Looking back into HFNL History – Lew Kelly Medal

Our attention this week turns to the top individual award in our HFNL Reserve Grade of football, the Lew Kelly Cup/Medal. Lewis William Kelly was born in Launceston in 1909 and played football for New Town in Hobart in 1936. He enlisted in the Australian Army on the 10th of November 1939 at Battery Point, Tasmania. He was discharged from the Army on the 24th October 1945 in Hobart. After his discharge from the Army Lewis moved to Melbourne. He then found his way to Camperdown; I believe around 1948.

Lew Kelly soon became involved with the Camperdown Magpies. Whist Camperdown have no distinct record of him playing for the Magpies, his son Peter truly believes he did. In 1946 the Hampden Football League introduced a Reserves Grade footy competition. In those days many of the players were involved in the farming industry. Rather than lengthen the day at the footy, thus keeping men away from their herds, the Reserves team would play at the opposing ground to the Seniors. This meant each club needed two groups of officials and volunteers. Lewis Kelly was one official at Camperdown who aligned himself with the Reserves. Whilst many followed the Senior men Lew would religiously head in the opposite direction to keep the Ressies running efficiently.

In 1955 Lew donated a cup to the HFL for the Reserve Grade Best and Fairest player. He then continued this gesture on a yearly basis.

Lewis Kelly was more than a Reserves official at Camperdown. He was Camperdown’s delegate to the League Board for many years, he was Club Secretary from 1957-1961 and held position on Camperdown’s Committee for several more years. Lew Kelly helped pioneer local footy on the air waves. The frivolity we listen to today on Ace Radio 3YB’s Hampden League Live and Fitz Media’s Wednesday Night Football and Netball live streams is, to a degree, the legacy of Lew Kelly.

Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s Lew had a regular Thursday night show on Colac’s 1134 3CS titled ‘Magpie Calling’. He developed a legion of loyal listeners, not only supporters of Camperdown, but followers of football. The longevity of his radio show was testament to his ability as a radio presenter, but also a reflection of his knowledge of our great game at grass roots level.

In the early 1960’s Lew moved to live in Ballarat. A pharmacist, he was presented an opportunity to work with F.R. Taylor at his new Albert Street Chemist store in Sebastopol. Lew lived nearby at 416 Pleasant Street. On Monday the 9th of April, 1962, their “modern branch pharmacy”, according to a newspaper advertisement in the Ballarat Courier of the day, opened for trade.

Lew Kelly’s involvement and contribution at Camperdown was recognised by the Magpies on Saturday the 12th of August 1961 when the “Lewis Kelly Scoreboard” was officially unveiled. Ahead of its time, the scoreboard not only displayed the running score of the match in progress but its scientific roller system enabled the display of other HFL game scores from other grounds, VFL scores of the day and horse race results from the Melbourne races. The majestic scoreboard still stands at Leura Oval today and houses a new modern digital electronic screen.

Kelly’s love of football and Camperdown was never lost. He continued to support the Magpies, he continued to follow Camperdown’s reserves, he continued as Camperdown’s delegate to the HFL board and he continued to donate the perpetual Lew Kelly Award for the HFL best and fairest player even though he resided in Ballarat.

When television came to Ballarat in 1962 Lew Kelly’s media commitments turned to the screen. The Hampden League, and country footy, had their very own footy show on BTV 6 and of course, Lew Kelly was compeer.

In 1966 Hampden had been victorious in the country football championships. On Wednesday 10th August Lew had been in Terang at a victory dinner celebrating with the players and other League dignitaries. Very early the following morning on his way home to Ballarat his car got into loose gravel and he lost control.  He died later that morning in the Ballarat Base Hospital. He was buried in Ballarat on Saturday 13th August 1966.

The Ballarat Courier of the 11th August 1966 reported:

“One of Ballarat’s most popular television football commentators, Lewis Kelly, died in the Base Hospital yesterday morning after a car he was driving overturned near Smythesdale on the Glenelg Highway.

“Kelly, a 57 year old Ballarat chemist who has compered the Hampden League segment of the BTV6 football show since its inception four years ago, was formerly a resident of Camperdown and secretary of the Camperdown Football Club.

“He was returning from the dinner at Terang celebrating the Hampden Football League’s country championship win when the accident occurred about 2.15am yesterday morning.

“The 57 year old commentator was probably Ballarat’s most outspoken man on football affairs and one of the most popular.

“For the past two years he had covered the football matches in the Hampden league for BTV 6.

“…the car had got into loose gravel on a slight curve in the road and spun out of control. Kelly, who was pinned underneath, was still conscious when several truck drivers released him from the wreckage. An ambulance rushed him to the Base Hospital where he was admitted suffering a broken leg, but he died about 9.00am yesterday.

“Kelly was the driver and only occupant of the car. He is survived by a wife and two sons.

“The secretary of the Hampen League, Mr Gordon Coleman, said yesterday that the death would be a great blow to all club officials, players and supporters in the league. “Lew was a great supporter of our league and we are all deeply shocked by his death” Mr Coleman said.”

The Hampden League then saw fit to continue the Lew Kelly Memorial award in 1967 in memory and recognition of Lewis’ commitment and service to our League and our game. This tradition continues today. In total 76 Lew Kelly winners have been awarded. Club tallies of winners:

  • Camperdown 13
  • Cobden 10,
  • Warrnambool 9,
  • Colac 7
  • Koroit 7,
  • Terang 6,
  • TerangMortlake 5
  • Port Fairy 4,
  • South Warrnambool 4,
  • North Warrnambool 2,
  • Hamilton Kangaroos 2,
  • Portland 2,
  • Mortlake 2,
  • Coragulac 1,
  • we have 2 unknown winners.

Many fine men have won this award over the years. Four men have won the award Back to Back. Way back in 1957 and ’58 Brian Molan took out the trophy. In his first year he played for Mortlake. Whilst the following year he represented the Terang Bloods. Port Fairy’s first winner, Kevin Leddin in 1991 on 17 votes, also had a Back to Back win with 16 votes in 1992. Then in 2012 and 2013 Camperdown Ruckman Marcus Powling was victorious with 20 and 16 votes respectively whilst most recently TerangMortlake’s Nathan Jones won in both 2016 and 2017.

The only other duel winner of the Lew Kelly Medal has been Cobden’s Trevor Clarke who had success in 1998 and then again in 2001.

On five occasion’s first place has finished in a tie. 1962 saw Colac’s Tim O’Sullivan and Mortlake’s Arthur Robinson draw. The following year Ian Blackburn of Terang drew with John Irvine of South W’bool. John Anscombe of Koroit and Tony Embrey of Colac tied in 1975. In 1977 Andrew Robb of the Blues drew with Paul Marshall from Bomber land and more recently in 2004 Liam Currer of South Warrnambool finished equal first with Koroit’s Ben Livingston.

Other multiple winners were presented in 2015 where a five way tie was recorded. Tim Robertson representing the Hamilton Kangaroos was equal winner on 12 votes with Lachie Barr of TerangMortlake, Hayden Dyke of Portland, Drew O’Grady from Koroit and Richard Couch from Camperdown. The following year, 2016, saw a three way tie between TerangMortlake’s Nathan Jones, Camperdown’s Chester Gardner and Portland’s Daniel Kinghorn on 19 votes.

Whilst we have a comprehensive list of previous winners the League records for Lew Kelly winners has two vacancies; 1986 and 1995. If any Club officials, or readers, can help us with winners in either of those years we would love to hear from you.

Please feel free to contact the HFNL office or Peter Conheady on 0418 529 871.

Lew Kelly