BY PETER ARGENT
Across the breadth of South Australian regional football over the June long weekend there is a plethora of representative football happening. In the South East, there is the Limestone Coast Regional Carnival, the interleague competition between the Mid South East, KNT and Western Border leagues. Uniquely, this year at senior level, the MSE and the WBFL are playing, reverting to a full four-quarter match.
On the Eyre Peninsula there is the Mortlock Shield – an institution since 1936 – and in the Mid North is the Nutrien Ag Solutions Cup – which includes the Yorke Peninsula, Northern Areas, North Eastern and Adelaide Plains competitions.
These, along with a number of other interleague fixtures, all lead into next month’s SA Country Championships, to be held in Victor Harbor on the weekend of July 10-11.
Ahead of this year’s Championships, Peter Argent caught up with a 1961 State Country Championships winner, Bruce Hewett.
Back in the 1961 season, six short decades ago, the powerful Yorke Peninsula combination won the State Country Zone Championships.
At that time, the country footballers came to Adelaide and played over a week, culminating in a grand final on Adelaide Oval as a curtain raiser to a SANFL League game.
Port Broughton footballer of the epoch Bruce “B.Y.” Hewett played on a wing in that title-winning combination.
With his 85th birthday later this month, Hewett had a chat about this career highlights and reminisced about his passion for Aussie Rules.
“I lived for Saturday’s when I was young,” Hewett smiled, in a recent interview.
“Back in 1952 was my first season of football; I’d just left school. There was only A and B grade footy back them.
“I spent the opening half of my first season with Port Broughton in the Bs and played As from then on.”
Back in Bruce Hewett’s time, he would play in Croser Shield matches on the June long weekend, the competition between leagues along the ‘leg’, which at times has involved the Southern Yorke Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula Football League (until 1960), the Yorke Valley and the Western Areas competitions.
In 1961, Hewett was a representative player in the Western Area Association side.
“My first Croser Shield was in 1955 at Maitland Oval,” he said.
“In that initial series I stood Col Sandercock – now a bowls opponent these days.”
The best performers of this carnival subsequently made up the Yorke Peninsula Zone Team to play in the Country Championships in Adelaide about a month later, with the team staying in Grosvenor Hotel on North Tce.
“In the State Country Championships we initially played Upper Murray on the Tuesday at Thebarton Oval,” Hewett explained. “This was followed by a game (against) Eyre Peninsula at The Parade (Norwood) on the Thursday, and there was water laying all over the oval.
“That final was first game at Adelaide Oval.
“In the side was Dave Gill from Yorketown, who played at Port Adelaide…I played on one wing and Ken Secker was on the other,” Hewett recalled.
“Roy Stewart was our skipper, Marty Borgas from Maitland was a good footballer as well and next to him Geoff Vanstone, who won a handful of Mail Medals.
“That Country Championships win was certainly a highlight of my football career.”
Hewett also recalled a 10-goal haul by Ross Sawley in one of the games in the 1961 championships, with Port Vic’s Terry Kneebone – the brother of Norwood champion Ron Kneebone – being another valuable member of the team.
The team was coached by George Skipworth who is related to Hayden Skipworth, Collingwood assistant coach and 2006 Jack Oatey Medalist with Woodville West Torrens (Best on Ground award for the SANFL Grand Final).
From that Yorke Peninsula title-winning side, full forward Sawley went on to play a full season with Sturt in 1964 and was the SANFL’s leading goal kicker with 70 majors.
Curramulka legend of the era and eight-time Premiership player Stan Hayles, along with being a district cricketer at Prospect, also was a key member of the YP side.
Another member of the team, Bill Avery from Alford, collected the Yorke Valley Football League Mail Medal in 1962, with Sawley capturing this honour in 1963. Port Victoria’s Peter Glacken collected this accolade in both 1959 and again in 1965 when he shared it with Kevin Webber and Malcolm Adams.
After being runner up to the Mail Medal in the final season of Western Areas Football, Hewett won this prestigious individual award in the first season of the Broughton League in 1962 with an impressive 28 votes.
Geoff Vanstone from Wandearah would go on to win three successive Mail Medals in the middle of the 1960s (’66 – ‘68) and had top three placing in no less than eight counts.
Warooka’s (Western United) John Lennell, a second-generation Mail Medalist in the family had won the Mail Medals in the Southern Yorke Peninsula League in 1958 and 1959.
Today, Hewett maintains a keen interest and passion for the game he played for over 20 years through his great nephews (the grandsons of his late brother Doug). The oldest, Nick Hewett, is playing coach of the Northern Areas reigning premiers Broughton–Mundoora Eagles; Wilbur is a former Central District League footballer and current leading goal kicker in the NAFA; George is a 100-game player for the Sydney Swans; and the youngest great nephew, Cameron, is a current player in North Adelaide’s League side.