Loose Thylacines Everywhere

Last Friday night we were driving back to Bill (The Phantom) Walker’s weekend shack in the Rocky Cape National Park on the northwest coast of Tasmania. It was about 9.15pm. We’d been to the Tasmanian launch of the 2011 Footy Almanac at the Wynyard Football Club and were taking things easy, this being our first night away, having restricted ourselves to five litres of Boags per hour, per man.
The launch had gone well. The lovely locals received this mad bunch from Melbourne with good grace and easy hospitality. P. Flynn regaled them with his story of the race horse, Devon Loch, which farted in the shadows of the post in the 1956 English Grand National and snatched infamy from the jaws of victory. I’m sure they were baffled as to what relevance this had to football. Still.
Bill (The Phantom) Walker was driving. He was as sober as a judge having sat on pots of lemon squash for the whole night. (I’m putting his name forward for Beatification later this year. Saint Phantom has a certain ring to it). He had to manoeuvre the Hyundai seven seater along the tricky dirt road which cuts its way through thick stumpy scrub and leads to a collection of fibro humpies that make up the village of Rocky Cape. This is an extraordinary place. The houses look like they’ve been assembled by the crew of Playschool – in a nice way. No form or rhythm or design. Just homely weekend shacks with smoke meandering out of crooked chimneys and not the sniff of an architect for a thousand miles. I felt the need to bend over as I entered the front door, draped as it was with a Geelong scarf; in case I hit my head on the roof. And I’m only as tall as George Castanza. The true measure of these delightful huts is not how big they are, but how big they aren’t. I loved it.
I’m not sure who saw it first. Perhaps it was A. Fithall. Maybe it was P. Flynn perched comfortably up in the front seat. I can’t be sure. But I do know who yelled the loudest. It was J Harms.
“There’s a thylacine!”
We all saw it lurking in the shadows….I think. It looked like it had a feral cat in its mouth.
“There’s another one!”
As we made our way down the road we counted eleven. They were everywhere; more common than ink on a magpie, though not quite a plague. The Tasmanian government might consider a bounty to keep their numbers down. Apparently the feral cat and fox populations in these parts are now described as “threatened”.
Strangely Bill (The Phantom) Walker in his sober state saw none of them; probably because he was concentrating on the road ahead.
We took a brief detour to take in the local man made sightseeing highlight – the lighthouse. It didn’t really occur to us until we got there that visiting a lighthouse is really more of a day time thing than a night time one. Visiting a lighthouse at night is like attending a wedding party 24 hours early.
At the shack we unloaded the van and proceeded to maintain our hourly limit of Boags. Bill (The Phantom) Walker turned on his 29mm flat screen TV which was perched on top of a vase stand. It was like watching TV from the moon. But the Saints and Tigers produced a memorable clash. Watching the Tigers celebrate their hard fought victory felt good for football.
The remainder of the night descended into sheer bliss; a bottle of Tullamore Dew, a replay of the 2007 Preliminary Final (Geelong v Collingwood), a replay of the second half of the 2011 Grand Final (Geelong v Collingwood), then a random selection from Bill (The Phantom) Walker’s CD collection. Songs included “The Cutter” by Echo and the Bunnymen, a selection of Joe Jackson, Supertramp, Neil Young, Neil Young again, The Clash, Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and The Cure. Then it got a bit hazy. I’m sure at one point some country and western was being played but that was soon rectified. We discovered that I play air guitar right handed and P. Flynn left.
It was decided that staying up until 4am would be ridiculous so everyone had hit the sack by 3.55am.
On Saturday morning I decided to go for a walk. I figured the cool, clear Tasmanian air might be an antidote for Tullamore Dew poisoning. After all the sightings of thylacines the night before I kept my eyes open for evidence; like thylacine droppings for example. It was everywhere. I couldn’t help stepping in it. It fouled the bottom of my boots. Some smart entrepreneur should bag it all up and sell it to nurseries as compost. I saw a few more thylacines making their way back to their daytime digs. The ones I saw hopped very much like a wallaby.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and lashings of scrambled eggs (prepared by Saint Phantom) we headed back to Wynyard to watch the Wynyard Cats take on East Devonport.
Wynyard was sitting on top of the ladder but had suffered two recent defeats. They needed a victory. We took particular interest in a young bloke called George Walker, SOP (Son of Phantom) who cruised around centre half forward and made his presence felt. The Black Prince was also good up forward. After a tight tussle the Wynyard Cats got on top and won by over 50 points, as did the Geelong Cats over a promising GWS outfit back on the mainland.
We joined in the celebratory beers in the clubrooms with the good people of Wynyard who invited us to stay for their fundraising trivia night. The Black Prince (who by the way is a ripping bloke – more on him later) organised a table. We named our team The Dead Set Dwarves (long story) and proceeded to run a disappointing fourth.
As the trivia night seemed to be beyond redemption and accusations of incompetence were thrown across the table I made my way out into the main bar to watch the last twenty minutes of the Dees and the Bombers. We’d heard it was getting close. What a remarkable last quarter. The Demons resembled a mistake ridden rabble with enormous endeavour and heart. The Bombers just resembled a mistake ridden rabble. The former prevailed. But the excitement grew when Colin Garland kicked what turned out to be the match winner for the Dees. The bar erupted in cheers. I turned to see what all the fuss was about.
“He’s a local boy” said one of the old boys, “lives about 100 yards away.”
Their pride was palpable. And rightly so.

