Goolagong name lives on strong

His aunty made a name for herself in world tennis;
Maurice is happy to have made his in country footy

FEW fans in New South Wales’ Black Diamond League will have forgotten big Maurice. His last name is Goolagong, one of the most famous surnames in Australian sport. He weighs in at somewhere between 120-130kg. And he kicked over 1000 goals from full-forward.

Of course, the ones who really won't forget Goolagong are the players from Woy Woy who watched in 2001 as their former team-mate slotted 25 majors in one match for Terrigal-Avoca.

Nowadays, Goolagong is plying his trade for St George in the Sydney Premier League. He is still big, still kicks straight, and can still teach a lesson to any defender who thinks fitness and youth are the only football attributes that matter.

"We had a good win over East Coast Eagles who had been the top team, and we're going well at the moment so we're looking forward to the finals," Goolagong says. "I just try to do my bit each week."

The affable big man was a centre half-back when he won a league U18 Best and Fairest playing for Wayne Carey's home team, North Wagga. However, when he moved to the coast in 1992 he was asked what position he played and he nominated full-forward to minimise his chasing duties.

He soon made the position his own, both with Woy Woy and then with rivals Terrigal-Avoca. He kicked the ton in four successive seasons.

No matter how many times opponents or spectators yelled at him about cheeseburgers, he responded with strong marking and accurate kicking. In fact, he started the 2006 season with 45 goals from his first 50 scoring shots and finished the year with 112.13, an accuracy rate that would shame many AFL stars.

"It would have been nice to have played at a higher level but that wasn’t to be," Goolagong says.

"A talent scout from the Swans had a look but the weight thing was an issue. I play at about 120kg but I put on plenty in the off-season and it takes a lot to get it off.

"The way I play I don't leave the 50m arc; they know where to bomb it to me, on the left-hand side, and I try to beat my man body-on-body. It's footy smarts, knowing when to bump the player off. A lot of players don't realise I'm pretty quick over the first 15 metres, too."

The Woy Woy full-back probably discovered this by the end of the 2001 rampage.

"Going into that match when I kicked 25, I was 12 goals behind the bloke in front of me for the league leading goalkicker. Woy Woy wasn't strong at that time.

"I had 13 in the first half and kept going, and won the league goalkicking by seven goals.”

He also experienced team success with Terrigal-Avoca, playing in five grand finals for two premierships.

In one of them, Goolagong looked a certain non-starter having broken his wrist three weeks earlier. He cut off the plaster, told the coach he was good to go, and kicked five goals to help guide the team to triumph.

St George AFC is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2008. It was the home club of another well-rounded player, Mark 'The Fridge' Roberts, plus Nick Davis and injured Bulldog Dylan Addison. Assistant coach is former Sydney and Collingwood player Robbie AhMat.

It is one of the four teams in genuine contention this year, sitting on a similar win-loss ratio to the Eagles, Pennant Hills, and UNSW/Eastern Suburbs.

At the conclusion of last year Goolagong retired to spend more time with his two young children, but after playing with him in an Aboriginal Challenge Cup at Shepparton in Victoria several St George players rang and coaxed him back into action.

The 32-year-old is enjoying his football there, although he continues to train in Terrigal before travelling to Sydney on weekends.

The big man has been a big contributor. And if there is one thing everyone knows, Goolagongs are winners.

"Evonne is my dad's sister. She doesn't follow AFL much. She loves fishing these days," he said.

"I'll play a social tennis match at night most weeks. I'm okay at it. I guess it's in the blood."

Words and main picture by:
Action pic: St George Crows
Wednesday, September 10, 2008


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