Almanac Footy: Old Dog’s the best ever


Greg Nutting and Old Dog at a Lilydale FC function



The Best Ever


In 667 games, and 40 seasons of adult Aussie Rules, I’ve played against and with some champions. Triple AFL premiership players. ToC players. AFL troopers who killed it back down a level. Bush legends like my great mate, Pete Featherstone. Pete, surely, was the heart and soul of football, of Australia. So much power, so simplified; play footy, hang around.


Dozens who “If not for…” woulda, shoulda played AFL.


Greg Nutting never played AFL, never starred in bush footy, or div three seniors, even. Yet he was the best footballer I have ever seen.


Greg was short and had a little too much puppy fat at times, and gave E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G! Forever yapping out there, squawking for the ball, covered, head-to-toe with sweat. He got every bit out of whatever he had.


Greg knew how big men worked. It wasn’t rocket science – if I took a mark, he was there, running. The squawk became a simple little “Yep…” If I got 11 marks, he got ten extra kicks, and, being the one who carried the ball, votes. That sort of understanding was everything. It formed a bond. He always acknowledged where it came from, happy, laughing. “Thanks for today, ol’ Doggy-Dog!” he’d laugh. We knew things our teammates didn’t, the club and coaches didn’t.


But that’s not what made him the best across four states in forty years. The best of thousands.


Greg wasn’t fast, but went in hard. And had a killer sense of humour. When some kid was young and dumb and simply dropped his head when Greg was charging, Nutsy’s ivory was spread to the winds.


After the game, while waiting for the ambulance, we laughed and posed for stupid photos, me and him, post match beer, blood and jagged tooth stumps and pierced lips everywhere, cows and tall grass in the background.


“Looks like I’m due for some piano keys,” he cackled.


“Shoulda ducked,” I told him.


“Hey, Gay,” he asked the passing canteen lady. “Got any sticky tape?”


He gave me his house when I drank too much, and couldn’t wobble back up the mountain. Let me park my dog in his yard when I was on the plantation crews, working the western tiers.


Only played for one club his whole life.
Provided two of my best five football memories.


One, way down St Helens, when the home team got the jump, the momentum, the lot. Goal after goal, they were pantsing us. He was playing coach, in the guts. After yet another goal, as the ball was being returned to the middle, I jogged from CHF towards defence, giving him the smallest nod as I passed, which he returned.


I went CHB, took three pack marks in three minutes, stopped their run-on, dead. Then, given ten minutes of arm wrestle, he beckoned me into the ruck with a lift on the chin, as we began to gradually peg them back… I’ll never forget it. Just two old stagers, who didn’t have to say a word.


Greg smashed it that day. We got in front with a minute to go. They kicked one on the siren. But what a match!


Tuesdays were gold, thanks to him, a slab, four, five, maybe six players, ressies, a few seniors, still in their footy gear, or back in work clothes, in those big old wooden woolshed change rooms. Having a sip, $3-per-beer into the ice cream container, talking, making time stop, just stop, as, outside, under a -5 degree Milky Way, ice slowly covered our ute windows.


We played in Ressies Premierships and a Senior one, too. Whenever he rose, I did, wherever I did, it seemed he did, too.


Work dragged me down south eventually, then, love and restlessness took me to the tropics, via everywhere. Greg kept playing at the one club until he retired. I continued hacking on, but never found such a partner in crime again.


These days, Nutsy gets his footy fix through his two ripper lads. By Christ, the milkman must have had a day or two off! Each one is, well, him. Chunky, funny, laughing, having a ball!


My family came back to Tassie recently, from deep in the Otways, for his and his partner, Lauren’s, wedding. It was a thing of joy. Outdoors, of course, come as you choose, games for the kids in case the ceremony was too boring or long. Colour-in books, a rainbow of small pencils and jar of lollies at their dinner tables. When the first dance took place, they invited all the children to join them.


Greg Nutting is the best footballer I’ve ever played alongside, or against, because, obviously, he’s the best person.


Greg Nutting and his boys



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  1. Old Dog lovely tribute of 2 mates playing and enjoying life together!

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