Almanac Rugby League: Tough times in Goodna

Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) I got a call from an old mate, Otis Goldsworthy. We have played basketball together – for the Harlem Pig-trotters at the Auchendome – Brisbane’s basketball stadium just around the corner from the Regatta Hotel. We’ve played cricket together for Benson St, and represented Union College together in billiards. We spent much of the 1990s together in the Toowong TAB, although his best punting day – known in our mythology as The Day of Socks, when High Socks won at Flemington and Odd Socks won the Cooma Cup and Otis won $11000 – was at the Ashgrove TAB. He’s a fierce competitor and we have locked horns on the golf course over many years.

 

Otis now lives in Goodna, a little working class suburb between Brisbane and Ipswich. Like all of those parts it has its low-lying areas amid its undulations and knolls. He lives on the side of a hill in an old timber house with standard-issue frangipani in the front and mango tree in the back and couch grass that, in the summer, grows as you look at it.

 

Those lower parts of Goodna are right on the Brisbane River which winds its way along a small plain, its waters flowing slowly, nonchalantly, serenely, past banks of eucalypts and boulevards of magnificent jacarandas. Brisbane’s geography, which is dominated by the meandering river, means that Goodna is quite separate, like a little village tucked in there, and it has a strong sense of community.

 

That sense of community is expressed in many ways; one of the more significant being the Goodna Rugby League Football Club. The Goodna Eagles have been a fantastic community club since 1912. The colourful Kangaroo hooker Noel ‘Ned’ Kelly grew up in Goodna and played his junior football there, representing Ipswich in the legendary Bulimba Cup competition. He was picked for Queensland and Australia and moved to Brothers in Brisbane and eventually Wests in Sydney (he was named hooker in Wests team of the century). Israel Folau also started his ecumenical football career at Goodna.

 

I know the club well.

 

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from Otis. He hadn’t gone in to the city – half an hour on the train – for work. It wasn’t worth it. Queenslanders know these conditions all too well; their understanding of the world is formed by these ever-present possibilities Mother Nature can dish out.

 

Otis had invoked his natural disaster plan: he’d gone to the pub for a beer and a bet. He found another old mate of mine, Ted Bradley, sitting in his usual place at the bar of the Irish Heart (owned by former BRL first-grader Paul Falvey). Otis hadn’t met him before. They got talking, and somehow my name came up.

 

I met Ted Bradley about ten years ago. I was getting ready to head to the Gabba for the Lions match against North Melbourne one Sunday in April when the phone rang. “Harmsy,” said the profoundly Australian voice which I didn’t recognise, “How’d ya know?”

 

I was perplexed. What did he mean: how’d ya know?

 

Before I could speak he continued, “You’ve written a book about me. You’ve written my life story.”

 

Memoirs of a Mug Punter had been out for a few months.

 

“Do you do any speakin’ Harmsy?” Ted asked.

 

I told him I did a bit. In fact I was MC-ing a lunch for Simon Crean, a North fan, that very day at the German Club.

 

“We’d like you to speak at the Goodna Rugby League Football Club Cox Plate Luncheon,” he said.

 

“When’s that?” I asked.

 

“It’s in the week of the Cox Plate, you dickhead. When did you think it would be?”

 

“But it’s April,” I observed.

 

“Harmsy,” he said, “We like to get to know our speakers. We can’t pay ya. But, by Christ, we’ll look after ya, son.”

 

I said I’d be delighted to be involved. And a few days later the phone rang. “Ted Bradley here mate.”

 

“Yes Ted?”

 

“The boys are coming to town.” Brisbane is an outing for the olde worlde folk of Goodna. “What are you doing Thursd’y arvo? We’re havin’ a beer.”

 

“I’ve gotta catch a plane to Melbourne,” I explained. “Sorry Ted.”

 

There was a pause as Ted composed himself. “What, no fuckin’ pubs on the way to the airport?”

 

I got on to the flight to Melbourne with eight very sharp pots in me, and knowing the words to the first verse of the Goodna Rugby League Football Club song. “Cheers boys, here we are for Goodna…”

 

Well, the phone rang every couple of weeks. Sometimes I could join them.

