Adelaide Uni Greys Melbourne Lunch: Meeting Rulebook


On Sunday, my train from Colac arrived at Southern Cross Station at just after 11.30AM. It was still before midday when I arrived at the Waterside Hotel. I’m here for the Adelaide Uni Blacks Football Club Greys Melbourne lunch. Then off to the Collingwood v Port Adelaide clash. The Waterside is still locked when I arrive. There’s a familiar, shadowy figure inside working on his phone and iPad simultaneously. Even though he looks busy he lets me in.

The last line of his bio in the 2012 Footy Almanac book reads “He’ll phone you at some stage of your life”. That stage of my life happened late last year. That was the first time I’d spoken to the man. We speak regularly now. A shared interest in cricket, AFL and the Footy Almanac will do that. His passion for sport, and life, inspires me.

I don’t pretend to understand South Australians. I’ve seen Test cricket as far North as Cairns and State cricket in Hobart. AFL in Canberra. But have rarely ventured West of Mount Gambier. I plan to rectify this during the upcoming cricket World Cup. But aside from the great Bob Neil, I’ve quite possibly just met the greatest living South Australian. Malcolm “Rulebook” Ashwood*.

Sure, Collingwood are playing so I would have been in Melbourne anyway. But the chance to come down earlier and meet some of the Melbourne based former players of ‘the world’s greatest football club’, as well as Rulebook, is too good an opportunity  to pass up. Rulebook in person is what I expected from our phone conversations. Strong of opinion, generous of nature. He introduces me to several former Blacks in attendance. They’re good guys. I don’t remember the names of many. David Hamzy, a fellow Pies fan, is one.  Former Black and current Almanacker Mark ‘Swish’ Schwerdt is someone I’ve been very much looking forward to meeting. We have much music in common. I enjoy his company but he leaves early. Look forward to counting the beat with him again.

The formal part of the day is brilliant. JT Harms should be hosting his own interview show on TV. Probably at lunchtime. Rulebook proves his worth as an interviewee. There’s no AFL club that would be worse off with the spruicking skills of M.Ashwood. “Hot Lips” and “Rocky” are invited up to go under the Harms grill. Both are very interesting, very funny men. Rocky comparing his dreadlocked son’s appearance (who was also in attendance) to a seller of the Big Issue was gold.  As was his story about ringing a South Australian radio station sport quiz on behalf of Rulebook, who had been banned from ringing said quiz. There were other stories, which will stay at the lunch. I love the culture and humour of the Blacks, despite never having seen them play, I now follow their results closely. Their newsletter, the “Substandard”, forwarded to me each week by Malcolm, is always a great read.

Apart from the Almanac, my other link to Rulebook is through the cricket club he coaches, the Pembroke Old Scholars Cricket Club (also home to fellow Almanacker Raj Singh). One of the players under his command is a former Pomborneit CC teamate of mine in bowling all-rounder David Atchia. Under Rulebook’s rule the Kings made a Twenty20 final at the Adelaide Oval last Summer.

Whether promoting his clubs, the Blacks and the Kings, selling raffle tickets for those clubs or for charity, or just simply promoting his Almanac work (he’s got most of Australia to comment on his article “Leadership Matters”), Rulebook is a force to be reckoned with. I shudder to think of his phone bill. It was a pleasure to finally meet the great man in person.

*available on mobile and e-mail

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Luke greatly appreciated don’t dare compare any 1 to the legend tho !
    ( that is a offense ) a pleasure to meet a sports nut who definitely knows his stuff .
    It was a enjoyable day , JTH is brilliant any 1 who hasn’t made it to a knackery lunch is selling them self short , look forward to meeting more footy almanac folk at ,
    Greys – Almanac functions in the future . Thanks Harmsy , thanks Luke !

  2. I don’t think Rulebook exists. Its just Bob Neil in mufti.
    No mortal could know so many arcane sporting facts. He must be from a universe far, far away.
    They sent him to another planet so he would stop bugging them to buy raffle tickets and copies of the Almanac book.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    A live Bob Neil sighting.

    Continuing the mutual admiration, it was good to meet you in the flesh Luke, although the remnants of blue hair dye and mascara were a little disconcerting.

    The pre-lunch discussion about the state of local cricket related memoirs was enlightening.

