The Albatross Rules: Chapter 24

24. Round 12, GunundurraHeathvale Roosters (away): A Victory for the Ages

Maureen and Con had now been in Albertville for five months. Con had come to understand Albertville’s passion for football. It was the passion of a town that has memories far grander than its current situation; a sleepy place that once bustled. For six months of the year football provided the pivot around which the lives of the townsfolk revolved. It used to be gold, timber for a while and small family farms but the world had changed and Albertville had found itself out of step with the march of progress.

On the footy field a place like Albertville could recapture itself—it’s whole history. Footy reconciled warring clans and brought the members of different flocks together. It allowed men who had come from all corners of the planet—or whose parents had—to both forget and to be thankful for the differences that enriched them all. On those cleared and levelled patches of turf the dispossessed could share a ritual with the dispossessors, the powerful and the meek could meet and all who pulled on boots would be, for those brief periods, accountable only to the vagaries of the rules, the crooked bounce of the ball, the umpire’s whistle and their mates on the team.

In so far as it has been played, down the years, by boys becoming men, and by men remembering the pleasures of boyhood, football allowed men to make sense of the bodies they’d been given or strived to attain and of the absurd physicality of their minds. It also bridged the divides that each successive generation created between itself and the last.

Each year, when Albertville played Gunundurra-Heathvale at the picturesque old Heathvale ground the Roosters would invite the Albatrosses to put together a little league team to play at half time. It was a ritual shared by teams that had a mutual respect based on common legacies. Heathvale, like Albertville, had been a gold-rush town. Since those distant times it had experienced the same decline and survival cycles as its neighbour. It now amounted to little more than a general store and petrol outlet servicing nearby farmlets and the odd passing angler or hiker, and, in the winter, to half a football team. But they were a good team. The merger with Gunundurra, which still had a main street, a pub and a post office agency, had been followed by a decade of success. The combine had secured three flags and only missed the finals once.

The kids in and around Albertville looked forward to the little league match with great anticipation. A number of fathers on Con’s squad, with children in the team were able to share the pride in the jumper. Des and Maree, from the historical society, were particularly excited because Archie’s youngest, Denis, would be pulling on the black and white hoops for the first time.

“You know. Arch, young Denis will be the fifth generation of Pierces to represent Albertville.”

Archie thought for a while. “I suppose he will. Why the interest?”

“Well, it’s an important year for football and there’s been a bit of competition amongst local historians to find the most generations of one family to represent the same town. Three or four is not uncommon, but five, Arch! Five is good. In this area only the Heffernans at Dwights Mill can match that. Do you mind if I organise for a photo to send down to the big footy history conference next week?”

“Well if you think it’s special I suppose we should. Denis ‘ll be excited.” So, on Tuesday night, Archie brought Denis with him to training, in his new, oversized Albatross jumper along with his grandfather, Doug Pierce, who had played in the senior side for thirteen years, in the days when the club boasted a reserves team playing in a different comp. A photographer from the Alpine District Examiner was on hand to capture three of the five generations of Albertville Pierces for posterity.

Word of the occasion spread through the players, who did their best to make the photographer’s job as difficult as possible. But once the task was done they dispersed, except for Peter Potter who sought out Des White. “I think there’s another kid you should look at, Des. I think I can match Archie’s five generations.”

Des was astounded. He’d spent the last three weeks laboriously tracing names through old team sheets and match reports from the archive. “I got Potters back three generations, Peter. That I think was your dad and grand-dad…”

“Yeah, that’s right. Lester and Frank.”

“…but that’s where the trail went cold.”

“What about LeTissier? That’s a name you wouldn’t forget.”

“I remember an Arthur LeTissier. Are you saying you’re related.”

“Look, Des. Arthur was my dad’s grandfather. But when he hooked up with grandma he was already married to someone else. He went back to his missus—didn’t want much to do with young Frank. But he did give the boy’s mother a bit of a hand for a few years before he left the district with his other family. Frank took his mum’s name—Potter—but Arthur was his dad all right!”

“Frank Potter was Arthur LeTissier’s son. So that would make four generations, if what you’re saying is true.”

“Plus Donger.”


It was an unfortunate name for an eight year old.

There were those in town who weren’t even aware that Potter had a son. Donald Potter Thompson lived with his mother in the Valley where he was regularly visited by his father who supported him as best he could. And, now he was old enough, his father had recruited him for the little league clash.

“Thank you, thank you, Peter. It seems I have some more work to do. Do you have anything about the family that might help establish what you’ve told me?”

“There’s a box my dad gave my mum when they split up; full o’ papers. I’ll drop it into you if you like.”

