Almanac Rugby League – You’ve just got to love footy

 

Matt O’Hanlon is a generational footy tragic (his family only calls Rugby League footy) who masquerades as a school teacher. He is awaiting the day that V’Landy’s puts the mighty Fighting Irish Brothers Leprechauns into the NRL when it expands so that his grandsons will get the chance to wear the butchers’ stripes. He fancies himself as a punter of some renown (every Saturday he tells his wife ‘G squared’ that he just broke even) and is president of the Dean Holland Fan Club. Other than any Queensland Origin victory and Dean Holland winning the Adelaide Cup on Surprise Baby (before being dumped for the Cup), his favourite sporting event was watching Kilkenny play Tipperary (the code’s greatest rivalry) with ‘G squared’ at Nowlan Park in the GAA Hurling Division Final. In the future, he would like a job like John Harms has as a reserve grade Melbourne celebrity based at the North Fitzroy Arms!

 

One of the great attributes of sport and supporting sport is that it is like the entrée to a great meal. It sets up the dots to be connected later. People from the most diverse backgrounds can come together and, for a period of time, share either exactly the same or the opposite emotion depending on who they support. Most of us play or support some sort of sport whether it be team or individual, machine or animal, whether it require speed, strength, skill, endurance or cognition, or some combination of the lot. I like footy. That’s what I call rugby league, although to 98% of the world’s population it means something else. To me and my crew, however, it’s just footy and you’ve just got to love it.

 

*

 

Our version of following the footy takes many shapes, forms and formats and is usually combined with a variety of prerequisites, including family, friends, food and fun across a whole range of settings. When you have put the bear to sleep (that is, stopped playing), there is nothing better than combining all of these ‘f’s together. No matter where you are, if the basic preparations are in place then the footy looks after itself. It doesn’t even matter who is playing because the circumstance of the match allows a multitude of permutations of support and the counter position.

 

As an example, the Tigers (or Balmain, as the Golden Girl calls them) are a team I will often support purely because the Golden Girl, loyal Queenslander that she is, hates them. She has done so ever since the days of ‘Back Door’ Benny Elias. In terms of supporters, there is no better role than that of the antagonist, especially the “I’m right” antagonist. Sunday arvo footy and Channel 9 provide Queenslanders with a contradiction every week. It’s called the commentary team. I’m sure Dickens was thinking of them when he penned “they were the best of times, they were the worst of times”. But we just love our footy anyway.

 

*

 

I loved Sunday footy when the ABC used to broadcast the Brisbane Rugby League match of the day at 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. We never missed it. It was family time and, as a kid, you could sit with your Dad and talk about your team before dinner. We still love getting together to watch the footy and someone is always the antagonist. It’s great if it is a good game, the Sunday roast is in the Weber and the drinks are flowing – happy days! The beauty of this scene is that the dreaded Monday is light years away.

 

The Flame loves his footy and we often meet up with Nora, his better half, on a Sunday arvo. Over the years he has had an affinity with a few clubs, such as the Eels, the North Sydney Bears and the Cowboys. Nora is a Doggies girl but also likes the Cows. On any given day, I can make myself support a team that will antagonise someone. Discussion can analyse topics ranging from the facial hair of particular players to specific defence and strategy patterns. No matter what level of game we are watching, players have to be prepared to come over the parapet – and they do. The game has always been tough but the modern game presents an incredible risk to the individual when they cross the tape. It’s a collision sport and that’s what people want to see. Thousands of discussions are held every day that talk about contact. That’s what people love about footy. The contact!

 

*

 

The modern corporate ground has its benefits but, on a Sunday at home, our food leaves the venues for dead. The Golden Girl, a girl of many talents and exquisite taste in men, loves her footy. She had no choice. G-squared is the Queen of the pre-match plate. Just as the game has something for everyone so, too, her pre-match plate. Whether it is a good red, a smooth blue or quality bites, she is all over it. As the game starts, the serious watchers move into game mode. The wallet nerve, based on your punting, can influence your support. The Flame is always sure that one of the sides will be off their game. If he has backed the stronger team, he breaks into song and his repertoire is both broad and random. As his team performs, the Flame breaks into song with his namesake’s, “I say Yeah Yeah!”  It’s his specialty and, the moment he breaks into song, Nora’s eyes roll like a pinball mesmerised by Tommy ‘the Pinball Wizard.’ How much song can a woman take?

