Almanac Roadtrip 2014: The Ovens and King Grand Final Weekend

I likes me a good roadtrip.

I also likes me a good game of footy.

Country football – god love it – allows me to combine the two.

Oh, and beer. But I digress…

In the wake of my Essendon disenchantment – which I’ve banged on enough about previously – I’d spent some time planning what was loosely termed “2014: A Country Footy Odyssey”.*  As part of a misguided one-man-protest, the plan was to travel to watch a game from each Victorian country footy league over the course of the 2014 season. Along the way, I thought, I could turn it into a documentary celebrating the differences between a day in the stands at an AFL game versus sitting in a ute parked on the boundary line, drinking green/red cans and tooting the horn as the home team registers a major.

Not surprisingly though, October and November’s Spring racing morphed into December, which morphed into Christmas and the Boxing Day test, which then morphed into the Australian Open tennis, which morphed into the AFL’s pre-season competition, yadda yadda, yadda. You thought you had ages to get your shit together for the Country Footy Odyssey, but real life got in the way and the grand plans of jumping the V8 Statesman, heading out of town to watch honest footy and maybe have a beer or two with ‘ol mate’ in Dimboola or Simpson or Fish Creek, or Robinvale go up in smoke because you ask yourself; A) how in the hell you justify five days off to travel to the Riverina to watch a footy game, and B) it costs HOW MUCH, exactly, to make yer basic 80 minute documentary?

Despite my best-laid plans coming unstuck, I still wanted to scratch my country footy itch in some way. I’m a big fan of North-Eastern Victoria’s high country (“How’s the serenity…”)** and our family have been regular visitors to Bright since Methuselah was in the under 10s, so a trip to Alpine country one winter’s weekend was the perfect remedy. Under blue winter skies I got watch Milawa take on Glenrowan. For mine, this top-of-the-table clash between the 2013 Premiers (Milawa) and their vanquished foe from that day (Glenrowan) was THE BEST game of footy I have seen at ANY level so far this year. And no, I hadn’t been to the Brown Brothers Winery before the bounce.

Fast, skilful and beautifully accurate movement of the ball by foot and hand to a teammate; direct, attacking football with both sides prepared to take the game on and some brilliant contested marking were the hallmarks of the match. There were little, if any scrums. The umpires penalised players seeking the sanctuary of a stoppage by running into opposing players, and – a welcome sight – players who blatantly dropped the ball or didn’t get rid of it when tackled were also pinged. It was a joy to watch.

The standout player of the day was a very different looking ex- Carlton ‘bad-boy’ and now Glenrowan Tigers one-man fortress, Karl Norman. By different looking, I mean probably around five to ten kegs heavier than his AFL playing weight (none of it fat) and the kind of leadership and composure at the death that left you no choice but to wonder just what might have been. Trailing by 24 points at the orange break, Milawa kicked four un-answered goals in time on to storm home, but ultimately fell short as the Tigers composed themselves and steadied the ship to win, due in no small part to Norman.K,. I had to check the match notes two or three times – and do a Google image search on the bloke when I got back to Melbourne – to be absolutely sure it was him. It was. He is, it turns out, considered a frontrunner for the competition’s Best and Fairest this season.

Shadows lengthen and the clouds roll in.  Post-siren winter at Milawa F&NC

Shadows lengthen and the clouds roll in. Post-siren winter at Milawa F&NC


So September has finally rolled around and with an eye regularly on the weather around the Bright and Wangaratta areas in recent weeks, I’m back off to high country for the Ovens & King Grand Final on September 13th.

Widely expected to be a re-match of the 2013 Grand Final where Milawa downed Glenrowan, the Tigers will be looking to avenge their loss to the Demons last year – IF both teams make it through. With the possible exception of Tarrawingee though, Glenrowan and Milawa are the length of the Flemington straight ahead of the rest of the comp, so something extraordinary would need to happen for these two sides to miss out on a spot in the Ovens and King league’s Grand Final.

If the Grand Final reaches the heights of that round 15 clash – even if these two sides aren’t the combatants – I’ll be a happy camper. No pun intended.



Thursdee: Ex-Melbourne.

Mandatory stop at Brown Brothers Winery cellar door, Milawa: 2x ‘Patricia’ Shiraz and 1x Grand Tokay to be purchased. (Note to self: pack Epicurean Club card this time, numpty).

Milawa Cheese Factory for purchase of: 1x Cobb loaf, 1x 50gm cut of Milawa Club Blue (or Milawa Blue, I can never remember. One will have to sample some just to be sure, I guess) and 1x 50gm cut of Markwood.

Refreshment at Len Thompson’s Alpine Hotel and honouring of the great Magpie ruckman’s contribution to the game.

Arrive in Harrietville or Bright lodgings (TBD).

Return to Alpine Hotel for extended refreshment and “injection of tourism dollars into local economy”.



Hearty breakfast at Blackbird Café, Bright.

‘William F. Lloyd Wine and Cheese Society’ meeting (quorum: 1x bottle of Brown Brothers ‘Patricia’ Shiraz and any type of Milawa Cheese Factory cheese: Baker. S, sole member and president).

Admire serenity.

Dinner at Harrietville pub. Friday night AFL final on telly back at lodgings. The weekend I was last at the Harrietville pub, the Saints stunning upset of the Dockers wasn’t being screened. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? No sir!

Re-convene ‘William F. Society’ for tasting of Brown Brothers Grand Tokay as nightcap. Attendance mandatory.



Brekky and travel coffee at Cherrywalk Café, Bright.

Arrive at City Oval, Wangaratta in time to park car inside the WJ Findlay Oval if circumstances permit. Watch AT LEAST; O&K Reserve Grade and O&K Seniors Grand Finals.

Dinner at Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel, Beechworth (note: Almanacker Hobson. D, Esq. is the main event at 2015 ‘Opera In The Alps’ Jan 2015, Beechworth).

Re-convene William F. Society and watch AFL night final.


Satdee morning brekky at Cherrywalk Cafe, Bright

Satdee morning brekky at Cherrywalk Cafe, Bright



Late check-out.

Brunch in Bright (venue TBD)

Ex Bright early afternoon, coinciding with broadcast of Sunday AFL final.


* With apologies to Stanley Kubrik.

** Although taken from the film ‘The Castle’, Bonnie Doon are part of the Ovens and King League. While I wouldn’t want to be dragged by the balls cruets from Bonnie Doon to Bright, the greater 3741 region is laden with serenity.


About Steve Baker

Weapons-grade grump. Currently in an "it's complicated" relationship with Essendon.


  1. Well done Steve, country footy is a worth while experience. On Saturday week we’re heading to the Western side of the Hume, Tungamah, for the Picola League Grand Final. Looking forward to it.


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