Footy Town: The Swine

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The Swine

By Murray Bird

It was mid-season in the late 1980s: Moorooka Roosters at home to the Wynnum Vikings; sixth versus eighth, South Queensland Australian Football Association, division 2 reserve grade – the lowest grade of Australian football in Brisbane – possibly Australia. I was appointed to umpire with my good friend The Swine.

We walked into the Moorooka rooms fifteen minutes before the 12.30pm start to introduce ourselves to the team and, I thought, to go through the ridiculous ritual of checking boots and fingernails. Players were still arriving, either from work or a big Friday night out. The Swine was barefoot, wearing his trademark Stubbies shorts and almost-white Bonds singlet looking, as he would often say, “like the shit man on holidays”.

There was a collective groan, and a few chuckles, as we made our way to the centre of the cramped space that passed for the home team’s rooms. The Swine spun around and stared down the loudest groaner. The player looked to his boots, fiddled with his laces, and said, “Yeah, yeah, I know, Swine… shit football, shit umpire.”

We didn’t check boots. The Swine chatted with a few players before we left to change and get the game under way.

By halfway through the third quarter that afternoon, the match was slipping away from the Roosters. The Vikings were six goals clear and the Roosters captain, Ivan the Terrible, was becoming more colourful in his questioning of the decisions from me and The Swine. Ivan was, according to The Swine, “an emotional Black Russian”.

 

There were no fifty-metre penalties in late-’80s SQAFA; the odd fifteen-metre penalty was applied but on this day it was having little effect. Ivan’s protests were becoming personal: “We write letters to the league, Swine. You are shit. You’ve got no fucking idea. I’m going to write a letter about you. We never want you back here again.”

The Swine had had enough. He threw Ivan an admonishing look, blew his whistle and ran backwards from the Roosters’ half-back flank to the top of the Vikings’ goalmouth – about ninety metres.

The Swine proceeded to mark the ground with his foot, as umpires do when applying a 15-metre or 50-metre penalty. The players were confused and asked what was going on. I had no idea. I jogged a little closer on the off chance of finding out. Ivan the Terrible was livid; his huge face was bright red.

“That’s it Swine, you’ve done it this time. That’s it, I am writing that letter to the league. What are you fucking doing?”

The Swine smiled, continued to mark the ground with his foot, and said, “First paragraph of this week’s letter, Ivan: the 90-metre penalty.”

xxxxxxx

These days The Swine likes to keep himself fit, and never smokes or drinks. (“I’m a big enough fuckwit as it is, Birdman.”) He keeps active in his garden and he’s renovating his home. He is a craggy old bloke, but doesn’t look his seventy years.

He’s not short of a quid, but never wastes his money on clothes, preferring to “dress down”, like he shops at St Vincent de Paul’s. I don’t think he owns a suit, although his new girlfriend has sharpened up his act a little over the past few years.

His knees “are fucked” and he walks with a limp. He umpired his 1000-plus games of football in dunlop Volleys, but would train in bare feet.

The Swine was bare-footed when I met him – at my first night at umpire’s training at Crosby Park, Windsor. We were both struggling along at the back of the pack. I put out my hand to introduce myself.

“What are you? desperate for fucking friends or something?” he said. “I’m The Swine and nobody likes me.”

 

A beautiful friendship was formed.

In the early ’90s, The Swine and I travelled to Redcliffe for a division 2 reserve-grade game. Before the match, The Swine was sitting in the corner of the always salubrious umpires’ room, eating a raw onion. I didn’t say anything; I knew he wanted a reaction. With no response from me, and the onion devoured, he reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of garlic cloves and started on them.

“OK, Swine,” I said. “What are you up to?”

“Well, Birdman, I am glad you asked. You see, if one of these pricks gives me a hard time today I am going to get up real close and breathe all over him.”

The Redcliffe Tigers’ 100-kilogram captain-coach copped a full blast in the last quarter.

 

An umpire’s advisor called Shitface, with whom The Swine and I are friends, once observed The Swine take control of a fiery match at Jindalee, in which one player was running amok. It remains a source of great amusement to Shitface that for once The Swine had “lost control completely”. The Swine was usually in control of “the animals”, but on this occasion one lawless individual was getting away with murder, and it was all happening behind the play. The Swine, averse to making reports, and at a time when there were no send-offs, had invented the concept of “on-field justice”.

While the play quickly transferred from one end to the other (highly unusual in this level football), the culprit, ball-watching in the centre of the ground, happened to turn the wrong way just as The Swine galloped past him. Then it happened: the thug hit the ground, out for the count. No one seemed to know what had happened. The Swine, feigning great concern, hovered over the prone player before he was carried off on a stretcher. Everyone at the ground was mystified – everyone except Shitface.

Shitface had seen The Swine catch the thug with a nice left elbow to the jaw as he ran past. He scurried to his car, incredulous and horrified, and took off to observe some QAFL.

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Comments

  1. Even a gentle soul like me could see this is a cracker of a story. Underneath the aggro and the, shall we say, rudimentary, language is a story of two blokes doing the right thing – for each other, for their families, for footy.

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