Balls to ANU

Tony Robb Bats


While a significant amount of Australia was watching what was to be unexpected AFL grand final fizzle, a group in middle aged men had joined together to celebrate another whopping in the last days of September. Thirty Septembers ago actually. On that fateful day in 1984, the CCAE Wombats went in to the big one against the ANU students from down town Acton. Sure, the body shapes had changed a little and the hair was decidedly more groomed. What had not changed was the recollections of that year and the ability to talk the same shit that was sprouted 30 year ago. If there was one thing these blokes were good at, it was taking the piss out of each other, not that ammunition was short in supply. There was some seriously sick and stupid puppies in the club. Even the biggest man in football was on board for the celebrations. I bet you Horse and Clarko didn’t get a best wishes note from Mike. This came courtesy of Matty who works for the company the AFL Chairman owns. The same Matty that worked with the Almanac’s Rod Gillett in Abu Dhabi for 4 years. Wombats don’t work for the AFL chairman in Abu Dhabi.

 It may seem odd but thirty years after blokes from PNG to the Riverina found themselves in a culture of substance abuse and debauchery, I had actually forgotten that they were actually enrolled in some form of tertiary study. My memories of these blokes were mostly football and social memories. Yet here were accountants, economists, ex-pollies, architects and successful businessmen. Hell, Shipps, who was supposedly the guest of honour, was in London on business. Shit, Wombats don ‘t go the London on business. The Wombats I played with rolled out of Kombies in a haze of funny smoke. I last remember most of the guys in the room as being in a permanent state of drunkenness, still in the their game day jumpers, the week after the game. By the time I’d left them to kick on early Saturday evening that particular skill set was still in evidence. Fortunately, on this occasion I didn’t have the president of the student union or the vice chancellor seeking  my assistance in having them removed from lecture theatres and the refectory. My answer then was the answer I would offer now. I help create them, but they are someone else’s problem now.

 This Finawas classic haves versus the have nots. The CCAE was not really a university from ANU’s perspective. More your glorified ag college with a few teachers and designers thrown in for good measure and strange biologists who walked around in bare feet and shorts in winter and ate live bogong moths and atomic chillies. The men who gathered on Saturday were mostly the product of this institution and these formative years of scholarly endeavour have not been wasted. It now goes under the University of Canberra banner and boasts the biggest sports training facility in Australia and a medical school. I would also like to think that the Wombats FC was in some part responsible for the institute’s current academic acclaim as no higher education facility would ever want to be represented by such a group of reprobates ever again.

84′ was the year where lots of stars, countries, states and military decisions aligned. We had a sprinkling of experience players who were former students or public servants doing study part time. Joey, was on a 12 month teacher training programme from PNG, as where a number of Papuans who made a fanatic contribution to the club and the local hospitality and security industry. Joey was also the All- PNG centre half forward. Half a dozen lads from the Riverina were quickly identified as having was was required to play a role within the team. They could play and liked a drink.

 A spattering of others had gathered from other parts of NSW and Victoria and melded with some local talent, some of which I coached a few years earlier, such as Burg, Tulls and Stan. I first sighted a potential gun playing in a practice match in the twos. Lew was going pretty well but ha dnot put in big pre-season. However, when he heaved his guts up at half time, I knew he had what it took to step up to the ones. Another former ACT player came out of retirement to sure up the back line. He was carrying a bit, but he always had and still does, but if your big brother wants a game it’s hard to say piss. So basically we had a spine surrounded with kids who could get the footy and use it. It was my job to try an harness what each had to give. And Spanner, we did have line captains. Somehow they gelled and went on to play in a flag together.

The Wombats finished the home and away season on top of the ladder after a series of extraordinary events. In the last game of the year we were playing the army boys from RMC for the second chance. They were all called Bluey or Sergeant which would have made communication on the field of war, let alone a football field, rather confusing I would have thought. The Cordies didn’t like long haired smelly students. However, they were not allowed to retaliate if an “altercation” occurred or if they were sledged. This was a distinct advantage to a group of people, who couldn’t fight, who liked giving lip to someone who was trained to disembowel such swill. They had given us a bit of touch up in our first clash of the year and were on top at half time. Shipps was put into the centre and took the army lads apart in the second half. Joey and Hicksey were getting plenty of the footy and the goals flowed. The next thing you know we were into an unlikely second semi against the Uni. Balls to RMC!

