Footy yarn: Never under-estimate the importance of the ladder in football

By John Dunne


YOU can never underplay the relevance of the ladder in football.

And while it may be stating the obvious, it was rammed home to me in no uncertain terms back in the late 1980s.

I was domiciled in the hub of north-east Victoria in a place called Wangaratta and in the fledgling stages of my radio career.

The station was called 3NE in those days and played an integral role in the local sporting community by offering listeners a live call of the match of the day in the powerful Ovens & Murray Football League.

Suffice to say the (poor cousin) Ovens & King League received scant coverage during the season, although at finals time I was banished out to the Tarrawingee ground to provide live crosses back to the studio.

The year was 1988 and the Moyhu Football Club, who were known as the Hoppers for reasons that were never explained to me in sober surroundings, were taking part in the O&K Grand Final.

A wealthy businessman connected to the club decided he would like to see the big game broadcast live on 1566 3NE and subsequently made his feelings known to station management.

He also made it abundantly clear that he would be willing to sponsor the broadcast, covering all expenses and more.

Not surprisingly Robbo, the station’s sales manager, was all for the history making call of the big game.

Logistics, or more to the point the lack of a broadcast box, was merely perceived as a minor hiccup as the station technician was given the task of identifying a potential calling vantage point.

I still recall him proudly announcing that he had found the spot- high above the ground on the grandstand roof.

It is here I must confess that I don’t embrace heights with the same gusto as Biggles, or Tom Cruise (aka Maverick)  in Top Gun.

However,  I girded my loins with the war cry that the call must go on.

So when myself and co commentators Cuddles and Coey arrived at the ground we were greeted with the sight of the longest extension ladder ever known to man, strategically placed against the side of the grandstand.

The importance of the power of the mind, like the ladder, can never be understated.

So in order to take my mind off the distance down to the terra firma as I ascended into the heavens I counted the steps up to the top of the grandstand roof- all 54 of them.

The game itself was pretty uneventful with the Hoppers grinding their way to their first flag in 26 years and from memory the long awaited premiership was celebrated in style back at the Moyhu Town Hall.

Has anyone ever put the stopwatch on the time it takes for the crowd to dissipate after an Ovens & King Grand Final?

Well I know for a fact that the last person is out of the ground before the official 1566 3NE game review is completed.

So there we are, gear packed and ready to descend when it is obvious to all concerned that an important component of the pending exercise is missing- the ladder.

And with daylight saving still a month away darkness was quickly rolling in across the Alpine region of Victoria.

It must have been some sight to the casual observer with three grown men perched on the grandstand roof waving arms and yelling inaudible pleas liberally punctuated by the appropriate obscenities.

Fortunately,  we managed to somehow catch the attention of a passer by and even more miraculously were able to convey to him that we were inquiring about the whereabouts of the owner of the ladder.

Our intrepid messenger narrowed down the list of possible locations of the said ladder owner to one – the Tarrawingee Hotel, a Johnny Iwanuch (the Hoppers full forward) drop punt up the road.

It seemed the work of an instant that the owner was persuaded to forego the next shout and return his ladder to its rightful leaning place against the side of the Tarrawingee grandstand.

And while most people involved in our great game strive to get to the top of the ladder, on O&K Grand Final Day in 1988 I was more than happy to find the bottom.








  1. Steve Fahey says

    Thanks John, a great yarn !!

  2. John, Hoppers is short for Grasshoppers. It seems to be the nickname for teams that wear green and yellow … you’re right, it still doesn’t make sense.

    Good yarn, nonetheless. You and Richard Jones should compare broadcasting from the tops of grandstand, the backs of trucks, the strongest boughs, etc.

  3. Terrific yarn JD,

    Can almost “hear” you telling the tale over a cold ale!

    All the best, Cap’n Kirk

    PS: GO CATS!

  4. Brendan Barnes says

    Dear Blue eyes,
    Crikey Man!!
    Copy writing….you missed your calling.

    I do recall you telling me about your calling days at NE.
    I must admit I thought you were making the whole thing up until I spent some time in The Goulburn Valley and certain blokes named you…they mentioned such mutterings about a blonde headed son of a gun who was keen on the punt and wept when he laughed.
    I still think your best work was doing Around The Grounds for K-rock.


    PS:Surely you and Baretta have clamed down a bit?

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