Warrnambool greats gather for glory days

THE ability to attract players from the top level helped build an impressive dynasty for the Warrnambool Football Netball Club.

This weekend the club is celebrating a string of premierships with the number six at the end.

MEMORIES: Len Mann 1966, Bill Couch 1986, Frank Lane 1976 and Alan Ryan 1966 under 18s are ready for the Warrnambool reunion this weekend.

The 1946, 66, 76 and 86 senior football premierships will be remembered as will the 1966 and 1976 under 18, 1976 under 17 football flags and the team that won the 2006 A grade netball grand final.The reunion is being organised by passionate Blues member Lois McKenzie.

The senior football premierships were coached by four AFL/VFL players.

Former Collingwood player Les Main coached 1946, Melbourne premiership ruckman Len Mannwas in charge in 1966, Daryl Salmon (Collingwood) coached in 1976 and former St Kilda star Grant Thomas was at the helm in 1986.

Only one member of the 1946 team is still alive, Perc Lake, who lives in Queensland and is unable to attend the reunion.

Len Mann played in Melbourne’s 1960 premiership and arrived at Warrnambool in 1965. In his second season as coach, Mann led the Blues to the premiership, defeating Mortlake by 16 points.

Mann remembers champion full-forward Stan Nokes being pivotal to the result.

“We played Stephen Hando at full-forward and pushed Stan out to centre half-forward,” Mann said.

“It was tight going into the last quarter so we made the change to put Stan back to full-forward. He didn’t kick a goal but his presence there put pressure on Mortlake and opened the forward line up for other players to kick goals.”

Fast forward 10 years, and Frank Lane was a star at the other end of the ground for the Blues.Lane came across from Old Collegians and quickly established himself as one of the Hampden league’s best defenders.

The Blues had not won a premiership since 1966 andwent into the 1976 season with Les Cameron as coach. Cameron suffered a nasty injury and resigned as coach early in the season with Salmon stepping into the role. Cameron was able to recover in time and come back and play in the winning grand final team.

Lane recalled the Blues comingfrom third place to win the premiership, the first of three in a row.

“We had a pretty good side, well led by Daryl,” Lane said.

“It was a stable team, I think that helped us win three in three years.”

Bill Couch was a key member of the 1986 team. It was the start of golden era under Thomas that produced four consecutive premierships.

“Thomas was ahead of his time, the game plan he brought in was rock solid, it gave us a big advantage” Couch said.

“He knew the mechanics of the gameand he was a great motivator.”

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