 

G-squared, well raised in the etiquette of the Sunday arvo, is also an expert on the tangential conversation. During an ad break one Sunday, and for no obvious footy reason, she asked, “Is Robert Palmer dead or alive?” I said, “Dead” with super confidence (pre-Google, of course) and now it is a constant tangent. Add the Flame’s singing and the question ‘dead or alive?’ is a bigger game than Monopoly at our place. What’s more, it can take place at any event. Google has undermined this scenario but we carry on. You just have to love footy.

 

*

 

My specialty is the Sunday Weber. I am revered as the Weber King (read self-anointed). The best corporate box in the world can’t produce the aroma of the Weber. Food and drink time during the footy is good time. The Weber often smells better than the commentary team and is a valued distraction from their raw and flavourless servings. But that’s footy. We often end up on the red ned and, at home on a Sunday, a good game can turn Bowlers Run into Grange. Alcohol is part of footy folklore and I always thought the Famous Grouse sponsorship of Parramatta was a beauty. Since John Monie coached them to the 1986 premiership, their coaches have all needed it – by the vat!

 

The Golden Girl always feels sorry for whoever Channel 9 is bagging. As well as the best pre-match plate, no one can match her empathy for the down and out, unless it is ‘Back Door’ Benny, of course. Coaches are a special interest. In the modern game, they get sacked quicker than spuds at the Irish Potato Marketing Board in Donegal. Often it is a result of players making basic and unacceptable errors. The Flame and the Girl often form an alliance on the down and outs. They keep the faith. But we all agree on one thing – the ad breaks. Give The Block the razor! The incessant advertising of Channel 9’s programs by the commentators – 60 Minutes tonight – drives me insane. As full time closes in, the Weber starts to send my mind drifting into dinner, exacting a trance-like scent. You have to love Sunday footy.

 

*

 

You have to love the old fashioned road trip when the footy is on the radio. If you know your quality food spots along the way, you can even add some culinary delight. For mine, the best in Queensland, and to all of us parochial Queenslanders that means Australia, are the Crab Sandwiches from the Claws servo at Miriam Vale. Mud crab, fresh bread, butter, salt and pepper. I recall one memorable trip when, having left the Gold Coast, I was determined to be in Miriam Vale (home of the great Queensland Origin player Gary Larson) at half-time for the gourmand’s delight. The game was memorable as it was the great Darren Lockyer’s 355th and last game for the Broncos. I was always a fan of a kid I first saw as a 12-year-old and the road trip was a great way to experience it.

 

All genuine road trippers need to know their ABC frequencies. Between Gin Gin and Miriam Vale the dial has to shift from 855AM to 837AM to hear the whole game. I loved the commentary of Morrow and the Wok. In terms of the call, you don’t get much better than that. Whilst any game could be subbed in, this was the 2011 Preliminary Final between the Broncos and Manly. The Broncos with their legend Lockyer (unbeknownst to them at the time in his last game) had the opportunity to keep a fairy-tale end to his career alive. The car was full. The Golden Girl and I were in the front with Dad, Mum and R2D2 jammed in the back. It was a tight squeeze but, of course, as driver I was comfortable and controlled the airwaves. This wasn’t a problem, though, as we all loved our footy.

 

Good radio paints a great picture. 50 km out from Miriam Vale, I started working on the order. The Broncos were under great pressure. No-one in the car, or outside the peninsula for that matter, likes Manly. Oh no! Stewart try off Cherry-Evans. The Wok loved that play. 16-nil. I’ll try a drinks order. The Golden Girl is having the strawberry milkshake with malt and ice-cream. That is comfort food if ever I have heard it. Then a big cheer – George Rose is on. Dad pipes up, “I’d bet he’d love a crab sandwich and a strawberry milk shake.” Craig Hamilton lets us know from the sideline that “things are tense, Warren.” I look at the speedo and think “too right” to myself.

