Almanac Footy: Number 31



In winter, in Yambuk, after school, after cake, after Cornflakes and after donning gear and before wood-chopping chores and tea, there is just enough time and light for a small boy, outfitted in a sleeveless home-made blue and red converted school jumper/guernsey – numbered a home-made thirty one – white knicks and a too-big jock strap to be fully Ron Barassi.


With a pumped-up pill and polished, sprigged boots, a kid could, not model, not imitate, but BE, Hassa, Bluey, Donny Williams, Tassie or Ronald Dale at any given moment at any given position, in the cold, wet cow-shit strewn, long grass, kicking drops and punts and goals at both ends.


Whether wheeling in from the wing on a left boot with sox down, Dixon-like, drop-kicking out like Tassie, or booting the hell out of it like Barassi, you were him, him and him. A towering John Lord torpedo, a Ken Emselle stab pass, a Johnny Townsend steal or a Barry Bourke lead – you were all of them. You were Laurie Mithen and you were Neil Crompton saving the day. You were Johnny Beckwith clearing and you were Donny Williams executing a perfect, long, drop on the run, towards goal. You were big Bob Johnson getting the tap and you were Doc Roet being a doctor and a footballer all at once. You were Ian Ridley roving and a sleeveless Barrie Vagg. You were one of them and all of them; out there in the cold, under the ibises – with the cows. ‘Til dark. ‘Til called.


But most of all you were Ronald Dale…and my God, you were good!



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  1. Great stuff, Paul.
    RIP RDB.

  2. Hayden Kelly says

    Brilliant stuff Paul full of memories
    no doubt you wore Ron Barassi boots surely not the Ian Stewart White Diamond boots or the Jenkin topliners
    John Coleman Knicks and a Jonko jock strap

  3. Great story Paul. Barassi was my childhood hero. I have his autograph from an MCG game 1959 when you were allowed in the rooms. He then came to Portland with Dixon, Mithen and Laidlaw to run in the Footballers relay at Hanlon Park Athletics meeting. I had reminded him of this several times and he laughed. I went to his 70 th Birthday at the Hilton. 3AW put on an open birthday for him in Neil Mitchell’s program at the hotel. I had my photo taken with him and it cost $31 donated to charity. I was born in Port Fairy went to Consolidated school and shifted to Portland in 1959 as an 8 year old. In 1957 my father bought home a pink sporting globe with rag badges to be sent away for. I chose the Demons and have forever followed them. Those cards bring back memories. Atlantic petrol and shell transfers were around in those days. It was great that Barass stayed a true demon supporter. As he said it was in his veins even though he was involved in 3 other teams. But he was never interested in going to Colin Ritchies bombers ?

  4. Love it.

  5. Frank Taylor says

    Same here,
    Love it.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Wow. A great read for me. Took me back to just a smidge before my time. I’m sure there are kids today doing something similar. I’ve also come to appreciate RDB a bit more since he passed.

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