Round 22 – North Melbourne v Sydney: Lunch and Footy in Tassie

by John Harms



I should have done it.


I just didn’t have the courage. The couple of stubbies of stout weren’t quite enough.


It was Saturday evening and the Hobart airport was chockers. Swans players dotted around looking a little battered and bruised from their Blundstone Arena contest. Kangas slouching in their seats, listening to music, passing time, waiting for their flight back to Melbourne. Looking even more battered and bruised.


Umpires, gathered together. A table of ABC radio commentators: Clinch, White, McClure. Channel 7 commentators. Journos with laptops. Tim Watson in his Clark Kent glasses, with trademark gait (or is it a flit?). Matthew Lloyd wolfing down pasta. Board members. Past players. Tony Morwood being gregarious – as always. Darren Crocker.


I should have done it.


I just should have.


And fans. Mingling with each other. And mingling with players. Kids so excited. More excited than any other time during the afternoon, as another autograph was texta-ed onto their footy jumper.


“Buddy,” says P. Flynn, nodding in his direction. “Look at him. Look at him.”


Buddy, being brilliant. Smiling at kids. And chatting to them.


“How long’s this been going on?” says Flynn, his ice bucket of boutique beers almost empty.


It was such an Australian scene. So not like England or Scotland or Europe. It was warm. Friendly. Fraternal.


“Go on,” I tell myself. People will remember it forever. Or at least a day.  “Go on!”


I don’t tell P. Flynn as I think about it.


All I have to do is stand up on the table. It wouldn’t have had any trouble attracting the attention of people. One decent Aussie kelpie-calling whistle from one of the sheep-dippers in the place and we’ll be away.


I didn’t.


This is what I should have said.


“I’d like to welcome you all to the post-match function for North Melbourne v Sydney. Thanks for coming. Great to be in Hobart again at Blundtone Arena. It was a pretty good game today. The wind was a bit tricky but the rain held off and both sides fought it out. So congratulations to both sides. Now, without further ado, I’d like to call on the coach of the home side, Brad Scott.”


Would he have come up? Would he have got it?


Actually, maybe I’d have gone with: “And now, without further ado, I’d like to call on Darren Crocker.”


He would have come up. For sure. Big grin. The boy from Belgrave. Or Ferntree Gully. And told it how it is.


“Thanks Crock. And now I’d like to call on John Longmire, the coach of Sydney.”


And so on.


That’s what it felt like. Like Australia was a country town. Blundstone Arena should have a netball court on the Derwent River side.


We stood on the small hill which was bordering on flat (tan ? = 0.05). The game didn’t climb to any great heights either. Sydney dominated the early clearances with Hannebery winning the footy and the Swans opening the Kangas backline up with ease – and it looked how far the Swans, and look out September. Worse, the Kangas looked listless.


But they stirred into action. The ageless Harvey (he was then, but a week is a long time in footy) zipped and buzzed and zigged and zagged while Wells did the exact opposite, the ultimate anti-staccato player he is. But he was patchy too.


The Roos defence, unbalanced by an early injury to Scott Thompson (who has always had a hint – just a hint mind you – of the Matthew Scarletts about him), let through some shockers which made life all the more comfortable for the patchy Swans.


By contrast, the Swans defence was resolute. Grundy took some telling marks, reading the wind better than most. Aliir Aliir has definitely kept an eye on the great moppers-up and the times he came head to head with Majak Daw – which caught the eye of our part of The Incline for reasons multicultural and humanitarian – he beat his countryman easily. Majak didn’t read the cross-wind too well, but the delivery wasn’t much chop. That both sides chose the defensive side from which to attack made it feel like it was 2016 when sides try to not-lose. Kicks into the forward line needed to be well struck. But if you were Ben Brown your desperation, and possibly your Tasmanian-ness, got you to the fall of the footy.


North were in it all the way, but couldn’t convert, and the Swans held on.


I thought Sydney were better than that. They had been when I last saw them live – at Kardinia Park in July when they beat Geelong in every facet of the game.


Generally this game lacked intensity. But I left thinking the Swans could win the flag.


The Incline was entertaining. A group of friends and friends of friends and associates of friends (our category) had gathered, a collection of people close enough to all be introduced, but very unlikely to ever be in the one place together again, except at Blundstone Arena. But you never know.


