Grand Finals Part I


When my season finished in a deficit of four bitter goals and biffo, a big map of the country, with about 20,000 pinheads marking football ovals opened up.

So, thanks to Sammy Harriott, I went home to the Otways.

The tough, leathery bush champion had pulled his battered body together and come out of retirement for one last crack, coaching and playing in the Twos. From up in the fog of the Ridge, where he owns his own small dairy farm, he got on the phone and did what it takes to have any success in Reserves football. Phoned his old friends.

Big Lenny Perkins from the logging crews, Donny from the other end of the ridge, Kano, who works on the forestry crews based in the rolling bush near Gellibrand, Darcy Rhodes, the Mayor of Colac, took the bench coach’s board.

Sammy got the band back together. A good fistful of my old teammates from a long time ago. He peppered old dogs amongst the awkward, fast youth, giving them that rusty glue.

When the boys won the Qualifying they got on the phone and I was there.

And watched, and cheered, another mug in the crowd, as a battlers’ club won their first senior/reserve flag in over 30 years.

It didn’t matter that it was reserves. Or that is was country football.




Players tried their guts out. Some showed incredible courage, some baulked it. There were heroes, villains, a few blokes stood up, playing with force of will, character, that goes beyond football, that simply is what they are.

Finals football is finals football.  Those boys and men, in the moments after the final siren, ruled the damn world!

Best, for me, was watching my great mate, Rory Harrington, from down in the Joannah Valley, all Dadded-up, with three kids running around the sidelines, in the ruck, giving his all.

There was a ripping, winter wind tearing across the ground, making everybody as awkward as he can be. He leapt for the ruck too early, landing before the ball came down, and bashed and crashed and pushed deep into defense and tackled and shepherded and grabbed for the ball not with his fingers, but his heart. Blowy pack after blowy pack, he was there.

He wanted!

My mate Rory. Who I once coached as a junior. And saw grow up and get a girlfriend, and move out of home, and start a farm of his own, and become a man.  He was a huge factor, beyond kicks and handballs.

He gave the game pride.


Now, it’s about 5 am, everybody’s back at the clubrooms, buried on the forward pocket of that small oval, surrounded by all those eucalypts and mountains, walking, dancing, drinking and living under a coat of cold drizzle, which seems right for a club like Otway. A victory.

Weather like this is a huge part of what they are.

The Club President, Scooter Harris, fantastic at his job, and as a man, has long since gone to bed. The hours he’s put in, the little things unnoticed, the cleaning up, the fridge stocking, the paperwork, the punch-ups and small town politics he has to smooth over. All of it, rewarded.

I hope he’s sleeping with a broad smile.

For himself and for all the Otway club presidents, and trainers and tucker shop volunteers that have come before.


Next week there’ll be another final in another part of the country. I’ll bounce back through Tassie and bush work, and, if enough people want fire wood, I’ll have the money to find a good one and be gone.

For now, thought, time to rejoin the party, which is just starting. The win, on red-eyed dawn, just starting to sink in. We still have a few days to go.


Last night, on the telly, the Swans were beating St.Kilda. We turned the telly off to introduce the winning players and Under 17 netballers, who also won a flag, to us all over again, and sing the song, loud.

Clubs are bringing home the bacon everywhere, the world keeps spinning as if it doesn’t care. Yesterday, after the longest time, thanks to a tough, proud dairy farmer from up on the ridge, Otway had its turn.




  1. if you are building a 2’s team for classic country footy?:

    “pepper old dogs amongst the awkward, fast youth, giving them that rusty glue.”

    that is the prefect recipie…

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