Last recruit

It’s that time of the year in bush footy. No matter what the code, presidents and committees, sponsors and hangers-on, club men who have worked hard all summer are trying to put the finishing touches on their team lists.

They’re selling hope.

They’ve lost a few. Nugget’s fallen in love with a barmaid in Tijuana and he’s not coming home (probably ever). Bluey’s having another crack at uni. And Robbo’s done his shoulder surfing at Cactus.

But they’ve snagged a few as well. The new copper played state schoolboys in ’05 and he’s having a run. He can play anywhere. The McNicol brothers told Kickatinalong they could shove their footy club where the sun don’t shine after the captain-coach tried to pick up their sister at the St Finbar’s fete. They only want petrol money, and a decent crack at the prick.

And then there’s the big one: the new coach. Just when they thought they were going to have to dry Smithy out, pay his SP debts, and get him motivated again, along comes the entomologist at the DPI. The big redhead who knows how to win a premiership. Professor. Prof can win them a premiership.

The word’s out. It’s looking alright. The town is all keen again. They just missed the four last year. But they’ve got to be a chance now. The McNicols can really go.

The thing is, they’re just one experienced player short. Someone who knows the game. A no-nonsense type. And they all know who it is. The big fella: Tiny. Great bloke. Great player. Could have gone to town if his old man (who could play himself) hadn’t been killed in that shocking water ski-ing accident.

Tiny: as earnest as Boxer in Animal Farm; as fair as Mother Theresa; as reliable as five Danihers; a natural leader. A man with a sense of where he comes from.

But old Tiny’s hasn’t played for a couple of years. Married now. Coupla little billies. After a week on the farm, loves nothing more on a Saturday afternoon to have a quiet quaddie and to sit back, watch the footy and twirl his ear-hair.

And so with a just a few weeks to go before the first game a posse forms at the top pub. The committee – the local Landmark agent, the undertaker (who buried Tiny’s old man), the pharmacist (in his long walk socks) and the Massey-Ferguson dealer – have a couple of heart-starters and, as they tuck into their mixed grills, develop a strategy: to get Tiny to make a comeback.

They hop in Cyril’s Dodge Impala and head out to the farm. Past Our Lady’s, past the war memorial, past the footy ground. Out towards the golf course.

Turn off onto the gravel road. And into Tiny’s drive. Past the pepperina trees. Past the hay shed. Past the old house. Dogs barking.

They get out like Leonard Teale and Alwyn Kurts, George Mallaby and Norman Yemm and walk towards the front door. The president knocks.

Tiny opens the door. He knows what’s coming.

“Geez Tiny, we’re a big chance this year, son. Reckon you might be the difference.”

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. Andrew Starkie says


    Any town, anywhere, every Winter.

    If we can get Tiny back, we may get his mate who played for St. Mary’s in NT during the Wet. Good bloke and has a crack. We’ll have to get him a job.

    Small towns and church fetes have brought many an honest battler down.

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