Quietly, a line in the sand.


Quietly, A Line in the Sand.


I went to Southport in Tasmania the southern-most town in the land, looking for the southern-most footy oval in the country, or, I dunno, unless they play Aussie Rules that far south in New Zealand, maybe the world. But when I left I saw the dirt road kept on going.

It wound through the bush, cutting into cove after cove, bay after bay, the trees hanging right over the ocean. Thin beaches and small islands everywhere. It was nice.

Then the road stopped, a short walk from the furthest point of the compass. There was a camping ground there, empty, apart from a filthy old bus, housed by an overweight legend of a bloke, called Grover.

There was a one month limit on camping there, so, one day before the month was up, he’d drive the bus to the other side of the gate, and wait twelve hours.

“Doubt it could go much further,” he told me.

He was a diesel mechanic once. Married once. Took his kids out of school to keep him company.

“Saved this one from doing drugs and shit on the street, didn’t I” he said to the oldest.

“Dad,” the kid gave a goofy, embarrassed grin.

“Well, didn’t I, ya fuckhead?”

He gave me a warm beer and we talked shit while his kids went off in gumboots to catch some abalone for dinner using a screwdriver.

“This is a great place,” he said for the fifth time. “Just beautiful.”

He didn’t have much else to say, really. But greeted well, and meant well, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

I left for a while to look around. This was a whaling point once. And would have had the tallest timber.


There were six graves left in the cemetery. The last of them from 1920. Nobody just died in this pioneer town, even when it swelled, with the sale of whale fat to Europe for oil, to 300. They disappeared mysteriously. They had work accidents, accidental and otherwise. In the bush, in the mines, on the logging coops, at sea. In the rain. Always in the rain, the mud. There was no law. There was no warm weather.

And, by 1930, it was all over. All of it. The people gone. The drafted township never getting beyond drawings on faded yellow paper.

“How’d ya go?” Grover asked, from his battered lounge chair next to the oil-drum fire.

“I thought there might be a footy oval here somewhere,” I said. “But I don’t reckon. This place was too hard, it never made it beyond a shanty.”

“Sure is beautiful, though,” Grover said, his youngest boy dangling me another warm beer through the bus window.

“I was looking for the Southern-most footy oval in the world, but I think I found it yesterday,” I told him.

“Jeez, we can fix that,” he said, wheezing as he got out of his seat. “All sorts come here in summer. I do most anything to help them.”

And we walked down to the tidal river mouth and waded onto its sandbank island, and, with a stick, he drew and oval, and me and his oldest son dodged mud crabs and kicked and tired, without success, not to land the footy in the salt water.

“He has to kick on his left,” Grover called from the bank. “Put and axe through his foot, despite my warnings. Didn’t ya, ya fuckhead?”

‘Aw, Dad,” the kid gave a goofy, embarrassed smile as he put it in the drink again…


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    You make me want to get in the car and drive Zurbs.

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    That’s how it works, mate! Cheers!

  3. Jamie Simmons says

    MacQuarie Island has to have a ground surely? How they can expect anyone to take the their bid to become the 19th team in the AFL seriously without one, is beyond me.

  4. Malby Dangles says

    Good stuff Matty! Looking forward to reading more of your odyssey

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