Boys Don’t Cry – Central Juniors 1974 (Warning: Contains Traces of Laceup)

Central Juniors U15 1974 001 (800x589)

This photo was taken forty years ago.

That’s me on the far right of the front row. Smiling. Beaming. Excited.

Ten minutes after this shot, I was in tears. Bawling. Gutted. Betrayed.

My local club in the Central District Junior Football Association (CDJFA) was, confusingly, Central Juniors. Drawing its players largely from the Elizabeth Vale, South and Grove areas, it played on two adjacent ovals situated at Mofflin Reserve. One of the ovals, slightly shorter than the other, had cross-bars between the goal posts, as it was also used on Sunday afternoons for Gaelic Football and Hurling.

The Elizabeth Vale Amateur Soccer Club had two pitches to the south of the footy ovals to cater for their large contingent of junior and senior teams. Their seniors played home games on a Sunday afternoon also.

Flat caps, broad accents and plumes of Borkum Riff blended with the urgent and frequent whistling from both sets of colourfully attired officials, when the British and the Irish sports coincided at Mofflin Road.

Saturday was reserved for the footy club, which at that stage was strictly juniors, with teams from Under 9 through to Under 17. Despite being the only club bereft of club rooms, Central Juniors was as highly respected as the nearby Elizabeth Eagles (home of the Plattens) or the Salisbury Magpies.

I chose Central Juniors because it was the nearest club and the home of my circle of sporting friends. I came out for a run after the Under 10 season had started, training every week, but not playing. Coach Mr. (Lionel) White must have taken a shine to me, as he awarded me my first and only football trophy in recognition of my enthusiasm. How’s that, “Most Improved” without even playing.

I played for real in Under 11s. We won the flag, but I don’t remember much apart from playing on a wing or a flank most of the time, and kicking a goal against Salisbury at their vast Brown Street ground. Oh, and having my hair ruffled by coach White.

The next year, 1972, I was a bottom aged Under 13, making it harder to get a game, as there were roughly twice as many kids for only the one team. The coach was now Bruce Jolly, who was high up in the Salisbury Council and drove a late model green Valiant, whose large bench seats were put to good use transporting kids home from training. I probably played a handful of games, but missed out on a berth in the finals.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to (accidentally) ping the coach’s son’s elastic loop school tie on the first day of high school in 1973, sorry Harv, but I don’t think your dad ever forgave me. I probably played a dozen or so games that year as a top age Under 13. The most memorable of those saw me languish in a back pocket against the perennial easybeats, Salisbury West, while Glenn Bishop kicked a lazy 17 goals from CHF. The idea of giving the backs a go in the last quarter was given short shrift, as the eventual 38.20 to 0.0 result indicated.

Back to the picture. We had a fair Under 15 team once more in 1974, far too strong for me to be anything more than an extra pair of bandy legs at training and another mouth to feed at the much anticipated pie nights. We had more than a fair team come to think of it.

Best of all was our rover Geoff “Scoffa” Davies, who won that year’s Association Medal, a precursor to the four (!) Mail Medals that he would pick up a decade later playing for Two Wells. Bruce Ramsay (pictured with a broken nose) played a few seasons for West Adelaide. Four others were members of the 1977 SANFL Bulldogs Under 17 Premiership squad, fronted by ace junior coach Alan Stewart.

A couple of fair cricket teams could have been filled also, with Harvey Jolly and Glenn Bishop going on to play for South Australia (and Australia, briefly, in Bish’s case).

Rarely selected, I still went to training each Tuesday and Thursday night, and toted my black vinyl adidas bag to each match (with the sharp metal handles proving too much for their flimsy vinyl covering), my boots and shorts inside, tri-colour socks already on, just in case.

Somewhere along the way, I had played the necessary three minor round games, two of them on the pre-interchange bench. Three was the magic number, as it meant that I had qualified to play in finals. This would normally have been irrelevant, such were my chances of gaining selection in the best twenty.

As July slid into August, we kept winning games, but our playing numbers thinned, as the less keen and rarely selected pulled the pin. The last minor round game thinned out our numbers even more, with Bruce scoring a broken nose and Ernie Warrior a season ending injury.

Uncertainty dogged the junior Dogs and only a squad was named on Thursday night before the Second-Semi. Coach Jolly said “Schwerdty, better bring your gear just in case.” Saturday came, as it seemed to do every week, and we arrived earlier than normal at the neutral Ridley Road Reserve. Bruce and Ernie turned up, but they weren’t deemed fit to play.

