Memories: Birthday Blues – Part I

On February 11, I reach the grand old age of 50,  so I’ve delved back into what remains of my sporting memories. To be honest, as coming from a good Catholic family one should be, there are quite few. But which are the ones I wish to share, or what are the primary memories?

Footy:  I followed Geelong from 1969 to 1999, with my first game being at Kardinia Park, early 1972 when Geelong lost to Footscray.  When Lily Allen sings, “you’ll be crying like a baby, a sea of tears they’ll call the navy’, that was me post game. I wept uncontrollably. My first Geelong game, and they lost at home to Footscray for the first time in 27 years. There are more positive memories like seeing GOD, the Great Gary Ablett. Which memories of his do you mention? The 14 goals v Richmond in 1989, the bombed torpedo goal from the centre of  Princes Park against Fitzroy in  1994, or the mark over Gary Pert at the MCG, the same year. Too many highlights, but he remains in my mind the best player I have ever seen.

In the VFA I saw a game(s) in Sunshines’ last year in First Division, 1974, in which a family friend Wayne Foreman made his debut. Wayne went on to bigger and better things at Footscray, then Essendon. Of course Sunshine spent a few more years in Second Division before their demise.  Names like Ricky Mclean, Tony Schroder, Brian Morley, Butch Litchfield, John Benson all resonate through the years.  The Second Division grand final days at the Junction Oval, in the mid 80’s with all the associated mayhem and mirth, are  strong memories. The visually impaired man , furious at the umpiring, jumped the fence onto the playing field, then couldn’t get back off the ground, was something special.

In VFA First Divison Port Melbourne gave me many fond memories.  Buster Harland, Freddy Cook, “Sammy” Holt, were some of those who played key roles  in a great team, during a great era of footy, where the players gave their all for the Borough.   The proudest memories pertain to being present for the premierhip trifecta of 198o-82.  There are many more memories of one of the power houses of Victorian Football, far too many to jot down here.

Re the Ovens and Murray I recall my grandparents took me to a final in 1973. It was at Rutherglen, we drove there from their place in Corowa, parked the car on the fence, but I can’t recall who we saw. My favourite Corowa game was in 2002 when we beat Myrtleford, with the players wearing black armbands in recognition of the passing of my grandfather.

Cricket: My first test was when my mother took me to day 4 of the Sixth test v the West Indies at the MCG in 1975-76.  TV memories  go back to our 3-0 victory over Pakistan in 1972-73.  One sad memory relates to the First day of the 1974-75 Gabba test, November 29 1974, the day my father died. The same day Wally Edwards made his test debut. The years in the scoreboard at Footscray district games hold a special place, with sights I cherish including recalling the “golf ball man”  who chased the players with a bottle of spumante after a 1979-80 semi final victory,  Mr James trumpet, Colin Watson, (cousin of club legend, Barry Watson),  dropping his  coins, Bruce Smith, 50 + years on the gate, all of these memories are fresh. Of course the Bulldogs initial premiership, over St Kilda in 1979-80, as well as the performances of West Indies import John Shepherd are worth preserving.

I can always  say I’ve seen the great Shane Warne, and two great Aussie sides;  firstly Ian Chappells’ team , and the more recent period of dominance, 1995-2007. Of course the Windies of the 1980’s were superb. How can I ever forget seeing Victoria wining the Sheffield Shield final back in 1990-91, after coming back from a large first innings deficit. All are good to reminisce about.

Boxing:  Some great memories, though i’m unsure of where Anthony Mundine goes in my memories.  Michael V Ropis, Michael V Ellis, Tzuyu V Judah, all these bouts were different, all contained great moments of pugilism in different ways. Watching Tony, “Mad Dog” Miller is in there as well. Hector Thompson, Franky Ropis, Dave Russell, there’s a long list of fighters, I recall, some great, others good, all interesting.

Soccer:  No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t get into soccer. I find it quite boring, and the diving disgusts me. None the less I have good friends,  such as fellow almanacker Mick Rees, who are right into it.  I have memories of  watching Footscray JUST @ Schintler reserve, cold nights at Olympic Park watching players like Alan Davidson, and Gary Cole strutting their stuff for Australia, as well as trying to follow soccer in the UK, during the period when David Armstrong played for Southampton.

Rugby:  Another game I could not get into. When I worked crowd control, I saw the first few seasons of the Storm. Too much  Murdoch for me.  Much more pleasant though was watching David Campese in the Union World Cup of 1991, and the most recent Union World Cup, watching the All Blacks win the  final. I was in Lismore watching it on TV with a Pakeha mate of mine who didn’t care if New Zealand won or lost. Quite unique for a Kiwi.

Watch this space for part 2.