Spirit of the mighty Seagulls

One of Tooradin-Dalmore's greatest ever figures, legendary coach Billy Morrison.

By David Nagel

The stories were flowing thick and fast at Tooradin on Saturday as some legends of the past celebrated the 50-year reunion of the most successful era in the club’s history.

Tooradin-Dalmore won three South West Gippsland Football League (SWGFL) premierships in a row, beginning in 1970, and then backed that up with further silverware in 1975 and 1977.

The first four of those flags were coached by the best Seagull of them all, Billy Morrison, who had a smile from ear to ear as he looked around the room.

“It’s rewarding to see them all again and it’s amazing where the years have gone,” Morrison said with a small chuckle, before explaining how he arrived at Tooradin.

“I was coaching at Bunyip and got the sack, and the bloke who was delivering my petrol to me was involved in the football club here at Tooradin and asked me what I was doing.

“I told him I was doing nothing, that I had just been sacked, and one thing led to another and I ended up here at Tooradin.”

Morrison was a star junior, captaining the Richmond under-19s, then coached Highett, Birchip and Bunyip, before settling in for his longest stint as coach of Tooradin. He remembers fondly the success of the club and how it brought a community together.

“The grand finals, I don’t remember much about the games but I do remember a lot about the enjoyment of the town and how happy it made people feel,” he said.

“We worked hard as a team and celebrated hard as well – they were great times.”

Premiership player Stan Oakley, who organised the event, said the spirit in the room on Saturday reminded him of why the club was so successful back then.

“It’s fantastic to see everyone back here and it brings back great and wonderful memories,” Oakley said.

“We had a great time through that era and I think the reason we won those flags was the camaraderie within the team. It built during 1970 and then continued through the seventies and it was something we never took for granted.

“Blokes have remained mates ever since, and that’s what happens when you enjoy each other’s company and play in flags together. We had great times socially and on the field.”

Oakley remembers some of the star players who came to the club through that era, including Morrison, Gerry Pennefather, ex-St Kilda player Dennis Bartley and tough-nut ruckman Tony Jenner.

“We were fortunate enough to play with some of the great country footballers who came to Tooradin after playing at much higher levels,” Oakley explained.

“Billy Morrison captained Richmond under 19s until he had an infamous dispute with powerbroker Graeme Richmond, and we were very fortunate to get him here in the pre-season of 1970.

“He was voted the number-one player in Tooradin’s history.”

Oakley also explained how the premiership-winning era brough the community together as a whole.

“We hadn’t won a flag since 1956 or ’57 from memory, but that time through the seventies started a new era of success and it also developed a big spirit of camaraderie through the community,” Oakley said.

“It also brought together a group of influential people that started the formation of the Tooradin Sports Club – and it’s amazing to see the facility that we have here today.”

The Seagulls three-peat from 1970 to 1972 was won against Narre-Hallam (1970-’71) and Beaconsfield (1972), with former Narre-Hallam player Billy Sweeney there on Saturday to support his former rivals.

The Hosking Shield, presented to the premiership team of the SWGFL, was also dusted off and presented on the day. Winning clubs from that era included Keysborough (1964-’65), Cranbourne (1966), Hampton Park (1967-’68), Doveton (1969) and of course Tooradin-Dalmore from 1970 to 1972.