Man on the gate

Brendan Ryan’s father stands at this shed at the Panmure footy ground and collects the entry fee from the cars and visitors who enter the ground.


Panmure footy ground


By Brendan Ryan


Oilskin keeping out the cold

the muscles in his legs wearing down

through the under 12s, netball, under 14s,

under 18s, reserves and finally seniors around two.

A job we all expect somebody to do.

A man who complements the scene

of cars nosed up to the boundary fence,

kids walking around with a piece of cardboard

displaying the winning raffle ticket.

Panicked voices rifling through the air –

kick it Moorey. The crowd by the clubrooms

groaning like an ancient ship – red faces, stubbie holders,

Club jackets sponsored by local businesses,

a gathering necessary as a pie from the canteen.

Certain women cheerfully handing over Cherry Ripes,

polystyrene cups with scalding tea. Each person

connected through marriage, kinder, school

or just plain proximity. Generations of neighbours

realizing their duty, lives flowing through moments

of a job – somebody has to blow the siren,

somebody has to cut up oranges into quarters,

somebody has to collect the footy after it sails

over Monk’s barbed wire fence,

somebody has to sit in a car with kids climbing over seats.

It is a scene that swells through the afternoon

like the feet of the man on the gate

shifting his weight on the gravel,

puffy, arthritic fingers fumbling

with the texture of crisp notes.

A small town’s investment in belief.

A community finding something to do.

Each year, he says, will be the last.


  1. I lived for 10 years at Violet Town and watched the community ebb & flow around the pub, the seasons, the monthly farmers’ market and the fortunes of the footy team. And I’ve more than driven through Panmure. In a previous life I’ve sold feed to Panmure farmers. I can feel the lazy Western Districts wind cutting across that oval on a winter’s afternoon. And those last three lines brought a lump to the throat.

  2. Love it, Brendan. Reminds me of my home ground – Lake Boga – I still drive around it on the way to Swan Hill. Former president Geoff King used to man the gate and he’d give you your change in raffle tickets. If you gave him a $50 and expected money back, you were out of luck. He’d then normally pull on the boots at the age of 50ish when the reserves were short. Then make sure things were running smoothly at the after match drinks. Then he’d do it all again the next week. Great bloke.

  3. Rob Harris says

    How lovely. Just wonderful

  4. The Wrap says

    So you’re a Mallee Boy Cookie. My Uncle was on catalinas up there during the war. And I’ve netted my share of carp from the colloidal waters and shot my share of rabbits & hares in the sandhills too. The roadhouse used to make a great hamburger too.

  5. I am drawing up this week’s roster at this very moment.

    Big game coming up at Wynyard, all the old premiership players have been invited for a twilight game to get the locals out of the pub and into our can bar.

    Double shifts required

  6. Paul Daffey says

    I love this poem, Brendan.

    It’s a nod to the selfless volunteer, but is there also a vein of melancholy running through it?

    I can picture the arthritic fingers and the crisp notes.

  7. Brendan Ryan says

    Thanks Paul, I guess you are right. it is a kind of homage to a period no longer in my life as much as it is about the Man on the gate’s approaching last years as being a part of that community.

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