Almanac Lunches – A Queenslander in Melbourne

Living ‘up north’, I don’t get much of a chance to be physically involved with various Almanac activities in Melbourne. It’s mostly phone calls and emails to Harms, fellow editors and the odd contributor.


So when I had a chance to meet Almanacker Peter Fuller ‘up here’ early in August, I grabbed the chance with both hands. And what an enjoyable conversation that was, but powered only by tea and coffee, I must add. Sorry to miss you in Melbourne, Peter. Another time.


A road trip to Melbourne recently allowed me to attend only my second Footy Almanac/Odd Friday Lunch when the guest speaker was Robert Shaw, as well as the August 30 ‘cast of footy writers from the 1980s’ lunch to highlight Russell Jackson’s recent release, Electrifying 80s. Two great occasions!





Robert Shaw had an injury-plagued career at Essendon before he moved into coaching with stints at Essendon, Fitzroy and Adelaide Crows. He’s learned a lot along the way. His erudite, unscripted story of his journey through a life in football was a pleasure to hear. Robert has advanced qualifications in Education and these showed through – he’s a born story-teller. He was candid, self-effacing, insightful, funny, modest, gritty, honest and totally engaging. His detailed memory over all the years was encyclopaedic. For a jet lagged traveller who landed less than 24 hours previously, he gave a bloody marvellous presentation. We could have listened for another hour and been rapt but we cut him some slack! What stuck in my mind as I reflected later was Robert’s raw observations about how much footy has both given him and cost him over more than forty years. This was candour and harsh reality at its very best. On the day, he was, and I have no doubt that he always is, a class act! It was a privilege and a pleasure to be there. (By the way, his nephew is Tim Paine!)


Another highlight of that lunch was to meet Almanackers Roger Lowrey and Peter Stirk, a contrasting but equally engaging pair of blokes.


The ‘cast of footy writers from the 1980s’ lunch was an equal pleasure but in a different way. Firstly, Russell Jackson is clearly a newspaper tragic with a keen appreciation for both the written word and the particular skills of the very best footy writers. His willingness to learn from and grow at the feet of such writing royalty is to be admired. I look forward to reading his collection. Secondly, ex-journo and now publisher Geoff Slattery deserves all credit for his support for sports writing in general and young writers in particular. You only have to listen to him for a few minutes to see and hear the drive, determination and commitment he has to the cause. Bravo! Thirdly, footy legend David Parkin and footy journalist extraordinaire Mike Sheahan enthralled, amused and regaled a pin-drop silent full house with edgy banter, stories from behind the scenes and insights into the code in what can only be described as ‘an electrifying decade’ (to borrow from you, Russell). Top stuff!


I’ll say this – guest speakers at Almanac/Odd Friday Lunch occasions don’t get a free lunch! They speak to a very knowledgeable, perceptive crowd of footy cognoscenti who know their stuff. They know what happened in the left forward pocket 23 minutes and fourteen seconds into the third quarter of Round 17 in 1982 at Princes Park. Dare to try to pull the wool over their eyes at your peril! But, to be fair, these audiences are hugely appreciative, respectful and grateful to have such wonderful speakers available at such close quarters.


Which brings me to the North Fitzroy Arms. The NFA is unpretentious but full of energy and character. Mine host Percy Jones, a true legend of the game, is a genuine but understated presence. Clearly respected by all, I admire his reserved demeanour, his willingness to be the butt of ‘Tex’ Freeman’s jokes and his availability to anyone who wants a word. Manager ‘Tex’ is a combination of good organisation, good humour, good feel for the occasion and just a bloody good bloke. He knows his crowd and works then well, and not without a sharp but accurate phrase or two here and there. His bar and kitchen staff are welcoming, competent and engaging. The food is well above normal pub standard and the prices are pretty good. It’s a great place to go. (And the Mitolo ‘Jester’ cab sav is a good drop!)


As good as all that was, another highlight for me was to meet my fellow Footy Almanac co-ordinating editors face-to-face. I ‘know’ these blokes as voices on the phone or email correspondents where we share editing challenges, insights and banter of our own. But here they were, in the flesh! And I was not disappointed because they are a great bunch of chaps. It was also great to meet ‘Gigs’ and Kasey, Almanac stalwarts.



The Almanac’s Co-ordinating Editors:
Jarrod Landells, David (ER) Wilson, John (JB) Butler, Col Ritchie, Ian Hauser, John Harms


To mark the occasion, I penned this ditty:


(With apologies to Jimmy Perry and David Croft and the gang from “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”)


“Meet the gang ‘cos the boys are here,
the boys to ‘edit-tain’ you
with commas and full stops
that make you sound true blue,
with brackets and excerpts
but changes oh so few.
There’s Jarrod and JB,
Col, Harms and ER,
plus Hauser and others
spread out near and far.
So meet the gang ‘cos the boys are here, the boys to ‘edit-tain’ you.
the boys to ‘edit-tain you.”



So, take it from me. If you’re looking for excellent speakers, great company, good nosh, fair prices and a rollicking good time, then you simply must take in an Almanac/Odd Friday Lunch at the North Fitzroy Arms. Given my geographical limitations, I’ll certainly be back at the next possible opportunity.






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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. John Butler says

    Nice work Ian.

    Great to catch up for a substantial chat.

    And that would be the first ‘Ain’t Half Hot Mom’ reference I’ve heard in quite a while. The young folks can Google it.

    Strictly speaking, all Almanac ditty work should be done to the tune of F-Troop. I believe JTH may have it in the style guide. :)

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Well said Ian! It was fab to meet you at the lunch and chat. We’re certainly a varied, disparate mob! Cheers!

  3. roger lowrey says

    Thanks Ian. It was great to meet you. A most convivial lunch.

    As a relatively new contributor to the pages of the Almanac, I am always a bit wide eyed and overwhelmed when I actually meet the more senior writers in person. Think here, Kapunda’s favourite son Mickey Randall or others like the enigmatically multi named E.regnans (sic), Dips, Swisho, Smokie, Col, Rulebook, Fearless et al. You are no exception Ian.

    At times I feel like something of an awestruck cross between Thomas at John 20/27 and Enid Blyton’s Dick and Fanny when they meet Moonface, Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot, Silky, the Angry Pixie et al in the Magic Faraway Tree. I’ll leave it to the above mentioned writers in the former group to sort themselves out with their most appropriate respective matches in the latter group. Word of advice guys, I’d be taking Thomas myself but, hey, suit yourself. After all, I even seem to recall a nascent pre adolescent urge of mine to befriend Silky.

    And no, younger Almanackers. I’m not making it all up. Dick and Fanny were their real names. True dinks!

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Ian, I’d hoped to get to the 80’s lunch, sadly I couldn’t make it up to the city. Sorry I missed you.
    Great to read of your enjoyment of being at the Almanac lunches, there really is no better day out.

  5. Kasey Symons says

    So lovely to finally meet you Ian! Great write up. Was a fabulous lunch – wish I could have stuck around longer!

  6. Well played,Ian yes a wish of mine is to attend a almanac lunch in Melbourne also.JTH time to have a
    Adelaide lunch more than happy to be the chief organizer

  7. I share your enthusiasm Ian and always see the FA lunch I attend as the best lunch of the year (with the possible exception of Christmas Day’s version). I especially love walking out from the CBD to the NFA, and acknowledge you driving from Queensland to attend (indeed I look forward to your companion piece on the journey to and from). As you rightly mention the pub itself and the entertainment are both fantastic. Hope to cross paths at a lunch, maybe in 2020!

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