Blood-blisters to the Blacks, a Richmond Oval reverie

The other night I was reading a post here entitled, ‘Is any of this getting through? Post-match analysis with my twelve year old‘,  all about a father’s efforts to bestow the benefit of a lifetime’s footy smarts on his son, written by Adelaide Uni Blacks President and aptly-named Michael Dadds.

As I mused over Daddsy’s generous self-deprecations about his earnest tutelage falling on deaf ears, I started to think about my old man and the winters at Richmond Oval when we both fell in love with football, all thanks to my mother.

Dad never got to play much footy. He has a rare genetic skin condition that leaves him with nasty blood blisters on his joints if he cops a knock. His toenails are a real sight to behold. The condition’s worse when you’re a kid. He was a good sportsman and kept wicket in the First XI, but footy was ruled out from the age of fifteen. Dad passed the genes on to my sister, but my brother and I got lucky and missed out.

Like most South Australian lads, I was dead keen on footy from a young age. My paternal grandmother was a Sturt supporter and got to me first. When West Adelaide played Sturt in the 1983 SANFL Grand Final I was seven years old and barracking for the eastern-suburbs glamour side, strong favourites for the flag. Dad was a Sturt man too, of sorts, and we were going to watch the big game on the TV at home. Early in the coverage I went out into the kitchen and asked my mother who she thought was going to win. I still remember the shock and sense of betrayal I felt in the moment when my mother, who so far as I knew to that point had shown no interest in either grand finals or Australian Rules football, told me that not only did she think Westies would prevail but, far worse, she was also in fact a Westies supporter. I promptly bet her 50 cents that Sturt would win.

As the afternoon wore on and West drew closer to their unlikely victory, I revisited that wager several times. Rather charitably, Mum allowed me to reduce the stakes on a number of occasions. It was down to coppers by the end of the game, by which time I was ready to hear why West was Mum’s team.

Mum’s father had been a publican, and in the late 50s when she was a little girl the family lived above the Hampshire Hotel on Grote St in the city, when it was the official clubrooms of the West Adelaide Football Club. The Bloods had just started playing at Richmond Oval but there were no stands and no clubrooms, and the ‘Hampy’ was their temporary home. Mum had been a bit young to remember who the players were back then, although she could remember Neil Kerley. She was, however, full of gush and admiration for Bertie Johnson, an indigenous player renowned for his feats of athleticism, having most notably leapt clean over the picket fence at Adelaide Oval one afternoon (incidentally, he was also selected in 2011 in the SANFL indigenous team of the century). One evening in the pub after a game, a little girl friend was admiring the toy ring Mum had got in a packet of sweets at the deli, and asked her where she got it. Without a blink Mum told her that Bertie had asked for her hand in marriage. The little friend was unconvinced and to Mum’s humiliation promptly skipped over to Bertie to verify the news. To his eternal credit he confirmed the engagement.

That September my brief loyalty to the Double Blues suddenly evaporated, like high clouds on a spring day . Resistance was useless. For good or ill, I  had developed another form of rare hereditary condition. Blood and tar now pulsed through my veins.

It wasn’t until a few years later that Dad and I started going to the football. I was in grade six and playing in the Prep B school football team, to my grave disappointment. Dad wasn’t a huge footy follower, and I don’t know how it came about that we first went to a game. I imagine that going to watch the Bloods at Richmond Oval on a Saturday afternoon might not have been his first preference. But I remember like a strange and vivid dream the first time that we walked down a lonely, inauspicious lane way from South Rd to get into the ground. The game had already begun. The atmosphere as we approached the ground was a stiff breeze in the face, bracing and constant. Tremendous, undulating ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ rolled through the air from left to right and back again, punctuated by sudden bursts of cheering and applause. Looking down the lane through the gate to the oval was like peering through a porthole at an undiscovered island, bright guernseys flashing across an emerald facet of turf.

I remember the thrill and the fear as we passed through the gate and emerged into the full, immersive spectacle of League football. A Bloods player was lining up for goal. I can’t remember who we were playing, but their supporters beat a tattoo on the advertising hoardings. Tiny pieces of paper fluttered like insects in the air. I didn’t see the kick, but I saw the ball fly high and long towards the goals. Cheering and waving of banners and flags. Number 14, remember that.

