The Call of Stoush Anzac Day 1986: by Garrie Hutchinson.

The Almanac provides a platform for keen fan writers. We have many voices. So, it really is something for us to be able to welcome to our pages one of the key pioneers of the genre, Garrie Hutchinson, whose columns appeared in The Age for many years. By 1986 he was ‘Watcher’.

 

Here’s his piece about the Anzac Day clash between Carton and Essendon in 1986.

 

 

 

Ginger Mick went off to Gallipoli, his mate, the Sentimental Bloke said, because he heard the ‘Call of Stoush,’ just like at the footy:

 

“E never spouted no ‘igh-soundin’ stuff

About stern jooty an’ ‘is country’s call;

But, in ‘is way, ‘e ‘eard it right enough

A-callin’ like the shout uv ‘On the Ball!’

Wot time the footer brings the clicks great joy,

An’ Saints en Carlton roughs it up wiv ‘Roy.’

 

Mick didn’t come back to go to the footy again, like thousands of others and they buried him on that mistaken beach, planted mimosa on his grave. 71 years later on ANZAC Day, we crawl in convoy up the freeway to VFL Park, the call of stoush still loud enough, this time to watch Carlton rough it up with the Bombers.

 

Mick would have come, and C J Dennis who reported him, too, had they been around; he would have marched, but I reckon he wouldn’thave been able to resist sitting, rain and shine, among the multitudes of trepidatious football fans on ANZAC Day, waiting for the game with feelings like the blokes in boats landing at Suvla Bay. Without the same end, of course, Stoush at the footy and the wrong end of a gun have different results.

 

But Mick, and Dennis are dead, Clem for nearly fifty years. Since then there has been no one to speak for the Micks of Australia as Dennis did on those ANZAC Days past, to change the tune as the times have changed and other wars and deaths have come and gone, and Australia and football have changed a little bit.

 

I watched the old Diggers cheerfully marching through the rain, on television, Mick, and thought of them, and about the satisfactions to be had watching football, and the fact that football is played on ANZAC Day at all. Then I remembered that the footy hadn’t stopped for any of the actual wars, and half a day of Remembrance was not bad going all these years later. And anyway it is in the Australian game that the Australian virtues find ceremony. Maybe one day they’ll march back from the Shrineto the MCG.

 

The minute’s silence occurred in the car, still trying to get into VFL Park, and the ball was bounced in a typically unmoving Waverly queue (they always run out of change). The first goal was scored looking unsuccessfully for somewhere to sit. One day theVFL will have to hire people with long sticks to poke the sitters closer together. We stood and watched half a game of football on ice, so slippery was it and half a game on a dead track. The atmosphere, however, was gripping, particularly for the none tooconfident Carlton supporters.

 

No trench warfare here Mick. Well, there were packs and scrimmages, but they skated and slipped and fell over, quite unlike a scrum in the trench game, rugby. It’s not war in the jungle either, no creeping about silently, watching for ambush and sniper. Australian football is played in the wide open spaces, it’s a game about the use of space.  It’s like war waged in the open, a game of attack and counter attack, of manoeuvre, of control of small pieces of ground while on the move.

 

You should have been there Mick, you would have enjoyed it. Different to the Essendon and Carlton games of your time, the Essendon ‘Same Old’ flags of 1911 and 1912, and Carlton’s of 1914 and 1915. Slower and more deliberate it was then. Men kept to their positions. Big kicks hung in the air. Big packs stood under them. A mark, a footpass out to a man who stopped, looked and passed the ball on. Handball only if you were in trouble. Maybe an eighty-yard running drop kick for goal. Great big men whocrashed through sometimes, who crashed at others. Great small men who nipped around them, who pinched the crumbs and zipped away and speared the footy to a mate one-out.

 

And crowds who fought for their team as hard as their team fought for them, give or take a bit of running dead here and there, professionalism and the like. When it was village against village on the field, and yackety-yack on the tram home too. No wonder they played footy by the pyramids, on the road to Gallipoli.

 

But there’s plenty of stoush today Mick, and there’s no doubt that much of the satisfaction to be had still comes from watching tackles and hits put on their blokes by yours. And by barracking those of the other side who do things with their elbows and fists outside the law. But the wonder of football at the highest level such as this, is that there is so little illegal vigour applied when you think of what could be done. The dozen or so famous ‘incidents’ (like the Nicholls Incident, the Somerville Incident) are a measure of how little out-and -ut violence and fixing-up actually goes on. The game as it is now played does more thanenough damage to the bones of players.

