Jack Luhrs

Born: 1927              Died: 16 Dec 2011

Came from: Eastern Suburbs       Went to: The Media

First game: 19 June 1949             Last game: 28 August 1955

Appearances: 100                          Goals: 8

League Rep: 4                                 Premierships: 1952

Club best & fairest: 1952

Other clubs played for: 1948-1949 Eastern Suburbs

 

WHITTON-BORN Riverina journalist Jack Luhrs is been remembered as a larger than life character who had the ability to make everyone around him feel special. Mr. Luhrs lost a short battle with cancer on Friday morning, aged 86.

A legendary Griffith Aussie Rules player known as 'Ironman', Mr Luhrs started his journalism career on a part-time basic, covering football on the radio and for The Area News in the late 50s.

His early work as a journalist was juggled with his full-time occupations - first working on the railways, then as the long-time owner of tractor company JS Vagg.

But a heart attack and subsequent bypass in 1981 forced him to reassess the pressure in his life and he decided to sell the business and concentrate on his work as a journalist, first with The Area News and then with The Daily Advertiser, full time.

Riverina MP and former Advertiser editor Michael McCormack has fond memories of Mr Luhrs' contribution to the newspaper. "He was larger than life in both statue and how he lived his life," Mr McCormack said.

"He had a huge presence and every morning he'd announce himself in his big deep voice by saying: 'Hello staff,' as if he was running the show."

With nine siblings including a twin, two loving wives (he married again in 2003 after his died in 1997) and four children, Mr Luhrs also had a fulfilling family life and was admired in many ways according to his eldest son, well-known Wagga songwriter Grant Luhrs. "He was a real team man; he was always involved in team sports as well as community organisations including Apex, Lions, Rotary and Probus," he said.

A memorial service will be held for Jack Luhrs at Wagga's St Paul's Anglican Church this Thursday at 11am.   (The Area News - December 19, 2011).

Footy takes to the air

THE football of yesteryear's was totally different to that of today. Throughout the country areas and particularly that of the old South West District Football League, football meant most of the local community reserved Sunday to support their local footy team.

Then extent of community involvement was even more highlighted in the smaller country centres such as Ganmain, Coolamon, Whitton, Ardlethan, Ariah Park and Mirrool, Matong and Grong Grong.

This area and the bigger centres of Griffith, Leeton, Narrandera and Wagga were ripe for the broadcasting of South West League premiership matches and this is how I became involved.

By 1955 my own football was finished where I had played in the Swans first ever South West League premiership with Tom Roulent as coach in 1952.

In the 50's, Rugby League controlled the airways where the late Freddy Turner called the game from the hills of Tumbarumba to the rice-fields of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

I was a member of the Griffith Apex Club at the time and one of our meetings listed a debate that 'Rugby was a better footy game than Australian Rules'.

It was meant to be a friendly issue but somehow it go out of hand.

Charlie Lee, a great Rugby fan, said that Aussie Rules wasn't much of a game because it was never broadcast through 2RG.

I replied to Charlie the reason why you did not hear Aussie Rules on Sunday was 'because the management of the radio station was biased against the Australian game'.

Ray Gamble was the then radio manager of 2RG and a fellow member of the Apex Club.

Ray was furious at my allegation so much so he said, "Right...beginning next Sunday you will call the first game of Aussie Rules".

Having opened my big mouth too wide I had to go on with it. I had never called a game of footy before, in fact I was a tractor salesman at time working for J. S. Vagg and Company, but I was stuck with it.

Needing some help on how we were going to do it I asked Dick Bitcon, a fellow member of the premiership side, to give me a hand.

The games were played those days on the Griffith showground oval. We set up our little table on the boundary and had a technician from 2RG with us to read the commercials and to hook up the landlines to the studio.

Our first efforts were clumsy and naturally a great learning experience.

Dick stayed with me for a while but he was a rice farmer out at Benerembah and was not always available to help me call the games.

Soon I was on my own and remained that way for most of the next 25 years.

The extent of the radio cover and the interest it created surprised me and certainly surprised the management of 2RG.

Almost immediately I was given a spot on Sunday nights when 2RG occupied the present building of the Griffith Area News, to provide a round-up of matches played that day in the South West League.

Not always careful with my words and certainly ignorant those days in laws of defamation, I was inclined to be too outspoken and soon found myself earning the ire of a number of footy clubs.

I remember one time I named a Leeton player for deliberately kicking a Griffith opponent in a match at Griffith on the showground oval.

Perhaps just as well the Leeton player was given a match suspension for the incident or I could have been facing a defamation charge.

But I tempered my radio style in time for the next 20 years became part of the golden years of football in the South West, through the 60's and 70's and almost to the time the South West League changed its named to the present Riverina Football League.

Australian football was featured strongly by Radio 2RG where we not only had the Sunday broadcast, and the Sunday night match report but we also did a match preview on Saturday night.

These aspects were continued and expanded even further when MTN9 first began its telecasting from its Remembrance Drive studio in Griffith.

In the days when 2RG provided a technician to travel to the games with me, one of those was Peter Booth, the very well known sportscaster for the ABC.

Peter was a radio announcer with 2RG in those days and was later to become secretary of the Griffith Swans where he played a number of first and reserve grade matches.

It was not long before footy clubs began providing broadcasts boxes at their grounds and there was no doubt that radio was king as far as footy was concerned.

Again repeating I was proud to be part of these golden years, I also maintained my interests as a newspaper stringer for a number of publication.

They included The Area News in the days when Doc Jones published it as a broadcast two days a week. The Riverina Daily News when Paul Jones attempted to bring a daily newspaper to the Griffith region to rival the Wagga Daily Advertiser.

It was at that time I worked with Graham Gorrel, a journalist with The Wagga Daily Advertiser, as well as the Rugby League counterpart on radio and television.

I also wrote for the Griffith Advocate, The Griffith Times and from 1988 till two years ago, was on the sports desk at the Wagga Daily Advertiser until my retirement.

As a past player, committee-man, past president and life member of the Griffith Swans, I probably was guilty of 'favouring' Griffith in my footy broadcasts.

Naturally the major highlight was calling the Swans' 1968 premiership win against Arian Park.       (By Jack Luhrs - The Area News, Friday, June 11, 1993).