Almanac Music: Hell’s Bells chime across the half forward flank

No-one was expecting it. As the Fitzroy Under 9-S team bubbled jubilantly off A.K. Line Reserve, after another wonderful performance, a loud bell chimed.


Dong. How quaint, I thought, Greensborough Town Hall must have a tower and a clock.


Dong. Loud enough to be heard in Rosanna.


Dong. Everyone is looking around now. What’s that?


Dong. And then the familiar ACDC riff.




The Fitzroy parents broke out into massive smiles, amused, looking around at each other, immediately transported to days of helter skelter craziness, as ‘Hell’s Bells’ pulsated through a serious amplifier and the St Mary’s Under 10s, stern of face, clenching teeth, filed through the gate and onto the ground.


Look out!


It was brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.


It would have been the highlight of the season. Better than Olive’s Bruce Doull moment on the Red Symon wing at Alfred Crescent; better than Seb’s four tackles in a minute one chilly morning (his father must be a Scott brother and mother a stinging nettle); better than Theo’s explanation at Cramer Street, by the railway line, that if Metro timetabled South Morang trains 12 minutes apart we wouldn’t need a siren or a timekeeper; better than the clacking of Under 9 boots down the historied race that same day; better than Dylan’s magnificent example and the Ethan Orr’s banner for Dylan’s debut; better than the snakes after each match.


Would have been! Except it was pipped by the performance we had just seen from our very own Fitzroy Under 9-S team in the hour before.


How far have these kids come in a season! And how well did they play. Everyone was involved and everyone was thinking about the team and their own game in the context of the team.


So here’s some of the things I saw that makes the Fitzroy Under 9-S team better than Hell’s Bells.


Sebastian ‘Stinger’ Donnellan won the footy in the backline (again) and turned and straightened. I saw him notice Johnny ‘Penzance’ Bulfone backing him up, and Johnny took a well-weighted handball from Seb on the fly. Johnny didn’t blast away. He steadied and drew an opponent and gave a perfect handball to Jack ‘Molly’ (Dooker) De Araugo, also on the run. It had such syncopated rhythm it should have been accompanied by Louis Armstrong. It was footy like you’d see on TV. Molly sent us forward with his big left foot.


Then Matt ‘Dasher’ Whybrow, rock steady on the back flank all day, took a mark and looked to play on. That’s Dasher’s instinct – the sign of a good sportsman – and that’s what he does. I saw him check for options and he spotted Roman, and he hit Roman with a beauty. Roman didn’t let him down.


Paddy ‘Plugger’ McGain was causing trouble up forward, drawing defenders and making space for the other forwards in the way the big fella does. Olive ‘96’ Nicholson was at Plugger’s feet looking for the crumbs.


Then Theo ‘Prof’ Harms won a free kick 20 metres out and was advised to “Have a shot Theo”.  He was theatrically deliberate and gave the Sherrin a roost which hung in the air like a Richie Cunningham buzzer-beater, but fell agonisingly short – into Dylan ‘Hurricane’ Colyer’s arms! ‘Hurricane’ kicked the goal, and later snagged another one.


By some miracle of nature players have taken on the characteristics of their position. Joey ‘Huddo’ Barnard is looking more like the famous No. 26 every week – which will please his Hawk father. ‘Huddo’ knows where the goals are, and reads it in a way which ensures he is in the goal square, on his own, for the one over the top.


‘Hungry’ Bartlett is a legend of the game and is about to be immortalised in bronze at the MCG but fair dinkum, after his second quarter at A.K. Line on Sunday they should erect a statue of Oliver ‘Hungry’ Orr at Brunswick Street right now. Ollie is a classic goal-sneak, as we know, but this week, having a run in the mid-field he took marks (one sticky-fingered, overhead), gave handballs, won the loose footy and looked for his mates in what was a super team performance.


I missed most of the third quarter keeping Anna and Evie in check (a nod to the music playing in the club house, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, which was putting a spring in the cleaner’s step as he attempted to un-sticky the floor) but it looked like the Roys were going well.


Everyone had their moments, between trying to keep their fingers warm. Jasper ‘Red’ Symons and Finn ‘Pie’ Tweedie were in amongst it. So was Luke ‘Pastie’ Tweedie. Meg ‘Mo’ Orr played well – for both sides.


Roman ‘Diesel’ Moxon (or is it Roman ‘Toga’ Moxon) kicked the point of the century – from the middle and we’ve seen plenty of that Danger-dash from Toga over the season. Hopefully we will enjoy a lot more.


Henry ‘BP’ Nelson was always there at the right time, trying to win the hard ball, as he always is. No shirking for BP – ever.


Leeroy ‘Pops’ Cocco always influences games – often significantly – and I spotted his young mind remembering to kick with his left foot when the situation demanded it – a very good sign.


Frankie ‘Crackers’ Donnini is turning into one of those reliable big blokes who can go forward or back, who give you absolutely everything, including first use of the footy. He reminds me of those ruckmen who are captain-coaches of country clubs like Tatura and Jeparit and wear No 1 on their back (But Stinger Donellan’s claimed that).


Then there was a classic moment in the final quarter when a long kick came into our open forward line, (Open because some were fascinated by a nippy little blue swallow darting about). Gus reacted quickly, leading out to take the chest mark, and without breaking stride, channelling StevieJ our very own AngusK wheeled on a perfect arc and booted a sensational goal. It was Geelong of 2007 – the year the Cats saved footy.


Josh ‘Bulldog’ Murray couldn’t play on Sunday but we hope to see his skills on display at Alfred Crescent on Sunday.


Yabby Symons and her crew have done a marvellous job helping these kids develop their talents, and build their confidence, while never wavering from the key elements of being committed to the team and the season.


What a performance from the Roys.


More artful, more stirring, more everything, than Hell’s Bells.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Having never been an AC/DC fan (Such blasphemy! So unAustralian!) I concur with Mr Harms’ carefully considered conclusion. Go the Roy Boys and Girls.

  2. How wonderful for the kids to be able to read about their season that is being told so well. Look forward to more JTH.

  3. It was fantastic :)
    John, you are brilliant. Can’t stop smiling.

  4. Keli Symons says

    I love the nicknames. Perhaps we should try to recruit a redhead next year so we can call him or her Richie “The C” Cunningham. Then the team would be complete.
    Go Roys!

  5. A season of footy for kids is a lifetime of memories. I remember Mr Patto from my primary school days still. These young kids will remember all of this. Well played.

  6. Earl O'Neill says

    Monaros play loops of intros to Thunderstruck and Kashmir during breaks.

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