Local Footy: Terrible twist colours the tale of Tom and George

By Bill Walker

Tom Hill. Now there’s a bloke’s name packaged by his parents a couple of decades ago without the complication of slipping another in between. Tom played his first senior game for Wynyard last Saturday. Although there were other high-profile “must win” contests, important milestones and sad dedication appearances throughout Australia, Tom was oblivious. He was focused on his game with the Cats from the north-west coast.

His excitement showed as he drove George and I along the coast to the ground.
“I’ve been playing at centre half-forward in the twos,” he noted, “but George has been showing good form there in the ones recently. Not much chance today.”

“You might have to sort him out,” I joked.

George grinned.

“I just want to kick a goal,” Tom continued.

I hung out a bait. “What about a goal with your first kick in senior footy”?


Tom, like George, had played the round ball game at school. They were not acquainted when their teams met in an independent-school state final several years ago. Tom’s team (bloody southerners) were strong and won 3-0. I remember. I was coaching George’s team. I complimented Tom’s team in their rooms after the game.
They met by chance in a pub earlier this year after Tom and his mates arrived in Burnie for fourth year practical studies in his medical degree. Tom’s peers continued playing soccer but he thought he would have a crack at footy so he followed George to Wynyard.

Tom was developing well, nothing flash, just clever. He had even caught the eye of Colin Robertson, owner of an AFL premiership medallion and a Norm Smith Medal, whose two sons play in the Cats seconds. Colin, now settled back home in Wynyard, has a regular spot at home games near Nev’s road-kill (cleverly marketed as hamburgers) and can-bar. A few injuries in the ones late in the season gave Tom his chance.
Tom was on a hiding to nothing. The ones were not favoured. Worse still, the reserves team had a stirring, come-from-behind, on-the-siren win against a more favoured side to secure a place in the finals for the first time in a decade. Tom was in the sheds taking pre-match instructions and missed the action.

The Cats kicked with a strong wind but mucked about till Kinchy got the first goal. George as usual covered a lot of ground while Tom was sedentary on the pine. Rotation. Tom’s on. He slipped into the forward pocket. George led. The opposition, apparently remembering George’s first quarter the last time they played, had a plan.
The approach came from the side. A red and blue flash preceded a “parent’s nightmare” crack that echoed around the ground. I heard it from inside a car with the windows up on the other side of the ground while listening to the Geelong game. It was a well-executed plan.
A free kick to George but he crouched holding his face. His nose was smashed. He was helped from the ground. A teammate took the kick. The ball popped over the top of a pack to a solitary Tom, who casually strolled into an open goal. One kick, one goal. George was in serious trouble, Tom was in serious form. From the centre clearance the Cats attacked. Tom found space, marked and a second was on the cards. Tom blew it: two kicks, one goal one. A good start all the same.

George spent most of the rest of the game on a bench in the emergency waiting room at the nearby hospital to no avail, with Tom on the bench at the ground. The Cats were overrun in the last quarter. Season over. Both George and Tom were grumpy as I drove Tom’s car back along the coast. George showed his mother and sister his trophy, showered and headed to the local hospital for some remedial work. He told us he was OK. He said he should go out.  Tom showered and headed to the annual footy club ball.
At the ball, Tom and partner made a great couple formally dressed and composed. Tom has the world at his fingertips. I smiled.

People asked me how George was.  “I don’t know”

After another protracted wait in casualty watching the plump, swine-flu girls ducking in and out of the waiting room for a lung buster and returning complaining about the winter’s cold and breathing problems due to asthma, George’s nose was patched. He and the supportive Kate arrived at the ball at midnight. Shame to waste a good hairdo. George’s nose looked like a pumpkin.

Tom offered some post-nasal trauma medical advice to George, who was the centre of attention among the well-oiled crowd.

“That’s as good as I’ve seen, George.”

“I was right there when he got you … it was in play … sort of.”

“Your young bloke is a good kid. You must be very proud.”

George sounded like Mr Snuffilufigus.

I watched from the side, relieved that George was there, one arm around his mother and one around Kate. I was deeply proud of the six-foot-five clean-cut cool kid in a suit, sipping water. But I was really pissed off that a developing, noted ball player had been taken out early in a game.
I was distracted from anger to profound sadness and guilt as I thought of the boys gunned down at Gallipoli and other places. I headed to the dance floor to find Jane. Old people rocked then rolled into bed at three o’clock.
The next day Tom took a break and headed home to Hobart for a week. George spent the day in bed with a headache and two black eyes. Off to the specialist on Monday.


  1. johnharms says


    Shame to waste a good hairdo.

    You are in sync with this wide brown land old son.



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