“Oh, yes. Please do.” Des left straight away for the Mechanics Institute, where the local history collection was held. When he arrived he immediately phoned Maree, who dropped what she was doing and scurried straight over. The lights in the old hall remained on well into the early hours of the following morning.

Meanwhile the main problem for the Albertville match committee was how to replace the injured Pirelli at full forward. In the end they moved The Kid up to the goal square, shifted Boof into the half forward line and took a punt on Cartwright at centre half back.

The morning of the game dawned overcast with a swirling mist that would hang over the Heathvale Oval for most of the day. But though the air was moist, the downpour that the area desperately needed never eventuated. The atmosphere would have dripped freely if it could have been wrung, but instead it held its moisture suspended in twisting clouds, just above the thirsty turf.

By the half-time siren, when the little leaguers took the field, it was clear that Albertville had a real battle on their hands against the second placed Roosters, who had a thirteen point lead even though the game was being played on level terms right across the ground. If the visitors could come back and win it would be a good measure of how far they had progressed.

The little Abatrosses took the field full of enthusiasm and soon settled into a hectic scramble, their high-pitched shouts cutting through the moist air. When they scored a goal they ran to embrace in the centre of the ground so enthusiastically that the umpire had to intervene. They ignored tactics and eschewed positions in favour of a series of rolling scrums, much like their colonial forebears in that first grudge match against Mt Logan.

In the midst of all the hubub could be heard the incessant chatter of young Donald Potter Thompson, a chip off the old block if ever there was one. “Too many pies, tubby. Try and keep up,” he squeaked at his rotund opponent; the sort of kid who could squash him flat as a pancake if he ever caught up with him. “Come on ump, you’re making it up… Oi, holding the man. Are you blind? Where’s your specs?” As he prattled on he ran a couple of rings around his opposite number, zipped past a pack, took a handball from Archie’s boy and slotted a goal from fifteen metres out. “Top goal, Donger,” he shouted, becoming his own cheer-squad, then ran up to centre half forward for the obligatory high fives and ‘stacks-on-the-mill’.

After two ten minute halves the Albertville boys emerged victorious 3.5 to 2.1. As they ran the boundary to the applause of the crowd they would have each imagined, as small boys do, that their example might provide the spur that would inspire the senior team to victory. And who’s to say it would not. For exactly what it takes to make a team lift is a considerable mystery that a coach can only ever pretend to know. The senior players gave the kids a big reception as they trotted from the ground.

Without a doubt one source of inspiration that day was the performance of Boof in his unfamiliar forward role. The grand old man of the team was showing his young opponent a clean pair of heels. Perhaps it was all the work he and the other portly players from the backline had been putting in with Perce Nightingale. But he scored three goals in the third quarter, two from contested marks and one from a snap after a boundary throw-in. And he gave another away to the Kid.

At the other end of the ground young Cartwright had stood up well against the combine’s vice-captain Owen Seacombe, keeping him to a handful of possessions and a single goal. At three quarter time the team had grabbed the lead but would be kicking into a breeze that had sprung up and was whisking the mist from the ground.

Once again it was Boof who steadied the ship when the Roosters hit the front at the ten minute mark. He laid a tackle that created an opportunity for Juan Rivera and followed it up with a sliding mark and goal that gave Albertville a small buffer going into time-on. That’s how things stayed. Perseverance and improved kicking for goal had seen them home by six points.

After the game the team, the supporters, the little league kids and their mums and dads all returned to the Albertville club rooms to celebrate with drinks and party pies. Peter Potter and his boy were nattering away like two canaries, while the boy’s long suffering mother looked on. Des and Maree entered the room in an excited state and sought them out. “Peter—and this must be young Donald?”

“Donger’s the name. D’ya see me goal? What a cracker. Good game, eh?”

“A win for Albertville is a great game by me.” Maree introduced herself. “We’ve got some incredible news.”

Potter hooked a barstool with his foot, dragged it across next to another unoccupied one and motioned for the two to sit. “This about that LeTissier business?”

Maree looked at Des and Des looked at Maree. They could barely contain themselves. “We’ve traced…” began Des just as Maree burst out with “You boys are really a part of history.”

“Now don’t write us off just yet. The kid’s only eight.”

Maree continued on, explaining that not only had they been able to establish the veracity of the paternal link between Arthur LeTissier and Peter’s grandfather but that they’d found a reference in a newspaper report of an Albertville game from just before federation to a J. LeTissier who was, undoubtedly Aurthur’s father. That made six generations who had played for The Albertville Football Club.

“Then,” said Des, “the most astounding thing happened. We’d always known there’d been a league up in the goldfield towns in the eighteen seventies and eighties, but we never had any records. But at the bottom of the box of stuff you gave us we found an extraordinary document, a report from a match between Albertville and Germantown in which Gil LeTissier, your great great great grand father, young man, was rewarded with a pipe by the spectators for his outstanding performance.”