The semi did not get off to the start we were looking for. For one, we were missing a certain all-PNG centre half forward and ANU were getting plenty of ball from the mid-field and again we went into half time on the wrong end of the scorer’s pencil. A forlorn Joey then walked into the sheds, sans footy boots, which were in the car of the bloke that was meant to give him a lift. Joey couldn’t look me in the eye. All I said was “you owe me Joey”. “I promise you coach”was his earnest response. Joey duly delivered six goals in the second half and we were going to the big dance. Balls to ANU!

We fully expected to be playing the Cordies in the GF when the Defence Force of Australia made one the most strategic moves in its history. On the weekend of the prelim, there came the call from the brass. “Soldiers, pack you kits, we are going bush”. ANU beat a depleted army side and we were set to again face the academics the following weekend. The week leading to the game was business as usual apart from the coach’s edict not to get on the piss and to get lots of spuds and honey into them. I knew they would not stay off the drink but at least they didn’t go out which was the main aim. I never saw a player in the bar all week. They bolted when I was seen driving into the car park apparently. As for the spuds, the only real time that this had been dietary consideration for most of these blokes was drinking Stan’s old man potato grappa after game day. It was a unspeakable punishment awarded to the player judged best on ground and was effectively poison.

Still we got through the build-up without incident although Damo missed out through injury and I had that awful dilemma of choosing between a tall or a small for the last sport on the bench. I went small and Sutto played in a premiership and Phil probably still has the shits to this day. I was reminded by Kieran on Saturday that I had dragged him a few weeks before the end of the season and told him he was playing like a dickhead and needed to do something about it if he wanted to play finals. Kieran had a premiership medallion around his neck last Saturday. 

A few hundred students, family and friends had turned up for the GF and I wore my best Vinnie’s jacket and a woollen vest that didn’t have moth holes. The two teams looked pretty even on paper, although ANU had Barrie Cassidy and our team captain, Obes, had a resume that included designing the official supporter’s windcheater featuring the original fat arsed wombat encouraging all to stick it up ya arse. Apart from that, their respective careers have followed a parallel pathThe game plan was pretty straight forward. Get the troops up by getting them angry, open up the forward line for Hicksey and Joey, numbers back to help the backs and get Graham Sly out wide by himself. The first bit was easy. The pre-game speech involved the usual lines about grabbing the opportunity to be part of something special, if everyone beats their opponent we must win, get to contests and so on. And hurt them at every opportunity. Not much talk of KPIs and structures.

I closed off my address by saying I had over heard the Uni boys saying we were soft. The semi was a fluke. This of course was fabricated bullshit that I used again last year in an under 18s final. I then instructed the lads to refuse to shake the hand of their opponent, tell them to f^:k off and tell them they couldn’t beat us two week ago and nothing would be changing today. The only play I didn’t use was taking the screws off the closed shed door and running through it. The now ritualistic Wombat chat was initiated and out they went. The boys jumped the Uni with the first goal coming from Lew, now decidedly fitter, who sprinted from half back and launched a drop punt from the centre with the ball rolling through from about 80m. The boys were indeed pumped.

Uni had some good players who moved the ball quickly and well. What they didn’t have was a centre half forward, a full forward or a reserve bench by quarter time. But big games need big players and our back line were big players. In modern parlance, morbidly obese players. If you thought Roughie’s cleaning up of Hannebery last Saturday was hard, it has nothing on what the enforcer G. Robb did to the ANU forward line. The Wombats were well on top and Uni boys were in fact experiencing quite a deal of hurt. All the rest of the game plan fell into place and it was basically all over by first oranges. I honestly don’t remember the rest of the match but Graham got plenty of free space and about 40 touches, and also BOG and that filthy grappa. Gary felt that his elimination of the Uni attack warranted the gong. He doesn’t know what I saved him from.

We sang the club song last Saturday and Spanner, who will now be know as the Keeper of the Song, led the others with gusto. “Balls to ANU, Balls to ANU, we won’t play you any more”**. It was song befitting of this team and this club. Sadly a club that no longer exists after ironically merging with ANU. Do they have the fat arse wombat holding a can as the club logo? What the merger didn’t bring was the 84 flag that was proudly worn by all last Saturday thanks to Tulls, who will now be know as the Keeper of the Flag.

