Almanac Footy: Sassabeet Clowns Football & Netball Club

 

Have you ever thought about jumping the padlocked gate at Wallington Football Club to ironically investigate why they are nicknamed the Trespassers? Are the Edenleigh Editors so named because of the poor grasp of grammar in evidence on their crepe paper run through banners? Have you ever wandered into the clubrooms of the Illabunka Ferrets to lay eyes upon the taxidermied mustelid over the bar? Have you thought about paying a trip to Port Latrell to get to the bottom of why their footy team are called The Baggage Handlers when there are no airports for hundreds of kilometres in any direction? When scanning the premiership ladder of any Australian Rules country football league, most of the nicknames are standard fare: merely mimicking the monikers of the big smoke teams – the Cats, the Dogs, the Eagles, or even the Saints and Demons. However, there are alway one or two teams that stand out for their originality. These are the origin stories of the clubs that have dared to be different.

 

 

Team: The Gap (Vic)

Colours: All Black

Nickname: The Fillers

 

In the early part of the 20th century, the Goulding Gap area saw a large influx of population due to the discovery of nickel in the surrounding hills. The once sleepy hollow, expanded to such an extent that in 1905, they entered the Goulding Gap Football Club into the Redman District Football league. So many signed up for the team that they could not only field a senior team, they had enough for a reserves team. However, as there was no second string competition, the club decided to enter a subsidiary team under the playful moniker of, The Gap Fillers. While this meant that all of the players got to play, those relegated to the over flow side felt slighted that were forced to play under a different name.

 

As the first season got under way, the senior team proved to be the stand out of the competition. However, after a slow start to the season, The Gap Fillers had begun to acquit themselves quite well and even had a couple of wins under their belt by the time the local derby approached. On a practical level, playing against themselves presented a problem, as both teams wore the same all white jerseys. By way of quick fix solution, the club committee decided that the Gap Fillers would have to dye their jerseys black. Once again made to feel like outsiders, their mood darkened and by game day, the Gap Killers had decided to live up to their role as villains in black .

 

When the derby got under way, such was the carnage, there was barely a white jersey without a blood stain. To the casual outside observer, there was little evidence that these 40 men trained, showered and drank together. Though clearly less talented, The Gap Filler’s physicality eventually took its toll, and they beat their senior counterparts by the comfortable margin of 23 points.

 

After the game the two teams retired to different ends of the club rooms for beers, and no mingling took place. At the end of the night the men in black, mockingly hoisted one of the white jerseys up the flag pole above the clubrooms.

 

The fall out was immediate. The Goulding Gap Football Club officials were so angered by the tactics of the Gap Fillers, that they banned them from playing for the rest of the season. However, the Gap Fillers weren’t going to take this lying down. The next day, an emergency meeting was organised at their end of clubrooms and it was unanimously decided that they would form their own club. Dropping the Goulding from the title, the simply became known as The Gap FC.

 

For the remainder of the season, the all black wearing Gap Fillers moderated their violent tactics, but nonetheless went from strength to strength and eventually took out the premiership.

 

Over the following years as The Gap Fillers continued to be the dominant team in the competition, members of the original Goulding Gap FC began trickling to the other end of the clubrooms. In 1912, the original club disbanded.

 

The legacy of those early days lives on, even if the founding club does not. White arm bands are worn when someone close to the club passes away; the senior team refers to themselves as the reserves and vice versa; they still only use one end of the clubrooms and the club motto is – All Fillers, No Killers

 

 

Team: Turton’s Flat (WA)

Colours: Slate Grey & Black Stripes

Nickname: The Steeples

 

Turton’s Flat is aptly named. It ranges between 34m and 39m above sea level across the entire town limits. The plain it sits upon, extends for miles in every direction with a barely hillock or hump. What it lacks in topographical diversity, it makes up for in proliferation of places of worship. No matter which direction you approach the town from, the first sign of civilisation you’ll see is one of the town’s multiple church steeples. The Presbyterians were the first to kick things off by deciding to add a disproportionately high spire. At 100 foot (30.48 metres), at the time it was safely the biggest in the district. The Catholics weren’t having it and topped it with a 120 footer (36.58m) The Anglicans weren’t going to let the Irish or Scots have a win and their spire topped out at 135 foot (41.15m) With the battle seemingly won, the Methodists, who hadn’t even intended to build a church in Turton’s Flat, were a late entry into the race to heaven, and their 137 foot (41.76m) conical tower narrowly seemed to have edged out the competition. However, The High Church of Gary, a religion founded solely to win the ‘Steeplechase’, topped out the competition with a 143 foot (43.59m) steeple, teetering atop Turton’s Flat Football Clubrooms. St Gary, the local builder and Reserve’s captain who built the spire, is to this day, the club’s patron.

