Almanac Teams: An unlikely team of religious figures inspired by the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg

by Ken Haley


This Tuesday, October 31, marks the 100th anniversary of the last cavalry charge – at Beersheba, now in Israel, then part of the Ottoman Empire, when Australian horsemen unwittingly wrote the final page in a chapter of military history dating back thousands of years.


More significantly – though in these secular times less noted – it will be the 500th anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther kick-started the Protestant Reformation, a movement that later became bound up with the rise of capitalism and the United States as a world power ‘under God’ and all that flows from that.


It was while thinking about Luther kick-starting this world-shaking movement that the idle thought came to me – as it tends to do in the dreamy warmth of a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne’s springtime: If Luther were alive today, and made himself available for a super-team of religious luminaries, where the hell would you play him?


That’s what got me thinking who he could play alongside – and who, as a man who took his religion religiously he would refuse to play alongside – in what emerged in my febrile brain as an idea I’m only now ready to offer to the AFL (for thirty pieces of silver at current exchange rates) as my Team for the Ages.


Placing Luther wasn’t all that hard when I began to ponder the realistic options: he’s obviously be a winger. (I mean, anyone who places 95 complaints up on the church door, as he did half a millennium ago this Tuesday, clearly loves a good whinge! Who cares how you spell it?)


Some other possies pick themselves. Since that witty line posted on the noticeboard out front of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hawthorn way back in the early ‘70s, it’s clear you couldn’t keep Peter Hudson as your spearhead if Jesus came to town. So there’s your full-forward possie taken care of.


This entails moving Buddha out to centre half-forward. And, of course, under the father-son rule , you’d have to give God a guernsey – but on form it’s difficult to pin him down to one position. I see him as a useful utility player (in the old-fashioned King James-style way of the world) who’s liable to pop up anywhere but isn’t someone you can really rely on: whole quarters tend to go by where he’s scarcely sighted.


If you’re putting Jesus in front of the Big Sticks, what do you do with Mohammed? Any team would be foolish not to find room for a player with a reputation for aggression (peace be upon him) and, despite many years of circle work,  he tends to go for goal himself, bypassing Jesus – but as he’s been known to convert a few from far out, you can only look on in wonder.


The back pocket? Well, Noah’s the past master when it comes to ‘flooding’ and, even if it’s a tactic that has seen its heyday come and go, he knows how to tag his opponent (pairing up seems to be second nature to him) and on a wet day he comes into his own.


If there are times he seems as old as Dustin Fletcher, it doesn’t really matter, because at full-back there’s no better defender than St Paul. You only have to read his letters to the expansion clubs at Ephesus and Galatia to know he’s not the type to let anything past.


As anyone knows, the past few years have been difficult for Job(e), one of our best midfielders. But the selection panel have decided to try him out at centre half-forward, for Jesus’ sake, because David sort of picks himself as a centreman with talent of biblical proportions.


True, you could sling him into the half-forward like a shot but, let’s face it, around the bounces you want a steady character who can see the Promised Land up ahead even if he’s never going to reach it himself from that distance. And he does strike fear in the hearts of his opponents: waves of them have been to known to part at his approach.


Deep readers of the Song of Solomon (a Macklemore-style production if ever there was one) won’t be surprised by our selection on the other wing: David apparently loves passing it off to Jonathan, and if the same-sex postal survey gets up, they could be offered as two-for-one deal in 2018 trade week.


St Augustine is a safe pair of hands on the half-back flank, and is notoriously hard to tackle: at going on for 1600 years of age he’s bound to slow down one day and chaste all over the field but not yet. …


Some of these are choices you really don’t have spend much time arguing over, but there are undoubtedly spots that are going to be hard to fill. I mean, it would have been great to get Fats Domino in the ruck –  especially seeing he’s fresh of the bench – but, as his name suggests, he’s not really a tall.


