How to Watch Footy, part 12

Vin Maskell

Williamstown versus Port Melbourne

Round 8, Victorian Football League

Burbank Oval, Williamstown

Sunday  2 June


You want VFA? You’ve got VFA. Sort of.

A fair-dinkum dinki-di true-blue traditional old-fashioned top-of-the-table clash of VFA arch-rivals.  First spot’s up for grabs, with Port holding the view from the top of the ladder.

Jumpers: Traditional. Royal blue and gold for the Bulldogs-aligned Gulls. Red and blue for the independent, stand-alone Burra. None of that clash-jumper rubbish here.

Responsibilities: Keeping score  for the general public, pressing the right buttons.

Distractions (1): From the timekeeping and scoreboarding room in the grandstand I can see the red and white hoops of the top of the chimney at the Newport power station, one of the flags at the very top of West Gate Bridge,  a church spire, the goalposts of Bolte Bridge, the Nelson Heights commission flats, the Floyd Lodge commission flats,  some of the pale blue oil tanks at Point Gellibrand,  saw-teeth factory roofs near the shipyards, Steve Bracks Promenade, Hobsons Bay… Occasionally I remember to watch the footy, especially the goal umpires.

Distractions (2): Henry, the friendly Port Melbourne timekeeper has a lovely  A4-sized wooden box. Like a briefcase. Sort of. On the lid is a sticker of a 1990s Port player, Paul Clohesy, and a yellow and blue sticker that reads: ‘ VFA 1877 to 1994. The original Aussie Rules. May the tradition continue’.

I say to Henry, “You’ve had that box for a few years?”  Henry says, eyes on the umpires, index finger at the ready, “Yeah, a few.”

Inside the box is a photo of four grandchildren (three boys, one girl. “They’re a bit older now,” says Henry), six pens (three black, three red), three palm-size digital clocks (two black, one white), a silver Precision AM-FM transistor, a lime green highlighter, a glue stick, a leather glasses case, timekeepers’ cards. You expect a timekeeper to be well organised and Henry certainly fits the bill. Occasionally I remember to watch the footy, especially the goal umpires.

The Shipping News: three freight ships head out during the game, including, half-way through the second quarter, one with ‘d’Amico’ in very large letters. Wasn’t that the surname of that fine young athletic woman who graced the MCG in the 1982 Grand Final?  Helen d’Amico?  Wearing just a scarf? The ship heads out to sea, carrying a freight of memories.  I try to concentrate on the game below.

Half-time: Port are five points up. Henry unwraps a home-made chicken sandwich, and then pours coffee from a dark blue thermos into two cups: light blue cup for himself and dark blue cup for Graeme, the Williamstown timekeeper.  I guess this ritual has been going on for years, if not decades.

Three-quarter time: Port have doubled their half-time lead. Ten points up. The fans on the balcony beside us are getting rowdy.  They’ve already had a big day at the President’s Luncheon, where Gary Brice, Billy Swan, Ian Rickman and Terry Wheeler told a few yarns.

Fourth-quarter:  Port kick 6.7 to Willy’s one goal, giving the hosts a  fair-dinkum dinki-di true-blue traditional old-fashioned thrashing. 47 points. I suffer in silence, pressing the scoreboard buttons reluctantly.  Henry is gracious in victory. He packs up, shakes our hands and bids farewell.

Post-match faux-pas: Heading for my bike, I dumbly say to  a fellow Williamstown fan, “Happy with the first three-quarters?”   “They played rubbish all day. Rubbish.”  I’ve got a lot to learn about footy.

Final score: Port 16.17 (113) def Williamstown 9.12 (66)

Votes: 3 to Henry’s wooden box, 2 to the view (especially the red and white hoops of the power station chimney), 1 to the d’Amico ship.

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Your collected distractions reminded me of a 1950s match report by an English journalist.He was in a scenic small Swiss city (Bellinzona perhaps) watching a one-sided international between Switzerland and England B, iirc.Jaded by years of watching matches in the nondescript English stadiums of the era, and diverted by the beauty of his surroundings, he began his report: “for all I care, the referee can hurl himself off the third peak on my left.” Well done, V. Maskell for handling the distractions without allowing himself to do less than justice to scoreboard duty’

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