Chappy: he’s so reliable

Ladbrokes image



Saturday night. Kids are fed and bathed and hovering. I am on the couch watching the Suns get smashed. But really, I’m filling in time. Waiting for the Geelong-Freo match to start. The kids know that if they are noticed they will be choofed off to bed. But they want to jump on Dad.

The Handicapper swoops.

Suddenly teeth are done and stories are being read and Dad has some peace and quiet as the Cats run out. There’s Chappy. Chest out as always. Muscle-bound and roly-poly in a fit sort of way. Battle-face on already. The disarming smile nowhere to be seen. The brow jutting. Preparing for the 200th time. What a player!

I can’t remember exactly when Chappy first came on the scene. His debut? Other than it was about the time I met The Handicapper. She had never seen football. I had never not. Our first date was to the opera, to see Madame Butterfly. On a Saturday night in Brisbane, when a stone’s throw up the road at the Gabba Collingwood was playing Brisbane under their new coach Leigh Matthews. Our second date was to the Gabba to see Geelong play the Lions. It was the match that launched the career of Jonathan Brown. He kicked seven. The Handicapper wondered why I was so sad. (Generally)

Chappy was drafted later that year. By then The Handicapper was bewildered. She couldn’t believe that someone could sit over the Monday-morning stats in The Australian for so long; she couldn’t believe that all Harms family phone calls started with an introductory five minutes of footy talk; she couldn’t believe that sundry football publications could be scattered around my house.

This was a new world for The Handicapper; an old one for me. I had been through generations of players at the Geelong Football Club and I wondered if we would ever win a flag. I really doubted it. But it was what I hoped for, more than anything except (perhaps) a woman brave and silly enough to take me on as a long-term prospect.

In that draft Chappy was taken at number 31, after Joel Corey and David Spriggs (now there’s a name from a different time), and before Cameron Ling and Corey Enright. The Cats had a lot of picks that year.

We remember those years; years of patience. Years when we wanted wins, but all you could expect from kids was a solid performance for a couple of quarters here and there. We still tried hard, because we had triers. We now know them to be real triers; players with big hearts who loved footy, developed their own games, and eventually understood the nature of team. We didn’t always feel that way then. We were loyal, but frustrated, and our patience was being tested.

Chappy was one of the real triers. He looked permanently fired up. Like he was annoyed with something. He didn’t like getting knocked over. He was the quintessential bounce-back-up-and-remember-the-number-of-the-prick-who-did-it man. A finger-in-the-chest man. A did-you-see-that-umpy man. And he had skills. He could win the footy, he could evade, he was quick in a muscle-bound sort of way, he could kick, and he really wanted to win footy matches. He got annoyed when the Cats didn’t.

We won a handful of games each season. The Handicapper, who had observed that there would always be footy in the family home if we got married, agreed anyway over a post-argument bowl of Campbell’s stockpot one wintery Brisbane evening.

I remember our wedding day well. It was the day Sunline won the Doncaster; the opening round of the 2002 season. The MC, Anthony W. Collins, a Collingwood supporter, gave regular updates on the Geelong-Essendon match, until it became clear the powerful old Bombers were just too good for Geelong.

Chappy and the youngsters continued to develop along with the experienced Ben Graham and the reliable Steven King and the future looked OK.

The Handicapper and I moved to Melbourne in 2003. We were going to stay for one year (but we’re still here). We lived in Carlton and I could walk to the MCG. I could get the train to Kardinia Park. Indeed it seemed all public transport in the metropolis and beyond was designed to get people to and from the footy. I loved that I could see the Cats live and in the flesh. I was starting to love Chappy.

I loved how he roamed the forward line; a half-forward flanker who knew that if Moons or Kent Kingsley wasn’t leading someone had to. So as a 22 year old he would take the responsibility; he’d head off on a long lead as the ball was run out of the back line, accelerating at the right moment, leap, and take the chest mark. He’d turn and wheel and more and more he’d use the footy well. He was a smart player.

He wasn’t a do-it-without-thinking man like young Ablett. He was a work-your-way-through-it man; a player who understood football at theoretical and practical levels; a player who could write you an essay (with some help) on how he played the game.