    Speaking of Rulebook (and dental floss), it is fair to say that his opinion of my on field contributions to the Blacks has improved with the passage of time. The last game that I played under him saw me on the bench until lemons. I was spoon fed by the ruck man (Ra Ra McGrath ?) to the tune of half a dozen centre clearances and picked up an (unwarranted) umpires vote from one quarter of footy, giving Book the excuse that he needed to send me back up to Alex White and the Dwarves.

    Well done Book (and Luke)

  4. Great stuff Luke. Look forward to a man to man chat with the great RB one day!

  5. Dave Brown says

    Well done! Looking forward to an Almanac function in Adelaide at some point in the future for a similar experience.

    Are we going to get an impassioned article from one of the many Blacks people on here about the proposed Crows arrangement? Has Cornesy nailed the sentiment from the shop floor or is this a win for everyone?

  6. Thanks luke yes when I was at the ACTU I told bill Kelty to forget organising works and all those other plans just hire Rulebook as a union organiser. They’d be no need for Royal Commissions Rulebook would sign everybody up and ensured the union would look after them just as the greys do.

    Tonight I head to the light horse hotel in paddington with Flasher BAss BD handbag and flounder – members of the 1986 premiership teams the Glamour Side & Sty council – to watch Port Adelaide vs Sydney Swans if any AUFC Greys want to join us

  7. mickey randall says

    Great recount Luke; wish I was therw. If someone offered me the chance to meet RB and Bob Neil or Jagger amd Richards, it would be a tough call.

  8. Great article luke. I look forward to the Adelaide edition of the lunch soon. For those who don’t believe the legend of Rulebook having spent the afternoon at Norwood Oval seeing him telling Michael Aish and Rocky Roberts the problems with footy today and then seeing him toasted in a half time speech by the Norwood Lord Mayor all I can say is the legend lives on.

  9. i stopped reading after you called him the greatest living south australian.

  10. Great read – Book is closing in on the Great Man.

  11. Tony (Sugar Ray) Donnelly says

    Great read and delighted to be part of the Greys in Melb for 3rd yr. in a row. TJH, Rulebook, Rocky and Prof Hot-lips were value adds on the day…but I will always remember the day for the fact I heard that Boz Maloney is a father.
    all things are possible, but some things shouldn’t be

  12. Brian Rocky Austin says

    Great you were there Luke and the insights on the Book spot on.
    As the lead image to our article says there’s a touch of Hotel California about him: “you can check out but you can never leave”.
    He also approaches his work “without fear to favour”:
    At the Melbourne lunch he made sure he got the $ for greys membership from my dreadlocked son who at 22 must be he youngest grey and could have used the money for a haircut.
    An Adelaide Almanac event: If the Rulebook is promoting it “Harms and Legs” should book the entertainment centre now (it could out do the footy show) .
    Although having said that, given Malcolm’s association with The Redlegs, i think we just have just come with the name for the show: “Harms and Legs” at the Norwood Function Centre.

  13. Super Dazz says

    Ah yes the radio quiz.
    You havent suffered adversity until you have Book sitting on your bed at 8am, 5 days a week having kicked the missus out of bed to do the radio quiz using both bedside phones. 13 Full cartons of crownies, won a dozen at a time borrowing team mate identities. Yes we are still together but from time to time there was some solid negotiation required.
    Pretty sure I could sort out the Palestinian issue over a coffee after juggling that lot.!
    All hail the Book, those cartons kicked off a fantastic GF celebration and we are forever grateful.

  14. Nick Raschella says

    Luke, that picture at the start of your article sums up what many have said about Rulebook especially every year when the new footy season roles around and membership subscriptions are about to be called for.

    Sounds like a great event in Melbourne for Greys, Almanackers and other sporting tragic’s.

  15. I can sense a bit of manlove towards the ‘Book here… that normal? Time to bring on the Adelaide Almanackers!

  16. Lovely work Luke. I intended to eulogise the Book at some point in the near future in this setting bearing in mind his frequent observation that we tend to leave saying what we feel to and about those we admire and love until it’s too late. What your piece and the comments infer but don’t say directly is that – whatever else you may say about him – this man has a heart of pure gold.

    Malcolm and I have known each other for 40(!) years, having stood each other in a practice match between the Norwood High year 8 team and the Magill primary year 7 team in 1975. It’s remarkable the number of connections footy is responsible for.

