Santa’s not so little helper, Superman and Friends and a Fitzroy win for the ages

One of the hidden benefits of parenthood is that you also get to re-enter that wonderful nexus that is a kid’s boundaryless world. Where Emma the Wiggle, Scott Morrison, Maggie the babysitter, Santa Claus, Charlie Cameron, Pink Ted and baby Prince George all coexist in the same sphere of reality. Life is like the film ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,’ where cartoon characters and those of us with an actual pulse are completely at one with each other. My eldest is becoming savvier though. For her, Christopher Robin left Three Acre Wood a while back. But, when she was six, clinging desperately to a belief in Santa Claus, she had her own Christmas reckoning.



“Dad, is Santa even real? I mean, how can he really visit all of the houses on Christmas Eve? Molly says it’s just her parents who do the presents.”


This was clearly one of THE parenting moments. I scratched my chin to buy some time.


“Let’s think about that…” I say. “Do you really think that Molly’s parents could really manage that? How could they visit every house in one night?” Nice little return of serve I thought.


“Maybe other parents help them?” she suggested. Embiggened (shout out to ‘The Simpsons’ for this word), I scoff at the notion.   “Apart from Santa, who could possibly manage to get presents to every child around the world in just one night?”


This stumped her momentarily, but then a smile started to form, first in her eyes and then from the corners of her mouth.  “I know…” she says, “Jonathan Brown!!”



This is a memory I savour. Not only was the miracle of Christmas restored, for another year at least, I had also rightly instilled in her the inviolable certainty that with the big bloke in the number sixteen on our side, or in our sleigh, anything was possible. In her mind’s eye at that moment there was this beautiful and wholly logical convergence – Dasher, Dancer, Jed Adcock, sleigh bells ringing, Comet and Cupid darting out of the way as Brownie was running back with the flight of the ball. Visions of sugar plums giving way gloriously to the new Christmas trope, in our family at least, of JB hip and shouldering his way down our chimney with care.


When I was a similar age, Saturday mornings were all about the cartoons. The pinnacle for me was an iteration of the ‘Justice League’ called ‘Super-Friends.’ Aquaman gilling around using his echo location to summon up some sharks or dolphins to lend a hand, Batman as sullen and difficult as a grumpy uncle, a pre 21C Wonder Woman who served tea and typed away while the blokes talked their way through the agenda of the day. Then they’d man the battlements and get the job done against whichever alien or monster of the week was threatening earth. There was something calmly smug about them, a bit like the Carlton supporters at school.


The economic jungle drums were constantly beating about Fitzroy throughout my childhood – as a Lion’s fan I became used to journalists using tired clichés like ‘plucky,’ ‘brave,’ ‘improbable,’ ‘back’s to the wall’ and ‘against all odds’ to describe and minimise my team. Our wins were always akin to David overcoming Goliath; we were the Darryl Kerrigans of footy. Like Corey Feldman and the chubby one in Stand By Me, wandering along the train tracks of life debating the likely winner in a Superman/Might Mouse duel, my mates and I liked to ponder life’s big questions. Kernahan or Brereton? Who did we hate more, Collingwood or Essendon? And the ultimate sound of one hand clapping Zen stumper: Lockett or Dunstall? Hypothetical games too. Long before Michael Jordan collected his millions for the movie Space Jam, I came up with a similar concept that could well have jettisoned Ross Lyon to Hollywood superstardom. For me, it was not only perfectly plausible for Fitzroy to take on the ‘Superfriends’ but that it would be a cracking game.


On paper, the superheros looked formidable. The Flash could assuredly move the ball quickly through the centre corridor and no doubt Aquaman would handle slippery conditions well. Batman, the self-made hero, had the physique, fitness and endurance to nullify most key forwards. Wonder Woman would certainly be able to rack up possessions at will in the centre square and Superman’s ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound made him potentially the game’s most dangerous forward since Bernie Quinlan’s retirement. But the Roys at the time, ‘against all odds,’ were building a pretty good team too. The young and coltish Alastair Lynch would have a height and speed advantage over Gotham’s dour defender. Matty Armstrong and Paul Broderick would force Wonder Woman to play a more defensive game in the centre square. Darren Kappler had apparently once won Adelaide’s version of the Stawell Gift, so he would have the speed to match ‘The Flash’ on the outer wing. Also, with his thumping left foot kick, the South Australian had a weapon that the undeniably pacey superhero lacked. Paul Roos would certainly be able to at least break even in a marking contest with Superman; hell, with his square jaw, stylised mullet and game show host panache, he could out Superman, Superman.


