Ron O'Neill

Born: 1941      Died: 2005

Came from: Boort       Went to: Bayswater

First game: 14 April 1968      Last game: 28 Sept 1969

Appearances: 38        Goals: 256

Premierships: 1968     League Rep: 4

Other clubs played for: 1959-1963 Camberwell, 1963 East Malvern, 1964 Camberwell, 1965 Yarram (c-c), 1966 Camberwell, 1967 Boort (c-c), 1970-74 Bayswater, (c-c, 70-71).

 

RON O'Neill was an exceptional footballer who really should have played Victorian Football League football but never did. Why? Because Ron O'Neill was a man who would not bow down to anyone, he was a unique individual.

O'Neill was the ultimate drawcard for anyone fortunate enough to see him play whether it be for Camberwell (1959-1964 & 1966), East Malvern (1963, after a mid season argument with Camberwell coach Colin Campbell), Yarram (1965), Boort (1967), Griffith (1968-1969 and Bayswater (1970-1974).

He was described by former players and supporters of the 1960s era as a mercurial and sensational full forward who could kick miraculous goals equally well with either foot, take high marks over packs and was surprisingly quick, often leaving full backs flat footed.

However, O'Neill was no angel on the football field and definitely not a favourite with the umpires as on occasions even tried to umpire the games himself. One of his most provoking habits was to intimidate the full back by hitting them on the jaw or behind the ear, telling them; 'There's plenty more where that one came from'. This sort of behavior resulted in a regular attendance at the tribunal.

One humorous incident happened during the 1962 season while playing with Camberwell when he was reported on a charge of throwing mud at Dandenong full back Ian Abraham. At the hearing VFA House was suddenly plunged into darkness. "Don't worry, I'm an electrician". said O'Neill who promptly traced the fault and restored light. O'Neill was given a suspended sentence, which meant he could play the following week although he needed to behave himself for the ensuring year. Whether O'Neill's good deed had anything to do with the decision is a debatable point.

After playing 84 games and booting 351 goals for Camberwell, O'Neill was cleared to take up a coaching position with Boort (North Central League) for the 1967 season. He finished fifth in the Feeney Medal for League's best and fairest and was also runner-up in the goal kicking to Wycheproof-Narraport's Greg Kennedy.

Griffith Football Club was the next coaching appointment for the reputable goalkicker. This all come about when the Griffith committee, with Pat Cudmore as club president, preferred choice Peter Lyon opted to coach Kyabram. This decision proved a blessing in disguise for the perennial bridesmaid (Swans).

Not only did the Club have a full forward who could get the ball and then kick goals from all angles but also a coach that created a favourable impression amongst players and supporters.

And all that for the modest sum of $1260 a season plus $8 a week rent on his flat and with Kevin Kirkpatrick (Griffith coach between 1965 and 1967) as his assistant, the Griffith Club had now gained two class footballers for the price of one.

In a season of high drama, controversy never seemed too far away from the uncompromising Griffith skipper. After booting nine goals during a typical torrid Whitton/Griffith clash an unmerciful spectator evidently wanting a bit more for his money 'king hit' O'Neill as the players were about to enter the dressing sheds at the end of the game.

Three month's later, O'Neill's 1962-63 valiant sedan was destroyed at his Gallipoli Street flat. Detective Senior Constable Jack Ellis said that the police theory was that the explosion was caused by a gelignite blast.

These uncanny events helped rally the Club. Suddenly player's confidence and belief in each other grew. O'Neill distinguishes himself by booting 125 goals for the season including a 14-goal haul against Turvey Park.

This game commenced a brilliant run of thirteen consecutive Red & White victories to eventually win for Griffith their first South Western District Football League premiership in 16 years.

There was a humorous touch to the 1968 Grand Final when Ariah Park-Mirrool supporter, Dave Rees, paraded on of his famous Clydesdale's in the teams colors at half time. A little Griffith girl with the banner 'Peggy O'Neill for us' preceded them.

The following season Ron O'Neill had the Griffith Club going for a treble of wins in all grades on Grand Final day. Griffith entered the time on period with a lead of 16 points and looking to be in an unbeatable position until VFL umpire Graham Huggins decided to reverse an umpiring decision against O'Neill for abusive language towards him. This penalty proved costly as the never-say-die Ganmain team seized upon their opportunity and three goals later the Swans had to settle for the minor flags.

Unscrupulous rumors quickly spread that the Swans leader had 'sold the Club out'. While suspicion still remains to this day, lady luck and an inappropriate free kick count (23 less than Ganmain), coupled with some shady goal umpiring decisions during the match could also be the principal reason for Griffith's shock defeat.

After kicking 256 goals in 38 appearances for Griffith, O'Neill moved back to Melbourne where he coached Bayswater for two seasons. He then continued playing until 38 years old before finally hanging up his 'golden boots' forever.

In retirement O'Neill played lawn bowls and being a man's man he loved nothing better than cooking breakfast for his fellow bowlers.

His wife Maree, two sons Mark and Rod, four grandchildren and a sister survive him.     (Riverina Times - December 22, 2005).

O'Neill determined to kick 1,000 goals

GRIFFITH'S prolific goal-getter Ron O'Neill expects to reach yet another milestone this year by kicking his 1,000 goal.

O'Neill, estimated yesterday that his total of goals in 10 years of senior football would be "close to 1,000." 
His 14 goals against Grong Grong-Matong on Sunday falls short of his personal best.

In 1964 when playing for V.F.A. Club Camberwell, he kicked 17 goals in a match against Brighton.

His effort on Sunday equalled his next best total, having also kicked 14 goals against Turvey Park last year.
A scrutiny of O'Neill's phenomenal goal-kicking record is enough to make any full back shudder.

In his ten years of senior football he has only been beaten for league goal-kicking awards on two occasions. His smallest tally for a season is 72 goals.
In eight years with Camberwell he headed the V.F.A. list on seven occasions and was Camberwell's leading scorer on eight.
O'Neill then accepted a coaching position with Boort in the North Central League. By kicking 93 goals - Boort only scores 127 for the season - to finish second on the list.
The sharp shooter took up the appointment with Griffith last year and realised a personal best of 125 for the season.
O'Neill is reluctant to analyse his success in front of the sticks but believes that practice and the ability to read the game play a big part.
He is a firm believer in one thing - he doesn't care for kicking goals himself. 
"As long as the team is winning, I am happy," he says.
Although he only kicked six goals, O'Neill considers his effort in last year's grand final win gave him the greatest satisfaction.
He feels that this year there will be more goals than ever kicked in the South-West League. "Most teams have concentrated on recruiting top-line forwards, but have neglected defence." 

(By Trevor Hulm - The Daily Advertiser, April 24, 1969).