The Handicapper and I were at the Preliminary Final when Geelong played well enough to win but couldn’t find a way home. Charlie Gardiner kicked a couple. The Handicapper was really in to that game. She even mentioned a few players, like Chappy. She was almost disappointed when we lost.

Then, when it looked like all was going to be rosy we fell in a big hole. The 2006 season was a disaster and Chappy was frustrated. He had a leader’s sensibility. He could do everything. He had added to his repertoire the big mark. He had it all.

Indeed, I started to realise that Chappy was a big man – a Wayne Carey, or a Jonathan Brown – in a little man’s body. But that wasn’t going to stop him.

The Cats were awful in 2006; there was something wrong. And we were patchy at the start of 2007. Mythology says that when we lost to North in Round 5 Chappy did his block. He was sick of half-arsed efforts. He was a we-won’t-live-forever man; a now man; a have-a-fair-dinkum-go man. And, they say, he told his teammates what he thought. The rest we remember: two premierships (to date) and years of magnificent footy. We’ll remember until our dying day. And many individual moments – like when The (very pregnant) Handicapper grabbed me after the 2007 prelim against Collingwood in a way which made me know she understood.

Chappy has always a powerful influence in this fine team; a player who has bobbed up when the team needs him; who could lift those around him. And equally, he was brilliant when the motor was purring and the Cats were slaughtering sides. So skilful.

Chappy was one of the players The Handicapper could recognise, although sometimes she confused him with G. Ablett. In the winter of 2007 we were holidaying in Western Australia. We had had a few drinks and a bite to eat before returning to the hotel to watch the Geelong-Essendon game. I settled in while The Handicapper was sitting at the table reading one of the earnest essays in The Monthly. Early in the game Chappy had a shot from 55 metres and nailed it easily with one of those bombs that fire from his boot. From the back of the room came The Handicapper’s voice, “Chappyyyyy, he’s so reliable.”

Chappy was one of the many elements to make up the Geelong which amazed and delighted us with premiership. The celebratory mark in the 2007 Grand Final was so so right. So right that artist Martin Tighe captured it in a brilliant painting which formed the cover of the first Footy Almanac. That painting takes pride of place on our wall, and so we are reminded of Chappy daily.

When he kicked the goal to win the 2009 final, again, it was so appropriate. When I finally heard the phone about an hour later I had 22 text messages. Half of them simply read, “He’s so reliable!”

He is. But not is a dour way. He is actually flashy, in a reliable sort of way. But most importantly he’s a player you want on your side; a man who never gives up believing; who always believes that he can make a difference; and does. But you can believe all you like; you also have to have the skills and the character to perform. And that’s Chappy.

I might have loved Max Rooke, and Johnno, but in our household, really, Chappy’s the favourite. (The Handicapper has told me so).

And so last Saturday evening, now with the three kids, Theo (born 2007), Anna (born 2009) and Evie (born February 2011), I am watching New Geelong. We are very much the old premiership Geelong, but we have a new coach and some new young talent. We have beaten the Saints; Chappy didn’t play. And now we face this pretty big challenge in the west.

I am as proud as a father as I watch Joel Corey and Corey Enright, like a couple of kelpies. Lingy, who just keeps going. Travis, you are such a talent. And Otto: keep fighting Otto. Harry Taylor who beams character in an eccentric stand-on-your-own-foot sort of way.

And these kids. Duncan looks handy. Menzell can take a mark, and kicks like a good forward. He plays like he’s been sitting next to Chappy in the locker room. Because that is Chappy’s time of life. On top of his own game, and helping the young ones emerge.

Johnno has a terrific game. One where you wonder what he’s going to do next. Like he’s the life of the forward line.

And Chappy. He’s a little underdone but he was able to influence the game from time to time. There are a few classic Chappy moments, one when he pokes a little pass over the top, gets the footy back, and goals from 40. Chappyyyyy!

I flick back to the Suns game where Ablett stands in the three-quarter time huddle of a side being thrashed. He looks like he wants to pull out the phone and text Chappy to see how it’s going in Perth.

The Cats stick at it all night long. When Mathew Stokes kicks a fine running goal he seals a terrific victory. As the boys, some of whom we’ve watched for a decade – the time I’ve known The Handicapper – walk off celebrating Chappy’s milestone, you can see the feeling rising; you can see Chappy smacking the bums, “Come on. We’re right in this boys. Right in this.”

