Graeme Ludbrook - My Redan Story
Tell us about your earliest footy memories and highlights of your junior career with Redan.
My family lived about 200 metres from the Western Oval. That was virtually my backyard growing up. So I started training with the Redan Under 14's at about 12 years of age. I was small and spent a lot of time on the bench in those days.
When I was 15, I grew about five inches, so was able to move out of the back pocket to taller opponents. In the Under 16s we played in finals and were developing into a strong unit, with great players like Ken Nunn, Greg Wood, Daryl Chibnall, Alan Rawle and Colin Baker.
Then came the Under 18's in 1968 and 69 and we played in many finals, winning the 1969 premiership. And with great coaches like Stan Wallis and Tassie Coleman we really developed. It was a great thrill. In 1969, I was selected to play at full back in the Combined BFL under 18 side to play a Combined VFL under 19 team at the showgrounds.
Your father Ron was club President during the early 1960s so there was little doubt where you would end up playing your junior football?
Yes, Dad was a tireless worker at Redan in the late 1950's and early 60's. He was President in 1962 and 63. I remember when I was a young kid, going over to the western oval to watch Dad and half a dozen other committeemen working at weekends to build the "Lions Den" Most of those guys had no building skills but their passion got the job done over quite a few years.
When I was in the Under 14's Dad got me the job on the scoreboard at the City oval for the Seniors' home games. The scoreboard was often wrong, due to me watching the game and my heroes, rather than the white flags.
Which of your junior teammates later went on to play in some of the Premierships coached by John Northey the following decade?
Ken Nunn and Daryl Chibnall and I were the only players, from my junior teams, who were still at senior level when John Northey came to Redan in 1974.
What season did you make your debut in the senior side and who was coaching at that stage?
I moved from under 18's to seniors in 1970. My coaches at Redan were Mike O'Brien, Geoff Brisbane and Barry Smart, before John "Swooper" Northey came to Redan.
At what stage during 1975 did you feel the side was capable of winning the Grand Final?
In 1974, Swooper really worked on our skills, our fitness and our teamwork. Our passion and our professionalism grew enormously. So, in 1975, after a strong pre-season and the added recruitment of some fantastic footballers, I felt we were on the verge of something really special.
We did innovative things. We had team tee shirts made, we went on a mid - season camp at Creswick with our wives and girlfriends. Our wives and Girlfriends were always considered in our activities and we were becoming a “Family” club.
Most of all, we quickly all became strong mates. The squad was performing really well, and for me, I had to work hard each week to get a game.
You were CHB in the 1975 Premiership side, Redan’s first premiership in 23 years. In addition to Doc Hepper’s legendary goal, what do you think was the key to Redan winning by one point over East Ballarat that afternoon?
That was an amazing, "impossible" legendary goal!! Thank you Doc Hepper!!
We finished on top of the ladder in 75, so we knew we could beat all comers in the finals series. Swooper gave us the belief. I played on Wayne Nelson, who kicked over 100 goals that year, so my challenge was important. He kicked only one goal for the match so I was happy.
We had a 40 year premiership reunion dinner last year and Swooper replayed to us the exciting last three or four minutes of the 3BA broadcast of the game. I must say that I heard Ken Nunn winning about five desperate contests, controlling the ball in our forward line, in those last few minutes.
One of his attacking shots was just fingertip touched by the pack on the goal line for a point. A goal would have changed the game, with only a minute or so remaining. Well done Ken Nunn. But, every single player was outstanding that day.
What are some of your recollections of the match itself?
John Northey was the "General", always inspirational and leading by example. I was pleased that the East Ballarat player who knocked out Wayne Lyle was the player who kicked the ball out of bounds on the full in the dying seconds, allowing Doc Hepper a free kick to goal as the bell rang.
I did not hear the bell and Ian “Hoss” Baker picked me up as I told Hoss to get back into full back. Wasn't necessary, as he quickly convinced me that we had won the 1975 premiership!! And what a legendary way to win the “cup”.
