Richard Jones | There aren’t many players or player-coaches anywhere in Victoria with 13 premierships beside their names.
But Reg Ford reached this outstanding achievement between 1929 (when he was just 19) and 1949 with Sandhurst and Golden Square. Ford played in the six consecutive Hurst premiership sides as vice-captain between 1929 and 1934, then again in 1937, before gaining a clearance to Golden Square.
He led the Square to their first ever flag in 1938 (in just their 4th year in the BFL) taking his new club to an early round sfinals’ victory over his old mentor and Hurst playing partner Bob McCaskill. And under Ford Square saluted again in 1939 with world war hovering on the horizon. Born in 1910 in Tallygaroopna in the Goulburn Valley district Ford was one of three brothers. Bill and Frank Ford also played with Sandhurst in the 1920s and 1930s but they didn’t stand out as Reg did.
Reg was a key position player, equally at home at centre half-back or centre half-forward, but played quite a bit as a centreman during his days at the Square. His main battles were with Eaglehawk’s outstanding key position player Eddie ‘Moots’ Esposito with Ford’s effort in the Square’s 1938 grand final success a major factor in their win. He kept ‘Moots’ quiet as Golden Square scooted home: 21.13 (139) to Eaglehawk’s 14.7 (91). During World War 2 Ford was away from Bendigo for four-and-a-half years, but he was back reasonably close by in 1945 as the war wound down.
Ford was a military guard at the internment camp for so-called “aliens” in Murchison so Golden Square sent a car up every Saturday to collect Ford. He was driven on what must have been dirt roads back in the day for Square’s matches under then coach ‘Bonnie’ Hargreaves and the side went on to win the 1945 BFL premiership. It’s one of the best little vignettes I’ve ever discovered in researching Bendigo footy history. Not many private citizens owned cars 74 years ago and petrol stations weren’t on every corner. Incidentally the aliens in the internment camps were mainly people of German and Italian descent. Hitler and Mussolini were the leaders of the Fascist Axis alliance so people with German and Italian forbears were regarded by the Australian government as suspect.
Demobbed and back at his trade as a butcher in Bendigo Ford returned to Sandhurst for the 1946 season and captain-coached the Maroons to another three premierships: 1947-1948-1949. By the time the third of this trio had been achieved --- Ford’s 13th as a player or playing-coach --- the champion was 39 and was suffering from recurring bouts of asthma. Folklore of the day had it that Ford’s three incidents when he suffered broken ribs during his lengthy playing career had impacted on his lungs. And although he had played in the BFL for 20 years Ford had never accepted money.
When at the end of 1948 Sandhurst offered him 100 pounds as reward for his coaching services he insisted that half of it be paid to his vice-captain. But that wasn’t the end of Reg Ford’s involvement with the BFL. He remained as Sandhurst’s chairman of selectors and stayed on the club committee for many seasons also.
In 1950 he joined the 3BO sports panel and was a member of the Friday tips and selection team, wrote for the ‘Rochester Irrigator’ on footy matters and was installed a BFL life member in 1955. And although offers from VFL clubs North Melbourne, Carlton and Melbourne had come his way Ford turned them all down to continue his footy career in Bendigo.
In later life he was a successful lawn bowls player at the Golden Square Bowling Club, a keen billiards player and a star all-rounder in the Churches Cricket League. In one memorable innings Ford clubbed 104 in 40 minutes landing nine sixes and four fours.
Coming up, Ron Best: 1,624 BFL goals: a tally unlikely to ever be topped. And Eaglehawk’s brilliant centre half-forward, George Ilsley.