He’s right.

And Evie Grace Harms was born in 2011.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – Chappy. Love him. He’s so reliable. Cats fans love him but for some reason the number 35 is not as common on the backs of jumpers as it should be.

    The first date with the handicapper was to the Opera! very civilized. My old man tells of his first date with Mum – he took her to the velodrome to see Russell Mockridge riding and couldn’t understand her lack of interest. They’ve been married for nearly 53 years.

  2. johnharms says

    Could work for us.

  3. Mulcaster says

    That poor sainted woman deserves so much more…

    Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
    Men were deceivers ever,
    One foot in sea, and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never.
    Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
    Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey nonny nonny.

  4. brother David says

    If the handicapper really new modern football she would have only offered JTH a one year contract. Fortunately he has managed to mantain his performance.
    And Chappy kicked the premiership winning goal v the saints on 2009.Scarlet to Ablett, long kick to the goal square, off hands, Varcoe hanball, CHAPPY!!!!

  5. Brings a tear to the eyes JTH, brings a tear to the eyes. I was sitting in The Lion King in Sydney the night the Cats Played Lions in the 2004 Prelim. Thought it was all before us, struggled not to take the wireless in. Half way through the show I heard a noise behind me and turned to see the look of disdain on the face of the wife of the bloke behind me with the earpiece tuned to the cats. They were up by 8 points. Got a text on GF day 2007, at the G, wife in Cairns at the time. Chappy had just launched over Tredrea. “Chappy, so reliable”. Life is good.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says


    if anyone can personify the ‘essence’ of footy it is Chappy. His skill, courage, guile and leadership are paradigmatic. It’s no coincidence that a good life partner possesses the same qualities. Now I understand why the Handicapper can relate to Chappy.

  7. David Spriggs, gee there’s a name. A player from the “Mark Fraser” mould insofar as being so very, very fast with so little ability.

  8. P Chapman taken from a second round draft pick provided by Carlton when they borrowed Michael Mansfield. (I think)

    Not one of Pigs Arse’s best days.

  9. Peter Flynn says

    Enjoyed this tribute to Chappy.

    Debuted against Collingwood I believe.

    6 goals with a bad hammy against Adelaide is a great memory.

    Chappy’s presence reassures.

  10. Peter Flynn says


    R Mockridge was a Geelong boy. Reckon he went to the College and was known as the Geelong Flyer before the number 4 jumper wearer of the 1950’s was called it.

    I went yesterday. Never seen so many supporters wearing numberless jumpers.

  11. Wow! This may just be my favourite out of everything I’ve ever read on the Almanac site. Thanks, JTH. :)

  12. Superb. Fitting tribute. On a par with 2007 prelim piece.

    I won the bowling cup at Bucklebury CC (Berkshire) in 2007 and 2009, and feel “right in” it again for 2011.

    Everyone loves an omen bet but we should be dropping games now (ala 2007) to drift a little. $6.50 a little short.

  13. Lovely tribute John. We’ve had some terrific number 35’s at Geelong in my time (Billy Goggin and Scratcher Neal spring to mind), but none better than Chappy. I recall his game against Adelaide a couple of years ago when he kicked six, with a torn hamstring, to get the Cats over the line by a few points. Brilliant.

    He had a lovely moment on the weekend against Port when he snapped what appeared to be a great goal at the city end, only to have the goal umpire (who looked to be a bit out of position) rule it a point. Chappy couldn’t believe it. He waited a moment or two, strolled over to the goal umpire and politely enquired why it hadn’t been a goal. The umpire looked at the top of the goalpost (a little uncertainly) and apparently told Chappy the ball had floated over it. Chappy appeared unconvinced, smiled (almost) to the umpire, walked away a little ruefully…then went on to play another typical cracking game for the Cats.

    A champion (& so reliable!!).

  14. And then the next week, he follows up with a little cameo “non-response response” when the goal ump (not chelsea, of course) makes a barry crocker of a decision and give us a point against Port when Chappy had clearly kicked a goal. He just grins, while tommy harley and dennis say he how much he has mellowed. And a couple of minutes later, he kicks another – this time beyond any doubt – and just goes up to the goal ump to check if he got the spelling right and to ask politely what was wrong with the other shot. A man content in his own footy jumper.
    Baldo (aka Simon Balderstone Harmsy)

  15. sorry burkie, hadn’t read your excellent comment!