I don’t remember much more of that first game, but I remember well the next one. We sat on the grass at Woodville Oval while the Bloods took on the Warriors. It was a shootout right up until the final seconds. West full forward Dale Woodfull kicked 11 goals, but Woodville’s Stephen Nichols kicked 13. West lost, which would become a pattern. Other than Woodfull, my favourite player was Clayton Lamb, number 14. Kieran Sporn was a star too.

Dad and I started going to every home game at Richmond Oval, and most away. We had our favoured spot at Richmond in the south-western corner. We bought scarves. I’ve still got mine. It billowed out the window of the Volvo on the ride home after a win, as we absorbed ourselves in the other match reports on the AM radio.

The more Bloods games I watched, the more natural it felt to be out playing. I had my best match of the season in the last game. The coach told me he would have picked me in the As if there’d been another week to play.

The next year when football season came around Dad and I were right into it, but the Bloods were entering a bleak period. For decades Westies had been notoriously inconsistent, but that year they managed to string together the longest winless streak in their history. Dad and I resolved to keep turning up, as disappointed as we were. We wouldn’t miss the win, when it finally came. The drought finally broke one afternoon at Glenelg Oval. Westies supporters are about as fickle as the team is inconsistent, and we had been trimmed to a cold and miserable rump. Glenelg was a long-time powerhouse, still coached by Graham Cornes. Our dark and weary lot had never got close to beating their blonde-haired surfer types. As the game wore on, the Bloods inched further in front, but the rump clung to pessimism. No-one dared believe we could win. Still we groaned as much as cheered. But by midway in the last, the game was ours. Bayside pensioners packed up their fold-up chairs and decamped, while we made ourselves hoarse with a childish sports-day chant . . . ‘Westies! (Clap-Clap-Clap) ‘Westies!’ (Clap-Clap-Clap) ‘Westies’ (Clap-clap-clap). It was a wonderful day. The weeks of disappointment were suddenly worthwhile.

The next few years I was in senior school with various other commitments and we went to the footy less often. My footy was improving, and when I was fifteen I was picked in the North Adelaide junior team to play in the Samboy Cup carnival during school holidays. We lived in North’s zone. It was exciting to train and play at Prospect Oval, where I’d seen a few games.

That year Westies and North would play off in the SANFL grand final, but I felt no mixed emotions; my loyalties were clear. I was offered free tickets to go with the Samboy Cup Squad but I refused. I had broken my nose playing that year, and once school footy was finished I was booked in for an operation. Surgery was scheduled in the week leading up to the Grand Final. The timing was inconvenient. I was only discharged on the morning of the game, with instructions from the surgeon to stay out of the heat and crowds, and not get too excited. Unfortunately Mum was in the room to hear these instructions, and wanted to forbid me going. A compromise was struck. I would have to wear one of Mum’s wide-brimmed straw hats for shade. At Footy Park we got a seat on the concourse, close to the aisle so I could get out of there if needed. At quarter time I was instructed to remain in my seat, the convalescent invalid under a straw hat, with a huge wad up my nose and bandage across my face, Bloods scarf still hanging in there, while Mum went to get chips and coke. To my great embarrassment, my team-mates in the North Adelaide Samboy Cup squad walked up the aisle and filed past one by one. They all recognised me and had reason to laugh. North won that year in a bloodbath.

The last two years of school were jammed tight with football and cricket, playing both for school and club. Sometimes I played three games of footy in a weekend. I had training every night of the week. Mum and Dad drove me all over town to play and train, and Dad came to most of the games. Afterwards he would ask me how I felt the game had gone. I’d tell him what I thought and that was it.

About this time, cricket got ahead of footy, and in the first summer after school I decided to place my focus there and not play with North. Come football season, I was looking for an amateur footy club. I asked Dad for advice. He said that of all the blokes he had known that played footy, the ones who played at Uni were the ones that wouldn’t stop talking about it. That was good enough for me, so I joined the Blacks as a freshman.

