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HomeSportAFLDouble celebration for local AFL legend, Harry Marston

Double celebration for local AFL legend, Harry Marston

Harry and Peg Marston recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. The couple, from Beacon Hill, married when they were both 22 years old. They’re now 97 years young.

Peg’s doing it a bit tough at present, living in Alexander Aged Care Nursing Home in Brookvale, dealing with dementia. Harry is still living in the family home he built and shared with Peg for some 58 years… and he’s still the character he’s apparently always been.

He had planned to “break Peg out” of the Nursing Home to celebrate their landmark anniversary together. It took four nurses to thwart his mission. He told his son, Dean, at the time “… if I can’t bring mum home, I’ll be out on the town by myself”.

Harry is somewhat of a local legend… it was his leadership that led to the founding of the Manly Warringah Wolves Australian Football Club back in 1969. In fact, he was the club’s first President (for 10 years), first Coach and first Captain!

Harry (in orange) as Coach of the Wolves.

An Aussie Rules tragic, Harry and his wife moved to Sydney in the 1960s, Harry chasing work as a sales rep in one of the two remaining tanneries operating in the Willoughby district at that time. The couple built their house in Beacon Hill and after decades of living on the Northern Beaches, Harry says “I’ve never once regretted moving here.”

Living in Melbourne, Harry was a mad Fitzroy fan, the team that moved to Brisbane in 1996 and became The Lions. The Club has a total of 11 VFL/AFL Premierships – eight as Fitzroy and three as the merged Brisbane Lions – the 5th most in the game’s history. Harry also coached the amateur Heidelberg Football Club in Victoria’s Northern Football League for a time. “It may have been an amateur league, but it was strong. The players weren’t far off the quality of those in the Association”, said Harry.

In the mid-1960s and now residing in Sydney, Harry read a short story in The Manly Daily, asking if anyone was interested in helping to put together a Junior Aussie Rules team on the Northern Beaches. Harry jumped at the chance.

He and fellow volunteers George Klause and Bruce Hutton began setting up card tables in Manly, Dee Why and at Warringah Mall on Saturday mornings to recruit players. But despite seeking juniors, it soon became apparent that there were a lot of Victorian and South Australian ‘ex-pats’ living on the beaches who were keen to play for the new club… as seniors.

The Time and Tide Hotel & Motel in the 1960s… local watering hole for the first Manly Warringah Wolves team.

In Harry’s words: “We started off training at the bottom end of Fisher Park”, said Harry, “which was great because it was close to the pub. But we had no home ground for many years. As a very young club, we were allowed to play in a Sydney 19 and Under Comp. in our first season, even though most of us were in our 20s. We were just told by officials to ‘take it easy on the kids’. As it turned out, in our first game, we didn’t score a point! In our second game, we scored two points. But by the end of the season, we’d won six games, which merited us being elevated to a Senior Comp. in our second year.

“In that second season, a young doctor from the maternity section of Sydney Hospital asked if he could have a game with us. He came on at Quarter Time in his first game and won Man of the Match! He was very good. He ended up being named Best and Fairest player in the whole comp. at the end of that year.

“We had some larrikins in the team though… once they smuggled two dozen bottles of beer on board to drink on the way to the game! As Captain, I had to give them a serve for that.”

“We played away every week at that stage… at grounds across Sydney including at Balmain and up the North Shore and way further afield in ‘bush country’ down the south coast. We’d hire an old double decker bus and hit the road. We had some larrikins in the team though… once they smuggled two dozen bottles of beer on board to drink on the way to the game! As Captain, I had to give them a serve for that.”

Harry has a thousand stories about those days… one involves a rough and rugged game against an RAAF team at Richmond. “They had a big bloke on their team who was trying to out-muscle us… but one of our Wolves took it to him and just knocked him down and tossed him out of the way every time he came at us. That team mate was a guy called John Trbojevic – yep, father of the famous Sea Eagles brothers. I can see where Jake gets his no-nonsense tackling style from.”

