Silverware, medals in both codes for four Square Famers
By Richard Jones
The Nineties heralded the important inclusion of netball into the Bendigo league structure.
It was actually 1991 when netball was introduced with clubs not only recruiting players, but also forced to find scorers, umpires, uniforms and, most vitally, home courts.
Golden Square didn’t have their own courts until 1997 with the Bulldogs’ girls forced to play home fixtures at the Maple Street Primary School in their formative years.
And at the QEO the court was painted in behind the city end goals --- on a sloping surface used as a car park during the working week.
Square Hall of Famer Karen Erwin was central to establishing the Square’s netball infrastructure and she guided the Dogs to the BFNL’s very first senior netball premiership: in 1991.
The other three Hall of Famers from the Eighties and Nineties clearly picked themselves.
Dual Michelsen Medallist Greg Williams (eventually a two time AFL Brownlow Medallist and a Norm Smith Medallist, as well), dual premiership captain and Hall of Famer Alan Patterson, along with hard nut on-baller Dean Strauch who was in the Patterson-era flag-winning 1988 side.
Karen Leahy (more popularly known as Karen Erwin) had been a prominent netballer in Melbourne before moving to Bendigo after purchasing a local sports store.
She’d played in the Victorian State League for the Vic. Catholics side so was a perfect fit for the Square to help navigate through the harrowing times of establishing the Square netball arm.
With no home court at the Wade Street precinct Karen’s expertise and management were crucial.
She captain-coached the A grade side and Golden Square won the league’s inaugural A grade title, downing Sandhurst in the ’91 grand final.
Karen backed up in the top job for the 1992 season, but this time the Square went down to Kangaroo Flat in the A grade decider.
She was also coach of the B grade side which took out their division’s premiership, beating Eaglehawk in the grand final.
In 1993 with Karen in charge still Square won its second A grade flag with a 40-27 win over Eaglehawk.
One season later and Karen concentrated solely on coaching her B grade side. They finished runner-up.
Onto 1995 and Karen took on the dual roles, once again, of coaching both the A and B grade squads and finished that season --- her fifth with the Square –- by coaching the club into a total of five grand finals for two A grade and one B grade premierships.
She played primarily as the centre, but also swapped into the goal attack spot when needed.
Karen won the club’s A grade fairest and best awards in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995 and finished second in close counts for the BFNL’s A grade Betty Thompson Medal on two occasions.
She played 108 games for the Square and was named in the Triple-C All-Star side (introduced in 1993) in each season she was with the Bulldogs.
Even though he played just 56 senior games with the Square Greg Williams is an out-and-out Bulldogs’ champion.
Beginning his junior career aged 12 Greg won both club and league medals at under-16 level, the beginning of an amazing silverware haul.
He actually began his senior career at the age of 16 under the careful watch of player-coach Tony Southcombe and played 13 games in that 1980 season.
Season 1981 was the start of an amazing senior Square career for Greg. He was runner-up in the Michelsen medal, aged just 17, and not surprisingly took out the Square fairest and best count in ’81.
He went one better in 1982 taking out the Michelsen with 24 votes (double the total of the runner-up) after an early season stint with Carlton.
In his final Wade Street season Greg won his second, consecutive Michelsen in 1983 before beginning a remarkable VFL medal-winning career.
He started his stint at Geelong in 1984 racking up 38 possessions in his debut game for the Cats.
He later moved onto the Sydney Swans and finally came back to Carlton and added to his two Brownlow Medals with a 1995 Norm Smith grand final medal in Carlton’s premiership year over the Cats in his outstanding list of accolades.
One of the first picked in the inaugural 20-strong 1986 BFNL Hall of Fame, Greg is also in VFL and club Teams of the Century.
And in similar vein to other VFL/AFL stars Greg Williams is universally known not merely by his Christian name Greg, but also by his nickname Diesel.
Just like Lethal Leigh, Plugger, Danger, Jezza and Gazza in national footy ranks.
Diesel played 250 VFL/AFL games, was named in the AFL’s Team of the Century and not surprisingly was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2001.
It’s fair to say Greg Williams ranks in the elite of elite footballers and additionally to his VFL/AFL honours he’ll always be known locally just as Greg --- the Golden Square ‘young gun’.
Dean Strauch followed on from his father Neville’s illustrious career playing 112 games for the Wade Street Dogs.
To that total he added another eight for the Blue and Gold inter-league side, plus turning out in matches for the combined VCFL side in 1990 and 1992, with the 1990 VCFL medal among his personal honours.
But first of all, back to the beginning. Dean started off with the Square under-12s climbing up the age ranks until 1984 when he made his senior debut.