 

 

Team: Foranville (SA)

Colours: Black with a magenta sash

Nickname: The Bypass

 

After a new state road development accidentally detoured around Foranville in the 1960’s, the club decided to lean into the infrastructural slight.

 

 

Team: Flanagan Vale (Vic)

Colours: Brown with a red yoke

Nickname: The Oblongs

 

When the Barret District Council drew up plans for the Flanagan Vale Recreation Reserve, the junior town planner, mistook yardage for feet. Subsequently the land allotted was too narrow for a standard Australian Rules football ground. To this day the Flanagan Vale Football Ground is both the longest & narrowest in the country.

 

 

Team: Maganish Larkton Terrigum Norse Park Cudgimullop Teak Ridge Carthybush United

Colours: Green, purple, red, white and teal stripes with a black band and orange cuffs and collar

Nickname: The Carpet Penguin Ranger Moose Shearers

 

A tricky merger that is still sorting itself out at a committee level.

 

 

Team: Sassabeet (NSW)

Colours: White with a red nose

Nickname: The Clowns

 

In 1937 the Gossini Brothers Circus came to the Riverina township of Sassabeet, and set up in the Recreation Reserve. After finishing their Saturday morning show, some of the carny folk decided to wander over to the adjacent football ground, to watch the local football team play. However, Sassabeet were drastically short of numbers and had just told the umpires that they would have to forfeit the game against their arch foes, the Cuthberton Weevils. At this point Bento The Clown made his way onto the ground. After several pratfalls, he finally reached the Sassabeet captain, Bill Moss, and offered the services of some circus ring-ins, so that they wouldn’t have to forfeit. Bill happily agreed and shook his hand. Despite the electric shock that coursed through his arm, he was delighted that he wouldn’t have to face the humiliation of abdicating to the Weevils without a shot being fired.

 

To everyone’s surprise, their new circus friends were more than adequate substitutes. As well as being athletic and natural footballers, their armoury of tricks were a great distraction to the opposition and umpires alike. The Great Calypso’s sleight of hand was a thing to behold, seemingly pulling the football out of thin air at times. He would have been named player of the match, had he not been sent off in the last quarter for attempting to saw his opponent in half.

 

Other good players – Yucky Dacks, Bearded Maureen, Sedrick the OK, Binko Tubs, Mr Bum, Strong Ivan, The Bendy Persian, Even Stronger Bogdan, Des Hanlon, Patch Dumble & Two Faced Vivian.

 

 

Team: Judd’s Leap (Tas)

Colours: Green & Brown Hoops

Nickname: The Gutters

 

In 1947, the township of Judd’s Leap was credited with having the highest storm water gutters in Australia. The footy team has been called The Gutters ever since.

 

 

Team: Gerrimup (WA)

Colours: Green with a white V

Nickname: The Frogs

 

In 1981, while he was fruit picking in the area, a French backpacker called Pierre played a handful of games for Gerrimup.

 

 

Team: O’Farrells Step (Tas)

Colours: Red, green & blue tartan plaid

Nickname: The Blankets

 

During a particularly cold winter in 1963, rather than wearing dressing gowns, the O’Farrell’s Step players on the bench, would hug hot water bottles and wrap themselves in checked, Onkaparinga rugs.

 

 

Team: Madison (Qld)

Colour:  Purple 

Nickname: The Purples

 

Fairly straightforward.

 

 

Interested in more of Damian Callinan’s writing? He is now on Substack: damiancallinan.substack.com

 

 

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Comments

  1. Sublime. You couldn’t make up this sort of stuff.
    During the Colliwobbles streak of 8 (painfully close) losing Grand Finals the joke was “Collingwood are moving to the Phillipines and will be called the Manila Folders”.

  2. Great piece.

  3. DBalassone says

    This is gold!

  4. Classic!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    As opposed to the non-checked ones?

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Haven’t looked any further, but unsurprisingly I was drawn to Foranville (SA). I had never heard of it. Google maps and google general came up with naught. Any further deets?
    Roseworthy College were the Pink Panthers (I umpired two of their games in the 80s). Old Noarlunga were (maybe still are) the Horseshoes, due to the shape of the Onkaparinga River in the town.

  7. Hayden Kelly says

    A good read I have always liked Congupna up near Shepparton who are The Road and wear a red jumper with a white sash .The sash has small black highway lines on it

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