Everyday Obits: Foundation Blokes

Foundation blokes.


A good mate of mine died the other day. There’s been a few lately. As much as this is about him, it isn’t. It’s about you, and your sports team.


Bryan played over 500 games for his club. An ambitious club. Mostly, he was a plodder in the twos. Barrel-chested, slow, couldn’t jump. Just a ripping bloke who’d greet you with a sly piss-take, crooked grin, and gave everything on the oval. That’s what counts at that level. Not superstars, no buy-ins.

A ripping bloke.

Gave everything.

Piss-take and a smile.

A lot of twos players wouldn’t train, yet he was always there. And, being a hard bloody worker, when he couldn’t get down to the oval until we were finishing, you’d often see him shuffling out some time after seven, as we were coming in, wearing his stupid bloody boardshorts, or work shorts, and start running laps while we were hitting the showers.

It never helped. Turtle was in his DNA. But that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t about ambition, or setting an example. It just was.

When I returned to my original club, I used to have a kick with his tiny son when Bryan and I met at the footy now and then – usually at finals, or when my club played his. The oldest of three, the son grew up to be the most ripper young bloke. All dreddies and smiles. As recently as this summer, when I was working down the back of their town, we would meet on the oval for a kick and bit of fitness work.

It was strange, we talked about his old man a lot.

Secretly, I’d be jealous of the pair of them, the love they obviously had for each other, the pride. The fact, in a small town, they could be both father and son and great mates.

My favourite memory of playing with and against Bryan was when I came back way too soon from dislocating my elbow. We knew we’d be opponents, even if we had to jig it. I thought – You beaut! Slower than me, which was saying a bit, shorter, arse bolted to the earth.’ We phoned each other, hanging shit. Neither of us could wait!

Every single time I went for a mark he simply gave my crook arm a yank. He spanked me, hands down. And laughed like a drain about it while we shared a beer after the game. And reminded me about it every single time we met since.


Not every club has a Bryan, but every club should. Every club. You get more than one or two of them, your club becomes invincible. He will not cloud things up with ambition or arrogance or get in the way, but will always be there to help. Premierships will come and go at any club, good players, blow-throughs, success and shit numbers and failure. Throughout it all, people like Bryan are there. Smiling. Being local, having a beer. Giving a place its heart and soul. It’s good humour and good values. Without once being loud, or the centre of attention. Just by being a likeable smart-arse you want to be around.

He will bring his kids. He will make the club a family. He will, just by being there, year, after year, make it a community. The heart of a town.

Somewhere to grow up right and belong.

The community Bryan is from will huddle and mourn a great father. A great, great, friendly, no-frills man. The world will keep spinning. But if your club is lucky enough to have a bloke like him, please, shout him a beer this Saturday, give him a smile, a pat on the back as he runs out for game 530 or whatever for the twos. If he reaches a milestone, don’t just give it a gentle nod, or grunt a ‘Well done’, celebrate it as if that’s what your footy club is about, because it damn well is.

Buy him a drink for no reason, for every reason. For football reasons, and bigger ones. Because you have no idea how brilliant and needed players, blokes, like him are.

A house is nothing without its woodwork.


As a mate, and a clubman, and a dad, he’ll be missed.


Matt Zurbo's mate Nosey


  1. Condolences Matt. Fantastic tribute to your mate.

  2. Manny Koufalakis says

    Beautiful! Just Beautiful.

  3. Well said, Old Dog.
    I was down the Bay last week on the day he passed. Just tragic.
    Talk about a town – and a club – in mourning.
    And not one person had a bad word to say about him.

  4. Jeanette Biddle says

    That’s lovely Matt and all true Btyan was the salt of the earth and was loved by us all

  5. Well said mate

  6. Fantastic Zurbo!! Well said and all so true.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Splendid tribute, Matt, full of home truths and wisdom – so a typical Zurbo offering.

  8. E.regnans says

    All the best to Brian’s crowd.
    Well done, M Zurbo.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Brilliant Old dog and just so true clubs get way to wound up trying to win a flag spend idiotic sums of money and loose its soul, a wonderful tribute all the best to Bryan’s family and friends

  10. Malby Dangles says

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Matty. Your piece was a lovely eulogy.

  11. Mark Laurie says

    Good work Matty. Spot on with everything you said.

  12. Thank you Matty for your kind words, next time your down please have a kick of the footy with Matty again he’d love it! My children are a product of his kindness, determination and honesty! A gift that is shown over time….we have 3 beautiful children who will miss him dearly! So will I….xxx

  13. Great piece Matty!

  14. Lovely Matt, deepest sympathies to all,


  15. Matt Zurbo says

    Amber, a kick with Matty is a given.

    What a send off!

  16. Matt Zurbo says

    Some great footy names in here, Mud, Hilly, Rulebook, everyone. Thank you.

  17. Matt Zurbo says

    Smokie, yeah mate. There is nothing bad to say. The moral centre of the town. A pearler.

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Piss-take and a smile. Yeah.
    Top stuff Matt. Bryan would be proud.

  19. Robyn Gray says

    Well said Matt. A clear piece in typical Matt style that reveals the essence of a great bloke.

  20. Tom Goodwin says

    Best read in a long time old dog! Hope ya well, tommy.

Leave a Comment