Almanac Country Footy: The Dam Buster Ball (now with derby photo)




I was a full back. Banished to the back line at the tender age of sixteen after kicking five points from close range at full forward. Good enough to make the seniors. Good enough to get a bit of the ball. But not a great kick. The drop punt I could turn end over end and kick reasonably straight when goal posts were out of view. But the trajectory was just not right. Not a lot of distance and plenty of hang time. I should have played rugby. Max Glozier our star winger learned how to brace himself under my sky balls. Half squatting, feet well planted – waiting for the crunch. A brave player Max. One match at Queenstown with a howling gale blowing from the Smelters end I resorted to floaty torpedoes that caught the wind and were landing in the centre from my kick outs.  Then we changed ends. With justified trepidation I launched my first kick out and nearly marked it myself in the goal square. At the next opportunity I handed the ball to our back pocket Shorty Reeman – a miniature Stuart Dew with a drilling drop kick that bore into the wind a metre above the playing surface. I like to think that the innovation of the best kick and not the full back kicking out occurred on that very day. In the absence of any forthcoming evidence Shorty and I will take the credit.


Now I was fond of the gravel ground. Although to acknowledge such was heresy in my playing days. Our home ground at Rosebery was a turf oval – far superior according to our parochial supporters. Well I did say parochial. Our ground was mud. Churned, slippery, smelly mud. Still it was on the gravel ground where I came to grief barrelled up onto the bike track only to discover on returning to the field of play that I have shredded my hand on a rock. Up at the old Queenstown hospital I was stitched up and sent on my way. With the optimism of the young I gave it no further thought and was mentally preparing for our next game. A Rosebery derby. Rosebery v Toorak. In this small mining town this was a seasonal highlight regardless of ladder position. Large wagers were made and pride was at stake.


Now a wound to the fleshy palm of the hand below the thumb is not overly painful – but the skin flexes and pulls tight with every movement of the thumb. This meant my stiches had to stay in. On match day I arrive early. The plan is to pad the hand and tape it up. I am okay with this. “I have some news for you,” the coach says. They are not going to play me I fear. “We are going to play you full forward.”


“Full forward? Wow!” I say to myself. “Full forward!”  “Okay” I say deadpan. I then have to stop myself from asking – are you sure? “Cool” I add.


Now did I say Mud? This is a stinker of a day. From time to time the goals at either end are obliterated by curtains of rain squalls.  The ball sloshes around and we with it. On rare occasions, the ball reaches the scoring zone and early in the game I score from a snap. Just before half time I mark hugging the ball against the side of my face and my shoulder. Lyndon Carpenter in the meantime has jammed my head between his fist and the football and my left temple is throbbing madly as I slot my second. Two goals in a low scoring affair – I am feeling pretty good. From the main break onwards scoring dries up and rain pelts down. By the last quarter there is only a goal in it. It has been a while since attacking territory at either end was breached when from the wing a lurching torpedo is sent towards the pocket. A small pack forms that I can’t reach. I jog instead towards the square leaving my opponent. What happens next is pure magic. The pack have underestimated the trajectory of the sodden football and it clears their outstretched hands. The heavy balls hits the turf with a corkscrew motion that immediately relaunches it like a dam buster bomb. I pick up my leaden feet. I run with renewed anticipation. As I cross the ten yard square well clear of any opponent the ball lobs into my bread basket. Two more strides and I launch the footy up the high bank beneath the spectator fence. Am I elated? I am ecstatic. Goal number three. The luckiest goal. The winning goal.  The stitches come out the following week. Next game? I am back at full back. They are canny my coach and selectors. It is the third goal that has cruelled my chances of forward redemption. That and the mud. You get one dam buster ball in your life. Then it is back to the back line.



Read more Tassie footy memoir from Allan Barden (about Seaview FC) HERE


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  1. Tony Fantastic description of the Dam Buster Kick bouncing and spinning toward its target on a slimy sheen mixture of grass mud water and leaves
    Did you ever play in the forward line again at all?
    Just how big were the gravel stones on the legendary Queenstown oval – 1 to 2 inches across ? or your smaller drive way type gravel?
    Be interested to know the answer

  2. Paul Daffey says

    I cannot imagine how wet it would be to play at Rosebery, Tony.

    Coaches get a set on where they think their players belong. You, like Huddo, could read the slippery ball better than opponents. You should have been kept at full-forward.

  3. Trev sumner says

    How good a story was that Tone. Did you ever add any more goals to that 3 you scored against Toorak or was that your grand total for the rest of your senior footy . Trev

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