Dave Hardie’s Kialla den of legends

By John Lewis

Step into Dave Hardie's carport and suddenly you're in a vast archive of Shepparton's sporting history from the 1950s to the present. John Lewis spoke to the man who has a connection to all the legends and the photos to prove it.

At first, it’s all a bit overwhelming. Every wall of Dave Hardie’s carport is covered in photos, posters, framed awards, laminated news clippings and cartoons.

Each item has its own story from photos and articles on the life of Aboriginal sports legend Jimmy Murray, to a poster of 1950s VFL Geelong player Doug Palmer and on to photos of the founders of the Victorian Open Bowls Championship — still held in Shepparton.

It’s difficult to know where to start — but Dave dives in and singles out a framed photo of his wife Cynthia standing next to a well-known Australian sporting icon.

‘‘That’s Cynthia and Yvonne Goolagong (Crawley) — they’re related through Yvonne’s father. They’re second cousins I think,’’ Dave says.

Then it’s on to a photo of Australian Football Hall of Fame member and Collingwood legend Peter Daicos.

‘‘He’s married to my niece,’’ Dave says.

Then on to 1952 Geelong premiership player Doug Palmer.

‘‘He coached Lemnos to the 59-60 premiership. He lived two doors down from us and we became great mates. I won the 1982 summer fourball with him at Shepparton Golf Club,’’ Dave says.

Next it’s a framed coloured drawing of Shepparton-raised former West Coast Eagles star David Wirrpanda.

‘‘That would have to be my favourite piece — he’s a dead-set legend,’’ Dave says.

And so the tour continues and names are sprinkled like confetti at a sports bar wedding — North Melbourne’s Phil Krakouer, VFL Fitzroy legend Kevin Murray, St Kilda’s Jake Carlisle, 1950s North Melbourne star John Brady — each has a Dave Hardie connection and a story.

But perhaps the most remarkable story is Dave’s own.

At the age of 54, Dave suffered a heart attack and while he was recovering he discovered a secret that almost floored him a second time.

‘‘My doctor asked me to find out if I had any history of heart disease in my family. I didn’t know, so I phoned my sister,’’ he says.

His sister then delivered the bombshell news that Dave was adopted into the Hardie family as a baby shortly after his birth in 1939.

For more than 50 years he never knew who his birth parents were until his heart attack prompted the search in the 1990s.

Dave says he was helped in his quest by the then Mayor of Shepparton Bill Hunter.

‘‘He used the new Freedom of Information Act to find out,’’ he says.

Dave eventually found his birth father to be former World War II soldier Laurie Forrest who lived in Melbourne. His birth mother Mavis had died in 1955.

Dave’s rediscovery of his father Laurie revealed a whole series of remarkable connections.

Both were ardent Collingwood fans, both were keen billiard players and both have given many years of their lives to the community of sport and football in particular.

Laurie earned a Magpies life membership for his committee service. Dave is a life member of Lemnos Football Club and the club’s past players and officials association.

Today, Dave is a keen bowls player and is one of four Shepparton Park players credited with bringing the Victorian Bowls championships to Shepparton.

Other walls of his Kialla home have become a gallery for the work of his talented artist wife Cynthia who was a joint winner of the prestigious $20000 Indigenous Ceramic Art Award at the Shepparton Art Museum in 2016.

Dave’s carport gallery is a testament to his lifetime of sporting connections and commitments.

At 79 years of age he wonders what will happen to his collection of memories.

‘‘It’s all a part of our history — but I don’t know what my kids will do with it. I might have to have a big garage sale and what doesn’t sell goes to the Salvos,’’ he says.