Stale Gum

 

Now that Victorians are officially living within a disaster area, it seemed a perfect opportunity to fire up eBay again, spend some digital shrapnel and tear open another pack from the past. This time we’re shifting from the sandpit of Kindergarten to the playground of my Primary school years.

 

Despite the majority of my friends enchanted by the gold and silver inserts of the ‘TeamCoach’ series, the 2001 Heroes collection were the first set of cards I ever remember collecting. I suppose their simplicity and ‘scanlen-esqe’ puzzle backs were what had me parting with my pocket money each week. That and the fact each pack game with a piece of bubble gum.

 

I guess even at age eight I was a gum chewing dissectologist with a contrarian attitude.

 

Opening the mailbox to find that the postman has gifted you more than just bills, bad news and Dominoes coupons has been one of the few joys of this period of necessary captivity. Especially so when you know the bubble wrapped parcel you hold in your hand holds a tin foiled portal to the past and a stick of stale gum.

 

Once again, please excuse the quality of the images. A photographer I am not.

 

 

Careful not to destroy the gleaming wrapper, I peeled back the edges in the hopes of an invitation to a run and won Grand Final staring back at me. Sadly, I couldn’t replicate Peter Ostrum’s elation on the cobbled streets of Bavaria, but I guess with a ticket placed in every fifteen hundred boxes, my eight-dollar outlay was up against it to yield dividends.

 

A lack of barcoded summons aside, it was high time to inspect the potential perishability of the complementary chud.

 

Despite the fact the mascot on this once presumably palatable Spanish portion was nearly two decades old, it still felt a wee bit premature in this age of slanderous generational politics to label them so wantonly as a ‘Boomer’. Ludicrously dressed or not.

 

Collectors of vintage sports cards in the US, referred to colloquially as ‘Wax Packers’, are known to consume these archaic sticks. Although still confined to its original packaging, I felt it best to wait until future lockdown restrictions stipulate only food produced during Bracks’ stint on Spring Street are able to be consumed before pinching my nose and assaulting my taste buds.

 

Separating myself from the sticky stuff, I stripped the foil back further to reveal the line up laying within.

 

 

The first cardboard cab off the rank was a young Adem Yze. Having brought up his one hundredth game in 2000 and picked up fifteen possessions in that year’s Grand Final, Yze was undoubtedly entering his prime come 2001. His season culminated with winning the club Best and Fairest with his only All Australian blazer tailored and fit twelve months later.

 

Snapped sans his signature three quarter sleeved jumper and gloves, Yze’s career would continue until the end of 2008 with his healthy application of hair gel the only thing more consistent than his selection on Thursday nights.

 

 

Right behind Yze was a man drafted the following year: Joel Bowden. To label Bowden as simply serviceable would be wildly unjust, but to state he was an out and out superstar of the league would probably over embellish his days in a yellow sash. That is of course unless you’re a one-eyed Richmond fan. His exceedingly reliable performances were rewarded with a pair of Best and Fairests and All Australian nods despite lean team success across his 265-game career.

 

Bowden also managed to coax his brother Patrick across the Westgate to play alongside him before the clock struck midnight on his time at Tigerland. Sadly, neither of the brothers were able to replicate the feats of their father Michael by saluting on the final Saturday in September. A leader in his playing days, Joel continued the trend by heading union movements and earlier this year was elected to lead the seat of Johnston in the Northern Territory.

 

 

Peter Everitt. Pre tatts, mid dreadlock regrowth and post racial abuse charges. 2001 was ‘Spida’s’ most productive season as a ruckman whilst at Moorabbin. The big number 10 had a whopping 569 hit outs (at an average of over 27 a game), setting a club record he would hold for the next fifteen years, despite spending only one more season with the Saints.

 

His departure (along with that of Winmar at the end of ’98 and Hall in ’01) not only bruised my St. Kilda supporting heart, but also signaled the beginning of the revolving door for rucks era in the southern suburbs. Names such as Capuano, Knobel, Ackland, Clarke, Pattison, Rix, Hickey and Longer were trialled and tossed after Spida spun his web to Glenferrie.

 

 

With all due respect, the streak of big names came to an end upon find Guy face up. A lesser light during Neale Daniher’s tenure at the Club, Rigoni did however run out alongside Yze on to the MCG to face Essendon in the 2000 decider. Form and injury led to a staggered career at the Demons, but after back surgery and 107 big league games, Rigoni joined Melbourne’s reserves Sandringham on a full-time basis, winning premierships in three successive seasons (2004-06). As someone who saw all of these victories from either the Heatley or the Hawthorn Ski Jump stands, it would be hard to begrudge a tryer like Rigoni his triumphs. Even when the first came at the expensive of the mighty Borough.

