PIONEERS: Earliest picture of the Grafton 1946 men?s hockey representative team, taken at Fisher Park, from right, Ken Prince,
PIONEERS: Earliest picture of the Grafton 1946 men?s hockey representative team, taken at Fisher Park, from right, Ken Prince,

Grit delivers Grafton hockey



HOCKEY administration in Grafton has had a number of name changes over the years.

Grafton Hockey Association at one time comprised only women players, at another time both men and women. Then it split into separate organisations, a women's association and a men's association, with a controlling body called Clarence River Hockey Association. These days there are two separate bodies, Grafton Men's Hockey Association and Grafton Women's Hockey Association.

If that sounds confusing to you, it is also to me, who for two years in the 1950s was secretary of the Clarence River Hockey Association which controlled the sport locally for both men and women.

I know that for years prior to World War Two (1939 to 1945) there was a strong local women's hockey competition and I am told that at one time there was also a men's competition.

At the beginning of 1946, when the women's organisation was going strongly, there was a big move to incorporate a men's competition.

Main push that year came from four men, a quartet who had served in the Australian Army during World War Two and who in leisure time available during army service had each been involved in playing hockey and loved the game.

Grafton businessman and hockey legend Fred Cromack, who was involved in helping the four start men's hockey in the Grafton area in 1946, tells how he became part of the historic move. Fred relates that the four returned servicemen were Bill Walker, who was Grafton born and bred, along with Ken Prince, Ashton Wood and Jim Sim, who had moved to the Clarence region to work.

A meeting was held in premises then known as The Clarence Tea Room. Ashton Wood was voted in as inaugural president and the Grafton Men's Hockey Club was on its way, ready to start competition.

Some locals who had played hockey in other areas joined the first four and others were talked into taking part.

Fred Cromack, who was playing rugby league that season with the Grafton Waratahs Under-18s was one of the new volunteers, invited by Bill Walker one Saturday evening to turn up the next day at Fisher Park Oval to play in the first match for the Grafton team against a visiting Lismore Club, Northern Star.

North of the Clarence men's hockey was particularly strong in the Lismore, Ballina, Casino areas with many clubs formed. There were also men's teams to the south at places such as Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and Sawtell and the Tablelands and Western Plains areas also boasted strong competitions.

As requested Fred turned up at Fisher Park on the Sunday and was given brief instruction on game play and rules by Ken Prince and Bill Walker and told his field position would be at left back.

He handled the job competently and left back was the position he played in most of his long career, although there was a season or two when to strengthen team strike power he played in the forwards at left inner.

Fred is not sure of the score in that initial match but believes that Grafton, with its mixture of experienced players and newcomers, did cause the upset.

From there on for many years Fred was a regular member of Grafton representative teams, won selection in North Coast teams for zone championships and also represented in Country Week matches in Sydney.

He had an unerring eye for ball control, was a great defender, particularly showing expertise at winning the ball from an attacking player and then either taking it up or sending a neat pass to a team-mate in a half or forward position.

Asked to nominate some of the best local competitors he played with or against he named Arthur Cooper, Jim Thornth- waite, Lindsay Fryer, Noel (Pedro) Inwood, Alan Waghorn, Cecil May, Clyde Thomas and Chisel Bevan.

Fred Cromack was born in Grafton at Nurse McKnight's Maternity Hospital in 1929. He was the third born to Grafton Ventry and Mary (nee Mansfield) Cromack with older sisters Jean (Mrs Ray Kennedy dec) and Joyce (Mrs Neville Graham) and two younger brothers, both living at Yamba, Keith (married to Jane) and Colin (married to Ann)).

Keith and Colin, like their older brother Fred, became representative hockey players.

Fred's schooling was at Grafton infants, Grafton primary and Grafton high and his main school sports were rugby league and cricket.

He represented Grafton High School in junior school rugby league as hooker and later was the youngest player in an open game against Coffs Harbour High.

