One of North Gippsland football and netball’s most quintessential traditions will be renewed this weekend when Glengarry and Gormandale contest the Keith Lang-Bill Onley Cup.
Established in 2010 in place of a sponsored annual trophy of 25 years, the occasion celebrates one of the league’s oldest rivalries and acknowledges the contribution of two great individuals and their families to the league and their respective clubs.
Lang was a premiership player with the Magpies in 1929 and 1930, a league best and fairest in 1935 and spent 45 years on the Glengarry committee, where he also filled the role of president, and served more than four decades as time keeper.
Onley was himself a dual premiership player, helping Gormandale to the 1946 and 1954 flags, and also a league best and fairest in 1949, before providing many years of service to the Tigers as a trainer, boot studder, club office bearer and fundraiser.
Both men are life members of their clubs and have had many family members follow in their footsteps and represent the clubs on the football field and netball court over the years.
Lang’s daughter Gwenda King – herself a Glengarry life member – credited fellow Magpies great John Brady with the initial idea for the Lang-Onley Cup, and said its enduring legacy could be found among its origins as a Mother’s Day event.
“Back then the league were trying to promote getting more family orientated and John thought this would be great as something different,” King said.
“To get a game on the Sunday and on Mother’s Day wasn’t so easy because people said ‘oh you’re not going to get people coming on Mother’s Day’ and ‘people aren’t going to want to come on a Sunday’.
“It took a bit initially to promote it and get it going but the league said ‘we’ll give it a go’ and it ended up being a really good trailblazer for North Gippy.
“It’s a family friendly day and we try to make it that because it’s family history both clubs are talking about.”
As with all of the league’s planned activities, the cup was unable to go ahead last year due to the covid pandemic.
Adding to the already anticipated return is the prospect that it could also be the last time these particular greats are honoured in this way.
While a final decision on the future of the cup is yet to be made by the clubs, King said a rebrand as per the original plan would be fitting of the spirit in which is was formed.
“It was meant to go for 10 years and I think taking covid out of it, this would possibly be the last year,” she said.
“I know how much it has meant to us and we were very lucky that [when it started] Mr and Mrs Onley were still alive whereas my mum and dad weren’t so it was very special to them when they met up with us – me and my three brothers and our family – and it created a really good connection.
“Both families would go out at the end of the game and present the Bill Onley Medal and the Keith Lang Medal and I could see other families that are due that same sort of acknowledgement and would enjoy that acknowledgement of their history in the clubs.”
While it’s unlikely any Lang or Onley descendants will be taking the field or court this year, King and her brothers Ian and Peter Lang, and Onley’s granddaughter Ellen Sykes (Jennings) – also a life member of the Tigers – are understood to be available to present the medals on the day.
The Keith Lang-Bill Onley Cup will be played at Glengarry Recreation Reserve this Saturday, with games commencing at 9:00am.
This weekend Yallourn-Yallourn North’s Premiership winning playing coach Barrie Burnett will break the club’s playing record as he plays game 320 for the club against Gornamdale.
Barrie passed the 300 game milestone in May 2019. In doing so joined a select group of players who played 300 senior games in the club’s history. And against the tigers, he will pass the previous record of 319 games held by Wayne Paulet, who is currently an Assistant Coach of the senior team.
Barrie has played all his football at YYNFNC. Starting in the U/11’s as a six-year old and making his senior debut at 18. He has become a great leader at the club and was instrumental in both the Senior and Reserves Premiership wins in Mid Gippsland Football League in 2019.
In a recent article in The Weekly Times, he spoke about how the role of senior coach now goes beyond football.
“You are not just a senior coach anymore; you’re pretty much everything. You’ve got to deal with all these young people and try to help them along the journey, and probably the most rewarding part is seeing them not just succeed playing football, but seeing their successes off the field as well seeing these young boys become men.”
In the same article, he also commented on the challenges faced by players and the club having year-long lay-off last year due to coronavirus restrictions.
“It was about just trying to keep the positivity with all players, and keeping them engaged and about their well-being,” he said. “We’ve got through it, and hopefully, we don’t have to go too long through this little period at the moment”.
Senior club officials have spoken of how Barrie has become a great leader within the club, having tremendous respect by all the players, club executive, committee, members and supporters. All of whom all wish Barrie congratulation for this fantastic effort he has achieved at YYNFNC.