Local footy: Lunch with the hyphens at Old Geelong

by John Harms

 

 

It’s midday Saturday. I am Yarraside, standing on the balcony of the wonderful art-deco pavilion at Como Park. I know it well. In summer it is the home of the South Yarra Cricket Club made (more) famous in GCJD Haigh’s celebrated yarn The Vincibles.

 

 GCJD is the inspiration of his club, in that peculiar way a straight-breaking off-spinner-all-rounder (who hit his first six at the age of 41) can be an inspiration. It’s more to do with his many roles, one of which is to compile a collection of his cricket journalism each year just so the book can be launched at this clubhouse. Always a cracking night.

 

But now there is no pock of bat on ball. The liquid ambers are amber, the plane trees are brown, the dusty centre wicket areas (the ground is so enormous there are two) are now muddy, and pleading, guttural appeals have been replaced with the thud of Sherrin on boot and the battlecries of footer: “out the back, out the back”, “you’re hot, you’re hot” and “Macca, Macca, Macca Macca, Macca.”

 

This is Old Geelong’s homeground. Their seconds battle it out with Melbourne High School Old Boys. And they’re doing very well. Too quick on the big ground. Too skilful in that C-Section ammo seconds sort of way. I stand with an OGs bloke called Lachie, enjoying the first ale of the afternoon, but he is busy getting lunch organized so I find myself delighting in the aesthetic and spiritual pleasure of the blue and white hoops. One bloke wears No 31. Ah, the indomitable spirit of David Mensch.

 

Ah, the hoops. Geelong. Moroopna. Yarrawonga. Finley. Broadbeach (Nathan Ablett has been playing there). Ipswich. Magnificent. I remember when I was a kid in Queensland, the joy of merely seeing the hoops on The Winners, especially once we got the HMV colour tele.

 

I am waiting to do a phone-interview with ABC SA Grandstand. Host Roger Wills (who went to Geelong Grammar) and Walshy (who didn’t) are chatting to some footballer who played at Kalkee. I’m trying to work out who it is. It has to be former Cats player Shane Breuer. Not too many have a connection with Kalkee. It isn’t even a town; Kalkee is just a footy club. It’s been around for over a century, since farmer Schultz  donated a paddock, goal posts were erected, and battles with the other clubs in the Horsham district began.

 

Kalkee’s homeground is still known as Schultz’s paddock. A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a night in their new clubrooms. I’d been told the re-development cost just $100,000. Funds were raised through a small local government grant and some hard slog.

 

I was expecting a tiny structure which took its inspiration from the traditional corrugated iron shed. It was, in fact, palatial. I couldn’t contain my surprise at how good it was. They had even raised the floor of the canteen so that those serving hotdogs could see over the hot dog lovers and wouldn’t miss any of the game.

 

“It’s huge,” I said to J.J. Lawson, local footy stalwart. “Surely half a million dollars worth? How could the renovation cost so little?”

 

J.J. (who has the farm up the road) explained, “Well Johnno done the electrics, Spud done the plumbin’, we got them bricks from…” And so on. A different type of creative accounting to the inflate-the-numbers-to-attract-the-investors style of corporates. Considerably more noble.

 

That night was most enjoyable. It’s always great to meet the characters and hear their yarns. I was most impressed with the two blokes who had a fishing show on community radio in Horsham. Clearly media stars, they were introduced to me as Barry Mundy and Murray Cod. Bazz and Muzz had been keeping themselves, and the Kalkee mob, amused for years. But mainly themselves.

 

As the radio interview finished it was time for lunch with the OGs: steak off the barbecue, baked spud, some salad, and plenty of red wine. The room was buzzing, and definitely not too interested in the MC’s attempts to run the show. As guest speaker I thought it might be a tough crowd.

 

It wasn’t.

 

Geelong people relate to Geelong talk. Even when I was explaining that I have actually worn the Geelong colours, albeit by setting up a (down-the-grades) basketball team in Brisbane. We bought white Bonds singlets and spray-painted blue hoops on them. We completed the impressive uniform with oversized hooped panataloons. We played Thursday nights and would often pop into the Gabba greyhounds for a few beers and a quiet punt after our match. Always backed the two-dog. The Gabba dogs is a yarn for another day.

