The Present 1970 - 1979

The seventies was a decade of rapidly fluctuating fortunes particularly on the track where early success at the beginning of the decade was followed by the Club’s worst ever year in the 1978 season, but the decade concluded with the regeneration of Club spirit and subsequently more success.

The cross-country men started the decade with good performances but slumped slightly between 74 and 76, but like the track men, finished very strongly, in fact winning all APSOB team races during 1979.

Whereas in the previous decade the leadership of the Club had been under the long-term presidency of Basil Thomson, the seventies saw four men, namely Michael van Assche, Rene Dupuche, Rolet De Castella and Peter Bruce, occupy the chair for three- year terms. All devoted many hours to ensure the smooth running of the Club.

The 70/71 season saw the introduction of metric distances for recording of athletic events throughout Australia. It was also the season of record membership for our Club. With 143 registrations the Old Xaverians A.A.C. was the fifth largest Club in the V.A.A.A. while our junior members represented the third largest junior Club in the Association. With these numbers, four out of eight teams were successful in making the semi-finals of the track season. C Grade, our number one senior team, went on to defeat Old Paradians to win the venue premiership. You will see elsewhere in this history that Peter Bruce won the Stuart Methven Trophy, which is best on aggregate points. What you will not see is that Chris Holzer, who scored 141¾ points during the season was second to Peter by only ¾ a point. This surely must be the closest result for this trophy.

The Cooke-McClelland shield race of 71 was the fortieth anniversary of the race. As in the famous Australia versus West Indies Brisbane Test of ten years earlier, the result was a tie between ourselves and Old Scotch. Peter Bruce, as was his custom, won the race and was backed up by Steve McCauley, Tim Kelly, Jim McCauley, Tim Ryan and David Sneddon. This win, albeit shared, was to be our last win in this event for a number of years.

The track team in 71-72 created history for the Club with a D Grade Premiership being won. This was the first time a team other than our number one senior team had won a premiership. The team consisted of Peter Gardini, Chris Murphy, Hugh McKechnie, Doug Petroff, Julian Lechmus, Peter Billings, Don Collins, Peter Shillito, Bernie Crosbie, John O’Sullivan and Bill Seabrook.

For the next couple of years the success or otherwise of the cross-country team was mainly due to the efforts of Peter Bruce. His performances gained him on numerous occasions selection in the Victorian marathon team and his efforts were responsible for the Club winning a D Grade road premiership in 1973.

At the same time, members such as Dan McGlade and Robert De Castella were making names for themselves through successes in state titles at junior level. One does not know whether Robert’s success inspired his father Rolet, or if Rolet inspired Robert, but in the Orchard Handicap of 1973, Rolet repeated his win of 1946 with a time some fourteen seconds faster.

The 73/74 track season saw, after two and a half decades of participation, the retirement of Bill (Tank) Seabrook. Bill started his career with the Club in the early fifties as a hurdler/sprinter and finished as a good point-winning shot putter. One remembers Bill’s arrival at the Uni track in those later years of his career, when he would appear usually moments before his event was due to start, with his half dozen cans and a couple of packets of cigarettes. It was fortunate that the shot-put ring was located next to the steeple hurdle which provided an ideal place for Bill to leave his liquid refreshment and smokes, while putting in the occasional throw.

J.K.T. was having his usual problems during those years of collecting subs, when the Committee found a very rewarding solution. Doug (The Enforcer) Petroff volunteered for the job and at the end of the season could claim to have collected all subs bar one. Peter Ratts was lucky Doug was not on the job during his years of avoiding J.K.T.

In 1975 the Association unveiled its new all-weather Chevron track at Olympic Park. Unfortunately this did not help our performances and the Club Committee considered drastic changes. But after a couple of matches within our own ranks and against Old Scotch, it was decided we should stick with athletics and leave cricket to Lou Zachariah, Porky Rhoden and others.

It was a sad day in 1975 when the Club lost one of its founders, namely Tom McClelland. It was unfortunate that Peter Bruce was not able to run in the Cooke-McClelland race of that year. Peter missed due to injury, thus ending a record of nine successive wins in the event.

The Club’s first under-age track premiership was won by the sub-junior team of 75/76. This team included Theo Van Veenendaal, Chris Maxfield, Eric Seal, David Potts, Tony Clarke, Nick De Castella, John Denton, Richard Curtis, Fabian Fitzgerald, Chris Boemo and Paul Gibney. Their success was a satisfying reward for the organizing and inspirational work of Paul Gibney. Paul had as his mentor another Paul, in that of Paul Ryan, who in the early seventies not only managed most of the under-age teams but on occasions drove nearly all the members of his team to and from the track.

When Paul Ryan left Melbourne to work in Yarram the Club lost a great Committee member and faced the serious problem of finding a replacement. We were fortunate that Brian Sneddon, the father of two of our younger members at that time, came to the rescue to manage the younger ones. He took over on Paul’s departure and is still taking care of these very important members.

In 1976 Peter Reid won the cross-country trophy. This was very fitting as the revival of the cross-country teams was mainly due to him and his captaincy during the second half of the decade, culminating with the success in the APSOB races of 1979, as stated earlier. This was the first time the Club had achieved a clear sweep of all the APSOB events.

Not only did Peter inspire the younger members such as David Sneddon, John Pedley and Nick De Castella, but he kept men such as Rolet De Castella, Jack Tutton, Ken McPhail and Bas Thomson going. These four members competed in the veteran section of the Sandown Relay in 1978. To compete in that section, the aggregate age of the team had to be in excess of 160 years. Jack felt this was well covered.

Gerry Coleman also had success in winning the veteran 5000 metre race in Werribee in 1978, and on the track many of the younger members have problems trying to dislodge Gerry from teams higher than their own. Gerry is very much an encouragement to us all.

In 77/78 our track location moved to Box Hill and a disastrous season followed. But disasters are sometimes necessary to generate more interest and in 78/79 and 79/80 no effort was withheld to improve our position. Retired members were coaxed out of retirement. Xaverians, such as Julian Sullivan, who were competing with other clubs, were persuaded to come over to O.X. Things went very well and it is hoped that we will commence our second 50 years as a strong and successful Club.

1980 Team

Back: Danien Nihill, Greg Stark
3rd Row: Bas Thomson, Stephen Bourke, Fabian Fitzgerald, Denis Doyle, Des McGlade, Peter Reid, Louie De Castella, Chris Boemo, Brian Sneddon, Rolet De Castella
2nd Row: Jack Tutton, Dan McGlade, Tony Ryan, Peter Bruce, David Sneddon, Hugh McKechnie
Front Row: John Pedley, Chris Worsnop, John Dooley, David Worsnop