At the Bar with the Pres – Stuart “Marv” Craven

Stuart “Marv” Craven

Stuart “Marv” Craven joined Power House in 1996 and played 111 games in 6 seasons.

He won 2 Senior Best and Fairest awards (2000/01), was Senior Captain from 1998 to 2001 and was Captain of the 2000 Premiership Team.

He won the goal kicking at Power House 5 times and the competition goal kicking three times. The VAFA D3 League Goal Kicking Award was named in his honour.

The ultimate leader and key target, at times the game revolved around him.

Marv sat down with Pav to talk about his time at the Club

Pav: Marv, You finished your playing career on a high in 2001 captaining the Club and winning your second Best and Fairest award. You seemed on top of your game at the time. Why did you go? Where did you go?

Craven: I don’t know about it being that much of a high – we went winless that season! My reasons for leaving were life related, certainly not football related. I had just got married to the lovely Kaz & we’d decided that since our nightclubbing days were behind us we might head down the coast & enjoy a quieter lifestyle. We chose Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula, the perfect place to raise a family.

Pav: You came down in 1996. I remember your first training session on an oval somewhere in Princess Park Carlton. Peter Olivieri had just been appointed coach. You signed the paperwork that night?

Craven: (I think Cheery had been there a year or 2 already) I don’t remember exactly but that sounds about right. It was definitely Princess Park as we had been kicked off the Ross Gregory for the Grand Prix.

Pav: So why Power House? How did you land at the Ross Gregory?

Craven: The Great Anton Staindl lured me & the legendary ‘John McGrath from the footy club’ to the House. We were good mates & had been since high school. We’d been living in Melbourne for a while but still playing footy in Warragul & had had enough of the travelling. Anton spoke very highly of the social atmosphere at Powerhouse so we couldn’t get there fast enough.

When I arrived in 1996 to join the great Anton Staindl, my good friend John McGrath and I had to sit out the first couple of games due to clearance issues & struggled to come to terms with the no drinking during the senior game rule.

We were playing at Yarra Park just near the MCG & the Tennis Centre at the time due to the Ross Gregory being used for the Grand Prix. I remember me & Macca turning up carrying Myer bags so we looked like we were just stopping off on our way home from shopping. The reality was that the bags were full of VB cans & ice. Worked like a charm!

Pav: You mentioned Yarra Park…we were there for only a couple of seasons while the Grand Prix track was being built. It was a big ground to play on. What can you remember?

Craven: I loved playing at Yarra Park, the MCG crowd would roll in & have a look at us on the way through, Thursday nights we’d be trapped having drinks in the rooms waiting for a Neil Diamond concert or something to finish, & you could catch public transport so .05 wasn’t an issue. Training was always a social occasion, never leaving the rooms til after midnight. After a short amount of time it really did feel like home at Powerhouse & that’s pretty much how I felt until I left at the end of 2001.

Pav: What did you think of the move back home to the Ross Gregory?

Craven: The Ross Gregory at Albert Park which was quite a different venue but just as enjoyable. Socially it was quite an extraordinary time with every function an event. Gambling Nights, Karaoke, Mystery Bus Tours, Talent Nights, Trivia Nights, Balls, Parties, After Parties, Sunday Sessions life was pretty much one big party! We played some really good footy too.

Pav: Ahh…The football…I knew we would eventually get there…You had to wait a while but do you remember your first game?

Craven: The first game I played was against traditional rivals Peninsula & they beat us by 30 goals. I started to wonder what I had got myself into. After 5 rounds we had played a traditional rival every week, I realised that we hated everyone!

Pav: You played under 3 coaches, the fiery Peter Olivieri, the intense Kevin Barnes and the laid back Peter O’Connor. How do you rate them?

Craven: They were all excellent coaches but could not have been any more different. Cheery Oliveri was all fire & brimstone & could really get your heart pumping with a big half time address. I saw him smash mirrors, kick buckets of water flying, one halftime speech he gave the umpire a huge bake calling him every name under the sun, problem was the ump was standing right behind him waiting to get past! Cheery only had about 3 sayings he just used them over & over – If I hear the one about the good horse one more time!

