Book Review: Joffa: Isn’t That Life?

I walked into the book shop and asked for Joffa’s book.

“That clown?” was the unfiltered and almost expected response.

“You know he works with the homeless and the mentally ill?” I countered.

The young man had a somewhat dumbfounded expression on his face. “Nah, I didn’t know that,” he answered sheepishly.

The old cliche of never judging a book by its cover is personified by Jeff Corfe and although his book: Isn’t that Life? features the gates at Victoria Park on a sunny day, the book documents a life that has had its share of trauma, humour and hope.

Joffa spent the first years of his life in East Preston, one of the hardest working and welfare class areas of Melbourne in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Kids were bullied and became bullies, many homes were dysfunctional, parents and siblings were abusive, services were scant. Football and in Joffa’s case, Collingwood offered some respite from a loveless and violent home life. However, one could also understand if he grew up hating football after witnessing a violent outburst during the last quarter of the 1970 GF.

His mother was a Collingwood fan and one of his first memories was listening to the 1970 Grand Final as a six year old. He writes: “Mother hurled the radio across the kitchen smashing it to pieces.” Whenever Collingwood lost “the following day would produce violence, as some of us would be held to blame for the outcome.”

Paradoxically, Collingwood became like a caring parent for Joffa after he was made a ward of the state in his early teens. He would sneak into Victoria Park and find solace with the crowd behind the goals at the Yarra Falls end. Strangers would offer to buy the young man a hot dog and made him feel like he belonged for a few hours before he returned to the streets as another discarded, homeless, teenage misfit.

Living in an abandoned warehouse near the Victoria Market with his mate Stewie,who would later take his own life, Joffa developed a street sense that averted potential pedophiles and the ever-present enticements of drugs and alcohol for relief. At 14 he lied about his age and found a job as a storeperson which included accommodation in a boarding house. Joffa’s life took a turn for the better as he got off the streets and found that work and regular pay gave him self-esteem and confidence.

Others in his position could be forgiven for feeling resentful, mad at the world, abandoned and ending up dead or in jail. Not Joffa. He found that the best way to find meaning in the world is to give and give again. To this day he is a proud supporter of Reclink, The Epilepsy Foundation, Hepatitis Victoria and Footys4all. He works night shifts for the Salvation Army helping those who were much like himself years earlier. He has helped raise awareness for epilepsy as his daughter Emma, who has also given him four grandchildren, continues to overcome her affliction with the condition.

A Collingwood romantic, Joffa found a willing ally in Eddie McGuire as the club became dysfunctional and disunited in the late 1990s. Joffa and Eddie helped bring two opposing cheer squad factions together and the Gold Jacket came to symbolise not only victory, but unity within the club. The jacket was an old prop that Eddie used on the footy show. It has now become associated with charity and giving hope to those who need it most.

Joffa, through Collingwood online fan site Nick’s Bulletin Board offered the idea that the winning premiership coach should be named the Jock McHale medalist. Eddie read the thread and they took it to the AFL, who of course did their best to inform the public that it was their idea. If only Joffa could have copy written it right there and then!

The slow Collingwood chant of 2010 was spawned from a game in Perth against Freo in 2002 where the Freo fans chanted in a similar manner as the Dockers wore down the Magpies. Joffa took the idea and gave it a Collingwood flavour. It may have helped the Pies get over the line in 2010.

Joffa seems happiest when he is sticking it up Carlton. One of his proudest moments was smuggling a huge wooden spoon into the G in 2002 as the Pies humiliated our arch rival by 108 points and helped them to ‘celebrate’ the acquisition of their first wooden spoon. The Carlton hatred is understandable when you consider Joffa was six in 1970, and a footy loving teenager in 1979 and 1981. They were responsible for so much misery to a hoard of young Magpies desperate to experience a long-awaited premiership.

Strangely enough, there is not much reflection on the drought-breaking 1990 premiership in the book nor a great deal of coverage associate with the celebrations after 2010. The wins were more like a relief when juxtaposed next to so many heartbreaking losses. Joffa is grateful for the victories, but he understandably wants his Pies to dominate the competition. He writes: “We gotta go back-to-back or three-peat the bloody thing to sit back and really enjoy it.” We can but dream Joffa!