Over the next few years I started to develop physically and my footy improved again playing for the Blacks. Dad would walk down to Uni Oval by the Torrens and watch the games. I was playing cricket at a reasonable level but I still dreamt of playing League football. I called my old coach at North and they let me join in with pre-season. Chris McDermott was the coach and he flogged us, lapping around the horse track in the North Adelaide parklands. I’d never been this fit before. Trials went well, and I got picked in the twos for round one.

It wasn’t a good year for the Roosters. I had been getting in the best players in the reserves. After a few weeks I was surprised when McDermott pulled me aside at training and told me he was close to picking me. That week I was best against Centrals in the twos, but I rolled my ankle in the last five minutes. At presentations that evening, McDermott announced in front of the club that I would play League the next week.

Against the Bloods at Richmond Oval.

I rested the ankle on Tuesday, but by Thursday it wasn’t much better. I got through most of training, until the last drill where I started hobbling. McDermott sent me to the medical rooms. I wasn’t fit. Sitting in the car after training I called Dad and told him. He was disappointed for me, but he told me that he was glad too. It wouldn’t feel right at Richmond Oval.

The ankle came good and a few weeks later I got picked in the ones again. This time I actually played, against Sturt at Prospect. After the game, Dad came into the clubrooms for a beer. He told me that he had arrived at the game and got a spot near to the Roosters hard-core supporters, the ‘Grog Squad’. He said that he was almost overwhelmed with pride as he waited for the teams to run out. Then the Roosters came out, and he saw me with all the other players, and it didn’t look right. Every League team he had ever seen run out onto the ground had looked superhuman to him. Now his son was among them they just looked normal. Mere mortals. At the time I had long curly hair and thick sideburns. He said when I got my first touch, the Grog Squad all cried out with laughter. One of them said,”Who have we got playing for us now, Austin Powers?”. This rather added to his sense that some of the magic had gone.

I played out that year for the Roosters, with a handful in the League. I played once against Westies, a night game at Adelaide Oval, kicked a goal, my one game in the best players.  On the field of play you know whose side you are on. That summer I fell in love with a girl, and I went to the UK for a working holiday. I had two years away from it all, and put on 25 kilograms of beer and bacon sandwiches.

When I returned to Adelaide, I went back out to the Blacks to get fit and see if I could play footy again. I stayed for ten more years. There were ups and downs in that time. We played in grand finals in Division One, celebrated a centenary year, and then bombed the next year and were relegated for the first time in the club’s history. We spent five years in Div 2 trying to get back up, losing three consecutive preliminary finals, two of which went into extra time, and a third where we led by two goals at three quarter time. It was heartbreaking.  Still, Dad came to watch. Finally, in 2012 we broke through. We made the grand final, which meant promotion, and promptly lost. At 36, I felt I could retire.

The next year, 2013, I moved interstate for work. The footy dream was over. I still get itchy feet. I hope it never goes away.

A few weeks ago I was back in Adelaide for a short visit, and went to the Blacks’ first ever game under lights at Uni Oval. I asked Mum and Dad if they would like to come. When my wife dropped me off at the ground, I asked her to drop me at the northern end of the park, so that I could retrace the steps I had taken so many times before, walking down to the ground from my parents’ place. It felt nice returning like that. No over-wrought emotion invested in the outcome. No nerve-settling or loin-girding required. Mum and Dad were already there when I arrived. As soon as I got there, Dad said that they had walked down the path through the park, the same way I had, and it had made him feel sad that he wouldn’t ever get to watch me play footy again.

It made me sad to think of that, but happy too, that we have shared so much in the marvellous experience of football.


An Adelaide parklands devotee and Bob Neil disciple.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Tom loved this mate with the most important thing the connection with your dad
    Almanac folk I rate Tom as the best leader in sprt I no brilliant on ground and just as sensational off ground and Tom was BOG in our last A grade flag in 99
    Loved your honesty and for sharing this great man !

