Best of my time
I am often asked to nominate the best players of my time at Assumption College Kilmore, ACK.
It is a really difficult task to name just a select few from the cricket and football teams across five decades.
The winter game at ACK has for the most part prospered across 130 seasons.
In all that time span 148 boys who wore the Dark and Light Blue progressed to the ranks of VFL/ AFL football.
A fair number of those are among the game’s elite.
But equally there have been many who could have made the Big Time, but circumstances dictated they return to country or suburban leagues to ply their trade.
One such notable is Ray Power who kicked 210 goals for Assumption in 1982 – an astounding feat I doubt will ever be exceeded.
League clubs eagerly sought power but was not interested, instead choosing to ply his goalkicking trade around varied country competitions for 20 seasons – and mostly registering the ‘ton’ year after year.
Cricket’s roll-call does not nearly rival footballs at ACK but there have been a steady stream who have played Premier Cricket in three states – Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
Simon O’Donnell tops the summertime list. He played for Australia and captained Victoria.
Peter Ryan was outstanding at ACK. He progressed to play for Hampshire (UK) and Queensland.
Here are the ‘Best of My Time’:
Neale Daniher (Essendon)
Peter Crimmins (Hawthorn)
Francis Bourke (Richmond)
Shane Crawford (Hawthorn)
Peter McCormack (Collingwood)
Laurie Serafini (Fitzroy)
David King (North Melbourne)
Bill Brownless (Geelong)
Simon O’Donnell (Essendon, Victoria and Aust.)
Peter Ryan (Fitzroy, Hampshire and Qld)
John Bahen (Fitzroy)
Matt O’Sullivan (Essendon)
Tallan Wright (Essendon)
Br Xavier Collins will be happy to see his proteges McCormack and Serafini listed in the footy group.
How green was my valley
Wales is a small, proud nation of 3.2 million people. It is noted for its rugged coastline, mountainous national parks, distinctive language and Celtic culture. It is also renowned for legendary rugby teams and players, also for its glorious singing.
Richard Llewellyn’s classic novel ‘How Green Was My Valley’, first published in 1933 and reprinted 48 times in nine languages, is a brilliantly nostalgic depiction of life in the valleys.
In the novel, Huw Morgan, 60 years old, looks back on his life as a boy growing up in a small Welsh mining town.
His reminiscences reveal the disintegration of his closely-knit family and devoted parents while capturing the sentiments and issues of the time. It is a story of a family’s dreams, struggles and triumphs.
Coal mines have virtually disappeared from the United Kingdom landscape but for generations it was a reality of life in the north of England and in the Welsh valleys.
Life was incredibly tough for miners and their families – much of it in fact grinding poverty.
Pit disasters were common place and many will remember the tragedy of long ago at Aberfan when a mountain of slag collapsed and enveloped an entire school, wiping out students and staff.
The memorial lawn at Aberfan with its headstones is an eerie place to visit.
There is a feeling of being in me presence of the spirits who died so tragically young. Aberfan is the village of a lost generation.
Although life was grim in the valley of those times, spirit was high and folk took solace in faith, singing and rugby.
Wales’ great rugby teams are legendary, as are its choirs and glorious voices.
At London’s famed Royal Albert Hall, I was lucky enough to attend a recital by a 250-strong Welsh male choir.
The stirring renditions literally raised the roof of the packed venue.
Voices of the valleys in recent times have been the highly-acclaimed Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel and Katherine Jenkins. The voice of each is universal.
To return to Llewellyn’s novel, it is indeed a saga of its times and as the principal character, Huw Morgan, sadly departs his valley for a new life. He reflects on all he has known, the community togetherness, the joys and sadness, the crushed hope and despair of so many, the sun and shadow of existence.
He recalls the people who had shaped his life his parents, siblings, his wonderful teacher and mentor Mr Gruffydd and so many others who had influenced his life.
Sadly, most were gone from this life, victims of pit disasters or mine dust ailments.
As Huw pondered nostalgically, he posed the question thus: ‘If they are dead and but faded memories, they who were so good, vibrant and full of life can they really be gone? For if they are dead then all of us are dead and life is just a mockery. But no, I do not believe they are gone – but are in the realness of the greater life.’