Eat up! Eat up! And play the game.


It was one of those nights when a few middle-aged blokes get together to talk about old times in sport. John was a new fellow to join the group and everyone’s eyes lit up when he said ‘I saw Bradman bat once’.


John’s view of  Bradman was when the Indians played a Test Match at Adelaide Oval in January 1948 and John said ‘he got something like 196’ which drew immediate but darting glances from a couple of the sporting pedants among us. The Don, in fact, made 201, Lindsay Hassett 198 and the Australians 674. No-one got 196. John was more certain of the number of eskimo pies he consumed. ‘Seven’, he said which was no doubt the making of a little fat kid, and a 60-year interest in sport.


The eskimo pie story reminded me of my of some of my own sports eating experiences, mainly at the footy. If you’ve been to watch football in Melbourne you’ve inevitably suffered the pain of the execrable Four and Twenty, surely the worst so-called meat pie in the world without a shadow of doubt.


The alternative when I lived there in the late 1970s, was three or four round doughnuts before the game, purchased from the vans parked outside the grounds. Without being a doughnut connoisseur I reckoned they were the best in the world. It must be the footy itself which creates such extremes of thought. The romance of the doughnut only ended when I went to a game at Princes Park (sob, sob) several years later and taking a huge bite, spread raspberry jam all over my smart new Harris tweed sportscoat.


My improved football diet can be dated specifically. 3 September 1977, Elimination Final, South Melbourne v Richmond at the old VFL Park, Waverley. I can be sure for a couple of reasons. The first was because good old South (sob, sob) were playing in their first final of any description since 1945 and the second because I took a good-looking girl to the game. She was the first girl of any description I’d ever taken to the footy and American as it turned out. I was all set to explain the finer points. What happened was this…


We took up our positions and I started to unpack the binoculars when she said. ‘Daaaahling! I’ve prepared a little something’.


The ‘little something’ turned out to be cold turkey, cheese, celery, french rolls, an avocado or two, pate and what’s this?, a bottle of chilled white from the good old Barossa Valley. ‘Jeez! whadya think I am, a poofter?’ I remember thinking. People thought like that in those days.


I didn’t get anywhere with the finer points but we did get stuck into the grub. At the half-time break the wine and glasses (not plastic cups) came out as well which brought a chorus from the row of beery blokes behind. ‘Jeez! whatarya, a poofter or something?’ People said things like that in those days. I gestured with a french stick.


She and I kept sipping through the second half which was too much for one old bag complete with brolly and overcoat, who spat out. ‘Huh! Toorak set, you’ve no right to be here’, conjuring up images of the split level and the Porsche Turbo in the double garage. Oh well! and South were annihilated 7.12 to 13.10.


The logical eating endpoint was probably lunch at the Adelaide Crows Chairman’s Club what seemed half a lifetime later at Football Park, West Lakes in 1994, and definitely pre-AAMI. Crows versus Somebody: soup, entrée, mains, cheese, more than half-decent wine, scones, jam, cream and coffee. After that fill the football was bound to be an anti-climax except that first one had to hear from the guest speaker/interviewee, the then Leader of Her Majesty’s Federal Opposition, Alexander ‘Things that Batter’ Downer.


Chairman Bob ‘Half-Case’ Hammond’s introduction of his guest as ‘the next Prime Minister of Australia’ was one of the great gaffes of all time to which I remember responding with an almighty ‘BOOOOOOOOO!’ This was a non-politically partisan gathering, we were located in Adelaide’s western suburbs, and we were at the footy after all!


Clearly embarrassed Mr Downer wasn’t a bad guest and revealed a warm and genuine interest in football. Only one thing worried me. When asked whether as a boy he harboured any ambitions about becoming prime minister he replied along the lines of: ‘No! I really wanted to play full-forward for Norwood’.


I almost choked on my scone over that one. Perhaps I could’ve hacked him running the country but having him spearhead my team, and one of Australia’s most famous football clubs, would’ve been another matter entirely.

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Four ‘n Twenty’s are the rankest mystery bag of a pie. Mutton is the main ingredient I reckon.

    Hate to nit pick, Bernard, but South played a final in 1970 against St.Kilda. It was Bobby Skilton’s one and only.

    I like Alexander Downer but don’t know why.

  2. bernard whimpress says


    My apologies re the Bobby Skilton game – that’s slack history.

