Tennis, snoring and the punt: a reflection

A few years ago, when I was writing Memoirs of a Mug Punter, I got in to a lovely routine. I’d start writing just after AM finished and stick at it (with occasional glances at the form guide) until midday or so. Then I’d have a bit of lunch. On a good day: left-over pizza. (These were the days when The Handicapper was just coming on to the scene, and I was still able to get the double deal even though the local pizza joint didn’t do a double deal.) On an ordinary day: baked beans on toast. Then I’d either head to the golf course, or (more often) to the local Trans-Australian Bank.

The Ashgrove TAB is a winter paradise. When the chilly southerlies (which originate from somewhere between Antarctica and Drumcondra blow in Queensland there are few better places to be than in the sunshine next to the western windows trying to make a quid out of the Bankstown trots and the Kilcoy gallops (the Moonee Valley of the north) while waiting for the Casino greys to kick in.

These were the days before internet punting had taken off; the days when you had a local TAB, and you knew a few of the reprobates domiciled in it: some retirees, some escapees (from work), some unemployed, some unemployable. A brotherhood of the unlucky.

That sunshine could really get to you. There were days when, head down filling in your trifecta ticket at Boort trots, you’d hear the first snore of a punter’s mid-afternoon nod-off. Not Merrie Melodies, open-and-shut the drawers snoring. But wind instrument noise none-the-less. You’d look over to see old Mick, toothless mouth agape like a corpse, and you knew it was only a matter of seconds before his neck would collapse under the weight of his big box-head, and he’d wake himself up.

From that day I have always known that snoring and punting are entwined.

For a start, what would the form guide be without all those mandatory cure-for-snoring ads? They have been the bread and butter of those who provide that significant public service since Kingston Town won his third Cox Plate.

Equally, tennis and snoring are inextricably linked.

I come from a long line of snorers. When travelling along the Newell as kids we would sometimes get a motel around Gilgandra, or Coonabarrabran, or Peak Hill. We all understood the importance of getting to sleep before my mother else we might go the way of my youngest brother who once spent the night in the back seat of the family car in a motel carpark in Moree.

I’m not convinced I snore these days, but The Handicapper wakes me up about fourteen times a night, to tell me when I am. But I only snore when I’m on my back.

When love is young that is no problem. But, not long after our wedding day (the Easter Saturday when Sunline won the Doncaster) I noticed The Handicapper working on a rather unusual garment.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making you some new pyjamas,” she said.

“But I don’t wear pyjamas,” I said.

“You’re about to,” she said.

She had purchased a packet of plastic golf balls and was sewing them in to the back of an old T-shirt.

“This should work,” she said, thrusting the garment at me. “You’ll never sleep on your back again.”

I can now tell you that scientific research has identified that eight plastic golf ball are no match for eight glasses of red wine.

So she stepped it up. She went looking for tennis balls.

These days I don’t so much associate red wine with snoring, I associate red wine with the couch.

After Li Na’s fine semi-final win yesterday she explained she was surprised to beat world number one Caroline Wozniacki because she had endured a night of rather interrupted sleep due to her husband’s snoring. This was brilliant on a stack of levels, and got the appropriate response. We can all just hope that the Chinese manual on post-match sports interviews is as different as Li Na’s comments suggest.

But consider this: if she can play so well after a dud night’s sleep, how good is she?

Surely she’s a better chance than the very generous $3 on offer at TattsBet.

I’m heading to the Ashgrove TAB to get on.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – I’m just back from two weeks of snoring…ahh, two weeks of holiday. Watched quite a bit of the tennis via the Prime 7 channel (when the TV in the cabin decided to work that is) and enjoyed most of it. It was part of the night time routine. Realx under the beautiful plane trees after a day of skiing and swimming, have a beer, go inside to watch some tennis, go back outside to have another beer, go back inside to watch more etc etc…….you get the drift. A few nights ended in quiet conversation at 3.30am – magnificent. I particularly enjoyed seeing a non-squealing player win (Li Na). Even Djokovic screams now.

  2. If you were drinking rum she would have real cause for complaint….

  3. Having spent many nights awake listening to you snore and, indeed, taping same during the Confessions road trip I have every sympathy for the Handicapper. After a big night on the grog I recommend Snore-eze by Brauer. No snoring I am informed.

  4. John, just read this (not sure why – I’m in a tutorial at QUT). Anyway, I live in Ashgrove but have never been to the Ashgrove TAB. I’ll pop in on the way home. Cheers.

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