AT Saturday night’s West Tamworth Centenary Reunion dinner there were four players who had played in the first, first grade game against Quirindi at Scully Park in 1957.
John Kelly, Pete Mackey, Keith “Paddles” Graham and Barry Condon are the lone survivors of that West Tamworth side and celebrated with other old Westies at the dinner.
Condon went on to captain-coach Narrabri in a dramatic 1971 Group 4 grand final when his side beat West in the wet to end the Bill Bischoff-inspired run of four premiership wins.
Keith Graham is one of the famous Graham brothers, seven all up, who played for West.
He also “gave up” the family and club for perpetrating a “ring-in” surrounding the twin brothers.
Kelly was also part of a large family contribution to West over many years.
He remembers that 1957 day well.
“I played on the wing but Arthur Pengilley, a great mate of mine, captained Quirindi,” Kelly said.
“It was a great day. We finally had our new ground.”
West had played at different grounds in and around Taminda, where catheads reigned supreme.
When Scully Park came into being – thanks to many, many volunteers – the new ground and then the clubhouse became the envy of every country (and city) team.
“Ken (Chillingworth) came to us early in the year and told us things were tight,” Kelly said.
“We earned 16 pounds that year but we had to pay 12 pounds for the blazer and four pounds for the team photo. We won the three grades that year.
“But that’s how it was. We played football for the love of it, for and with our mates.”
Kelly will be 80 in December.
He played for 20 years, starting as a 10-year-old and graduating to the West juniors as a teenager.
“We used to live at Denison Street.
“My brothers, Rody and Henry would go down to the ground at Taminda and play.
“In those days we had no water so the grass was covered in catheads. No one wanted to tackle you.”
He said West had always been a family club which prided itself on looking after all its players.
“We had some great players. In that 1957 side Barry (Condon) and Paddles (Keith Graham) were outstanding – top-class forwards.”
Danny Dewhurst said it wasn’t so much West had champion players but more so they always played as a team.