Club History: Ken Lemon

In this installment of the Club’s history we learn about Ken Lemon who developed and ran the Aspendale Tech rugby program from 1965 until the early 70's when he left Aspendale Tech. This program was rolled into the new Moorabbin Rugby Club in 1965 along with the Moorabbin Marlins U18s and players from the former St. Kilda rugby club.
Ian Ray

Ken Lemon was a founding member of the Moorabbin Rugby Club. He played with St Kilda Rugby Club and represented Victoria on a number of occasions. When St Kilda folded at the end of 1964 he moved to Moorabbin with a large number of his former St Kilda teammates. Importantly, he coached at Aspendale Technical for many years and gave the Moorabbin junior teams a great kick-start.

Ken was born in January 1931 in Keri Keri, Northland, New Zealand and his parents moved the family to Auckland when he was young.

As a schoolboy he played at Parnell Rugby Club in Auckland. Sadly, it folded in the mid 60's and now just offers “social rugby” on their Facebook page which is funny because I thought all rugby was social!!

1949 Parnell Rugby Club - Ken Lemon (Front Row_3rd from Right)1949 Parnell Rugby Club - Ken Lemon (Front Row - 3rd from Right)
(Click HERE for large version)

Ken played senior rugby at Eden Rugby Club based just up the road from the Mt Eden Stadium, where the Wallabies have come to grief for over a generation.

1953 Eden Rugby Club 7s team - Ken Lemon (Back Row_middle)1953 Eden Rugby Club 7's team - Ken Lemon (Back Row - Middle)
(Click HERE for a large version)

There was a club rumour that Ken had been a junior All Black, however Ken’s younger brother did have a trial for the All Blacks which was probably the source of that particular story.

Ken met his future wife Lorraine while she was visiting family friends in Auckland. They met on 14th March 1954, were engaged on the 14th September 1954 and then married on 14th January 1955. Are you picking up on a theme here? Even Lorraine’s birthday is on the 14th April...the 14th is definitely a significant date in the Lemon household. They settled in Carnegie in November 1955 and Ken ran out to play for St Kilda in the 1956 season.

He played in the outside backs and as mentioned, played on numerous occasions representing Victoria, including touring to WA, playing against the All Blacks in 1956 and playing against the British Lions in 1959.

1956 All Blacks v Victoria1956 All Blacks vs Victoria
(Click HERE for a large version)

1959 British Lions vs Victoria
1959 British Lions vs Victoria
(Click HERE for large version)

While a carpenter by trade, Ken worked at W.D. and H.O. Wills for 9 years as a driver; this is where he met his St Kilda teammate Jack McDavitt.

In the 60's, Kiwis and St Kilda shared club rooms and played on adjacent fields at Middle Park. Today the fields are adjacent to the main straight of the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park. Thus the St. Kilda  players and Kiwis players knew each other fairly well. Click HERE to read the article entitled Genesis for the details of the formation of Moorabbin Rugby Club from St Kilda and Kiwis rugby clubs.

In 1964, Jock Duffy persuaded Ken to join Aspendale Tech as a PE Teacher and to coach the school rugby teams. However, when Ken arrived at Aspendale Tech in 1965 Jock Duffy had moved on to South Melbourne Tech. This meant that Ken was left with a fledgling school rugby program that according to Driftwood, the school magazine, had the team playing a few school matches throughout the year. Along with these school matches, the team, plus a few “ring-ins” recruited by Jock, played as the Moorabbin Marlins in the Saturday Victorian Junior Rugby Union U18 competition.

At this time Ken continued to play senior rugby for Moorabbin, including being a member of the first premiership team for Moorabbin Rugby Club in 1967 winning the 4th Grade Pennant. He then hung up his boots and retired from playing after 1970.

