Almanac Life: ‘But what will I tell John?’





The John Harms (aka JTH) family has moved close to us in the Barossa Valley and we are looking forward to meeting up with them. John and I share a friendship with my best mate Ian Hauser (aka IJH).


When I meet John soon his first question might well be – ‘Did you play football (the AFL kind)?’


Ian and I wrote about our Primary School sporting achievements in a previous article for the Almanac site. Like wearing thongs instead of socks inside sandals, playing footy and supporting a footy team were prerequisites for a smoother transition for me as a Ten Pound Pom into becoming an Aussie.


I will proudly tell John that I was a reasonably proficient winger in the Warrandyte South Primary State School side, and hope that he doesn’t ask what happened after that.


You see, as a secondary student I was always the smallest and weediest male member of the class. I’m not sure what happened to my bodily enzymes, but being a late maturer meant that, although I still enjoyed kick-to-kick during lunchtimes, my back was often used as a stepladder for boys growing hair from every orifice.


I could run fast, had good hand-eye coordination and loved sport, so although I took to the softer sports like tennis, hockey and volleyball, the Luther College Football team coach talked me into giving footy a try.


It was a cold, windy morning and my first experience of a cold, grey cement changeroom. My classmates, seemingly comfortable in this environment had turned mildly feral, testosteronal, those with mature bodily parts displaying as much as possible and growling threats on their forthcoming opponents. Those, like me, white and hairless, remained goggle-eyed and hidden behind towels. When it was my turn I slapped on the liniment and tried to growl too.


I’m not sure that I want to remember much of the game. I know I played in the forward pocket and was constantly threatened and bumped by my opponent. We were on the end of a shellacking, so the ball didn’t come up our end much. When it did I somehow managed to get in the clear to receive a perfect pass. The football bounced off my chest and so wasn’t even recorded as a possession.


My next game of football came about 40 years later. By now I had grown taller and stronger, mainly due to proper nourishment provided once I married. My more active career as a sportsman had finished when I was invited to play in a social footy game between a Nuriootpa church and our Tanunda church.


My trepidation increased when it was discovered that Nuri were a few players short, and I was duly handed over to them.


You might find this difficult to believe, but I found myself being a ball magnet. It helped that, for some unknown reason, I didn’t have an opponent. Pastor Dave Preuss (playing for Tanunda) kept yelling out, ‘Who’s on Andy Thurlow?’ – but nobody seemed to notice him.


I happily ran around the forward line gathering possessions. Three times I was about 30 metres out and streaming towards the goals … and 3 times I stuffed my kick only to hit our leading full-forward on the chest! They thought that was intentional. At one point the full-back kicking out muffed his kick, and I sent it back over his head! It was terrific fun but, by three-quarter time and about 20 possessions later, I was totally whacked – and happily retired to let a Nuri player on.


So there you have it. I love footy, was an inaugural member of Port Adelaide Power, enjoy AFL Fantasy football, and who knows where my obvious footy skills might have taken me if only they had been matched with quicker developmental hormones.


But what will I tell John?


Editor’s Note: What he didn’t tell you –

Far from being a bit namby pamby (his words), as the above suggests, Andy actually has a pretty solid sporting CV. He played a mean game of tennis (winning pennants) and was a skillful, creative, tactical schemer on the volleyball court where he won titles at State Reserves level. During a teaching stint in Port Lincoln, he played ‘A’ Grade hockey in the key centre-half position for Port Lincoln Marauders, winning the club’s B & F in a premiership year, and went on to represent Port Lincoln in Country Cup Hockey carnivals in Adelaide. In more social settings, he rolled his arm over to tweak a few leggies in Adelaide’s Church Association cricket, scored a few baskets for the OneWonders basketball team, and won countless Church adult picnic sprints. My memory also recalls that, sometime back in the 70s(?), Andy was a member of the successful four-man ‘yacht’ in the Henley on Todd Regatta in Alice Springs. In short, he used his brain and skill instead of relying on brawn! On the court/field/track, he was a great team man, an encourager who brought others into the game, a leader by example and the essence of good sportsmanship.



