That was the day that Fev came to town

Didn’t you hear? Fev was coming! The way the news was conveyed in the local papers was like everyone within the borders of the City of Rockingham had collectively won the golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The news had been announced months ago but the day had finally arrived with the former Carlton and (I guess) Brisbane man-child Brendan Fevola playing a one off game with the Rockingham Rams in the Peel Football League along with conducting coaching clinics and the odd sportsman’s night (sans dildo). This would be beneficial for both sides of the deal. For the Rams it would be something to get a bit more at the gate and definitely over the bar while for Fev it was a pay day and a chance to once again be adored and deplored on the football field.

This wasn’t the first time the Rams had got a ring-in to trot out for the seniors. Long ago when they had first switched to the Peel League from the WAFL they had signed up Craig Edwards who was a former Sandover Medallist and by the looks of it former player as he lumbered around the field and took the club’s money for doing not much at all. Then there was Wally Matera who was mainly seen injured and with his then toddler son Brandon around the club always wanting to help out the club in some way to give some back.

The Peel Football League had only been around just over 20 years but was a typical regional competition full of ex AFL/WAFL players cashing in (Rod Tregenza has kicked 1303 goals in 7 seasons for South Mandurah), supporters in the drinking areas yelling out put downs that you would have to say lack the wit of QI all mixed in with some sheer onfield brutality at times that would make David Rhys Jones look like a travelling Jesuit. Rockingham had only won the competition once when in the city’s centenary year of 1997 they had beaten Pinjarra. A major memory of mine from that game when helping out on the radio coverage was someone jumping on the microphone before the medal presentations to warn everyone that there was a booze bus on Patterson Road and to go the other way home. Not exactly Rhys Shaw’s ‘Nek Minnit’ shout out from the MCG presentation dais last year but memorable none the less. In 2012 they won all but one game all year and then went down to Waroona in the Grand Final by less than a goal to go on top of defeat to the same team in the granny the year before.

It would be Waroona they would play today.

My brother and I decided that this would be a good day to reacquaint ourselves with the Rams for the first time in over a decade and see what version of Fev would trot out on to the park. Like many others we were almost like one of the doctors in Victorian times present at London Hospital to see Frederick Treaves show off Joseph Merrick as a medical abomination. It was a fine mix of horror and curiosity. It must’ve been a big event, for the first time since that final Premiership in 1997 cars weren’t allowed to park around the ground. This was all very serious for the club.

After the trip down the freeway that I’d done too many times to remember I met up with my brother and some friends who I mentioned in an Almanac article a few weeks ago as being Carlton fans by pain of death. Any piece of merchandise featuring the Fev was with them and would probably get their kids signed and mounted like White Rhinos if Fev accidently got them with a swish of the marker pen. The crowd was large, more than the usual handful you would get to one of these games and it wasn’t just the throng of expected Carlton fans either.

There were committee men and other volunteers running around everywhere keeping the bars and food stalls stocked, kids bored already and rolling up down the hills behind the goals or pestering their parents to purchase them concentrated sugar and the usual community advertising you’d get at outer city games like this with everything from butchers to tyre fitters splashed on signs around the ground. It had obviously been a big night the night before too with smashed glass, party poppers and the odd spew stain in the car park walking up to gate indicating a 21st and/or wedding had been hosted at the hired out Rams club rooms the night before. The car park and park next door ($5 parking fee) were packed too with mainly four-wheel-drives featuring everything from Bundy stickers and plenty of Carlton membership stickers from over the years indicating that Carlton still perhaps thought that we knew they were coming.

People were there though to see what kind of shenanigans Fev was expected to do like a performing seal. The Rams hierarchy were expecting the big crowd to help pay back their investment with another massive marquee set up to cater for the drinkers. There was no banner for Fev, no guard of honour from the Premiers and he didn’t lead the team out, he was just another player in the Red, White and Black stripes of Rockingham at a ground that had the backdrop of a massive shopping centre rather than Kitchener, Yarra or Kardinia Park.

Fev started off slow as Waroona showed why they’ve won the past 4 league flags with a flurry of early goals. Perhaps it may have also been because he had been trotted up in front of the sponsors some 60 minutes before the game in the club rooms but Fev was getting frustrated, not because he is disappointing the large crowd but because was being provided with no service and getting beaten by his opponent when he did. The only time I had seen Fev in the flesh was in late 2009 when Carlton defeated Geelong and when he wasn’t out on a lead he was 10 metres behind the play with hands on hips and sucking up air when not giving a teammate a serve…this was much the same.

