The name of Yarrawonga’s footballer, the late and great Les (Salty) Parish, will live on forever in the Ovens and Murray Football Netball League with his posthumous admission in the league’s Hall of Fame last Wednesday night.
Salty, who passed away with cancer in 1997 aged 40-years, has been described as the best player ever from Yarrawonga in the 100-year History of Yarrawonga Football Netball Club book and also by legendary past president Glenn Brear.
As stated in the history book, Yarrawonga’s Dempsey Pavilion was overflowing with mourners at Salty’s funeral, numbers which had never been seen before in the pavilion and which contains the famous No. 27 Fitzroy jumper as a permanent memorial to Yarrawonga’s favourite son.
“Salty’s record is second to none, 165 games, a Morris Medal, five times best and fairest at Yarrawonga which Craig Ednie equalled two years ago, played almost 100 VFL games with Fitzroy then Melbourne, selected for Victoria,” long time immediate past president of Yarrawonga Football Netball Club Glenn Brear told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“His ability to win the ball and kick goals to win the game was outstanding. He was an outstanding player.
“He was duly rewarded and taken by Fitzroy Football Club in 1980. But he came back to Yarrawonga, after a brilliant VFL record, to become another best and fairest winner with the Pigeons.”
A post office worker then on Yarrawonga Shire Council, Salty was raised by his grandmother who lived at the back of the Criterion Hotel. “He had a tough upbringing and eventually became a champion bloke and player,” Mr Brear said.
Salty’s widow, Jenny, said she was honoured to attend the big award dinner in the SS&A Club Albury. “Les would be very proud and deeply honoured by his peers in such a way,” she told the big audience.
“Football was Les’s greatest passion and I was fortunate enough to be part of the 25-year journey that his career spanned.
“There were many ups and downs, good times and bad, wonderful successes and heartbreaking losses, but that’s football.
“Les’s death was without doubt an absolute tragedy for myself and our children but I have always felt it was such a tragedy for the football world as well.
“Football has given Les so many rewards in his life and he was just beginning to embark on the journey of giving back to the game he loved so much. He thrived on being able to share all that he learnt and achieved during his career, and the football world is a poorer place without him in it.”
In 1969, aged 13-years, Salty played with Yarrawonga Thirds in the Tungamah League, with home games based at Wilby. In 1972 he captained the Yarrawonga Thirds in the O and M League and also played in the Reserves that year.
In 1973, Salty played his first senior game under Essendon great Ken Fraser before returning for the Reserves finals and becoming a member of Frank Seymour’s premiership team.
The years 1977 to 1979 were big, with Salty winning a hat-trick of best and fairests, passing 100 games and representing the O and M regularly in the VCFL Championships.
In 1980, Salty started at Fitzroy and went on to play 89-day games and five night games including two finals in 1981; in 1982 finished fourth in the Lions best and fairest award. Traded to Melbourne in 1985, he played five games with the Demons before returning home to Pigeonland in 1986 when he won his fourth best and fairest, and the highest individual O and M award, the Morris Medal.
Salty’s brilliance continued in 1987 when selected in the O and M rep team, appointed captain of Country Victoria and leading the team to beating VAFA, winning the Victorian Championships. The illustrious No.10 collected another Yarrawonga best and fairest to make it an unprecedented triple hat-trick, five in a row in which he played: 1977, ‘78, ‘79, ‘86 and ‘87.
In 1988 he took over as coach of Yarrawonga, instilling a great emphasis on fitness and team spirit. The Pigeons finished third. Salty left Yarrawonga and coached Griffith, finishing up with Cobram’s 1995 premiership team.
The shock of his fatal illness touched the complete spectrum of the football world. But the name Les (Salty) Parish will live forever in greatness. And now rightly so in the prestigious O and M Hall of Fame.