  2. Great piece Tom. The heart in your family is bigger than Phar Lap.
    I remember Bertie Johnson well. Little will-o-the-wisp highly skilled indigenous player. Sort of a poor man’s Cyril (high praise).
    Westies fell apart after Knuckles left at the end of ’63. There were some talented players. Ron Benton was an elusive classy half forward who was the surprise winner of the 57 Magarey Medal. I think he was at the Royal Show when the medal was awarded.
    In the mid 60’s you had the great Bobbie Day (great uncle – I think to the Suns Sam Day). One of the best drop kicks ever. Great skills. Went to Hawthorn, but never flourished in the mud and hard men of the VFL. Stalwart ruckman Doug Thomas (when 6’1″ made you a tap ruckman) who was never beaten and tough as nails. Was the club GM forever after retiring.
    The Blood and Tars got hard man Murray Weideman over in the late 60’s and he made you competitive again. Tied with my Torrens in a First Semi (our FF typically missed from the top of the square). Then you won the replay and broke my heart.
    I hated going to Richmond Oval because it was always cold and the mounds were as muddy as the oval.
    I hated Prospect because the alignment always seemed askew, and my West Torrens Eagles always kicked 8.20.
    Great memories, Tom. Thanks for sharing yours and rekindling mine.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Tom while I went to Norwood games with my dad and there was a connection there it was at the worlds greatest f c where the connection grew stronger and at last years presentation night which as you no was such a sensational night I was just so proud and excited when my dad was like your self made a life member

  4. Rick Bizz Sarre says

    this is a terrific read. well said. in the memory of every great player is that first visit with dad. brought good memories.

  5. Jeez Tom, where to start? Your piece wanders – as really good prose does – through the (northern?) parklands of emotions. Wistfulness and joy and everything in between. You write with HEART, as Peter B notes; just as you played, ‘served’ and led. I spent a long time post-playing and pre-presidency on the Blacks’ periphery (tribunal work at the Blacks has been thankfully somewhat sporadic since Maddog retired) and as you’ve noted elsewhere we sadly kind of missed each other along the way. Inevitably, however, we bond thanks to this unique community that ties us together no matter when we were active. I went to a Blacks’ 60’s reunion – at the Westies’ club – on Friday night together with Rulebook, the coach, the Chairman, and my boy Eddie representing the current cohort. We mixed with the legends of the Blacks’ Golden Era: Fat Jack Sangster, (the) Wayne ‘Jacko’ Jackson, the Ox, and master-coach Greer. Others are no longer with us: Doc Clarkson, Keg Ferguson, Rofey. These guys played in 10/11 grand finals through the 60s and won 6. If you weren’t good enough to play in the A grade at the Blacks you played SANFL league. Captain Sangster – who you will recall spoke so beautifully at last year’s dinner when your pride & mine and Ray Ashwood’s, Amber’s, Dirty’s, Dimma’s, the blonde Rwandan’s and many others’ coalesced in a glorious Black celebration – reminisced. He told the story of the lads filing in one by one one Saturday afternoon, dishevelled after a big night at one of the Uni residential college balls. 20 minutes before game time following a head count they realise they’re one short. The full forward Ravesi is missing. Last seen unconscious on the floor of nearby Lincoln college. He’s located, woken, retrieved, dragged (literally) to the ground, and dressed to play. He kicks 16.1. The point hits the post. It remains a club A grade record. The Ox doesn’t get around too well these days. Sometimes there’s a pissy odour about him. He can be hard to understand, and you take a risk initiating or responding to conversation. You know what I mean. But he’s a Blacks legend and we love him. He is plainly held in high regard indeed by his erstwhile premiership teammates. As the story is told he bows and nods his head as a broad smile threatens to engulf his entire face. He beams, slightly embarrassed, but immensely proud. It’s a beautiful moment in another joyful Blacks night. As Jack continues to reminisce I’m struck by how familiar the tales are: of having to pay to play and wondering who gets the money; of having a single light to train under; of a deficit of facilities; of the lack of footy sophistication; and of the overwhelming fun, joy and mateship. When it’s my turn to speak I do my best to convey this – that even in this era of money and sophistication (and despite a redeveloped long-room and decent lights thanks to the generosity of others) the Blacks remain utterly dependent on an army of volunteers and on players who play for the love of it. We look at ourselves the same way these old men do, and it makes us feel proud. We are all – despite the obvious chronological differences – connected through this glorious culture of inclusiveness and community. Eddie has agreed to speak too. His old man didn’t give him much notice and he’s completed his speech in the car on the way. But he’s smart this boy. He opens with a line about how honoured he is to be present and to have been asked to speak in such legendary company and – bless him – about how familiar Jack’s stories are to him, too, already, a mere Black babe in the woods at 19 in his debut season. The truth of his observation is plainly evident. It brings the house down, and afterwards he is roundly congratulated by legends 50 years his senior. Oh the joy. It’s almost too much to bear at times. It makes me weep. Thanks Tom. Lovely work as always. Much respect.

