Gravel & Mud: Chris Fagan’s Preface




Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan grew up on the West Coast of Tasmania. He wrote the preface to Gravel & Mud:



My Dad, Austin passed away on December 12th, 2019. He was a football legend on the West Coast, both as a player and coach. When I was a young bloke, he also wrote a column on West Coast Football for the Advocate newspaper. I can still remember reading his hand-written drafts every week before he handed them in for publishing. It was something I looked forward to with great anticipation and as it turns out was an important part of my football education. He wrote with passion and intelligence about the game and people he cherished. He coached with the similar empathy and care for his players. He passed on to me a love of the game and a great interest in coaching. He was a role model to me in the way he lived his life, his competitive instinct, his generosity towards people and the way he cared for our family.


The occasion of his funeral brought back many memories of the first 15 years of my life as a young, impressionable sports loving kid living in the great township of Queenstown, famous for its gravel football oval. The reason for this was that so many West Coasters turned up to pay their last respects to Dad. He was obviously a man dear to many a West Coast heart and he’d left an impression on them. Some were old teammates, others former work colleagues or blokes he had coached. At the wake, post the funeral I had the opportunity to talk with many of these people. The most prominent topic of course was football, yarns of past deeds, grand finals and the numerous great characters who graced the gravelly and muddy fields of Queenstown, Rosebery, Zeehan and Tullah.


Growing up, men like Rocky Hales, Terry White, Rod Butler, The Strang brothers, Uncle Max Schulze, Wobbler Johnson, Jan Frimley, Sticky Steele and Fred Whatley were my heroes. Not just because they were terrific footballers but because they were good men who took an interest in me and encouraged me to be the best person and sportsman that I could be.  Peter Breen, Grand Father of four time Hawthorn premiership player Grant Birchall, was my Primary School Footy Coach with the St Joseph Convent Saints and Peter “Axel” Alexander was my coach during my years as a student at Murray High School. Both men taught me plenty about the game, treated me fairly and encouraged my efforts to become the best footballer that I could be. I was fortunate to be influenced by them and can’t thank them enough for their help and guidance. In fact, when I think about it, Queenstown, the town and the people who lived there, have had such a positive influence on my life. We were a tough, tight and resilient community that by and large cared deeply for each other even though when it came to sport the level of competitiveness was fierce. Just as it should be!


It’s a great thing that this story has been written. It’s not only valuable and relevant from an historical perspective but more importantly, it captures the spirit and togetherness of the mighty West Coast and the importance to the community of Australian Rules Football. It was a binding force during my formative years and shaped the person that I am. I hope that as you read the book it brings a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart. Just as it did for me!




Read more Gravel & Mud stories HERE.


To purchase copies visit



The authors will be at the Almanac/Uni of Tassie FC lunch in Hobart on July 30. All welcome. Details of the lunch HERE.

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