As many of you know I am working on a book – a sort of oral history if footy, based on interviews with former players.
Anyone keen to get into the head of the legend of your choice? Learn all the little stuff, that won’t make print, the personal stories, as well as their takes on the legend?
You could listen to John Kennedy Sr. do Winston Churchill impersonations. Bobby Skilton talk about the importance of pride. Ron Barassi debunk some Collingwood vs Melbourne myths, Tommy Hafey talk them up. Put your ear to what some Doggie players from the 50s thought. Spend an arvo with Vinnie Catoggio. Have the sheer joy of listening to Kenny Hunter, Simon Madden, Johnny Platten, Schimma. Have two meetings with one of the most genuine people you will EVER meet in your life, the Great Robbie Flower. Have two long talks with the inspirational Dale Weightman in the Richmond offices. Hear what Benny Gale has to say on, well, everything. Listen to Mark Yeates and I, over three meetings, slowly get drunk. Hear the clatter of a Sydney Opera House café as Leo Barry relives that mark, and its aftermath.
Then there are the not as famous players. Brian Brushfeild was a corker! A humble man with a great story to tell. Dennis Munari was one of the best blokes I’ve met. His insights into Carlton, over café noise, were brilliant. Ray Wilson, hero of the Hawthorn 71 flag was one of the best storytellers I’ve come across. Smart, passionate, funny. Lazar Vidovic, Andy Goodwin and Greg Burns were all too tough to give a damn about reputations. They called it all as they saw it. Champions. I honestly hope I see those blokes again! Same with Rene Kink!
Both times I met Blighty, he was Blighty!
Young Phil Davis from the Giants was a modern Captain. Not just a good player, a true ambassador, a gentleman. It was a genuine privilege to meet him.
Barry Capuano, Ross Henshaw, Ken Frazer, Stewie Loewe, Bob Murphy, players from the 40s, like Billy Williams – last surviving member of the 1945 Swans Bloodbath Grand Final. Everybody from Paul Roos to Francis Bourke.
You see, I need help.
My book, the Oral History of AFL/VFL football will, when done, have over 220 of the games greatest players in it, talking about their first taste of footy – Kevin Murray used to organise the local gangs to play in the back lanes, Kevin Rose used to imagine the hiss of the Eucalyps was the crowd’s roar, Gavin Wanganeen knew, with a steely glare, from the first game of SAFL footy he ever saw on a telly he wanted to be not just good, but Great! Tony Shaw was fitter than most because his family was poor and he had to run to wherever he wanted to go. Every story from their junior to AFL/VFL days and many beyond.
The players often talk about their lives. The importance of family. Hopes and dreams. Each chat, or interview, is, on average, 2.5 hours long. I just can’t transcribe them all. If any of you can type, and want to help me out, even with one or two, to be a part of footy history process, I would be over the moon! Ask for a player of your club’s colours. Learn and be amazed while helping a fellow Knacker out.
This book is being made out of love of the game and respect for all those who played it. Some players have asked that they see the transcript before I publish any of it. I will be doing those myself. Similarly, many have told me things off the record, that will 100% stay Off The Record. My eyes only. Beyond that, to have all this greatness swirling about you is nothing short of brilliant!
Not everything will fit in the book. There are amazing small bits in these conversations, like Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neil telling me how after the ’65 GF defeat, St Kilda’s coach Yabbie Jeans was a bit unsure of how to take the next step, so he rang Melbourne legend, Norm Smith for advice. Norm put him onto his brother, Len, who (who Barassi later based his coaching on), and Len wrote up some tips and footy guide-lines, and, more so, five pages on the importance of confidence in individuals and teams, that Cowboy believes, next year, in ’66, got the Saints over the line by a point. Or learn what it takes to make Don Scott your mate – just take big Carl out! Or of how one act from a cunning full-back in a Semi-Final afforded Hawthorne their first flag. Or how Essendon great, Huey Mitchell was so determined to be fit, he found out where Kennedy’s commando course was, and would jump the fence and do it on his own.
This book has the potential to be one of the greats on our game! I’m transcribing like mad, while about to take a full tilt at the interstate clubs. I already have a few players from each, plus about 12-20 players from all the Vic clubs, Brisbane and Sydney so far. Trust me, the insights are amazing! Get into the head of one or two of these legends for a few hours.
Please, help a Knacker out?