Celebrating a feast of Saint Davids

Twelve months ago I was descending into a pall of anxiety that would reduce me to a state of what I describe as mental paralysis by early in the new year. Plagued by crippling self-doubt, I struggled to face up to tasks that I would normally find a breeze to deal with.

 

Not for the first time, my mental demons were playing havoc with me and having a severe impact on my life, especially financially.

 

The good news is that I have recovered well, largely through having the good fortune of being referred to a psychologist who has done a great job in helping me identify and unravel some of the causes of the self-doubts. Indeed I am perhaps in a better place inside my head than I’ve ever been.

 

To my shrink Luke, I am most grateful. But I am just as grateful to my many friends and acquaintances who (again, not for the first time) helped me through a really tough period, the assistance coming in many and varied forms.

 

One piece of help in particular was very useful, probably more so than the person who provided it realises. It came quietly via an email from the Almighty Almanacker himself, John Harms. JTH advised me that one of the Almanac’s patrons had offered to pay for my 2018 Almanac membership. Given my economic predicament, this was a much appreciated gesture.

 

I wanted to show some of that appreciation to the generous patron, but JTH hadn’t named him. When I enquired as to the identity he was happy to give me a clue to my benefactor’s name: “The patron is a Saint whose name is not quite superlative.”

 

That was enough for me. The person who had provided me with this wonderful pick-me-up news — an ‘upper’ if you will — is none other than David Downer, long-time Almanacker and one of the nicest blokes you could ever come across.

 

I wondered how I could thank the alliterative DD, and eventually settled on putting together a team of Alliterative All-Stars. “What a great idea!”, I said to myself and then proceeded to mine through the trove of twelve thousand odd names of players who have pulled on a V/AFL jumper.

 

I spent hours putting together a Terrific Team of Fantastic Footballers, Charming Champions and Superb Sportsmen, only discover that Pete Baulderstone  and Phil Dimitriadis had beaten me to the punch some time before.

 

Bugger! Now I had to come up with an alternative way to pay tribute to the wonderful David Downer.

 

Nonetheless, fine work PB and PD; I salute your team. As an interesting exercise I have included the team I came up with below. My criteria for inclusion was that they must have played VFL or AFL footy, and I also wanted to include players whose names sounded good, even if they’d played only a game or two. Otto O’Pelt makes the team for that very reason — and his one and only game was for St Kilda, which fits in nicely as part of a tribute to DD.

 

The other thing I wanted to do was include every letter of the alphabet. Unfortunately, Quinten Quinn, Ulysses Ugle, Xavier Xerri and Yoshihiro Young haven’t yet made it to any AFL teams, so Q, U, X and Y don’t get a guernsey. Z gets an honorary one via Zeno Tzatzaris.

 

B: Herb Henderson David Dench Mick Martyn
HB: Jason Johannisen Jim Jess John Jillard
C: Mark Mercuri Steele Sidebottom Steven Stretch Graham Gilchrist
HF: Barry Breen Billy Brownless Russell Robertson
F: Alec Albiston Fred Fanning Peter Pianto
Foll: Nic Naitanui Russ Renfrey Allen Aylett
IC: (from) Charlie Challenger Ernie Elliott Ike Ilsley Kym Koster Leo Little Mick Malthouse Otto O’Pelt Tim Trevaskis, Viv Valentine, Willie Woolf, Zeno Tzatzaris

 

UMPIRE: Vas Vasilou
PRE-MATCH ENTERTAINMENT: Lene Lovich

 

With my Alliterative All Stars consigned to Local Landfill, back to the mental drawing board I went. How else could I pay tribute to my wonderful friend? I considered JTH’s original clue and thought perhaps I could put together a team of ‘not quite superlatives’. There’s certainly been a few — Littler, Fuller and Stranger spring to mind — but perhaps not enough to make a full side.

 

Again I asked myself, “How else can I honour Saint David?” And that’s when it hit me — to show my gratitude to Saint David, I’ll put together a team of Saints named David. Here then, is my team of Davids, all of whom played for St Kilda, which I dedicate to my favourite Saint David.

 

BACKS

 

David Ellis: I don’t remember anything about Ellis’s VFL career, which spanned 27 games from 1974 to 1977, but Wikipedia tells me he left Victoria to become the Chief Medical Scientist in charge of the National Mycology Reference Unit based at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. A noble pursuit, but not noble enough for the six-foot-four big guy to be given the first ruck position in this team, so he can sit in the back pocket.

