The Grant Wilmot Story
MONTMORENCY hard man of the 1970s and 1980s GRANT WILMOT takes a trip down memory lane with ANDREW BRASIER...
- Montmorency: 1966-1973 (juniors), 1974-1976, 1981, 1985 and 1988 (seniors) - 97 senior games
- Eltham: 1989
- Preston: 1977-79 (38 senior games)
- Collingwood: 1980 (five senior games)
- Heidelberg West (1982, 1984)
- Eltham: (assistant senior coach – playing, 1989)
- Croydon: (senior coach 1990, 1991)
- Heidelberg: (senior coach - 1992-93)
- Montmorency: (assistant senior coach 1996 and senior coach in 1997).
- Premierships: (1976 as a player with Montmorency; 1989 as assistant senior playing coach with Eltham and with the same club in 1995 as senior coach)
Grant, pictured above on left
The uncompromising Mont defender says players in that era had to know how to take and deliver a knock or two. During his time at Mont, Preston, Heidelberg West and Collingwood the one-time professional boxer built a reputation as a hard but fair player who would not take a backward step. Grant, a Mont team of the century member and 1976 premiership player, steeled himself for future on-field battles by training with his uncle Howard Frankenberg and cousin Chris. Away from the home gym, the trio became familiar sights to slightly younger locals like myself when they trained at Petrie Park. We watched in awe as the two cousins strutted their stuff during rigorous sessions under the eye of Howard.
Grant says this preparation helped him enormously when he made his way through the ranks of the Mont juniors to the senior side alongside current senior coach Bryan "Jack" Cole. John Majoor, (the late) Terry Paterson, Ken Hodgson and others. “I grew up with a boxing family,’’ Grant recalls. “I lived over the road from the Frankenberg family. They were on TV and they were terrific role models. They believed in fitness and standing your ground. We did a lot of one on one, giving you the ability to get the ball one on one. It built up your self-confidence.’’
While Grant’s initial boxing career was short-lived – one successful professional fight under Kevin Waterson in 1976 - it steeled him for the rough and tough Diamond Valley Football League (forerunner to the NFL). “I fought as a middleweight in 1976 and then again in 1982 under Lionel Rose’s trainer, Jack Rennie for two wins,’’ he says. “I turned up five other times (for fights) early on but my opponents did not roll up.’’ Although Grant loved boxing, he knew it had limited future because of poor financial rewards and a declining audience (by the late 1970s the television show TV Ringside had finished). So he set his sights on playing top-level football. However that boxing preparation and the arrival of Collingwood defender Lee Adamson as coach helped to take Mont into a glorious era (two premierships and four grand finals between 1976 and 1979). “It was a tough era and those players (your teammates) had your back,’’ Grant recalls. “Lee Adamson, the club’s current chairman of selectors, said: ‘We are not turning the other cheek. We are going to win no matter what the cost. Lee Adamson brought that to the club. And for some of us young players that took the shackles off us. In those times football was brutal and if you wanted to win a premiership you had to be prepared to do whatever it took. The 1976 side had a lot of trust, people had each other’s back. If the going got tough we had to down tools and have a go back, yet we did not lose focus. We still won the ball and it (the rough stuff) did not put us off. What people don’t know, was that I was told never let them (your opponents) know you were hurt. I got whacked a lot but did not cover my head up. I did not let them know they had hurt me. I didn’t give them that satisfaction.’’
Grant clearly remembers that the 1976 grand final had an “air of intimidation about it’’. “North Heidelberg tried to intimidate us and we refused to be intimidated. We hit the ground running in what was a physical game. I remember I played at centre-half forward and I kicked two goals and gave two away.’’ One of his comrades in that struggle, was defender John Majoor, a teammate he rates as the best he played with at Mont. “Johnny Majoor was the best player on the ground in the 1976 grand final, I was the best in the preliminary (against Watsonia) and Bryan (Cole) was the best in the losing second semi (against North Heidelberg) – so three Mont juniors played a major part in that finals series. I went to school with John and he could play on small players or on ruckmen. He was the modern type of player. He was always on the move and he was always as going as hard in the last quarter as he was in the first. He was an absolute goer and an inspiration. And he is a member of the team of the century.’’
Grant believes the juniors led the way in that premiership year. “The juniors are the heart and soul of the club. If they didn’t go in (hard), how could you expect the imports to go in? When you have players who are born and bred in the area and getting their hands dirty, it has a double-barrel effect – all players then want to be part of it.’’ Grant also pays tribute to Lee Adamson the player: “He was impassable at centre-half back.’’ Another was on-baller Peter Naughton, whom Grant says was highly rated by opponents. When it comes to opponents, Grant is full of praise for Frank Smith medallist and North Heidelberg/Lalor midfielder Mario Cipolla. “He was the best player in the Diamond Valley I played against,’’ Grant recalls. “He was tough, he was intelligent and in big games he was outstanding.’’
After leaving Mont for the first time, Grant, who described himself as an “impact player’’, had stints at Preston, Collingwood, Heidelberg West and Eltham. His period in the DVFL prepared him well for the rigours of the Victorian Football Association. “The pace of the VFA … it was very open and the skill level was a step up (from the Diamond Valley). What the Diamond Valley did for me was condition me for the toughness of the VFA. Yes, you could say it prepared me for the brutality of the VFA.’’ Grant again did not take a backward step in the infamous Preston-Prahran grand final of 1978, which Preston lost. “Coach Harold Martin told me I had to look after the team – little blokes like Ken Marks and Peter Marshall. So I did, and I got six weeks’ (suspension),’’ Grant recalls matter-of-factly. “They (Prahran) were just too good for us on the day.’’
The Mont boy finally got his chance at the big time in 1980 when he played a starring role for Collingwood seniors in a game against St Kilda on the hallowed turf of Victoria Park, kicking four goals and earning three Brownlow votes. Unfortunately injuries – three broken bones in three years – ended his VFL career after only five senior games, but he bounced back at Heidelberg West in 1982, winning the Leader Newspapers’ award for the best and fairest player in the Diamond Valley and being runner-up in the Frank Smith Medal, before finishing his playing career at Mont. Grant has also coached at senior level, taking Eltham to a Division Two flag in 1995 and steering both Mont (1997) and Heidelberg (1992). He currently works with troubled young people as part of Youth Transitions Australia and keenly follows the sporting fortunes of his nine-year-old son Darcy – named after boxer Darcy Ritchie – in both the basketball and football (Yarrambat) fields.
Finally, Grant has a message for today’s current crop of players: “All players must be absolutely focused on winning. You might remember that in the 1970s we had the Mighty Mont Machine, and you performed to a level where you could win finals and premierships.’’