My Brother Graham

By Bob Utber

My brother Graham suffers with that most terrible of diseases, Motor Neuron.

Originally called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the great American baseballer who died with it aged 38, the disease is a progressive degeneration of the motor neurons of the central nervous system, leading to muscle wasting and paralysis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  He was diagnosed with the disease this time last year.

It is insidious in its form as the mind is still able to function in its normal way. Although the patient may lose their speech, they can still communicate.  Graham communicates via a laser beam attached to his glasses.  The laser picks out the letters on a chart and we are able to communicate with him that way.

Graham’s great love after his immediate and extended families is watching sport from his bed.  He is a passionate St.Kilda supporter and was closely associated to the club from his friendship with one of their premiership players and club President the late Travis Payze.

However, you do not dare enter his hospice room when the Adelaide Crows are playing. He waits patiently each week for their games to come on the TV. His son Matthew said to me: “I look up in the paper when Adelaide are playing so that I don’t visit dad at that time because I know he wont even know I am in the room, such is his passion for Crows games.”

Graham dissects each Crows game in its finest detail and then backs it up by having a visitor read the paper to him the next day.  As I said his mind is sharp as a tack and he doesn’t miss a trick.  In dissecting the game he also dissects the players as well and is critical when they make a stupid mistake.

If some one like me , who has a close alliance to the Adelaide football club visits him, which I will be doing this Saturday, he will want to discuss the game, be it through his laser, or by you speaking and him nodding his head, a smile breaking out on his face or his eyes glistening with pride.

He has been particularly happy this year as one player has stood out in his opinion with his dash, flair, ability to get the ball and above all his enjoyment of the game.

Graham knows the player very well and also his girlfriend, who he is always asking about.  Graham thinks he is nearly the best player in the competition and he will make sure that the nursing staff does not tell him “lights out” on the night that the count the Brownlow Medal votes.

It is hard to say how long Graham will have left with us such is the “unknown” of this horrid disease. Suffice to say that the remainder of this football season will be memorable for him, particularly if the Crows win the flag and the player wins the Brownlow Medal.

And who is this player that means so much to him as he sits in bed waiting patiently each week for the Crows game to come on telly? His great nephew Patrick Dangerfield.

About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Lovely read Bob. I hope Patty gets up in the Brownlow for Graham!

  2. Well said Bob. I hope Patrick has a great day this weekend and gives you and your brother much “nachas”, which means great pleasure. May Graham spirit stay as sharp as his mind.


  3. Luke Ridgwell says

    Terrible disease Motor Neurone, my best mate’s Dad died from it back when we were in Year 12. It’s a little known disease but people are becoming more aware, England quick Stuart Broad’s mother died of it a few years ago too.

    On the bright side you do get some quality time with your loved one, who are still so sharp as the disease gets worse.

    What a treat it has been to watch dangerfield progress this year, either from a family perspective, or those of us who had him in our supercoach teams from round 1.

  4. Beautifully expressed, Bob. I was tossing up who to barrack for on Friday night.
    Graham’s story has swung it for me.
    Go the Crows, the Dockers have their week of unexpected happiness.

  5. G’day Bob and Graham, I hope P. Dangerfield has a corker of a game this Friday.

    Two of my very good friends and former teaching colleagues, Eric Simpfendorfer and John Bellamy died of this disease.

    Around that time I was doing some work on 4BC in Brisbane. Rick Mitchell and I tried to find a winner or two. Brad Tamer, of TattsBet, used to give us some cash each week. All of the proceeds went to research into MND. We raised over $5000. TattsBet is now one of the two principal supporters of and Brad is still very much part of TattsBet and has been a terrific supporter of the almanac concept.

    There is much progress to be made in the fight against MND. In the meantime, Graham, despite the debilitating impact of the condition, I hope you find the joy in those things that mean most to you. Like PD and your whirlwind brother Bob.

  6. Peter Schumacher says

    Like others I found this post to be extremely moving. As a second tier Crows supporter I would have barracked for them anyway but not minded too much really if Freo did ge up.

    Now I really do hope that they win and that Dangerfield plays a blinder.

  7. Thank you all for your comments. It is very easy when you write from the heart.
    In Adelaide now looking for a big win tonight.
    Kind regards
    Bob Utber

  8. Beautiful stuff, Bob. Carn the Crows – and Paddy!!

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