It’s 35 years since Deniliquin Rams captain coach Trevor Sutton kicked an Australian record 249 goals in the Murray Football League’s 1982 season. The record still stands and the stories surrounding this remarkable season continue to be talked about in sporting circles stretching as far across the country as Sutton’s colourful and impressive football career would take him. The former Rams coach was back in Deniliquin at the weekend and took the time to re-visit the oval where he kicked so many of those goals while at the same time catching up with Pastoral Times journalist Jamie Lowe ...
Jamie Lowe: First and foremost, what has brought you back to Deni for this trip?
Trevor Sutton: The in-laws ... my mother-in-law is going into Orana (aged care home) so we’ve (Trevor and his wife Sally) came back to help get that organised.
JL: Do you come back here often?
TS: Not really. We were here in January, when we all went to Yarrawonga for a week.
JL: I hear you met Sam Lloyd (former Deni Ram now Richmond footballer) on Thursday night at the White Lion Hotel. Can you tell me about that?
TS: I saw him standing there and he’s looked and we sort of acknowledged one another. I introduced myself to him and he said ‘I’ve been meaning to come talk to you’. I said, ‘Can I just say one thing, that I’m impressed with your football in the way you commit yourself to a mark’. I like blokes that hurt people when they take a mark. I’ve seen him (Lloyd) do it a couple of times.
JL: Obviously you have that connection with him, having a 100 goal season for the Rams, but you went a bit further. Would you say the year you kicked 249 goals was the best season of footy you ever had?
TS: Goals wise it was, but not personally.
JL: So what was your best one personally?
TS: Probably the one where I became the first to kick 100 goals in Darwin a couple of years before. Previous to that my best was about 40 to 50 goals in a season.
JL: You missed out on premiership success in your two years at Deni (1981-82), so have you won any premierships in your time and whereabouts were they?
TS: Five — North Albany (WA), Cairns (Qld), East Wagga (NSW), Karratha Valley (WA) and Norwood (SA).
JL: So you’ve played a lot of footy, after you left the Rams how many more years did you play for?
TS: I played for 23 more years.
JL: Was it all at senior level?
TS: Yeah. The trouble is you’d spend one day playing footy and three days at the chiropractor.
JL: So do you know how many career goals you kicked?
TS: A bloke who writes for one of the newspapers up in the Northern Territory did a bit of a check around Australia and reckons it was in excess of 3700.
JL: Can you remember the first time you came to Deni? Legend has it that you rolled up and bombed a goal from the players’ race barefoot, but I don’t know how much the story’s been exaggerated.
TS: It’s probably right. I’ve been in trouble with a few leagues for playing barefoot, but I loved it.
JL: So what do you remember about the first day you came to the Deni Rams?
TS: I walked out with Bluey (Alan) Braybon and Red (Terry) O’Connor and they said, ‘What do you think of the ground?’ It was a bit late in the evening and I lined up the goals and the ball took off, so I said, ‘Well, I do like this ground’.
I used to challenge myself that every ground in Australia that I played at, I’d try to kick a goal off the umpire’s centre bounce. One of the two grounds where I couldn’t do it was the old Footy Park in Adelaide (now AAMI Stadium).
I remember kicking a goal at half time against Finley from the players’ race here in Deni and it landed in the council yards. I walked off and was like, ‘I got on to that one’. (both TS and JL have a good laugh).
JL: The year you kicked 249 goals you managed to win the Murray League’s O’Dwyer Medal but surprisingly you didn’t win the Rams’ club best and fairest. How did that come about?
TS: It’s the first time I’ve seen a bloke kick 249 goals and not be eligible to win the club best and fairest. Apparently the coach was ineligible, but I wasn’t here for personal achievements.
JL: I thought that maybe because you were coach you might have been giving the votes to everyone else.
TS: No, I had nothing to do with the votes. I wouldn’t allow myself to be a part of that.
JL: That year Ivor Dixon won the club best and fairest, how did you rate his season?
TS: Not too many players who I’ve seen around the country had the guts that Ivor did and I’ve seen a lot of footballers. Whenever he got the ball he did something good with it.
