1961 WAS KEVIN CONNELL’S UNLUCKY FOOTY YEAR.
Kevin has been known as the unluckiest Hawthorn player in 1961, the year the Hawks won their first ever Grand Final. Here’s his story…..
Kevin was a country boy though and though. He was born in Maryborough Victoria a week before WW2 was declared in 1939. Maryborough was a town with good educational and sporting facilities plus many types of industry, and this was where he spent the first 20 years of his life.
He attended the local State and Technical Schools, then in 1958 he completed his academic studies for a Diploma of Electrical Engineering.
As a teenager he was a very handy cricketer being a Left Handed Opening batsman. He represented Maryborough at the Country Week Cricket Carnival during the years 1957-60.
He began playing football at the age of 12 in the local Junior Football League where one of his teammates was the future Carlton great John Nicholls. He won the Best and Fairest in that Junior League in 1956. In 1957 Kevin began playing for Maryborough which was a powerful club in the strong Ballarat Football League. Maryborough finished ‘runners up’ in both 1957 and 1958. In his final year with Maryborough in 1959 he was both leading goal kicker (36 goals) and won Best and Fairest.
In 1959 Kevin had to move to Melbourne in order to do two years of industrial experience to complete his Diploma. He lived with family friends in Footscray (just two drop kicks from the Whitten Oval) while working for the Department of Supply in Maribyrnong. In those days Country areas were not zoned to any VFL team as city areas were. He had to sign up with a VFL team within 12 weeks or he would have been tied to the Bulldogs. While the clubs Carlton, Essendon, Footscray and Collingwood sought his signature Kevin signed up with Hawthorn with two other Maryborough players even though he had been an ardent Essendon supporter all his life to that time. He received nothing for signing up although one of his future Hawthorn team mates got a second hand refrigerator!!
Kevin did not enjoy living in Melbourne and even though he trained with the Hawthorn Senior team in 1959 he went home every weekend to play for Maryborough. Then in 1960 he decided to see if he was good enough to play VFL football. Kevin played his first full senior game as a Hawthorn rover in round 6 against North Melbourne. Hawthorn won this game. They had a new coach in John Kennedy, but had lost the first five games of the season. Hawthorn then went on to win 11 of the remaining 12 games just to miss out on making the ‘final four’ on percentage , Kevin played in all these remaining games. During this 1960 year he also began boarding in Hawthorn with the wonderful Mrs Cavell.
In 1961 Kevin did his training to be a Maths and Science Technical School Teacher. Ironically his placement as a Student Teacher for all of 1961 was at Sunshine Technical School (the heart of Bulldog territory).
Now, Kevin was one of the hard luck stories of Hawthorn’s 1961 Premiership year.
As a regular second rover he played 14 games (out of 18) that season, and was playing very well in the Second Semi Final when shortly before halftime he went down with a knee injury and played no further part in that game. Even with a fortnight’s rest he was not fit enough to play in the Grand Final against Footscray. This was Hawthorn ‘s first Premiership. How disappointed he must have been.
Kevin was still included in the Premiership Team photo.
His knee problem was later diagnosed as a torn cartilage which in those days ended many a player’s football career.
Kevin recovered from this and played in 1962, 1963 and 1964. But he injured his knee again at the end of the 1964 season and that was the end of his football career.
His best assets were teamwork and the ability to kick goals…(three 5 goal bags.) In August 1961 in round 18, just before the finals, was one of these 5 goal matches. He played 55 games and kicked 64 goals.
Kevin can still remember the joy and excitement on the faces of all those long suffering loyal Hawthorn supporters. Football was played in those days for the sport and love of the game, not for money. Every player at every League Club was paid £10 for every game played- no contracts in that era- a good wage at that time was £20 per week.
Here’s another part of Kevin’s life……
Kevin’s teaching career spanned 37 years.
1961 Sunshine Technical School – Maths/Science teacher.
1962-1966 Preston East Technical School -Maths/Science teacher, where he taught with Ken Griska.
1967-1992 Blackburn Technical School- Head of Maths Department, where he taught Eileen McCormack’s son.
1993-1999 Doncaster Secondary College- Head of Maths Department.
Kevin enjoyed his class-room teaching very much but found the bureaucracy tedious. He believes it was a shame that Technical Schools were closed down. He still comes across former pupils from time to time.
Kevin joined the Doncaster Bowling Club in about 2005 after much encouragement to do so by one of its stars Brian Donovan.( Kevin’s words). He played Pennant for a number of years, but gave that up a few years ago. The long season and the amount of travel were the main reasons for this decision. Kevin has organised our Wednesday Social Bowls for about 10 years. He now only plays Wednesday Social Bowls. He has been a member of the Greens Committee for the last 10 years.
Kevin also keeps busy tending the garden at his local church ( he does have a green thumb), as well as assisting in Maths classes at Doncaster Secondary College and tutoring his grandchildren in Maths.
Kevin was married in May 1963, ( the wedding was held at 6pm to give the Best Man and several of the Groomsmen time to clean up and change after playing their Hawthorn match earlier in the afternoon.)
He and his wife Noreen settled in Doncaster early in 1964. In 1973 they moved two streets away to another new and bigger house where they still reside. They have 5 children (1 boy and 4 girls) and 10 grandchildren, all of whom are very very proud of their Pa.
Kevin has a room of interesting memorabilia.
Thank you Kevin for contributing all this information.