Sadly, as is often the case with such occasions, we were missing a team mate, Pud, who passed away due to skin cancer. Sutto reminded us Obes was the only player to go into packs leading with his arse. Which I think serves as a timely reminder for our ageing group to book the colonoscopy and the finger up the date. Others were absent but not forgotten and I am sorry if I have not mentioned some such as Trent and the irrepressible and sublimely talented Mr Rippingdale. Obes is in Tassie working on the docks and sent a missive saying that he was making socks for all from the back hair of Arabian carpets sellers. Has Barrie Cassidy ever considered such a gesture? Thanks Matty for your effort and thanks Mike for the sentiments.

Thank you all for a great day and for 84. Hopefully we can repeat it again one day and Lew’s goal will be 100m and Joey’s six in the semi will continue to be the stuff of village legend in PNG. Hopefully, Shipps won’t be in London on business as no Wombat should be in London on business or Abu Dhabi for that matter. Well played boys.

?**Team Song. What academic institution would not to be proud to have its representative sons sing this celebratory ditty?*

*Insert appropriate profanity as indicated by team hate factor


We don’t play for adoration
We don’t play for victory
We just play for recreation,
Mighty college men are we,
Balls to ANU
Balls to ANU
We won’t play to anymore
We won’t play you anymore


We gave you a * great hiding

We gave you a * great hiding

We gave you a * great hiding,

you dirty pack of *

You dirty pack of *

We gave you a * great hiding

You dirty pack of *










About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Happy anniversary Tony! As a holder of a UC Graduate Certificate in Public Administration I shall laud it over my partner’s ANU PhD all evening. Sad to think such a club song and fat arsed wombat may be no longer part of the Canberra Aussie rules community.

  2. craig dodson says

    As a uc boy its always great to hear us get one over anu. Great yarn tony and well done on keeping the team in communication after all these years.

  3. Is there anyone in footy Rod Gillett doesn’t know?

  4. As far as I know Rocket Rod knows everyone. I played with him at Sydney Uni in the 80’s as well as the AD connection.

    Some additions to the RMC reminicences: they normally had a captain coach called “Sir”, which made intercepts easy even for someone as slow as me. And do you think they wouldn’t honour the call?

    Also Tony forgets the famous last words: “I’ll drink until the coach turns up” {Mark Sutton, I believe) because my 21st was the Friday before the GF on Sunday. Meaning the ruckman missed training altogether and birthday boy from starting side to bench. He didn’t see us at the bar because we were too busy getting smashed over here. And next week was exam week.

  5. Matty above would be “Mutey” Williams, I’m guessing? If so, you, Gubba and myself were part of the ugliest backline in the MAFL in 1986. That ‘s a superb article about the CCAE 1984 flag, Tony – I meant to comment much earlier but for other writing commitments. I recognise most of the blokes in the picture, including a much thinner Chris Tully (front left). The adapted theme song (previously the Wombats had a variation of the Carlton song, from memory) was created by a good mate of mine, Burto (Grahame Burton), who donned the red and gold in 1982 and 1983. I first played with the Bats (seconds) under the coaching of Bruce Hughes (nicknamed Loopy, if I recall correctly) in 1981 during your earlier coaching stint, Tony. I left at the end of 1983 and returned for sporadic appearances in 1986. Very sad that the CCAE-cum-University of Canberra Football Club no longer exists. The best footy club I ever played for in terms of off-field shenanigans. Cheers, Pete “Fatty” Carter

  6. Out of the blue I googled CCAE Wombats and came across the gem, which brought back found memories. I only played for the Bats for a couple of seasons which became the highlight of my Footy career when we made the GF but lost narrowly to West Canberra.(89 I think) Great guys, but I knew from day one we were doomed (in a footy sense) when the bloke who polled 3 votes after each came, had to skull 3 schooners! Picking up just one vote seemed like a better goal for me. I remember Puds very sudden illness and his passing, and how a bunch of odd blokes came together to pay their respects. I remember Harro, our captain coach, who made me run so much I nearly became fit. Good times, Andy Vautier (unapproved nickname, busketa#*e)

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