Kev was brilliant & I’m sure that’s not a word that is often used to describe him but he is my favourite coach of all time. He really understood the players, had a few simple key rules & just drummed them into us. There were a few blokes in that team who needed it kept real simple so Kev would have a meeting on the ground before each game with the playing group & he would have messages written on big bits of butcher’s paper. Problem was Kev was a lousy speller. One day he got to the end of his address, turned over the last piece of paper & in huge writing it said “BELIEVE IN YOURSELFS!” Pure Gold!

Pearl O’Connor was just a sensational bloke – maybe too nice. It’s a bit hard to rate him as we only had the one year together & didn’t win a game. That may have been my fault. I made a deal with God during the 3rd quarter of the 2000 GF – Let me win this one & I don’t care if I never win another game. Well, a deals a deal & I wouldn’t change a thing!

Pav: When you arrived, a quiet young wingman by the name of Francis Doyle was Club Captain. You shortly moved him on and assumed the mantle yourself. Leadership is sometimes overrated but you became a great on and off field leader. Did you enjoy it and did you understand the impact you had on the club?

Craven: Well I didn’t think it was fair that someone who struggled so much with the basic skill of kicking a drop punt should also be burdened with the pressure of captaincy, so with Frankies blessing he handed me the captaincy at the start of 1998. I absolutely loved being captain & it certainly made me a better player. It wasn’t a tough job in any way, I had a great bunch of players working with me & we all played really hard on & off the field & seriously we could not have had more fun if we tried.

Pav: What about Craig “Scamp” MacFarlane. You were polar opposites in personalities but he quickly became one of your best mates. Tell me a little about your time at the club when Scamp was President.

Craven: I’m kind of glad to hear you say that me & Scamp are polar opposites because he is one weird little dude. Seriously have you seen the way he always folds his hanky? Did you know he’s scared of elevators? And how tight is he? We were out for dinner the other night & he brought a bottle of wine – with two glasses out of it! Unbelievable! But somehow through all that he is a fantastic bloke & still remains one of my great mates. The highlight of his presidency would have to be the night he’d had a few too many & fell asleep on a table in the clubrooms – it was about 8.30! So we tied him to the table with a heap of streamers, then decorated him with a stack of balloons, picked him up table & all & carried him to the middle of the ground. We then turned all the lights & sprinklers on & stood on the balcony & waited for him to wake up. Priceless!

Pav: You also did alright with a microphone in your hand. Your legendary sessions at the Arcadia Hotel and as lead singer of the Piranha’s Band. Still love to belt out a tune?

Craven: Unfortunately yes I do. It’s a strange condition I suffer from which, after a couple of beers,  I can’t control. I know full well I’m not very good but I just can’t help myself…”Pleased to meet you…won’t you guess my name…Woo hoo…”

Pav: The club spent a fortune on sports tape while you were there. At times you looked like an Egyptian Mummy all bandaged up. Talk us through the injuries and challenges playing each week.

Craven: Ha ha. Yes it was a bit of a battle, probably looked worse than it was though. I was a big believer in prevention so if it was sore I’d just strap the hell out of it. My ankles were the first to go & I simply couldn’t play without strapping them, my knees were both shot by the time I got to the ‘House so I wore braces to keep them warm – got me through til mid 2003 when the left one went completely. I popped my shoulder out in a game in ’99 so strapped that from then on, my fingers were broken & bent so I’d tape them up to keep them straight mainly. It was pretty sad really but I just loved playing so I did what I had to do – it worked too –  I only missed one game in six years & that was for a wedding!

Pav: Is there a single most satisfying moment in your time at the club?

Craven: The 3 victories at Trivia nights were special, winning first place at the Talent Night was big, having my own pewter mug behind the bar at the Arcadia was a real honour, but without question winning the 2000 Premiership was as good as it gets. It was the only flag I ever won, I got to share it with some of the best mates you could ever wish for & to top it off I was the captain. In my first year (1996) we lost the GF after being in a pretty good position (who’s on Hazell!!) so that burned for four years & to get redemption was important. Not only is that easily my most satisfying moment at the club it is one of the best moments of my life.

Pav: In 1996, the team played in the Grand Final. What do you remember?

Craven: In 1996 we should have won the flag with great players like Freddy Phelan, Flash, Rod Devlin, Tim Friend, Fish Clayton, Little Robbo, Richo & Jimmy Hall just to name a few. After losing by 30 goals in my first game we turned the tables on Peninsula in the Semi in one of the best wins of my career to progress straight to the Granny. No. 1 ruckman Rod Devlin did his knee in the last home & away game, so we went into the Grand Final with No. 2 ruckman Doc Morris who broke his ribs in the first quarter of the Grand Final leaving Flash to do the ruckwork. We started like a house on fire & were 5 goals up just before ¾ time.

