Les Borrack - My Redan Story
What are some of your earliest football memories and highlights of your junior career with Redan?
I played my first game of football on a paddock (Heathmere v Heywood). There were only two players who wore football boots. The others were so poor that they played in bare feet whilst some tacked leather straps to their ordinary boots or shoes to stop slipping. From that game with hindsight three players went on to play VFL Football.
Jack Finch Collingwood 1951-1954 53 games. Played Full Back in their 1953 premiership team.
Les Borrack Geelong 1953-1960
Denis Zeunert Carlton 1954-1960. 110 games
I first played competitive football with Sebastopol Under 16’s in 1949, got beaten by an average of thirty goals each game. The following year I obtained a clearance to Redan FC to play with my brothers.
1949 Winning the Under 16 Grand Final. We had a good administration lead by Mr Bill Osbourne President and Coach Alan Sandwith.
1950 Missed final series due to being called up for National Service Duty 8th August 1951.
1951 Member of the Under 18 premiership team and Best and Fairest. Again good administration by Mr Frank Taylor President and Boo Jenkins as coach.
Who or what was it that saw you chose to play with Redan after playing with Sebastopol in 1947?
It was blind obvious about getting beaten by an average of thirty goals per game and having my oldest brother at Redan it was an easy decision.
Which of your junior teammates went on to the 1952 Premiership side and which junior coaches had the biggest impact on your football?
My brother Ferg Borrack, Claude Howard, Rex Stalker and Alan Fyffe. We were lucky to have coaches like Alan Sandwith and Boo Jenkins at that level.
Describe the Redan Football Club during the 1950s.
Firstly the club had strong junior teams. The appointment of Keith Rawle in 1950 from Essendon had a huge impact, a classy player, quiet person who set a fine example on and off the field to the younger players coming to the club.
They secured senior players in Bill Ebery, Bill “Bomber” Wells, Dick McLeod and Len Templar. Then suddenly we had a great combination that bought success.
During this time, you also had a two of your teammates come to live with you at the family home in Armstrong Street?
I met Claude Howard (who has since passed away) at Ballarat High School in 1949. I invited him to come and live at our family home at 308 Armstrong St South. There were 26 people in the boarding house. Claude came from Streatham his father was head Rabbit Trapper at the Nerrin Nerrin Station. Rex Stalker came from Mt Egerton from a famous sporting family.
What do you remember of 1952 season, did Keith Rawle or the players draw attention to going undefeated during the season and what was the narrowest victory?
Keith was an inspiring leader, but good players make good coaches.
I played my first game in the Ballarat League at Maryborough at centre half forward being best man on the ground and kicking three goals.
One never knows how good one is “it’s for others to judge” Mid-June 1952 we played Geelong West at the City Oval Ballarat. I performed well against two ex-Geelong footballers in Don Buaer and Andy Monahan. Wally Cox Secretary of Geelong West FC RANG Geelong that evening “ get and sign that Borrack” and they did at 11.00 that Sunday morning.
Then Reg Hickey, Jack Ross Chairman of selectors and Neil Trezise (who won the BFL U/18 Best and Fairest in 1948) being a former player at Redan Reg Hickey gave Jack Ross the pleasure of signing me on a form 4 on the bonnet of a big blue Fairlane courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.
Redan went on to become premiers and champions. I was runner up in the club’s Best & Fairest. I was also runner up in the Courier Trophy.
1953 I played two games with Geelong that year on permit prior to 30th June. I played my first league game against South Melbourne at Kardinia Park 30th May 1953 then 6th June against Melbourne at the MCG. The two games I played that year were a part of the 26 consecutive games for Geelong 1952-1953 a record that stands to this day.
June 27th 1953 represented the Ballarat League against Bendigo which ended in a draw. Graham Arthur and Brendan Edwards represented Bendigo then going on to Hawthorn.
July 27th 1953 Geelong went to Hobart. I represented Tasmania v Geelong that game. Their best players were at the carnival in Adelaide. Geelong 17.24 def Tas 8.13.
Redan were beaten favourites in the 1953 grand final by Golden Point lead by Jack Collins and Geelong were beaten favourites by Collingwood also in 1953. 'What may have been'.
I was a State Bank of Victoria Officer in Ballarat and transferred effected on 22nd September 1953 to Geelong to start my career.
I received 200 pound to sign ($400)
I received 100 pound ($200) on being granted a match permit.
