MOE boys for life.

Every Saturday morning, usually without fail, a group of Moe Football-Netball Club past players gather for breakfast, organised by Graham ‘China’ Rowlings.

Last Saturday was an extra special one for the group, who were joined by China’s brother and AFL champion Barry, and his old Hawthorn premiership teammate Peter Knights.

Knights’ visit had been some three years in the making, and he was all too keen to mingle with the group, which included Traralgon FNC legend Terry Hunter.

Knights too has his roots in Gippsland, growing up in Longwarry, where he played in a senior premiership with his hometown at the tender age of 16.

He would later go on to become regarded as one of the greatest centre half backs in the game’s history across more than 250 matches for Hawthorn.

Knights also coached prominent Moe footballer Lachlan Sim during his time with the Brisbane Bears – whom he remembered as an ultimate professional.

Speaking to the past players assembled, Knights, who still looks remarkably fit at age 71, said while he still enjoys the game, he missed the true head-to-head battles between key position players of yesteryear.

The three-time Hawthorn premiership player rated goal-kicking machine Peter Hudson as the greatest player he has seen, and made the point that tactics such as flooding were still prevalent back in the early 1970s, when Hawthorn would leave Hudson isolated within goal-kicking range (there was no 50 metre arc back then).

Hudson also said the Hawks’ biggest mistake was letting Rowlings go to Richmond at the end of the 1978 season.

After 82 games and the 1976 flag with Hawthorn, Rowlings went on to play a further 152 games with Richmond, featuring in their 1980 premiership side.

Rowlings grew up in Thorpdale and later made his way to Moe, where he won two Trood Award and Rodda Medals (1973, 1974).

Despite not being picked up by an AFL club until he was 25, by all reports, Rowlings’ determination to make it to the top level was unmatched.

The tiny hamlet of Thorpdale has produced a decent list of sporting names. Joining Rowlings is former Essendon footballer Jason Winderlich, who returned home last season to coach his old club, and Ryan Ferguson, who played 47 games for Melbourne in the mid 2000s. Ferguson is currently head coach of Richmond’s AFLW team.

Jim Forsyth was also recruited to Essendon from Thorpdale, playing a handful of games in the 1960s. His son Tim later won Bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Recalling funnier times, Knights and Rowlings remember training under legendary Hawthorn coach John Kennedy, who had them doing circle work for what seemed like an eternity.

At the request of players to change things up, Kennedy obliged, and immediately ordered players to “go the other way”.

While not everyone gathered at the breakfast had the fortune of playing in a Moe football premiership during their career – in fact, only a select few have been that lucky, the sheer turnout perhaps demonstrated the true power of community football.

Premiership reunions happen once every 10 years.

This breakfast has been going every Saturday for the last 15.


Legends: Hawthorn premiership teammates Peter Knights and Barry Rowlings stopped by Moe last Saturday. Photographs: Liam Durkin