Tim Boyle on Footy Town

Waubra footy club recruit Timothy Boyle had the crowd in stitches with his account of footy training in the country.

Waubra footy club recruit Timothy Boyle launched Footy Town at the All Nations to a crowd of 150.

By Tim Boyle 

I should probably say, first, that I think the collective authors of Footy Town know a lot more about football than I do. Having had a very particular lens, and a very brief exposure through which to see the game, Footy Town was in many ways instructive.

To me Footy Town is a great banner raised at the edge of every football field, and its authors are the cheer squad, leaning back on the ropes to raise their messages. Reading each new story in the book was like being perpetually run through the banner by the storyteller, but being exposed to a different field each time.

And by describing these fields with such enthusiasm, clear language and good humour, the book manages to make Australia feel as vast and diverse as a sports book could hope to. From the Tiwi islands to southern Tasmania, from the western plains and mineral mines, and back again to eastern cities, Footy Town is a lovely mosaic of Australia’s relationship with football.

In Footy Town the fields are formative places; they’re teaching grounds. And after reading these stories, it would be difficult to suggest that anyone in them would have been better off without the game.

There’s certainly admiration, and a common interest, in elite players, and in the AFL and its stars, but the stories seem always to bring these players back to the country fields–not to reduce them, but to humanise them, and remind their readers that elitism is a mostly a construct that loses football’s lessons.

As an elite and, at times, over-reaching league, the AFL gets detached from people via its branding. Footy Town reminds us that the AFL, despite its impressive athletes and characters, is just the small end of a funnel through which every football person has been poured.

I’ve got American friends whom I reckon should read Footy Town. It could be read, perhaps with an urban dictionary, by anyone interested in Australian culture. A specific Australian language is slippery, but the book manages to capture a feeling, a language that is wholly unique to this place.

I’d tell those friends that it’s like the drive through the country taken by Vin Maskell and his son to photograph scoreboards.  I’d tell them it’s a glimpse of a past that’s been worn into the present by a ceaseless set of trotting boots, and the perennial hope that your teammates will be pleased by your effort.

Because of its physicality, football creates a tone, a current that takes you downstream at the same speed as your teammates. As Tony Wilson put it: “It works like a crazy mirror at a fair. Come into a place as a bit of dickhead, stay for a few training sessions, and you’ll wobble into some semblance of good bloke-dom.”

When I finished the book, I returned to Paul’s introduction, in which he speaks so eloquently about watching football under a big sky. It’s a lovely image, and I took it with me this week on the drive to the Waubra footy club for my first training run in four years. If you don’t know it, it’s a tiny town on the other side of Ballarat.

But when we arrived, there was no sky, just a cold fog so thick you couldn’t see the centre of the ground. I drove to Waubra with my housemate, who convinced to have a kick with him for the second half of the season. Waubra’s full forward is called ‘Fridge’, and apparently his weight has been causing him calf problems.

When the players were warming up, the president pulled me aside to sign a form. I couldn’t see the team when I went to catch up, so I tried to follow their voices, and what I heard through the fog was the distinct sound of country football: absurd enthusiasm, the screaming of “Good work”, and the calling of names that are all fashioned to end in a “y”.

But one of the ground’s four light towers was blown, and after I’d gone about 10 metres, I rolled my ankle in a divot.

When were leaving, the gatekeeper extended a hand to welcome me. His fingers were all jeweled like a pirate’s. “I dress up to man the gate”, he said, “I have to stay there for seven hours on game days so I try to keep it interesting.”

He leaves cryptic clues in the newsletter about the characters he portrays. But he told me he didn’t need the clues this week, because he was wearing the netball outfit of the opposition club.

So Waubra is a Footy Town too.

 

 

Paul Daffey in the spotlight.

Paul Daffey in the spotlight.

John Harms marshals the troops at the All Nations Hotel.

John Harms marshals the troops at the All Nations Hotel.

A couple of Ammos - Andrew Leonard and Smokie Dawson.

A couple of Ammos – Andrew Leonard and Smokie Dawson.

 

All photos by Yvette Wroby.

 

Comments

  1. Tim, great to meet you on Friday night. And thanks for these terrific words. You have really picked up on the essence of the book. We would love to have you write for the second edition – which I am sure we will do at some stage.

    Thanks, too, to Yvette Wroby who is always around with her trusty camera – and always catches the mood of the event.

  2. Sounds like a great night . Pity it’s a bit hard to get to from hallfway between Syd. & Bris. when nuisances like work committments and lack of funds interfere with one’s preferred lifestyle. Pity Tim Boyle’s time at Hawthorn cut so prematurely short by serious injuries . Liked watching him play. He could still be the third tall forward at Hawthorn if he’d had better luck. Wonder who wrote this gem in Wikipedia :”Clean hands and accurate kicking were hallmarks of Boyle’s game though his leisurely demeanour and playing style limited his level of physical presence in contests.”

  3. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Great speech Tim. Great night. The rain topped it off. Will look forward to hearing more about your Waubra footy days.

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