After leaving school he registered for football in Under-18s wearing the two blues and the white of the Grafton Waratahs Rugby League Club but after half a season he left football to concentrate on hockey.

The three brothers are keen amateur fishermen and Fred remembers a time in the 1950s when he, Keith and their father were involved in the biggest haul of netted mullet ever sent from Grafton to the Brisbane fish market.

The trio were fishing near Elizabeth Island when they noticed nearby professional fishermen having difficulty hauling in their capacity-filled net. They went to help the haul then assisted in boxing the mullet, a mammoth eight tons in all, and loading the catch onto one of Tranter's International trucks which was driven to Brisbane, arriving just before midnight in time to off-load the catch at the markets.

Fred's first job after he left school in November 1944 was with his uncle, Grafton carrier Jim Tranter.

Fred's job was doing pick-ups and deliveries by horse and cart driving the well-educated draft mare Dolly. They would meet trains at Grafton station each week day for pick-ups and deliveries and on Tuesdays and Thursdays meet the cargo boats arriving at the Grafton wharf.

For the first season or two in the latter 1940s, men's hockey in Grafton was not played on a club basis but representative teams, in one or two grades plus two women's teams played matches on a home and away basis. Their opponents came from centres such as Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Ballina, Tenterfield, Casino, Byron Bay, Moobal/Burringbar, Armidale, Tamworth. Transport varied between private cars and bus trips, mainly over dusty, gravel roads.

It wasn't long before the first four clubs were formed, Westons with Fred as captain, Veterans, Avros and Aces and a couple of years later came Sailors with Keith Cromack captain, South Grafton Rovers and Wanderers, and Morris Minors.

Fred married Grafton girl Margaret Gray at Christ Church Cathedral in 1952 and their 54th wedding anniversary is coming up in June.

Margaret, daughter of Audley and Elva Gray, was also a topline representative hockey player, turning out for the mighty De- mons before a season with Terrors, then returning to the Demons' ranks.

The Demons club celebrated its golden anniversary in March, 1993.

Margaret played with and against such hockey greats as Nona and Clare Yardy, Beth Ravenscroft, Joan Garside, Dorothy (Dot) Harrison, Norma McDonald, Val and Ina Whitney, Dawn Scott, Margaret Rooke and many others.

Fred was a little lucky to make the church for their 7.30pm wedding as he had played hockey that afternoon and was being carried shoulder high off the ground in victory style, when there was a stumble and he was dropped hard on the ground making heavy contact with his head and shoulders.

Nevertheless the wedding went ahead with Fred bearing a few scars and slightly concussed.

Margaret and Fred have sons Graeme and Jeff who have given their parents four grandchildren with Graeme and wife Linda having a daughter, Tahlia, and son Brenton and Jeff and Leanne having daughters, Chiveau and Shayler.

Graeme and Jeff did not follow their parents into hockey but played strong soccer.

After working seven years for Jim Tranter, Fred and cousin Kevin Tranter, another top-line hockey star, bought two trucks from Jim and set up the transport business, Cromack and Tranter.

"In those days we were mainly carrying asbestos from the Baryulgil mine to the railway in Grafton, making four trips a week," Fred said.

nFrom Page 27.HOCKEY administration in Grafton has had a number of name changes over the years.

Grafton Hockey Association at one time comprised only women players, at another time both men and women. Then it split into separate organisations, a women's association and a men's association, with a controlling body called Clarence River Hockey Association. These days there are two separate bodies, Grafton Men's Hockey Association and Grafton Women's Hockey Association.

If that sounds confusing to you, it is also to me, who for two years in the 1950s was secretary of the Clarence River Hockey Association which controlled the sport locally for both men and women.

I know that for years prior to World War Two (1939 to 1945) there was a strong local women's hockey competition and I am told that at one time there was also a men's competition.

At the beginning of 1946, when the women's organisation was going strongly, there was a big move to incorporate a men's competition.

Main push that year came from four men, a quartet who had served in the Australian Army during World War Two and who in leisure time available during army service had each been involved in playing hockey and loved the game.