That was the last of my 106 senior games with Redan...... A premiership, a job promotion to Melbourne and my marriage to Jenny, all within a few fabulous months. I really missed the camaraderie we had created in 1975!
Yourself and Daryl Chibnall organised a fundraising bottle of red wine ‘Bin 23’ to be produced to commemorate the win. Tell us about the outcome of that fundraising, whether it was a good drop and whether any bottles remain?
Yes, it had “Bin 23 Years” since Redan had won a premiership! And a few of us still have an intact bottle or two. I don’t think I have heard any favourable comments about the quality of the red wine. I will not spoil the legend by telling you how and where we sterilised the wine bottles!!
They sold like hotcakes and significantly helped fund our premiership trip to Glenelg. A few of the team leaders were presented with a bottle of “white wine” with the same fabulous Chibnall designed label. If they ever opened it they would have discovered it was only pure Ballarat water.
What do you think made Northey such an effective and successful coach? Was it obvious he was destined for the VFL when coaching Redan?
John was an inspirational coach and player. His preparation was amazing. He turned the Redan football club into a professional club, where everyone from the trainers, to the committee, to the players and their families, focused together on only one major goal. His courage on the field was unrelenting.
I believe he should have won the Henderson Medal in '75, if he hadn't "challenged" the umpires so much....always in the interest of his players, of course!! John was destined to be a VFL/AFL Coach with great Premierships at Western Suburbs in Sydney then Redan, then brilliant wins, coaching the combined Ballarat Winfield Champions.
In my experience, including at his 15 year AFL level, all John's players who ran out on the ground, would fight extremely hard to do anything he asked of them.
How would you describe yourself as a footballer?
I was just always a battling backman. My major strength really was the team things. I loved the Club and the camaraderie. I was the players representative and organised many of the team building things we introduced in 1974 and 75. I thank Swooper and Assistant Coach, Peter Merriman and our team for getting the best two years of my football out of me.
Who were the best five players you saw at Redan?
Obviously John Northey is my first choice. He was an inspiration to us all. By the way, Kevin Sheedy, in his biography rates Northey as "the best tackler" he saw. Ron Barassi said Northey was the best half forward flanker in the VFL at that time.
Graeme Gellie was the most courageous and talented player I played with. He went on to win the recruit of the year in the VFL and then coached the Saints
Ian Baker was a brilliant, tough young player, who St Kilda quickly grabbed.
It was amazing to have the above three players around us all, especially in "heavy traffic".
The brilliant Greg Wood was not really seen much at senior level, because he was quickly recruited to the VFL Demons. By the way, he was asked to go up to the seniors to play in the 1969 Redan Reserves premiership, I reckon as a 16 year old.
Ron Andrews was a similar story. He was virtually our "tough guy/enforcer/protector” and he was only 17!! Des Tuddenham came to see Ron play and Rugged Ronny soon vanished to Essendon.
Tell us about some of the roles you had at Melbourne, Richmond and Brisbane in the VFL/AFL working alongside John Northey?
Thanks to Swooper, I was extremely fortunate to work at those clubs, from 1987 to 2000. I was seven years at the Demons, three years at Richmond and three years with the Brisbane Lions. I still had my career happening during the week, but training nights and weekends were focused on working with John.
I helped with the team development things. I set up team meetings on match day, sat in the coaches box and provided key points raised by the match committee to Swooper, for his reviews each quarter with the team huddle and I helped with training drills during the week. At each Pre Season Camp I conducted a Leadership Program for the players.
Have you kept in touch with many of your premiership teammates and tell us what it is like reminiscing the win at the various re-unions?
Daryl Chibnall and I have been great mates since Pleasant Street Primary School. He also lived around the corner from the Western Oval and we were usually first to training and last to leave. As Swooper always told us, if you fiercely aim to work extremely hard together and then win a premiership, you will be mates forever. And it is so true!
At our 40 year reunion last year (2016), the “chemistry” was amazing. We were immediately close mates from “yesterday” and had an amazing night.