Came from: Berrigan Went to: South West Umpires
First game: 9 Apr 1961 Last game: 25 Sep 1966
Appearances: 108 Goals: 243
League Rep: 20 League Best & Fairest: 1964
Other clubs played for: 1954-55 Geelong Amateurs, 1956 Geelong, 1957 Acton, ACT, 1958-60 Berrigan (c-c), 1970 Barellan United (c-c).
Denote: Played 2 night games for Geelong FC in 1956.
IT might be a well worn cliche, but Riverina Australian Football legend Len Sexton really did not need enemies when he had friends like Noel Walker and Alan Mackenzie. Acclaimed as one of the finest forward line players in an era of great footballers, Sexton reckons his mates deserve a little of the 'credit' for possibly cutting short his dynamic career.
Without the slightest trace of resentment or bitterness, Sexton laughingly recalls how his mates got him a beauty during a match at Griffith 25 years ago. "They are good mates of mine and it was really just a thing that happens in football," Sexton remembers. They both came in to make the same tackle and I ended up getting sandwiched....and put my hip out. "The hip was not really the same after that, but I played out the season."
Now a prominent insurance and investment advisor in Griffith, Sexton, 54, can still look back on a brilliant football career, spanning 15 years at the highest level in the game. From the first time he "made the list" at Geelong in the early 50s, Sexton had that special look of a rising star in Aussie Rules football. After 25 years after his retirement Sexton's name still conjures up fabulous images to see him in action in club or representative games.
While the word champion is certainly the most-used in sport, it is hard not to pin such a tag to a player with Len Sexton's immaculate credentials. Not only did Sexton achieve just about everything a player can want in football, he was also prepared to stay around and give something back to the game.
For a dozen years after his retirement as a player Sexton umpired matches in the South West League and later became involved in the formation of a still-thriving Mod-Rules competition in Griffith.
Lightly-framed Len Sexton was always prepared to be a heavy weight contributor to football. Born in Colac, but reared from the age of five in Geelong's football heartland, Sexton was only a tender teenager when he was drafted into the Cats' squad in 1954. "I was 17 or 18 and you can imagine what a thrill it was to be listed by Geelong," Sexton recalls. "Those days there were 36 players on the senior list and the side was picked from those players. "Even then I thought I was a little light for league football but I was determined to stick at it. "I had three seasons with Geelong and played mainly in reserves. They were tremendous days and I had a chance to train and play beside some terrific players.
Sexton's emerging career with Geelong took a remarkable turnabout at the end of the 1956 season. "An opportunity came up to have a year with a club called Acton in Canberra and I didn't hesitate to take it," he said. "Lindsay White, a top full forward was coach at Acton, and it really turned out a year well spent." Although restricted to only 13 first grade games, Sexton made a massive impact in the Canberra competition, falling only point short of claiming the prizes Mulrooney Medal as the season's best and fairest player. "I finished as runner-up," Sexton said. "I enjoyed the that season but went back to Geelong the following year (1958) and was put back on the list under coach Reg Hickey.
"As it turned out an approach came from Berrigan for the '58 season in the Murray League. "I was only 20 and need to put on some weight so I took up the Berrigan offer." For Sexton, the decision was certainly the most significant of his 15 years in senior football. Not only did it forge a strong link with Riverina football, but also shaped Sexton's life away from the football field. "During those three years as coach of Berrigan I met a lass and later married her," he remembers. Now his wife of 30 years, Fay's influence has an inspirational impact on Len Sexton.
Twice in three seasons (1958/60) Sexton won the O'Dwyer Medal as the outstanding player in the Murray League. The Sexton star was shining at his brightest and the young centre half forward was a player in great demand. "I got an offer to coach Griffith so I left Berrigan at the end of 1960," he recalls. "I had two seasons as coach and I was fortunate enough to win the goal-kicking award in 1961 and 1962." Over the next four seasons Sexton continued to build on his already imposing reputation - a football legend was taking shape.
Griffith's super boot grabbed the South West League's Gammage Medal in 1964 and a chance to share a large slice of Rules' history. "That was the year South West League won the Country Championship - and that included country Victoria as well," he recalls. "I've got no doubt that probably the best side I played in. The team was coached by Bernie Sculley, a tremendous footballer and a fine coach. "There were a lot of ex-VFL players....it was a mighty team. "I won't forget how we did it. We knocked over Ovens and Murray and Waranga North East in the early rounds, then North Central in the semi before beating Hampden League in the final. They were strong teams as well...it was a tough competition to win."
