It doesn’t get much better than this, mid winter in Lorne, the day is still and mild, the sky a steely grey and the smoke from open fires in surrounding homes creates a unique atmosphere for a game of footy. Lorne are playing Simpson, a side that gave them a right royal touch up some 7 or 8 weeks ago, at Simpson. The footy ground at Lorne must be one of the most spectacular grounds in Australia if not the world. As you stand high above the ground on the western wing the Lorne pier is on your right and Split Rock (Airey’s Inlet) lighthouse can be seen through the gum trees on your left. Straight ahead, the magnificent Louttit Bay, today, almost a mill pond.
Lorne didn’t always play at this location, up until the late 50s or maybe early 60s the home ground was on the foreshore. The grassed area is still there today and still used for footy, but kick to kick with families. I have seen a very short film of part of a game all those years ago, that featured well known Lorne identities of the time. One of the problems of the day was the footy being kicked into the ocean and the time it took to get it back for the game to start again. Today’s oval high above the township was donated to the town by the Stribling family. Machinery was used to cut into the steep slope on the western side and fill in on the eastern side.
Simpson hasn’t always played in the Colac league, they swapped over from a south western competition a few years ago. If my information is correct Simpson was established as a soldier settlement area after World War 1 and I imagine it was named after Simpson, the famous man with a donkey.
The game starts, Lorne the Dolphins have a black jumper with two white hoops, Simpson play in Richmond colours and are naturally called the Tigers. Hard tackling and pressure from both teams keeps the scoring low. Simpson are making the most of their opportunities where as Lorne’s inaccuracy means scores are very tight late in the first quarter. Just before quarter time a shot from a Lorne forward goes through the goals but the footy gets stuck in the gum tree in the adjoining school ground. It takes quite a while for a new ball to be produced to re start the game. At quarter time there is only a couple of points in it, in the meantime officials and spectators were trying all sorts of ways to get the ball out of the tree. Eventually extended plastic piping was produced and succeeded ,where kicking other footballs into the tree had failed.
Second quarter starts with the original ball, much to the amusement of the large crowd, sitting on benches around the ground or in parked cars high above the oval. No quarter is given, both sides are giving it their best and the standard of footy is high. Lorne appear to be getting on top mid way through the second quarter but Simpson fight back with late goals and at half time the scores are Lorne 8-10, Simpson 7-3.
Time for a cleansing ale outside the clubrooms, and catch up with a few I haven’t seen for a while before the third quarter starts. As I watched the umpires walk onto the ground I realised they were a father and son combination. Now that must be something of a first, it certainly was for me. The third quarter was marred by a really nasty clash of heads as two Lorne players rushed to tackle a Simpson opponent. The both fell to the ground like a two bags of spuds, one was taken to hospital for observation, the other had his head heavily bandaged and rested for the rest of the quarter. At the lemon break it was still a great game Lorne 10-11 Simpson 9-6.
I always look forward to listening to the coaches at 3/4 time , the Simpson coach appealed to his players in the most colourful language to play for 3rd spot, telling them they were the better side, and to man up for the last 25 minutes. The Lorne coach using just as forceful language, told his team he refused to accept defeat and he asked his players to feel the same. Both teams roared as they left their huddles, ready for the last quarter. Lorne jumped out of the blocks and kicked two quick goals, Simpson answered with one of their own, but then Lorne kicked another couple to Simpson’s one, put the game out of the visitor’s reach.
Final scores Lorne 14-14 Simpson 11-7. A great game, played with great spirit on a great ground.