  6. Thanks Tom.

    Quite stirring – and whilst I can’t put words together quite like Daddsy and yourself it does remind me of my younger days.

    Going to watch the hapless Panthers – come rain, hail or shine – with Mum and Dad is a great, yet thankless memory.

    It does allow me to reflect and remember how lucky we are – not just to have such fantastic direct families but also to have another great one – The Greatest Football Club in The World – “The Blacks”.

  7. Tom- joyous, meandering memoir. You wove lots of threads together, and I enjoyed your football stories. I love the combinations of deliberately chosen and almost random factors that make our histories, and these are evident in your piece. Thanks.

  8. Great stuff, Tommy.

  9. Fantastic reading TM.
    No doubt The World’s Greatest Football Club.

  10. Tom Martin says

    Thank you for reading gents, I appreciate the comments.

    Family lines in footy are like spider silk in time, stronger than steel and soft to touch, threads from the past that have a grip on the future. The stuff that makes you stick around, sometimes against your better judgement!

    I cheerfully recall now the regular exchange of game-day pleasantries with Rulebook’s parents when I walked past the timekeeper’s desk. Red-nosed Ray Ashwood, larger than life. And the challenge of coaxing a chuckle from the always laconic Wal when he managed the A grade with no-fuss and no-nonsense.

    To feel part of a clan and have a sense of lineage seems so important, particularly at a time when the concept of the nuclear family can delude us into seeing ourselves as molecules, floating in a vacuum.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Great read Tom. Our paths never crossed. I have many fond memories, including the “Weathers” years when all teams would start their training sessions together, before we were broken into ability-appropriate groups.

    I relished being part of the kick to kick stuff, crumbing off the packs created by the likes of A1 legends like Nose Eckert and Clem, and being on the end of some immaculate Egils Olekalns or Steve Stranks passes in circle work, which I inevitably spilled.

    I’ve still got a very scratchy DVD of the 1982 A9 Grand Final (Rocky’s Ratpack) complete with commentary from Chocka, and in most of the boundary line crowd shots were the members of the A1 team, who were as pleased as we were to take out the flag for the Blacks.

    Ox was there too, famously berating me for my lack of courage.

    I can feel a Confessions of a Crap Footballer series coming on, thanks for the inspiration.


  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Great read Tom, superbly written. So many great tales keep coming from the Adelaide University FC that seem to justify the ‘worlds greatest football club’ tag!
    The diminished status of most of the great SANFL clubs is a sad by-product of the national competition. Really enjoy stories like this that talk about that competition in the pre Crows and Power days.

  13. Nick Haslam says

    Great read Tom
    Emotional stuff for a Monday morning and you can be proud of a great career.
    PS. Sorry to end your return to Bob Neil #1 by taking $20 of your mum’s money in 2-up. I should have returned the charity she gave you in ’83 and reduced it to copper.

  14. Great stuff Tom. I missed the bulk of your years with the Blacks while living in the south east for 8 years at Penola. I do have fond memories though of driving up to Adelaide one wet weekend to watch the Blacks take on the Sinners in the GF at Adelaide Oval under lights – and getting the spoils thanks to an errant Sinner backman rushing the ball over the goal line to virtually conceded the game to us late in the final term. It was the first ever Blacks game that my son Jack had been to. That’s not quite true – he’d been to many but they were when he was under 2 years old! To avoid the cold and wet we sat at the back of the western stand with, amongst others, “Pump Iron Papps” who was wearing his “Russian” fur hat. From memory Gordo and the Pres (Maddern) had commentary duties along with other luminaries too many to mention. Certainly not a showcase of skills but a tough uncompromising game with the right result! Jack played his first (and to date only) game in the (un) “historic” first A1 game under lights, which turned into a day game played while the Swans played the Crows 70metres away – in round one – but since has chosen to play with Payneham where there are 10/11 of his school mates playing in the A grade – a sort of Marryatville High School Old Scholars. I am still working on getting him back to the Blacks where he belongs!
    Thanks again TM – a great read.

