Is that Bob Neil over there in the grey hair and Volleys?

by Daniel Weekley

 

‘Aussie Bob’ Trimboli handed me a piece of paper when I was in Year 12. It was a pre-season program for the Adelaide Uni Football Club for the next year. On the bottom left hand side of the page were the words ‘May Bob be with you.’

What the hell does that mean? My uncreative, naive, studious schoolboy mind thought.

Six months later and I was at the end of my first pre-season at Bob Neil #1. My shorts read bobneil.com and my training singlet wore the words ‘I’ll be your Huckleberry.’ There were references to Bob everywhere and yet nobody seemed to talk about him.

This is one weird footy club, I thought.

Over that first year I picked up a bit more of the Bob Neil story. Apparently Bob used to play lower grades and was a run-of-the-mill footballer. He enjoyed a quiet beer and was now a mathematician. None of that seemed to warrant his demi-god status and the scrawling of his name on historically significant surfaces the world over. However, there were also fantastical stories floating around about his inspiring appearances in the crowd at grand finals and in times of dire need at beer-less parties. He was innovative enough to wear grey shorts to prevent ever getting the black/white home/away equation wrong. He was fashionable enough to wear Dunlop Volleys as both boots and casual shoes. According to photographic evidence he taught Sheeds how to coach, Hird how to play, Klim how to swim, Symonds how to fish and Warne and May how to bowl as part of his devastating spin trio.

Three years into my Blacks career and I still had no idea if the man was real. Was his name a play on words, something similar to Ben Dover, or Bob Down? If he was real, was he a party starter or boring old mathematician? I didn’t know, but I sure sung his name a lot and drank a lot of beers in his honour. People say he occasionally came to [Hold your] Bowlies and sipped a schooner of West End quietly in the corner. I caught glimpses of a regular looking guy in a sweater and jeans, wearing Dunlop volleys and sporting grey hair. It might have been him, it might not have been. By this point I accepted that maybe he was just an ordinary guy, whose name had taken on an extraordinary meaning.

This all changed in the last moments of the glorious 2012 post-premiership bender. The As, Bs and Scum played in a triple header grand final at Thebarton (renamed Bob Neil #3 for the day). Only my B grade won, but that didn’t stop the senior squad commencing the silliest, most debaucherous three-day-and-night celebration. We were politely asked to leave establishments as diverse as the Thebarton changerooms, Pat ‘Water Buffalo’ Mulvihill’s flat, late-night party spots and sleepy North Adelaide pubs which had prepared for a quiet Monday’s trade, not a large cohort of current university students and former students, now professionals and businessmen behaving questionably. Bovine entrails rendered the front room of the Cumby a no-go zone, courtesy of Captain Sapsassa’s Super Sunday commencement speech. We misplaced the premiership cup, flag and shield. The Water Buffalo’s freezer was never the same again.

Tuesday morning came around and there was nobody left to continue the celebrations. Real life resumed. As I shared a cab home with Paul ‘Sloppypasta/Crash-a-my-carsa’ Scopacasa and George ‘Manchild’ Hurley I spotted a man riding a bicycle down Osmond Tce. He was wearing a sweater, Dunlop Volleys and had grey hair.

I don’t know if I was still intoxicated, euphoric with premiership success or delirious from lack of sleep but it was definitely the same man who I had seen sipping a schooner of West End in the forward pocket at the Havelock.

I still couldn’t confirm if he was real or not, but I had just spent 72 hours celebrating everything good about being a Blacker. It could surely be no coincidence that the fabled Bob Neil had appeared on his bike, as if to guide some tired young Blacks, by then incapable of directing a cab, home to their beds and a well earned two-day hibernation.

Bob Neil isn’t an ordinary man. He isn’t a legend. He is the Adelaide University Football Club, descended from football heaven to take human form.

 

Support our crowdfunding campaign CLICK HERE

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff , Weeks so many , Bob Neil stories and memories !

  2. Homewrecker says

    Bob Neil!

  3. Beautifully done Dan. Odds are it was indeed the Great Man on Osmond Tce. Not only does he have a knack of being ‘there’ at the right time, but he and Mrs Neil live nearby. I used to see them a bit when I lived on William St. (Not quite the stuff of legend like Jeremy Cumpston, whose major claim to fame in the late 80s was that he (actually) lived next door to Bob Neil. (You have probably sung along to “Living next door to Bob Neil” – to the tune of “Living next door to Alice”, by, of course, Smokie, without knowing its historical significance)). I bumped into Bob & Irene on Edward St on my way back from Coles one day and we had a chat about the impending season, the joy of the long lunch and the Blacks community, and the weather. My then 11-year old boy was with me. As we walked away I told him we’d just been chatting to Bob Neil (in the same casual manner that Piglet mentioned to Pooh that he’d seen a heffalump, I imagine). “What the?!!” was his predictable response. As you say, descended from Heaven in (very ordinary) human form.

  4. Great stuff!

Leave a Comment

*