A Big Day Out

Six pm has almost completely stolen the midwinter twilight. It’s cold. The Antarctic wind howls from the sea. The finale to my local footy day is special. I’m watching the Tasmanian Devils. Live. Snarling into the artificial light that brackets tonight’s pocket colosseum. The Wallabies are in position. The Devils are coming.

The proceedings start with a coughing snarl. The main player enters the arena. Obviously a little unnerved tonight. A sniff, a nip and then away. Others will come, and go. Once the order is sorted and the plan of attack evolves systematic carnage manifests before our eyes. There will several attempted interchanges but the strongest will inevitably procure the most ‘game’ time, hard gets, tackles, time in possession and subsequently the biggest bite of the night’s spoils. When the spectacle finishes the other side will be obliterated. There can only ever be one outcome when the devils are in this mood and the wallabies are pinned down. The result will be a small ball of wallaby fur left behind as the victor(s) leave the field for recovery prior to the next encounter.

But how could this be?  The Tassy Devils, another of the plethora of failed business endeavours of Hobart-centric AFL Tasmania, became extinct almost a decade ago. Everyone knows that. And the Wallabies are a different code.

Apparently these devils (Sarcophilis harrisii) don’t. Their mob may be on the brink of extinction from the devil facial tumour but here at King’s Run literally on the edge of the world, for that is what this isolated coastal stretch of Tasmania within a late rising moon shadow of Church Rock, and Tierra del Fuego a mere 16,000 clicks due west can only be, they hang on. Tonight they are up and about, hungry, mean and out for a bone crunching kill. They just love wallabies.


In reflection, today has been a footy fossil’s delight. With a leave pass for the weekend I laconically greet another shack Saturday with a cup of Earl Grey (infused with leatherwood honey of course) and papers after the Bombers vs Hawks clash merely inspired me to an early to bed night.  No doubt it would have been painless enough to see a couple of wannabes bashing the crap out of one another in front of the glowing warmth of a big log fire and a single malt or two in a comfy chair, but I took the comfy bed and swishing sea option.

I travel west to Redpa for the Redlegs last home game before the finals, against Trowutta City, the Bulldogs. One stop off to prune some apple and pear trees for a bloke on the way (another cup of tea) and a stop off to check Kingy’s cows on the way. From the ute on top of a grassy hill things look fine. Enough grass till Monday, none down and calving finished.

A modest five dollars a piece to get in, a couple of tickets in the firewood raffle then pick your spot on the boundary. No rush today in this game played in what appears to be a paddock secreted in rich basalt farm land. This is cold climate frontier footy at it’s purest. They may not be the most skilled players going around. There are no high tech anti stuff-up umpiring aids, president’s luncheons or semi literate commentary from ex legends in their own lunch times now on the commercial broadcaster gravy train, but here deep in cattle country without any hint of an ovine intrusion, it is quite obvious they are playing for sheep stations. Players of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels run, shuffle, limp, bash and crash their way to the post match shower, sav, lung buster and beer.

You know you are at an outpost footy game when with boundary umpires at a premium, well less than that really, if you knock the ball out in the reserves it is a free kick to the other side and one central umpire, kicks it to the one in the middle after a goals as there is no one, or no real need, to run it in. It is also noted that there is an uncanny resemblance between the two umps in the twos and the umps in the ones. Perhaps just a little slower on the second shift.

The scoreboard ticks over slowly as local boys get on top. Scores start to come in from the other games of interest throughout the State and the mainland. Phantoms have eyes and ears everywhere. Things are going well till the shop runs out of savs. Shame that. These ones were very good and two always seems to be just one too few.

With the Redlegs in control at half time interest wanes and other Redlegs come to mind. The Dees are on the telly back at the farmhouse. Kingy springs to life when his Dees kick three and get back into the game in the second quarter, but it’s all down hill, at a rapid pace from there. Mercifully the distraction of the Devils game after dusk is a more than a distraction and we grab the Mackay guests , Tassy Pinot and other local taste treats and head to the coast. Rough, rugged and restless.


After a fading light drive through a living Manuka tunnel and across recently burned grass land we run out of land. Fire started in the rustic shack a lay of the land briefing and a wait; for two impending clashes. Devils and Wallabies, live from the corporate box, Cats and Saints through scratchy reception from 774. It doesn’t get much better than this.

With the Devils tentative it is a slow start in the main event. With the strong wind and the strong Saints it is slow over there. Things start going to plan as the Devils latch on to the Wallaby and the Cats latch onto the Saints. I have one eye on the action outside the window and one ear on the radio which is down low in order to avoid interference from the main event.

Through the microphone monitor from outside I hear a bone crunch and the sound of sinew tearing so I watch. At the exact time on radio I hear of a knee cracking and sinew torn. The Wallaby has done a leg. Dawson Simpson has done a knee.

Kingy’s camera captures our moment. The victorian paparazzi capture Dawson’s demise.



Back at Kingy’s I watch the last half of the Cats live with lamb curry, warm fire and fine wine. A 101 point win to the Cats is a great result. Cats still on track. Dawson Simpson is stoic as he sings the song while on crutches. The wallaby’s spirit sings in the night wind.

I check the other results of interest to me. Old Scotch 38.21 (249) def. Perth 3.4 (22): Wynyard 20.24 (144) def Penguin 11.10 (76): South Launceston 16.16 (112) def Burnie 13.11 (89) and Redpa 14.9 (93) def Trowutta 2.7 (19). Five out of five tops off a great day. Sometimes footy doesn’t suck Bomber.


  1. Phanto – excellent. Very evocative. I was with you in your little shack, nipping on a single malt, watching the fire and occasionally the TV. Great stuff.

  2. I see Perth did about as well as the wallabies. Thanks for reminding me Phantom. What is the purpose of the wallaby/devil watch? Gladiatoral or conservation?

  3. Mark Duffett says

    Beautiful work.

    You reckon South can repeat the dose in the TSL Grand Final? Where will it be played?

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