  15. Stephen Parker says

    Tom, I really enjoyed your words. I spent yesterday afternoon with my 12 year old, Angus at Unley Oval watching Sturt play West. We walked from home, took a footy with us and had a kick on the oval at the breaks and after the game. We talked all the way there and after the game we walked home and talked about who we thought played well for Sturt. There were no “i’s” as in i-pads or i-phones, just us! It is a ritual that I have done with Angus’ 3 brothers over the years. There were lots of other Dads there with their kids. Bridgy was there with his boys.
    I loved playing at the Blacks and I am very proud that 2 of my boys have wanted to play at the Blacks. The Blacks culture will always attract those who love playing football for the right reasons and the culture will survive because of it!

  16. Top story Tom. I had a similar background going to Unley Oval with my dad in the 1970s, oh the glory of SANFL footy back then. Learning about footy in the family environment. I was lucky that I had lineage drawing me to the Blacks, dad played in a few premierships in the 1950s, and I stayed for 15 years. Geography prevents my direct participation these days but the heart remains at beautiful University Oval. Good contributions and heartfelt sentiments on footy and family on this thread from Daddsy, Swish, Live S**, Book, Bizz etc. confirm why it is truly the World’s Greatest Football Club.

  17. and shotgun and skittle (who’s done a bit more at Unley Oval than just take his boys to watch Sturt)

  18. Eloquent as always Tommy – a great read!

  19. Wonderful Tom. Got me in completely.

  20. Well done Tommy, a good read with some sound family values. Retired too early!! Bring back the chops..

  21. Super Dazz says

    Pure gold Tommy.
    I cant help now after reading that feeling somewhat ripped off that my earlisest and formative football experiences were largly devoid of family input.
    Luckily as an outgoing county lad at the Blacks you very quickly become an adoptee and the less your real family knows the better!!
    Your a gun.

  22. What a lucky man to have spent so much quality time with your dad Tom – in and around footy especially. It really is the simple stuff that means so much to a growing lad. I lost my dad when I was 13 – he had a fatal heart attack right after our father-son game on our trophy day. I never saw him play but was proud he was team manager of my County Jervois interleague and Cleve Colts premiership teams back in the 70s. Watching your son play Aussie Rules provides the whole box and dice of emotions – that swhy I take photos – but in the end they have to love the game for their own reasons in order to get themselves on the field every week. While my lad could have played for other teams with other mates, I am so happy it only took one training to decide that he wanted to be part of the Worlds Biggest & Best Footy Club. with no Teachers College team nowadays, the Blacks more than compensate for the fun times and great footy I enjoyed with them in the 80s.

    thanks for the memories Tom!

  23. Jamie Mason says

    What a gift you have Action man. The laneways that lead to the SANFL league games were almost as magic as the tunnels from which the warriors emerged on a Saturdsy afternoon.

  24. Wonderfully expressed thanks Tom, that’s what it’s all about.

  25. Dan Hansen says


    Great read … and trust me the itchy feet never leave. But beware as at the tender age of forty nine I played in an “Old Boys” game for Sydney Uni last week. I racked up two kicks, one a complete shank. I’ve had a tight achilles tendon for a week and a half and have been hobbling around like a pensionerever since … but it was worth it.

  26. Great article by a great in swing bowler. As a dad now I am mindful to be supportive but not too over the top. My dad once stormed onto the oval and abused the umpire when my brother was given out lbw in a semi final. I then put up with barbs such as get daddy out here to bat for you. Luckily we won but then lost the gf to PAC. Parenthood a great balancing act. Keep up the quality writing.