“That’s seven generations,” declared Maree, “as many as anyone has found. There’s some kid who’s been invited to next week’s conference because he’s number seven. But we can top that. Because we’ve got teamsheets from the grudge match against Mt Logan in the 1860s. And there on the Albertville list is one C.J. LeTissier. Number eight! Eight generations… I mean…” Maree was lost for words. “…I mean… heavens above…,” her kindly face blushed slightly, “… it’s unprecedented.”

Potter and Donald and Patricia Thompson, the boy’s mother, could see that this was really something. “What are we gonna do about it?”

Two days later at the ‘Football, Communities and History” conference historians and football luminaries gathered to celebrate the grand history of the game. Young Lawrence Turner-Brown Junior was the seventh Turner-Brown to pull on a jumper for Portside, a prosperous maritime centre in an area in which a rural aristocracy had established itself in colonial times. The team from Portside Grammar had been one of the first to play an organised game against another team, a posh school from the capital. Lawrence, had been invited to the conference to be feted as the last link in the longest single chain of representative footballers in a single community from the one family. That was until Des and Maree made an urgent phone call on Sunday morning announcing their discovery.

It placed the conference organisers in a difficult situation. So they rustled up some signed memorabilia and a couple of extra grand final tickets through their contacts in the national league to help soften the blow.

“Oh no! I won’t have it.” Young Lawrence became so enraged at the news of the discovery that his top button threatened to burst open beneath his carefully knotted school tie.

‘Get a grip,’ thought conference convenor, Eleanor Bright, and she secreted the finals tickets she had been in the process of producing back inside her purse. “Well we’re really very sorry for the inconvenience and of course seven generations is not to be sneezed at. But another family has come forward and we’ve looked at the documentation and it appears to be in order.”

“Documentation!” Turner Brown Senior shook his head in disgust. “We provided an academically rigorous family history. No stone left unturned.” It was untrue of course. The book was the convenient by-product of the Turner-Brown chair in Australian History at a major university and selectively bypassed many of the murkier details of the settlement of ‘Landerville’ the vast family grazing property. “What do these Johnny-come-latelies have—’documentation’! I wont stand for it.”

Just then Peter and Donald Potter, who had driven all the way down with Des and Maree that morning, were ushered up to the front of the hall. The surrounds of the State Library were by far the grandest thing either of them could imagine. Potter looked at the senior Turner-Brown’s fancy suit, figured he must be running the show, and took it upon himself to make the introductions. “Posh joint.” He whistled a sustained high note of amazement, “Peter Potter’s the name. And this is my boy Donger… err Donald. I guess you’ve heard the story, eh?”

Ms Bright thought best to explain. “Mr Potter, delighted to meet you. And Donald, lovely, lovely. I’m the conference organizer, Eleanor Bright, we spoke last night.” She pointed to the special gold name tag riding high on her left breast. Potter felt a bit taken aback, he preferred to look a lady square in the eye. Still there it was, confirming her status. ‘Eleanor Bright: Conference Committee’.

“So we have to put these on do we? Come on, Donger, gotta wear the badges mate. Pleased to meet ya El’. Fancy show.”

“Indeed, yes.” Almost immediately she was won over by the new record holding family who clearly knew that a spade was a bloody spade and weren’t ashamed to say it. She liked Potter. She liked characters.

‘Characters. Characters with stories. That’s history,’ she always told her students, ‘Not dates, and events’. She recalled, as she was thinking this, the first line of ‘Unto the Land: A History of the Turner-Brown Family’, “In 1855 John McGregor Turner-Brown took possession of three parcels of open grassland near Portside…” Bah. These Potters had more real history in them than all the pages of that wretched book!

“Mr Potter, can I introduce Sir Lawrence Turner-Brown.” The gentleman extended his hand. Turner-Brown’s came less willingly. He looked up and down at the small muscular man in the ironed Albertville Football Club T-shirt.

“The Turner-Browns have been playing for Portside for seven generations.” Ms Bright announced. “Your young lad has just pipped them. Donald, this is Lawrence.”

“Lawrence Turner-Brown,” corrected the youngster, then he turned his back on the rest of the party.

“Oi, Larry! Shake his bloody hand,” exclaimed the elder Potter. He hadn’t spent the whole journey down, in the back of Des’s old Merc’, explaining what little he knew of city behaviour to have his son ignored.

“I say!! Here; you can’t talk to my boy that way.”

“I’ll talk to the rude little bastard however I want, mate. You oughtta teach the kid some manners.”

