Harry Taylor: Why it’s so important to celebrate 60 years of our Great Northern Football League

Harry TaylorGeraldton Guardian
Harry Taylor is playing his first senior game for Northampton tonight.
Camera IconHarry Taylor is playing his first senior game for Northampton tonight. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

I am a proud Mid West person. I feel a strong connection to the land, sea and people of this great region.

My first football memories began on a small farm on the banks of the Hutt River near Port Gregory. Kicking goals in the backyard between the clothesline post and the garden fence afforded me countless hours of fun at the unfortunate cost of some of Mum’s favourite flowers.

I kept practising my footy skills on the little school oval in U10s and 12s, then at Greenough Oval as a Rover Demon.

It was off to Shark Park next and the East Fremantle Football Club before boarding a plane and heading east to play a few games for the Geelong Cats.

The GNFL is celebrating its 60th anniversary this round.
Camera IconThe GNFL is celebrating its 60th anniversary this round.

I have returned to where that journey first began at the Northampton Football Club, happy to be running around like that same kid was 25 years earlier (running around like that same kid is a stretch. Limping along would be a better description, but I am still smiling, which is important!)

The great character and personalities of the GNFL competition should be celebrated and their stories told. It is because of the achievements of these trailblazers that have come before, that the Mid West region continues to produce AFL stars of the future.

Angus Horwood in 1968.
Camera IconAngus Horwood in 1968. Credit: Supplied

History is important and this weekend’s fixture of GNFL games is a special one that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the GNFL competition.

In 1961 the Northampton Upper Chapman Valley Association (NUCFA) and the Great Northern Football Association (GNFA) came together to form an amalgamation called the GNFL as we know it today.

Jim Sewell.
Camera IconJim Sewell. Credit: Supplied

This union was ratified at the Murchison Inn and on April 30, 1961, the first round of matches were played. The competition has changed slightly over the past 60 years, with Mullewa entering the competition in 1963 and Irwin leaving.

Dongara have briefly come and gone throughout this period, with the seven teams of Brigades, Rovers, Towns, Railways, Chapman Valley, Northampton and Mullewa largely making up the clubs of the GNFL for the past six decades.

Many great players, administrators and volunteers have helped shape the history of the GNFL, from inaugural president JJ Clune through to the most recent JJ Clune Medal winner Tom Denton. The competition has helped produce many star WAFL players including Angus Horwood, John Rowan and Graham Kickett and AFL players, from Jim Sewell to most recent local product Jack Carroll.

Dale Baynes from Towns leaps for the ball against a Railways pack during the league GNFL grand final at Recreation Ground on Sunday.
Camera IconDale Baynes from Towns leaps for the ball against a Railways pack during the league GNFL grand final at Recreation Ground on Sunday. Credit: Midwest Times, Natasha Gilmartin

The great character and personalities of the GNFL competition should be celebrated and their stories told. It is because of the achievements of these trailblazers that have come before, that the Mid West region continues to produce AFL stars of the future.

The competition has become an important part of the social fabric of the Mid West area, with the game of AFL providing a strong social support network and cocoon of activity for families throughout this great region. A place to relax on a Friday night after a long week at work, a meeting point for old friends and foes, the canvas for kids to run, jump and kick like their heroes of the present.

I have so many fond memories of going along to watch the Rams play as a young skinny kid, wishing I could be out there among the action in between annoying Dad for a few dollars to buy a killer python and can of Coke.

I loved watching Darren Ryan weave through traffic, Dale Baynes take hangers and listen to Bull Fairley talk about the GNFL’s past on the way home from boundary umpiring footy in Mullewa.

Darren ‘Snotty’ Ryan in action.
Camera IconDarren ‘Snotty’ Ryan in action.

The GNFL has provided us all with a foundation to many of our best memories and it is important that we celebrate some of those memories from the past 60 years.

The competition has always needed the support and help of so many amazing sponsors and volunteers to prosper.

The work that many people tirelessly provide, whether as a player, a trainer, a coach, an administrator or sponsor all contribute to helping others connect through football and add to the many layers of memories that we all share because of 60 years of the GNFL.

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