By Andrew Starkie


In September, 1991, favourites Old Collegians Warriors lost the Warrnambool and District Football League Grand Final to the Merrivale Tigers. 


Earlier this year, the drink company, Gatorade approached media personality, Dave Hughes, to be the ‘face’ of their marketing campaign,’Gatorade Replay’, which offers amateur sporting teams the opportunity to play rematches of past games.  Dave agreed to the approach and being a member of the 1991 Old Collegians Grand Final team, suggested that match as an ideal candidate for ‘Gatorade Replay’, 2011.  Gatorade agreed.  As did Merrivale.  So, after three months of ‘preseason training’ with the involvement of nearly all original players, and the assistance of the Australian Institute of Sport and Gatorade, the two teams met again on August 28 at the same venue of twenty years ago.  This time, the Warriors were able to reverse the result, winning comfortably by seven goals. 


I am a proud warrior and this is my account of that day…  


Parked cars circle the boundary, seating and standing areas are full, and the bar is crowded.  The Reid Oval is dancing with kick-to-kick, while Scott Cummings and Chris Grant arrive via helicopter and land in the centre circle.  A local band is banging out a few growling tunes.  Warrnambool has turned on the weather and the atmosphere is like grand final day.  The whole town has got behind the day.


Marno and Wattsy are waving from the change rooms window.  They’re beaming.  Young again.


I push up the hill through the crowd.  Familiar, smiling, red faces.  A few nod and offer wrinkly grins.  Green cans all round.


The rooms are crowded.  Footies and banter fly about.  The atmosphere’s thick with liniment, possibility and nerves.  Footy change rooms are special.  I’d love to be able to bottle that feeling and carry it around with me.


The team’s stripped and ready.  They look great.  Fit. Young.  No wonder they crumbled twenty years ago against a more experienced Merrivale.


They look proud.  This is their day.  One more chance to dream, to feel special.  To hold on to something.  Onlookers and well-wishers are crushed against the walls and rub down table.  We all wish we could be out there with them.


The Marris boys are there to see their brother, Steve.  As usual, he’s the centre of attention:  laughing, joking, bouncing around.  He won the medal twenty years ago as rover.  He was the smallest bloke on the field.  Good effort in a losing team.  His dad, Yanni, had to drag him out of the rooms to accept it.  Steve rushes over and shakes my hand.  I’m always uncomfortable when he does this.  It’s too formal.  We know each other to well.


Thanks for coming.


As if I’d miss it.


Marno’s my best mate from school.  He looks great.  Despite his stuffed knee.  And the shit he’s poured into his body since his accident on the farm.  Life’s been tough for him.  Long hair, tanned, muscular.  He’s Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.  A tragic beauty.  He hugs me.  It’s the happiest I’ve seen him in years.  This is cathartic.  Today has given him something to look forward to.


Back in ’91, Marno kicked a heap before half-time and had the hill rocking.  Glory days.  A long time ago.


Luca, Marno’s son, is over from Perth.  He gives Marno something to live for.


Wattsy, Freddie Mercury lookalike, comes over and wraps me in his arms.


This is superb, he whispers.  InspirationalOne last time, hey.


Wattsy coached us to a Ressies flag in ’94.  Also against The Vale.  I’d go to war with youse blokes! He said.  We won it for Wattsy.  He still has a beautiful, poetic left foot.


Hughesy’s as fit as a trout.  He’s had a personal trainer for months.  Has to look good for the cameras.  He looks nervous, self-conscious.


Twenty years ago, Rat missed the sealer early in the last quarter.  Merrivale took it up the other end and goaled.  They had momentum after that.  It’s weighed on him since.  Today is his chance for some sort of redemption.  The boys want to do it for Rat.


Jack was the first of the boys to get hitched.  He has two girls.  He’s a natural athlete.  A surfer.  He’s been working at the local abattoirs for over twenty years.  Great bloke with a ready smile and cheeky laugh.  He plays in a local band called The Monaros and supports Movember each year.  Salt of the Earth.


Mover and I were born in the same hospital, same week, 1970.  Our mothers shared a room.  Heavier and carrying more than any of us, he’s never had an injury and still has the occasional kick when the Ressies are short.  His dad, Mick, our first cricket coach, died last year.  A Warriors jumper and West Warnambool CC cap adorned the coffin.  Mover loves the Warriors.  He’s pumped today.  If there’s any biffo, he’ll be a part of it.


Leroy calls the boys in and they gather about his feet.  He taught most of us Maths at school.  My mum taught him.  Leroy’s skillful and lightly built like Ken Hinkley.  Intelligent and composed, he’s always chosen his words well.


We’ll never forget what happened twenty years ago, but let’s make new memories today.


Look after each other.   Let’s go.


Younger and fitter, we draw away in the second half.  With most players forty plus, it’s like watching TV in slow motion.


Pete, fittest player out there, runs rings around Merrivale and gives their bench the finger as he comes off for a rest.  Typical Pete – he’s been giving the world the finger all his life.  Timmsy kicks five from a flank and wins the medal.


After the match, back in the rooms, the boys form a circle and beat out the club song one last time.  Bluey, Chas and I join in from the corner.


We are the green and gold

The good old green and gold

We’re the team that never lets you down

We’ll beat ’em at home or any old ground…!!!


Footy’s about people and memories.


And coming home.





















  1. Great yarn, Andrew – pissed I missed it.

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