Bombers honour GV’s Indigenous greats

Toss of the coin: Triple Morrison Medallist Gary Cooper, standing alongside his grandson, Billy Cooper, with (from left) Kyabram captain Jason Morgan, central umpire Simon Walsh and Graham Briggs.
Welcome to country: Aunty Fay Cooper conducts the welcome to country address at GV Creamery Oval in Kyabram on Saturday.
Proud history: Kyabram Football Netball Club honored its indigenous history by wearing especially designed warm up shirts and jumpers for the weekend’s round of matches against Tatura. Gary Cooper, triple Morrison Medallist and nephew of two time Kyabram league best and fairest Jeff, tossed the coin before the game.
Indigenous round: Graham Briggs, an official with the Tatura Football Club, in front of the Kyabam players in their Goulburn Valley league indigenous round jumpers. A welcome to country and smoking ceremony was conducted before the match.
Charlie’s moment: Kyabram Indigenous football legend Charlie Stewart (centre, with the club’s Indigenous jumper) with Graham Briggs, Charlie’s son Paul, John Guinan and Peter Learmonth from Kyabram Football Club. Photo: Jess O’Neill

Tatura star Billy Cooper may have walked off GV Creamery Oval at Kyabram on Saturday disappointed with his team’s 121-point loss, but he did his Indigenous heritage — and family history — no harm with his 39-possession game.

Cooper is the grandson of Goulburn Valley league Hall of Fame member Gary, who has a strong connection to the Kyabram community through the exploits of his father and uncle, John and Jeff Cooper.

Cooper, a triple Morrison Medallist himself, watched on as a boy as his uncle Jeff won two Morrison medals, in 1958 and 1961.

In 1985 Gary had the honour of winning his third Morrison Medal as well as playing in a Mooroopna premiership team when he kicked four goals to ensure the Cats won the flag.

He also played in the Cats’ 1986 premiership, kicking three goals in a best-afield performance.

In 1976 he won his first Morrison Medal as a Tatura player and was then runner-up in 1977 and 1978.

Cooper was recruited by Mooroopna coach Graeme Kendall in 1983 and it was with the cats that he won his second Morrison Medal the same year.

Cooper was among Goulburn Valley Indigenous football royalty at Kyabram on Saturday, a special ceremony held pre-match in the Wilf Cox Pavilion when the legendary Charlie Stewart was presented with his own Kyabram Indigenous guernsey.

His grandson was outstanding for the Bulldogs, despite the result, responsible for clearing the ball from the Kyabram forward 50 on 12 occasions and playing a hand in two of the team’s three goals.

Charlie Stewart played for Essendon in 1957 and later with Footscray, in 1961.

He then coached Kyabram in 1966 and continued his playing and coaching career at Stanhope in 1967.

In 2014, when the Western Bulldogs designed an Indigenous guernsey, Stewart was one of 18 players to have their name included on the design on the jumper.

Aunty Fay Cooper conducted the welcome to country and Graham Briggs led the smoking ceremony.