Looking back, the match itself would have been nowhere near as close as I imagined at the time. With Matt Rendell still formidable, Richard Osborne and Mighty Micky Conlon able to run unfettered in the forward line – the Roys had this intergalactic mob covered. That’s not even considering the ‘good-ordinary-players’ we had like Leon Harris, Jimmy Wynd and Jason Baldwin. If Mark Zanotti could keep Jason Dunstall goalless, the week after he kicked seventeen against Richmond, then he could probably handle the key forward from the planet Krypton, freeing up Paul Roos to play as a spare man in defence. Batman would have Robin with him, but a pre back injury Brad Boyd would have been able to nullify the boy wonder in a run with role. Doc Wheildon from Newborough would have the Super-Friends completely buggered. Wolverine would be a pretty fair like-for-like matchup, but he was from the Marvel universe; as ludicrous as this flight of fancy was (and is) there still had to be rules. At this point, the pedants are probably quibbling that there was little crossover between Mick Conlon and Jason Baldwin, or that Brad Boyd was but a twinkle in the eye of the most optimistic of Fitzroy fans while ‘Bundy’ Rendell was rupturing the footy world. Technically, too, Zanotti came to Fitzroy only in the early nineties as a result of, according to Robert Shaw, some nifty underhanded wharfie fundraising, thus never sharing a field with many that I’ve mentioned in my pregame planning. Those who are nit-picking along these lines are reminded that this is a fictional, elastic, childish fantasy. One in which Ross Lyon is likely to front the tribunal for an off the ball indiscretion which saw Batman stretchered off. Also, in my imaginings, I didn’t bring back Kevin Murray, Haydn Bunton, Alan Ruthven or Bernie Quinlan. If I had, we’d have absolutely brained them.



My eldest no longer believes in Santa Claus. But her Jonathan Brown badge is still pinned, joyfully and triumphantly, to her Lions scarf like the ghost of Christmas past.



FITZROY                                4.2       7.5       13.6     14.7      (91)
SUPERFRIENDS                     2.0       3.2       3.8       8.7        (55)


Lynch 3, Wheildon 3, Dundas 2, Lyon 2, Osborne, Rendell,        Roos, Boyd
Superfriends:      Kent 2, Manhunter 2, Prince 2, Wayne, Curry


Broderick (best), Rendell, Wheildon, Kavanagh, Thornton
Superfriends:      A brave team effort


Brisbane:   The Flash (hamstring strain), Batman (concussion).


Reports: Wheildon Fitzroy, (striking); Rendell Fitzroy (rough conduct); Superman Superfriends, (abusive language, conduct unbecoming)


Umpires: Skywalker, Picard


Official crowd: 17,892 at the Halls of Justice



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About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.


  1. From a fellow Fitzroy supporter, Shane, I love your latest work.
    Superboot Bernie Quinlan qualifies for both sides, but I’m sure he’d choose Fitzroy.
    Re the Santa question, I don’t have kids but worked as Mr S Claus during four Uni of Canberra vacations.
    It was always a curly question when asked: “Santa, are you real?”

  2. Terry Riordan says

    Another fine piece Shane … As an old Royboy it bought joy to my heart

  3. Thanks for the kind words FitzroyPete and Terry. I’ve done so much writing about Bernie Quinlan for The Almanac that it was a pretty deliberate ploy to leave him out of both lineups!

  4. I’m a dead ringer for squidward frm spongebob squarepants who would be the caller who rings up to complain about the umpire in this match

  5. Where are the line ups?

  6. Well played, Shane. Most enjoyable.

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