 

 

From one Italian to another, the following card was a of man who graced the dais against Rigoni’s Dees in 2000. Mark Mecuri’s pair of seasons prior to 2001 had yielded an Anzac medal, a Crichton medal, an All Australian jumper, second place in the ’99 Brownlow count and his second premiership. The decorated, dead eyed Don was a barometer at Essendon for well over a decade. A star by this point of his career, Mercuri would finish his time under Sheedy with no further accolades in a 207-game career in which he averaged 1.2 goals per game.

 

A friend of mine had Mecuri’s number 2 lovingly stitched on the back of his sleeveless ‘Speed Kills’ guernsey around this time and in an era when Hird, Lloyd and Lucas brought glory and fame back to Windy Hill, I still find this an odd decision for an eight year old to make.

 

 

A portrait of a man keeping Elastoplast in business and whose barber appeared easier on the hip pocket than Mecuri’s was next in succession. Another member of the two-time premiers club, McKernan was an All Australian and league MVP by 2001. In this the final year of his first stint as a Roo, McKernan had the ignominy of recording ‘donuts’ in North Melbourne’s round six loss to the Tigers.

 

McKernan was sent across Royal Park to Carlton by Denis Pagan after possibly his most disappointing season at Arden Street. In his first season in navy blue, McKernan was Carlton’s leading goal kicker and Best and Fairest, before ironically being reunited with the man who felt him surplus to requirements in ‘03 and returning to North in ’04.

 

 

Here we see pre-Brownlow ‘Bucks’ who has ditched the curtains from the 1997 sticker I pulled earlier in the pandemic for a haircut befitting a leader. Two years after taking over the leadership from Gavin Brown, Buckley led his Pies from the ’99 spoon to ninth by the end of ’01, earning All Australian honors in each of these three seasons.

 

This year 2000 form of Buckley is clad in not only Collingwood’s first attempt at a clash jumper, but also the club’s initial shift from black stripes on a white base to the reverse. This move would be made permanently for their home jumpers in 2001, thus murdering a minimalist masterpiece of a jumper used for over a century.

 

 

At 6’3 in the old and weighing in at a clean 100 kilograms, we see snapped here a deadest Adonis at the peak of his powers. ‘Kouta’ came in to the 2001 season in career best form and if it weren’t for a posterior cruciate injury, the 2000 Brownlow medal would call his mantel home rather than that of the peroxided Shane Woewodin. Koutoufides returned in ’01 to win the first of his two Carlton B&Fs, but sadly was never able to recapture the form of his millennium season.
Post career, ‘Kouta’ became a gladiator, a dancing star and a Souvlaki merchant. For what it is worth, I would have traded any Brownlow I’d won for the chance to feed a balalaika strumming primate, so it’s not all bad, Anthony.

 

 

Finally, we end with a tale of despair and unfulfilled potential. To use the cliché, Jonathan Hay’s career as a professional footballer could have been anything. Selected by Hawthorn at the end of 1996 and debuting the year after, Hay earned a rising star nomination in ’98 and All Australian selection in ’01. Pictured here as a vibrant defender with the world, and often the Sherrin, at his feet, Hay’s form tapered after 149 games at Glenferrie until finally he was moved on to Arden Street. In his time at North, his waistband had expanded, but his skillset and desire had shrunk before he called it quits after only eight senior games. Hay has spoken publicly since hanging the boots up about his battles with illicit substances and mental health demons – a move that like his 2001 season, must be admired.

 

With this nine-card jaunt down memory lane complete, it must be said that the contents of this pack, much like our community, was exceptionally multicultural. Vivid memories were stirred and confusion about ‘Spida’s’ hairstyles renewed.

 

With cases sadly spiking, masks made mandatory and curfews enacted, the fragment of once strawberry flavored gum may make its way onto my menu sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Ed Carmine

Lit grad, luddite and lover of the game. https://fivesevenfiveblog575.wordpress.com/

Comments

  1. John Butler says

    Ah Ed. Kouta circa 1999/2000 was just about as good as it gets.

    And then the knees…..

    I still haven’t forgiven Matthew Knights. But he got his comeuppance – he had to coach Essendon.

    Corey McKernan won his Carlton B&F with half a decent season. That’s how well we were travelling by then. So was Corey, having fled Dennis, only to have Dennis follow him to the Blues.

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