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Kelvin takes a back seat to Sam

Football family: Henry Walsh (left), the 203cm younger brother of Carlton star Sam Walsh, with Tongala goalsneak Mackenzie Cowley. The pair played against one another in a Geelong versus Richmond development match. Henry will help to launch the Tongala pub on July 3, owned and operated by Mackenzie’s grandparents — Kelvin and Sue Walsh.

Kelvin Walsh will have to settle for being the second most famous member of his family in Tongala when he officially re-opens the town’s favourite watering hole next week — as his AFL superstar great nephew, Sam Walsh, is certain to steal a lion’s share of the limelight.

While already widely known in the region, Kelvin thrust himself into the spotlight when he made the announcement he, and wife Sue, would be re-opening the Tongala pub after an almost four-month long closure in December last year.

Sam Walsh, the Carlton running machine, will be one of several special guests at the Sunday, July 3 celebration — being ferried to town by his father, Wayne, who grew up in Cobden with Kelvin and a plethora of talented sporting relations.

Great uncle Kelvin, and his wife Sue, officially took possession of the hotel freehold this week — despite having operated the hotel since late March.

They decided to open the pub before the sale was finalised to satisfy a significant void in the community and people have voted with their feet.

“For the last couple of Fridays we have had to open the back room to fit them all in,” he said, of the pub’s extendable dining room.

The grand opening, while some time in the making, is expected to attract a large contingent of patrons — and Carlton supporters — given the presence of Walsh and a couple of his teammates, among them another of the Blues in-form midfielders Matthew Kennedy.

There is a healthy contingent of Carlton supporters in Tongala as the football club aligns itself heavily with the AFL Blues, sharing the same theme song and prior to joining the Murray league wearing the navy blue jumper.

As for Sam’s great uncle Kelvin, he follows Melbourne and won’t be seeking any autographs from his guests.

The pub’s activity has progressively increased since its re-opening, after the devastating Christmas Eve shutdown of the historic watering hole.

Kelvin said the meals had been a key to the successful re-opening of the business, with the kitchen operating from Wednesday until Sunday — the Sabbath being pizza night.

The new hoteliers have the open fire place operational in the dining room and are offering a coffee service during the day and hot soup.

Chef Greg Higgins, easily identified through his strong Texan accent, is playing a lead role in the success of the re-launched hotel. He leads a team which includes barman Jack Hammond, Sarah Lloyd, Charlie Ohara, Harley Adams, Anthony Smith, Darcy Maloney, Abby Waasdorp and Sam Pearson (chef).

Raffles are back on a Friday evening, attracting plenty of attention from the 79 members of the footy tipping competition — which Sue got up and running prior to the doors of the pub re-opening.

The raffles have grown consistently in recent weeks to the point where Kelvin is now able to put some funds aside to be spread among Tongala’s junior sporting organisations.

“Sue put the footy tipping in place before we’d even opened the doors,” Kelvin said.

There is also great excitement about the return of the TAB facility at the hotel, which is expected before the Spring Carnival this year.

Sam Walsh, and his Carlton teammates, may not be the only special guest at the event.

Team Tongala: Tongala pub’s hospitality crew includes Darcy Maloney, Harley Adams, Sarah Lloyd, Charlie Ohara, Jack Hammond, Sam Pearson, Anthony Smith and Abby Waasdorp.

Horse trainer Andrew Noblet, who Kelvin and Sue have had a long association with through thoroughbred racing, has a close connection to Channel 7 identity and the focus of award winning Ride Like a Girl Michelle Payne.

“We haven’t confirmed whether she can attend yet, but we are hopeful,” he said.

As for the Carlton players, they will be at the hotel from 1.30pm to 3pm.

“We almost had Billy Brownless, but he had a previous appointment,” Kelvin said.

There will be musical entertainment and family events on the day.

Mackenzie was playing in a Richmond development squad and Henry was in the Geelong team.