  16. johnharms says

    Yes, a nice observation Simon de la Baldo. Has been great to watch that element in all of them: especially Chappy, Corey Enright, Jimmy Bartel, C. Ling et al. Hard to keep a level head when you have enjoyed such accolades but they strike me as a group who have a respct for the game. I hope I am right in that observation. I certainly admire them, and I reckon that the youngsters emerging now are in the hands of some fine mentors.

  17. Yep, and the other Corey (J) . Baldo.

  18. Peter Flynn says

    Burkie and Baldo, I thought that was a goal also. Most of the Terrace thought the same. The subsequent argy-bargy was amusing as you report. The ball got caught in that famous cross-breeze.

    M. Rooke lap prior to the game was a highlight.

    Placing Chappy in the same league as Goggin is a huge accolade. And apt to boot.

  19. What a great article and player. I love this quote:

    “And many individual moments – like when The (very pregnant) Handicapper grabbed me after the 2007 prelim against Collingwood in a way which made me know she understood.”

    And let’s not forget this classic Chappy image from the 09 GF:

  20. What a great reflection on the career of Chappy. It took him a long time to get the recognition he deserved. I remember him being one of our most consistent players when we were crap in the early 2000. I caught a train to Geelong from Melbourne one Saturday to see the Cats play, and the only other person in my carriage was Paul Chapman. You wouldn’t see that in 2011!

  21. Peter Flynn says

    This offering from G. Whateley in last Monday’s Addy. I love his description of Chappy.

    “On Saturday night, when it might’ve been gruelling and surely was unpleasant, the Cats whistled while they worked.

    It was pre-match folly to think conditions bound to emphasise physical maturity and raw skill would somehow favour the Swans.

    The early tip was for Jimmy Bartel, who would’ve had his admirers in the Doncaster such is his reputation as a mudlark. On a day when favourites plugged at Randwick, Bartel was outflanked by the nuggetty brute with the fewest moving parts Paul Chapman. Attitude and aptitude rose the more atrocious the environment became. Chapman was quite marvellous.”

    I’m enjoying G Whateley’s weekly column and H Taylor’s weekly column.

    #21, Emma that is rolled gold.

  22. Andrew Fithall says

    PF (#22) – a point of order. To say something is “rolled gold” is to say that it has been layered with gold that has been spread so thin that it appears valuable but in fact is worth very little. Something worthwhile is “solid gold”.

  23. Peter Flynn says

    Correct point of order AF. I was thinking ‘Rolled Gold’, my favourite Stones compilation album (vinyl).

    Rewind the tape.

    #21, Emma that is superb.

  24. And did you see Chappy yesterday!

    He did it again! He’s got it all

  25. Harms writes about sport the way Darwin wrote of the finch. Not as a mere bird – but as the keystone critter in a much, much larger story. He’s able to dissect a speccy, a fan, a trouncing, a cup held aloft, a game or a moment… and tell us of ourselves while the reader nods in awed recognition.

    He is even able to do justice to the world’s most beautiful bald man ever.

  26. Once more with feeling from an old Cats fan. CHAPPY!!! Ah that feels better.

    Cheers, Burkie

  27. Great read John. Good luck and all the best to Chappy.

  28. Great tribute.

    Chappy’s a man whose blood needs bottling. (As some Australian said once about former NZ cricketer John Bracewell, who seems cast from a similar mould.)

    I was disappointed when Geelong dropped him. Understand the need to make room for young players, but what those new young players needed most was a Chapman blood transfusion–to learn first-hand what it means to never give up.

    It was sad that was given up on in mix.

    Chappy has much to be proud of, and has done much to make Cats supporters proud. If I were in Melbourne, I’d be getting along to see his last game(s). And I’d probably wear the hoops and go stand by the tunnel, just so I could say thank you.

  29. Paul Chapman, a great player with a top career. Fantastic to see him involved in the last play of the match. Wishing him a great time in retirement to recognise such a superb career.


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