 

Dave Gibson: Only 10 games for Gibson with the Saints in 1898 but The Age of June 20 of that year tells me that he did a good job in defence against Carlton, so he slots in at full back.

 

David Winbanks: David Winbanks didn’t bank wins in either of his two games for St KIlda in 1984 (which followed 15 with the Swans). Those games in red, white and black wearing the number 55 resulted in a 93-point loss to Collingwood and a 29-point loss to his old side Sydney. Nevertheless, he is a David and a Saint, so he gets the coveted other back pocket position.

 

HALF-BACKS

 

David Grant: A wonderful St Kilda servant, and born in 1966 to boot! Grant could play in the midfield or up forward but he was named on the half-back flank in the 1991 All-Australian side, so he sits very nicely here in this team of Saint Davids.

 

David Wittey: Also born in 1966, this tall half-back from Old Brighton Grammarians has unusual claim to fame — or infamy. He was round-armed by teammate Plugger Lockett in a 1987 intra-club, pre-season practice match, which resulted in Lockett getting reported by the goal umpire. Plugger got off, and went on to become a St Kilda legend. Wittey got on with his footy career, which lasted 24 games over 1986 and 1987. He later played a solitary game for Sydney in 1990.

 

David Stark: There’s a stark lack of information about David Stark, not surprising, really, given he played only one VFL game, way back in 1904. What I can tell you is that he was recruited from South Melbourne Juniors and was then cleared to West Melbourne not long after his one match, a 50-point loss to Fitzroy in round two.

 

CENTRES

 

David Armitage: Just how good is David Armitage? Twelve seasons and 167 games into his career and his surname anagrammatically suggests that he’s not even sure himself. One minute it’s “I AM GREAT” and the next it’s “AM I GREAT?”. Either way, he’s deserving of his place in this team on the wing.

 

David Gaunson: David Gaunson was a solicitor and politician who, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, was endowed with a musical voice, good presence, fine flow of language, great quickness of mind, was legal adviser to Madame Brussels, keeper of Melbourne’s most famous brothel, and was engaged as counsel in defence of Ned Kelly. Unfortunately, that David Gaunson is not the one who played one game for St Kilda in 1898, a thrashing at the hands of Melbourne. The Saints player was in all likelihood, though, his son, as the senior Gaunson resided in Brighton, was married in 1875 and had two sons and a daughter. The footballing David Gaunson was born in 1878.

 

David Blackburn: When your V/AFL career lasts only two games, as did David Blackburn’s in 1977, you’ve got to look for the positives. Blackburn’s two games were losses but he did at least kick a goal in each of them. Had his second game (in which he gathered a very respectable 18 possessions) involved another goal or two instead of the four behinds he kicked, that career might have extended one game further.

 

HALF FORWARDS

 

David Prescott: Perhaps best known for being Ashley Prescott’s dad, David Prescott played 13 games for the Saints in 1960-61, kicking seven goals. He was named on a half-forward flank for his first game, so that’s where he finds himself in this team of Saintly Davids.

 

Dave McNamara: If you call yourself a student of the great Australian game and don’t know who Dave McNamara is, you need to take a good hard look at yourself. McNamara was a superstar of his day who could kick a ball the proverbial country mile. He played 122 games for St Kilda between 1905 and 1923, a figure that would have been much higher had he not been pinched by Essendon’s VFA team for three-and-a-half years, sat out of footy for a season when trying to return to the Saints, and then lost another two years to the Great War.

 

David Legge: The 3rd leg of the half-forward line belongs to David Legge, who kicked 3.3 on debut in a 33-point loss to Hawthorn. Those numbers are more than enough to impress someone born on 3/3 at 3:33pm, weighing 3.3 kilograms (me). Legge only played two more games and didn’t kick another major so his games/goals final tally is a delightful 3/3.

 

FORWARDS

 

Dave Bland: Bland by name, this Saint Dave was certainly not bland by nature. He played 36 games for St Kilda from 1951 to 1955, and in that period managed to get suspended for 14 weeks, 12 of those as a result of two incidents in 1953 which involved a deliberate knee to the groin Blue Jack Howell’s groin and kicking North’s Laurie Icke. Despite the SICK ICKE KICK, he still gets my PICK.

