Magnificent Men 1930 - 1939

Our first recorded results of inter-club athletics resulted in two wins. O.X.A.A.C. d. Y.M.C.A. in D Grade and St Joseph’s in E Grade, the date December 1930. In those days when there appeared to be more events than we could field competitors, for names like Hartung, McCaffrey, Slattery, Methven, Mclnerney, Despoges, Cooke, Ryan appeared week after week starting a tradition of service in any capacity that was to carry on for those ten years before the war.

In those days all clubs fielded teams in grades from A to G on the two ovals at the Motordrome. A, B and C were on the main oval and the remaining grades competed on the outside ground now occupied by the Olympic Swimming Pool complex. Whilst there was a sense of prestige to be on the main track, it was lots of fun to be on the ‘outer”. Facilities were, to say the least, austere. The old Xavs were in a corner of an outside barn, uncomfortably close to the “Goldmine in the Sky”, our first experience of a cement framed deep trench latrine that the Health Officers of the Melbourne City Council had either overlooked or, shudder to think, fallen in.

From the very first day a name appeared that belonged to one who was to mean lots to the Club for years to come. Tom McClelland first as a competitor and later as Manager, chief cheer leader, President and friend to all. By his enthusiasm he brought the Club to the forefront of athletics. His memory will always be kept alive by. the periodical “Laurels” which he was instrumental in issuing in December ‘37 for distribution within the athletics club. Later it was to become a news bearer to all members of the OXA.

As the early 30s gave way to the mid 30s our status had risen in numbers but not in grades. More clubs meant more competitors and by ‘35 we were competing in D and G grades, not much progress so far. New names to add to our early heroes were Bill Armstrong, Mulvaney, Hayden, Alan Ney, Jack McConville and they helped get us into and win the D Grade final, February ‘36.

Another name to appear about that time was also to be associated with the Club for years to come. Jack Tutton first competed about the end of the 1934 season and since then has run over every distance, jumped over every obstacle, thrown, walked and negotiated all forms of cross-country hazards ever since. All Club members, past, present and to come owe J.K.T. a great debt for his dedication to the Club.

From the mid thirties we started to attract more members and wins started to become more frequent. Regular competitors like Jack McDonald, Rad Grace, Phil Ryan, Alan Dwyer, Buzz Leeming, Jack Reed, Tom Lightfoot, Jack Dennis, Bruce Rowan and a colt by the name of Ken McPhail started to record results, if not wins, that meant so much to the track results. John Billings too was at that stage introducing rhythm into his run-up and recording victories in high, long and triple jumps.

About this time too, perhaps our best and most prolific points-getter started with us. John Turner would take on all corners in C grade and win regularly 100s, 220s, 440s and of course, be anchor man in a very successful relay team. Colin McLean and Marshall Slattery were also regularly successful over the hurdles, an event that had previously been offered in the main to “fill-in”.

During the 37/38 season the Club recorded its first victory in the 5 mile P.S. cross country, the forerunner to the Cooke-McClelland Shield. Just to show we really meant business we won it again the two following years — we were now on the way.

By the season 38/39 we were fielding teams in B and F grades and doing well enough to advance into A(1) and C(1) the following season, It was unfortunate for Old Xavs and indeed everyone else that a far more important event had started in Europe at the end of that season, an event that again we competed in, like the early days, just where ever we were needed.

During the war three members of the Club were killed on active service — Stuart Methven, Eric Schrader and John McCarthy, all in the R.A.A.F. Decorations were won by Bill Stutt, DFC, and Bill Keane, MC.