The South Grafton Rugby League team, unbeaten Upper Clarence Premiers in 1949. From left (back row) Reg Alford, Artie Moran, Ke
The South Grafton Rugby League team, unbeaten Upper Clarence Premiers in 1949. From left (back row) Reg Alford, Artie Moran, Ke

Alford family to the fore

By MAX GODBEE

REG Alford was big and fast, a hard-running, bustling rugby league winger who starred for a number of clubs in the Orara, Coffs Harbour and Clarence areas.

He was involved in representative fixtures for Orara Valley, Coffs Harbour, Upper Clarence and Group Two leagues and won first-grade premierships with South Grafton in the days before the Red and Whites took on the nickname of The Rebels. He also featured in a minor premiership with the Grafton United Rugby League Club.

Reg has also been prominent in cricket, golf, fishing, rowing ? and flood rescue as a member of the South Grafton Water Brigade and was a longtime member of the South Grafton Fire Brigade.

Reg's family ? from wife Josie to sons Keith and Terry, daughter Janette and grandchildren ? have all been to the fore in sport and community affairs in this area and beyond.

Daughter Janette, married to State Forestry officer David Blair, has been a first-class representative hockey player for Grafton and these days also plays in the veterans' division, the Over-45s. She represented NSW for gold medal success last year when the State side won the Australian championship in Perth.

She has become a racehorse owner, too, with a three-year-old galloper called Humbee, which she races in partnership with Greg Ingham, a son of racing legend Jack Ingham.

Humbee, trained in Grafton by Sucha Singh, is a recent Coffs Harbour winner but is spelling now.

Back in 1978 Janette was a popular Grafton Jacaranda Queen.

Both Keith and Terry (Bottles) have played first-grade rugby league for the Rebels.

Keith has been a prominent member of the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club. He has been in winning surfboat crews, R&R, march past and beach relay teams for the club.

He is married to Lynn (nee Sanders), a sister of one of the Yamba club's champion competitors, Geoff Sanders.

Keith and Lynn have a daughter, Lisa and a son, Ben.

Ben played junior football for South Grafton and scored the winning try for Gillwinga Public when that school won the inaugural Daily Examiner Rugby League Cup competition for Clarence River Primary Schools at McKittrick Park in 1986.

Ben also played age football for three years with the St George club in Sydney, played first-grade for North Brisbane and these days is assistant manager of the Tallebudgera Surf Club in Queensland.

His sister Lisa, married to Patrick O'Malley and living in Melbourne, one year ago presented Reg and Josie with their first great-grandson, named Jackson.

Terry Alford, who has a daughter Rebecca and son Mi- chael, played several years with South Grafton Rugby League club in junior and senior ranks and was captain-coach of the Woolgoolga Rugby League Club for some time. He now works as a cellarman at the St George Leagues Club and his partner, Ruth, is floor manager there.

Particularly pleasing and rewarding for Reg and Josie Alford has been their association with the South Grafton Volunteer Water Brigade, involving flood rescue and assistance, to the extent of the two being made life members.

Reg is also a life member of the Grafton District Veterans' Golf Club.

Reginald James Alford was born in August 1925 in the Upper Orara district at Dairyville, the son of Frank and Florence (nee Randall) Alford.

His parents owned a mixed dairy and produce farm and his father, Frank, also operated a bullock team, hauling pine logs from the Eastern Dorrigo forests to Dairyville, where other teamsters would take them the further 27 kilometres on to the port and rail head at Coffs Harbour.

When Reg's birth was imminent with no doctors or hospitals nearby, he was to be delivered at home by a midwife.

Things took a turn for the worse when complications set in and an anxious Frank Alford rode on horseback the dusty 27 kilometres to Coffs Harbour to get a doctor. One was available and he drove to Dairyvale by horse and sulky to oversee a safe delivery.

That was 80 years ago and despite his precarious birth Reg grew up healthy and strong, as has been shown by the quality of his work and sports accomplishment.

There has been one hiccup ? a heart attack some years ago. He seems to have recovered and as one of his friends said: Reg? Reg Alford? He looks fit enough to 'wrassle' a crocodile.

Reg's elder brother, Jack, has died.

There are two younger sisters, Betty (Mrs Keith Matten), who lives at Upper Orara, and the other, legendary Grafton golfer Jean Dahl, who is married to another of golfing fame, Bill Dahl.

Due to the isolation of Dairyvale, Reg Alford attended only one school, Dairyvale Public.