I received 100 pound ($200) on being cleared.
Player payments at Geelong were:
8 pound less 7 shillings for net 7.13 pounds ($15.60)
5 pounds to club provident fund ($10.00)
4 pounds to league provident fund ($8.00)
Not bad when you consider my annual salary was 450 pounds ($900) per annum or 17.5.3 per fortnight.
Details of my Provident Fund on retirement
Club Fund 291 pounds
League Fund 310 pounds
Redan took on Ballarat in the 1952 Grand Final at a packed Eastern Oval. What are your memories of the day, your role, the game itself and the celebrations thereafter?
Naturally being successful in wining that’s what its all about. Don’t remember much about the celebrations as were no drinks. Sunday we had a photo taken at the Eastern Oval.
What do you feel made that side so successful and which players stepped up their games the most that season?
The Catalyst was Keith Rawle followed by our senior players in Bill Ebery, Bomber Wells and Max Spittle with 6 first year players who improved as the season developed.
We had leg speed.
Who were the best players you played with at Redan?
As above along with Len Templar.
Tell us a little about the some of the keys to Keith Rawle’s success with Redan. Can you recall much of his game plan, coaching methods and favourite sayings?
“Very good players don’t need coaching”. They just know what to do.
You had a taste of VFL football with Richmond and St Kilda?
1952 I played my first practice game with Richmond courtesy of my brother Ferg who knew Maurice Fleming Secretary of the Club. Jack Dyer was coach, played two games.
Jack Dyer spoke to me at length in front of the Charlie Calender property steward’s room. Jack shook my hand and said not quite good enough at this stage go back to your home club Redan. But added that if someone offers you 1,000 pounds ($2,000) to sign do not let them out of your sight as I have been on the payroll since 1931. In his case until the age of 80 he was one of the greatest people I have ever met very considerate, humble and warm person.
Following Jack’s advice I played two practice games at St Kilda at the Junction Oval. Colin Williamson was coach, a quiet man Sam Ramsay Secretary very rude man replaced by Laird Smith from Geelong FC Don Sackville President.
In one game I played centre half forward on Des Nisbet who was about to retire from the game. He said from the country lad “yes Sir” I’ll let you get in front of me to take a good mark , run your distance and drop kick as far as you can. “I just did that”
I still remember Mr Sackville sitting in his big chair overlooking the board table. It was very intimidating as a young person mean to say I never got to play with St Kilda.
At what stage did you first learn of Geelong’s interest and what did you find most difficult in making the adjustment to VFL football in 1953 and who was your first opponent?
1950 Firstly I was approached by Melbourne whilst at the Ballarat High School.
1952 Played two practice matches at Richmond.
Played two practice matches at St Kilda.
As far back as 1948 Geelong was aware of my talent when I was at the Geelong High School.
1952 After playing at the City Oval in June against Geelong West, I played on two ex-Geelong Footballers in Don Bauer and Andy Monahan. I must have impressed the Secretary of Geelong West FC who contacted Geelong that evening.
11am Sunday there was a knock on the door, Mr (Reg) Hickey was there and wanted to talk to me. Present were Jack Ross Chairman of the match committee, Neil Trezise a former player for Redan. Mr Hickey did all the talking. It did not take much persuading to sign a form four. During my period at the Geelong High School I went to many games at Kardinia Park
Tell us about another Redan export Neil Tresize who also had a successful career with Geelong?
1948 Neil Trezise won the Ballarat league’s best and fairest.
1949 He played two senior games before being cleared to Geelong
Played 1949-1959, 185 games and 272 goals.
Member of the 1951,1952 premierships teams.
Coached Geelong Reserves to three premierships.
President of Geelong FC 1974
28 Years as State Member of Parliament.
What was it like playing under Reg Hickey and Bob Davis? Who were some of the other champion players you played alongside during your 95 games with the club?
Reg Hickey welcomed me on the first training session in 1954. He said just finished work, I am your new boss. I replied 'Yes Sir Mr Hickey'. He was a well renowned personality who imposed very strict discipline on his players, with firm rules and high morals.
In his time as coach I never heard him raise his voice.” A Man’s Man”. He must have thought a lot of me because I was one of three players to be invited to his home.
Who were some of your toughest opponents and who do you consider the best player you have ever shared a field with?