Eleanor Bright thought it best to intervene. “Sir Lawrence, have you met our committee?” She took her guest’s elbow and swung him around towards a nearby group, then busied herself with introductions. Sir Lawrence bowed just slightly to each and engaged in dignified small talk, but he remained distracted.

Potter meanwhile was soon deep in conversation with a young student called Robert, who was earning a few bob doling out spicy little snacks on skewers and serviettes. He knew the waiter’s name because he always felt an introduction was important. Nothing too extravagant; just “Peter Potter’s the name,” and a bit of a stiff handshake.

Bored by the rest of the crowd, Robert brought each new tray-full of tidbits directly to the man from Albertville, who he found far friendlier than anyone else in the room—and more interested in the food too. Potter particularly liked the super-small sausage rolls and the Japanese things that looked like cold dim-sims. But when the waiter returned with vol-au-vents filled with a spicy horseradish sauce, Potter wasn’t sure. “What are these ones, mate?”

“They’re called vol-au-vents, Pete, they’re a bit on the spicy side. Go on, just try ‘em.”

There was a lull in conversation amongst Turner-Brown’s group. Potter bit into one of Robert’s treats.

“Aw shit! Those bastards are too bloody rich for me, mate!” he blurted, his high-country twang cutting through the background hum of refined conversation. Sir Lawrence choked on his tea and his port wine complexion reddened a deeper shade.

Robert leant forward and goaded Potter gently. “Too hot to handle, eh? You country folk are soft?”

“No, mate. I’m telling ya’,” Potter countered, indignantly, “I just can’t stomach crap like that.”

Turner Brown’s complexion deepened further.

“Personally, Bob, I wouldn’t wish ‘em on my worst enemy,” Potter went on loudly. “Those ‘d give anyone the shits.”

Turner Brown had heard, or mis-heard, enough. He spun around, grabbing, as he did, the first missile he could find, a little floral table setting. “You’re a damned back-country fool,” he shouted sending flowers and water over the shocked Potter.

“Oi, You can’t just come in here casting nasturtiums like that. You wanker.”

The knighted one lunged at Albertville’s rover, catching him off-balance. “How dare you,” he spluttered, as the pair headed groundwards, “you… you… you… redneck.”

The commotion upset Robert’s tray sending the offending pastries raining down onto Sir Lawrence’s suit coat. Potter hit the ground cursing and the farmer landed on top of him, whereupon his dicky heart gave a splutter and he released his grip. “Crazy old bastard,” cried Potter. He rolled the old bloke over, stared deep into his eyes and growled. “You’re a bloody fat prick. What’s wrong with ya?”

Ms Bright had called security and the sixth and seventh generation of Portside Turner-Browns were soon being escorted from the building, the elder one proclaiming the imminent arrival of his lawyer while the younger blubbed uncontrollably about what was fair and what wasn’t.

“Mr Potter, Donald, I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what I can say.”

“No worries. The world’s full of losers, love. Forget about it.”

Potter had already put it behind him. He was having too much fun to dwell on such a minor scuffle with such an unworthy opponent. He had his lad by his side and they had both retained their manners in spite of the best efforts of the Portside farmers. He had a belly full of the delicious tiny snacks courtesy of his young dinner-suited acquaintance, with whom he’d struck an unlikely rapport. “Good onya, Pete,” Robert whispered as he brushed his friend down with a white serviette. “That pompous old bastard had it coming—all airs and graces and that revolting double breasted suit, too.”

Potter smiled. Anyway he and his boy were part of history; they had some sort of record that everybody in the room thought meant something. And he had the charming attention, for the moment, not only of his waiter friend but of his good humoured hostess with her cheerful professional smile, her clipboard efficiency and her fine be-labelled bust. Life was good and no little stoush could change that.

Des and Maree bustled to the area next to dais. “Peter, is everything O.K?”

“Yeah, no worries. Eh, top do, innit?”

“Yeah, top do, Mrs Brown.” Donger had put the altercation behind him too and was hopping into handfuls of the fiery vol-au-vents.

“Des and Maree,” said Potter, “this is Eleanor. She put this whole shebang together.”

“Great to see you both again,” Ms Bright smiled. Potter looked impressed. “Wonderful detective work on the LeTissiers and Potters. It’s a fantastic story; the perfect way to kick the conference off. Can you say a few words? I’m about to start proceedings.”

Moments later, Des and Maree and Peter and Donger and Albertville itself were being cheered by the whole crowd. “Pretty special eh Dad? Hard to top this.”

“Yeah, special mate alright.” Potter tried to imagine how you’d ever beat such a moment. And there, amongst the marble columns and statuary, the rover had a vision of Boof, holding aloft the UDFL cup.

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