Fitzy and the kid

What the hell was Mike Fitzpatrick thinking? He was a mountain. Tough, no thug, just honest tough. A damn good sort of strong to be. Carl Dietrich would make the headlines, Don Scott punch out his own teammates at training. Neil Balme was crazier than any of them. He’d do more damage than the lot combined. 

   Fitzpatrick simply captained premierships. And was a Rhodes Scholar, and other stuff.

   Me, I’d been working any given two jobs at a time since I was eleven. Now I was about fourteen, stacking shelves after school, ina  milk bar. I barracked for Fitzroy and wore a Footscray jumper because they looked tough. That was my back-story. All of it. Where I was from everybody wanted to be pirates.

   Fitzpatrick would come in to buy stuff and talk with me as I loaded the fridge.

  No “Hiya, Champ…”

   No  “G’day Kid…”

   No scruffing my fucking hair with hand or voice.

   Just talk, barrel straight. I had no idea why. About footy, and life, and shit you didn’t see.

   Like how Balme went up to the Carlton team when they ran out for a Grand Final, and announced:

   “I’m going to knock out every one of you, starting from the back pocket…”

   Within a few minutes Southby was out cold, Keogh, from memory, had a busted jaw. Austin, McKay both had broken faces. The game was over, the flag Richmond’s, three whole quarters and 25 minutes to go.

   “The last Grand Final to be won purely on physical intimidation,” he said.

   (Until Collingwood last year.)

   We talked about Winmar, what a goddamn genius he was, and why. And why, at times, he wasn’t. He even threw in politics, of the game and world, just to see if they’d float, I guess. And always gave me air time. He was monster-tall, but I could have sworn he was my height.

   In the end he became a corporate man. Rhodes Scholars usually do. Maybe he always was. He did play in the shadow of John Elliott. But so did Spiro Kourkoumelis, so I dunno.

   I dunno, I dunno.

   Lots and often.

   All I do know is Rhodes Scholars have no time. That’s how they become Rhodes Scholars. Premiership captains get hit on left and right, night and day, every day. Yet he always found time for a scruffy punk with fire in his eyes and the opposision’s working class jumper over his heart. Always.

   I see Fitzy in the news now and then, after getting home from a hard day in the logging coops. When I do I watch him and I still don’t know a lot. Mostly about who he is these days? Who the man I talked to is? I wouldn’t have a clue. But if I saw him somewhere down the line, if I met him again, for things learned, for things passed down and carried on, for respect, I’d thank him, eye-to-eye, from deep in my gut….


  1. John Butler says

    The paths life leads you.

    Fantastic Matt

  2. Mulcaster says

    Good story Matt…
    I take it you refuse to recognise the Brisbane Lions as anything other than identity thieves?
    Footscray is such a better name than the Western Bulldogs.

  3. johnharms says

    Footscray is the right name for that team. Have you seen Spotswood Mulcaster? There’s a footy scene in that which is so Footscray with a kid chasing another kid down in the industrial area screaming, “I’m on ya. I’m on ya. I’m on ya.”

  4. Mulcaster says

    Absolutely, they are Footscray….why replace a perfect name with two words which cannot convey the same message.Where will it end “The Bayside Cats”, “the slipped down to Tasmanis Hawks”, “the inner city trendoid Saints”? Teams such as Brisbane and Sydney have won flags so they can call themselves what ever thay want….but to hang on to vestages of the cannabalised past is pointless. Sydney are no more South Melbourne than Brisbane is Fitzroy….

  5. matt zurbo says

    Yeah, I don’t barrack for Brisbane. Good luck to them, but my last connection to the Lions finished with the retirement of Martin Pike.

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