2023 Queensland Football Hall of Fame – Garry Toye

Garry Toye had a fantastic three-month ‘honeymoon’ at Windy Hill over the summer of 1977. Accommodation, meals and a part-time job were included, and he even took his wife Heather. But sadly, it didn’t end well.

It was a football ‘honeymoon’ if there is such a thing. An invitation for a 20-year-old centreman from Wilston-Grange to trial for a contract with then VFL club Essendon. For three months he trained under coach Bill Stephen with a Bombers side that had finished 10th in 1976 alongside the likes of Ken Fletcher, Graham Moss, Ron Andrews, and Simon Madden.

Not long married in real life to Heather, his wife of now 46 years, Toye had dragged her along too. “It was great. They put us up in a motel for three months, we signed for all our meals, and generally had a great time. It was so much bigger and more intense than anything I’d experienced but we loved it,” he recalled.

The then 20-year-old Toye was part of a three-way battle with two Tasmanians for two interstate recruiting positions. He played three practice matches for two vivid memories.

One was when he was ko’d in front of the members’ stand and woke up to smelling salts and the unforgettable sight of ‘Rugged Ronnie Andrews’ having ‘some poor bloke in a fearsome headlock while he punched the living daylights out of him’. The second was against Footscray at Whitten Oval, when he was voted third-best for the Bombers, and given the flick.

“I was spitting chips at the time, so we packed up the van and drove 18 hours straight back to Brisbane. But really it was a great experience. It didn’t work out, so it didn’t work out. I’d lost nothing and was back home with family and friends and my footy club. No regrets – none at all.”

That is Garry Toye. A good person, a good friend, and a very good footballer. Born and bred in Brisbane to Don and Lil Toye, the only boy in a family of six children, he learned the game at the Golden Valley juniors at Mitchelton.

It was a new club. Don, an army man who later became a Grange stalwart and long-serving team manager, had helped to form it after his boss, lamenting the absence of any Australian rules football in the area, had suggested it was a good idea. So, in 1964 aged seven he was a first-time Falcon.

He played there until Under 17s when he ran out of teams. On the advice of Clive Dunstan, a long-time Grange man who later was president of the QAFL, he joined the Gorillas. He won a Colts premiership in 1974, split his time between the Colts and the seniors in 1975 and from 1976-86 was a fixture playing every week in the centre.

In his only senior grand final, Grange finished second to Wests at the Gabba – a bit like the Essendon experience – but as much as it stung at the time the man they called ‘Dinky’ was happy just playing football in Queensland.

He played 208 senior games, was runner-up in the club best and fairest in 1980, won it in 1982, and was regularly in the top five. In 1983 was equal fourth in the 1983 Grogan Medal behind joint winners Bill Peirce (Sherwood) and Peter Guy (Southport) and third-placed Marc Housley (Kedron), equal with Kevin Brooks (Kedron). That was after Zane Taylor (Southport) finished equal with Peirce and Guy but was ineligible due to suspension.

Into his mid-30’s the silky-skilled centreman had long, flowing brown hair. If you didn’t know him back then, it might be hard to look at his ‘shiny bowling ball head’ today and connect him to long, flowing locks. “And you wouldn’t believe it. My wife was a hairdresser!” he joked.

Why Dinky? It was the work of ex-teammate John Lansdown after he’d seen ‘dinky toys’ in a local shopping centre. In the summer he’d sometimes get ‘Tonka’ – the bigger version of a dinky toy – although these days he’s pretty much ‘GT’.

Toye also played a lot of State football – Under 19s in 1975 and seniors from 1977. How many games? “We played three games a year for four or five years so maybe 12 or 15 games, give or take a couple,” he said.

Light on detail, and still trying to find time to sort out the ‘man cave’ that holds the football memorabilia which could provide the answer, he’s very definite about one thing – he “absolute loved” State footy.

There’s no doubt, too, he’s loved his time post-playing days at Aspley, where since 2010 he has been an assistant coach or has assisted the coaching staff. His vast football knowledge and engaging personality has made him a much-loved figure at the Hornets, who have won two flags in that time in 2014 (NEAFL) and 2022 (QAFL) and have their eyes firmly on a possible third flag this year.

He always was and still is an active member of an always tight and busy past-players group at Grange. He plays golf regularly with ex-teammates Barry Clarke, Peter Long, Syd Guildford and Tony Duncan, and this year travelled with them and the likes of David Craig, Robin Bizzell and Ken Hack, among others, on a FROG’s Golf Trip to Yarrawonga – Frustrated Really Old Golfers!

Father to son Reece (34) and daughter Rani (36) and grandfather to ‘three nearly four’, Toye was a Telecom/Telstra worker for 25 years and later a sub-contractor doing the same job. He’s lived for 35 years at Burpengary and coached his son through his junior days with the Caboolture Lions.

When Reece showed more than a little promise at 12, he took him first to Aspley juniors, where he played for five years, then to Zillmere, where he played under Murray Davis, now an assistant coach at the Lions, and later returned to Aspley in 2009, where he was coached by Russell Evans, John Blair and now Daniel Webster.

A State senior representative, Reece chalked up 200 games with Aspley in 2022 to complete a rare father/son double and was a premiership player with the Hornets in the same year. “Something his old man could never do!” Garry said.

Maybe not, but there is no denying the old Grange #12 was a serious talent. So much so that according to Grange historian Trevor Moore if Don and Lil Toy had had five sons and one daughter the club would probably have won another three flags!


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