SANFL Round 4 – Norwood v Port Adelaide: the meanest man in Port Augusta

So, how do you describe the elder statesman as we celebrated the cessation of his 70th year? Apparently a football commentator once described him as the meanest man in Port Augusta (he was a backman come ruckman for the Central Augusta Bloods). In what passed for its railway and power station fuelled heyday that was probably quite a claim. As a tennis player, the Canberra Times at different times described him as ‘tough and cagey’ and ‘reliable’.

Of course they were all correct. But sitting with my mother in the Melrose caravan park at Easter time, watching him being constructively busy (his favourite hobby) she said something along the lines of ‘he is the best person I have ever met’. She is the most right, of course. He is the most fundamentally decent man I know and an admirably hard act to follow.

How do we honour such a man on his 70th birthday? Thankfully the timing of his birth and the scheduling of the AFL provided part of the answer. We were off to the football to watch the SANFL Grand Final rematch between his beloved Redlegs and Port Adelaide. The clubs, normally the greatest of arch-rivals (it’s unlikely there are any other state league teams with 66 premierships between them), shared a pre-game function and ran together through the one banner to commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landings.

The elder statesman himself is a product of World War II. His father, Ross, a navigator in a Beaufort bomber that saw plenty of action in the Pacific. His mother, Judy,  a nurse. Meeting, courting and marrying when Ross was training in Nowra, guiding the wings perilously close to Jervis Bay. The elder statesman born just months before the end of the war in the Quorn of Fos Williams and H.G. Nelson fame. Good things can come of war. Without it Ross and Judy would likely have remained states apart.

As much as the SANFL grand final rematch not being played on ANZAC Day is an affront to our South Australian traditions, it seems like a reasonable compromise to play the game the night before. Nonetheless, it is disappointing to think that diggers wishing to watch football after lunch on ANZAC Day needed to wait until the Power game that night or find a TV to watch a set in stone Victorian ‘blockbuster’ which has a history that stretches all the way back to the mid-1990s.

That said, neither Port Adelaide nor Norwood will let tradition get in the way of blatant self interest; both clubs proposing that they have a set fixture at Adelaide Oval on Anzac Day. It is a cash / status grab by both of our clubs that is not worthy of our SA footballing traditions. As this proposal would, presumably, have to go before the SANFL Commission, with each of the eight non-AFL clubs having a vote, hopefully this proposal will be as short lived as Mal Meninga’s political career (incidentally I have been in Canberra all week, hence the lateness of this report. It was great to go to the movies and see big Mal doing an ad for a personal injury law firm).

But, to the game. After a pleasant pre-match function with good food and wine (only a small amount of sick at the back of the throat when you see Keith Thomas wearing a Port Adelaide top) we retired to a vacant corporate box. Dead centre on the third level of the members area (thanks Walker Corporation, whoever you are), directly under the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion sign. While moist, the ground was not yet wet and Port Adelaide were very much in their element. The ball was evenly shared but the moment the Magpies got the ball outside they were better able to get it to goal. Early in the second quarter, despite Norwood’s efforts, Port got out to a three goal lead in a low scoring game. It was slipping away.

Then the rain came…

Anyone who has had kids in the last 15 years may be familiar with Captain Underpants. For those fortunate enough not to meet that description, he is a primary school principal who, with the snap of someone’s fingers, becomes the eponymous hero. It takes a dousing of water to reverse the effect. The best as I can work out Norwood pulled a reverse Captain Underpants. Once the deluge started, gone was the fidgeting and fumbling; gone was the losing of key contests; gone were the Magpie clearances.

In came hardness at every contest. Players regularly ran 30 metres to outnumber Port at the fall of the ball. Little Peter Persinos kept bobbing up when Norwood got the ball forward. With Port up by seven points early in the third, Persinos marked on the lead and disappointingly missed his shot on goal. But it was clearly part of his superhero plan. From the played-on kick-in, he smothered the Magpie kick and slotted through the goal – a seven point play. A goal to Donohue and another from Persinos and in the proverbial eye blink the Redlegs were up by two. Meanwhile, the lights accentuated the rain entering the arena from multiple directions (but generally up).

The mood under the Sir Don sign had significantly improved. As the rain fell it bothered those of us undercover as it bothered the men in red and blue – not a bit. The cold was effectively managed with clothing, coffee and wine. Incidentally, it’s amazing how well 5000 people can hide themselves at the new Adelaide Oval. 13 points up at the three quarter time break, any of the three possible results were still possible but only one was going to happen.

With his fourth goal early in the last Persinos gave the Redlegs sufficient breathing room and himself a Bob Quinn medal. The powers that be are to be commended for awarding the medal to the player that, with 10 disposals, had the greatest influence on the game rather than just the midfielder that did the best job of being a midfielder (James Allan was a bit stiff, mind).

As Norwood swam out 21 point winners, out scoring Port by 40 points after the rain came, this was a more comprehensive victory than the gloriously analog scoreboard suggested. Full credit to Kane Murphy, Jace Bode, Ed Smart, Michael Chippendale and co for their relentless application of pressure in the conditions. Port’s resolve just washed away along with their butchered opportunities.

So the evening ended very well for Norwood and even better for the elder statesman (of whom we gained photographic evidence of him enjoying the victory). For a man who has demonstrated it many times over his 70 years on this planet, persistence and application (and flair) is more than a match for bluster and flair. Happy birthday, Gubby!


About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Happy Birthday , Gubby that beautiful rain just seemed to completely change the contest , outside run is definitely the legs weakness . Our extra body strength decided this contest , go the legs

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve chosen your parents well Dave

  3. Peter_B says

    Grand tribute and match report Dave. My dad started out as a dyed in the wool West Torrens man from working class Mile End train driver stock. Taught me that we could tolerate anyone but the Norwood silvertails.
    The Woodville merger meant they weren’t the ‘real’ West Torrens anymore. Then his granddaughter developed an affection for Port Power in a Crows household. so he took on the teal out of sympathy.
    Then said Granddaughter started going out with a builder’s son from Lobethal who now masquerades as the Norwood captain. Now dad tells me he is sick of AFL he only follows Norwood because of Alex.
    Go figure. Blood is thicker than team colours.

  4. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments folks. Indeed, Rulebook, did Wilkins playing midfield this week help pace wise?

    Indeed I did, Swish. Mrs the elder statesman also had a great (& extremely rare) night at the footy.

    The elder statesman also a railways man PB. The Norwood support coming from (I believe) the Redlegs recruited well from Port Augusta back in the day. Has Rulebook sold your dad a membership yet? He’d be more than happy to oblige. Georgiou made mince meat out of Butcher as his predecessor enjoyed doing.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Really good stuff Dave. What is the breakdown on PA/Norwood premierships out of the 66?

  6. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Luke. 36 to Port & 30 to Norwood

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Wow. Norwood will be a force when they join the AFL…

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Wilkins was good against , Glenelg and did help and duly noted to chase up PBs dad
    Thanks Dave

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