Tiny town big on producing footy stars

By Kyabram Free Press

It's footy finals time and veteran Kyabram journalist Gus Underwood is proud of the number of AFL-VFL footballers his town has produced across the years.

But on a recent trip around the western half of Australia Gus found when it comes to producing elite footballers there is a tiny town in Western Australia that has a much more remarkable record than his beloved Kyabram Bombers.

Kyabram Football Club is justifiably proud of the fact that more than 30 of its players have reached the elite level in the game.

Some were just one-gamers but several are also household football names such as Garry Lyon, Richard (Dick) Clay, Brett Deledio and Ross Dillon.

And back in the early 1900s a Cobram-born Carlton player called Charlie Fisher also made his mark in league football. He played 111 games and kicked 147 goals for the Blues from 1914-21 after being recruited from Kyabram in 1914.

Fisher was a member of Carlton’s premiership side in his debut season and also again in 1915. He captained Carlton in 1919 and was the leading goalkicker in that season as well.

But when it comes to an Australian country town producing elite AFL/VFL players, Kyabram takes a back seat compared to a little town in Western Australia called Northampton and its football team known as The Rams.

Just over 50km north of the coastal town of Geraldton and more than 400km north of Perth, Northampton’s assembly line of elite footballers beats all its rivals by a booming Malcolm Blight spiral punt.

Set in rolling hills and with a population of less than 1000, the former mining town has no serious rivals when it comes to a small rural community producing champion Aussie Rules players.

Whet your appetite with this list:

- Harry Taylor (Geelong)

- Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

- Josh Kennedy (West Coast)

- Daniel Chick (Hawthorn, West Coast)

- Jamie Cripps (West Coast)

- Tarkyn Lockyer (Collingwood)

- Andrew Lockyer (West Coast)

- Paul Hasleby (Fremantle)

- Liam Anthony (North Melbourne)

Taylor is a two-time Geelong premiership player; Kennedy a two-time Coleman Medallist and premiership player with West Coast.

Jamie Cripps was in West Coast’s premiership side last season while his brother —Carlton’s Patrick Cripps — is a present-day Carlton and AFL superstar.

Hasleby is a multiple Glendinning-Allan WAFL Grand Final Best-on-Ground winner and a Fremantle legend.

The townspeople of Northhampton are so proud of their champion footballers, there is a move on at present to have them immortalised.

The local tourist association is proposing to place nine life sized steel-plate cut-outs of its football champions around the town to honour them.

Chad Smith, a member of the Northampton Tourist Association and the person who has pushed hardest for the town to recognise its mind-blowing list of star footballers, said ‘‘the town should be honouring these athletes who have achieved incredible milestones at the elite level in their sport.’’

And of course such an honour would also serve to lure more tourists — particularly football fans — to the tiny town that just keeps kicking goals when it comes to producing champion footballers.