OUR dog Charlie, the one who charmed his way out of the lost dogs home, has a close relationship with the Loch footy oval. He takes me there at least twice a week to do laps and meet up with some old friends and check out the oak trees that surround the oval.
The reserve is almost circled by these ancient oaks that offer kind shelter on rainy mornings and, with the surrounding hills and the river, they form a natural amphitheatre that produces an atmosphere of its own making.
When l read through the history of this ground, I can understand why some locals still refer to it as “The Footy Oval”. Your imagination can pick up the noise of the crowds as you walk around the field. I have reliable confirmation that the last game was played back in 1993. Pat Kennedy was working on renovating the pavilion when Charlie and I strolled by some weeks ago. He says he was out there playing in that final match, so he would know.
This year some wise people got together and entered three teams in the Warragul & District Competition so footy is back. Poowong-Loch now fields an under 10, under 12 and under 14 team. They have not had a lot of impact on the scoreboard so far but George Elton, president of the Memorial Reserve Committee (Loch Memorial Reserve is the oval’s official name), tells me the under 14s had some success in the early part of the season. But it’s early days yet, let’s give the lads time.
The oval has been recently equipped with goal posts and guard rails and the reserve committee has organised and paid for a pavilion upgrade. The light towers that grace the oval were built back in 1974. Cricket has been a constant summer sport here so it’s a healthy and welcome trend to see the return of junior football.
The community raised the funds to put a suspension bridge over Allsop River.
As I look through Garry Knox's recorded history of the oval, Reserved Space, I’m reminded how country communities work together. The development and maintenance of this ground down through the years is the work of many dedicated groups and individuals. The features and amenities they have achieved are quite astounding. Apart from the club rooms, there are cricket nets, tennis courts, a soccer practice area, a large covered barbecue gazebo and camping facilities. One special feature is the pedestrian suspension bridge which sways 40 feet above the Allsop River bed.
Included in Garry Knox’s book is a section about Loch, Stock and Barrel, a successful fund-raising group that purchased a tractor and mower for the reserve, financed clubroom renovations and donated towards the building of the pedestrian suspension bridge. The reserve benefited to the tune of $46,000.
The Loch, Stock and Barrel group sound a lively lot. There is a story told that committee member Carolyn Wilshaw took an injured man to hospital one Sunday. In return, she received flowers which led to marriage two years later.
At one of their many social gatherings, the band put a call out on the microphone to get committee people on to the stage to stop people throwing beer. The committee were near the stage and it turned out they were the ones throwing the beer. But my favourite is the one of an unnamed committee person body surfing down the marquee on left-over bags of coleslaw.
I have heard that nudity was always guaranteed on a Sunday morning. What were they doing? Diving into the Allsop River?
It is a sobering experience to walk the perimeter of these grounds. Fifteen oak trees partially surround the oval, each with a plaque dedicated to World War II soldiers to whom (along with WWI soldiers) the Loch Memorial Reserve is dedicated. All but three lost their lives while still in their 20s.
There are just two oaks on the eastern side of the oval which I like to think of as the Coster-Pedder wing. One is dedicated to Jack Coster, shot down over Germany in 1945. The other to Ernie Pedder who died on the Kokoda Track in 1943. Both were aged 20.
Behind the gazebo are a line of oaks, two of them dedicated to two airmen of the RAAF. Both are listed as J. Brock and both lost their life in 1943. For a while I wondered why the duplication but looking closer saw that dates and service numbers did not match. They were brothers.
Part of a family of six, John (Jack) Brock, aged 23, lost his life when the aircraft he was in disappeared over Cologne after dropping flares. His elder brother James (Ray) Brock was killed in an aircraft accident in Geraldton, WA. The story has it he was on a flight from Darwin to Geraldton. On arrival they had to circle for some time waiting for airport landing strip lights to be turned on. The plane ran out of fuel, six of the crew were killed while two escaped injury. Their plaques reveal they were born on the same day three years apart and died on the same day of the month four months apart.
Every day that Charlie and I visit, I become more fluent in the language of war and its madness. But mixed in with the sorrow, there is also a feeling of peace to be found here. Walking around the Loch Memorial Reserve can do that to you.
Yes, all those stories were true. Loch Stock and Barrel was started as a bachelor and spinsters ball to raise money to improve facilities at the rec reserve. There was always a little bit of "mischief " but never anything too serious. In today's politically correct world of rules and regulations it probably wouldn't be allowed by the relevant authorities. It's so hard for the young ones today to have a "good time". Some their fault, some society's. And how hard is it to try and raise money for worthy causes nowadays. We are doing our best to make "life" a little too hard for every body. Such a shame!