And just what can you do with the Dalai Lama? Every time you try explaining the game plan to him he just dissolves into giggling fits. It’s a big pity when you think about it, because they raise ‘em tough up there in the hill country. …


So, we still have a few positions to fill, and looking ahead next season is going to be even better: we’re hoping to get St Francis (previously of Assisi, who’s also being courted by the Dogs, the Cats, the Lions, the Tigers – very popular with animals of all stripes, really), but in the meantime we’ll make do with the Francis we’ve got: Pope Francis, the coach.


He’s a man for all seasons, to coin a phrase, and believes he can get more out of the players with soft-spoken encouragement than half-time blasts of hellfire and brimstone. Yet, away from the media spotlight, I’ve seen him lay down the law when he has to.


Was in the room just the other night when he was on the phone to the Ayatollah Khomeini explaining why he’d been de-selected. “I don’t care how many followers you’ve left behind, Ruhollah,” he explained in that no-nonsense Argentine way of his: “you’re not playing on my team.” I couldn’t hear what the big K. thought of this, but I reckon the message got through.





  1. Well done Brother Haley. Although I’m not totally sure where I’d have Mohammad – head of the Football Department or Development Coach – not drinking, no drugs, no gambling. Keep those youngsters in line and a speeding hand on the whole team.

    And the duplipitous Judas would have to be the goal sneak in the forward pocket — a al Eddie Betts. He does things you’d never suspect he could do.

    I’d swap Pope Paul with Buddha in the coaches’ box — more flexible thinking and not hide bound by process. Pope Paul would make a great CHF with his reach and trusty right boot.

    I’d move David to the back flank where his sling shot style of game would be more damaging. Himself would have to play on the ball where he’d be one of the most creative players of the modern era — in fact the most creative midfielder to have ever pulled on a boot.

    He’d be joined by one of the most destructive players in The Book – Joshua. He breaks through the walls like you wouldn’t believe.

    Sampson, with his poor eyesight, would have to be hidden away on the backline — maybe CHB where he’d be a tower of strength.

    The money lenders & hypocrites on the temple steps would be a natural for the Competition’s administration. And Pontius Pilot would go straight to the MRP.

  2. Great draft but where is Abraham? Father of not one but three different teams! Maybe Coach ir Centre.

    Dont leave out Saladin, Muslim warrior who crushed the crusading Christian in a very Dangerfield slash Martin manner. Midfielder def.


  3. Len Rodwell says

    Goliath would have to be in the ruck.

  4. Nice one Ken. I always like a bit of lateral thinking.
    St Paul was the great prosletyiser. The spreader of the faith. The Kevin Sheedy of the gospels.
    Judas – so many choices. Ron Barassi was the first, but Paddy Dangerfield and Chris Judd are latter day examples of those taking the 30 pieces of silver.
    Doubting Thomas – me and every other footy fan – halfway through the last quarter of any close footy match. I renounced my faith several times in the final against Port Adelaide, until St Luke offered final resurrection.
    And what about Moses? So talented as a young player, that his family had to hide him in the bulrushes to avoid the NRL recruiters.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Ken. Had me cackling at this concept.
    Zeus in the ruck handing out thunderbolts to Hermes who was a great ball carrier, then a long bomb to Icarus in the square !

  6. Icarus flies…

  7. That’s true John, but come September, he couldn’t get past The Suns.

  8. Mark Duffett says

    Get Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as a pinch-hitting trio coming off the half-back line, they can pull any match out of the fire. On the admin side, if you can get Daniel back as CEO from the Lions, the club might even turn a prophet.

  9. I’d go one further Rick; Abraham fathered three different codes. And look at the mess that’s created. I’d actually put him in the sin-bin.

    And we haven’t stated on the women’s team yet. My first pick would have to be Ruth. She left nothing out there.

  10. Well as we’ve just gone past All Saints Day, nowadays more revered for its nocturnal activities, who’d be the best players to include in a night match ?


  11. Marcus Holt says

    I’d have Martin Luther King Jr coaching The Saints.
    “I have a dream, that all clubs are created equal, that one day even the Dockers will reach the mountain top.”
    Gabriel and Michael surely play on either wing.

    Themed round: Saints v Demons with Lucifer tagging and trying to destroy the Saints’ best player.