 

Ted, I soon learned, is magic company. Interesting and interested. He’s a knockabout bloke. He’s from the south; he’s was in the air-force, then had a variety of jobs; he follows Footscray but having lived in rugby league states for chunks of his life he loves rugby league as well. And rugby league is the sport of his beloved Goodna.

 

The late-May excursion was to the home ground of the Goodna Rugby League Football Club. I got the train out, and wandered over to the lovely ground. The supporters had already formed a posse on the veranda of the pavilion, which they had named Bay 13. The pavilion was at the western end, by design. Unusual not to be along the half way line. But the Queensland winter sun is low and the glare is severe, so it’s best to watch with the sun behind you. (“We know a bit about architecture here, mate.”)

 

In recent years Goodna captains have known that it didn’t matter where the wind was blowing, if you won the toss, you ran to the city end in the first half, so that you came home to the Bay 13 end. It was worth plenty.

 

In no time a beer was thrust in to my hand, and the banter from the men and women gathered was flying. It was the happy banter of the half-charged; of people who loved where they were, as they watched the reserve grade. I was given a pie that was so hot I couldn’t even hold it, and I was a rather anxious about how the hell I was going to eat it.

 

“You wouldn’t have a spoon?” I asked the tuck-shop ladies at the window, a couple of paces away.

 

So there I was with the eyes of burly blokes who’d eat a pie like they’d take an aspirin daintily eating away. Ted, I later learnt, took note.

 

The beers went down beautifully. I met a greyhound trainer who was dirty on the world. “He’s just been done,” Ted explained. “Twenty-five years of fillin’ ‘em full’o’juice and they finally nab `im. And he reckons he’s got a right to be cranky. No idea, this bloke.”

 

I was introduced to KB. “What do you do?” I asked.

 

KB didn’t answer, but Ted answered for him, like it was a Two Ronnies routine. “He drives the bus at the Wolston Park nuthouse,” Ted explained. And then paused. “They haven’t had a bus since 19-fuckin’-94.”

 

They all roared.

 

A lot of them were workers on the council and in the local enterprises. The committee was comprised of men who had risen to the heights of middle management at companies like Boral and Pioneer, Telstra and Queensland Rail. They knew all the terrific places to park your work vehicle so that it was out of sight. In fact one bloke would start work by driving to the Rocklea fruit and vegetable market, where he’d two trays of mangoes, and then set up his Telstra van on the side of the road. Once they were gone it was time to get moving.

 

In the A-Grade, against one of the top teams, Goodna’s skipper won the toss and the Eagles were to run to Bay 13 in the second half. But the Eagles were dominated for much of the match against a better-organised, mistake-free opponent. Somehow Goodna hung in there, fortified by the bellowing support from the drinkers (“Put `em on-side, you wanker”) which reverberated among the jacarandas. With ten minutes to go they trailed 22-12.

 

A couple of good breaks and they were camped on the opponent’s line, and the big Polynesian went over. The conversion was successful: 22-18. Just minutes to go. Again there was a break, accompanied by the shrill cries of supporters which are precipitated by a bloke who has just burst through and is streaming towards the try-line. He was mown down by the cover. Mayhem. Tired defenders trying to get back. The Kiwi (who could play, and was lokoing to get himself noticed for an NRL or Super 14 invitation) took control, and the centre was put away, with seconds to go, right next to the posts. 22-22 with the kick to come.

 

Cardiologists in the area should have been put on high alert as men who were sustained by beer, cigarettes and the delights of local bain-maries jumped up and down in sheer gratitude for the good fortune they lived in Goodna.

 

The kick went straight over the black dot and the hooter sounded. I thought Ted was going to call for Three Cheers. There was much-applauding and back-slapping as the victors trudged off, weary but satisfied.

 

At that point I knew I was very little chance of getting home early. Celebratory rums flowed. The spirit in the rooms was memorable. People kept buying me rums in five ounce glasses (in the Queensland way) and were excitedly trying to tell me their life stories and life’s enthusiasms in 90 seconds. One bloke came up, a council worker, and said, “I’m a big reader, you know. I read all your stuff. I love those books.”

 

“What else do you read?” I slurred, face too close to his, spittle flying.

 

“Donleavy, mate,” he said. “Donleavy’s the one: Ginger Man. Singular Man. Darcy Dancer. Beatitudes.

