Almanac Life: The Williamstown Walkers

The Williamstown Walkers. The late Netto is top right


It was somewhere amidst the interminable medical procedures that his surgeon advised Netto to stay as active as possible. He reached out to us. He said that if he had company and knew that there would be others waiting for him at 6:30am, it would make committing to walking that much easier. We had all assured him that we would be there for him if he needed anything, so this was the least we could do.

And so was The Williamstown Walkers group born.

Late-comers would soon discover that Netto had little tolerance for tardiness. “F*ck him,” he would exclaim in response to any suggestion of delaying our departure to await stragglers. “He knows the rules.” Starting his watch timer at 6:30 sharp, Netto would turn on his heel and be off, leading our motley crew on to the Esplanade and away. It was imperative that your shoelaces were tied securely, for if you had to break off to attend to them, the peloton of walkers would not be stopping to accommodate you.

When it would have been so easy to roll over and pull the doona back over my head, what kept getting me out of bed were the laughs, the camaraderie, the all-round bullshit, and the knowledge that – in our own small way – we might be assisting Netto in his fight to beat the disease that had only recently taken his father.

He was always as fit as a greyhound: athlete, gun soccer player, champion cricketer. I once watched awestruck as he scored a jaw-dropping hundred in a T20 game. So, it was confronting when he messaged the group to announce that, physically, he was no longer able to walk with us. His focus would now be on his battle to beat cancer. But the group kept walking – and hoping that he would re-join us when the war was won.

The last time I saw him, I was shocked by his pale visage and the pain and distress he was so obviously feeling. As always, he remained positive and confident that he would win this fight. But soon after, on the back of the terrible news that the cancer had spread, he was admitted to hospital for the final time.

Tragically, having so recently lost her husband, cancer had now robbed his mother of her son. Netto’s two young daughters, of whom he was immensely proud, would not have their father by them as they grew into their teenage years and beyond. His wide circle of friends had lost a great mate.

Five years ago, had someone told me that I would be out for a stroll with my mates every morning, I’d have called them crazy. But for three years, we have assembled daily just prior to our 6:30am departure. It is an ingrained part of our routine. Of the walkers, joggers, swimmers and coffee-drinkers who appear at dawn in Williamstown, we are but a small part of this community. And for us, Netto started it all.

Today marks twelve months since he was so cruelly taken from his family and friends. Every morning, his spirit is with us. Always. And whenever one of the walkers is late, rather than wait, we give life to Netto’s voice when we collectively turn on our heels and say “F*ck him!!”


You can read more from Smokie HERE.

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Allan Grant says

    Thanks Smokie. Doubt I will see 6.30am very often. Must have been a great friend to endure dawn in the middle of Melbourne’s winters. Cheers.

  2. Just beautiful, Smokie, and I’m sure the WWs paid suitable tribute this morning.

  3. E.regnans says

    Well done, walkers. Well done, Smokie.
    Thanks for this. Uplifting.

  4. Scott Henry Murray says

    Fantastic Smokie lovely words and i know how much he loved heading down there for his walks with his mates.
    Thank you so much for being there for him and all the support he got.
    Scott (Pauls brother)

  5. Smokie- a beautifully rendered tribute. What a great communal tradition too. Long may it continue. I remain most keen on a tour of Williamstown one day if you can find the time!

  6. Hayden Kelly says

    Beautiful story Smokie

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Smokie and all the Williamstown Walkers. Long may you keep treading the footpaths of that beautiful suburb in memory of your mate.

  8. Beautifully written, and a great thing to do for Netto at the time, and since. No doubt it was a happy-sad night.

  9. Great routine for a group of friends, best time of the day too.
    Keep on walking.

  10. Rulebook says

    Superb Smokie elite friendship

  11. Thank you all for your heartfelt comments.

    You will be pleased to know that last night we gathered in Netto’s honour to mourn his absence, to reflect on the time he spent with us, to laugh at the memories, and to celebrate our lives going forward.

  12. Tender and thoughtful, as ever. Have seen the walkers many a time. Now I know what they had on their minds.

    ‘Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore.’ (Bob Dylan.)

  13. Daryl Schramm says

    There are 12 of you in the photo. I daresay someone would be late sometimes. Lovely contribution Darren.

  14. Smoke your old mate Netto might be saving your lives by getting you out and walking. If not extending it, at least improving its quality. What a legacy.

    Thanks for the read.

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Great stuff Smokie.

    A direct line to the national selection panel as well.

  16. Roger Lowrey says

    Well captured Smokester. We should be grateful for what life we all have left in us. RDL

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