Under coach John Plim’s guidance Strauchy played the next two seasons primarily as a half-forward before securing his spot as a permanent midfielder.
Carlton recruiters had their eyes on the young Bulldog, so Dean signed with the Blues and made his debut against Essendon in front of a crowd of 65,000 in 1986.
He eventually won Best First Year player that season at Princes Park, but he managed just two games in 1987 as he was diagnosed with stress fractures in his back.
Returning to Wade Street for the ’88 season Dean was an integral part of the Square senior premiership side, the outfit which stopped Northern United from winning five flags-in-a-row.
Strauchy was awarded the 1988 grand final Nalder Medal for best afield against the Swallows.
He also played a big role in his father Neville’s country championship team which went down to the Geelong F.L. at East Geelong in the ’88 grand final.
He was also part of the combined VCFL side that season, yet after another injury-plagued 1989 season at Carlton --- Strauchy suffered hamstring problems --- he was back at Wade Street for the 1990 seaso.
Dean won the club fairest and best that season, represented the VCFL against SA Country where he was voted best afield and did everything humanly possible to get Square across the line in the 1990 BFL grand final against South.
He declined mid-year draft offers from the Brisbane Bears (1990) and Collingwood (1991) and continued on as Walsh’s assistant coach for Square in 1991-92.
After another stellar interleague season where he played for the Vicorian country side, eventually being named as captain of the 1991 All-Australian country side --- the only BFL player ever to reach that honour at that time --- Dean’s final game for Golden Square (his 112th) came in the five-point loss to Castlemaine in the 1992 grand final.
After two Goulburn Valley F.L. premiership seasons with Shepparton in 1993-94 Strauchy was back at Wade Street as senior coach for the 1997-98 seasons, then served for several years on the Square committee and was part of the match-day panel and line coaching staff from 2008 to 2011.
Alan Patterson rates as the BFL’s pre-eminent ruckman/follower of the Eighties.
And it’s astonishing to recall that ‘Patto’ didn’t start playing footy until he was 17. He’d played competition soccer until that age.
So Patto honed his kicking, marking and ruck tapwork skills during that formative under-18s 1978 season under coach Peter Gowers and served a further apprenticeship in the Twos throughout 1979.
His first senior game of the 234 he racked up came in 1980 against the Castlemaine Magpies and he continued on in that season as he was part of Square’s 1980 grand final side which went down to Eaglehawk by two points in the tense grand final.
Patto was an extremely athletic player for a ruckman. He was always very fit and was very mobile for a big man.
In 1983 Carlton honed in on Patto. He worked hard during the exhausting pre-season and played the first six games in the VFL (as it was then) Reserves competition, but returned to the Square in May that year.
Back at Wade Street he was named the Bulldogs’ skipper in 1984.
And under his captaincy, plus master-minded by the astute coaching of Brian Walsh, Square won the 1988 and 1989 BFL flags.
Patto played his 200th game in the 1990 grand final but the Dogs couldn’t make it three-in-a-row (South won by 22 points) and he finished up in 1992 when the Square went down to Castlemaine by five points in a see-sawing grannie.
Two aspects of Patto’s career which need mentioning. He was extremely durable, missing just 10 games through injury during his first 11 years of senior fooy with the Dogs.
And secondly, and just as importantly, he represented Bendigo 16 times in inter-league as well as turning out for the combined VCFL side.
Patto’s inter-league pinnacle came in 1988-89 when the Blue and Golds made the grand finals in both seasons, capping off a great run by downing the fancied Geelong F.L. side in the 1989 play-off on the QEO.
From his 13 seasons at Wade Street, Alan won the Square fairest and best awards in four seasons: 1982-1985-1987-1988.
He’s a life member of the GSFNC (1991) and in 2010 was inducted into the BFNL Hall of Fame.
Square Hall of Famers, 1980s—1999: Karen Erwin (1991-95); Alan Patterson (1978-1992); Greg Williams (1980-1983) and Dean Strauch (1983-1992).
Complete list of the 20 Square HoF inductees: Hank McHardy, Carl Rohde, Richie Lee, Vin Lapsley, Karen Erwin, Alan Patterson, Dean Strauch, Greg Williams, Bill Bonney, Peter Davey, Neville Strauch., Shane Rodda, Ron Best, Tony Southcombe, Peter Moroni, Garry Mountjoy, Christian Carter, Simon Rosa, Matt O’Toole and Mark Lloyd.
*Excerpts and details from Shawn McCormick’s and the club’s 2019 Hall Of Fame booklet, plus snippets from my own Bendigo Addy articles of the Eighties and Nineties.
Next up: the four from the Golden Dynasty, 2000-2018: Mark Lloyd, Christian Carter, Matt O’Toole and Simon Rosa.