1967 Moorabbin's 1st Premiership team1967 Moorabbin's 1st Premiership team - Ken kneeling far right
(Click HERE for a large version)

The Aspendale Tech school rugby program went from strength to strength over the next few years to include an open age team as well as U16s and U14s. Occasionally U12 teams were entered into the VJRU 7-a-side competitions. All these teams then turned out on a Saturday as Moorabbin under age teams. Click HERE to see the story “Aspendale Tech to Moorabbin Marlins”, already published on the club’s website for a detailed look at this program.

1972 Moorabbin U14s1972 Moorabbin U14 Premiership team. Ken is Coach and his son Gary is sitting in the front row
(Click HERE for a large version)

By 1970 the Aspendale Tech open aged team had not been beaten in the school competitions for 3 years. Many of these players went on to play senior rugby for Moorabbin with several members playing in both the 1974 Second Division Grand Final and the 1978 1st Grade Premiership team.

Family had arrived for Ken and Lorraine: Gary, Julia, Robert and Carolyn. Julia and Robert played in the Moorabbin U8 Grand Final in 1980 and there is a good chance that Julia was the first female to play rugby in Victoria.

1980 Moorabbin U8s_Julia Lemon and Robert Lemon1980 Julia and Robert Lemon - Moorabbin U8s
(Click HERE for a large version)

Gary played in the 1973 Victorian U14s team then left rugby to join his mates at Dingley Football Club where he had a long and successful career, including winning several premierships.  

Carolyn took up squash and played competitively and Robert followed Gary to Dingley Football Club and was scouted by Melbourne Football Club where he played in three U19s and reserves Grand finals. After Julia played rugby she took up horse riding, worked in the racing industry and competed in dressage.

In 1966 Ken was the first President of the Victorian School Rugby Union and also coached the Victorian U16's at a National Carnival in Hobart in 1967. The U16 team had many players who eventually played at senior level in Victoria: Brian Blake and Leigh Joyner (Footscray 1sts, Victorian Colts), Jules Czerney (Melbourne Unicorns and Victoria), Rick De Frank (Melbourne 1sts, Victorian Colts), John May (Moorabbin 1sts via Aspendale Tech), Geoff Dart (Moorabbin 1sts, Victorian Colts and listed as G Darke in the handbook). And from this competition two players from the NSW City team at the tournament would go on to be Wallabies: Gary Pearse and Peter Carson.

1967_Australian Junior Rugby Union U16 Carnival1967 Aust Jnr Rugby Union U16 Carnival program
(Click HERE for a large version)

While researching this article, Geoff Dart who was in his U16 Victorian team in Tasmania offered this commentary to me about Ken:
“I later played with Ken in our premiership year of 1970 along with Arthur Silk and Co. Looking back, he was a very talented player, in the style of Paul Gascoigne. Ken was an absolute gentleman, role model and mentor to all at the club. He and his wife Lorraine were always at the club doing the heavy lifting.” 
Geoff had come through the U18s in 1969 and as the club did not have a Colts team he played seniors alongside Ken. A Colts team would commence at Moorabbin the following year. 

Ken, as President of the Victorian Schools Rugby Union, wrote a welcome editorial in the 1974 match program for the touring English Schoolboys team so it is possible that he was President of Schools Rugby for all this time and possibly longer.

Also, it was in 1974 Ken that moved from Aspendale Tech to Frankston TAFE to become Head of the Carpentry Department. Sadly, the rugby program at Aspendale ceased after Ken left the school, but by then, the Moorabbin Rugby Club had a full complement of junior teams running out each Saturday morning. A large measure of credit goes to Ken and the Aspendale Tech rugby program for helping to develop this. This was a wonderful legacy to the club from Ken.

Ken and Lorraine retired to Paynesville in 1992 where Ken spent much of his leisure time playing golf. Sadly he passed away on the golf course in August 2005.

Ken's fantastic contributions to the Moorabbin rugby club and Victorian rugby are ones that we will all be forever grateful for as he and his family were tremendous examples of the volunteers that make grassroots rugby the wonderful experience it is.

Thanks for their contributions to this article must go to:
Lorraine Lemon, Julia Lemon, Gavin Duffy, Geoff Dart, Peter Wilson, Paul Wilken, John Woodhouse.