Memoir: Northerly, North Adelaide and The Bloke With The Talking Shirt

One of the many nice things about writing is that people will both comment on your words and tell your their own stories. I have received many emails and letters over the years.

Recently, I heard back from Nado Lenkic, one of the readers who pre-ordered the latest edition of Play On which is out now (but will be launched in mid-March – copies are available if that’s too long to wait!)

When you read his email you can see why three books of sporting memoir appeals. This short note also shows how rich the Australian sporting experience and sporting culture are.

From Nado (who also calls himself Northerly in communications).


Hi John,

Just a little background.

I’ve always been a massive Northerly fan.

I’ve followed the gallops since primary school.

In fact, I just love sport.

Grew up in Ballarat. Alan Burton was my favourite jockey at the time.

Went to the same primary school as Robert Smerdon who was a year younger than me and recall going for a ride on a horse with him on one occasion.

Left Ballarat in 1966 for Adelaide, where I marvelled at the talent and humility of Barrie Robran in the SANFL.

I barracked for North Adelaide, as I lived only a couple of blocks away from Prospect Oval (North’s home ground).

Being one of eight siblings, I was lucky enough to score a scholarship to ANU and completed a three year degree in Economics in 1974.

My most enjoyable time at Uni. was

(1) going to the races in Canberra (and having my biggest bet on the Sydney 2 y.o. St Louis Blues, to pay for the airfare to Adelaide for the holidays) and trots (seeing Paleface Adios in the flesh), and occasionally, the dogs at Queanbeyan, and

(2) beating the boys at RMC Duntroon at footy (Australian football, of course).

One of my happiest days at ANU occurred when I was sitting for one of my third year final exams in 1974.

It just happened to coincide with an important race at Flemington at the same time.

One of my favourite horses at the time, Love Aloft, (trained by the legendary C.S. Hayes) was running in the AV Kewney Stakes 2000m for 3 y.o. fillies.

(At Uni, I was known as the “bloke with the talking shirt” – as I regularly had a tiny radio in my shirt pocket and listened to races, music …).

Anyway, just prior to the race, I asked to be excused for a toilet break, and naturally was escorted by one of the examiners in case I was up to no good.

Was so rapt to hear Love Aloft win, that I admitted to the examiner on the way back to resume the exam the real reason for my break.

He had a sense of humour and chuckled at my explanation.

Incidentally, I hadn’t backed Love Aloft, just liked her as a racehorse.

Exam result? I bolted in!

After moving to WA in 1985 with the intention of setting up a small orchid nursery (Springfield Orchids), I have been involved in the breeding, growing and selling of cymbidium orchids ever since.

Love it.

Back to Northerly.

My ears pricked when I noticed his name in the fields for a midweek Ascot meeting in late March 2000 and he was scheduled to have his first start in a 1500 m Class 6 race. Thought it a little unusual.

Anyway, he came from last on the turn (at 25/1 in a 16 horse field) to be beaten a nose and a head into third place.

Five starts later (late Dec. 2000), his performance to beat Old Comrade (under Australia’s  current oldest licensed jockey, Danny Miller) in the Group 1 Railway Stakes had to be seen to be believed.

The rest as they say, is history.

Sorry about getting carried away and reminiscing.



No need to apologise Nado. Thanks for your interest in Play On.

If you would like a copy of Play On which includes Loose Men Everyhwere, Memoirs of a Mug Punter and Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, contact us here at the Almanac. [email protected]


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 three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. A wonderful epistle, JTH.

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