  12. Warwick Nolan says

    Brilliant! And iluuminating too.
    Thank you Ken.

    Up until today I had thought perhaps that Gary Snr. & Gary Jnr. were the best ever father/son combination. I note your full forward and stand, humbly corrected.

  13. Warwick Nolan says

    Possibly the thtee quarter time address from Alan Killagrew?

  14. Dear Mr The Wrap, re Abe – this, from the pen of Dylan:

    “Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God said, “No” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’, you better run”
    Well, Abe said, “Where d’you want this killin’ done?”
    God said, “Out on Highway 61”

    On that note Abe demonstrates his committment and surely must be considered, even if only on the bench.

  15. With Dudeism a religion I nominate Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, who’d cause some damage coming off the bench, if he could be bothered.

  16. Tell you what Rick, why don’t we have Dylan on the cheer squad doing the banners with Leonard Cohen.

    There’s a lover in the story
    But the story’s still the same
    There’s a lullaby for suffering
    And a paradox to blame
    But it’s written in the scriptures
    And it’s not some idle claim
    You want it darker
    We kill the flame

    And okay, Abe’s out of the sin bin, but we’ve gotta keep the sin bin for this team of Religious Luminaries. Sinners & Saints go together like a horse & carriage.

  17. Methuselah could bring some experience to the backline. Always handy in the big games.

    Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar for the MRP where some degree of wisdom is sorely needed, especially if Pontius Pilate is continually out the back washing his hands.

    Cheers, Burkie

  18. That’s what he’s there for Burkie. To be out the back washing his hands whenever Trent Cotchin’s actions are up for review.

  19. Don Meadows says

    Inspiring stuff Ken!
    A mate of mine, Wayne Hooper, gave a response to your piece when I dropped it on him. He doesn’t post here but gave me permission to reproduce it. So here it is:

    The Footy Almanac selector has made some interesting choices— but I have some objections and alternatives.

    First, I can’t agree that Buddha should be in the team at all, let alone Centre Half— he’s a lazy bastard who sits around on his arse most of the time, completely lacks the aggression instinct, and is away with the fairies when he should be focusing on the game.

    For Centre Half Forward I had been considering that Woop-Woop bloke from the wilderness, John Baptiste. He has a great directly-down-the-middle approach to the game, “ make straight the way” as he put it. He tends always to be a bit ahead of the game— an advance man, as they say— which can be an advantage, but if pressed too this far can result in losing one’s head. Also, I have doubts about his stamina (that crazy locusts and honey diet fad) and I hear that he even has probems with lacing up sandals, let alone a pair of footy boots. So that rules him out.

    I had thought of including that nifty young winger, Judas Iscariot, but he has made himself ineligible as a result of the recent betting scandal in which he took 30 Big Ones to rat on his team.

    Another player that deserves consideration is the young French bloke Rene Girard. He has diligently studied all the masters who have gone before him and Imitated their style to perfection. Like all the French he is flamboyant and risk-taking and has no qualms about making a Sacrifice of himself for the benefit of the team— and as a result he could spend too much time on the injury list.

    Some have suggested that the Jensen brothers from Sydney could be a useful addition to the team because of their fundamentalist approach to the game. They certainly know the rules and interpret them very literally, indeed they are known for ‘playing by The Book’ (or their narrow version of it.) However they are not team players and put up a pretty retentive tight-arsed, unimaginative game in which they focus on each other and ignore the wider drift of play. Let these wankers play with themselves, as they say.

    In the end I think that the Centre Half Back job should go to that sterling Systematic new recruit from the Barossa League, Paul Tillich. He is really focused, his Ultimate Concern is always about winning and whenever he gets the ball he has the confidence and The Courage To Be himself. And, furthermore, he displays his conviction and commitment to the game by his incessant focus on his idol, The G (no, not God, but the MCG — or as he sometimes describes it, The Ground of Our Being.)

  20. Good one Don, but I’d be playing Jean Baptiste at CHB where Mopsy Fraser made the position famous by losing his head at the slightest provocation.

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