Heroic Harry

This article first appeared on the NSW Australian Football History Society’s website. Check out the site for more great stories and facts about our game in NSW.


Footy clubs don’t come more grass roots than Mangoplah-Cookardinia United Eastlakes.

The Riverina communities of Mangoplah and Cookardinia, both with populations of around 300, support one of the great clubs in NSW.

And it’s a club responsible for the player who last week pulled off one of the game’s great two minutes of heroics – at either end of the ground.

In the closing seconds of GWS’s Gather Round thriller against Hawthorn, Harry Himmelberg took a screamer and kicked the goal to put the Giants ahead, then raced down to the other end of the field where he leapt and stretched and bent himself backwards to touch what looked like the Hawks’ match winning response on the line to save the day and seal a much needed win for his team

“I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” he said of his desperate lunge. “I thought it was going through but it stuck in the wind and sat up about half a metre from the line, I made it look harder than it was. It was great to get a win.”

The win wasn’t the only thing Himmelberg enjoyed about the day – he loved the atmosphere of Gather Round in Adelaide and playing on suburban Norwood Oval in front of a tight crowd of 9000 reminded him of home.

”It was great to play at a local footy oval, it was a bit bigger than Mango’s home ground, but it had that vibe. You could feel and hear all the spectators really close,” he said.

 Being close is a special part of a club like Mango.

A typical bush footy/netball club carried by the spirit of a local community and its volunteers.

“Only a couple of families live in Mango, it’s mostly farms and a few houses around the pub,” Himmelberg said.

“Just about every family that lives in Mango is involved in the footy and netball club.

“It’s half an hour out of Wagga, so that makes it an even tighter club. We have a bar there and after the game everybody hangs around together for hours, without fail.

“It was always one of my favourite parts of playing there. Footy netball clubs are special parts of the community, I’m really glad I grew up there.

“All the volunteers make it work. The local farmers and sponsors are there every week, you know them all, they’re always there buying beers. It’s really awesome.

“I’m glad I grew up in the country and I’ve got a good appreciation of that, I remember where I come from.”

But in a big city like Sydney, he feels at home at GWS which he says adopts a similar community approach.

“The Giants have built their culture around family. Compared to other clubs, it’s pretty evident,” he said.

“Our parents are part of the place – at away games the parents are all at the pub before the game – it reminds me of home.

“And at home games, we go back to our facility and have an open bar there.”

His parents come to most games, but have to split their time between sons now, with younger brother Elliot playing for Adelaide.

“They gave up their time for me, drove me to just about every single thing I needed to go to. So, to have them come to my games now is very special for me, it’s something I cherish,” he said.

Himmelberg also has a touch of home with him in Sydney, living with fellow Riverina boy and Narrandera cattle farmer Matt Flynn.

“Flynny and I still live together, it’s been six years, we’re not sick of each other yet,” he said.

Himmelberg grew up on the outskirts of Wagga and played junior footy for Eastlakes before heading 40km bush to play seniors with Mango who had embraced the juniors to be known as Mangoplah-Cookardinia United Eastlakes.

At 18, he went to Canberra to play with ACTAFL club Eastlake (no relation) and was drafted the following year in 2015 along with Giants Academy mates Flynn, Matt Kennedy from Collingullie and Leeton’s Jacob Hopper, more products of the Riverina’s rich vein of bush footy.

“We all grew up playing against each other and in rep teams together, so it was great to all be drafted together,” Himmelberg said.

His two goals against Hawthorn puts him fifth on the standings for the Bill Mohr Medal for the most goals by a NSW player in the AFL with seven, four behind leader, Broken Hill’s Adelaide forward Taylor Walker.

Sydney’s Nick Blakey was awarded eight votes by the coaches and teammate Isaac Heeney five in the Swans’ win over Richmond to head the votes for the Carey-Bunton medal in round five.

But their teammate and Mosman junior Callum Mills remains at the top of the polling for the best NSW player in the AFL with 11 votes


11    Callum Mills (Sydney Swans / Mosman)      

9     Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)    

8     Nick Blakey (Sydney Swans/ UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) 

8      Jarrod Witts (Gold Coast Suns/ Sydney University)    

8      Dane Rampe (Sydney Swans / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)     

8     Jacob Hopper (Richmond / Leeton-Whitton)  

5     Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans/ Cardiff) 5

5     Will Setterfield (Essendon / Albury)      

5     Taylor Walker (Adelaide/ North Broken Hill) 2

4     Lachlan Shultz (Fremantle/ Moama) 4

4     Jack Buckley (GWS Giants / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs) 3

3     Isaac Smith (Geelong / Cootamundra) 

3     Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide/ Deniliquin) 2

2     Tom Hawkins (Geelong/ Finley) 2

1     Jeremy Finalyson (Port Adelaide / Culcairn)     

BILL MOHR MEDAL Leading Goalkicker             

11    Taylor Walker (Adelaide/ North Broken Hill) 3

10    Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide/ Deniliquin) 2

9     Tom Hawkins (Geelong/ Finley) 4

8     Lachlan Schultz (Fremantle/ Moama) 3

7     Harry Himmelberg (GWS Giants/ Mangoplah- Cookardina Eastlakes) 2

6     Charlie Spargo (Melbourne/ Albury)  

6     Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans/ Cardiff) 2

4     Callum Mills (Sydney Swans / Mosman) 1

3     Jeremy Finalyson (Port Adelaide / Culcairn)     

2     Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans/ UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)     

2     Will Setterfield (Essendon/ Albury) 

2     Harry Cunningham (Sydney Swans / Turvey Park)   

2     Jacob Hopper (Richmond / Leeton-Whitton)  

2     Nick Blakey (Sydney Swans/ UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)      

2     Isaac Smith (Geelong / Cootamundra) 1

2     Daniel Lloyd (GWS Giants / Killarney Vale)  1

2     Luke Breust (Hawthorn / Temora) 1

1     Matthew Flynn (GWS Giants/ Narrandera)    

1     Elliot Himmelberg (Adelaide/ Mangoplah- Cookardina Eastlakes)     

1      Jarrod Witts (Gold Coast Suns/ Sydney University)    

1     Braeden Campbell (GWS Giants/ Pennant Hills) 1

Simon Kelly’s Fun Fact 

Lachlan Shultz (Fremantle/ Moama) who had an equal second best game career stats with 20 disposals including 3 goals for the small forward against the Gold Coast. He is currently ranked  7th in total tackles inside 50 and  ranked 9th in total goal assists in the competition. His  game impressed the Coaches as he picked up his first Coaches votes (4)  for the year.