The school is no more and even in Reg's day it had just a small enrolment. He played the usual school and local sports such as athletics, cricket and football ? rugby league ? as a winger.

His school days finished in 1939, not long after the outbreak of World War Two.

Reg, 14, was needed to help fulltime on the farm.

Spare time was scarce but Reg managed to play rugby league for Upper Orara in the Orara league competition which took in other teams such as Ulong, Lowanna, Glenreagh, Moleton and Coramba.

Reg's fleet-footed running and good defence won him selection in Orara Valley representative sides.

It was in 1947 that the Alford family moved from the Upper Orara area to the outskirts of South Grafton at Waterview, where Frank's brother, Reg's uncle, Alan Alford, owned a dairy farm.

The Alford families were share farming and in 1948 Reg began playing sport for South Grafton.

In summer it was cricket, taking wickets with his mediumquick deliveries, including one hat-trick.

He particularly remembers the 1949 season with the famous South Grafton Football Club.

"Adie Lawrence was captaincoach and I was on one wing and 'Tarzan' Payne the other. We were the two biggest, and many claimed the two fastest, wingers in the competition," Reg said.

"We had a great side, with such players as the Lawrence boys, Adie and Eric, the great cattleman Boxer Walters, schoolteacher Wally Sneddon, butcher Ken Gray, railway accountant Roy Hensby, abattoir workers Artie (The Sad Sack) Moran and Bruce McLennan, the remarkable Bumper Sullivan, who due to an accident as a 13-year-old had only one and a half hands, and brilliant schoolkid Maurie Graham, all outstanding footballers.

"It was in fact a champion side and we went through that season unbeaten and won the Upper Clarence league premiership."

That same year, 1949, was also a memorable one for Reg Alford for a more personal reason, marrying Josie McCann, daughter of John and Mary (nee O'Gallagher) McCann, at South Grafton.

The pair not so long back cel- ebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.

Reg and Josie bought a house at South Grafton in Edward Street but the area was floodprone and some years later, 1964, they had the house moved and placed on the flood-free block they had bought on the hill end of Armidale Street.

Following the highly successful 1949 football season, South Grafton halfway through 1950 were clear pointscore leaders, winning several of their matches by huge margins.

In June, severe flooding hit the Clarence and all football grounds were washed out, deeply muddied and unfit for play. There was no alternative for officials but to abandon the competition.

In 1951 Reg and Josie moved back to the Orara area for a couple of years and Reg signed to play football with the Coffs Jetty Club.

The next season the Orara Valley League competition was re-formed and Reg played for Coramba.

He came back to the Clarence in late 1954 and turned out in 1955 for South Grafton, before joining the Grafton United Club in 1956, helping the green and whites win the Upper Clarence minor premiership.

United, with the unforgettable Neville Clough as captain-coach, won the minor title clearly but injuries then hit hard and Grafton All Blacks beat them in the major semi-final and South Grafton beat them in the preliminary final.

Reg played part of 1957 with United but incurred a fractured skull in an early game and under pressure from his boss at the Northern Rivers County Council (NRCC), decided to retire from football.

On returning to South Grafton in 1954 he had gained employment with the NRCC, which later became Country Energy.

He worked firstly with a survey gang, then as a linesman, followed by work at the NRCC Queen Street Depot and then many years at the Koolkhan Power Station, before retiring in 1986 after 32 years with the electricity authority.

Golf has been a big part of sport and recreation for both Reg and Josie.

Although not a top-grade player, Reg since joining the Grafton District Golf Club in 1966, has found great enjoyment and friendship and success with golf and to date has registered a hole-in-one on four occasions, two on the Grafton course at South Grafton and two at Yamba.

His most memorable tournament victory was in the Grafton Club's prestigious Heron Cup competition of 1983 and in club affairs Reg has represented in pennants and served two terms, 1976 and 1977, as vice-captain to brother-in-law Bill Dahl.

Josie has done long service for the ladies' golf committee, including two terms as captain, 1982 and 1983, represented in district pennants and has twice been successful in the Naggers' Cup competition.

In earlier years Reg and Josie also played regular team tennis for the Eversley Club in Grafton Tennis Association's teams' competition.

Virtually all their lives the two have been devoted fishermen.

"We have always loved fishing and will drop a line in any stretch of water, from the Upper Clarence to Yamba, fresh or saltwater, in rivers or estuaries, targeting whatever fish are on at the time ? bream, flathead, blackfish, school jew, whiting or perch," Josie said.



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