    We went to the same high school, saw each other a bit over the years, and then hooked up again at the Blacks in 1985. As any Blacks’ historian will tell you, this was of course the year the legend of Bob Neil was born, in a bus returning from the Canberra intervarsity. Rulebook – already by then Chocka Bloch’s right-hand man – was in the thick of it.

    Rulebook started his own gardening business in the late 90s. My then wife and I lived at Marryatville. I was keen to give Malcolm a bit of a head-start and persuaded the ex to let me engage him to do some work for us. As Malcolm dragged a series of cuttings down the driveway to his trailer oblivious to the trail of debris he was leaving in his wake, I wondered whether I’d done the right thing. After he left the tap running at full throttle, short-circuited the whipper-snipper (just after slashing the dog with it), buggered up the lawn-mower, chopped down the thriving agapanthus believing them to be weeds, and woke the sleeping kids, I had serious concerns. When we couldn’t find the dogs for an hour or so after Malcolm had left – leaving the front gate open contrary to specific instructions – the ex said, “NEVER AGAIN!”. It was probably the only thing we ever agreed on in 16 years of marriage.

    The day before yesterday my genteel lady friend met Malcolm for the first time after he called in to collect my Norwood members’ tickets (which he sold to me and which he has used exclusively this year). There was a courteous handshake followed immediately by a genuinely shameless kiss on the cheek. Bits of last week’s chicken pie mingled with the previous night’s minestrone in Rulebook’s orange 7-day growth as it brushed said lady’s delicate face. I confess I was therefore somewhat surprised when afterwards she said, “Well that wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be.” I hate to think what picture she’d had in her mind. She has virtually no experience of the Blacks but clearly hadn’t believed any of my repeated ramblings about “heart” and “authenticity” and the like until faced with the epitome of these things in the flesh.

    I wonder whether Malcolm’s immediate family knows anything of the genuine esteem in which he is held. My feeling is they would be surprised at the extent of the love for this man, not just at the Blacks and the Almanackery but in all circles he moves in. Emma, your husband is a remarkable man. Boys, your dad is a freakin legend. I mean it. One of a kind. Irreplaceable.

  17. Elliot Hewish says

    Well said by all! Rulebook’s passion, dedication and effort goes unmatched and is good to see him get some recognition!

  18. Great to see bob neil getting around nationally with the greys. Love ur work rulebook.

  19. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thank you for the compliments most appreciated Daddsy re the gardening more than a tad exaggerated geez you made , James Hird’s testimony look reliable , got any gardening need doing ?
    Dazz that tab radio quiz heist was good fun , remember the am league guy saying geez you guys are going all rite on the crownies and replying yeah all free to courtesy of rulebook radio quiz wins and him just walking away shaking his head ? !
    Tony Donnelly you have received numerous nominations for the truest comment ever made on the knackery ! Go the Greys

  20. Lovely Lisa says

    He may also turn up at your back door one day too. Rulebook is one if a kind.

  21. Rulebook’s Everywhere
    To the tune of Love is in the Air by John Paul Young

    Rulebook’s everywhere, everywhere I look around
    Rulebook’s everywhere, at the pub and at the ground

    And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
    I don’t know if being I’m wise
    But again I’ve been roped in for 3 for 5
    Even through there’s never a good prize

    Rulebook’s everywhere, even at my postgame beer
    I’ve seriously got no coin, I just wish he’d disappear.

    And now that he signed up to LinkedIn
    Who’s this Chinese sponsor he’s pulled in?
    I’m not sure if this is right or wrong,
    But we now may be sponsored by Kantong.

    Malcolm’s everywhere, oh oh oh
    Rulebook’s everywhere oh oh oh uh uh uh

    Rulebook doesn’t care, he has no sense of his shame
    Rulebook’s hardly fair, favouring Uni in the game.

    And I don’t know if I am seeing double, coz he’s around of all the time
    Yet another missed call from Rulebook, and this line is just here to rhyme

    Rulebook’s everywhere, everywhere I look around
    Rulebook’s everywhere, at the pub and at the ground

    And the whole of the club has gone crazy,
    Rulebook’s asking people to pay
    But he’s someone that we all believe in,
    Because he’s saving the financial day

    Malcolm’s everywhere, oh oh oh,
    Rulebook’s everywhere, oh oh oh, uh uh uh

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