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.