New Norfolk and all who sail with her



In Tasmania the New Norfolk Eagles are a football enigma.


Last Saturday they were striving for a three-peat, which had never previously been achieved by the club. In fact back-to-back only occurred last season, such is the sporadic nature of their premierships.


New Norfolk is nestled on the Derwent River in a valley about 22 miles North West of Hobart and their footy team has been an important player in Southern Tasmanian footy leagues since 1947. Back then new Norfolk was a bustling large country town with employment that predominantly centered around a newsprint mill (Australian Newsprint Mills now known as Norske Skog colloquially known then as ‘The Mill’), a mental asylum (Lachlan Park Hospital later to be renamed Royal Derwent Hospital colloquially known then as the “Nut Factory’) and a vibrant farming community in outlying areas.


Last Saturday I was strolling along Anfield Street near King George V  footy ground scene of this year’s grand final. I was thinking fancy the (enigmatic) Eagles in line for a three-peat. The old timers would never have thought it possible. They were keen to win just one. My mind went back. It went back to a kid growing up in the Derwent Valley and the sight of the old timers leaving the ground after another fruitless footy season. “They’ll never win one, well not in my lifetime.” I recall Laurie Williams saying after a soul destroying one-point loss in a preliminary final after we had led by 36 points at half time.


As a youngster every Tuesday and Thursday I’d wind my way down Second Avenue into Derwent Terrace and arrive bright and early at the big Boyer oval, home of THE EAGLES! I’d watch for what seemed an eternity as the players went through their paces under the watchful eye of Trevor Leo. Leo was a mathematician of some repute and a first class rover. Everything was bigger, better, stronger or longer back then. Or was I just a kid. I recall on school holidays I would go to a mates grandparents’ dairy farm. We used to wheel drums of milk on a little trolley up this steep ramp. It was a hell of a job and we’d work in tandem and almost bust our boilers to get it up to the separator. Years later I went to the old homestead and the milk ramp was still there; it was only about 3 inches high! I was just a kid then and upon reflection I think Leo’s academic skills were wasted in this environment.


Training nights in winter were something to behold. It was foggy and the players did two laps, half an hour of ‘circle work’ and a bit of end to end. The more dedicated would stay back afterwards for a few shots at goal. None more noticeable than the great Peter Hudson as he practised for better things to come, but I loved Ron York. So much so that I had mum stitch his number 6 onto my duffle coat. York was a ruck-rover; he was huge, I was a kid. His prowess was a raking drop kick, although at the end-to-end stuff he could send a stab pass 50 yards just as easily; barely lifting above waist height. I was in awe, but York, in hindsight reminded me of me. I had all the skills, could spin around mum at the stove and spear off a hand ball in the direction of the dog before buttering up for a bounce or two out the back door before sending a drop kick over the house. Yes over the house. The only fault I had was come game day I didn’t seem to be able to get my hands on the Mulder. Mulder I hear you say? We played with a brand of footy called J F Mulder. Never heard of them since. Back to Ron York, as I said he was very much in my mould. He had all the skills but, come game day, just couldn’t get his hands on it. On the odd occasion he did he’d either kick it out of sight to the opposition or miscue. Years later I encountered Ron York; he was a painter down at the Mill. He was about 5 foot eight and I towered over him. He seemed bigger back then, but I was just a kid.


Back to the training nights: observation was difficult. The fog rarely lifted during the day for weeks on end in the valley and visibility was down to about 20 yards. Out of this pea soup players would steam clad in two or three guernsey’s yelling Bobby, Bobby, Bobby or Squizzy, Squizzy Squizzy; he was a Taylor if you didn’t already know. Some of the newer ones would call Cobber Cobber Cobber. I think you’ve got the idea. Lighting was confined to two large dishes set one apiece over the grandstand and the oiled vertical-board canteen. The lights were rejects from the tennis club over the road when they upgraded. Visibility was assisted by the revolutionary use of white footies; painted with Kiwi © sandshoe whitener.


Then it happened. After 21 years of trying they won one. It was 1968 and it was unbelievable. Joy broke out in Eagle territory and the townsfolk celebrated for weeks. Well, it seemed that long. The coach said, “Now that this team has broken through they will take a lot of stopping.” I thought a golden era was upon us, but I was just a kid.


It did happen again, but I had to wait another 14 years. In a six-team competition we were hardly out of turn. Then it happened again, another 23 years after that. As you can see we are not a greedy lot us Eagles. I’m starting to feel part of this now. Then they arrived again in 2009 and again in 2010. Looking back the old timers would hardly believe it possible.


So last Saturday here we were looking at a three-peat. The side went through the 2011 season undefeated. They had comfortably beaten today’s opposition – Kingborough Tigers – on three occasions this year; the last being the second-semi final. In fact the Eagles had only been beaten once in the past 3 seasons and were now being described as ‘A Powerhouse’. All was set. This was supposed to be something to behold, a bookmark in footy history for this enigmatic outfit.


Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. The Kingborough Tigers jumped the New Norfolk Eagles and, as they say in history, “The worst defeat is the last.” It wasn’t their day; they are too old, too slow, undisciplined. All the old clichés came rolling back. I looked for Laurie Williams. I was Laurie Williams. I was no longer a kid. I put it down to simply having too many Ron Yorks.



Daryl Sharpen

18 Sept 2011


  1. Although in Tiger colours (that’s another controversial story) the ghost of Sandy Bay F C has stirred again.

    Good report Daryl.

  2. G’day Daryl, enjoyable reading.

    My brother (Tim Edwards) played down there in the mid-90s and he married a local. I remember visiting him one time and driving around about 8:30am on a Saturday morning. It was practically snowing but the kids were out playing and there were blokes getting around in shorts and flannos with the sleeves cut off. Tough people.

  3. With all due respect to your brother Pete we Tasmainians believe local is synonymous for relative.

    Up on the north west coast there is a saying:

    relatively speaking they’re a pretty friendly lot, that is if your a relative, you’re in trouble if you’re not.

  4. Hey Phantom, I heard someone once say that Tassie could not financially support and AFL team because they could all get in on a family ticket.

    Of course, I have no idwa what they mean by that. ;-0

  5. Further up the valley from Norrrrrrfcck there is a place known as Black Bob’s.

    It has been immortalised in Tasmanian joke folklore.

  6. The Black Bobs one is a bit worn out Phantom. Some say a bit of the folklore is just that. Mind you only bits of it which makes for scary thoughts. Some of the escaped convicts especially Alexander Pearce (a surname synonymous with the area) and renowned for cannibalism frequented the place way back (see film ‘Dying Breed’). But I’ll take you to another haunt within the general region but a little further west and beyond Maydena. There was once a settlement called Adamsfield which was a mining (osmiridium) town; no longer in existence. My uncle (worked for) an undertaker in the region and his stories will leave Black Bobs on the shelf. Anyway glad you boys liked the Eagle story.

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