Grafton businessman and hockey legend Fred Cromack, who was involved in helping the four start men's hockey in the Grafton area in 1946, tells how he became part of the historic move. Fred relates that the four returned servicemen were Bill Walker, who was Grafton born and bred, along with Ken Prince, Ashton Wood and Jim Sim, who had moved to the Clarence region to work.

A meeting was held in premises then known as The Clarence Tea Room. Ashton Wood was voted in as inaugural president and the Grafton Men's Hockey Club was on its way, ready to start competition.

Some locals who had played hockey in other areas joined the first four and others were talked into taking part.

Fred Cromack, who was playing rugby league that season with the Grafton Waratahs Under-18s was one of the new volunteers, invited by Bill Walker one Saturday evening to turn up the next day at Fisher Park Oval to play in the first match for the Grafton team against a visiting Lismore Club, Northern Star.

North of the Clarence men's hockey was particularly strong in the Lismore, Ballina, Casino areas with many clubs formed. There were also men's teams to the south at places such as Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and Sawtell and the Tablelands and Western Plains areas also boasted strong competitions.

As requested Fred turned up at Fisher Park on the Sunday and was given brief instruction on game play and rules by Ken Prince and Bill Walker and told his field position would be at left back.

He handled the job competently and left back was the position he played in most of his long career, although there was a season or two when to strengthen team strike power he played in the forwards at left inner.

Fred is not sure of the score in that initial match but believes that Grafton, with its mixture of experienced players and newcomers, did cause the upset.

From there on for many years Fred was a regular member of Grafton representative teams, won selection in North Coast teams for zone championships and also represented in Country Week matches in Sydney.

He had an unerring eye for ball control, was a great defender, particularly showing expertise at winning the ball from an attacking player and then either taking it up or sending a neat pass to a team-mate in a half or forward position.

Asked to nominate some of the best local competitors he played with or against he named Arthur Cooper, Jim Thornth- waite, Lindsay Fryer, Noel (Pedro) Inwood, Alan Waghorn, Cecil May, Clyde Thomas and Chisel Bevan.

Fred Cromack was born in Grafton at Nurse McKnight's Maternity Hospital in 1929. He was the third born to Grafton Ventry and Mary (nee Mansfield) Cromack with older sisters Jean (Mrs Ray Kennedy dec) and Joyce (Mrs Neville Graham) and two younger brothers, both living at Yamba, Keith (married to Jane) and Colin (married to Ann)).

Keith and Colin, like their older brother Fred, became representative hockey players.

Fred's schooling was at Grafton infants, Grafton primary and Grafton high and his main school sports were rugby league and cricket.

He represented Grafton High School in junior school rugby league as hooker and later was the youngest player in an open game against Coffs Harbour High.

After leaving school he registered for football in Under-18s wearing the two blues and the white of the Grafton Waratahs Rugby League Club but after half a season he left football to concentrate on hockey.

The three brothers are keen amateur fishermen and Fred remembers a time in the 1950s when he, Keith and their father were involved in the biggest haul of netted mullet ever sent from Grafton to the Brisbane fish market.

The trio were fishing near Elizabeth Island when they noticed nearby professional fishermen having difficulty hauling in their capacity-filled net. They went to help the haul then assisted in boxing the mullet, a mammoth eight tons in all, and loading the catch onto one of Tranter's International trucks which was driven to Brisbane, arriving just before midnight in time to off-load the catch at the markets.

Fred's first job after he left school in November 1944 was with his uncle, Grafton carrier Jim Tranter.

Fred's job was doing pick-ups and deliveries by horse and cart driving the well-educated draught mare Dolly. They would meet trains at Grafton station each week day for pick-ups and deliveries and on Tuesdays and Thursdays meet the cargo boats arriving at the Grafton wharf.

For the first season or two in the latter 1940s, men's hockey in Grafton was not played on a club basis but representative teams, in one or two grades plus two women's teams played matches on a home and away basis. Their opponents came from centres such as Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Ballina, Tenterfield, Casino, Byron Bay, Moobal/Burringbar, Armidale, Tamworth. Transport varied between private cars and bus trips, mainly over dusty, gravel roads.

