In the Sheds: Buckling up for a game of footy

By Paul Daffey

THE Victorian Amateur Football Association is a Melbourne-wide competition, so clubs accept that occasionally they have to travel across town. Not so long ago that meant that clubs based around the VAFA heartland of the inner eastern suburbs had to cross the river (shudder) to play St Bernard’s at West Essendon or Old Paradians at Bundoora, but in recent years the boundaries have stretched far beyond what used to considered the Badlands. In the past decade, the competition’s ranks have swelled to include Werribee, South Mornington, Rupertswood, which is based in Sunbury, and St Francis Xavier Old Collegians, who are based in Beaconsfield, a suburb where until recently there were paddocks were full of grazing cows. Those clubs have never had to play each other in the one season, but this year the competition does have a section that requires its 10 clubs to travel to all corners of the metropolitan fringe. D2-section features Peninsula Old Boys (Mount Eliza), Yarra Valley Old Boys (Park Orchards), Therry-Penola Old Boys (Oak Park) and Old Westbourne (Hoppers Crossing). Tyre companies are said to be popular targets for sponsorship requests.

ON SATURDAY, Peninsula Old Boys made what is the biggest trek required in the Ammos this season when they played at Old Westbourne. Peninsula president Phillip Coghlan said the journey, which is estimated at 100 kilometres, took 90 minutes. “It’s easy now with Eastlink,” he said. While Peninsula footballers accept that travel is their lot every second week, the club has a problem in that volunteers resist travelling and injured players rarely make the trip to watch their teammates. Coghlan made a special plea before Saturday’s game and was pleasantly surprised when he arrived at Westbourne Grammar to find that half a dozen senior players were busy getting the gear ready for the reserves. In the seniors match, the Peninsula Pirates scored a strong victory to maintain their spot on top, with the president’s sons Jim and Will Coghlan among the best players. John Rombotis, the 32-year-old former Fitzroy, Port Adelaide and Richmond player, kicked three goals and was also among the Pirates’ best.

PENINSULA players travel to games with four players to a car. But when rival clubs head down to the land of the Jolly Roger (the Pirates hoist a skull-and-crossbones flag above their rooms during home games), they tend to hire a bus. After a match at Mount Eliza couple of years ago, Therry-Penola’s bus refused to start so the players got out and tried to push-start it. When that failed they returned inside the Peninsula rooms and resume pouring money over the bar. “There was a theory that the bus had been sabotaged,” said Therry president Tony Crotty. After a 90-minute delay, Therry centre half-forward Matt McWhinney took matters into his hands and hopped into got into the driver’s seat. “He moved the gear stick a little to the left and a little to the left and got the bus started,” Crotty said. McWhinney of course is now the Therry captain.

WILLIAMSTOWN CYMS is an Ammos club that has a tradition of hiring a bus for its longest trip every season. In 2004, the trip home from Mount Eliza after a match against Peninsula was so much fun that the next year the club tried to hire a concertina bus to cater for extra demand. When the concertina bus fell through, the CYs settled on a double-decker bus, which happened to be a party bus. The players were so excited by the party bus that their minds were nowhere were near the game. “It just set completely the wrong tone,” said Dene Macleod, who was the CYs’ coach in 2005. “Sure enough, our reserves got beaten and the seniors got smashed.” The upside is that the 80-kilometer trip home, which included a two-hour stop in Frankston, was so much fun that the players bonded and the club went on a winning spree. The spree ended during a semi-final against Peninsula, one of whose supporters called out: “Better get back on the party bus, Willy.”

ON SATURDAY, Willy CYs made one of their shorter trips for the season when they ventured to Oak Park in the north-west suburbs to play Therry. The home team proved too strong, with full-forward Corey Bannister, the brother of Carlton’s Jordan, kicking four goals. Rick Bannister, another brother, also played in the Therry seniors, while Sean played in the reserves. Their father Wayne Bannister, the former TV Ringside boxing identity, watched from the boys from the sidelines as he always does.

