Perth Almanac Drinks – South Fremantle Footy Club – 16 Dec 2011

Enjoyable evening in a Post Surrealist way.  Bit late arriving. Cross town traffic in the Friday Night Pre-Christmas rush.


Red and White Bulldogs going through their paces on the Oval.  Christ they’re keen – and young.  I remember when I was young and footballers were all old men.  Now its reversed.  At least the south westerly doctor is in – so the only bake the players get is from the fitness coach.


Inside 30 rusted-on diehards and a few after-work observers watch training through the glass, while the President highlights the new recruits over the PA.  “Blake Grima – played 15 games for the Kangaroos.  Struggled with injuries.  Over them now.  Will give our midfield some strength and pace.” Approving nods from the faithful.


Laminex tables and the ever present screens – one on Melton trots.  The other –WentyParkdogs.  The Avenging Eagle eyes me nervously.  Glad she came to drive me home after, but has earlier protection duties now.


Les the staunch Docker can’t be here.  His 96YO Dad has been discharged fromRoyalPerthHospitalon Wednesday, and Les has gone to help him settle back into hisKalgoorliehome.  Still independent at 96 – however frail – is something to be proud of.  Its been good to have some genuine conversation with Les over recent weeks, rather than the ritual condescension prescribed for Eagle-Docker public exchanges.  Seems a decent bloke.  Just misguided.


We put the books out on the chance that one of the window/screen gazers may be an Almanacker.  The Manager comes over.  “What’s all this?”  I explain the Almanac and that I rang a few weeks back and spoke to Bob.  “Bloody Bob, never let me know.  By the way there was a bloke in a hat asking for you a half hour ago.”


I get myself a beer.  This is grass roots territory.  No fancy stuff.  And the Designated Eagle has a soft drink.  The Bar Manager comes back.  “I think that’s the bloke who was looking for you earlier.  Over there by the fence in the hat watching training.”  The bloke comes in and we shake hands.  I correctly guess that this is John who posted some comments on the “Perth Drinks” thread.


“Are you The Phantom?” he asks.  Picking myself up off the floor, I advise him that fortunately the Phantom is a continent and an ocean away.  He seems strangely disappointed.


We engage in some banter and proper introductions.  After 5 minutes he nervously disappears back to the oval fence.  Vincent arrives with a mate and their wives and child in tow.  The wives and child quickly back out, heading for the Market across the road.  Vincent and his copyrighter mate show gentle sincerity and interest.  We spend 10 minutes flattering each other about our Almanac writing.  Good bloke, Vincent.  I tell him how glad I was to read his piece on the Round 16 Eagles Cats game.  Good to know that he could write footy and not just elegant pathos.


I ask his mate if he writes.  “Yes – we blog about faith and running.”  “Good for you,” I say uncomprehending.  We get John back in.  He is a Cats supporter and I tell him he has to meet Vincent – the author of the famous “GAAAARY” piece at the front of the book.  John is in awe, and Vincent sheepishly autographs the front-piece in John’s copy of the book. “Go Cats,” he writes.


I am not so humble when John asks for my moniker.  “Hope the Cats and the Eagles meet in the 2012 GF” is the most noble and sincere line I can muster.


Vincent and his mate make their farewells.  Vincent fondles his 6 copies of the book like he is holding another wondrous offspring.  He seems such a genuine, wide eyed bloke, with such positive energy – just like in his writing.  The pen doesn’t lie once you get beyond 500 words.  The ink must be a truth syrup.


Their family is waiting and I get the impression that beer, laminex and the ‘red hots’ is not their natural environment.  Lucky them.


Tom arrives with motor bike helmet in hand.  An old mate of Les’s from the days when they frequented the same local music clubs.  Les wrote reviews for the Freo Herald and Tom played guitar in an 80’s dance band.  The band played the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times, but the local market was tougher.  He looks like Brian Mannix without the makeover.


We ramble about footy and the old days, while the Avenging Eagles does what she does best.  Charm the birds out of the trees.  She puts him and John at ease – and John’s stories rush out eagerly. Darwin, accountancy, books, travels inAsia, footballers past and present.


Tom is now a teacher at a community school, and a serious Dockers tragic.  Has all 5 Almanac books.  He tells a story about a mate who was a serious football man.  Coached St Kilda ressies back in the Yabby Jeans day.  Knew his stuff!  They liked to come down to Freo Oval together to watch the Dockers train.  Serious trackwatchers.  A few years back they witnessed a magical Thursday night training session.  Players jumping out of their skin, all urging each other on.  Cameraderie; team spirit.  Every kick hits its target; every mark held;  not a fumble all night!  On game day they had never taken the train to Subi more excited and certain of victory.


“Got beaten by 10 goals” he says with the resigned shrug of a man who knows the nearlys and almosts of life.  “Left it on the track,” I nod.


Hayden the Club President comes over.  Being aDarwinboy, John has seen every Rioli (famous and otherwise) from their early years.  Many of them came toSouth Freoat the start of their transition to the big smoke.  Hayden and John share memories of the sublime skills of the Rioli’s who never even made it to theAFL/VFL.


Hayden generously suggests we come back next week for Christmas Eve.  There’ll be 150 here he reckons.  “Sell plenty of books.”  “Might do.  Thanks.  See what family commitments we’ve got.”  Tempting.  There would be a lot of stories in these rooms.  Don’t know that I could get the AE to Dockerland twice in a week though.


I wonder aloud what happened to “Maggot”, “Paddy O’Peace” and “Nackers from Dalkeith” who all said they were coming.  “They’re all me,” John pipes up.  “There’s no problem posting under different names, just to keep the conversation flowing is there?” he queries innocently.


The bar closes, and Docker Tom and Geelong John head off with the rest of the punters.  I have had 2 beers, and won the Perth Almanac Drinking Title.  JTH aims to lunch forAustralia.  Our local crew aims to drink forSaudi Arabia.


Mary and I head off to drop Les’s books off to his wife on our way to a pleasant dinner inEast Fremantle.  Reminds me of theMelbournenewspaper that honoured Shane Woewodin’s Brownlow by reporting that he came from “West Fremantle”.  Locals joked that he must have played with the Rottnest Island Dolphins.


Knackerdom in all its diversity.  From little things big things grow!


  1. John Butler says

    Three guys walk into a bar…

    Cheers PB, to you and the AE.

  2. Further JB,

    ‘You’re a piece of string!’

    ‘Frayed knot!’

  3. Sorry to usurp you twice in the one blog Peter…….but…….I won the WA knacker drinking competition while by the pool in a Freo pub a few years ago when the mercury hit 44.5.

  4. PeterB – Loved the summary of the evening. Remember its quality not quantity.

    The question, “Are you the Pnamtom” has been asked for 1,000 years.

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Peter B. I saw a son of Phil Matera play in an under 15 practice game yesterday. Can play.

  6. Bloody Phil Matera, Bloody West Coast Eagles, Bloody 1994 Grand Final.

  7. Phantom – Materas are like Selwoods – they’re everywhere. Wally, Peter and Phil all played for the Eagles. Peter gave you the 94 GF nightmares (long may they persist). Wally was in the first Eagles side in 1987. Phil came on the scene late in Peter’s career. He was a will of the wisp forward pocket – a la Milne (all little forwards are angry ants).

  8. I agree that the Materas breed like angry ants and are everywhere Peter but they are not like all the Selwoods as two of them have taken the righteous path and play for the Cats. The other two have serious issues.

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