Ironically, Sculley, the South West League coach, was runner-up to Sexton in the Gammage Medal that season. The Country Championship success holds a special memory - and for a good reason. Along with his three best and fairest medals it is the only senior grade honour he collected for his years of training and dedication. "I never won a senior premiership," he recalls. "I played in five grand finals and won two of them - the Under 15s premiership with Geelong and the reserves premiership with Berrigan in 1958. "I was only 13 when Geelong won that title. I suppose when you look at it there is a lot of football for little result....there was still a lot of fun and enjoyment."
Only three years after the unforgettable Country Championship victory, Sextons fabulous football days were virtually over - the curtain finally ringing in 1967. But Sexton was not finished with football...even as a player. "I was tempted by Barellan to have one season in 1970," he recalls. "I was player-coach and we made the semi-final but were beaten by Yanco.
"I was back to umpiring after that and stuck at it until 1980." Just as he did as a player, Sexton earned consistent plaudits for his performances as an umpire during his 12 years in the centre. "Umpires have a crucial role in football and it is important they do the best job possible," he added.
Outstanding players abounded during Sexton's high-flying playing days, but none better than Graham Ellis. "He was the best footballer in my time," Sexton says. "Ellis had all the skills...he was a marvellous player. "There were plenty of others....Les Mogg, Peter Box, Gerald Eastmure, Bill McCaig, Max Kruse..." The likes of Fred Mundy, Athol Jackson - "he had a big drop kick" - Frank Hodgkin, Jim Bloomfield and Vic Hathaway are also players who hold a special place in Sexton's memory. "I said there were plenty of them," he says with a chuckle.
Despite distancing himself from senior football - "I finished on the committee (at Griffith) in 1982" - Sexton still has some definite thoughts on the modern game. He admits he is disappointed at the direction the game is going, but believes it will turn around. "It goes in cycles," he says. "Different styles come in and go out...some skills are gone forever. "The game these days revolves around keeping the ball. There are too much handball and too many players in the square. "The great thing about football in the old days was the one-on-one duel...there just not any one-off duels these days.
"I still go to watch the odd game, but I also have time for other things. "I took up golf five or six years ago and have a lot of fun." Golf was really a natural progression, albeit a little late, for a sportsman of Sexton's ilk. (Stars of the Past with Les Muir - Daily Advertiser, Thursday, June 20, 1991).
Swans flying home for 1961 reunion
More than 100 players, officials and friends were expected to attend a planned reunion of the Griffith Swans on VFL grand final day, September 25, 1986.
One of the organisers. Mr Len Sexton said the celebrations were to mark the 25th birthday of the 1961 Griffith team, the last one to play on the Griffith Showground Oval.
Len Sexton coached the Swans in 1961 and was a Gammage Medal winner during his time with Griffith in the old South-West competition.
Players of the era such as Colin Holt, Don Pannan, John Cramp, Jim Eley, John Anderson, Bob Carroll and Bob Spears, have indicated their intention to return to Griffith for the celebration.
The festivities have been planned.
On VFL grand final day, commencing at mid-day, at the Swans clubrooms on the Ex-Servicemen's Oval, players and friends will view the direct telecast on a special large screen. Food and drinks will be available.
The main event will be on Saturday night at a dinner to be held in the Jondaryan Club. ABC sporting director, Mr Peter Booth, a former Swan player and one time club secretary, will be attending.
Tickets to the dinner are available from either Len Sexton, Gordon Brown, Allan Smith or Bob Tyndall.
The last Griffith first grade side to play in a South West competition game at the Showground was on Sunday August 13, 1961 against Leeton. The line-up from the backline were Gordon Browne, Bob Tyndall, Frank Conlan; Allan Smith, John Anderson, Don Best; Doug Geddes, Bob Spears, John Bortolazzo; Ray Davies, Kevin Rowston, Bob Carroll; Jim Eley, Doug Koehler, Alby Sutton; Bill Biron, Len Sexton, Vic Hathaway; Ken Stevenson and Kevin Luhrs.
(By Jack Luhrs - The Area News, September, 1986).