As the Wolves club continued to grow, it finally negotiated a Home Ground on the beaches, partnering with the Manly Warringah District Cricket Club to share Weldon Oval in John Fisher Park on Stirgess Avenue in Curl Curl. Aussie Rules goal posts had to be installed, but before long, the Wolves felt like a ‘real’ club and they won their first premiership in the Sydney Amateur Comp. soon after.

The Wolves celebrating a win at Weldon Oval (from website)

Weldon is a little below average in size, which has helped cultivate the Wolves’ tough, physical and intimidating playing identity – a reputation built over the decades, starting with Harry’s first team.

Family is important to Harry and Peg. They have two children, Sharon and Dean, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. “And our youngest great grandchild is named Harry. I couldn’t be prouder”, said Harry Snr.

Harry and Peg on their wedding day 75 years ago.

The Wolves have been the other vital part of Harry Marston’s life, for the last 55 years. They even helped get a lot of other clubs up and running too. Long after retiring as a player and official, Harry says that to this day there has never been a bad word said among members of the Club.

“I’m still asked to speak to today’s players at pre-season launches and presentation nights and I always tell the boys the same thing: The jumper won’t ever disgrace you, so don’t ever disgrace it.”

In 2000, Harry was honoured with the Australian Sports Medal for 30 years of continual service to sport. And this year he received another surprise accolade when Northern Beaches Council endorsed a proposal to name the Grandstand at Weldon Oval after Harry and fellow sporting pioneer, the late Bruce Loudon – a founding member of the Manly Warringah District Cricket Club. A date is yet to be determined for the official naming ceremony, but it has been confirmed that the Weldon Oval Grandstand will soon be known as ‘The Loudon Marston Grandstand’.

The Loudon Marton Grandstand in Curl Curl.

“I think it’s nice that they’re naming the grandstand after me and Brucey”, said Harry. “But you have to remember that we both had the help of a lot of great workers too, sadly many of them now passed. In fact, I find it amazing that I’ve outlived some of the kids who were juniors at the Club when we first started. It is nice though that I can be wandering through The Mall and these gentlemen in their mid-50s will come up to me and say ‘Hi H, how are you going? I played with the Wolves way back when.’ It’s great to be greeted like that.”

A spokesperson for Northern Beaches Council said :“Both Harry and Bruce have been integral to the development of their respective sports and clubs and in the establishment of Weldon Oval as a first-class sports facility. So the decision to name the grandstand after them was an easy one.”

“Both Harry and Bruce have been integral to the development of their respective sports and clubs and in the establishment of Weldon Oval as a first-class sports facility. So the decision to name the grandstand after them was an easy one.”

Current Wolves Club President, Andrew Varasdi, is thrilled that the club’s Founding Father has been recognised this way. “It’s very clear that he’s a revered figure at this club”, said Andrew. “He is held in the highest regard both by other club stalwarts like Leigh Adams and by all the current players.

“What he’s helped achieve is quite amazing. From those humble beginnings way back in 1969, the club has now grown to the point that we field 12 teams competing in the AFL Sydney competition, across a range of divisions (three more than last year). We launched our Women’s program in 2014 and they won their first premiership in 2020.

“Those 12 teams now comprise eight men’s and four women’s teams… and we’re about to launch a new entity – a Junior Boys team playing under the Wolves banner with players drawn from Balgowlah, Forest, Pittwater and Manly, as well as our own club. There are now over 2,000 juniors playing Aussie Rules on the northern beaches, testament to the fact that Harry’s original mission has proven to be a stunning success.

“Our purpose remains as it was when Harry founded the Club … to unite and strengthen our Northern Beaches community through a love of AFL. The Club’s motto is “The Strength of the Wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is with each individual Wolf.”

Harry and Peg, still cruising.

Congratulations Harry Marston – the original Leader of the Pack. And congratulations to Harry and Peg for reaching that remarkable milestone together.


Want to know more about the Wolves?  Visit https://www.manlywolves.com/

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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