United reflects on incredible run of success

By Nathan Dole
Updated November 7 2012 - 5:14am, first published July 7 2011 - 11:51am
strong links: Aaron Demeo, Rod Lea, George Thompson, John Mulqueen, Tony ‘Bluey’ Southcombe and Bob Considine.  Picture: JIM ALDERSEY
strong links: Aaron Demeo, Rod Lea, George Thompson, John Mulqueen, Tony ‘Bluey’ Southcombe and Bob Considine. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

THERE have been many Septembers to remember for Calivil United and Northern United football players, officials and supporters over the years.Tomorrow’s showdown between Calivil United and Inglewood at Raywood is a significant one for the Demons.The “heritage clash” is a tribute to Northern United, with the Demons to wear the Swallows’ colours of maroon and gold.The Kevin Demeo Memorial Trophy and George Thompson shield will also be up for grabs.The Thompson Shield is usually played for against old Golden City Football League rivals, Marong or YCW.Calivil United Football Netball Club president Rod Lea said the day had become one of the biggest in the club’s season.“It’s a great day for many of the players, officials and supporters from the Northern United era to be at a game and reflect on so many outstanding seasons,” Lea said.“We have run the heritage game the past five years and it just keeps getting bigger.“It’s great to see a lot of people turn up in their Northern United colours.”A supporters bus will leave from the Bridge Hotel in Bendigo at noon for the trek to Raywood as Calivil United prepares to take on the Blues.Lea played for Northern United and enjoys catching up with many from the Northern United era.Since the dark days of Northern United folding after one game in the 1996 Bendigo Football League season, the merger of the neighboring clubs sparked a remarkable run by the Demons.Runner-up as the new-look Calivil United in the 1997 season, the club has since racked up seven premiership victories.The Demons were the Loddon Valley’s top team in six consecutive seasons, 2003 to 2008.Northern United was a power in the Golden City Football League throughout the ’60s and ’70s, and then in the Bendigo Football League in the mid to late ’80s.A key figure for the Demons and Swallows on the football field was trainer George Thompson.At 73 years young, Thompson still plays an active role at the Calivil United Football Netball Club.For more than five decades he has strapped hundreds of ankles, kneaded many tight muscles, and given thousands of words of encouragement to United’s players.Thompson has watched many great players in action for the Swallows and Demons.Premierships are what every club strives to achieve, but for Thompson it’s not just all about on-field success.“There are so many great people I have met and made lasting friendships with,” Thompson said as he stood near the Bridge Hotel bar alongside Northern United legends Tony Southcombe, John Mulqueen and Bob Considine.“It’s amazing the success the clubs have achieved, but the friendships are really important.”Those friendships are not just from those involved at George’s two clubs, but from clubs right across central Victoria.In the ’60s and ’70s, Northern United was a Golden City Football League power.There were seven victories in a run of 14 grand final appearances and the club contested 21 finals series in a row.The Swallows became part of the Bendigo Golden City Football League in 1981.Three years later, the Tony Southcombe-coached Northern United won the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup for the first time.The Swallows won 18.16 (124) to 12.10 (82) against Eaglehawk.It was the first leg in four consecutive premierships.In September 1985, United beat Sandhurst by five goals.A four-time premiership-winning player with Golden Square, ‘Bluey’ Southcombe marked a hat-trick of grand final victories as Northern United thrashed Eaglehawk by 89 points in the 1986 play-off.“There are a lot of great memories from those years,” Southcombe said.“The club had a lot of fantastic players in what was an incredible era for the club.”The star-studded line-ups included the likes of Gary Mountjoy, Ron Best, Gavin Exell, Gerard Geary, Gary Evans, David Wharton, Leo Demeo and many more.Southcombe is looking forward to catching up with many old teammates at tomorrow’s match.“There are lots of friendships from my days at Northern United.“The Heritage Game is a great weekend.”There are plans afoot for next year’s “Heritage Game” to include a reunion of Northern United’s premiership teams from ’84 to ’87.Southcombe decided to take a break from coaching after the victory in ’86, with Brendan Mason recruited to lead the Swallows.The club’s premiership charge did not stop as it again beat Eaglehawk, 23.15 (153) to 14.7 (91) in the 1987 grand final.United was back on the QEO in September 1988, but a fifth consecutive premiership was not achieved as the Brian Walsh-coached Golden Square won by 14 points.The Demeo name has featured in many Northern United and Calivil United line-ups.Aaron Demeo is one player who carries a special link between the two clubs.He was on Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve when the Magpies thrashed Northern United in what would be the club’s final game in 1996.Since then, Demeo has gone on to be an integral player in Calivil United’s success.He played in nine consecutive grand finals and won six as the Demons dominated the Loddon Valley competition.The tag “September Specialists” sums up Calivil United and Northern United perfectly.

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