 

We played basketball as Geelong for one season. We lost the Grand Final.

 

They also relate to yarns about the fun, passion and ratbaggery of Australian crowds. The story of the young bloke who arrives shirtless but carrying a Myer bag to the Gabba Hill is usually a winner. He takes out a new shirt, pulls it off the cardboard backing, and dons it. He then takes the piece of cardboard and writes some words on it with a Bic Biro. Not even a Niko pen. He then hangs the piece of cardboard on the fence. You can’t see what he’s written until you go up close which reveals the words, “FUCKWIT FREE ZONE”. The Hill immediately consider him astute.

 

But I have been trying to challenge my stereotypical understandings of footy people in my column in the Age. Not very successfully. In the case of Richmond, Hawthorn and Collingwood fans my experience has affirmed, rather than challenged, my assumptions.

 

Imagine then what I was expecting at a function of Geelong Grammar and College types. Well, there were a lot of blokes just back from London, now working in finance, but getting home to the family farm whenever they can. Mostly wearing polo shirts (collar up) and fine-knit (golf) jumpers. And Mums and Dads of players, across from Lucindale and Mortlake.

 

In preparing my chat I checked out the OGs website just to get a feel for the place. Of the nine committee members three had double-barrel surnames. Yes, exactly.

 

I took a stab at their occupations. Mark Vickers-Willis: purveyor of fine teas. Michael Greton Watson: solo-yachtsman and adventurer. (I asked him to hold his hands up so we could see how many digits he’d lost.) My favourite name though was Hugo Brettingham-Moore. Not only could I imagine his occupation but I can hear his name mentioned on a BBC World Service news report: “Australian derivatives trader Hugo Brettingham-Moore has been found alive. The 27 year old from Geelong was discovered in a knock shop in Soho where he had been tied up for almost a week. Mr Brettingham-Moore was in very good spirits. ‘We don’t have joints like this in Moorabool St,’ he said. Mr Brettingham-Moore described his experience as ‘memorable’. Police are looking for three women of African heritage one of whom is known as Roger.”

 

From the reaction of the lunch it seems I wasn’t far off the mark with young Hugo. Just to add to the moment it turns out he was the bloke in the seconds running around in No 31. You can’t anticipate that sort of good fortune.

 

As the game started I met people from all over the countryside. Had a long chat to another hyphen, David Ross-Edwards, whose Dad (Peter, now in his late 80s) was a member of parliament.

 

The clouds parted. Weak sunshine illuminated the amphitheatre that is Como Park. Saturday afternoon strollers, scarved and coated, stopped to watch. Players ran in pairs. It looked like a Leunig card.

 

Melbourne High School Old Boys were a little too classy for the OGs who battled hard.

 

I went home to see the Cats cruising in the final quarter against the Swans.

 

Ah, the hoops.

 

MHSOB 22.7.139 d Old Geelong 10.4.64

 

 

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo9, Anna8, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. when the Cats were really crap in the 70s I used to look up the VFA scores to see if Geelong West had a win – needed to see the hoops in victory somewhere!

    Bundoora also wears the hoops.

    Love ’em

  2. In the 1990’s Lara used to win the GFL as regularly as Rangers did the League in Scotland around the same time; no consolation for myself I can tell you! But used to lookup Finley and see if they were winning.

  3. Gee I’m good, in my brain I merged North Shore and Lara.. err big difference! Although in footy only, not in terms of the suburbs. *runs away*

  4. Casterton, Max Rooke’s old club also wear the hoops. Got a nice ground out there as well.

  5. haiku bob says:

    jth,

    you might remember the brown and gold hoops of the aspley hornets from your brisbane days.
    haiku bob played in a premiership there as a youngster with some of the most radical coaching ever seen in the u/14’s. we deployed the rolling zone of the 80’s. opposition didn’t have a clue what was going on. thumped them by 10 goals. hb was in the best players (courtesy of not having an opponent!)
    they’re still going strong i see.

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