The young Roys meet Jacko’s real people

It seems a long time since we headed out to the upper reaches of the Yarra to take on the boys from Heidelberg.


Weather: Gothic


Track: Well, Courtenay described it as a Dead5, which didn’t win the unanimous approval of the stewards, but he did concede it was likely to deteriorate during the morning.


The ground actually stood up very well, and the more robust of the Fitzroy Under 9-S were relatively happy to have the Mark of Mud on them. Some of our players were even presented with an opportunity to taste it.


Dante wasn’t exactly thinking of Heidelberg when he wrote his famous work Inferno. He actually had the educational institutions of Logan City in Queensland in mind. When a cricketing mate of mine – a gentle historian who is the only fast bowler I know who’d apologise to a batsman when he sent down a bouncer – was posted to Shailer Park he told me that across (what remained of) the school gate were the words “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”.


But, for the sons and daughters of the soft-handed citizens of The People’s Republics of Northcote and Fitzroy, Heidelberg was at least a smidgin down the continuum. For what good can come of the close reading of torts cases, or the differentiation of complex mathematical functions, or the monitoring of the ASX, or the kneading of pizza dough, or the penning of smart-arse stories, or the taking of blood from a troubled cancer patient, or hole-proof argument from the despatch box in the Legislative Assembly when the whole point of football is to get the damn pig leather and to render injured and forever-wary anyone who gets in your way.


Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson would have taken Heidelberg ahead of The Grand Old Flag any day, and he would have loved it. His sons would have loved it too.


The Under 9s from Heidelberg were very skilful but they had another element to their game. But they were something our kids hadn’t really encountered before: they were (routinely) aggressive.


So did we, in our own way. Jasper and Finn got involved early which was a good sign for the team and Gus was rock-solid at full-back. He took a couple of telling marks and after one of them dashed away like David Dench. Seb was tackling and tackling and tackling. “Good tackle Seb,” we kept saying. We were desperately trying to hold them out.


But doing a lot of tackling is an indication we didn’t have the Sherrin in our hands and the Tigers not only had a lot of possession they also had the game sense to use it well. So what is game sense? Game sense is when you anticipate what’s going to happen next. It’s when you realise that your team-mate is about to get the ball and that you can be the next player to receive the footy. So it’s about how you make position by running into space – somewhere where there is no opponent.


We didn’t stop trying in the first half even when the Heidelberg guys pushed the rules to the limit. Frankie got a whack for no obvious reason and a couple of our players got some good old fashioned roughing-up. But we were resilient.


Yabby Symons pointed to our resilience at the break and encouraged us to continue to play hard footy and fair footy.


It was good to have Josh back. We can learn a lot about game sense from watching Josh. He reads the play really well and then he also has the skills to use the footy to our advantage.


Jasper was having his best game. He took a mark, and so did Meg.


Roman was also playing well, taking marks, and dashing away, launching his beaut drop punts into the forward line.


After half-time we rallied. Olive came into the game although she hasn’t got the same boot as her Mum, Sarah. Sarah retrieved the footy after a goal and sent a torp into next week. Given it’s in the genes no doubt Olive will be kicking like Bernie Quinlan soon.


Frankie bounced back from his altercation with a couple of strong passages – a mark and a run out of the backline.


Leeroy and Roman were working together well developing the play-on game which is going to serve them well as time goes by. Even if some of the handballs didn’t come off perfectly, the idea was good. Learning how to move the ball quickly is a really important part of footy.


The track may have gone to a Soft6 but whoever made the call that it was like Boggy Creek probably worked in advertising or PR or calculated the national unemployment figure.


Leeroy passed to Jack who took a strong mark and turned and saw Seb on his own. Seb took the mark and kicked a really good team goal. Jasper took another mark. Leeroy’s torp was even better than Sarah’s. Roman took a Kenny-Hunter overhead mark which defied the conditions, and he just kept finding the footy. He did meet his match though, being double and triple-teamed by opponents who realised he was a danger man. As the Heidelberg coach said, Roman was clearly best-on-ground.


There was much to be proud of. Frankie put in all day. Henry never stops trying and gives everything he has at all times. Ollie buzzed around the forward line but didn’t get the chances that he usually does. Theo was surprised to find that an opponent is entitled to  remove the footy from your grasp. Just as he looked up to see the unguarded goal one of the Tigers had pilfered the Sherrin and was absconding. The best lawyers in Collins Street could not help him in this matter. He now knows Under 9 footy is no Auskick. Certainly not at Heidelberg. But, like his team-mates, Theo is learning how it all works.