    On Alexander, perhaps you like fishnets. So do I – on the right legs!

  3. Downer could only barrack for Norwood.
    4+20 are awful.
    South had a good 1970 with Peter Bedford outstanding… a great VFL year.

  4. Tony Roberts says

    Ah yes, Elimination Final 1977, Swans v Tigers, VFL Park (as was). Like you Bernard, I attended in female company (someone else’s wife – de facto of course, it being the 70s – share and share alike). Front row, top deck of the last bit of stand that’s still out there at Waverley. Great lateral view of the distant Port Philip Bay. Horrifyingly close vertical view of your certain death below should you trip on the steps.

    Like you, we were going for Old South. Unlike your nothin-like-a-dame, my partner was an Aussie sheila, and fiercely Bloods-worthy. So, our bitterness at the result blotted out any memory of food on the day. Probably not pate and chilled white, though.

  5. bernard whimpress says


    Isn’t it strange being at the same event as someone you befriend later in life and might’ve met on the day? Worth a story itself.

  6. Dave Nadel says

    It is only a strange coincidence in as much as neither you or Tony actually barracked for South, Bernard. I only met the majority of Floreat Pica Society members in 2010 but I had undoubtedly been at the same games as they had at Victoria Park in the 70s and 80s (and in the case of the older members, the 60s)

  7. bernard whimpress says

    Thanks for the comment Dave. I was there because I had a press pass and went to a game each week, I’d never been to Waverley before. and I had a hot date. My car had links to Ferdinand Porsche because it was a 1962 and a half Beetle. The drawn GF was (and remains) my only VFL or AFL GF.

  8. bernard whimpress says

    Thanks for the comment Dave. I was there because I had a press pass and went to a game each week, I’d never been to Waverley before, and I had a hot date. My car had links to Ferdinand Porsche because it was a 1962 and a half Beetle. The drawn GF was (and remains) my only VFL or AFL GF.

  9. Tony Roberts says

    So much for your car and Ferdinand Porsche – my dog has links to Ferdinand MAGELLAN.

  10. bernard whimpress says

    MAGELLAN! Ah, yes, the man we used to be told was the first to sail around the world except for the fact of him getting himself killed in the Phillipines and it was actually Juan Sebastian Elcano who completed the circumnavigation. Come to think of it that’s probably nearly as important a historical fact as BOBBY SKILTON’S single finals appearance.

  11. The food is always awful at the footy. Forget about quantum uncertainity, this is a thing you can be sure of.
    Ask Harmsie about the lunches at the Brunswick Street Oval.

  12. bernard whimpress says

    Hi Phil.
    Some of the best pasties I’ve ever eaten in Adelaide used to be sold from a hessian bag OUTSIDE the Norwood Oval at the end of SANFL games. The same pasties were also sold outside the Angle Park dog track after a meeting. Not that I ever went to the dogs but when driving a cab, picked up passengers who did, and a pastie as well.

  13. Loved the pies from the hessian bag after the Globe Derby trots…30 yrs later saw them at the tram stop outside Morphettrville on Cup Day.

  14. Jeff Dowsing says

    I think there’s another article waiting to be written.

    “Taking a hot chick to the footy and what an impression that makes!”

  15. Ask the Knackers who travelled to Wynyard in early June what the footy canteen tucker was like for quality and price.

  16. Thebarton had the best hessian bag pasties in the SANFL in the 60’s and 70’s.
    My favourite culinary trick was the Rumbelow’s cray van from Victor Harbor that used to come up for the races. I can remember them at Victoria Park between the grandstand and rails rings (Crio will remember it well). Dunno about other tracks.
    If I still had a quid at 3 o’clock I would always buy a couple of crays, and get them to keep them in the fridge for me, to collect after the last. They were often the only collect for the day.
    Victoria Park was my favourite. Shocking grandstand position. They ran towards you and the stewards tower obscured the finish line. Used to run down to the Derby Stand to watch the races. I can remember when their were 3 enclosures at the track – Flat, Derby and Grandstand (4 bookies rings counting the rails).
    But the place had a great traditional feel. Back front runners drawn in at the 1450, and wide draws down the straight 5 furlongs when it rained.
    Could always go home with crays in hand pretending to have won (pretending is a major activity for punters I discovered later in life)

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