 

My meticulous planning meant that the Girl was sent in for the delicacies with the half-time score at 16-4. We all love mud crab. The analysis of the Wok in rating Manly was a supporter’s dream. Even Hamilton says the score is a good reflection, agreeing with the Wok. As for completions, it’s Manly 19 out of 21, the Broncos 13 out of 16. Good numbers and true finals stuff. Anderson reminds us that a number of teams have come from behind this season. The wind is creating a bit of havoc and all are impressed with Gillett’s game. My saliva is flowing at a very high level on two fronts. My summation was that it was definitely ‘game on’ in the second half.

 

The sandwich is sensational. It should be on everyone’s bucket list. I’ve gone the Bundaberg sarsaparilla (no drink driving, although the Bundy stubby is a fair alternative). G-squared rates the milkshake. Mum is on the ginger beer and Dad is having a coffee. Just the 43 bean one. No barista required here. Swenson is now giving the stats as we head to Bororen. The Broncs have been in similar situations before and won but this was tough. The eventual 2011 Premiers were too good. Great footy and some of the finest crab in the country flying around the cabin. “Who got the sweets?” Ah, Mum. A bag of Marella Jubes.

 

Morrow described the Broncos as valiant, the Wok saw them as rudderless. I have to agree with Wok. Manly made it into the GF 26-14 and the Wok thinks they will be good things. (He was right – they pumped the Warriors 24-10.) Finally, Wok advises us that there was a formidable group of beer drinkers in front of him. In their oblivion he salutes them. Boy, it made me feel like a beer. You have to love a Friday night road trip with a great game of footy and the Queensland mud crab.

 

*

 

You have to love a big game of footy. Lots of people think GF’s, Tests or Origins are the big ones. But what about the Wooden Spoon final? In 2011, for the first time, there was an actual Wooden Spoon Grand Final. The loser of the match would take home the despised spoon. Channel 9 and Fox made no celebration about it but we sure did because it was played in our back yard and we love footy.

 

The Eels and Titans played their last match of the season in September, the final for the Wooden Spoon. It was the dreaded consequence of a poor season but this made it a clash that we couldn’t miss. Whereas finals are normally about winning, this piece of woodenware goes to the loser. It’s the first time the Spoon is being played for in the NRL and only my crew have jumped on it. We put a crew of 20 together to watch the clash. All the regulars were there, including the Flame, Nora, the old timer, Toeturner, Dad and Mum. Because the Sydneysider was playing for the Eels and Mum was their Number 1 supporter, we were supporting Parramatta. But it was Preston Campbell’s last game. He has been an ornament to both rugby league and the purists who feel that the great game should be open to players of all shapes and sizes.

 

Skilled Park is an excellent venue for Rugby League but its strict No Parking rules make it hard to get to. Skilled has not been a graveyard for visiting teams to the tourist strip. More’s the pity, the Titans have not struck fear into any side over the last few seasons. This 2011 Wooden Spoon clash is testament to that. The greatest fear I felt came when the bar attendant charged me $8.20 for the Golden Girl to have a single glass sized bottle of Tyrell’s Old Vintage Shiraz. Even the bar attendant apologised. I asked if there was a ‘buy 4, get 1 free deal’. Negative. I won’t be plying the Golden Girl with that vintage. I went for the Fourex Gold in a plastic cup. $6. Paddy Fitzgerald would have the broad smile wiped off his face at that price. It was unlike his spiritual home, Lang Park, where you can buy a decent beer at the Northern end and drink it nice and cold from the stubby – until you leave the area, of course. You know about big stadium food. Corporate boxes full of canapés and prawns. I’m on the plastic wrapped pie and the 60 cent squeeze tomato sauce. The Golden Girl is sampling the soggy chips. You’ve got to love the Weber.

