General Footy Writing: The day we took Geoff Leek to training

By Rod Oaten

It wasn’t easy being an Essendon supporter and living in North Caulfield, but Mum and Dad moved out there from the beloved north-western suburb after they got married so there wasn’t much I could do about it.  I used to love Essendon not only because of its footy team but because planes used to fly really low over the suburb on their way to or from Essendon aerodrome.  I loved those twin- and four-engined giants of the sky.  You could see DC3s and DC4s and Bristol Freighters with ANA and TAA logos clearly painted on the
wings, something that was impossible to see in Caulfield.
Anyway, back to footy.  Each year I used to badger dad to take us out to watch Essendon train — it was great to get close to the players as they did their  training skills. So about once a year the big excursion to Essendon was organised. Dad would get home from work a little earlier and we would be waiting for him. We would jump into our pride and joy, a 1938 Austin 10 Reg. 64240 and head north. Through the city and up Mount Alexander Road, four of us, with two of us in the back seat with our Essendon gear on. I had No.14
on my back(Ron McEwan) and my brother No.10 (John Coleman). Mum
and Dad in the front seats talking about adult stuff and us kids
grew excited about who we would see at the ground.
As we approached Moonee Ponds junction I saw a giant in a gabardine overcoat waiting at the tram stop. I called out to Dad, “That’s Geoff Leek, can we pick him up”?  Dad stopped the car and called out to him to see if he wanted a lift to training. Geoff walked over and said that’d be lovely as he was running a bit late.  Now can you imagine how someone who was 6 foot 5 inches tall fit into the back of this very small car?  I got out and Geoff  manoeuvred his huge body complete with kit bag into the back. I squeezed into the back as well.  Geoff’s  knees were just about touching the roof and my
brother and I were squashed against the doors, but the discomfort
didn’t enter our heads, WE HAD AN ESSENDON FOOTBALLER IN OUR CAR!!!!!! Unfortunately for my brother and I the journey from Puckle Street to the Essendon Recreation Reserve took only five minutes but we loved every second of it.

On arrival Geoff managed to  get himself out of the car like a contortionist and thanked us for the ride. Dad parked the car and we all headed into the ground. There they were, our heroes running around under the strict supervision of Dick Reynolds. Most of them wore Essendon jumpers, some with the stripe going the wrong way and  some in jumpers from other clubs. We watched them have kick to kick, circle work and some sprints up and down the ground.  There were hundreds of supporters like us around the boundary line and in the grandstand calling out to the players and clapping their skills. Kids
were playing kick to kick on areas away from the main group and  my
brother and I joined in. I pretended  to be Ron McEwan, swooping on
the ball and passing it to another kid. It was a lot harder for my
brother as he was John Coleman and he found it difficult to take
screamers over the pack all the time.
Geoff Leek made it  onto the ground a bit late, but he gave us a wave as he ran laps of the oval during his warm-up. I can tell you, we all felt pretty good to get that special wave.  Geoff was not a regular in the side in those days; the ruck work was done by Bluey McClure, Chooka May, Swampy Syme and Doug Bigelow. (Think about those names for a bit …)
Training seemed to last a fair while but every moment of it was great as you watched your heroes mark and kick and tackle and call out to each other.  After training I went up and showed Ron McEwan the number I had on my back, it was a lot harder for my brother because John Coleman was a superstar and had dozens of kids surrounding him, all with No.10 on their backs.
The rest of the evening is a bit of an unknown, but some fifty years later I saw Geoff Leek at the ‘G. I told him about my great memory us picking him up in our tiny car. He thought about it for a while, and apologised to me because he had no memory of the occasion, but he thanked me again for helping him out all those years ago.
I can’t report on the Dons v Demons game this week as The Partner and I are off on a camping holiday, but we’ll be back in time for the Dons to make their finals appearance.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Rod,I’ve always loved the atmosphere of training and enjoy having a close look at the players. The feel of being with and among your own tribe is wonderful and it used to be fun to predict who was in form and who would be picked in the team for the upcoming game.

  2. Jenny Davis says

    Loved the article about Geoff leek. I was John Coleman fan (of course) but after my first Essendon hero, Dickie Reynolds retired. I think every Bomber supporter (apart from you :-)) must have had Johnnie’s number on his or her back. I think Geoff Leek lived in Hampton a bit later in life.

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