JL: You managed to kick 378 goals in two seasons here at the Rams; how does it feel to be among the top career goalkickers at the club in just 38 games?
TS: I wasn’t here long enough to sort of be a part of the history of the club, but it’s nice to leave that legacy. People still want to talk to you 35 years later (both laugh).
JL: Do you think your Australian goalkicking record will be broken?
TS: A bloke I know, Mark Howard, had a bet with me not long ago. He said, ‘I’ll bet you it won’t be broken before you die’.
There was a bloke in Tassie (Rohan Baldock) who came within eight goals last year. He needed 20 or something in the last game but didn’t get there.
JL: What do you think of the modern game?
TS: I honestly believe that Australia and England netball games are rougher than our game now. I agree with taking the biff out, but shirtfronts? There’s nothing wrong with them. I’ve copped a few, I know. But too much political correctness has come into the game.
With the women’s footy I enjoyed watching the first game, but after that, I could only think they should play on a smaller ground. Erin Phillips and Tayla Harris are probably the only two that can kick over 40 metres, so the ground is just too big for them. They could cut the wings out like the VFA do.
JL: You spent some time on Footscray’s senior list; can you tell me about your time there?
TS: I was actually going to Carlton. I volunteered for National Service and stepped off the plane at Tullamarine and this bloke yelled out, ‘Hey, young Trev’, and I said, ‘Yeah, what?’. I recognised him, too. It was uncle Charlie (Sutton) and Teddy Whitten. I said, ‘How are you going? I’ve got to meet with Mr Harris’. George Harris was president of Carlton and Gordon Collis was my coach at the time, who won a Brownlow in 1964, but Charlie said, ‘With a name like yours, you’re not going anywhere’.
I lived with Ted Snr out at Altona. I volunteered for Vietnam and was in the same platoon as Bernie Quinlan, Peter Welsh, David Thorpe, Steve Power and I was playing two games a weekend. Playing for the Nashos (Nationals) you didn’t need a clearance. Everyone I speak to says I should’ve played 250 VFL games.
JL: Was it more of a personal choice for you to not play VFL?
TS: I wish now that I’d played VFL, but I don’t worry about the word ‘if’.
JL: When you were playing footy were you always predominantly a forward?
TS: No. Mal Brown played me at full back one game. He said I was quick enough. Anyhow, I was playing on Phil Narkle and Mal said, ‘I want you to whack him around the earhole’. I said, ‘Alright, I’ll do something’.
Anyway by half time he’d kicked eight on me and Browny said, ‘I thought I said to belt him’. I said, ‘If I could catch him I would’. (both have a good laugh). Phil was quick. Ken Worthington who was our full back went back on him, but Narkle ended up with 18 goals for the game, so he got another 10 on him.
JL: Did you stir him up and say ‘I kept him to eight?’ (laughs).
TS: Yeah, Wortho (Worthington) and I used to live together and I did say ‘he only got eight on me, you’re a Collingwood full back and he got 10 on you’.
JL: So what are you up to now? Where do you live?
TS: My wife and I are just nomads. We sold everything up in Darwin and put all the furniture in storage. We go up to Ningaloo (WA) for about five or six months. Our van is self contained. My brother Gary’s mate owns Ningaloo Station and he said we can stay as long as we like. We get access to water and that’s all we need. We’re away from everybody and there’s good fishing.
JL: There are stories that you’ve been concussed or injured one day and played the next day, and one day you kicked a dozen goals for the Rams after being concussed in the interleague match on the Saturday ... are they true?
TS: Yeah and I’m paying for it now. I’ve had ribs chopped out. I busted my sternum and they can’t repair that now, it was just torn completely apart. I wish now I would’ve listened to the doctors and not been a pig-headed bugger. I busted my wrist playing against Tocumwal and had to get it plastered but took it off the following Tuesday and played the next weekend. I never wanted to be thought of as a sook but I’m paying for it now.
JL: With your time in Deni, what memories do you have? What did you think about the people here?
TS: They’re friendly. I really enjoyed my time here.
JL: Thanks for your time mate, it was nice to meet you.
TS: No worries mate.