 

A band named Power Stream was belting out its hits that I have never heard of. Then came kick-off to the strains of Welcome to the Jungle piped through the speakers. There was a classic moment early on when Preston made a long range break only to be tackled by that tyro Hindmarsh just 10 metres out. What great players, and to think one might end up with the spoon. Two competitive players only worried about the game. A classic moment. Hang on, there was a knock on 80 metres ago. The Titans were disorganised and Bailey, who has been so good for the Titans over the last three seasons, looked tired as Parra went to a 16-nil lead. Just as Parra looked the goods, a coach killer. Parramatta made a mistake from the kick-off. Knock on. Penalty. Knock on. This is a wooden spoon thriller.

 

Our crew is mainly concerned with the double. I have a leg in with the 9 for the Titans. The Flame has never won a double and has two legs alive. Dad also has a leg in, so we are actually cheering for certain Titans players to score. I have always loved footy doubles.

 

With 20 minutes to go it is 32-nil. The good sized crowd is starting to leave. Parramatta are actually playing well within themselves in a big final whereas the Titans offerings are as limp as the Golden Girl’s soggy chips.

 

Double pressure is starting to build with 10 left on the clock. 32-nil. Finally, the replacement Ridge breaks the line and puts the other replacement O’Dwyer in for a try. Doubles dilemma. The actual jersey numbers for the double are Titans 17 Eels 18. When Sio scored first for Parra, 7 was the only number not on for Parra. The only back not on for the Titans is Number 3. The Flame has 3 in the double. An early crow by the Flame comes out, “Drinks on me, I’ve won the $500 double”. Hang on, get the Flame before it’s too late. The official double is announced as 4 and 7. Too late! I’ll drink to the Flame as he has gone off to fight with the double selling staff from Rotary. David Gallop will have to answer to this. The Flame is arguing that Titans number 4, Toopi, was on and it was O’Dwyer who scored. I think he’s right. The Flame is down $500 for the double he hasn’t got and another $100 for the round of 20 after the early crow. That burns. The Titans finish on a mini high for what was a poor performance tonight to win the wooden spoon in style. Barring the Flame, we’re all happy. The Sydneysider played big minutes and did well. The Flame is still angry with the NRL over what we now call ‘Doublegate’. You’ve just got to love footy.

 

*

 

You had to love the old days of Friday night with fish and chips wrapped in old newspaper, especially so if you were a Friday night, fish-eating Catholic. If they were wrapped in old newspaper, I would read the sports section that told of the woes of somebody’s season. West Tigers, Canberra, Parramatta, Gold Coast and Cronulla have all filled the sport pages with woe. The Golden Girl is a fan of the new foam containers but I long for the newspaper. As a kid, I would sell old newspapers (with the odd magazine jammed in for extra weight) to the fish shop for a few cents. This was recycling at its finest. They were the halcyon days. Beetson, ‘Bunny’ Reilly and G-squared’s favourite from the 70s, Fairfax for the Roosters, delivering back to back premierships, and Bath’s Babes winning twice in three years. Reddy, ‘Lord Ted’, ‘Slippery’ Morris – great teams.

 

Speaking of great, I have always felt that there is nothing better than a battered piece of the Pacific’s finest flake washed down with an ice cold stubby or a crisp NZ white for the Golden Girl. G-squared is all for the battered snapper because, in her view, if she doesn’t eat shark then they have no reason to eat her. Karma, baby. As a remedy for my nostalgia, the girl often serves mine on Wednesday’s Courier just before kick-off. Beautiful. You can spill the sauce over the paper and, if need be, seek omens for the weekend punt. Soon the footy is on and, before I know it, the Golden Girl is blowing up at the amount of ads 9 is pumping into the program. 9 is advertising everything from whitegoods to white pages with my most hated, The Block, being pumped by Rabs as if he actually watches it. I reckon I’ve had my hair permed more times than Rabs and the crew have watched The Block. Friday nights often throw up great games and great tries – the Hayne Plane from Parra or Inglis running the 100 against the Broncos. This makes up for the ads. You just have to love fish, footy and Friday nights.