Congratulations to the Tigers who were very good on the day. They have a lovely ground – always good to see gum trees at a footy ground – and they have an excellent set up. Their name is also perfect for the Tigerland song: “Oh we’re from Heidelberg…”


Which got me thinking.


Theo and I are going to sit down and work out which suburbs and towns and cities of the world could use the Richmond song. Like Alphington. “Oh, we’re from Alphington, a fighting fury we’re from Alphington…” So far our favourites are Reykjavik, Kathmandu, Birmingham and Tallarook.


Theo and I find that sort of exercise, like jigsaw puzzles, a lot easier on the hands.






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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    ‘Lizaberf’ works

  2. Scott McIntyre says

    Brighton Beach junior footy club uses the Tigers song – “Oh, we’re from Brighton Beach”

    Their colours don’t scan with YELLOW AND BLACK!, so they shout “We’re Blue And We’re White”.

    I nominate Rankins Springs.

  3. That’s an excellent match report.
    I have similar recollections of a certain culture shock when my own son’s Fitzroy Juniors team first journeyed out to play against Heidelberg. Clearly this wasn’t one of those footy grounds with an espresso coffee cart and a range of gourmet pies to choose from at the kiosk. Many parents were just as shocked as our players when the opposition commenced its verbal sledging and physical intimidation routine. But I realised we were truly out of our depth when I overheard two of the mums from our team talking about their frustration at not being able to claim any of the costs for their reiki sessions from their health insurance company. This wasn’t the kind of problem that any of the Heidelberg mob seemed concerned about.

  4. Trevor Blainey says

    Nar Nar Goon?

    You can trawl the three syllables but I must say Reykjavik will be hard to top.


    I used to write the match reports for my kids teams. Pun laden efforts all of them, full of bad ‘dad’ jokes and fractured syntax. William Leonard kicked a goal once which I described as Good Will Punting. I got sacked after that.

  5. john kingsmill says

    From South Australia: Callington, Ridleyton, Pennington, Birkenhead, Ethellton, Peterhead, Semaphore, Tennyson, Thebarton, Cambelltown, Gilberton, Manningham, Summertown, Clarendon, Angaston and about a hundred others. My favorite might be: Corny Point. And, internationally:


  6. I vote for Reykjavik. It’s weather can also be decidedly Gothic. Tough place to score against the breeze.

  7. Wonderful match report, takes me back to the Pyjama Tops in Morningside in Edinburgh where the appearance of all eleven players with their boots was a rare and to be celebrated occasion. The weather and pitch conditions seem to be similar. Coming up against tough opponents who did not mind a bit of the other was common too. Not that the Pyjama tops were always blameless and the coach always had to consider the implications of a siege mentality on the psychological development of his charges.

    And the notion put about that Edinburgh was the Athens of the North, whereas we thought it was the Reykjavik of the south.

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Risking head and skin travelling out to the Forgotten People’s Republic of Heidelberg JTH and young Roys.

    The few times I played there as a kid they had a bulbous-nosed, wispy haired coach who’d yell: “Ya don’t just tackle ’em !! Dump ’em !! Dump ’em into the turf !!” They must be getting soft.

    We’re from Abbotsford?

  9. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Any chance the Can Under 9s have a game in Melbs post Swans/Geelong??

    You know my feelings for Reykjavik. Hyderabad might work or Hollywood.

  10. The Wrap says

    So what’s the Fitzroy U9s Victory Hymn Harmsie?

    Speaking of under age Footys, have you every heard Michael Waugh sing When Sale Catholic College Played Maffra Under Tens? It makes well up just typing it.

    Eat ’em alive Burgers!

  11. Sarah Nicholson says

    Great story, thanks for recording the game for posterity, especially as it may be the turning point in the season of U9-S Fitzroy.
    For the record, Olive’s gene’s are more Richo’s than Quinlan’s, including the freakish goals and the mongrel punts from 15 metres straight in front.

  12. Earl O'Neill says

    I bought my alltime #1 T-shirt in Kathmandu.
    Great tale, reminds me of playing hockey for St George U/14s, we went to Bonnyrigg one day, maybe we played the U/16s, they were a bit taller and a lot wider. Ka-thump!
    Ate mud a few times that Saturday.

  13. Oh we’re from Baku-land AZERBAIJAN! Yes we’re from Baaaaa-kuuuu-laaaaand.

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