I was in.

We trooped into the cramped, but to us luxurious, Elizabeth FC rooms, the clanking of boots the background to twenty youngsters proudly donning their laceup armour of faded blue, red and white.

Out into the carpark for a photo, as the News Review sought to fill its local sporting coverage with images of the untroubled youth of Elizabeth. I was placed in the customary position for the smallest person in all group photos, front row, on the end. There I am immortalised alongside the kid that I had spent most of my school holidays with, who I had never beaten at anything sporting, who had a turf wicket in his backyard, whose parents laughed at my jokes.

I was smiling because I was going to play footy. In a final. With my mates.

Photo finished, I see the coach and the Team Manager Mike Ellis hunched over the book with the season’s team sheets, carbon akimbo, a pair of furrowed brows.

Uh oh. Mike walks over to me. “There’s a problem Schwerdty, you’ve only played two games”. “But, but, I know I played three, two on the bench and I started against Brahma Lodge”. “Nah”, said Mike, “We’ve only got you down for two. Hey Bruce, you reckon you’ll be allowed to play on the bench? Ask your Dad”.

I returned to the rooms, eventually untied the double knot at the lace’s end (teeth may have been involved), gave my jumper to Bruce, and burst into 14 year old tears.

We won, Bruce wasn’t needed, but I found it difficult to care.

I have my suspicions, and although it was never confirmed, I’m pretty sure that I played under someone else’s name during one of my three appearances so that they could qualify for finals (and I think I know who it was).

Clearly this would have been a low risk piece of deception, as I was never going to be needed come finals time.

I dutifully went to training for the remaining weeks, and manned the scoreboard at Salisbury Oval for the Grand Final, which of course we won.

A couple of weeks later, as the team celebrated with dinner at the Central District clubrooms on Goodman Road, I received a premiership medallion along with the rest of the team.

I encased it in clear acrylic in Plastics class later that year, but it looked awful, the sides weren’t square, I’d taken a nick out of one of the edges and I scored a C-.

And I vowed that if I was ever involved in junior sport in the future, I would never fiddle a team sheet, regardless of the temptation.

I’ve kept that vow, although I’m not too sure about some of the Adelaide University Blacks teamsheets that others may have been involved with.

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Swish,
    Nice stuff – Bruce Jolly has a grandson who plays for Salisbury – Geoff Tume – great bloke and very good footballer and handy cricketer. I worked at SACA with Harvey in the late 2000’s and also spent considerable time at Northern Districts CC/Salisbury FC where we held our country squad sessions using the indoor centre adjacent the oval. Bruce Jolly and Buddah Jarman held court every day at lunchtime – a couple of legends who always made the country lads feel welcome.

    Cheers

    Shotgun

  2. Swish- I reckon that’s about as cruel as it can get for a footballing kid. And then to attend the scoreboard while your mates win the grand final! As you said to me that day at the Docklands fiddling a kids’ teamsheet is a pretty low act.

    38.20 is a tidy result in under 13’s footy too!

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Swish we’ll written tale with some very we’ll known names of a classic of how a lot of people involved in junior sport don’t see the whole picture and v we’ll played re being the ultimate team man ! Folks Swish was a better player than he gives himself credit for in , 85 during , Uni holidays we were short and needed a lot of guys to double up to fill our div 7 side , Swish was playing 7 res and I ran out on to the ground , Swish can you play in the next game as we’ll yep what spot book your starting in the middle , Swish I ran off before he had a chance to reply , Swish played v we’ll and we won against , PAC ( tarnished spooners ) our 1st win in 9 games and celebrated that night like we had won the flag . We’ll played Swish keep the articles coming !

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Book, I was sometimes anything but the ultimate team man, e.g. I was more disappointed about my performance in the ’86 Sty Council GF than happy that we won.

  5. Different game, but Rulebook I’ll never forget the day when, with you being the only bloke anywhere near the boundary, you called my big hit 4, when 6 was my belief and the umpire had no idea either. We tied the final and missed out on the GF.

  6. Fiddling the team sheets never would have happened when I was the secretary, Chocka would have prevented that!
    I just saw this pathostic piece Swish. I am surprised you would have broken down because in the picture you look so middle aged.
    Oh, and this picture should be submitted to the “Outside Football” competition, “where did the afro go”. Yours was swapped with E Warrier.
    Love the long hair on all the kids for 1973 and background of housing trust houses, so South Australian. It reminds me of the suburb I first lived in, Little Chicago (Kilburn).

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