 

*

 

When you’re in the comfort of home supplied with fine fare, it’s hard to think of pies with sauce and beer in a plastic cup. But when the new season comes around, our starter is always the Prawn Luncheon. They come out by the bucket load and they keep coming until you stop. I met four mates there, the Tyre Fitter, Tiny, Tommy and Mr Creosote (so named to protect his innocence). The Tyre Fitter is lean and fit. The rest of us, with a combined weight of over 560kgs, are prime prawn protagonists. The prawns are magnificent when washed down with CUB ales and De Bortoli wines. We hoed into the beer and champagne to prime ourselves for the coming onslaught. The pace was fierce. We always come out of the barrier like Vo Rogue but become a little like Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, “wafer–thin mint” skit. We also compete to see who can construct the best Prawn Burger. The resulting craftsmanship is exquisite. About 1000 punters queued up for the tickets to Prawn Utopia. Our lunch was interspersed with a deal of footy talk. Cronulla and the ASADA problems were high on the list last year. Tommy suggested that SBW might be a great sport but he would struggle to match us on the prawn eating circuit today.

 

There is always an air of anticipation before the season opener. Everybody becomes an expert and footy is a key topic alongside the prawns and the beer. The famed farmed Gold Coast black tiger prawn is a magnificent morsel. By mid-afternoon at last year’s event, we had 10 prawns left. I suggested we eat two each. I announced, in my best French accent, “Boys, they are only tiny, little, thin ones.” Mr Creosote rolled back into his seat and said “No. *#@# off. I’m full”. The other four of us knew that this was the moment. So we ate all but the last prawn when I again, to the groan of Mr Creosote, said, “Oh, sir. Hmm? It’s only wafer thin.” The classic response followed as Mr Creosote said, “Look, I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.” I pleaded, French accent and all, “Come on, just one.” But there was no voila. Tiny knocked it over and I gave a nice big, “Bon appetit.” You just have to love the Beenleigh Yatala Chamber of Commerce Prawn Luncheon at the tiger prawn farm at Rocky Point as your footy season opener.

 

*

 

You’ve got to love your old mates from school days. The Toeturner is always at me to go out and have a few beers but, to his chagrin, I often disappoint. One weekend I had two tickets to the Sunday clash and the Golden Girl had left me at a loose end. So I thought, what better than to sub in Toeturner, have a few beers and take in what should be a cracking game with two sides desperate to stay in the finals race? He even said he’d pick me up to have a punt before the game.

 

I have to expand here that Toey had recently taken up home brewing and started to strictly follow a punting system with a degree of success. I hate home brew and I am an undisciplined punter who knows that there is no punting system that works. When he picked me up, resplendent in his work uniform, he tried the old ‘let’s just go back home, have some homebrew, punt on the internet and then make our way to the footy’. I said three words, “Stop the car”. I followed this with, “Gus (another of his nicknames), why would you put yourself through the pain of me bagging your brew, regardless of its taste, and refusing to punt because I am a Saturday TAB man?” He groaned.

 

I have always found that the only people who like home brew are the blokes who brew it. Needless to say, we pulled into the local where I had a lovely crisp draught beer and the Toeturner had soda water. We backed one of his system horses and it won. Gus said, “Seeee? It works”. Unable to help myself, I told him to let it ride on the next tip. $56 win on some donkey that ran third and paid $3.20 the place! I had refused to let him bet each way. Gus groaned again and decided that he was too tired to go to the match but would still drop me there. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

 

Later he called to see how I was, given that I was ‘solo’. I bagged him for not coming and told him I was having a ball with the banter of the Titans Old Boys in the corner bar. Geoff Bagnall, QCup player and Captain of the first decade, Donny Saunders, Brisbane Brothers star Peter Gill and legendary Gold Coaster Andrew ‘Pud’ Whittington (amongst a host of others) were given a Recognition Arvo where an honour board of all previous players was opened.  A nice gesture by the Titans. I was especially happy as I was drinking stubbies of Squires Chancer Ale from the corner bar for free. What an improvement from the plastic cup of my last visit.

