By ALECIA PINNER
CHILDHOOD neighbours and close friends Brian “Bishop” Ford and Kevin Shinners became rivals when Oakleigh clashed with Dandenong in the 1972 VFA grand final.
Oakleigh was victor on the day and following a competitive display the men swapped guernseys.
“Dandenong won in ’71 and was reigning premier, so it was our turn. We fought rough to win that one and afterwards, I swapped jumpers with Kevin,” Mr Ford said.
In 1983 Mr Ford was left with nothing but the shirt on his back when his home was destroyed, while he was running footy training during the Ash Wednesday fires.
Ironically, that shirt was the defeated Dandenong jumper, worn by Mr Shinners.
“I was pretty proud to wear it at training in those days and the only thing that survived the bushfires was my footy bag. I had that top for 40 years.”
Late last year, the men came together at Mr Ford’s mother’s funeral and stayed in touch.
Mr Ford asked Mr Shinners, an avid collector of the now defunct Dandenong Football Club memorabilia, if he’d be interested in swapping back. The top swap was done at the Berwick pub a couple of months ago.
“I was absolutely over the moon to get back the Oakleigh top which I won the grand final in. It felt so special to have it back after 40 years,” Mr Ford said, adding that he remembered playing two-a-side football with Mr Shinners in central Dandenong.
“Kevin and I grew up in Dandenong, in Clow Street, right opposite the show grounds. We would play until dark on the same team, against our brothers, over half a ground.”
However, both men laughed as they remembered neighbourly politeness was lost on the footy field, on premiership day.
“He says he doesn’t remember but half way through the first quarter I got bumped heavily from behind, bowled over, by number 16. I said ‘Kevin, I never thought you’d do anything like that’ and he said ‘Bisho, it’s a grand final’.”
Mr Shinners is hopeful he can create a collection of memorabilia from the club, which was closed down in the mid-’90s.
“Players from the VFL came across to the VFA at the end or to begin their careers. Up to 15,000 people came each Sunday to watch, it was a packed event. I’d like to get a spot at Shepley Oval to house the memorabilia. There is nothing to show we were ever there.”