Getting the dividend-bludgers beat at Tuesday Central: a study of the role of the prawn in Sydney graft, corruption, law enforcement and justice.

by Nank

Balmain Tigers AFC were the genuine article.

They had a unique mode of operation and management centred at Jubilee and then Drummoyne Oval when I landed there in 1977. They weren’t called the easybeats for nothing. In fact, there was two reasons for this. They were generally easy to beat on the field but prided themselves on walloping the opposition.  As far as I could see most things that they did were designed to thumb their noses at officialdom, create mayhem on and off the field, and then fall about laughing.

 

It all started about March on a Saturday afternoon in 1977 when my mate Thorpe – former Adelaide Uni Blacks A’s, United YCW (the only hippie footy team) and UNE Wanderers- and I were having a couple of quiet ones in the Native Rose Hotel near Sydney University watching the game on the box when in swayed Hawkins, ex Fitzroy enforcer, rigger of note and a member of, what might be termed now, the Balmain Tigers management team.  He was a squat 5 foot 10” and about 3 foot wide. He lurched in, upset the SP’s paperwork and intoned loudly that the Lions were the one true club and Carlton players and their supporters (despite a strong resemblance in physique and playing style to John Nicholls) were all a bunch of what-nots. He made a beeline for us and inquired as to when we were buying him a drink and did we play the game and, if not, why not? We were buggered – trapped. Short of head locks we were ordered to the Jubilee oval next Tuesday for what passed as training or he would coming looking for us.  That’s how playing for one of the funniest and most unique outfits started.

 

Hawkins was captain coach of the Bs and placed me on the half back flank despite my protestations that I was a nippy forward. Didn’t matter, my first touch was a twobouncer and then a goal from centre half-forward.  He was a resolute coach though, never wavering in his view that a run off the back line was an integral element of our game. Years ahead of his time.

 

I never saw tackling and broader physical contact like it. Balmain boys took great pride in their boisterous approach and perfected the art of the clobbering the opposition player prior to approaching the ball as well as being masters at the off-the-ball stuff. They had no truck with the man in white and were good on the verbals too. Consequently they had a fair bit of form at the tribunal on Tuesday nights.

It was called going to Tuesday Central as the NSW ARFL rooms were near central railway station at the time. Attendance at Tuesday Central was a right of passage at the club.  I once got reported playing North Sydney for abusing the umpire – a matter of mistaken identity I can assure you.  So there I was at Tuesday Central with 4 colleagues plus the Club president. He said “you’re a uni bloke so you should be able to talk your way out of this one as the ump is a dill” or words to that effect. I conducted my own defence and got off as my strategy was to confuse an ump who knew he was in for a long night with 4 other likkered up and mean colleagues to go up against. I tried a bit of the confusing-the-dill tactic which worked. “No it didn’t happen in the second quarter it happened in the third. Also honourable members of the Tribunal I was responding to the offensive statement made by the  player who  was standing behind the ump. He called me a dole-bludger so I retorted that said (invisible)  player was a dividend-bludger”. That got the tribunal going –a bit of crass class politics. I had also wisely, as it turned out, shouted a couple of the tribunal members at the Great Eastern beforehand which might have contributed to my exoneration. The upshot was that a record had been broken: a Balmain player had walked. This had never happened before. So the Club Prez got me to represent the other 4- unfortunately  with less than stellar results. Four guilty. The die was cast effectively when I told my mate who was about to face the music not to say anything and I would talk on his behalf. He was up for abusive language. When I was asked: “did your player call the ump a f%%%ing c$$$. My mate jumped in and wouldn’t be swayed by my prospective council. “Bloody oath I did, because he is a  f$$$in c###”. Four weeks. Balmain had reverted quickly to form at the tribunal.  What can you do?

 

The composition of the club was unique. Balmain had the navy and army boys, water police and detectives plus a small cadre that Thorpe and I were slotted into from the start.  We were referred to as “youz uni blokes”.

I am sure one detective, a bloke called Brady, only played to belt people and to keep an eye on the other non-institutional element in the club: ie those with no visible means of support but plenty of readies. That latter group were terrified of him. He could kick the ball a mile and belt the opposition to submission. One of the water police, a bloke called McCook, had the one of the best left foot boots on him which was handy on Jubilee oval and also at Trumper Park which was also tiny. He used to regale us with stories about the floaters found in Sydney harbour and how they earned points with the Sarge by harvesting the prawns from the body. Apparently the Sarge liked his prawns and exhorted his charges including the eager to please McCook to get the floater back in the water quick smart.

 

They drank at the Balmain Sports and Social Club and one knight of the long knives took over the club and changed the tone considerably. I think once the strippers became a bit passé they didn’t really have a plan b as part of their corporate strategy so the club went bad after a while.

 

Balmain was the only club to have the ump stop the game for violent behaviour. Not on the field but among the spectators. It was instigated by a bloke called Roy who was a garbo on the Botany Council and king of the lurk and the lip. Due to his corpulent form he wasn’t a player but made his presence felt off the field with precision work using his walking cane. He was surprisingly nimble when beating a retreat so I wondered whether the cane was for walking or mainly used to make a point with the less than respectful members of the opposition crowd. Police were called and I think some of our members of the force who were present calmed things down. But that’s how the Tigers did business: in yer face.

 

The Tigers came good around 1980 with a lot of imports including the McGlynn brothers from down south – surely a connection with the current Swans boy. These brothers would put the Cunningham brothers to shame. Belt, gouge intimidate and, needless to say, despite some close attention given by the aforementioned Detective Brady and his acolytes from the Force, fitted right in at the Tigers. Balmain were beaten by Easts at Redfern Oval for the flag in 1980 I think in front of a huge crowd who were badly behaved at the post prandials, led by a rampant Hawkins.

 

I hung up the boots then. Balmain had nearly gone all the way.

 

Nank

 

Comments

  1. Tom Martin says

    Corker yarn Nank – Balmain strip clubs, SP bookies, bodies in the harbour and the long leg of the law. I felt like I was in a Cliff Hardy novel.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Geez Nank a tad too physical and intimidating for the average Uni poof , v entertaining, Thanks Nank

  3. tom, I am not sure whether peter corris was one of the spectators at jubillee but it was in glebe and was his stamping ground. a bloke with a pen and paper would have stood out. it was bit like the tight club defined in the Glass Canoe a novel of pub culture in inner west of Sydney in the 70’s by David? Ireland.

    Malcolm these blokes really enjoyed their footy win or lose. all were made welcome from wherever you came. and the laughs kept coming.

    Nank

    Nank

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