Buddy v Royce



It’s late, I’m still covered in dirt from work in the bush. The place feels empty in this silence before Christmas, lost somewhere between the Who Got The Most Stats Medal and the Almost Football Legends clip of the year.

So it looks like it’s Buddy v the Hawks. I’m happy for them both, but wish Port got over the line last week. I love the way they play. The run, the carry, the risks. Mostly, I like the way they don’t panic when tackled. Anything other than the perfect octopus grip and they’re brushing off their assailant and charging through packs. They get it and go and get tackled and break it and go. So fast at least a few forwards have to stay forward.

Less and less, when they play, do you see someone break quick from half-back and have to stall as there’s not one person forward of center to kick to.

The game evolves.

It spins and breaks down and reinvents itself. I hope other teams match them. Or, next year, they get the bickies.


Meanwhile, I have a new goal. A little ripper. It’s never been done before, but next year, I’m having a crack.

While working on my Oral History book Dean Solomon told me how great the modern game is. How tough and demanding. Which is impressive. If there were two words I’d use to describe his career it would be tough and demanding.

Simon Black, Luke Power, Steven King, all the blokes still involved marvel at it. Yet 98% of those not, don’t. Doug Wade, Bobby Skilton, Brad Hardie, Ken Hands, you name it. They either say they don’t enjoy it any more, or it’s an entirely different game from the one they grew up with. Above all else, time and again, they tell me they miss the contests. The one-on-one. The battle. The mud and toilet roll streamers.

In some ways I agree with them. I told Glen Jakovich how, as a kid, I’d ride down to Arden Street drooling at the thought of seeing Jimmy Jess take on Glendinning. To me that was football. Flower on Hawkins. Good God! Ray Card on Bartlett.

Tuddenham told me of taking on Bulldog Murray. Yet he didn’t have to say anything except their names. Des v Kevin. My imagination would fill the rest in nicely. Heaven would get its teeth rattled, surely.

Yet, I dunno, the modern game can be brilliant.

I’m left speachless at how good players are in packs these days, how quick with their hands, their vision, gobsmacked how good backmen are, but like the old timers I miss parts of what was, horribly.

I wonder, when handball started gaining traction in the late 60s, did old timers from then piss and moan about how much better the game was in the 40s? Is it really just our youth we miss? Before we got old enough to break a game down and analyse it to pieces? When it was all simply fun to us? Something familiar?
The Grand Final is meant to be what it’s about. The Premiership. I disagree. I think its about every kick, every handball, every training run, the friends you make, them moments shared. I think its about the doing. The hunger. But that’s me, the player. I might just watch a Grand Final from the 70s straight after the weekend’s one. See how they shape up compared to each other. See if I can get drunk enough to imagine Buddy and Royce on the same oval.

If only as a warm-up.

Next year I’m going on a mission. I’m going to find someone, obviously an ex-pat, or a person who lives in the desert, who loved the game back when, in the 50s or 60s or 70s, and hasn’t seen a game since. And I’m going to show them a modern game, if I can, Port vs Freo.

I wonder if they’ll even recognise the sport as the same one they used to play? If they will watch, jaw-dropped, or hate it?

Doing this won’t solve many arguments. People are stubborn. Most of us know what we know and like what we like and damn the torpedos.

But this person’s answer should be fascinating.


That’s it. My simple mission. My football experiment. Wish me luck. I’ll start in on it the day after Buddy and Roughie do battle, then hug each other like brothers, one gutted beyond words, one ecstatic.


  1. Old Dog that was brilliant. Great questions. Is the “old football” better because we watched it when we were younger and less wounded by the world? I think it was you who pondered (over a few pots last Thursday night at the Waterside), why it is that in our youth we are supposedly more stupid, but we had more fun. Great question.

    To satisfy your mission you could talk to my uncle Frank in Darwin. He watches some footy, but not much. His 1960s tapered suit hangs in my old man’s wardrobe in Melbourne, only to be worn when he comes south to attend weddings or funerals. It has gone in and out of fashion 3 or 4 times over the decades.

  2. matt, the hunt is on for the pure unsullied football mind frozen in time in the 50-60’s. dean solomons old man ( at least I think it is him the Solomon I played school footy against in Adelaide) might offer some help if he has gone back to broken hill where he came from. deans old man solly ( again the caveat but someone said that he was deans old man) was a tough on baller for Prince Alfred College and in the supermarket business. He might be a be able to dig up a 50-60s purist from the musicians club and the many pubs in the hill or get some leads perhaps of a ringer or bore runner that keeps to himself and hasn’t seen a game for many years. There are those types about up the nor east of SA. we could start in the oodlawirra pub move onto the mannahill and yunta hostelries and complete the mission in the olary. there would be blokes about up that way for sure that have eschewed the modern trappings including the AFL and the modern game. we might even be able to get a panel of purists and put them on the margrook footy show. gilbert macadam might know some himself. My sister in law wrote a book called songlines with gilbert by the way. The hunt is on and without social media.


  3. Dips! Haha. Uncle sounds like a pisser! Would love to meet him.

    Nark, yeah, I reckon it’s the same one. His dad was a local legend. Tough as nails, they reckon. Like father like son, I guess. I’d love to speak to Gilbert for my Oral History of footy book. It’s ironic that I got the idea partly from the Aboriginal concept of oral history, yet can’t seem to get many for he book. (Antoni Grover was just brilliant, but. What a corker person!)

  4. Good luck with the quest, Matt. No doubt, as with all quests, it will end up being about the journey rather than the destination.

  5. Its a bit of everything thrown in to the big cake mix, i miss torpedos, i love Ports game, i yearn to hear more about the old hoons and who went head to head physically and where the mindsets were at before and post match day, appreciate all aspects i say young an old…LONG LIVE AUSSIE RULES!!!

    keep it coming Zurbs great stuff

  6. Earl O'Neill says

    Hey Matt
    This piece has stuck with me. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot.
    No doubt, the game is different. Struck me in the late 90s that fulltime professionalism and the consequent increase in aerobic fitness would allow coaches to change the style of the game. Now there are U14s teams with line coaches.
    One big difference between Simon Black and Bob Skilton, fr’examplle, is that Bob played in the amateur era. Yes, you may be a chamption footballer, loved and admired by tens of thousands, but you still gotta go to work on Monday.
    I grew up in Sydney, my family had a very close connection to Canterbury-Bankstown (tho Grandad was an Australian Football stalwart). Half the team seemed to be cellarmen at the Leagues Club, that wasn’t uncommon. So I wonder if Bob, Ken, Doug & Brad are missing a time as much as a style of play?
    Satnite, we watched pieces of the GF marathon, 1977 there were some woeful skills, as expected, they had day jobs. 1970, still a great match.
    When I put together my alltime 100 by 100 songs, it was 1954 to 1977, from Elvis’s first recording to his death – an apt timeframe. Now, w free agency, the classic era has disappeared and I’ve lost the thread of thought…
    Many thanks for your work Matt. All best to ya.

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