  27. E.regnans says

    Love it, Tom. Love it.

  28. brilliant read Tommy, you have captured the essence of strenghtening family bonds through sport. My grandad and I used to go to Glenelg Oval every home game and even when i go there now it still conjures up great memories. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  29. Shayne Shepherdson says

    Love your work Tommy, class through and through.

  30. Sam Bridgwood says

    Great read TM, well done. Nothing like a day at the SANFL or Uni Oval with the family. As Skittles said last Sunday down at Unley Oval was just magnificent, as was Bob Neil # 1 on the Saturday. My memories revolve around Norwood Oval with my dad and 10,000 others every second week or walking up the road after half time to Prospect to see Mick Redden tap to Andrew Jarman who handpassed to Darren who then laced out John Roberts on the lead. Makes me contemplate what our Port Adelaide friends are giving up with this whole AFL thing. Don’t get me wrong I love watching AFL and respect what the PAFC are doing, but next year they will lose all their SANFL zones and their junior magpie teams forever. The concept of a young Largs or Port Lincoln lad growing up and playing for any Port Adelaide is caput. I suspect Port fans aren’t overly concerned about this as they sit atop of the AFL ladder, but as the last remnants of their traditional football club are taken away in favour of a professional, and albeit successful, AFL corporation, I know what I’d prefer. A little more grass roots thanks

  31. Great piece Tommy. It’s funny – as I read this piece there were many similarities I could relate to in my youth – replace Westies at Richmond with West Torrens and Thebarton Oval though. The merger of Woodville and Torrens destroyed the Eagles but the emergence of the Crows gave the disenfranchised a new hope. My alternate weekends were spent with my Grandpa who was a Norwood man – and hence the success the Legs enjoyed in the 80’s swayed me to the boys from the Parade. I recall fondly post football games spent with my Dad, Uncle and Cousin at the Lockleys Hotel as the Dad’s swigged a few quick schooners whilst my cousin and I played Galaga and ate beer nuts with our lemon squash. I can recall the banter between Dad, my Uncle and their mates like Westies gun Rod Pope as they discussed the day’s events in the SANFL. Upon returning home, the SANFL footy show hosted by KG on the TV and then dinner at my cousins house with Hey Hey Its Saturday with Daryl and Ossie. Ah those were the days!

  32. Long live says

    What a read, what a man.

  33. Great stuff Tom.
    Went back to Richmond for the Easter Thursday match v North. Ordinary game. Ripper night. The ground is huge and in fantastic nick. Any (of the undoubted many) Vics heading over for a squizz at Adelaide Oval AFL this season – be sure to factor in a SANFL game at Richmond or the Bay or one of the other suburban grounds. Good footy. Passionate on both sides of the fence.

  34. Simon Doyle says

    Fantastic piece Tommy, enjoyed that immensely.

  35. Graeme Kellett says

    A brilliant read TM. I could relate on so many levels! I was enjoying an almost identical upbringing a little further down South road at Thebarton oval as Dad had defected from West Adelaide and followed Neil Kerley to West Torrens as a player. They were equally unimpressive in this era…..although they did manage to win the Escort cup in 1983 which I had to watch from the cricket club in the forward pocket with Mum and all the other WAGS as Thebby was jam packed and I wasn’t allowed outside. I remember (just) the atmosphere in the club after the game being electric. Torrens were a party club…that was their flag! I slept under a table with my brother and sister until the celebrations wound up and my heavily inebriated Dad would drive us all home! But that was the norm.

    Further to that I was one of your North Adelaide Samboy Cup team mates that would’ve most certainly taken the piss on grand final day in 91′. A straw hat, a heavily bandaged proboscis and a Westies scarf! This could only have been topped by seeing you leave in the family Volvo…..if only!

    Lastly, I was as equally bemused to run out alongside you for your league debut as your father and the grog squad were from the other side of the pickets! The fresh faced PAC student, Walkerville FC junior and Prospect U16 wicket keeper with a crashing back foot cover drive that I’d competed with or against for my entire junior sporting career now resembling teen wolf in his SANFL debut against Sturt. Would love to insert the 1999 NAFC team photo in here to validate that description.