It wasn't long before the first four clubs were formed, Westons with Fred as captain, Veterans, Avros and Aces and a couple of years later came Sailors with Keith Cromack captain, South Grafton Rovers and Wanderers, and Morris Minors.

Fred married Grafton girl Margaret Gray at Christ Church Cathedral in 1952 and their 54th wedding anniversary is coming up in June.

Margaret, daughter of Audley and Elva Gray, was also a topline representative hockey player, turning out for the mighty De- mons before a season with Terrors, then returning to the Demons' ranks.

The Demons club celebrated its golden anniversary in March, 1993.

Margaret played with and against such hockey greats as Nona and Clare Yardy, Beth Ravenscroft, Joan Garside, Dorothy (Dot) Harrison, Norma McDonald, Val and Ina Whitney, Dawn Scott, Margaret Rooke and many others.

Fred was a little lucky to make the church for their 7.30pm wedding as he had played hockey that afternoon and was being carried shoulder high off the ground in victory style, when there was a stumble and he was dropped hard on the ground making heavy contact with his head and shoulders.

Nevertheless the wedding went ahead with Fred bearing a few scars and slightly concussed.

Margaret and Fred have sons Graeme and Jeff who have given their parents four grandchildren with Graeme and wife Linda having a daughter, Tahlia, and son Brenton and Jeff and Leanne having daughters, Chiveau and Shayler.

Graeme and Jeff did not follow their parents into hockey but played strong soccer.

After working seven years for Jim Tranter, Fred and cousin Kevin Tranter, another top-line hockey star, bought two trucks from Jim and set up the transport business, Cromack and Tranter.

"In those days we were mainly carrying asbestos from the Baryulgil mine to the railway in Grafton, making four trips a week," Fred said.

"Then we started carrying asbestos straight to the James Hardie factory in Brisbane, where the Baryulgil asbestos was considered of best quality.

"Little did we know at that time of the problems caused by asbestos dust. Our trucks would go fully loaded to Brisbane and rather than have them come back empty we found freight to bring back. That was how our Grafton/Brisbane/Grafton carrying service began and we kept on growing.

"When the dangers of asbestos became known that type of delivery was halted.

"If you look at our books you will see we now register 61 vehicles, including 22 big trucks, along with a number of smaller trucks, forklifts, rigids etc. And there are 30 people all up on our staff."

Kevin left the firm in the late 1970s but Fred, then aged 49, carried on and the name Cromack and Tranter was retained with Fred as managing director.

His sons, Graeme and Jeff, are also part of the business with Graeme the financial manager and Jeff the operations manager.

Graeme's son, Brenton, joined the Cromack and Tranter workforce in 2003, a neat 59 years after his grandfather had helped form the company.

Although not now doing the heavy driving Fred handles the transport dockets, among other things, and keeps a general eye on proceedings.

Margaret retired from playing hockey in the 1950s to raise their family and Fred after 26 years service to the sport, made his departure from active participation 1972.

He and Margaret still follow results of games and the association's progress, find great joy and interest in their sons and grandchildren and still love their fishing.

Mott sets the pace

STAWELL, Vic. ? Red-hot favourite Adrian Mott plans to follow in the footsteps of his coach Steve Brimacombe and represent Australia after scorching to a commanding victory in the 125th Stawell Gift yesterday.

Mott raised his right arm in triumph 10 metres out before crossing the line in a slick 11.98 seconds.

World beach sprint champion Brett Robinson was second in 12.18 and backmarker Rod Buchanan was third in 12.21.

Brimacombe, the 1991 Stawell champion, approached Mott in the nearby Gift Hotel after he had been run out in the semi-finals last year and offered to coach him.

"When he initially told me I could win the Stawell Gift I laughed and told him I didn't want it," said Mott, a 20-year-old fitness instructor from Melbourne.



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