60-year miracle goal reunion

Ganmain 1964 premiership captain-coach Tom Carroll lumps a bag of oats on the farm

By Rod Gillett

Tom Carroll’s 102nd goal for the season kicked just five seconds before the final siren secured Ganmain the 1964 South West League premiership by two points over red-hot favourites Griffith in a stunning upset.

Ganmain kicked five goals straight in the last quarter against a strong wind on a sodden Narrandera Sportsground as the thunder rattled the skies above to edge out the Swans in an absolute thriller.

“I put myself into the ruck for the last quarter with my cousin Jim as ruck-rover, we pushed the ball to within 20 metres of goal. With about 30 players crowded around ball, at the bounce, I collected the ball after it was knocked to the ground and somehow got it on the boot,” Tom told me over the phone from Albury in an interview for this piece.

“It was a great sight to see the ball float through the big sticks with time nearly up,” he added.

Ten of those premiership players are expected to attend the reunion celebrations this Saturday (29 June) at the Ganmain v Narrandera match at the Ganmain Sportsground alongside the 1984 and 2004 Ganmain Grong Grong Matong premiership teams.

Similar heroics in the 1984 decider by forward Mick Walsh who kicked a late goal from an errant bounce 20 metres out from goal with seventeen seconds to go for the newly-minted Ganmain GGM (merged in 1982) coached by Ray “Rocky” O’Connor resulted in a six-point win over the perennially unlucky Ariah Park Mirrool.

Meanwhile, for the 2004 season local lad Shane “Sparks” Lenon returned to lead the Lions to a decisive 48 point win over Griffith, and then backed up with another flag win in 2005 by convincingly beating Narrandera by 50 points.

“Sparks” played in the Tom Carroll-coached 1985 Under 19 premiership team. Lenon credits Tom Carroll with providing him with “structure” in his life and “inspiring” him to be a football coach. He has subsequently coached various clubs in the Riverina to 10 premierships with perhaps more to come.

Both Carroll and Lenon were recently inducted into the inaugural NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame.

While both Tom Carroll and “Rocky” O’Connor will be in attendance to witness their old mob in action on Saturday, Shane Lenon will be coaching rivals Collingullie against Mangoplah Cookardinia United Eastlakes at the Mangoplah Sportsground.

The ‘Gullie are currently second on percentage ahead of old rivals Mango, both with seven wins with Ganmain GGM on top of the ladder, unbeaten after nine rounds this season.

Shane Lenon will join his former coach and Ganmain GGM premiership team-mates from the Under 19s and seniors for the evening function.

Carroll the homecoming King

Back to 1964, Carroll returned from three seasons at VFL club Carlton where he had won the Coleman medal in his first season kicking 54 goals including five goals in his debut on champion St Kilda Verdun Howell full back, who won the Brownlow medal in 1959.

He topped Carlton’s goalkicking for the three seasons he was at the Blues, played for Victoria against Tasmania, and played in Carlton’s 1962 grand final team that lost to Essendon coached by John Coleman.

Tom told me that the lure to coach his home club and the fact that he didn’t really like city life influenced his decision to take up the coaching reins at Ganmain for £40 per match compared to the four quid he got for playing in the VFL for Carlton.

Carroll took on a young team with 10 players aged 21 or under but his squad was bolstered considerably by the return of his cousins Garry (Marrar) and Jim (Manuka), from coaching assignments, and the recruitment of ex St Kilda key forward and hardman Frank Hodgkin.

The Maroons finished second on the ladder after the home and away rounds with 14 wins on percentage from the Griffith Swans but suffered a “demoralising” loss in the second semi-final according to Wagga Daily Advertiser chief football writer Ted Ryder.

However, a “completely revitalised exhibition” against Leeton in the preliminary final at Ardlethan propelled Ganmain into the grand final in which they overcame Griffith to win the club’s 12th premiership in the South West League; Ganmain 15.8.98 defeated Griffith 13.18.96. Tom Carroll kicked four goals was voted best-on-ground by the press.

He told me that this premiership win was the “thrill of my sporting life”. And that the “Ganmain spirit won out”.                                                                                                                                                                           

The book about Tom Carroll entitled Tom’s Sporting Life: An Illustrated History of Carlton Footballer Tom Carroll is available here.

Robbie Mackinlay’s podcast on the 1984 Ganmain Grong Grong Matong  premiership can be found here.