Trentham’s glory years

Trentham Football Club’s glory years in the Riddell League were surely from 1956 to 1961, with three premierships to celebrate — one when the team became the first to go through a season winning all matches.
Trentham first joined the RDFL in 1953 and departed to join the Clunes League in 1966, having fluctuating fortunes in different leagues since that time.
When the photo on this page of the victorious 1956 side was taken they were known as The Grasshoppers, wearing green and white guernseys. This name was not entirely popular with supporters and by 1959, Trentham was in St Kilda colours – The Saints, the name they have maintained to the present time.
Legendary Trentham sportsman Bill O’Connell reflected on some of Trentham’s exploits during the ‘Glory Years’ when I spoke to him last week, and produced premiership photos from 1956, 1959 and 1961.
O’Connell was too young to be in the 1956 side when Trentham demolished Sunbury 15.10 to 6.14 in the grand final, after a 22.14 to 9.17 second semi-final victory against Lancefield.
But he made his mark as a centreman in Trentham’s 1959 and 1961 premiership sides.
Back in that era, football sides largely comprised local players, and O’Connell felt privileged to play with and against some of the finest in the league.
He went on to play more than 200 games and then became a goal umpire for Trentham, as well as being an ongoing avid Footscray (Western Bulldogs) supporter for many years.
In 1959, Trentham 6.12 defeated Romsey 5.13 in a low-scoring grand final played at Lancefield.
KAYS THE BEST
O’Connell rates Gisborne’s versatile Graham Kays as possibly the best player he saw in the Riddell League, and one who should have gone on try out in the VFL. Kays won the Bowen Medal with 38 votes, including 12 best-on-ground performances, in 1970.
At Trentham, Jack Hiscock was a peerless player, being captain-coach in two of the club’s premiership sides and winning the Bowen Medal in 1954 and 1960, and being runner-up to Kilmore’s Geoff Barber in 1957.
A fine mark and kick, Hiscock could play in key positions or on the ball and came to Trentham after playing four games in the VFL with Melbourne and kicking 196 goals in 107 games for VFA club Sandringham.
And Bob Holmes, tough as nails with an intimidation factor, was a good man to have in your side to lead by example. Holmes kicked seven goals from the forward flank in the 1956 grand final, and coached the 1961 side that beat Lancefield 8.9 to 7.7 after being held scoreless in the first quarter and trailing by three goals going into the last term.
Trentham’s 20th man Kevin Law kicked vital goals in the last quarter, and Holmes, Fred Hyslop and O’Connell were listed as the sides best players. O’Connell represented Victorian Railways in the interstate carnival in Perth that year.
Trentham did not lose a match in 1961, being premiers and champions. In 1951, premiers Romsey went through the season undefeated but drew one match.
For some years Trentham was quite often referred to as “McNamara’s Band”, as a result of Jim McNamara being a very enthusiastic and supportive club president.
McNamara owned butcher shops in Daylesford, Trentham and Gisborne, and was a prominent racehorse owner as well as a football follower.
Snowfalls at Trentham are not uncommon in winter months, and sometimes a goal umpire would light a fire between the goals and boundary fence to avoid the chill.
Call it country football or community football, there was loyalty and support aplenty back in the ’50s and ’60s.
It was also not unknown for ‘ring-ins’ to play under assumed names.
In one match that had no bearing on the final four, Trentham utilised a talented player whose real name was Cole by listing him on the team sheet under another name. When the opposition queried why players were saying “kick it to Coley” the response was that “he’s a coal miner”.
Trentham’s stint in the Riddell League ended after the 1965 season, when its strong thirds side was disqualified for fielding an over-age player in the second semi-final.
O’Connell said the club was divided over whether the club should stay or go – a vote in favour of remaining in 1966 was carried, but influential figures who favoured going to the Clunes League were elected to the committee, and the Saints departed.
# NOTE – Quite a few clubs have called themselves The Grasshoppers over the years, including Colbinabbin, Dromana, Navarre, North Albury and Yarroweyah.

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