MOVES are not as sprightly, leaps not as high and pace has slowed, but the memories and wit of Eaglehawk Football Club’s premiership team of ‘53 is remarkably sharp.
The Borough’s stars of six decades ago will flock together at Canterbury Park tomorrow for a reunion.
The “Team of ‘53” will be special guests of the Eaglehawk Past Players and Officials Association as the Two Blues take on South Bendigo.
In 1953, Eaglehawk took on and beat Sandhurst in the Bendigo Football League grand final at Upper Reserve, later to be renamed Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Peter Crawford was the Two Blues centreman in the ‘53 season.
His dad, Bill was club president and played a big part in recruiting Ollie Grieve, runner-up in the 1952 Brownlow medal, from Carlton to Eaglehawk.
Such was Bill’s influence at the club, the Bill Crawford Pavilion was opened in 1967.
Peter Crawford first played senior footy for Eaglehawk in 1951 and ‘53 was to be his first grand final victory.
“There were so many good players around me,” Crawford said.
“There were champions on every line.”
Kevin Smith also made his senior debut in the same year as Crawford and would go on to play in the “big league”, then known as the VFL, in ‘55 and ’56.
Although he first played on a wing for the Borough, Smith would become renowned for his pace and skill across half-forward.
The-then 18-year-old was the youngest player in Eaglehawk’s team.
Smith kicked four goals in the ’53 grand final and would star in another premiership victory four years later when Basil Ashman, aged 25, was captain-coach.
“The ‘53 season was a great one for the club. It was the first year of the under-18s competition and Eaglehawk won that premiership, and the reserves,” Smith said.
“The coronation of Queen Elizabeth was also in ’53.”
Smith was selected in Eaglehawk’s Team of the Century, along with ‘51 premiership team-mates Ashman, Bob Clough, George Ilsley and Harry Morgan.
A strong defence at the Borough in ’53 included Clough in a back pocket alongside coach Ollie Grieve.
“He was an incredible player and coach,” said Clough.
September-October in 1953 was to be a great run by Clough as he played in the reserves and senior grand finals.
“I had been away on national service, but qualified to play in the reserves match. It was played a week before the seniors grand final.”
Centre half-back in ‘53 was Keith Grabasch. His first of nine seasons at the club was in 1951.
“Winning the premiership meant everything to me. We were and still are great mates.
“There’s a special bond with premiership team-mates.”
The name Ashman is revered at Eaglehawk.
Basil Ashman was ruckman in ’51 and later became the first player in club history to win the senior best and fairest award in consecutive seasons.
Ashman said the recruitment of Grieve played a big part in the club’s success.
“He changed the way we played.
“The idea was two long kicks from defence and get the ball past the centre.
“We had a lot of strong marking players, so it was kick long and mark.”
Similar tactics were used when the Ashman-coached Eaglehawk won the BFL grand final in 1957.
Ashman was 25 and became the youngest premiership-winning coach in league history.
Many of Ashman’s tap-outs over the years were won by rover Dick Boyd.
A run of 140 senior games by Boyd included four grand finals, two premierships with the Borough.
Boyd’s precision passes were often marked by George Ilsley at centre half-forward.
A formidable attack in ’53 was led by Ilsley, who had been recruited from Kerang in ’49, and Harry Morgan at full-forward.
Morgan was kept goalless in the grand final, but Ilsley chipped in with four.
Although far from the tallest player on the field, Ilsley’s leap and marking power thrilled the thousands who packed the ground on October 10, 1953 to witness the Borough’s first senior premiership in seven years.
The Hawks’ senior champion award is known as the George Ilsley Medal.
“It’s a great honour to be recognised by the club and to have played with so many great players.”