In the second quarter he (and the Rams) start to get it together and take the game to Waroona. Just to almost symbolise how hot and sometimes cold his career was Fev announced his arrival with a brilliant contested mark over 3 opposition players and slotted the resulting set shot through for his first with a great rowdy cheer from the crowd and the odd beeping of a horn from the fast food and ice cream vans parked around the outskirts.

“He didn’t even do that for Carlton!” was one hopeful true believer’s opinion that Fev still had it.

He then had Rockingham to within a couple of goals with a fine lead and mark that he slot through with the resulting kick. The man was starting to rise and so was the crowd who were finding some local pride and cheering on a side they either hadn’t seen in years or never seen. Half time, Waroona by a couple and Fev surrounded by rabid starstruck kids and the odd hopeful starstruck middle aged woman as the teams ran off.

In the second half Fev showed what we wanted to see just as the crowd were settling in from their half time duties or the alcohol they’d consumed had wrapped them up like dad’s old jumper when you were a kid. He slotted through 4 goals including a snap, dribbled one through like a 32 year old Christiano Ronaldo who had fallen off the wagon and two set shots with his not so considerable extra girth giving the kicks more grunt. One of the set shots puts Rockingham within a kick and it was a brilliant drop kick that went on for what seems like 60 metres to the cheers and whistles of the delighted hordes be it Blues orientated or not with the ball clearing the perimeter fence and bouncing out on to Reid Street.

Waroona tried a swap and also blocking the hole but Fev is now in the zone and looking like he enjoyed being there and seemingly getting a major every time the crowd got on his back for not chasing or going in with the bump (which he never did either of in his AFL career either to be fair). It was best described that Fev was an AFL player with a Country Footballer attitude and that was perhaps on show in the second half of this game. My Carlton mate Dave was in my ear with his drunken glow claiming that Carlton would be a Top 4 side if they didn’t let Fev go and sounding like a regretful lover seeing a girl he let go with another man.

Rockingham were well in control in the final quarter and it seemed the Waroona side had their mind on how to get an autograph or photo after the game like many others there. This meant Fev opened up and kicked another four to finish off his contribution to Rockingham’s quest for a first flag in 16 years. The first two goals were regulation marks and goals with the crowd baying for more in what was turning in to a rowdy afternoon for those around the ground. The crowd willed the Rams on and by that they were willing on their one off full forward to get to the magical 10 mark (something he never did for Carlton) and it seemed as though the umpires wanted him to do so too.

His ninth was from a 50 metre penalty that had everyone baffled as it did overjoyed. Then a minute later he collected the ball in the pocket and snapped but was it true? It seemed to go straight over the goalpost but the goal umpire gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave it both fingers with Fev having his arms up in the air and the goofy grin for the applauding and cheering fans who were well entertained from the afternoon proceedings.

This seemed to be the end for the big man like 10 goals was a KPI in the contract and he was benched half way through the last quarter. Besotted kids and others were popping their heads over the fence near the bench to nab an autograph or make some comment with Fev obliging with the former and laughing at the latter. With the game over the Rams had defeated their Grand Final nemesis by 7 goals or so in the end with a fine second half. The side sang the song out on the field (a bastardised version of ‘Oh when the Saints go marching in’) as opposed to in the sheds for all to join in with before Fev was set upon by the fans for autographs and photos as he tried to make his escaped but he obliged for all and loved it. There was something all very Palm Sunday about it but without a donkey, palms or quite so perfect messiah.

It was time to make our escape with most heading straight home after having something signed by the star attraction with the rest heading to the clubrooms for ‘one more for the road’ and risking the wrath of their better halves but it wasn’t every day the club had an event like this. Hell, for a place this size compared to others in the Peel League it was a major underachievement they hadn’t more than 1 flag in 20 years. It was good to be back at the ground for an afternoon that had been surreal more than anything else with a big coup achieved by a not so glamorous club. After not drinking I decided to drive back up to the Bayswater badlands by way of Patterson Road to relive an old memory seeing as it was a day for things like that…there was no booze bus this time.

Comments

  1. Earl O'Neill says:

    Great story, thanx.

  2. Basso Divor says:

    Great write up Dennis. I enjoyed the comparison of Fev’s day out to “…Frederick Treaves show(ing) off Joseph Merrick as a medical abomination.” If Fev misses out on an NFL punter’s contract, perhaps he could get a gig with the Jim Rose circus!

  3. I’d love to have been there. Very entertaining report DG. Maybe we could get an entire book out of Fev on Tour. The Daryl Sharpen New Norfolk piece is outstanding and Sam Duncan has some ripper observations from up Yarrawonga way. Or maybe Fev and Aker on tour.

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