Flash ran out of puff & I ended up in the ruck & our opponents, Salesian, got on a massive roll & finished all over the top of us. Mick Hazell from Salesian was best on ground & played so well he got drafted to Collingwood! That loss seriously hurt but at the time I thought we’d just get it back next year.

Things didn’t work out that way & our form dropped off a fair bit in 1997. We still had some pretty good players but Freddy’s strings kept twanging & we really missed Tiger Devlin & I think we got bundled out of the finals in week one by our old nemesis Peninsula.

Pav: 1998 was the beginning of the build up to the flag in 2000?

Craven: I’m not sure it was a “build up” but you’re asking the questions! In 1998 we were middle of the road, Southbank had been relegated to our division & they were big & tough & good! I got flattened behind the play at one stage & the guy who did it was standing over me going “You’re not so tough now are you big guy?” & all I could think was “I never said I was tough, this guy’s got me confused with someone else!”

Pav: Probably Richo?

Craven: Yes probably… he seemed to get belted every week!…Stop interrupting me…

Anyway, as I was saying…in one legendary game we really stunk it up & got beaten by St. Mary’s who were not a particularly good team. Doc got sent off & completely lost his marbles – it was quite surreal watching your gun CHB driving out of the ground half way through the third quarter! After the game it was decided that we needed a team meeting during which the aptly named ‘Piggy’ Jackson uttered the immortal words “Who the f@*k is Anton?!?” It was Round 8 & Anton had been called up to the Seniors & Piggy had never laid eyes on him before – fair to say Anton was not the most enthusiastic trainer! It was Cheery Oliveri’s last year & he had lost the players a bit so it was certainly time for a change.

Pav: So it’s 1999 and in walks Kevin Barnes and his “Bible”

Craven: The arrival of Kevin Barnes changed the team. He was a no-nonsense guy with a simple method of coaching that suited us to a tee. He also introduced a level of professionalism we hadn’t seen before. After one particular incident involving Rod Devlin he banned drinking before training – unheard of! We also welcomed some pretty handy recruits, ‘Sticks’ Harris in the ruck, the Burt boys, Bandit, Lloydy, Rolls & Smithers. We had started to form the nucleus of a good side but still had a way to go & just missed out on playing finals. The Bible was legendary!

Pav: So…2000?

Craven: The following year in 2000 things really started coming together. We picked up some more quality recruits in Ben Rampling from Barooga, Blair Turner from Tasmania & a freakish goal kicker named Darren Searle. Searley was one of those really unattractive footballers – long sleeves, socks down, baggy shorts. I don’t think he ever took an overhead mark but he just kept kicking goals – around the corner, over his head, off the ground, it didn’t matter!

I’d had a poor year in 1999 so I lost a heap of weight & got a bit fitter & moved out to CHF & we had the luxury of Lloydy in a pocket & little Robbo on a flank & all of a sudden we had some serious firepower. But it was down back that we had a real edge – Junior, Doc, Frankie, Blair, Wrighty & Smithers – unbeatable! So the pieces of the puzzle had all fallen into place & we played off in the Grand Final against Williamstown.

Pav: The 2000 Grand Final…now that was a day to remember!

Craven: Williamstown had a star full-forward called Dumbo Williams who won the league medal & kicked 126 goals but we had Doc Morris who simply toweled him up every time we played them. It was the same story in the GF & with Rolls dominating the clearances, Lloydy wreaking havoc up forward & Little Robbo playing the game of his life, the dream had become a reality – Powerhouse were premiers!

Pav: Were you emotional? Did you cry?

Craven: I was certainly emotional, but I didn’t cry. I actually went into the game quietly confident that we’d win & the match played out pretty much how I thought it would. There’s an old saying “Forwards win you games but backmen win you premierships” & our backline was unbelievable. After the game it was just pure joy, to share that experience with some truly great mates was very special. One lasting memory is standing in the showers with Lloydy & Smithers, having a beer & singing a beautiful operatic version of our epic theme song. It really was euphoric.

