Hidden Treasures

 

by Andrew Gigacz

The term “hidden treasure” is oft misused by the marketing types. But in the case of Footy Almanac functions it’s an apt one. Sure, we Almanackers know all know about them but the wider community does not have a clue of the golden moments they miss every time the ‘Nackers meet at the All Nations or the Clyde.

 

Last night was full of such golden moments. In front of a small gathering in an intimate room at the All Nations Hotel in Richmond, Kevin Bartlett and his son Rhett mesmerised and amused us for hours as they fielded questions from MC John Harms. Actually, in KB’s case there was no need for questions. All he needed was a chair to lean on and he was off, telling stories and making us laugh from the moment he stood up. Even before he stood up, he was doing it. With the banter between he and Rhett having started already, KB mentioned that Rhett had been banned from SEN. When some enquired as to the reason for such a ban, he responded, “Because he’s a fool.” It was KB’s pronunciation of “fool” that had me laughing so hard. It was exactly the way Kath Day-Knight says it, when she turns to her daughter and says “you’re a fool, Kimmy!”

 

KB and Rhett are like a classic comedy duo, with Rhett playing the straight man to KB’s one-line jibes without complaint. KB’s put-downs belie completely the obvious love and respect father and son have for each other. And KB’s one-liners belie a warm, passionate family-man whose love for the game of footy is surely second to none.

 

He started with the funny stuff but as the night unfolded and he eventually started to actually listen to the questions John Harms (and others) were asking, KB gradually transformed into a man speaking from the heart about any and every issue related to footy.

 

The All Nations Hotel in Richmond is on the corner of York and Lennox Streets. KB grew up in Lennox Street. This is his home territory. But his Mum and Dad were Footscray fans and so was he before being picked up by the Tigers. He talked with great fondness of his days as a kid going to the Western Oval, of his Mum in tears after the ’54 Grand Final, still the only day in history that the Doggies have attained the ultimate success.

 

KB also talked about “culture”. And how Richmond’s changed forever when Tom Hafey turned up to coach. He talked about how each of Roger Dean’s pre-Hafey seasons were characterised by turning up at the start of each season expecting to play 18 games, and then going over the road to watch Collingwood, Melbourne and maybe Geelong fight it out in September for the flag. Before “T-shirt Tommy”, there was no thought that the Tigers could possibly mix it with the heavyweights.

 

Throughout the evening, Rhett was always gracious enough to sit in the background, listening to Dad, answering the odd question here and there. At one stage one when John did ask Rhett a question, KB chimed in with “Oh, are you here Rhett? I hadn’t realised.” But when Rhett spoke, we all listened. He might never have played VFL/AFL footy but he shares his father’s wit, love of conversation and passion for footy.

 

What a great night. And when it was over, and we all went up to get KB and Rhett to sign copies of their collaboration “KB – A Life in Footy”, there was no element of either chatting and signing out of a sense of duty. Each of them listened to us as we spoke to them. You could tell they were as genuinely interested in our stories as we were in theirs. I was rapt with KB’s response when I asked him if he still had a soft for the Bulldogs: “Absolutely. They are my second team.”

 

Another great Footy Almanac gathering. I always come away from them thinking “Wow! So people around Melbourne have no idea what they’re missing out on each month.” But then I think that if the crowd was too much bigger, the sense of intimacy would be lost.

 

I haven’t got a solution for that conundrum. I’m just glad that several years ago I stumbled onto the incredibly rich and diverse community that makes the Footy Almanac what it is and feel privileged to have been to so many special lunches and dinners such as this one with KB and Rhett.

 

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Well done Gigs – it was an enjoyable evening. Looking forward to the GF lunch.

  2. Sounds like it was an excellent evening, Gigs.
    Disappointed that I was unable to get there.

    But, shhhh !
    Don’t speak too loudly, or everyone will start l
    atching on to these Almanac functions.

  3. ‘Twas a great night, Smokie. But you are right. I promise not to tell anyone else.

  4. Paul Daffey says:

    But why did they close the bar at 11?

  5. Paul Daffey says:

    I allus has one at 11.

  6. Hey Daff, is that you’re shickered character voice? :)

  7. Sorry Daff. I’m sure they would’ve kept it open if I’d stayed!

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