Bill came to the Harriers in 1951 at age seventeen, the year after older brother John had won the first of his ‘5 Mile Cross-Country’ titles. The ‘middle’ brother, David, was playing football with Collingwood in the VFL. All the family were mad Collingwood supporters.
In his own words Bill says that, “as a junior I was strongly influenced and impressed by the atmosphere of friendly camaraderie which was shared by all at the Club. The support, encouragement and efficiency of Club officials such as Ray Coverdale and ‘Snowy’ Thompson and senior team mates were inspirational to a callow youngster.”
He could not always get to Clifton Hill because of transport difficulties, but ran every day. Bill’s program consisted mainly of long slow distance work with some sprints for speed. He participated in both summer and winter events The 880 yards and mile events were his preferred fare during the track season, recording bests of 2:00 for the former and 4:27 for the latter.
Bill was elected Cross-Country Captain of the Club 1953. In just his third year at the Club and at age nineteen, he must have been doing something right!
Bill remembers a number of his schoolmates from Box Hill High School, including Harold Burridge, Geoff D’Ombrain and David Lloyd-Thomas being particularly close friends and others such as brother John, Don Collins, Ted Pickering, Jack Dibbs, Artie Butler, Pat Grigg and Bob Murray as an unforgettable a bunch as you would ever want to meet.
In 1953 Bill was chosen to represent the Club in a ‘special event’ held at the Northcote Football Ground at half time in a VFA match. The one mile handicap event was organised by the Trade Union movement in support of St. Vincent’s hospital. Bill was given the scratch mark and although not feeling too well, with the makings of a cold, was good enough to get across the line in first place. Bill remembers being presented with a Cup by a most charming young lady. However the effort, Bill says, “nearly killed me. That cold quickly became the worst case of the ‘flu I’ve ever had – in bed for ten days and worst of all – I lost the charming young lady’s name, address and telephone number!”
Bill managed to procure a number of Victorian Junior Championship medals during his stint at the Club. They included a gold in the 1953 1 Mile and silvers in the 1951 mile and the 1953 880yards. There were three more ‘golds’ in the winter cross-country events with wins in the 1952 3 Mile and the 5 Mile in both 1953 and 1954.
As to be expected Bill also had a measure of success in Club events with two wins in the Club Blue Ribbon 5 Mile Championship being right at the top of the list. In 1953 he established what was then a best time for the Laceby Cecil 4 Mile Hcp, an event still conducted today.
Bill considers the Club’s effort to contest the Association A Grade track final in 1953 to be a real highlight of his time at the Club. Although losing on the day to Sandringham, Bill says that every Magpie gave of his best.
On a more personal tack, Bill says that the chance to develop self knowledge and character and to experience tough competition was a priceless part of ‘growing up!’
“I learnt to win without boasting and to lose without excuse!”
After giving athletics away Bill participated in tennis, squash and cricket. Years later Bill played some social golf and also did a bit of mountain bike riding!
The Club is pleased to have Bill as part of our ‘Parade of Champions’ each year after the running of ‘The Five’.