Footy final, by ferry

Being ferried (for free) to a footy final was a first for Peter Sweeney.

I had just lost too much on a “cert” in the first at the (Moonee) Valley and opted to go driving instead of staying in the TAB of the Renmark Hotel.

Not far out of the Murray River town heading along the Sturt Highway towards Adelaide, there’s a small gravel road to the left. “Lyrup. Ferry,” is all a sign says.

Intrigued, I took it. A man was waiting in his car for the ferry to come back from ‘the other side.’

The driver alights. “It’s busy here today,” he says. “It’s the local footy grand final.”

Minutes later, a handful of cars are being taken a few hundred metres across to the township of four hundred and something people, which has swelled in numbers for the grand final like a coastal settlement does over the Christmas-New Year period.

Finding the ground is no problem – just wind the window down and the crowd gives you the directions.

It’s midway through the second quarter and because they have sold out of budgets/records, I have no idea who’s playing. But supporters of the red and white coloured club (who are bound for a bad day at the office) get pretty excited when their first goal is kicked. The siren sounds for the main break and the red and whites are 1.3 and their brown and gold coloured opponents (who are the Bombers) are 5.5.

“It’s half time at the footy, it’s Browns Wells by 26 points,” a booming voice announces.

“Get your hot food and cold drinks from here and over the other side.

“Two boys are going around the ground selling Lucky Square picks. You can win jumpers from the indigenous round signed by Port and Crows players. There’s a 100 metre sprint, so if there’s any players in running gear come up here and show us what you can do.”

The changerooms are named in honour of George Edward Drewett, who passed away in 2003, aged 71. George played for Lyrup for 19 years, was a trainer for 21 and on the committee for 40 years. “Years of dedication by a gentleman loved and respected by the Lyrup Football Club and the community of Lyrup,” reads a plaque.

Some things stay the same no matter where you go – there is always a queue at the women’s toilets.

It’s much the same for the men here in a three-stander near the rooms. One of the goal umpires, flags at rest near his feet, finds relief there.

The red and whites are Paringa. They do much better in the third stanza, kicking two goals, but come the last change are only a point closer than they were at half-time.

“We’re getting no favours from the umps, you had to earn those goals. There’s just one quarter left, give it all ya got, they are getting tired,” the Paringa boss spruiks.

One of his charges – when looking at the whiteboard telling the players of their positions – doesn’t share the optimism of the coach.

“Oh… hell. I don’t believe this. We can’t win now,” he remarks to a teammate.

Browns Well kick a couple and the premiership cup inscriber is going to work.

As are the constabulatory. I leave early in the last – via a different road to Loxton – and three police cars are setting up for breath testing.

At Loxton, about 30 kms away, Waikerie and Loxton North are playing the first final in a “bigger”, but not necessarily better from an enjoyment viewpoint, competition.

Mother Nature calls and I visit the public toilets in town.

A man rushes in and does his business.

“Waikerie are about 10 points up over there, but all that matters is that we (Wunkar) won the colts at Lyrup. We were smaller but ran the taller rivals (Paringa) ragged.

“Waikerie is in the Riverland League and we’re (Wunkar) in the Independent League.”

Who says you need a budget/record at country footy?



  1. Cat from the Country says

    Delightful yarn

  2. Nice one Peter. Went with my dad to Lyrup in the mid 60’s when he played cricket at Lyrup. He was the manager of the old Savings Bank of SA branch at Renmark at the time. Sounds like the facilities have improved at Lyrup in 50 years. Remember the oval being brown and parched for cricket. The Upper Murray Football League was a powerhouse back then with many players who went to SANFL – Bruce Light, Rex Voight, Rod Seekamp and the legendary Hawthorn and Sturt premiership ruckman Malcolm Hill had the pub and captain-coached Berri. I remember there were smaller towns in the B Grade – Paringa and Gerard Aboriginal Mission. Maybe that became the Independent League?

Leave a Comment