunday that Alex Duchouis, Kevin Quinn, and Joe Maziarz had to help control and settle down, although I think Alex was a bigger nuisance than a help, nothing untoward spoiled what was an historic and great celebration, things looked very rosy for St. Albans long term future, our time had arrived, and we were investing considerable time in our own juniors to provide for a continuous stream of talented St. Albans players.

Of course our year finished with a great end of year footy trip, which as usual remains a no comment statement from yours truly, everybody's secrets are still safe, but I still have the 8mm film that I took on the trip.

Regards, Vincent Le Plastrier