One of the crew, a North fan with an Irish accent, came up to me with a puzzled face. “I think I’ve worked it out,” he said.


“What’s that?”


“Do you live in North Fitzroy?” he asked.


“Nearly,” I said. “Northcote.”


“Yeah,” he said. “I saw you on the No. 11 tram on Wednesday.”


The universe has a way of bringing people together. It’s called the Yvette Wroby Rule.*


It’s how P. Flynn and I were in Tassie. It was for the Almanac lunch. A return lunch which had come about after a chain of events which were textbook examples of the Yvette Wroby Rule.


At the start of this season I got a call from a bloke called Bill Trethewie. He was bringing a crew of Uni of Tassie footy players (from the 1970s) to Melbourne. He noticed we didn’t have an Almanac lunch scheduled for the Friday they were coming over. So, given Percy Jones at the North Fitzroy Arms is Tasmanian, we put on a Tassie-themed lunch. Well it went off like cracker night. We vowed to do two things: agitate for a Tasmanian AFL side and have a return lunch in Hobart.


That lunch was last Friday. We rallied the Tassie Almanac troops which included our wonderful Blundstone supporters (who sponsor the Almanac) – thanks guys – our North Melbourne supporters, our Swans supporters, and our other Almanac writers (Adam Muyt, Mark Duffett, Keiran Croker, Joe Moore) and readers. The Uni of Tassie crew were there again. Thanks to Bill Trethewie, who was instrumental in getting the day sorted out. (Thanks Bill) So was Sal Ciardulli who has a regular column on the Almanac site, previewing each round. He has been read every Friday for years – and has had some fantastic runs with his tipping (on both the footy and the nags). Sal lives in Melbourne, but he works for Intuit Technologies, which is based in Hobart. Generously, Intuit sponsored the lunch. (Thanks Intuit.) There was also a North Melbourne FC contingent – Nick Haslam, Cam McLeod and Jono Coyne.


The venue was superbly Tasmanian. A Georgian stone building put together rock by rock by convicts in about 1830 and still standing solid – right on Salamanca Place before the hill rises to the park and Battery Point. With grey skies outside, it felt like Tassie. The food was excellent – and the service first class. Thanks to Craig, the proprietor (known as Nuttsy from his playing days at the Uni of Tassie FC).


Almanac lunches are meandering, informal affairs which celebrate the people gathered. Our first speaker was the new CEO of AFL Tassie, Rob Auld, who comes from Stanhope where the Auld family have been sponsors of the footy club.


[pic if available]


So it was completely appropriate that the heir to the Auld Knackery at Stanhope was talking to members of The Almanackery, or Knackery in its diminutive form. He is new to the job and making sense of footy in Tassie.


We chatted with Steve Gunn from Blundstone who regaled us with stories of his days playing for the Uni Reds which then merged with Fitzroy. Great days indeed. And stories of his cricketing feats. He is very much on the Almanac wavelength when it comes to sport.


Marvin Vaas was in attendance, just off the plane from Galle. When I asked him about Galle he spoke, without breath, until most people had drained their pots, at which point, being a Group 1 beer drinker, he sat down.


Sal was very entertaining, his inner-Calabrian unleashed when asked a question about his beloved Carlton. Horses around Hobart, if they hadn’t already been made nervous by the presence of Rob Auld, were put on alert. He told us about Intuit and introduced us to some of his colleagues who were still going hard when the lunch entered its after-dark phase.


When Darren Crocker appeared at the door I claimed him immediately, beginning my introduction the instant I spotted him. He was nonplussed but had the character and good grace to play along and I would have to say he worked his way into the event magnificently. Very entertaining. Great yarns. His Paganisms were a classic. (Can anyone remember them? Please bang them in the comments.) He got the spirit of the event in an instant. My feeling is he is a man who knows lunch, and loves lunch. He also fielded a barrage of pertinent and impertinent questions and all-in-all was in the votes, and likely to get the three.


Nick Haslam, a Uni of Adelaide Black and now Grey, also told some club footy yarns which include reference to Rulebook and Bob Neil – inevitably. As well as something about the place of North in the community.


Then we finished with a Tasmanian – Daryl Sharpen. I read some of his brilliant story about New Norfolk from Footy Town and Daryl, whose closest companions are Wit and Good Humour, captivated the crowd with a few marvellous words – very complimentary about the Almanac – which resulted in a surprise presentation – to me! I received a history of Tasmanian racing, a tie, and a jar of tomato relish. I’ll have to verify these when the package arrives in the mail, as the gift has been in the safe-keeping of the Ball and Chain since that afternoon. Thanks Daryl.


