Almanac Footy Poetry: “Manacunna,” by Ian Bland

I was lucky enough to stumble upon Ian Bland reading, performing, this poem one Thursday night at the Lomond Hotel. It was a wonderful performance. The Writer’s Block is a semi-regular gathering at the Lomond, comprising musicians, writers, story-tellers. Ian Bland had the room spellbound with his reading of this funny, evocative poem of country footy; an enormous fictional event in a country footy town; in Manacunna…

Ian’s “Bland on Bland” first went to air in February 2007, a segment of Melbourne radio station Triple R’s thematically driven “The JVG Radio Method.” Ian has kindly given permission for the text to be re-produced here.

The poem appears in the book “Bland on Bland: verses by Ian Bland” which you can purchase here:

-David Wilson





The town of Manacunna, in the far west of the state
Had, outside of football, little cause to celebrate


The Manacunna Emus, coached by Alby Shanks, the Mayor
The players, like their namesake, next to useless in the air


While they hadn’t won a flag for nye on fifty years
They did have Clarrie Beadle, revered by all his peers


Over sixty years of age, a farmer and a vet
Nearly seven hundred games – and he was wasn’t finished yet


One record still eluded, he was running out of time
First to kick a thousand goals – he was stuck on nine, nine, nine


Carting hay one arvo at the far end of his block
He left the engine running while he went to move some stock


His tractor jumped a gear, pinning Clarrie to a tree
While lucky to survive, he lost his leg, above the knee


And that, the town assumed, was the end of his campaigning
But barely twelve months later Clarrie fronted up to training


An artificial leg knocked together in his shed
A spring from an old Bedford and a foot from his brass bed


Screwed onto a football boot, the largest ever seen
Size eight and a half! His good foot – his left, size seventeen


Anybody else, you’d have thought it was a joke
But no-one doubted Clarrie – he was not that sort of bloke


They had no heart to tell him since the abattoir closed down
The club was close to folding, half the players had left town


The trainer, Tassie Gooch, “Bugger this” he said
“We’ve weathered droughts and politics, we’re down, not bloody dead


We might have lost some players but we haven’t lost our soul
I, for one, aren’t budging till Clarrie kicks that goal”


Tassie’s speech inspired Old Ernie Dibbs to have a run
Last time he put his hand up was to serve in World War One


Father Brian, the local priest, and Cecil Crabbe, the baker
Even Vincent Cafarella, the local undertaker


Des Gillot used a cane since diabetes took his sight
“Just point me west” he shouted “I can still tell day from night”


Tassie’s girlfriend Olga, as tough as hardened steel
A boner at the abattoirs, she volunteered with zeal


The coach recoiled “A-a-a-a woman? It’s not allowed, fair go”
Olga winked, then whispered “Relax, no-one will know”


“Give my hair a trim and flatten out my quiff
And then if I quit shaving, no-one will know the diff”


Alby stared at Olga’s chin, looking for a trace
“Legs” she snarled “You cheeky prick, not me bleeding face”


“What about your b- b -bosoms? They’re the size of sacks of wheat
Like trying to hide an elephant, they hang down to your feet!”


“Calm down Pet” Olga cooed, “I’ll tuck’em in me trunks
It’ll look just like a beer gut – least I’ll blend in with you drunks”


So they scraped a team together to play the Deadfield Tiger Snakes
Never in their history had they played for higher stakes

Hammered from the opening bounce, they couldn’t take a trick
But they hadn’t come to win the game – just one lousy kick


Clarrie’s gait looked awkward, a bit like Cameron Ling
As he fought to tame the power of his inbuilt Bedford spring


You wouldn’t call it running, more a skip and then a hop
Speed was not an issue; His problem? How to stop!


His mechanical appendage thrust him high above the pack
Ten free kicks he gave away, all for in the back


Centre to the goal square took Clarrie just two jumps
But they deemed he’d run too far, at least according to the umps


Finally, exhausted, he was forced to seek the bench
Where they massaged Clarrie’s leg with RP7 and a wrench


As he crawled across the boundary line, as corny as it sounds
A wit yelled from the terraces “Look, Clarrie’s out of bounds”


With little time remaining, encouraged by his team
Clarrie came back on to try to realise his dream


Cecil Crabbe, the baker, was on a roll and kicked it deep
Clarrie, holding nothing back, took one gigantic leap


Though it looked spectacular, his leap was badly timed
Not only did he miss the ball, he left his leg behind


Olga, thinking quickly, ripped that leg out of the mud
Charged towards the Sherrin with a sudden rush of blood


She clubbed the ball as sweetly as Greg Norman in his prime
Drove it through the middle as the umpy blew full time


The crowd, lost in silence, turned as one, towards the ump
While Clarrie kneeled in prayer – well, one knee and a stump


Even opposition players willed that pig skin through
But the umpires stood bewildered, unsure of what to do


Olga broke the impasse, shouting “Listen here you tools”
And gave them her analysis of the spirit of the rules


The ball went through the goal, that was never in dispute
And no-one could deny it came off Clarrie’s boot


They scanned a battered rule book, every clause dissected
Nothing said your body and your leg must be connected


So, the umpy blew his whistle, took a breath and raised his hand
A goal to Clarrie Beadle – Clarrie had his grand


The Grandstand erupted, a thundering of cheers
Supporters of both teams stood hugging and in tears


Clarrie had his thousand and the crowd saw history made
Sadly, that game, was the last the Emus played


Lost to all but memory, in hearts it still survives
Like all the unseen moments that set apart our lives


Clarrie’s gone the way of his beloved footy club
His boot has pride of place at the Manacunna Pub


It hangs above the bar with the rest of Clarrie’s kit
Like Cinderella’s slipper, it awaits, the perfect fit


A sign reads “Good home wanted – wear this if you will
But a warning to you wannabes – it’s a bloody big boot to fill”



Ian Bland


  1. Love it.

  2. Paddy Grindlay says:

    Fantastic stuff.

    A rollicking story.

  3. David Conallin says:

    Great stuff… quote another great poet (Bob Dylan) “the tears on my cheeks are from laughter!” gotta buy his book

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