    Thanks TM for a lifetime of sporting memories at school level, junior club sport, SANFL and finally at The Blacks. As an added bonus the off-field memories, albeit hazy at times have been even better.

  36. chocka bloch says

    What a great read Tom. Reminded me of the time Kerley knocked me arse over head then ran past & tapped me on the shorts! Also my young days watching the North stars – Ken Farmer, Ron Phillips, John Blunden, Whicker Griffin, Darcy Cox, Hubert McKenzie etc etc. After I retired I set out to have a kick with the Thompson Football Club in the north parklands, but Uni needed a coach ’cause Rofey had to pull the pin, & I was all he could find. After a brief period as coach (I was more successful hosting HYB at the Queen’s Head), I had a ball as football co-ordinator under Mike Weatherald, John Griffen, Paul Whaley, John Turnbull, Darryl West, Terry McEvoy, Sleepy Annear, Peter Simmons, Brenton Phillips etc etc. So things went pretty smoothly as we won more than we lost ( & winning wasn’t the main priority anyway, mateship was as I loved telling other teams), then in 1984 I think it was, Pete Russo brought out a mate to play – one Malcolm Somerset Ashwood. Five minutes after he walked in the changing room he wanted to know why all the teams changed together, why the lights were substandard, why all the teams got picked the way they did, why we drank at the Queen’s Head, why Bob Neil was so famous, why Sandy Cockburn used the ointment he did, why Richard Anderson wasn’t playing for Norwood, and why M.S.Ashwood was to be awarded the J.T.Goose Memorial Trophy in his inaugural year. I got the feeling that things were going to be somehow different, and they have been ever since. Handy bloke to have around though if you want to know who the back pocket player was for West Adelaide in the 1950s.
    Gotta go, its 6.35pm, past my bedtime.

  37. chocka. aka Freddie.

    I can remember the random walks theory of selection at the blacks . I was playing in the A2 and got injured and had to make my way back through the A3 res with harcourts crew. I always wondered about that now I know it as the lights in the change rooms. Dean Wallace says hello by the way.

    Also Thorpe and I are going to write a piece on the blacks 68-73. We lack a few facts on the points fiasco. Can you give us the details.
    Nank aka Paul Nankivell

  38. N Swifte says

    Great article. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Action Man forever.

  39. Steve Baker says

    Great writing Tom.

    There’s so much more to footy than B&F’s supercoach points and structures. It’s about the places we go, the rituals we establish and the idiosyncrasies of our teams.

    Kevin Sheedy once said he’d rather coach 22 Shane Heard’s that 22 James Hird’s. The Shane Heard’s will extract every inch out of themselves and leave nothing in the tank every time they go about it. It sounds like you were a genuine Shane Heard.

  40. Disgraced Former Premier says

    TM – superb. Chocka – good to hear your recollection of one M Ashwood.

  41. Milehi#1 says

    Great words Tom….. You are and always will be an inspiration to the 1000’s of Blacks players and supporters who are so lucky to be involved with this great club! I have been very lucky to share my time and experience at the club with my Father, Bob Miles. To be A1 captain at the same time as Bob was the Club Chairman is one of the proudest moments in my families history, we were extremely fortunate, and forever grateful, for a father/son to be given an opportunity to lead the Worlds Greatest Football club for a period of time. To share the Blacks experience, with your family makes it an even more wonderful place! Bob & I watched my 13 year old son play for PAC this morning, and we can only dream how proud we will both be when he gets the opportunity to play for the Blacks! Great article Tom…..keep the inspiration and memories alive!

  42. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Chocka while I don’t think I was quiet as bad as that the worlds greatest fc strength has always been embellish the truth . Miles high great stuff also when my dad became a life member last year to become the 1st members of the same family to achieve this feat was a moment of great satisfaction and achievment for the , Ashwoods . A significant occasion today in our history when , Sam Snoozin Parker joined his dad , JP in becoming the , 1st members of the same family to play 200 games we’ll done ,The Parker’s ! Go the blacks

  43. John Green says

    Thanks Tom. What a superb piece. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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