‘A fine football life…’ by KB Hill

They called him ‘Poddy’…..

It was a moniker he’d carried all his life……. ever since one of his thirteen siblings joked that his gait reminded them of the poddy calves that scampered around the family farm at Lake Moodemere…..

The bustling town of Rutherglen, situated just five minutes away, had been resuscitated by a fresh Gold-Mining boom, which coincided with his early childhood years……

Thousands of prospectors, seeking instant wealth, converged on the district from across the nation, and were serviced by the countless shops, pubs and sly-grog shanties which bobbed up……

A few of the kids would clamber aboard the Horse and Buggy to take regular trips to town with their Dad, who was on the local Council, and a big-wig with the Agricultural Society.

They’d catch up with their mates, and yarn about sport…….particularly the new-fangled code of football which had become so popular. Bullock-wagon drivers, on their long haul from the city, fed the town-folk information on the game ……it now captured the minds of their entire district……….


His Dad’s good mate, a boot-maker, roughly fashioned a footy for them. The cover was made of leather and kept in shape by an inflated pig’s bladder.

The boys would spend hours out on the farm, kicking and marking; imitating the style of the older fellows they’d seen in action at Rutherglen.

They loved watching those organised games being played on what had originally been an open paddock. Volunteers had cleared it, cut down saplings for goal-posts and named it Barkly Park.

Years later, they reminisced about one such match at the Oval, when a Rutherglen supporter, fearful of the opposition snatching a last-minute victory, grabbed the Bell off the time-keeper and prematurely called ‘time’……

The large crowd – mainly locals – roared approvingly. But they had to return the following week for the game to be re-played, before their Redlegs could claim the Premiership…….


There must have been something in his family’s genes. He and his brothers – all eight of them – took to the game with fervour, and many old followers marvelled at what ability they possessed.

It was funny how things began to pan out….. a few of them lined up with the nearby team – Lake – and the rest chose to follow their school-mates to Rutherglen…….

When the two sides met, the house would be filled with good-natured banter, as the rivalry between the Clubs had become quite intense……And they’d fight tooth-and-nail on the field for bragging rights.

The competition became known far-and-wide for its standard…….Naturally, many young chaps who had come to town to seek their fortune, were recruited…..Even though they’d played at the highest level with Melbourne clubs, they certainly didn’t get it all their own way……

Poddy was only a ‘spring-chicken’ but began to show out against the more wily veterans. If he needed any inspiration it came when his eldest sibling was recruited by one of the city teams.

He idolised him, and missed him dearly, but when reports began to filter through that he’d been shining with his new Club he couldn’t have been happier.

When he heard his brother proclaimed as ‘Australia’s best full forward’ after he’d been down there a couple of years, it made the youngster all the more determined to follow in his footsteps….


As fate would have it, one of the League clubs ventured up to play a mid-season match against Rutherglen. They did this occasionally; slotting in the odd country game so they could keep an eye on any prospective talent among the locals.

The game provided more than the ‘big guns’ had bargained for…..

Mounted Police were required to disperse the overflowing crowd from the playing arena, such was their excitement, as the home team hit the lead in the last quarter, only to be overtaken in the dying seconds……….The locals went down by five points….

But there was no doubt who was the star of the game.

Poddy, who was one of those solidly-built ‘utility players’; a long-kicking, hard-hitting young bloke, performed brilliantly off a half back flank.

He didn’t need too much persuading when they invited him to move to the city the following season….Nor did he experience any difficulty coping with the expectations of League footy……..

In his second year he achieved one of his finest moments………. His team had never won a premiership, whilst their erstwhile opponents, who were chasing their fourth in a row, were expected to prevail.

All roads led to the Melbourne Cricket Ground…..People on foot swarmed there…..Tens of thousands poured down in trains and trams, in motor cars and cabs……

Men in bowlers and boaters, boys in cloth caps, and women in wide-brimmed hats comprised the crowd of almost 40,000.

They saw a wonderful game…..Only seven points separated the two teams at the final break, and the last quarter was a period of wild excitement for the supporters……Trembling hands counted the minutes on their watches, people shook with excitement, as the play swung from one end to the other……….

Poddy had been a steady influence down back, and his team clung to a two-point lead when the final bell first pealed..

Their fans stormed onto the MCG turf and carried he and his team-mates on their shoulders………..




In subsequent seasons he rose to become one of the League’s best, and most versatile players………..

Renowned for his toughness, he was selected to represent Victoria, but was sometimes penalised for the aggressive nature which marked his playing style…….

The Tribunal admonished him on one occasion for his ‘pugilistic’ attitude and suspended him for four matches….On another, at Punt Road Oval, a player was coming through with the ball, and was struck ‘purposely’ in the face…..He pleaded his innocence, but was penalised for the rest of the season……

But, aside from the VFL, a much more serious ‘competition’ was taking place overseas….Poddy enlisted with the AIF and was sent to the front-line in France……He was now a world away from football …..

He was well into his thirties when he returned three years later, but the dream of representing the club he loved, was still alive…..

He was welcomed with open arms, and also resumed his occupation as an Engineer, forever grateful that he was one of the lucky ones to survive the Prussian onslaught.

One of his younger brothers also joined him at the Club……Another found his way to a much-detested opposition team……..When they’d clash, old memories of their childhood matches – Rutherglen versus Lake Rovers, were revived…….


After one of those upheavals which occasionally occur at Clubs, Poddy was asked if he’d like to take over the coaching job.

It was a big ‘ask’. He was now slowing up, but being held in such high regard by his team-mates, felt he couldn’t refuse….

That lasted only one year…….he was aware that the extra responsibility affected his influence on the field, so he handed over the reins to a team-mate, and kept playing….

He was nudging 37 when he made his last appearance on the field……Hoping to go out in style, his dreams of another premiership were shattered…..

Everyone was willing him to produce his best….He did, but with a handful of sore players they fell just short in the Preliminary Final…..

However, his enthusiasm for the game meant that he couldn’t go ‘cold-turkey’…..He decided to become a goal-umpire, a move met with popular approval by supporters, who delighted in trading friendly barbs over the fence with the popular former champ…….

Arthur Hiskins remained a fervent fan of the game, up until he passed away in 1971, aged 85.

And almost a century after he’d hung up his boots, Poddy’s wonderful achievements were recognised by his old club when they inducted him to their Hall of Fame……..




This story appeared first on KB Hill’s website On Reflection and is used here with permission.
All photos sourced from KB Hill’s resources unless otherwise acknowledged.

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