Almanac (Local) Footy: I’ve been to Bali too



Bali 1992: Millsy, Smithy, Smokie, Aido, Ogre; Ando, Dirty, Chuck, Wonka; Kewie, Mazza, Pigeon, Choppa, Fuzzy (and an unknown friend)


Long before Shappelle Corby’s ill-fated body-boarding safari landed her in Kerobokan Prison for the best part of a decade, I took part in a ground-breaking expedition which saw fourteen young Australians venture to Bali for ten days of surf, sun, and partying. Years before the ‘Bali 9’ found themselves on the wrong side of the law, our gang of brave trailblazing lads managed to steer clear of any issues with the authorities. For in 1992, mid-season trips were a rarity, and usually only took place if you played at a footy club whose name began with the word ‘Old’.


The idea of a holiday after only two rounds of the season seemed preposterous, but surreptitious whispers had been taking place for a number of weeks during pre-season. As the planning gained traction and momentum, it became ever more difficult to keep the scheme under wraps. I was late to the party, but as enthusiastic as the rest of them.


The most difficult and treacherous step prior to departure was informing the senior coach, ‘Oopy’ Elliott, that come Round 3, eleven of his players would be unavailable for selection. On a cool Tuesday night, one by one we broke off from the training drills to inform him that we would be unavailable for the following round.


For battlers such as myself, whose absence was easily covered, the reception was positive: “Have a good time, Smokie”. But Oopy’s countenance gradually grew darker as player after player trudged over to him to courteously break the news. By the time champion player and club captain ‘Dirty’ Harry approached him, the coach was foaming at the mouth apoplectically. But the flights and accommodation had already been booked. We were not for stopping.


In the early 90s, Garuda did not concern itself with dressing up their aircraft; many of the seats’ armrests were held together with only gaffer tape. Hardly a person on the flight was on (what was then) the wrong side of 30. Somewhere over the Pilbara, the party kicked into gear.


Our accommodation was a shambolic cluster of buildings just off Legian St called Troppo Zone. The best that can be said for our digs was that there were beds in the rooms, the pool-bar kept long hours, it was central, and they did not bat an eyelid at housing fourteen single blokes set on making merry. Initially we were babes in the woods, subjected to all sorts of rorting from the touts wandering the streets. A watch bought for a ‘bargain’ on Day 1 could easily be bartered down to a tenth of that price by Day 5, once our pallid skin had developed some colour and we found our land legs.


The first night on Legian, a couple of youngsters took delight in pretending to admire big Ogre’s oversized biceps, whilst they mercilessly stripped his bumbag of every last Rupiah. Ando the accountant carried a calculator everywhere, fastidiously calculating exchange rates prior changing money. Meanwhile, Kewie and I danced with a pair of Japanese sisters who could speak only one word of English – ‘Boogie!!’ Alas, the boogied-out Kewie went too hard too early and spent the next two days in bed, as crook as the dogs which wandered the nearby streets in packs.


It was on the stage where I was in my element, joining in with local rock bands to belt out versions of ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and the obligatory ‘Khe Sanh’. Inhibitions were non-existent, having been left at Tullamarine. There is little or no pictorial or video evidence of any of our activities. For unlike the unfortunate Jordan De Goey, three decades ago we had no access to mobile phones or social media. Thankfully. The snaps taken on our Pentax Instamatics were viewed only as quickly as the photo-developing hole in the wall a couple of blocks away could be bothered into action.


The ten days flew by. In all honesty, we were more than ready for the departure lounge by that stage. But far from being in any condition to return to Thursday night footy training at the Fearon. We had been sunburnt, ripped off, given hallucinatory hash cookies, made plenty of new friends, suffered from Bali-belly, and were all toured out. And all the while nursing massive hangovers. As even the best moments do with the passing of time, many of the shenanigans have blurred together to form one long-lasting happy memory.


On our final night in paradise, a couple of the boys took part in a wild pole-climbing competition. From eight metres in the air, Choppa, our champion rover, slid down the pole at an uncontrollable pace and badly sprained his ankle. He would miss six matches. “That’s thirty possessions a week that the rest of us need to find,” someone muttered.


And I swear I heard coach ‘Oopy’, four thousand kilometres away in Melbourne, yell into the night: “Little Choppa, you can bloody well stay in Bali!!”



You can read more from Smokie HERE.


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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Cracking read Smoke!

  2. Liam Hauser says

    The headline made me think of the Redgum song.

  3. Poor Choppa needed a chop out!

    A few years later you could have had a kick with the Bali Geckos if you’d been so inclined (I doubt very much you were so inclined, haha)

  4. Great stuff Smokie

  5. Susanne jensen says

    Great fun reading this as always I have a big smile on my face

  6. roger lowrey says

    Yet another great read mate but does Mrs Smokie know these columns appear?! RDL

  7. Very good, Smokie. Most familiar.

    ‘Somewhere over the Pilbara, the party kicked into gear’ reminds me of that other great Gonzo line from the start of Hunter Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing’- ‘We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.’ I suspect the similarities didn’t end there!

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Very entertaining Smokie. We were very lucky to have no camera phones in our teens and twenties!

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