Almanac (Footy) Memoir: Hanging up the boots after 34 years

 

 

Roger Collins-Woolcock (right) with his two brothers Geoff (left), who went on to captain the Queensland Under 15 side, and Michael (Beez), at 35 Archer Street, Toowong. Michael was nicknamed Beez because he looked exactly like the Doggies’ full forward Simon Beasley.

 

 

 

by Roger Collins-Woolcock

 

It was as the nurse at the PA Hospital (not far from the Gabba) was using bolt-cutters to remove my wedding ring that I came to the conclusion the end of my playing days were fast approaching. A training mishap – Dutchie kicks the footy a bit long. My eyesight not so good, stretch the arm out and snapped my fourth finger backwards. Circulation cut off. Doctor puts a splint on and tells me I should be OK to return to training in a month. Removed said splint, taped my fingers together and played two days later. Every old footy player knows the drill. If we followed strict medical advice we’d only field three players each game day.

 

And so yesterday I called time on my footy playing days that began with the Under 9s at Wests Juniors in 1975 and finished with the mighty Souths Sharks Masters team against the Aspley Parrots. By my reckoning around 530 games over 34 seasons in Queensland, NSW and the NT. 26 different teams at 11 different clubs. 8 Grand Finals for 4 wins.

 

I’ve played with or against many players before they became greats of the game (Dunstall, Crosisca, Leppitsch, Allen Jakovich, Brett Blackwell, McIvor, Potter) or after (Wearmouth, Byrne, Maclure, Owen Backwell, Jacko). But what drew me back year after year when I’ve only ever been a serviceable player at best?

 

I reckon there’s a few reasons:

 

I’m not sure whether it’s a bloke thing, but whether training or playing I can only focus on footy. When life is doing its thing, footy is a great comfort.

 

There’s nothing more pure than kicking, marking or handballing a footy.

 

Camaraderie – there’s a saying that everyone is linked by six degrees of separation. In footy it’s two degrees of separation.

 

Egalitarianism – footy is the great leveller where everyone is equal and no one knows or cares about your real name or what you do outside of footy. I found out our centre half forward Princess was an aspiring Federal politician only when I saw him on TV aside Bill Shorten at the last election. Our playing coach Pipes has a PhD in brain research. No one cares. Are you prepared to contribute to the team and have a go?

 

Teamwork – all management training should mandate being skipper of the local footy team for a season. Team sport beats individual sport any day of the week because it forces you to be part of something bigger.

 

You get to sing – never underestimate the healing and uniting power in belting out the club song.

 

There’s a clear result. Winning beats losing.

 

Footy connects the generations – Dad became a Dees supporter in the late `60s after going to a Hawks-Dees game and deciding Lethal was a thug. He’d take me and my two brothers to the footy in Melbourne in the early `70s and we’d race home to watch the replay. I played and watched footy with my brothers for years. I sang ‘It’s a Grand Old Flag’ to my son Joe straight out of the womb in `98. Joe and I spread Dad’s ashes on the 50m line at the Punt Road end of the MCG with some of my best mates four years ago. I coached Joe for five seasons; he plays for the North Shore Bombers. Mandy (my wife) and my two daughters (Hanny and Eb) love the game.

 

But it’s the stories and fun you have along the way playing alongside such an eclectic group that is the footy community.

 

 

Some memories:

 

Under 15s Wests Juniors: pleading with my firebrand mate Schuey to shut up as he got into a running argument with the umpire as the fullback was kicking out. 13 consecutive 15m penalties later the fullback kicks his only goal for the season.

 

Under 19s Western Districts: our ruckman Damo decides, for reasons known only to himself, to run onto the ground after half time minus his footy shorts (and just the Y fronts) as a silent protest against the thumping Mayne was giving us. Umpire won’t start the third quarter. My strangest request as captain: “Damo please put some pants on.”

 

Western Districts mid to late 80s: concerned that there wasn’t enough rigour in concussion testing our club doctor Adrian implements a question to players before they’re allowed to return to the ground “Count backwards from 100 in 7’s”. Concerned we’d never get a player back on the field, our coach introduces two further questions: “What’s your first name? Who do you play for?” Pass mark was 1 out of 3.

 

Mt Isa 1992: I filled in for one game in Mt Isa when I was up there for work. Played full-back against the top team. Full-forward kicks 16 – all long hair and Warwick Capper shorts. I’m playing a Masters Carnival 25 years later and start chatting with a tubby bald bloke. Made the Mt Isa connection. Quick as a flash he pulls out his phone and shows me a picture of the 1992 news article in the Mt Isa Daily that came out the following day hailing this bloke as the next Fred Fanning.

 

Western Districts 1984: having to separate Sean Luhrs from an umpire after the umpire had picked a fight with Lurker mid-game. Both mad as cut snakes.

 

Under 15 Wests Juniors: getting bashed with an umbrella by the mother of a Wilston Grange player after I inadvertently knocked her son out.

 

Under 19 Western Districts: in preparation for the Grand Final our coach (Nutts) takes us through a visualisation exercise the night before the game. We’re all lying down on the floor and Nutts works his way to a crescendo in the third quarter. Just as Nutts is about to draw it all together Boycey starts snoring loudly. Visualisation never recovers. The next day we lose to Southport by 11 points. Fell asleep in the third. Boycey prescient.

 

In our final training session before a big game for UQ, our captain is exhorting us to do anything to put off our opponents Redlands. His final piece of advice: “Eat garlic!”

 

Hervey Bay Bombers 1996: pre-season training camp to Fraser Island – these camps are a bit of a misnomer. Just before the barge sets off, two of our best players (Nudge and Kevvy) race onto the boat stark naked having just come from some party. The trip went downhill from there.

 

School footy game sometime in the early `80s – we’re up by 3 points and the Kenmore player takes a mark 50m out and the siren goes. He’s got no chance. Geoff (brother) marks the ground where the mark was taken. Umpire blows the whistle. 15m penalty for “ruining the oval”. Player slots the winner. Turns out he’s the umpire’s son.

 

Feedback was much more direct in the ‘80s. Coaching the Under 14 team with young Fergus about to play a milestone game. To get him focussed I say: “You’ve played 199 bad games of football – play one good one!” Fergus still in therapy.

 

 

There are many brilliant photos and videos from Roger’s collection here:

 

https://www.facebook.com/100006524437390/posts/3023358581224927/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Fantastic piece RCW. Congrats on a brilliant career. Beautifully described in a series of memories and the photos are gold.

  2. Love it. Thanks for sharing. I have one of those certificates!!! When they kicked the balls out after the session I dived on it, so got a souvenir.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    Wonderful piece Roger! Congratulations on your splendid career, but also on your honesty in recalling some of the not-so good moments in your career.
    .

  4. Jamie Simmons says

    Roger Collins-Woolcock rung a bell with me…and then I saw Souths Sharks. I see how it is. Princess, Dutchy and Pipes all get a mention but no love for Igor.
    I’ve given many a Shark a mention over the journey on here Rog. Welcome. You’re amongst friends.

  5. Daryl Schramm says

    What a great footy journey very finely told Roger. In regards to the main photo did the sashes go that way or had the pic been reversed?

  6. Well, there’s a blast from the past! Having not long arrived in Brisbane in 1977, to live, I needed some real footy, so chose a team closest in colours to red and white. Maroon had to do, so Wests it was. And, they had a large V (like South Melb). Saw them win the grannie at the Gabba that year and went to most of their games in Chelmer, sitting on the grassy banks enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Owen Backwell – I remember him well, all those years later. No 7, from memory. What a legend in Qld footy!
    Congratulations Roger!

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