Almanac Mates: Paddy and the Doc



I ummed and ahhed as to whether I should make the trip out to Bunyip. I was disappointed on arriving In Melbourne the day before to find out 35 would not be at the ‘G’. Bloody media have no idea do they?


Thanks heavens I decided to make the trip to see my old sporting buddies and forget about my own disappointment which in the long run was a non-event.


What a great couple of hours we had.


Bill ‘Doc’ Doherty OAM is on 99 and the undisputed king of Nar Nar Goon. He has spent the last five years in a nursing home at Bunyip. I am probably one of the few people who don’t call him ‘Doc’, always Bill or Mr President.  Even his late wife Dot called him Doc as well as his children. Somehow I have always found it hard to call people by their nick-name.


What he didn’t do in football is not worth talking about. Player, club President, league President, Tribunal Secretary, Friday night on 3UL…the list goes on and on.


Paddy Shelton is a couple of years older than me at 85. Paddy is one of the famous Koo Wee Rup Sheltons. Even now I find it hard to remember their real names. There is ‘Todd’, ‘Mulga’, ‘Tadpole’ and ‘Slim’.  Paddy was even called ‘Honey’. Their dad went under the name of ‘Carbine’ but was Jim and had three games with the Saints. Brother Mulga (John) played three games with Fitzroy and in one of those three games floored Ronald Dale Barassi. Mulga lived off that moment for the rest of his life. Another brother ‘Todd’ played with Brighton in the VFA and was a great mate of Graeme Richmond and Francis Bourke. They had pubs together with Billy Drake.


Uncle John played 53 games with St Kilda and kicked 152 goals and represented Victoria. Famous for fending of an assailant with a picket from the fence in a match against Geelong.


If you ask Paddy who was the best of the boys he will say ‘I was’. He says it with pride and having played with him I can understand that. Unfortunately, from the time he was 18 he suffered with knee problems and did not make the big time. Locals always say ‘Honey was the best of the bunch.’


I came unannounced and after going through all the protocols I realised how lucky I was to be admitted. Of course I did tell the nurses I had driven 600 kilometres to see my old friends.


The boys were delighted to see me. I was a bit apprehensive as I had been told by associates that they might not recognise me particularly Bill at 99 who last time I visited three years ago had said to the nurse: ‘Who is this bloke?’


We reminisced about football and cricket in the whole time I was there.  Bill had been President of the West Gippsland Football League for 10 years and I was his secretary or ‘minder’ as he reminded me.  He is of strong Irish Catholic background and could fly off the handle at the drop of a hat and I am a quiet Protestant. The partnership worked well in the WGFL when it was at its peak.


In his playing days before the war Bill played Wednesday footy for one of the Breweries and had Ron and Lou Richards as team-mates. Naturally, being a good Catholic, he can only see black and white in the AFL.


I played a few games of footy with Paddy and he was my first drop bat in the Koo Wee Rup cricket team. He always complained that I sent him in then to save our stars Johnny G and Ron Ingram from facing hostile bowling. I often went to VFL/AFL games with Paddy and Mulga and it was always great fun. Mulga’s three games opened many doors and only second to Father John Brosnan in my humble opinion.


I think what surprised me of the visit was how alert they both were. Here are two guys who spend most of their time in bed and they were talking about things that happened in the Fifties and Sixties as though it was yesterday.


Perhaps the message in all this is when you visit people who have likes and passions the same as you you can draw them out from their solitude (which is most of the time) and take them back to their days, in our case, on and off the sporting arena of life.


Both men were as sharp as a tack and would whip back answers to me without hesitation. Could this mean that sport had been such a big part of their former lives but nobody talks about to them when they visit?


In fact, I have found in the past talking with older people that they do love to reminisce and this to me, is a constant reminder for younger folk to make notes on what they tell you.


I am an agitator to old people as well who I suggest ‘write it down, we all have a book in us.’


It was an absolute pleasure to be in their company again which the tyranny of distance and Covid-19 had kept me from visiting sooner.


What a wonderful moment in my life.


I left the hostel, sat in the car and rang my wife Jenny back in Mildura. ‘I had one of the best days of my life’ I told her.


I am now a firm believer in visiting old colleagues, distant family and friends before it is too late.


And, Geelong did win the footy…



More from Bob Utber can be read HERE.



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About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Lovely CB. There’s nothing better than old time footy and cricket chat!

  2. citrus bob says

    Luke I think you are perfectly correct. You only have to sit around with a group of “elders” to see their eyes light up. Have been fortunate that in both forms I have been able to retain my memory. Stay well

  3. Great stuff CB. Went to see my old Yorketown colts footy coach from 1970 in a nursing home when I was back in Adelaide last year. His memories of the times and local personalities was sharper than mine. The desolation of his day to day life was stark. It felt cruel to leave but a joy to have spent the time.
    When Neil Kerley died in a car crash at 88 last week a lot of commentary was about a “tragic” accident. There is never a good time but quicker seems better than the miserable grey twilight of Polly Farmer.

  4. CITRUS BOB says

    PB – you are dead right! Living in a nursing home is at the other end of the continuum with the MCG on Grand Final Day. Perhaps these homes should look at bringing back to life the ‘glory days” of the residents.

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