Football Islands

My ears are more alert than my eyes. I hear the song before I see anything.

Meet me down by the jetty landing
Where the pontoons bump and sway
I see the others reading, standing
As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay

Reckless by Australian Crawl takes me back. With a funereal bass line, and a snare drum like gunshot, it’s prominent in the soundtrack to my last year at school. This was also the year I broke my arm playing junior football for Kapunda. June and my season, wrecked.

A fortnight later my arm was to be re-broken, as the locum had not aligned it. Six more weeks in a cast! So with Mum watching I was on a hospital bed as the resident doctor loomed and mumbled.

“Ouch! It’s hurting!” I sensed the subterranean crunching.
Doc was an absorbed professional. “Be quiet please!”
I was in distress. “ No, it’s really hurting!” Not just Masters bakery is out of sausage rolls distress. Or even Skyhooks split distress.

Minutes later the doctor squinted at the drip. He realised. His tone transformed. “Oh! I’m so sorry. I’m very sorry!” There he was, fracturing my arm enthusiastically, but, somehow, having neglected to turn on the anaesthetic. After, the local veterinarian gave me artificial insemination gloves to slide over my cast when showering. Pleasingly, for the district’s young and old bulls and me, these were not pre-loved.

We’re at the Australian School in Singapore. It’s Auskick registration on Australia Day. With blonde mops, the boys now merge. Unlike much of Asia, no one here takes their photo. Ninety-five inches of rain annually means there’s artificial turf. However, they’ll be in the cavernous gym. No footy boots. Not yet.

The covers band chugs along. Reckless runs into Flame Trees. More country town wistfulness. Bouncy castles. Bins bulging with ice and drinks. BBQs and stalls. Barefoot blokes, clutching lagers, kick to kick. They spill nothing. They could be Geelong backmen. We rush the Singapore Sharks footy tent.

An official measures them. The Sharks jumpers are green and gold. The major sponsor is a Boat Quay restaurant and bar. Our coach anticipates. “Who do the boys support?”
“Adelaide Crows.”
“I reckon I’ve got a Tex Walker left.”
And so Alex is to begin his career as number 13. Could be worse. Shane Ellen kicked five in the ’97 grand final wearing 13. We like Tex, but I can’t envisage our first born cultivating a Broken Hill mullet.
“Number 8 for the little fella?”
“Sounds good.” Nathan Bassett is Adelaide’s best number 8. The boys’ mother’s favourite too. Dependable. Left arm like a telescope, and an under-age kicking style. Welcome aboard, Max.

A bouncy castle seduces us like sirens, both footy ground and Greek mythological. I think ahead. What do we want for our fledgling footballers? A thirst for sport and endeavour. Skills, but also camaraderie and community. And ultimately, social and personal responsibility.

As Malcolm Blight maintains, football is difficult. You wait for your turn in a handball drill. It devours your boyish patience. Mostly, you don’t have possession. You watch the ball up the other end. Zinging anticipation. And then- it’s coming your way! Make a decision. Quick. Do something! But there’s fun too.

This, an ex-pat isle of footy, is itself on an island. The Singapore Sharks is new, whilst I began at Kapunda. Launched in 1866 at the North Kapunda hotel, it’s among the world’s oldest football clubs, in any code, operating under its original name. Magnificently, its website is

http://www.bombers.com.au/

My home club owns this, and Essendon’s behemoth doesn’t. I imagine Kapunda as a brittle island up against the seismic bullying of the AFL. I imagine Demetriou ringing the club president, and in a loutish, aborted monologue, trying to acquire it.

Mini-League was my Auskick. Wednesday training at Dutton Park. Former stationmaster Bruce Dermody was our coach. He was grandfatherly. “Hold that ball straight, when you kick lad!” We’d have scratch matches with goalposts across the ground, down the trotting track end. It was an innocent island. It was our world. Only stopping because of the gathering gloom, we’d then cycle home to chops and three veg. Dukes of Hazzard and bed.

Bruce met his wife Melva at Bowmans, a railway siding, between Balaklava and Port Wakefield. It’s long gone. They lived for the club, and it was their family. Now they are also gone. With blind, familial loyalty Alex and Max often announce, “I’ll play for the Kapunda Bombers!” Their Poppa, my Dad, is a life member. Football flows like rain. A stationmaster? My boys are likely to be coached by a web-master.

Leaving this rowdy islet of Australiana, the band jangles through Powderfinger’s My Happiness. What varieties of happiness might football offer Alex and Max? What will it teach them of the tantalising connections between danger and beauty? Others and self? Will football become a faithful, tormenting mate, or fade like a sepia photograph in a museum?

This Saturday, we’ll start to learn.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Singapore with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Wonderful Mickey. You elegantly drew so many threads together. Made me think of Lincoln:
    “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great stuff Mickey , have you caught up with Tom Kat and any of the other Singapore based Ad Uni FC Greys ? Look 4wd to reading and learning more about Singapore
    Aus kick !

  3. Very enjoyable read Mickey. Lots of images.

    Trevor Marmalade had his own very funny version of Aussie Crawl’s “Reckless”. Instead of the line:
    “Don’t be so reckless” he sang “Don’t bore me shitless”

  4. Matthew Nangle says:

    Always a good read Mike. And seriously when are you going to write a book? I’ll pay full price as long as you’ve signed it…

  5. I missed registration but hope to bring the lad along Saturday and get him started. Unfortunately no strong family ties to footy for me to cling to but I am heavily linking Uncle Craig playing for the Sharks and that we are going to play for the Sharks. Hope to meet you there.