 

Dave Dick: And speaking of sick, Icke, kick and pick, here’s Dave Dick at full forward. I don’t know too much about Dave Dick, although another David Dick, the former Fairfax sports editor was responsible for me getting a weekly gig in the Saturday Age in 2011. But getting back to the Saint Dave Dick, years after he played his one game for St Kilda in 1921, he played four more for Footscray, so he is most deserving of a place in a team dedicated to a Saint by a Bulldog.

 

Dave Griffiths: Dave Griffiths played four games for the Saints in 1924 after crossing from Richmond. He was probably better known as a ruckman and centre-half forward but he died in 1953 so he won’t be able to complain about me slotting him into the forward pocket.

 

FOLLOWERS

 

David Sierakowski: Son of premiership Saint Brian and uncle of North’s Will, David Sierakowski played 93 games for the Saints from 1994 to 2000 before playing another 10 for the Eagles.

 

Dave Strickland: Things could have been very different for Dave Strickland. Having won the 1900 Stawell Gift, his sprinting performances would have been enough to see him qualify for that year’s Paris Olympics. But poor old Dave was unable to fund the trip to France. On the positive side, that allowed him to play his one and only game for St Kilda in round two of 1900. He passed on his speed genes to daughter Shirley, who later won medals (three gold) at the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Olympics.

 

David Shepherd: With a surname of Shepherd, perhaps this Dave should have been a Pie. I’m glad he wasn’t though, or my team of Saint Davids would have been one short.

 

INTERCHANGE

 

Dave Granger: The man with the greatest Spoonerismatic name in history was far better known for placing his opponents in grave danger during his 103 games at Port Adelaide in the SANFL, but he did play three games for St Kilda in 1979.

 

Dave Hughes: Dave Hughes played two games for the Saints in 1964. They were both wins, so there’s nothing funny about that.

 

David Strooper: Journeyman Strooper spent the 1994 season at St Kilda, playing six games and kicking three goals. What a shame he wasn’t there between 1974 and 1982. If he had, we would have seen him in the same team as Bruce Duperouzel, and watched trooper Strooper alongside Super Duper.

 

So there we have 21 Saint Davids, who gave their all for the St Kilda cause over anywhere from one game to 191 games. But of course, in 2018, 22 players are needed to make a full men’s Australian Rules team. (Don’t get me started on AFLX).

 

The final place in the team of Saint Davids therefore goes to the man who inspired it. The captain-coach role of this mighty team of Daves belongs to David Downer himself.

 

The Feast of Saint David, patron saint of Wales, vegetarians and poets is celebrated on March 1st, but the week before Christmas seems to me the perfect time to celebrate and thank another Saint David, patron Saint of the Footy Almanac and all-round good bloke.

 

DD, you might have considered your gesture a small one, but it meant a great deal to me, and it stands as another great reminder of what a wonderful community JTH and Daff brought together back in 2007, and which continues to grow and thrive today.

 

Cheers and thanks, Saint Dave!

 

Gigs

 

For more novelty teams click HERE

 

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About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. David Wirrpanda surely. A sublime footballer on his day, and his defensive game dropping back into the hole in front of Barry Hall was a major part of the Eagles 2006 flag.
    I even voted for him once as a National Party Senate candidate in WA. Not that it helped, but jeez wouldn’t he be a big improvement on Barnaby and Broad?
    Nice sentiments Gigs.

  2. Rocket Singers says:

    Good to see “Stubbie” Winbanks mentioned in dispatches!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    What a great gesture from Dave Downer.

    Gigs, you should be made a Honorable Life Member of the Footy Community for services to, well, everybody really. (I’ve still got to get through 1981 in that pile of Budgets that you’ve entrusted me with).

    But full marks go to the rare Lene Lovich sighting (her Lucky Number went from One to Two, but sadly, not Three)

  4. Adam Haase says:

    Peter_B.

    All of the David’s in this team played for St Kilda which is why Wirrpanda missed out.

    Also, surely Dave McNamara has to be captain.

    Finally, to solidify this 22, St Kilda will need to draft David Handley next year.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Terrific gesture DD and fine tribute by your good self Gigs !
    Yoshihiro Young a classic inclusion for the Alphabet team. Dingoes have a prospect there.
    Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year to you and All Almanackers .

  6. Luke Reynolds says:

    Gigs, glad to hear you’re in a good headspace. Fantastic work with the Saint David’s team.

    What a wonderful gesture by David to pay for your Almanac membership.
    What a magnificent community this is.

  7. Yvette Wroby says:

    Love this Gigs. Love the Almanac community and David was one of the first chaps to say g’day on my first every function, along with you and John Butler. Glad you are feeling better.

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