Pav: What does the club mean to you?

Craven: Powerhouse is such a unique place, I guarantee there is not another club like it anywhere. I have played at a few clubs & never enjoyed my footy like I did at the ‘House. I think it comes from how it attracts it’s players. There’s no attachment to a school or suburb it’s just mates of mates & that pretty much ensure that only good people end up there. Weird, wonderful & from all walks of life but on the whole, genuine, generous & down to earth. Work hard, train hard, play hard & party hard – a truly unique organisation that I love dearly.

Pav: You rank highly as one of the great clubmen of Power House. Who did you rate as a great clubman?

Craven: Well there are so many & there’s no chance I’ll single out just one. I loved the old boys Harry South & Hutchy, & Jeffy Scotland was a huge presence when I first arrived. ‘Doc’ Morris gave extraordinary service over a long time, Richo did his best work after I left I think – he was more of a nuisance while I was there,  but without doubt in my time it was Crossy & Scamp. Those two worked tirelessly (well Scamp used to get a bit tired sometimes!) & oversaw a great culture at the club which enabled us to achieve success. I have never seen committeeman play such a part in a premiership as those two did in 2000.

Pav: Your mate Craig Richardson said that midfielders made forwards…any thoughts on Richo?

Craven: Richo was a legend, if I could play football alongside him every day I would be happy. Of course he could really play but it was the joking & sledging & carrying on that made it so enjoyable. Was he fat or barrel-chested? I’m not sure. We swapped roles one day, I played on-ball & he played full forward. Would have worked too but he kicked 1.5 & then went off with a busted nose. Why did people always punch him in the nose?

Pav: What about other midfielders…who did you rate?

Craven: The angry ant Jimmy Hall was a ripper, used to brag about being a trained assassin until I bloodied his nose at the Arc one night. Andrew Rolls was a star, very underrated but invaluable in the clinches – I think he had 18 handballs in the GF. Ben Rampling was all class but the best I saw at the ‘House was Darren ‘Bandit’ Cross. Only played one year, romped home in the B&F, & could seriously do it all, beautifull singing voice too!

Pav: Do you still manage to catch up with your old Power House mates?

Craven: Yes I do quite regularly. I make sure I get down to at least one game a year, usually a past players lunch & catch up with Scotty, Doc, Frankie, Junior, Big & Little Robbo, Smithers, Freddy, Warde, Nugget, Jimmy, Gary Dean etc. Of course I see Lloydy way too much, I still lock horns regularly with Dave & Anton, I’m always in contact with Crossy & Scamp & once a year we have a weekend with Kev Barnes down at Sandy Point which is great. There is no doubt that the friends I made in my time at Powerhouse will be friends for life.

I was amazingly lucky in my six years at Powerhouse to enjoy on field success but it was the pure enjoyment of playing alongside some extraordinary teammates that gave me the greatest pleasure. Freddy Phelan, Flash McCoullough, Jeff Scotland, Richo, Fishy Clayton, Bandit Cross, Shane Cross, Andrew Rolls, Lloydy, Smithers, Johnny Junior, Rod Devlin, Little Robbo, Doc Morris, Frankie Doyle, Ben Rampling, Darren Wright, Jimmy Hall, Searley, Scamp, Swampy Maddox, Mark Braini (remember the talent night where he was lead singer of the Supremes & a bit of his anatomy popped out the leg of his leotard?) Warde Elliot, Anton, Jamo, Nugget, Johnny Hearn & The Danskas – those great guys from Denmark. It was a very special time for me & both on & off the field those blokes were just legends.

Pav: Lastly, any advice for the current group of Power House players?

Craven: My advice would be very simple – give it all you’ve got. You play football for 2 reasons, to test yourself & to have fun & if you don’t give it everything you are pretty much wasting your time. Get involved on & off the field, be a leader, get your mates involved, get your partner involved & experience everything that Powerhouse has to offer. It’s a wonderful, unique club & without doubt the more you put in, the more you will get out.

Pav: Thanks Marv, always a pleasure to catch up and relive the past with one of the all-time good guys at Power House. Expect to see you down at the club this season at the past players reunion…and this time you need to drag Scamp along to pay for a drink or two!

Craven: Ha Ha – I wouldn’t hold your breath! As always I will be looking forward to it. Thanks Pav & good luck to everyone at the ‘House in 2016.