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  • A Host Of Sporting Celebrities Hail From Deni – Riverine Herald

 October 8

by Carolina

An association, any association, with a sporting celebrity is often a source of satisfaction.

I frequently watch Saturday afternoon AFL on television with friends, hosted by a West Coast Eagles tragic.

Whenever the Eagles loss to the Sydney Swans in the 2005 grand final is discussed, I say: “Leo Barry was born in Deniliquin”.

A number of AFL/VFL players have originated from the Deniliquin district, but Leo’s mark, deep on the backline within seconds of the final siren, securing a four-point win and the Swans first premiership for 72 years must rate among the great Deniliquin contributions in AFL history.

‘Leaping Leo’ played a total of 237 games for the Swans from 1995 to 2009.

He was joint captain from 2006 to 2008 and was selected in the All-Australian team in 2004 and 2005.

Cyril Gove (1890-1973), of Kinloch on Colligen Creek, also had an impressive career playing 28 games for Essendon, and for Victoria in the interstate carnival in 1914.

Cyril was also a gifted jockey, riding five winners at a Deniliquin meeting in 1914.

Cyril is best remembered, however, for a remarkable trifecta on May 29, 1915.

He rode third-placed Menthe in the Springbank Corinthian Handicap at Moonee Valley, and then was among the best players for Essendon against South Melbourne in a game starting at 3pm.

That evening he allegedly fought an amateur bout at West Melbourne Stadium.

I say allegedly, because contemporary newspaper reports refer only to the horse race and football, and he never discussed the matter with his sons, David and Philip.

But a contemporary of Cyril’s informed David about the surprising third leg of the trifecta. (See ‘Marathon not included: Cyril Gove’s incredible sporting trifecta’ at afl.com.au).

The funeral for champion jockey Roy Higgins at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne, Thursday, March 13, 2014. Photo by AAP Image/David Crosling.
Photo by
AAP Image/David Crosling

Deniliquin’s most celebrated jockey was Roy Higgins (1938-2014), with a total of 2312 winners, including two Melbourne Cups (1965 and 1967), among numerous other major races in Melbourne and Sydney.

He won the Melbourne Jockeys’ Premiership eleven times.

Roy’s family moved to Deniliquin when he was five.

His experience with horses started with his father’s team of Clydesdales, but he learned to ride aged ten while rabbiting on Frank Barnes’ property.

When Roy was 12, the racehorse trainer Jim Watters, down Victoria Street, engaged him as a stable hand at $5.50 a week in today’s prices.

This was an out of school hours job, but Roy soon lost interest in school.

His father was strongly opposed to Roy becoming a jockey, but when he was away for several months on a contract the trainer caught Roy’s mother in a “weak moment”.

She signed the registration papers for Roy to be apprenticed to Jim Watters.

Mary Loy was once Australian women’s captain and is one of three notable cricketers to hail from the local area.

There are three notable Deniliquin cricketers – an Australian women’s captain, Mary Loy (née Allitt) (1925-2013), Simon O’Donnell and Adam Gilchrist.

Mary was born into a cricket-sized family, with three sisters and seven brothers.

She made her touring debut for Australia in 1951 against England.

She played a total of 11 test matches, including as vice-captain in the home series in 1957-58 and captain for the three matches on the 1963 tour of England.

After that tour she retired and married the champion horseman, Tommy Loy.

They established a riding school on their property Sandy Court at Pretty Pine. (Pastoral Times, December 13, 2013).

Simon O’Donnell’s father, Kevin, was appointed captain coach of the Deniliquin football team in 1950, following 49 games with St Kilda.

Simon played 24 games for St Kilda in 1982 and 1983, but chose to focus on cricket.

He played six tests. However, in the Australian one-day team he excelled as both a medium-pace bowler and batsman, playing a total of 87 internationals, scoring 1,242 runs, and taking 108 wickets.

He was a member of the Australian team that won the 1987 World Cup.

The O’Donnells lived opposite John and Shirley Hay’s at the corner of Russell and Charlotte streets.

Shirley claims some credit for Simon’s cricket success, because she would tolerate back yard cricket at her house.

Adam Gilchrist played over 90 tests and almost 280 one day internationals.

As wicketkeeper and explosive batsman, he took 379 catches and averaged 48 runs in test matches.

He was regularly the vice-captain in both the test and one-day teams.

His father’s career as a science teacher and school inspector involved frequent moves, so several towns claim Adam as a famous son.

He attended Deniliquin South Primary School from 1979 to 1983, playing a key role when the school participated for the first time and won the Brian Taber Cup – the NSW primary schools’ competition.

He was “shattered” when the family left Deniliquin.

A nurse may have made the greatest contribution in Deniliquin to Adam’s ultimate success.

His first wicket-keeping gloves were purchased at Kmart Shepparton, but soon after he found himself demoralised in hospital for a night with a broken nose.

A calming nurse informed him that his hero, Rod Marsh, experienced the same misfortune as a kid.

Years later Gilchrist asked Marsh about it and Rod said, “it never happened.”

Most of these sporting celebrities performed before huge crowds, frequently above 50,000.

More than 74,000 witnessed Roy Higgin’s first Melbourne Cup win and almost 92,000 were present when Leo took that mark.

The exception would have been Mary Loy.

Imagine the excitement in Deniliquin if she had captained the team that defeated India to win the Women’s World T20 final on March 8, 2020 at the MCG with 86,174 in attendance.

Instead, she will be remembered as captain of a team of “pioneers” who paved “the way for today’s elite players.”

Original posted at www.riverineherald.com.au

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