The gift has actually been looked after by Anne-Marie, one of the very friendly staff at the Ball and Chain. Anne-Marie’s father is the late Paul Vinar of Geelong fame.


Lunch took us along Salamanca Place and eventually to D’Angelo’s where the evening finished with P. Flynn theorising with Gary Baker and Angelo himself.


The day was a cracker.


So now we wait for the 2017 AFL fixture to come out because this lunch – home and away – is a must.




Vinar Anne Marie

Lunch detritus: JTH with Anne Marie Vinar and Marvin Vaas {not bad for 5.30pm – Ed.]


More info on the Ball and Chain Grill


*The Yvette Wroby Rule, named because Yvette Wroby may well know everyone on the planet by next Tuesday.


Book here for The Footy Almanac Grand Final Eve Lunch at the Fitzroy Town Hall.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo11, Anna9, Evie8. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Keiran Croker says

    As you know Joe & I formed a splinter group and headed to the Swans pre match function at Wrest Point. A very enjoyable post script to the day at the Ball & Chain. Adam Spencer is an excellent host and spoke with Andrew Pridham, Mike Pyke and Tony Morwood. I also had the chance to meet Wayne “Moose” Henwood – ex Swan, barrister, tribunal member.

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Lunching in Tasmania was a delight.

    Thanks to everybody who made it such an enjoyable experience.

    Looking forward to the transition from inaugural to traditional to time honoured.

  3. Tim Pegler says

    Sounds like a ripper trip. And you describe the airport scenes perfectly – all in together and never enough seats.

  4. Polythene Pam says

    Should have done, should have done we all sigh (with apologies to Warren Zevon) – I am sure they would have responded if you had – next time.

  5. jan courtin says

    In some ways, glad I left Hobart on the Sunday, avoiding the Saturday airport “should have done” scenario. Apologies for not making it to the lunch. I really should make an effort next time I’m down south, but not being a foodie or a drinker, and believe it or not, a bit on the shy side, I tend to stay away. Well, not really shy, but I’m not one for large crowds (except at a footy match)!

    Nice read John

  6. A wonderful lunch, really was.
    Now to follow up on the Nac committment to lobby for a Tassie team. Cause we all know neither the Hawks or the Kangas are the real deal. Or the Real Apple, if we look at it from a truly Tassie perspective. (But thanks for visiting regularly Hawkers and Shinboners!)

  7. Mark Duffett says

    JTH, that’s a complete revelation to me re the circumstances of D. Crocker’s ascension to the podium, it looked totally seamless and prearranged from where I was sitting. Well played, the both of you, it was one of the highlights of a wonderful afternoon – so wonderful that I can’t recall the Paganisms either, sorry.

    Great to meet you, Adam, and I heartily endorse your remarks re a Tassie team.

    Looking forward to next time.

  8. JTH you definitely should have just think if the afl was a real national competition not a money hungry business there would obviously be a side in tassy.Almanac greys lunches always a highlight work got in the way this year hopefully back on the radar in 2017 ( and thanks JTH you reminded me I had to ring,

  9. Lunching for Australia. Living the dream. Well played all present.
    Given the exodus from Gold Coast, why not make them a job lot to Tassie. “The Suns” might be stretching it.
    “The Gloom”? “The Drizzle?”

  10. John, yes, you should have done it.
    See you in Hobart next season.

  11. Haslamwilltravel says

    Good read Harmsy. Glad you captured the unique experience of both teams in the airport post-game. One Paganism I remember: “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”

  12. Mark Duffett says

    Was this another Paganism? ‘If a bloke kicks into the man on the mark once in his career, it’s too many’?

    And steady on Peter_B, I’ll have you know Hobart is the second-driest Australian capital city, and receives more hours of sunshine than Melbourne! Otherwise a good idea re the Suns, though, or GWS…

  13. Good to meet you too, Mark. And good luck with the Crows this year.
    My fav Paganism from Crocs: Don’t tell me about the labour pains, show me the baby!

  14. Rusty Red Lion says

    Envious of what was obviously a great lunch. Looking forward to the Qld event in December

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