Rules is rules – the lighter side

Yesterday was a slow news day in northernTasmaniaas we were enjoying our unique November public holiday long weekend that shuts half the State down.Hobartget Regatta day in January but that’s no good for us northerners; another quaint Tasmanian duopoly.

My brother Peter rings. Having been sulking all day due to the inaptitude of my English Barclay’s Premier League team, Queens Park Rangers, I expect to hear theReadingsong so I sing a little Robin Van Persie one of my own as soon as I hit the green button. Van Persie had recently scored against Arsenal (Peter’s other mistress, besidesRichmond) after transferring to the Red Devils for a contemporary Oz Lotto jackpot amount in the off season.

I expect a swift, brutal retort but what comes after a protracted hiatus catches me by surprise.

“I just heard that there is an appeal by the Ulverstone footy club against the result of the 1975 grand final result” he cackled.

“Apparently you cheats had nineteen men on the field and kicked three goals before Ulverstone worked it out and when they sent a runner out to tell the umpires your runner, a bloke called Roxley Snare, ran after him and clocked him. He hit him so hard he knocked his wig of and the crowd went nuts.”

As he lives well outside the region I am bemused at his accusation but covertly acknowledge his current position of superiority in our ongoing joust of brinkmanship.

With the issue of nineteen players on the field still a gaping wound that even a recent premiership has failed to fully sanitise and suture (which I suspect is his motive for the accusation) I seek clarification from the galahish raucous coming down the line. Even with my excellent contemporary knowledge of all matters Wynyard Cats this one had snuck past. He gave me his source, chuckled again as I told him I could neither confirm or deny. I would have to take the question on notice.

Well and truly on the hook I went immediately to drama’s leading man.

I called Rox, the once hard nut reserves premiership player from yonder days, but now patron of the Wynyard Footy Club, and a great oracle of all matters of club truth and justice often lying lumpily mummified in the institution’s ‘kitty litter’ box. He’s home, answers his phone, and he is quite willing to hit the pack hard when I put the question to him.

He responds in a tone that is as serious and direct as his covertly dry sense of humour provides. His memory, suddenly re-sparked, appeared quite vivid.

“No that’s not what happened. It wasn’t nineteen players on the field. It was about an extra player in the centre square” he instantly replied. “I remember it clearly.”

He started to articulate the story but then referred me to ‘page forty seven’ of the “Wynyard Football Club Centenary” booklet under the heading “Tiger’s Tales”. He had a copy at his finger tips and I had one in the book case. Local legend Harold “Tiger” Dowling had crossed over from an arch enemy where he had played and was coach. Tiger’s memories of the day, and the incident, had been documented.

Part of the story read: “We were not the best side on the field – he said.”

“And of course virtually the same Ulverstone team went on to win the State premiership in 1976.”

 “The way we went about winning the ’75 final was crafty, but I won’t go as far as saying it was cheating.”

 “1975 was the first year that the Union brought in the rule of only four players from each team in the centre square for the centre bounce.”

 “We exploited that new rule in the third quarter of the grand final because up until half time we were trailing and had little hope of winning.”

 “Ulverstone put four quick goals on the board in the first quarter against the wind and I didn’t want that to happen again in the third quarter.”

 “We had trailed since the start of the game and so I told the runner, Roxley Snare, to put another man in the centre square for the bounce.”

 “Of course the boundary umpires in those days spent most of their time looking up and down the square to check if any players cribbed over the marked line before the ball was bounced.” 

“And they didn’t even bother to count how many were in the square.”

 “Most of the Wynyard players were keyed up and jockeying for position on the edge of the square and this was tailored to take up the attention of the umpires.”

 “So the umpire bounced the ball, our ruckman Graeme Franks tapped it down and it was scooped out to Jeff Bates and bang – he kicked a goal.”

 “The Ulverstone bench was still not awake to the move and we ended up kicking two more and hit the front for the first time in the match.”

 “The Ulverstone runner was eventually sent out into the middle to alert the umpires but we weren’t going to let him do that so easily.”

 ‘Then all hell broke loose.”

 When I asked Rox about the Ulverstone runner being hit by the Wynyard runner (as those were the days when you only had one) knocking his wig off in front of the main section of the large boisterous crowd he paused. His eventual reponse sounded quite vague.

“No…….. I don’t remember anything like that happening.”

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