History

 

Originally founded in 1962 as the YMCA Club, the Wests Magpies Basketball Club has had over 50 years of involvement in basketball in the ACT.  The following is some history from the first 20 years of the club, provided by former club great Terry Ryan.

 

My often blurred but still youthful recall is that Max Landy the sportsmaster at Lyneham High started the YMCA club (also called City Y) in 1962.  In 1961 Ernie Johnson (the sportsmaster at Lyneham High and founder of Midgets) swapped teaching jobs, with Max Landy going to Lyneham High to become Sportsmaster and Ernie to Canberra High.  Max was a bit frustrated at Lyneham that his junior players could not get a gig with Midgets.  In 62 he formed the YMCA and entered A grade with the great Rod Wulfe and a few other Lyneham kids including Chris Higgisson, Jersey Witowski and Mark de Plata.  He supplemented this with some interesting talent he recruited including Hans and Eddie Siig (who played on the ACT team), a mormon American guy who was out here on mission (whose name escapes me due to fuzz, but he could play) and Tommy Bishop who Max knew from teachers college (was a seargent of police at Yass and was known to pull a few people up in the keyway). Others have also moved to the fuzz despite my denial.

Interesting aside is that Max also started the Rebels club (which later became Norths) consisting mainly of the Canberra High boys.  Max challenged ACT basketball in 1960 to allow his schoolboy team from Canberra High to enter A Grade, when they refused he re-entered as Rebels.  Their teams included some early legends like Rod Peters and Tony Worthy.  They later also entered a second team in A grade called Rebels Juniors.

Back to the Y, and I was fortunate to play on this team starting in late 64  or first comp 65 (mild fuzz) which include other Lyneham boys Rod Wulfe and Alex Vink. Tommy Bishop and the Mormon were still playing and Max had recruited Owen "Spider" Butler who was a sensational player, Gary Rippon from Goulburn and NSW open star guard Paul Brettel.  Owen left basketball and played 7 tests for Australia in Rugby Union, changing the nature of lineouts with his reach, jumping and great hands, once referred to as the first John Eales. The Y won an A Grade Championship in 67 (I think ??) beating a Rebels team that included '64 Olympic captain John Heard, Zed Horachec, Ian Ellis, Glenn Spooner, Bob Hobson, Dick (Dunns) Ryan and Neil Richardson.  Basketball changed pretty dramatically in 67 when ACT left NSW and became a seperate state.  Pete Higgisson and Eddie Palubinskas played in the first Under 18 ACT team in Australian Championships in 1967, coached by Paul Brettell.  Not sure we have had a better result since.

I think the Y changed in 70/71 when Bill Palmer took over and used the club to promote juniors he was coaching in the ACT under 18's.  This team was good especially when Bill played. The team included Lyneham boys Tommy Boyes, Johny Talikka, Gary Upton and the Manson twins (not sure these cats ever went to any school).  My knowledge about this is understandably fuzzy as I did not live in Canberra during this period.  I just remember when I returned to Canberra in 71/72 that I couldn't get a game with the Y 'cos it was full of juniors.  I think by then all the Y boys played for Dodgers run by Jeff Durrant and Bodge (Brian Franklin).

Sometime in 75/76 the ACTABA started to talk about a District Club structure which was ultimately implemented in 1977.  I accept the blame for this and hope that it may come back.  The City Y in 1974/75 had myself and Pete Higgisson and Col Alexander playing with a number of Queanbeyan recruits including Alex Lytwinski, Phil Summerville, Kenny Campbell, Johny Soustall and John Clowry.  I think Dave Richie played as well.  With the opening of the stadium at the end of 76/77 we became Bill Lilley's Canberra City.  Col Alexander organised the Bill Lilley sponsorship.  I can recall that we had by then adopted Belconnen High as a school and were developing juniors like Gascoigne and Scheetz.  With the intoduction of districts in 77/78 our area changed and Norths took over Canberra High at Macquarie.  Western Districts Club were talking about sponsorhip and an amalgamation with Belconnen Spartans was in the wind (don't remember the enthusiastic leader of this club but do remember the horrible orange uniforms).  In late 78 Jerry Lee and Bob Hobson joined us for ACT Championships and I think we won in 79 or 80.

 

Terry Ryan
October 2013

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