Toughest - Ted Whitten, Don Furness, Jack Clarke and Bill Towney.
Best - John Coleman, Bob Rose, Stuart Spencer and Brendan Edwards.
What was the biggest highlight of your time with Geelong?
Naturally playing my first game on 30th May 1958 at Kardinia Park against South Melbourne. My first opponent was Keith Schaefer a seasoned centre man. The second half was Mick Sibun Kicked a goal.
The following game against Melbourne at the MCG I got in the best players and being part of the club’s 26 wins. The record still stands to this day.
Following your time with Geelong, you went on to Coach Geelong West from 1961 to 1962 and Rokewood from 1963 to 1964. Tell us about those experiences and some of the highlights?
It was a real wake up call going from the VFL to playing 16 a side. In my fourth game I was playing at Linton and broke my leg which ended my playing career at age 30.
You’ve since acted in a number of roles with the Geelong Football Club, namely recruitment and as a Board Member. Tell us about this experience.
With the zoning system Fitzroy had the Western District which you would think should have been for Geelong. We had from Seymour to Healsville and recruited Gordon Reid from Lang Lang who played 56 games.
Later we picked up the Murray from South Melbourne where we recruited Andy Preston (58 games Geelong and 18 games Richmond, 2 Footscray) and Graeme Landy (54 games and 120 Richmond). We also spotted umpire Glen James who later went on to great success in the VFL.
In what other ways have you remained involved in sport?
I've had involvement through the Little League at Newtown (13 years admin and coach), the Geelong Racing Club, VFA Umpires, and the Country Appeals Board.
Describe the honour of being named CHF in the Redan Team of the Century side?
1993 Named in the centre in the Ballarat Football League’s Centenary Year Team.
2000 Named at Centre Half Forward in the Redan FC Team of the Century.
Both great honours.
Tell us about your brothers Mal and Ferg who also played with Redan. How much football did you play together?
Ferg and I played together in seasons 1952-1953.
We all played together at the Geelong West FC in the Ballarat League. I am the only surviving member of the Borrack clan.
How would you describe yourself as a footballer and which position did you feel you played your best football?
Centre Half Forward, had room to take big marks and kick long distances with drop kicks.
What did you make of the club’s plight during the 1990s and subsequent turnaround and have you been fortunate to witness and of the premierships during the 1970s or 2000s?
Living in Geelong I did not have a lot to do with Redan after my playing days. I like many past players helped in the turnaround with help and donations. It was great to see the club reinvent itself with such a good history.
I was fortunate to witness another turnaround with Geelong and was made a life member of that club in 1960.
The AFL Encyclopaedia refers to your extreme courage and superb drop kicks. Did both come naturally to you and how many of your goals would have been kicked using drop kicks? What was the key to kicking the perfect drop kick?
God’s gift. All my goals kicked were a long way out. One day at the Eastern Oval one was measured 84 yards (76m).
Where are you based these days and do you still get along to see some Redan games? Which of your 1952 teammates have you had the most involvement with over the years?
I have been a resident of Geelong for 63 years.
The 2016 meeting at the City Oval I think there are only five or six still with us.
What advice do you have for the boys and girls starting their football and netball careers with Redan?
If you have a dream, it’s commitment “totally” and absolutely - but these days its all based on the American system.
My Life highlights
Playing my first year of Senior football with Redan. Winning the premiership and being champions. Playing my first VFL games for Geelong at Kardinia Park against South Melbourne on 30th May 1953.
Being made a life member of Geelong Football Club in 1960, 50 years on receiving the R.J. Hickey award for outstanding service to Australian Rules Football.
Meeting my wife to be on the first day at Geelong 22nd September 1953. Our 60th Wedding Anniversary is on the 19th October 2017. Awarded life membership of Football Geelong serving 27 years on the Independent Tribunal and 14 years on the Victorian Country Football League Appeals Board.
Late in 1989 Norma and I bought an old sawmill on 3.5 acres at Gellibrand River at Loves Creek and made it into a Botanical Garden over a 10 year period with open garden days. A labour of love.
2010 Awarded Life membership of the Geelong racing Club following 21 years of service.
2011 Had the Bar named after me in the Gargan Stand at the Geelong Racing Club.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate.
There are not many left of the 1952 premiership team.
Les Borrack 2016
1952 Premiership side - Back row, far right
With brothers Mal and Ferg.
First game with Redan