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Born on Guernsey in the Channel Islands, my parents migrated to this wonderful country when I was 7. As teachers, my wife and I ‘worked’ in some pretty SA and Queensland tourist locations and ended up in the Barossa Valley, where I enjoy gardening, socialising, reading, writing, sport, travel, handyman projects and wine. Since retiring I’ve written 3 published biographies about Kieran Modra, Rolph and Marg Mayer and Margaret Ames. I started a Valley social cycling and coffee-ing club called the ‘Sprocket Rockets’ After some success at hockey, volleyball, tennis, golf, Church picnic sprints and the ‘Henley on Todd’ regatta, I’ve settled down to walking, cycling, Fantasy Football and watching sport, particularly AFL and cricket. A Queenslander described me as an ‘Ex-Pommie, ex-Victorian who barracks for Port Adelaide’ so it can only be up from there!


  1. Ah, those were the days, Andy! Many great memories of LTC volleyball and hockey where you were a (fair) bit ahead of the rest of us. The 1975 volleyball Grand Final win against the Sem remains a highlight for me.

    My sole Australian football appearance was for First Year Arts v First Year Science at Flinders Uni in 1971. I did not distinguish myself as second ruckman gathering less than a handful of possessions, including one badly askew shot at goal as I was flung off the ball and a beautiful, clean tap from a boundary throw-in that went straight to the Science rover! The game finished in a draw so, at the very least, I can claim that I was undefeated in my Australian football career

  2. David Bridie says

    “my back was often used as a stepladder for boys growing hair from every orifice.”I laughed out loud. I still have nightmares about Craig Newnham, who had full on sideburns, and a skinhead haircut, before I had a strand of underarm hair.

  3. Andy Thurlow says

    Would be quite interesting to check out Craig Newnham today, David. You might well be taller … and hairier!

    Those volleyball games were great fun, Ian. I remember the Sem guys were so much taller than us … but we did play a lot of volleyball at LTC, sometimes on weekends after every meal!
    On re-reading my footy experience playing for Nuri I forgot to mention that it was not without physical contact. Games between Tanunda and Nuri in anything tend to take on greater status.
    I remember standing under a ‘hospital’ pass and I could hear Pastor Dave Preuss coming. Dave runs a little on his heels which makes a ‘galumphing’ and threatening sound. Dave and the ball arrived simultaneously and there was a flurry of arms and legs. Spreadeagled and when the stars had cleared Dave asked, ‘Did you mark it?’ We both laughed because by now the footy was well on its way to the other end of the ground.

  4. Tim Ziersch says

    A good read Andy and Dick. Brought back a few great memories for me of LTC volleyball days

  5. Peter Fuller says

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reminiscences – and the previous article of yours and Ian’s which you linked. My particular fascination arose from your allusion to your primary schooling at Warrandyte South Primary. Long after you were making your way in the world, my three boys collectively managed 21 years (much overlap) at the school and I did about six on School Council. I certainly recollect the sloping oval. Even though numbers had risen slightly by the time of my family’s involvement, Warrandyte Primary grew much more rapidly, so there was no question of Warry South being obliged to engage in sports competition with the bigger school. I’d be happy to discuss the changes in the area and the school between the early sixties and the eighties/nineties.

  6. That is a great read. Thanks, Andy. Most enjoyable.

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    A little insight into over/under playing for whatever reason. Nice story.

  8. Andy Thurlow says

    Hello Peter,
    For most of my life I have needed to explain where South Warrandyte is. Recently our Barossa social cycling and coffee-ing club (Sprocket Rockets) were asked to help the organisers of ‘Walk My Way’ – a charity raising money to educate children in African refugee camps – to map out a cycling route. Their organiser’s name was Kirralee Lewis and as we chatted, we discovered bit by bit that we both went to Warrandyte South State School and then on to Luther College (exactly 20 years apart). We talked (very excitedly) about local roads and landmarks. Kirra put me on to ‘Warrandyte South 3134 Historical Page’ on Facebook. We lived on Falconer Road, and then at the end of Brumbys Rd, where the Olivigna Restaurant is now.
    If we keep doing this, we’ll put South Warrandyte on the map! Thanks Tim, Smokie and Daryl for your kind words.

  9. Great memories Andy.

    Now I’ll have to think of another question.

    Looking forward to catching up with you guys – two nights in a row!

    [Those hairy bastards are still a thing of nightmares.There is a description of them in Loose men Everywhere – as kids and as the adults they turned into]

  10. IJH, The kicking styles of Banana Benders who found themselves at Sem and LTC were something to behold. The drop punt had not crossed the Tweed by the early 70s and even the 80s but one of the best, who refined his soccer goalkeeper style roost over the years, was that of Heiko Denker, engineering student, from Namibia.

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