Joffa is an avid Melbourne Heart/City, Celtic Utd and West Ham Utd fan. He is dismayed by the lack of atmosphere at the footy today, which he believes has been hijacked by the corporate suits and reckons we can learn something from the World Game and specifically the A League. He rightfully asks: “Why can’t the AFL be like this? I can only wish the suits who run our game go stand with the active supporters and appreciate supporters being supporters.”

Joffa: Isn’t That Life is a book rich with passion and optimism. A great read for sports fans and a must for Pie fans. May the force of goodness always be with you Joffa.


About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. I used to be sceptical of Joffa’s motives but that was before knowing his back story or how he spent his days helping the less fortunate. There was an incident at the MCG in the ’90’s that didn’t help his reputation much, though again he copped a bit of a bum wrap for that. Having also met Joffa through the Fans Association I feel bad for underestimating him.

    There’s not many genuine characters left like Joffa and even fewer with as big a heart.

    Great review Phil, I must grab a copy.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic Phil a education about,Joffa which a lot of us needed re his upbringing and how much he does for society thank you,Joffa and Phil( from a non pie)

  3. I am delighted to be educated by Fabulous Phil when I held the same prejudices as the foregoing about my fellow ‘Pies supporter for so long.
    The least I can do now is go out and buy his book, thanks immensely for the insight into a remarkable if somewhat underestimated man. I turn 68 just before the GF and I’m still learning, thanks Phil, I’m indebted to you.

  4. Great stuff Phil – and Joffa. People crave connection and belonging more than anything. It is the bedrock on which we build our character.
    No solid foundations…………………….no walls to hold us up; or roof to keep out the elements.
    Joffa is so right that nothing is so universal and non-threatening to most people as sport. It has enormous capacity to heal and nurture, but has been appropriated and commodified to feed the pigs at the trough.
    All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others – George Orwell; Animal Farm.
    Rupert Murdoch as the AFL’s chief promoter????? He who sups with the devil needs a long spoon.
    Joffa is the holder of the flame, and I hope he can use his mate Eddie’s power and good instincts for good in shaping the future of our game.

  5. Thanks Phil, and congratulations Joffa. I have always enjoyed sitting with you and chatting, and like Phil, I admire what you have done.

    Thanks for introducing me to many of those colourful Collingwood identities.

    All the best to you and the Pies. And may the book get the audience it deserves.

    If you would like a copy please contact us here at the Almanac [email protected] and we’ll put you on to Joffa.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Great review Philo. That’s two Pies fans who can write!!

    has Joffa fallen out with the club?

    Love the gates at Vic park. I always have alook when i pass on the train.

    Catch up soon

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks folks, Joffa cares for the game, it’s grass root fans and how they are slowly being silenced by corporate bean counters and clap and tickle marketeers. I knew he did some charity work after a few brief chats with him, but the book really shows the extent of this bloke’s selflessness,courage and utter love for the Collingwood Football Club and its history.

  8. DBalassone says

    Thanks for the review Phil. What a story! That piece would sit nicely in Fandemic alongside Icarus, Picken, et al. Certainly have me interested now in something that wouldn’t have otherwise been on my radar.

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Definitely worth reading Damo. Poor Joffa. The guy gets himself off the streets, turns to Collingwood, they reward him with 3 Grand Final losses in a row and he goes back for more! That takes a special kind of courage.

  10. John Butler says

    Onya Phil,

    Good to see a voice like Joffa’s get a say. And the relationship with Eddie is a good personification of the paradox of Mr McGuire.

    From a Victorian perspective, it’s easy to figure out why atmosphere is lacking: the old tribes are struggling. No lack of atmosphere when Carlton and Richmond played a final a couple of years back. You can try and manufacture match day experiences all you like, but nothing replaces those visceral tribal memories.

    Looking forward to a day when the Blues and Pies might resume battle in earnest.

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