 

We got on to other authors. So here I was talking books and letters with a pissed lolly-pop man from the outer suburbs.

 

The place was rocking. Billy the 70-something life member of the ALP was moved to stand on the bar and sing The Internationale, with many joining in, some out of loyalty to Billy, some out of loyalty to an idea.

 

And the Goodna song was sung many times.

 

I was squelching. I was no match for this mob.

 

“I better go,” I said to a group of about five of them.

 

“How ya gettin’ `ome harmsy?” Ted asked.

 

“I’ll just get the train,” I said.

 

This generated a wonderful response. Three blokes instantly reached into their pockets to produce cab-charge dockets from companies for whom they hadn’t worked in a decade. “Take one of these, son.”

 

I was put in to a cab by a sort of a rolling farewell committee.

 

“Now what’s your address?” Ted asked.

 

I told him. He looked at the cabbie and said, “Take him there, and you better look after him.”

 

I’m not sure what happened exactly but when I got to Highgate Hill (which is the suburb that looks over the flooded West End) in the middle of the city, a pizza man was waiting at my front door. Someone at Goodna had heard me and had ordered me a pizza.

 

I really did get to know these people over the next months. It got to the stage where the phone would ring and I’d talk and laugh for a while and I’d get off and The Handicapper would say, “Who was that?”

 

And I’d say, “Ted Bradley.”

 

“What this time?” she’d say.

 

“They’re taking me to lunch at the Ipswich Jets. Junior Pearce is speaking.”

 

“When?”

 

“July 22.”

 

The Handicapper would then get my diary and put a line through July 23 and 24.

 

The Goodna Rugby League Cox plate Luncheon went off very well.

 

And then there was a de-brief in a Chinese Restaurant. Try as I might, I can’t remember which one it was.

 

A whole crowd of them came to the launch of Loose Men Everywhere not long after. Not because they wanted to hear Leigh Matthews. Not because the publican put on two kegs of free beer. Not to buy the book. They just wanted to meet one of my mates, Bimbo Read, who appears in Memoirs. A single Dad, Bimbo kept a tally of how many days of drought he’d endured. In the book it’s almost 2000. In fact one night at the opera when the topless Cleopatra was in the bath Bimbo leaned over to me and said, “This is the closest I’ve been to a naked woman in 1954 days.”

 

“Will Bimbo be there?” they wanted to know.

 

And so they all came.

After I moved to Melbourne Ted would often ring me up at about 5.30 on Saturday afternoons. I had mentioned in Memoirs that the failsafe get-out was to back the no. 9 in the last at the Gold Coast. The phone would ring and a voice would say, “How’s that fuckin’ nine at the Coast goin’ Harmsy?”

 

Ted is always in the Irish Heart. He is such a good bloke – in the league of Ginger from Port Fairy (and that’s another story) – the publican used to pay him to be in the pub.

 

But he had a specific reason yesterday. His was one of the first homes to go under in the flood. While blokes like Ted Bradley know only too well that these things happen, it’s still tough. Bay 13 will be well and truly submerged.

 

He had a good man in Otis Goldsworthy propping up the bar with him. After Otis got hold of me to tell me of his afternoon I rang the pub but Ted was gone for the night.

 

So Ted, I’m thinking of you.

 

And I’m remembering your wonderful Goodna song:

 

(to the tune of Jesus Loves The Little Children)

 

Cheers boys, here we are for Goodna

Every now and then we have a win –  have a win!

We will play them all around

On our home or any ground

If they’ll only play a fair and honest game.

We have six hefty forwards

And seven greasy backs

And 99 supporters

To keep the bastards back.

 

When the skin and hair is flying

And the slaughter has begun

Three cheers for good old Goodna

For victory we have won.

 

Who are, who are, who are we?

We are the boys from GFC.

Where do we come from ya ya ya

Goodna Goodna – best by far.

 

I hope all is as good as it can be.

 

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. JTH – love the well thought out natural disaster plan!

  2. John Butler says:

    Sounds preferable to my fire plan. I may have to reconsider.

  3. That’s it. I’m leaving work now and heading to the Irish Heart.

  4. Mulcaster says:

    The playing surface of Lang Park is now under water

  5. johnharms says:

    Auchenflower basketball centre would be in strife.

