Almanac Footy: Which player do you see yourself in?

Which player do you see yourself in?



Watching Essendon v Port was worthy. Port had the better team, the Dons had a few players with very strong backs to carry with, and a lot of silly errors. Just that lack of class in crunches.


The highlight of the game, for me, was a passage in the third involving yet another solid grab to the clear matchwinner, Finlayson, with Dixon in the frame, and Powell-Pepper. None of them dough-cut, sheep-following, mannequins.


To a one, they looked like the shady, stubbled bums you see in the TAB. Rollie in mouth, beer on breath, blowing the alimony. Skin tight marble wash jeans, dirt sneakers, if not moccasins.


It was odd. Suddenly, I insanely wanted them to do well, as much as I loathed them.


They stood out, and I just realised, do always. It was good. I was engaged.


Looks matter.


This is sport, we’re meant to be passionate. I can admire the silk and even the pure ‘G&D’ of Neale, Cripps, Fyfe, the alpha physiques and struts of Stringer, Dangerfield, whoever, any of them, but that’s not me. I respect them, adore their footy, yet a connect is missing. As the players get fitter, taller, better groomed, and I get older, I’m finding it harder and harder to see myself out there.


As a kid, Peter Foster, the old school Fitzroy then Doggies CHB was always an absolute favourite of mine, because I could see myself in him. The me I wanted to be. A weathered bush boy with a wry grin, sipping a stubby in the outer. And Smokin’ Joe, the city version.


In cricket, Warnie was a lair. Tim May was my man, always looked like he’d be the one holding the tongs at the barbie. Lennie Pascoe the fiery wog I wished I was, crashing, bashing, toiling away under the shadows of Thomo and Lillee.


I couldn’t relate to Roos or Dermie, with their magnificent looks and perfect mullets. They were gods – of physique, of cheekbones, ability – as glossy and the product they represented. Already, by the late 80s, early 90s, gone were the days of the office worker look, bald with sides, the Mick Dwyers. The disshelved wire of Harmes.


Only Cunnington from the Roos still looks like a warrior. Plays like a warrior. Is a warrior. Him and Vlastuin.


Jeremy Cameron looks like an office worker who’s done too much coke. Weirdly banal and interesting. That’s why I barrack so much for him.


Dyson Heppell looks generic. So many of them look generic, that cocky alpha kid who was clearly better at sport and genetics than any of us, prettier. That returns to his small town or local footy club an AFL hero, with all the right clothes, haircut, latest bling, and strut that goes with it.


Most, I could fill in their player profile for them. Scotch and coke, country music, blockbuster movies.


Why is it so many of them are handsome? I get that youth is biased towards beauty, but even when young, as a defender, I always hated the pretty boys.


I watched Brissie v Blues on Friday. Joe is a character. Joe is larger than life. Joe is laconic. Joe doesn’t even need his full name said. He’s Joe, you know him. Joe is not your everyman, but a character, something special. Charlie Cameron is a character. Hipwood, less so, but sure. The rest look like accountants. Joe is the one you see your laconic mates in.


Down the other end, Curnow is a surfy clothes company’s wet dream, the poster on every teen girl’s wall. SOSOS looked like that silver spoon fed kid you LOVE to hate! Private schools and ski slopes. It’s shallow, maybe not fair, but so is watching footy rather than participating. I don’t like Carlton’s forward line. Bring back Eddie.


They were thumped by Brisbane’s backline of big, generic men. All beef-ladened cardboard cut-out extras in any Arnie movie. And, without their forwards, there wasn’t much of Carlton.


Give me Pike on the backline. One look and you KNOW a beer or twenty with him would be entertaining!


These things matter. We’re meant to not just watch, but to barrack.


One look at Steele Sidebottom, his mannerisms, the way he goes about it, you like him, because you just know he’s likable. The same with Mihocek. Even if they do play for Collingwood.


It’s why everybody loves Liam Baker. He radiates Frankston ratbag! Everybody watches him and thinks: ‘Hey, that’s me out there’, the me that can play footy – even if they don’t even really know they’re doing it.


Kids follow, kids adore. You get a little older, and you look to identify.


Connor Rozee, Zac Butters, their skills are amazing, a joy to watch, but the people that are their names I can barely see through the masses…


I dunno, which player do you see yourself in?




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  1. Ian Wilson says

    as a kid in WA I only ever had one player on my bedroom wall. Malcolm Blight . My younger brother and I did everything to replicate him, from the backyard, to the local ovel to a game with rolled up socks in the hallway, he was God. As my physical restrictions appeared with age I turned to Robert Harvey and Greg Williams for inspiration. Gut running and skill combined with amazing IQ.

  2. Rick Kane says

    In the Hawks current crop, I do like Hardwick. I favour backline players (the engine room) and Hardwick represents qualities I identify with (I don’t necessarily have them) such as courage, hardness, team and quick thinking. Way back when I was a teenager in the 70s, Peter Knights was a hero. And not just because he was from West Gippsland. I liked his swagger, man he could rip a ball from the sky, against pretty much anyone and like great CHB, of any era, he could read the play superbly.

  3. I always thought ‘Scratcher” Neale for the Cats was relateable.
    Not a pretty player by any means.

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Nice ones!

    Ian, yeah, when I was a kid I’d practice taking slow motion, three touch, Malcolm Blight speckies over the couch using a balloon. When I told him this ,he lit up! “Yes! Yes! Kids using a balloon, they learn so much doing that. I did too.” Only Blighty.

    Rick, g’day mate. Two very contrasting players! Ha! But both gold. I, too, identify with backmen, both from being a backman, and as a form of character. The one I see myself in most of the current crop is Harris Andrews from Brisbane. Reliable defensive key, known for his 1%ers… yet at times a little goofy. Yep.
    I spoke to Peter Knights for my footy book and found him a humble, extremely likable, very honest man. He was a joy to be around. I asked him about why he took so many speckies, what it meant to him. He simmply said “It was a way to get the ball.”

    Dan, could not agree more on Scratcher. I mean, didn’t he get that name because he was a potato farmer at one stage, “scratching” for spuds? Either way, very much one of us.

  5. Matt Zurbo says

    IN hindsight, I should have included Bones McGhie! Wiry frame, tatts and a smoke. People could identify. “That’s ME out there!” It’s why he’s still so popular, even today.

  6. matt watson says

    If you can imagine an accountant-looking player with blonde hair and a good physique who can get the loose ball and deliver it perfectly, slot me into defence.
    Or the forward line – good for a goal or two. Midfield too, in those wide open spaces. Play tall at centre-half-back – sure despite giving away height and weight.
    But that was 2800km away from Victoria. Where a former Victorian could do that against rugby rejects. I was never good enough to observe VFL/AFL players and think, hey that’s me.
    Doesn’t mean I didn’t wish it was me…
    Hell, to play one game at the highest level. Who I wanted to play like?
    All of them…

  7. Matt Zurbo says

    Matt, as a wordsmith, you’re about fist picked in my lunchtime legends! Always.

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