 

And this legal stoushing at the footy is nothing compared to the violence off the field, in the world Mick, which grows more random and more sickening every day. The football is about playing a game with rules despite harassment, which has nothing to do with terrorism or blitzkrieg or even sporting competition between nations. It’s very old fashioned, and still very local, is football.

 

For every tackle, though, there is the evanescent moment of escape, of the man who gets away. There was the moment when Essendon’s Spencer had the ball running towards goal. He was lined up by the mean looking Dorotich who missed what he should have crunched, he passed to Ezard who dodged and baulked past two despairing tackles to goal and the spirits of the Bomber supporters were falsely raised, as it turned out.

 

Then there was Carlton’s miraculous Bradley loping around on his own, being given the ball, running, touching the ground twice, drawing players yet having the space of Luke Skywalker, and giving the ball to Tom Alvin, who himself had infiltrated the enemy back line like a lonesome commando and posting the ultimate goal.

 

There was a great amount of tension about the result brought about by feelings and predictions based on the weather. One end of the ground seemed impregnable until that great Essendon NCO Roger Merrett kicked the first goal there towards the end of the third quarter from a good mark and an especially professional kick kept low under the wind with enough momentum to sailstraight through. This brought the margin back to seven points and  Carlton supporters were wisely pointing to the flags, and to the soggy turf, and the scoreboard and saying it wasn’t enough.

 

That wisdom was soon given the lie as the reinforced Carlton fighting unit, the old campaigners of the team, Hunter, Ashman, Maclure attacked and the more recent reinforcements Madden, Meldrum and Alvin defended with great poise and new recruit Bradley made his run. This battle was won Mick, but there’s a long campaign ahead.

 

That’s the footy for you Mick. It’s still going. It’s still the same inside. So is ANZAC Day.

 

“They fights; an’ orl the land is filled wiv cheers.

They dies; an’ ‘ere an’ there a ‘eart is broke.

‘E found a game ‘e knoo, an’ played it well;

An’ now ‘e’s gone. Wot more is there to tell?”

 

 

Carlton 10.11 (71)

Essendon 8.7 (55)

at VFL Park

 

from The Age, April 27, 1986.

 

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Comments

  1. Frank Taylor says

    Great piece Gary.

    A truly great piece.

    Thanks

  2. Chris Hanlon says

    Garrie Hutchinson has lost nothing of his imaginative prose it seems…..Many thanks…

  3. Chris Hanlon says

    The Hutchinson artistry remains untarnished…..Many Thanks…

  4. george smith says

    Hmm, comparing 80s Carlton, the most amoral, rapacious, greedy bunch of pirates to ever run on to a football field with Ginger Mick the humble everyman – only the Fanboy can do that.

    Actually 1986 was the year they brought in yet another “Lets give Carlton a Premiership” scheme. They gave every club in the league a salary cap – except one…

    Actually 1986 was interesting because Essendon’s star was on the wane after dominating the comp for two years. They certainly dominated Carlton, who beat them once in 5 years until this epic from the Fanboy. Carlton had bought half of Western Australia and South Australia for this clash, and others like Rhys-Jones and Justin Madden. Carlton won the flag the following year then fell away until 1993, when they made the grand final against…Essendon!

  5. I miss The Watcher.
    It entertained regularly. Thanks, Garrie.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that the AFL and Ch7 propagate the myth that Essendon and Collingwood invented Anzac Day footy, and nothing came before.

  6. Daniel Flesch says

    Sounds like name-dropping , but i went to school with a Garry Hutchinson from Essendon who was naturally a Bombers supporter. But a couple of years after Year 12 and with immersion in the Uni./ Carlton scene , Essendon supporter Garry became Carlton supporter Garrie ,and some years later The Watcher. Reflecting that though players , coaches , support staff and officials regularly change clubs , supporters do not, i remember i know of one exception. Must point out , though , the heresy of changing clubs did not preclude a prodigious output of books and articles , many of which are on my bookshelf. (And how i wish every Australian would read C.J. Dennis , whose books are also there.)

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