 

Home crowds are vital in tight fixtures and the Titans just didn’t get the support they needed on this day. I blamed Toeturner fair and square. He should have been there adding support, not drinking home brew, punting on some tip in the seventh at Quirindi. Even though he dropped me there, I felt like he had stood me up. Maybe he thought that was just desserts. A penalty goal in the 68th minute seemed to ice the match at 24-16. But with two minutes to go, the crowd was roaring, sadly for the Warriors even though the Titans were now down by two.

 

On the final play, Sezer launched a precision bomb to the north-eastern corner. The Beast rose above the pack and batted the ball back to the dead ball line. From nowhere, the Samurai-looking Gordon flew for what would be a miraculous try. There was only a brush stroke in it but, sadly, to the roar of the pro-Warriors crowd, the ball was out!  If you can Google this, it’s worth it. You’ve got to love footy.

 

*

 

Like everyone else, I love Mothers Day. I especially love it when I can work a bit of footy into it. I noted that Parra played the Broncos on the 11th May and that the Sydneysider might get a game. If not, Wenty (NSW Cup) was playing the Illawarra Cutters early, so I could catch that game. Great plan, should work beautifully. G-squared was happy as she could get to see her boys and visit her sisters while I’d have the opportunity to take in a few of the sights and the footy.

 

Mid-April and the Golden Girl woke up to the fact that it was footy central for her for Mothers Day. She felt I really was a thoughtful, caring man who didn’t always put himself first. Huh?? I tried to further illuminate myself by inviting my other two sons but only the Minister and his girl could make it. A couple of mum’s boys on Mothers Day should provide the room to manoeuvre the trip to be all about me. A new problem emerged the week before the trip. G-squared organised a family dinner for us in Sydney for Saturday night (there goes the Parra game) with G-squared’s sister and the Irishman. Now I love my tucker and a good drink, but this was supposed to be about footy.

 

A perfect lunch at The Bell in Wooloomooloo was followed by the trek down to WIN Stadium for the NSW Cup match which Wenty lost, but the Sydneysider played well. The Minister and I both concurred that he was the pick of their players. I suggested to the Minister that we may be biased but he said, “No way. If he played bad I’d say he played bad.” That’s why we call him “The Minister” (for Social Justice and Equity).

 

WIN Stadium is a lovely ground and the game was of a reasonably good standard. The crowd, however, was very poor. I don’t know what it is about Queensland but an average country club match would have had triple the size of this crowd. I had a VB and a Vilis pie for afternoon tea whilst the rest of NSW was preparing for Mothers Day.

 

The NRL game was a lost cause for me so I quickly changed in the motel and went to the nearby Town Hall Hotel in Newtown, ordered a schooner of Sydney’s finest beer, Reschs Lager, and watched the kick-off amongst a rare mix of people comprising everything from rednecks to new wavers. Amidst the juke box playing Rockin’ All Over The World (I will never forgive Coles), a small group of rugby league degenerates were focussed on the telly. Steve Kearney was running the water for the Broncos and the Eels fans were sparing him no sympathy. You have to feel for ex-NRL coaches as it is a very tough job. Without doubt, Kearney gave his best in his coaching stint but the fans were unforgiving. I think back to Famous Grouse.

 

Speaking of unforgiving, the Golden Girl interrupted me just before the halfway mark of my second Reschs and said, “Are you serious? Let’s go!” Gowings Bar and Grill is a great spot in the city. Oh, the ambience! The food was great and we washed it down with mirth and merriment.  Modern technology allowed me to keep across the score (on the quiet) and, as is often no surprise, the field goal that seems a bit of a waste changed the balance of the game in Parramatta’s favour. Likewise, a good night out with happy people changes the balance of the Mothers Day game in my favour. I didn’t go too bad either- a Mothers Day trip, some footy, family and a good feed. You just have to love that.

 

*

 

I love the Randwick Mile and the Epsom before the GF is great. In 2014, before the Rabbitohs were back in their first GF in 40 years, the track was a footy fan’s paradise. Randwick Miles are a true race where all horses get a crack. Much to Tommy’s disgust, I also rate myself as a Randwick Mile specialist (self-anointed, of course). Tommy cannot let it go and wants to know by what criteria a Randwick 1600m track specialist can be measured. I tell him that today I will prove it as I have the winner because I AM the gruelling mile (as the commentators like to wax) specialist at Randwick. No ifs or buts. I list my favourite milers: top of the tree for me will always be Hula Chief. What a win! I followed his progeny for years after this and was so successful that I still work all year round, have a mortgage and will punt on dogs the night before a big race day. (Yes, that’s right, we went to the Wenty Park dogs on Friday night).

