From Aspendale Tech to Moorabbin Marlins

In 1963 Brian Bateson was in Form 5 at Frankston High School when one lunch time he heard Jock Duffy talk enthusiastically about playing rugby.  You see Jock was planning a rugby team for Aspendale Technical School, a little way back up the Frankston line and he was out in local schools recruiting more players.

Aspendale Tech had the usual school sports; cricket, football, swimming, etc., but in 1963 it had two sports that were unusual for a State School.  The school also offered cycling and rugby.  There was a velodrome at Edithvale and a strong cycling culture locally, so this made sense for the school to tap into the local cycling participants, and then there was Jock Duffy a Scot and a newly minted Art teacher at the school who was an enthusiastic rugby player and promoter, he started a rugby team.Rugby was coming to Aspendale Tech.

1963 VJRU AGM minutes referencing Aspendale Tech 

In 1963 rugby was mostly played in the private schools, with Mentone Grammar being the closest rugby school to Aspendale Tech.  Junior club rugby was much different than today.  There were 6 Grammar Schools playing rugby and in the VJRU competition there were 13 schools, including Scotch College, Melbourne Grammar and Caulfield Grammar that played in both the weekday Public Schools competition and the Saturday VJRU competition.

To make the rugby team at Aspendale you trained on Wednesday afternoons with all the other kids and if you didn’t make the Australian Rules team you were eligible for and encouraged to play rugby in Jock’s team.

Initially there were about 5 or 6 games each season and these were not played at Aspendale Tech. they were played on weekdays on the rugby grounds at private schools.  Former team members cannot remember which schools that they played at in the early days, they just piled into cars and went off to play.

Marlins 1963 VJRU 7s results and newspaper clipping

Clearly, Jock had a grand vision for his team; in 1964 he wrote to the local council seeking and receiving permission for the use of a ground alongside the Mordialloc Creek for weekend games.  They would be sharing the field with Mentone Grammar. He also wrote to the VJRU seeking support to use the Dane Rd. ground on Saturdays, Moorabbin Rugby League were playing at the ground but they played on a Sunday so Jock was looking for access on Saturday mornings.

VJRU letter to council
Council and Mentone Grammar replies

Jock was an artist and art teacher, he produced a drawing of a Marlin to the boys; saying that the Marlin is a fighting fish and our ground is along the Mordialloc Creek so I think this should be our logo and our name and so it was that the Marlins were born. 

He also wrote to Eric Pearce, the legendary Channel 9 newsreader, later Sir Eric, seeking him as Patron of the team, Sir Eric accepted.

Sir Eric Pearce's reply

Jock also wrote to the VRU seeking contact details for the Army Apprentice School at Balcombe and the Naval Training College at Cerberus.  Both these organisations had junior teams who played in the Saturday VRU competition and he was seeking to arrange weekday matches against these teams.

We have a few photos, notated by Jock, as the first match where a team was playing in the VJRU 7s U16s competition at Scotch College. Blue jerseys were used; they were hand-me-down Blue and yellow hooped jerseys from Kiwis Rugby Club where Jock played.

Playing Scotch College at Scotch (large photo here)

More photos: Loose ball and Lineout

As well as recruiting from local schools for rugby players Jock also picked hitchhikers and recruited them to play rugby. This is how the Caterson family got involved in the weekend side of the Marlins story.  In the summer of 1964 Bruce Caterson and his mate John Sweet were hitch hiking up South Rd. and Jock offered them a lift. Shortly after Bruce’s father Harold got roped in as well as a group of their mates. Bruce and John recruited their friends to play in the Marlins, some from school, some from the Moorabbin Football club and some from the local Moorabbin scouts

These players made up the numbers so that the weekday Aspendale Tech. team had enough numbers to play each Saturday in the VJRU U18 competition.
See the Genesis story already published

Eventually, the black and white Moorabbin Marlins jersey arrived midway through 1964. The jersey design was the same as Harold Caterson’s former club in Sydney, Western Suburbs and as history shows this jersey would shortly become the new Moorabbin Rugby Club jersey and it is still worn today.

In 1965, Jock convinced one of his Kiwi club mates, Ken Lemon, to come to Aspendale Tech. to teach PE and help coach the school’s rugby teams. Ken was a Kiwi who married Lorraine after meeting her while she was on holidays in New Zealand and following her back to Melbourne in 1955.

Jock left Aspendale Tech to teach elsewhere, he taught at a number of schools around Melbourne, including South Melbourne tech, Caulfield Grammar, St. Leos College Box Hill, Sunshine Tech and Haileybury College over his teaching career finishing in at Frankston before he and the family moved to the Gold Coast. At each of these schools he was involved in rugby teams.

Ken Lemon took up the coaching role and according to the 1966 edition of the school magazine, Driftwood, the Aspendale team played Melbourne High twice, a loss in the first match and a win second time around as well as a win over Haileybury College by 28-0.  The Moorabbin Junior Rugby Union Football Club presented trophies for the 1966 season to D. Bannon, A. Gullo, P Pierce and J. May. It should be noted that Tony Gullo, Paul Pierce and John May all went on to play senior rugby at Moorabbin, I know this because I played with the three of them.

1966 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

In 1967, Moorabbin donated jerseys and goalposts to Aspendale Tech. There was an Open aged team and an U16 team.  Several members of the U16 team were selected in the Victorian U16 teams to travel to Sydney and later in the year to the U16 All Australian Carnival in Tasmania with Ken Lemon as coach and Manager of the Carnival team.  Towards the end of the season the school put an U14 team on the field; players in this team consisted of Alan Cook, Paul Wilken and Alan Duff all of who both went on to be senior players at Moorabbin with Alan Cook going on the represent Victoria in the 1974 Southern States Carnival. Also, he joined the army and was selected in the Australian Services Rugby Union (ASRU) team that went on a national tour.

