A unique life member

 

by Andrew Weiss

In sporting clubs around Australia on honour boards within clubrooms there are names of people who have been given life membership at that particular sporting club. For some the achievement of becoming a life member may have been because of playing so many games at a particular level or playing for so many years. Others may have received life membership after countless hours of service as a trainer, a volunteer, as a committee member, or for running the canteen or bar year after year after year with the only reward being a thank you.

There is no doubt that those who become life members no matter what the sporting club is have a sense of pride that they have achieved something special and at the same time enabled their particular sporting club to continue when it is so hard to find committed volunteers and players.

Having said all this the story I am about to tell is about a life member of the Adelaide Lutheran Football club (who play in the Amateur league in Adelaide), who did not play a game of football, was not on a committee and wasn’t really a volunteer. It is a story about how a football team became a part of a person’s life and in this case, maybe even gave them some purpose in their life.

It was a cold wet afternoon back in early April 1991. An unusual way to start the footy season as previous years had seen the opening round of the Amateur league start in 35 degree heat rather than cold constant rain. The Adelaide Lutheran C grade team was playing the eastern suburb team of Burnside/ Kensington (the kangaroos) at the Lutherans home ground known as Doggie Park.

Now Doggie Park is located in the South Parklands just on the fringe of the city centre. On the eastern side of the ground was a lonely wooden park bench.  Every now and then the park bench would be occupied by someone who had with them a plastic shopping bag generally containing a couple of brown paper bags with long necks of the local ale inside. So when a gentleman arrived that afternoon and sat on the park bench with some refreshment in a plastic bag nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

The game between the Lutherans and kangaroos was a close contest, each team going goal for goal. There were a few spectators in the clubrooms, not even contemplating heading out into the elements, so support for either team was minimal at best.  That was until after the half time break.

When the Lutherans ran out of the comfort of a nice warm change room into pouring rain after the half time break there was this lone voice coming from the park bench on the eastern side of the ground

“C’mon you doggies”

“You can beat them”

“Go you doggies”

The support continued from the gentleman on the park bench right throughout the third quarter as the contest continued.

“Go get them Doggies, you can do it”

 

At the ¾ time break as the each team was getting their final instructions the gentleman from the park bench came out to the umpires in the middle of the ground and would not leave until someone told him the score. The umpire after hearing the support this gentleman had given during the third quarter asked some of the Adelaide Lutheran players to ask their supporter to please get off the ground. The problem was no one knew who this guy was.  It was the first time anyone had seen him. Eventually a few of the players told him what they thought the score was and he went back to the park bench continuing in a parochial voice to support the Doggies right until the final siren had blown.

The Doggies had lost by one point that day and trudge off the ground bitterly disappointed. Everyone likes to start the season off with a win. As tape was being pulled off and injuries were being assessed this voice could be heard

“Next week Doggies”

“Next week we’ll be winners”

Over a few beers the C-grade boys explained the events of the day the A and B grade players. A few laughs were had but no one that night would have ever predicted the relationship that would occur between the gentleman on the park bench and the Adelaide Lutheran Football club.

Tuesday night came around and the boys were getting ready to hit the training track. As we were doing our warm up laps the same gentleman appeared again. Right throughout training he would yell out support

“Go you Doggies”

“Great kick Doggies”

“Give it 110% Doggies”

Thursday night came and there he was on the park bench again, full of voice. Saturday when the A’s and B’s played at Doggie Park there he was full of encouragement, urging every Doggies player to give 110%. It was his support that eventually enabled us to learn his name when he would yell out during a game or at training.

“C’mon Doggies do it for Ian” pumping his fists and jumping up and down.

As the 1991 season progressed there was Ian every Tuesday and Thursday night on that park bench supporting us from when training started until when we hoped in our cars to go home. Saturdays he would be there from the first bounce until that final siren blew no matter whether it was bright sunshine or pouring rain. Ian was even getting to know our names and nicknames and would use them as he supported us

“Tackle him Braddles”

“Get a goal Weissy”

“Great mark Friebs”

“Love ya Doggies”

Twenty years on and most Saturdays when the Doggies are playing at Doggie Park Ian will still be out there supporting like there is no tomorrow. As the years passed after that first eventful game, Ian would leave the safety of that park bench and come into the change rooms or clubrooms after the game and give the players and coaches’ support, talk to us about the game we had played and even every now and then given us some hearty advice. After a win he would join us in the circle on the oval or in the change rooms and help belt out the team song with this huge smile on his face enjoying every poorly sung word. As far as Ian was concerned he was part of the team and part of the club.

Whenever new players and coaches came to the club and they first saw and heard Ian, the older players would explain that Ian was our No 1 supporter and eventually they would be introduced to Ian. Ian even asked whether he could help out at the club in some way and so for a number of years he would man the scoreboard which would be placed right next to that park bench that was now his own. Even members of the opposition team would be intrigued about who this guy was that passionately supported the team.

I still remember sitting with Ian one Saturday night after a game trying to find out a bit more about his life. He did not want to divulge too much (which I respected) but it was very obvious that as far as he was concerned the Adelaide Lutheran Football Club gave him a purpose in life and for him the football club was like his family. It was a place he felt welcome at, a place he felt a part of.

In 2009 after some discussion it was decided that Ian would be given life membership at the Adelaide Lutheran Football club for great support to the club over many years. His name sits proudly amongst club legends, 300 game players and those who provided great service to the club. I guess in his own unique way Ian is a club legend.

I am not sure how much longer Ian will be sitting on that park bench, but what I do know is that his name will forever be on that honour board and when people ask me who Ian was I’ll tell them the story and probably here Ian’s voice in my head

“Go you Doggies, give it 110%”

 

 

 

 

 

About Andrew Weiss

Andrew is one of the few Brisbane Lions supporters that lives in the Adelaide Hills. He still has bragging rights over any Crows or Port supporter by mentioning the back to back to back premierships the Lions achieved in 2001-2003. After playing for over a decade for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football Club better known as 'The Doggies' he now spends his Saturdays running around footy ovals as an umpire, getting abuse no matter what decision is made. Coaching is probably next on the agenda as his two sons have started to play the great game of AFL. Andrew is a sports fanatic who when not watching or reading about sport is teaching secondary students about Biology, Nutrition and Psychology.

Comments

  1. Great story. I used to umpire in the EFL and my first game was at Mooroolbark and there were 2 middle aged women who barracked in the same way as Ian. It was several years later until I returned to a Moorolbark home game and there they were up in the same place on the hill overlooking the wing saying the same phrases as years before. Sporting clubs are such an intricate part of many Australians’ lives.

  2. John Harms says:

    What a ripper life member.

    Tis a wonderful thing, the Adelaide Lutheran Football Club, full of empathetic blokes who no doubt see a bit of themselves in old Ian.

  3. Thanks for a great story, Andrew. As Noel points out, there are “Ian”s at suburban sports grounds all over. It was great that the Adelaide Lutheran Footy Club officially recognised Ian’s largely indefinable, yet still significant, contribution.

  4. Thanks Andrew, sitting here at work with a lump in my throat at the end of your piece. Beautifully written, evocative, got the images clear in my mind from your descriptions.

    Reminds me of the book by Ashley Mallet about Nugget at the Adelaide Oval.

    Sean

  5. brother david says:

    Great piece Weissy. No doubt you would also recall his late wife who supported her husband as he supported the club In the early days. It is great that the club gave him life membership.

  6. Thanks for sharing Weissy.
    It people like this, the unsung heros of our sporting clubs around the country that show us the true meaning of a TEAM & Sports

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