WHILE D2 Ammos players have their travel demands this season, it’s nothing to what the players from the Hay Football Club put up with every year. Hay is a town on the Murrumbidgee River, about 450 kilometres north of Melbourne. The footy club’s closest rival in the Golden Rivers Football League is Moulamein, which is 120 kilometres south. Nullawil is more than 300 kilometres south, which makes the journey from Hay to Nullawil the longest road trip in a Victorian-affiliated competition. Hay fields four footy teams (seniors, reserves, under-17s and under-14s) and five netball teams. The club hires a 47-seat coach and before this season it bought its own second-hand 24-seat bus. The buses leave soon after dawn (as early as 6.30pm to enable the under-17s to make their 10.30am first bounce) and return home late. Players and officials while away their journeys by watching videos and playing cards. Hay president Robert “Buck” Howard said Victorian clubs are spoilt. “It doesn’t matter where we play; we have to travel,” he said.

ON SATURDAY Hay had the luxury of playing at home, in this case against top team Wandella, a club based about 250 kilometres south. Hay put up a good fight before going down to the club based just outside Kerang by eight goals. The match was notable for the fact that Hay wore pink jumpers to raise funds for breast cancer research. After the match the senior players’ 22 jumpers fetched an average of $380 at auction. The jumper that fetched the highest price ($610) was worn by midfielder and assistant coach Rory Redfern, who was Hay’s best player that day. The buyer was Debbie Doyle, whose daughter Kate goes out with Redfern.


  1. Great column, Daff. Reminds me of my junior cricketing days. We played in the Sunshine District Cricket Association (although the ‘District’ was later removed) and the junior comps took in Melton, Rockbank, Hoppers Crossing and Werribee.

    This involved early Saturday morning road trips via a number of vehicle types including:

    * cramming an inordinate number of under-14 boys into the back of coach “Ossie” Nicholls’ VW Beetle. Ossie’s Beetle was never in great shape and on one occasion when he went to change gears the gear-stick came out completely! (Ossie was a good bloke but a bit wild. Legend has it that he was suspended from our school, St John’s in Braybrook, for pouring acid on our Mechanical Drawing teacher’s Jaguar.)

    * squashing a similar number into coach Terry Nicholls’ (he took over from cousin Ossie) Monaro. I have strong memories of belting around the streets of Sunshine with windows open and ELO’s “New World Record” album turned up to number 10 on the car stereo. On another occasion, we turned up to a ground on a wet and showery morning with only six players (all in the Monaro). We were instructed not to get out because a mimimum of seven was required to avoid a forfeit. We stayed in until Terry negotiated a “rained out” result with the other team.

    * another squash-in; this time it was Michael “Simmo” Simpson’s red Mustang. His dad drove like a maniac and if we weren’t packed in so tightly would have been flying about everywhere in the back.

    * trips down the Western Highway in the back of Simmo’s dad’s other car a old Holden ute. Eleven kids hanging loose out the back – no form of restraint at all.

    * eleven kids also squeezing into “Bunter” McCarthy’s Holden panel van. It wasn’t a “Sandman” edition but we loved it and were very upset when Bunter traded it in for a used Statesman.

  2. Richard E. Jones says

    DAFF: you’ll recall that John Rombotis, with his mate Marty Warry, had short and somewhat undistinguished stints at Bendigo league club Kangaroo Flat.
    Rombotis was the Rooers’ playing coach and Warry his assistant.
    It was only a few seasons ago, but maybe they laid the foundations for the Flat’s 2009 elevation into the top four of the BFL senior ranks.

  3. pauldaffey says


    I do remember that John Rombotis was at Kangaroo Flat. From memory, the Flat went through a season without winning a game, or maybe they won one. Pity Rombotis and Marty Warry (an old Square player?) couldn’t hang around to see the fruits of their work.

    Rombotis then ended up at St Kevin’s in the Ammos. (I think he went to school at the college.)

    I remember my father liked him he played for Richmond because he went in and got the ball. Just can’t have got it often enough.

  4. Richard E. Jones says

    Further to the Rombotis/Warry coaching-assistant coaching roles at the Flat, Warry can lay claim to one notable statistic.
    I have a feeling he kicked Fitzroy’s final goal in AFL ranks before the Roy Boys went into hibernation: permanent hibernation!
    To give them their due, however, Rombotis and Warry didn’t land at Kang. Flat until mid-January of the season they took over. So with the other 8-9 BFL clubs having at least 2 months start on them as far as tactics, let alone fitness, were concerned they were well behind the 8-ball from day one.

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