  6. David Downer says:

    Teriffic yarn JTH. I read that looters have been spotted in Goodna. Hopefully Ted and the boys are in a position to “sort them out”.

    DD

  7. Lang Park is not only flooded, but was also on fire as a transformer exploded when the water got to it. Fireys couldn’t get to it because of the water.

    I’m using that as a definition of irony for my Gr5 creative writing class…

  8. Grant Fraser says:

    jth

    I don’t care if it takes money, broads, dope or booze (and a resultant portfolio of incriminating photos of the relevant editors)…we must find a way to return you to the back page of The Age Sport during the footy season. My life, and the lives of many, is poorer without it. Football is about people, real people, and not just some spun up grab about how the “boys are all flyin’ this pre-season” or other meaningless drivel.

    Come back to where you belong. You have been missed (and so has The Handicapper).

    rgf

  9. Grant Fraser says:

    …and that should read “are poorer”. Last time I do stream of consciousness without grammar check…

  10. Andrew Fithall says:

    Gus #7 – If you would like more irony, JTH is on ABC local radio this evening, with Sam Pang. However unless you have a digital radio (or the internet!!??), you won’t hear him – BECAUSE OF THE T20 CRICKET!

  11. Andrew, I have tried for a few ABC digital expereinces, although it appears the country I currently reside in does not appreciate outside information of that kind. Obviously these subversive style rants have left a mark on the rum-farters…

  12. And like Grant, I should make more of an effort with my spell checking. ‘experiences’

  13. Yes times and things could be better in the ‘sunshine state’

  14. Also some wag has dressed Wally’s statue in goggles and floaties

  15. John, there is nothing to match the happy banter of the half-charged !

  16. I have to say hats off to Anna Bligh. She has handled the situation in QLD extremely well – informative, firm, not too emotional, accessible. She’s making a few of our other “leaders” look very ordinary indeed.

  17. JTH
    watching the Flood Show this am and they are claiming there is a Bull Shark circling the video shop in Goodna. A great read above. Makes me want to be there for the first game run on in 10. I reckon Flake will be on the menu that day…..

  18. Chalkdog, at one of the Goodna FLFC functions we were having lunch. Alternate plates affair: red meat/white meat. Everyone at the table was drinking beer with their meal except one bloke who was drinking white wine. He says, “I’m the only connossier amongst you. Look at you all drinking beer. No class, you blokes. Don’t you feel like a cultured glass of wine with your chicken?” The white meat dish was fish.

  19. JTH
    …from your story I would expect nothing less. On a seriuos note the place looks prety smashed. But the spirit you describe will prevail, after all its only a flood of biblical proportions if you’ve read the bible. And the spirit will probably be rum

  20. been hunting round the www and it appears 3 or 4 NRL teams are sending players up to Goodna to help out with the clean-up. They aim to assist in the area and have a crack at the club as well. Undoubtedly Johns mate Ted will snare some of them for some good hearted revellery before they leave town

  21. haiku bob says:

    truly great yarn harmsy.

    i’m raising a glass to Ted and Otis.

    cheers

    hb.

  22. Tracey Bradley says:

    Hi John

    Teds my Dad and we just recently found about this story, you bought a tear to our eyes. Dads lost your number so give him a ring, we have a home game this weekend and he will ring you up pissed with a full report for next weekends Offsiders. He should be moved back into his place by this weekend.

    Cheers
    Tracey

  23. johnharms says:

    G’day Tracey, Thanks so much for taking the time to contact me. I actually rang the Irish pub that (flood) night, but Ted had gone. I think of those Goodna footy people quite often – especially when No 9 doesn’t win the last at the Gold Coast. They are fantastic. I’ll try Ted again tonight. I hope the whole suburb is fighting back.

  24. Tracey Bradley says:

    you were forgiven for number 9 on weekend, it won paying $11 i think, Dad would be wrapped to hear from you, we will have to get you back up for a few ales soon, the community is slowly recovering but it will take sometime for people to get back to normal, your thoughts are appreciated

  25. tianna daisy says:

    i love my pop!

  26. johnharms says:

    Tianna, We all love him. The world should know about blokes like Ted Bradley. Who, for those reading this piece about Ted’s lot in the Brisbane floods, moves back in to his repaired house today.

Leave a Comment

*