  6. Mickey Randall says:

    Thanks Peter. That is an amazing quotation. Auskick to the American President! Lincoln’s language contrasts with that of Australia’s recent political leaders.
    Malcolm- Auskick begins tomorrow so I’m hoping to meet some chaps then over a barbecued sausage and a beer! I’ll be sure to mention you!
    Dips- Thanks. Since his axing from the Footy Show, we’ve seen nothing of Trevor Marmalade in Adelaide. What is he doing?
    Matthew- Thanks for your encouragement! Hope you, Michelle and the boys are well. See you soon!
    Djiltsa- I’m sure we’ll cross paths soon. I’ll keep an eye out for you!

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Ripper.

    Worse than Skyhooks breaking up was Skyhooks not breaking up, and limping along with Tony Williams instead of Shirl

  8. Mickey Randall says:

    Thanks Mark.

    Skyhooks’ Live in the 80′s is a favourite. The crowd singing on “All My Friends Are Getting Married” is sensational.
    Shirl was one of the great frontmen. And his work with Claude the Crow on Shirl’s Neighbourhood….

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    And Eddie Hocking must be runner-up as the best number 8

  10. Mickey Randall says:

    No doubt Mark. One of the ‘Dogs finest sons. Although no less a football icon than Barry Robran reckons the current no. 8, Lewis Johnston is the best kick for goal he has seen. Ever. This is high praise, and a certain degree of pressure! If he can kick 75 goals a year for, let’s say, the next decade, I’ll be pleased.

  11. Greg Helbers says:

    Good on you Mick. That’s a brilliant piece of work. Hoping Map the Miner gets his guernsey this year!

  12. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Greg. If I was coach, I’d move Map into the ruck. Although as a miner, he’d be good at ground level too. It’s excellent that he is back playing after those nasty burns a few seasons ago!

  13. Love the piece Mickey.

    Just trying to work out your vintage – possible ’66. Which means you must know the Ellis boys. Rocket: very handy left-arm quick and centre half forward and the most sensible bloke in the world, and Dave: sprightly right arm quick and single figure golfer. Great fellas.

    I may even have played cricket against you if you played at Kapunda in the mid-80s v ERCC.

  14. Mickey Randall says:

    Thanks John.

    Well deduced as I am indeed a ’66 model who knows Rocket very well, indeed the entire Ellis clan. I catch up with him and a group of former Kapunda boys every six months when I’m home from Singapore. We meet at the Kings (was Kings Head) on King William St which now only serves local refreshments and food. It’s great. Worth a visit if you’re in town.

    I played mostly A3s and A4s for Kapunda in the 80s, but as an ERCC cricketer you certainly had my uncle JL Mosey as a team-mate. He loves cricket more than any person who’s ever drawn breath! His sons, John and Nick were/are handy batsmen too. Apparently JL made over a hundred tons during his very long career!

  15. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great read Mickey. Skyhooks splits distress must have been terrible. Auskick registration at the Australian School in Singapore on Australia Day. Love it! Especially as a big Australian Crawl fan. Obviously a much bigger Australian population in Singapore than I’d thought.

  16. Mickey Randall says:

    Thanks Luke. Of all the iconic Australian band splits, Skyhooks was the biggest for me. Like the Beatles (some may see this as a poor comparison), they’d only be going for 8 or 9 years when they initially pulled the pin, or at least Shirl did.

    After 30-odd years I reckon Midnight Oil had run out of puff, and as much as I loved them, Aussie Crawl only had three or four albums in them. James Reyne has had a pretty decent solo career though, it must be said.

    There’a a sizable Australian population in Singapore as the Sharks have between 200 and 300 kids enrolled in Auskick. There’s the Singapore Wombats too, who are also in good health I believe.

    Thanks again.

  17. Luke Reynolds says:

    Mickey, more than happy with the Skyhooks/Beatles comparison. Was introduced to them as an 11 year old when ‘Jukebox in Siberia’ was released. Loved it, but it paled into comparison to their earlier work when I discovered their back catalogue. What a massive loss Shirl was.

  18. Mickey, small, small world. Rocket and Dave are good mates. Haven’t played golf with Dave for a while but no doubt he is still knocking his gentle fade around Grange.

    I have written about JL Mosey. We were teammates (in 84-85?). Terrific cricketers and always enjoyed their company. JR was emerging then and very, very talented – went on to Aust Country rep of course. Nick was also very good and played district cricket in Adelaide. Warren and his son too. We lost the semi to Tanunda that year. Ordinary performance from us. I made 5.

    JL is included in my story on the Adelaide Test in 2010-11 in Christian Ryan’s (excellent, I think) collection Australia: Story Of A Cricket Country. http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/australia-story-of-a-cricket-country-edited-by-christian-ryan/

  19. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Saddest gig I ever attended was Skyhooks at the Tivoli Hotel in Adelaide in 1978 – they had well and truly run out of steam by then. I was bemused by the presence at this sparsely attended affair of two members of the “hadn’t yet broken in America” Air Supply, but it was a Tuesday night in Adelaide after all.

    This link tells the tale of their rise and fall:

    http://www.skyhooks-music.com/tour.html

  20. Mickey Randall says:

    Swish- That’s a great link. I only saw them once. At the Old Lion in North Adelaide in January 1991. It was excellent fun, and I reckon they were enjoying themselves on the back of the Jukebox in Siberia success. It was also around the time that Barnesy released Soul Deep with his versions of River Deep, Mountain High etc. Red and Barnesy were exchanging verbal blows on Hey, Hey, and Red finished the argument with, “At least I don’t play in a covers band.”

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