 

Half of Queensland’s rugby league supporters are at Randwick like it’s a reunion. Souths are the flavour so I’m obviously supporting the Dogs. I tell all and sundry the winner of the GF and the Epsom and tell them to load up. The new stands were magnificent and we perched ourselves up the top at a round table which could barely hold the drinks. Borker and his crew joined us and the beer started to flow. So, too, did the direction of money toward the totalisator. Paradise. All we need are winners and everyone has one. I see blokes I know all over the place. Misery, the Toowoomba QCup Captain of the decade, Tiny MPM, the Stooge and Mr Creosote, all full of winners. Shouts were eight at a time so military precision was required to purchase. We were good and did not go thirsty.

 

The Minister phoned me from Moranbah and asked me to put $50 on, would you believe, my tip. “Terrific,” I told Tommy, “it’s genetic”. Normally I would take the Minister’s bet but not this time. The money was on and I was about to have a new pin-up miler ridden by Bowman. The large crowd roared as the horses left the barrier and my chosen steed was forward. I never thought to ask the other blokes what they backed, so strong was my conviction. You punters know the story of great races. My horse hit the line in front. Hang on. What was that out wide?  Photo!

 

I started to feel weak. The last time I won a photo was when I was in a photo booth at 12 and the machine was broken. “He’s Your Man’s got it”. Surely not!  Royal Descent had given everything and I thought it had won. Finally, a little broken, I had to move and noticed an old Mackay mate walking up the stairs. In my best Costanza, I asked the heavens loudly, “Why me?!” He looked up and laughed. Everyone else looked and wondered who the desperate was. The old mate said, “Let’s have a drink.” I said, “Yes”. I soon saw Tommy. “What did you back?” I asked, trying to steel the confidence of a self-anointed track and distance specialist. He put two fingers in his pocket and slowly drew out two tickets and, in his arid tone, said, “He’s Your Man”.  I now had to face the legion of antagonists but I felt positive as Royal Descent gave everything. Most backed He’s Your Man because they thought I could only pick seconds. That hurt. To rub it in, Tommy’s second ticket was the $50 Waller exacta in order based on my tip. I quickly retorted, based on the small and rare opening Tommy gave me, “That’s why they call me the Randwick mile track specialist!” Thank God we’ve got footy tomorrow.

 

The 2014 GF had everything. We loaded up on the Northern Pride and they cleaned up, then the valiant Dogs were beaten by the Rabbitohs. The Sydneysider was in the Dogs squad but out injured so we all felt a bit for him. Tiny suggested we head to the Wests Ashfield Leagues Club after the match. We arrived and dissected the game, the races, the weekend and myriad other topics on life in general. Our biggest problem was that the beer did not stop flowing. West Ashfield has great footy memorabilia and is a 24-hour licensed club. We stayed way too long but you’ve just got to love footy.

 

To return to the www.footyalmanac.com.au home page click HERE.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

 

Comments

  1. ‘Whole-heartedly’ is about the only way I can describe the way the O’Hanlons approach life and the footy. You make me want to go and have a little lie down just thinking about trying to keep up. But what a way to go about life, all the more so in these strangest of times.

  2. Steve Wilson says

    Respect to Matt as this article is a great mix of nostalgia and love of the greatest game. Respect also for still being able to tolerate Channel 9 coverage. Yours must be a greater love than mine! Great to be reminded of the contribution of radio commentators such as the Wok. His gems still come up in discussions of players – ‘You want ten metres, he’ll get you 10 metres; you want 11 metres, he’ll get you 10 metres!’ Enjoyed the crab sandwich at Miriamvale just last month on a trip north, enjoyed this read almost as much.

Leave a Comment

*