1967 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

The year 1968 saw an Open aged team and an U14 team put on the pitch again Ken Lemon coached both teams.  Players new to rugby who went on to play seniors at Moorabbin included Jeff Hutchison, Wayne Goodall, Ross Mason, Ray Cook and Jeff Gilbert.

1968 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

Ken organized four teams in the regular Saturday competition in 1969. There were U12, U13, U14 and U16 teams. Some teams were called Aspendale Tech. and some were called Moorabbin. This is because due to the strength of the various teams U13s were put up to the U14s competition and it differentiated the teams.

In 1969 the U14s went through the season undefeated.  Aspendale Tech. also played mid-week matches with a combined U14 and U16 team. Winning 3 of the 4 matches that they played.  Defeating South Melbourne Tech 19-3 (we think that Jock Duffy was coaching South Melbourne at this time) Haileybury College 27-3, and 12-3 win against Nunawading High. The only loss was against University High a 6- 20 loss.

Again, 2 boys made the U16 Victorian team for the Australian Junior Rugby School Championships, in Adelaide.  They were Ian Lee and Robert Walker.

1969 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

During the 1970 season U12, U14 and U16 teams were fielded each Saturday. Not to be outdone the 1970 U16 Moorabbin/Aspendale team had 6 players selected into the Victorian U16 team that went to the Schoolboy National Championships in Brisbane.  They were Ian Lee, Max Sjostedt, Alan Duff, Ross Mason, Jeff Hutchison and Robert Walker.  Victoria won their division.

1970 U16 Team (large photo here)

Jeff Hutchison was also named in the U16 Australian Schoolboys team as half-back. We believe that Jeff was the first Moorabbin player to attain national honours.  Jeff subsequently joined the Army and was also selected to play in the ASRU team as Alan Cook had done earlier.

1970 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

Success was now outstanding for Aspendale Tech. in 1971 the Open age team was undefeated for the past 3 years in mid-week matches. Playing as Moorabbin on each Saturday they won the VJRU U16 competition and were runners up in the U18s as well.  Again they managed to have 5 players picked in the Victorian U16 Schoolboys team to go to the national championships: Alan Cook, Wayne Goodall, Jeff Hutchison, Paul Wilken and Gary Jarvis.  This Victorian team won the Southern Sates Trophy.

From this 1971 tournament the Australian Southern States U16 team was selected and Alan Coook, Jeff Hutchison, Paul Wiilken were selected in the team to tour New Zealand in 1972. They toured the South Island, playing 6 matches; however, when they played in Hokitika they were billed as the Australian U17 team and Hokitika ran on their U23 Rep. team against them. Needless to say the score line was horrendous.

1971 Driftwood (school magazine) rugby report

1972 U14 Team (large photo here)

Throughout this time Ken Lemon also played seniors for Moorabbin including the 1967 team that won our first senior Premiership.

Alan Cook reminisces that, “The best thing about rugby at Aspendale Tech. was that on Friday afternoons when Ken would pull him out of class for the afternoon and take him up to the Keys Rd. ground so that they could mark the ground for the matches on the following Saturday.”

Wayne Goodall wrote to me saying, “We were well coached by Ken and interestingly the same core group stuck together and became quite formidable  - the various ‘representative’ achievements support this. The other key point about all of this is we were all home grown Melbournians and for me personally, I didn’t know Rugby Union existed until I met Ken. Due to my rep commitments I got to know players from other clubs and found out clubs like Box Hill comprised of sons from corporate fathers who had transitioned to Melbourne from interstate.

Both when playing Under 18’s I remember virtually running off the ground on a number of occasions and straight into Harold Caterson’s car where he would transport us to another ground to fill in for one of the senior teams, usually Third Grade (I think) where we would literally pile out of the car, be given a jumper and run straight onto the pitch. I recall one game that had already started before we arrived and of course there were always the bloody stones and other debris in the Keys road pitch” (The story about the Keys Road pitch is in the works and will be ready soon.)

After such a wonderful start Ken Lemon moved from Aspendale Tech in 1974 to Frankston TAFE where he ran the carpentry department until he retired.

Sadly, after Ken left Aspendale Tech, rugby left as well. However, many of the boys who got their start at Aspendale Tech went on to play senior rugby at Moorabbin.  Included in this were a number of these early U18 Marlins (from 1964) who went on and were members of the club’s first premiership team in 1967.  These were Kelvin Wells, Terry Sullivan, Graeme Sweet, John Sweet, Don Ward, Greg Chapman and Jeff Creane.  In the 1974 Grand Final was Paul Wilken, Gary Dyson and Alan Cook and in 1978 when Moorabbin won their 1st Dewar Shield Premiership both Alan Cook and Alan Duff were in the team.


A special thank you must go to the following people for their contributions to not only this story but the time they have all put into laying the foundations for the Moorabbin Rugby Union Football Club:

Gavan Duffy, Ron Caterson, Laurie Sullivan
Brian Bateson, Alan Cook, Alan Duff
Jeff Hutchison, Wayne Goodall, Don Ward
Lorraine Lemon, John Woodhouse, Graeme Sweet
Bruce Caterson and the late Ron Grainger

Compiled and Written by
Ian Ray