Out of the trivia night awards medals, out of money, and out of a sense of humour we retired to our motel rooms. Most people went to sleep. One or two might have raided the mini bar.
On Sunday morning we awoke in the Water Front Motel, which is located right on the water front, and made tracks to the Black Prince’s house in a beautiful little beachside hamlet called Boat Harbour. The Prince has a refurbished ponderosa nestled into a hill overlooking the coast. Upon his mantle piece sit massive dried out crustaceans that once roamed free in the waters just in front of his house. I asked him how he catches them thinking there would be a sophisticated net or cage system employed.
“I reach out and grab them” he said.
I felt like such an accountant.
He’d graciously promised to cook up a breakfast before our travels to Melbourne; bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and lashings of scrambled eggs. And local salmon. Magnificent. What a bloke. I hope we can return the favour one day though I fear we could never match the view. No doubt the Princess of Coburg (The Black Prince’s significant other who resides across the pond in the suburb adjoining Preston) always enjoys her trips to Boat Harbour.
As Bill (The Phantom) Walker drove us back to Wynyard for the return flight to Melbourne we noticed a yeti grazing aimlessly in a paddock of potato crop. Bloody pests.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Yep, that’s exactly how I remember the weekend.

    Great stuff Dips.

  2. Lord Bogan says

    Cracking story Dips. You couldn’t have been too bad. At least the Thylacines weren’t pink. Phantom sounds like an A-Grade billeter with a music collection to match. Gotta love the Bunnymen.

  3. Who did you send to mark up the loose thylacines?

  4. Thanks for the report, Dips.
    Looks like a pleasant time was had by all.
    I am sorry to have missed the trip.

  5. Richard Naco says

    I must say that I very much appreciate Pamela’s amazing dress sense. No scarlet and black, Pam???

    Well, I guess it’s understandable. Orange IS the new orange, after all!

  6. pamela sherpa says

    Richard, I think I may have been the first Giants supporter to visit Wynyard- hopefully not the last.

  7. David Downer says

    Good one Dips, but I am now googling “thylacine” …ohhhh, ok, thylacine

  8. I forgot to mention the magnificent scoreboard at the Wynyard footy ground, attended by two blokes who swear they don’t drink during the game. Some of the progressive scores were:

    6.4.40 to 6.4.38

    and 9.6.60 to 7.9.54

  9. I am not sure if Colin Robertson still does the scoreboard Dips, he may mistake you for Tim Watson on grand final day if he was, but I am sure that by the time those scores were on the board some of the thylacine spotting leadership group had been debriefing in the WFC Bar for an hour or so. (Topping up?)

  10. The Black Prince says

    One of, if not the, most brilliant weekend for a very long time. A combination of Friday evening’s launch, Satuday’s demolition of East Devonport, that night’s trivia and associated festivities and Sunday breakfast at the “Ponderosa” made for a wonderfully memorable time. Special thanks to my new friends, I trust you all had as good a time as me!
    NB. Dips you forgot about 1.3.10

  11. Paul Daffey says


    Did Phantom introduce you to the delights of a roadkill burger? He seemed to think it was a delicacy when I was in Wynyard.

    It’s a great place – and that was a great report.

    Thank you.

  12. Phanto – can’t believe I missed the scoreboard thing. Colin Robertson looked bigger than me. Thanks again for a HUGE week end. You’re a typically hospitable Geelong fan. Cheers to Mrs Phanto too.

    Prince – yes 1.3.10 had me confused for a while. I thought you had super goals. Your breakfast saved my life and the view from your ponder was sensational. Have you sent the Quanger a congrats note for her 60th Jubilee ?

    Daff – I had a roadkill burger and lived to tell the tale.

  13. Peter Flynn says


    Nothing gets past the Black Prince. Not even crayfish. The scoreboard first went awry at 1.3.10.

    All football lovers must get to WFC to watch the Black Prince kick Fred Flintstone bowling-ball goals from the boundary. He’s a better mark on the lead than Dunstall.

    Daff, I can recommend Nev’s roadkill. I can also recommend Phant’s CD collection.

    In fact the WFC canteen is one of the great canteens. The lamb shank was also a highlight.

  14. Flynny – the canteen also had pea soup! Remarkable.

  15. Shane Johnson says

    And what about the savs…………scrumptious

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    great stuff, dips. felt like i was there.

    like dd, I have to consult google

  17. Andrew Starkie says

    Ok, Tassie Tiger.

    Different to a Tassie Devil, right?

    I can recall at a very young age a cousinn poking his finger through the chicken wire and into the mouth of a very pissed off TD at a reptile park in the ‘bool. he pulled it out just before it was bitten off. he laughed, i stood and stared in complete shock.

    Or am I imaging that? Do TDs exist? Hope so, it would ruin a very vivid childhood memory.

  18. Peter Flynn says

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