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A fond farewell to our ‘very best’

THE VERY BEST: Wimmera Football League great Mick Sibun sits third from left in the front row of the 1963 premiership side that defeated Nhill at Horsham. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

A small death notice in last week’s paper is likely to have gone unnoticed by the majority of readers but to those who remember the blood and glory days of local footy, it would have stirred memories of a special era.
Many consider Mick Sibun to be the best to play Wimmera Football League. Not one of the best but the very best.
He certainly had the credentials. Rupanyup recruited the skilful centreman directly from South Melbourne Football Club’s senior side where he played 111 games, many as vice captain and was good enough to wear the Big V guernsey. He was also credited with teaching triple Brownlow Medallist Bob Skilton to kick.
Sibun joined Rupanyup as the club’s senior coach in 1957 and arrived with little fanfare. His team-mate of the day Bob Baker said he knew little of Sibun at the time.
“Back then we didn’t follow the big league like everyone does now, so to us he was just another coach coming to the town and the few before him hadn’t been much,” Baker recalled.
“But we were lucky to get him because he was all teed up to go to Lakes Entrance.”
Sibun took to life in the country almost instantly except his initial plan to make a living as a professional punter didn’t quite come to fruition, probably due to a deficiency in winning selections. He eventually took on a role as book keeper and spare-parts salesman at Rupanyup car and farm machinery dealership Ken Daggett Motors.
Sibun clearly fell in love with the Rupanyup community. But it was on the field that he left an indelible mark as a hard, nuggety player with classical skills. He was one of the finest exponents of the long-forgotten stab-pass kick – the intricate drill pass of yesteryear.
Baker said Sibun was the sort of player who was never ‘cleaned up’ when he had the ball.
“He was a tough and very clever player who could take a good mark for his size and his hand and foot skills were always precise,” he said.
“But he was a very fair player and just never made a mistake.
“He got laid out once at Stawell but it was a little too long after the play and it erupted into a huge brawl that involved every player on the field, bar two.”
The year of that infamous brawl was 1961, also the year Sibun made the breakthrough that is forever logged in annuls of Wimmera football history as the season Rupanyup won its first Wimmera League premiership.
Sibun built his side into premiership material with meticulous planning and devotion to a town of which he felt a burning compulsion to reward. The glory and satisfaction of creating that history would be the number-one reward for this happy and unassuming character.
Sibun quit his coaching role the following year but played out his football days at Rupanyup, featuring in the club’s 1963 premiership and pulling on the red and blue jumper 133 times.
As a young lad growing up in Rupanyup, I was fortunate enough to be a mascot in that ’63 grand final, alongside Ian Matheson and Scott Fraser. It was easy to get the gig. My father Jim was vice-captain of that premiership team.
I was too young to remember Mick’s brilliance at the time but just over a decade later, I played in a fun match at Rupanyup that was the under-16s team of the time against the premiership legends. Mick returned to the town for that game along with other legends such as Jim Gull and Barry Peatling.
Mick wore a pair of shorts so baggy that Carlton sharp shooter Eddie Betts could have climbed in as well. But he still had that brilliant balk, that familiar left foot precision pass and still controlled the centre like it was his patch of turf.
Gray Rothwell ‘Mick’ Sibun was buried in Geelong last week and several Rupanyup players from those halcyon days attended the funeral, to the delight of his family. Included in the party were the players who constantly found themselves on the end of Mick’s perfect passes.
Baker said his brother Barry and Ian Morgan would not have missed the funeral for love nor money because the nippy forward flanker and the gifted and super-accurate full forward were part of a unique combination.
“The common scenario of the time was Sibun to Baker to Morgan, goal or Sibun straight to Morgan,” he said.
“Mick would always balk and turn on his left to Barry’s flank and drill him with a pass and Barry would then find Ian Morgan.”
The game is quicker now and the path football has taken over the years has ensured the Wimmera will never see another Mick Sibun. He was the professor of a master class in a unique era when crowds flocked to games in droves to watch quality men of rugged stock tough it out each week.
All that’s left for those of us old enough to experience it, are the memories. Thanks Mick.

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Posted on May 11 2011

Posted by on May 11 2011. Filed under Community, FEATURED, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “A fond farewell to our ‘very best’”

  1. Cassandra

    Hi Barry,
    I am looking for a Barry Peatling upon request from Grand Mother Judith Kirk/Brown I am wondering if you are that Barry Peatling? Please contact me at: Many thanks Cassandra

  2. Cassandra

    Hi Barry,

    I am looking for a Barry Peatling upon request from Grand Mother Judith Kirk/Brown I am wondering if you are that Barry Peatling? Please contact me at: Many thanks Cassandra

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