The club fan buries its de-listed

“While out boating one Sunday afternoon on a billabong across the river, we saw a young man on horseback driving some horses along the bank. He said it was a fine day, and asked if the water was deep there. The joker of our party said it was deep enough to drown him, and he laughed and rode farther up. We didn’t take much notice of him.”

The Union Buries Its Dead; Henry Lawson.

[APOLOGIES TO HENRY LAWSON, upon whose story* the following has been closely modelled]


While out walking one Tuesday morning across the High Street, we couldn’t help running across the subject of the latest round of free agent rumours. The player said it was a fine club and asked if there was more money on offer. The joker of our party said there was enough to drown him, and he laughed and rang his manager. We didn’t take much notice of him…

Next day a funereal meeting gathered at the football club and asked each other in to have a drink while waiting for another meeting to finish. They passed away some of the time dancing jigs to a piano in the bar parlour. They passed away the rest of the time on twitter and play-satan and f-book.

The defunct was a young footballer, about twenty-five, who had been de-listed the previous day while trying to swim some dollars across a billabong to his manager.

He was almost a stranger in the club, and the fact of his been a football man accounted for the meeting. The Head of Football found some clearance papers in his swag, and called the Australian Football League office for information about him. That’s how we knew. The secretary had very little information to give. The departed was a “character” and the majority of the club were otherwise – but football is stronger than personality. Drink, however, is stronger than football; and when the cab presently arrived, more than two-thirds of the meeting were unable to follow. They were too drunk.

The procession numbered fifteen, fourteen souls following the broken shell of a soul. Perhaps not one of the fourteen possessed a soul any more than the corpse did – but that doesn’t matter.

Four or five of the meeting, who were boarders around the club, borrowed a trap which the President used to carry passengers to and from the trading shop. They were strangers to us who were on foot, and we to them. We were all strangers to the corpse…

Presently my friend said:

‘You remember when we were in the High Street yesterday, we saw a man driving some money?’


He nodded at the departed cab and said:

‘Well, that’s him.’

I thought awhile.

‘I didn’t take any particular notice of him,’ I said. ‘He said something, didn’t he?’

‘Yes; said it was a fine day. You’d have taken more notice if you’d known he was doomed to the club in the hour, and that those were the last words he would say as our clubman, to anyone in this world.’

‘To be sure,’ said a full voice from the rear. ‘If ye’d know that, ye’d have prolonged the conversation.’


The departed footballer’s name was Jim, apparently; but they found no portraits, nor locks of hair, nor any love letters, nor anything of that kind in his swag – not even a reference to his mother; only some papers relating to football matters. Most of us didn’t know the name until we saw it on the forms; we knew him as ‘that poor chap that got traded yesterday.’


‘So his name’s James Tyson,’ said my drover acquaintance, looking at the plate.

‘Why! Didn’t you know that before?’ I asked.

‘No, but I knew he was a football man.’

It turned out afterwards, that J.T. wasn’t his real name – only ‘the name he went by’.


Anyhow, he was signed-off by it, and most of the ‘Great Australian Dailies’ have mentioned in their brevity columns that a young man named James John Tyson was de-listed last Sunday.

We did hear, later on, what his real name was; but if we ever chance to read it in the ‘Missing Friends Column’, we shall not be able to give any information to heart-broken Mother or Sister or Wife, nor to any one who could let him hear something to his advantage – for we have already forgotten the name.



*The Union Buries Its Dead; first published: Truth, 16 April 1893, under the title, ‘A Bushman’s Funeral: A Sketch from Life’.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. I liked your writing (as always) and the historical echoes ER. And I love Lawson as one melancholic to another. But I struggled with the analogy.
    I tend to regard young AFL draftees as very privileged young men. It is sad when they don’t measure up and are de-listed, but they have had opportunities and salaries that few young men experience.
    Lawson’s union man was a solitary outsider in a conservative rural environment where unions were a threat to protestant good order and the squattocracy.
    I bleed for roof tilers and process workers on $18 an hour who get laid off in a recession with few prospects.
    AFL footy is a ruthless business but it rewards its workers far better than most industries.

  2. Cheers PB,
    As always, the piece is there for anyone to interpret as they wish. Thanks for your comment – I was aiming for a “club is bigger than the individual” vibe, as with the Union being bigger than the individual in old Henry’s withering story.
    And yes, though Lawson’s union man was certainly an outsider; perhaps there are outsiders in football clubs, too. I gather that it can be a cut-throat industry; many former players are quickly forgotten by the fans in the outer.
    rgds most humble, etc, etc, e.regnans

  3. Henry Lawson became a hapless drunk later in life, yet still produced great work.

    Carlton’s list managers are just hapless, and haven’t produced anything of value for years.

  4. Litza maybe the need a home brew kit and a still for chrissie. just an idea – nice idea.

  5. If I remember rightly there was a video clip on this site of Robbo, Kreuz and Juddy with a still – Deliverance style.
    Maybe its time to resurrect it in honour of HL’s drink that is stronger of the union or the footy.
    Or maybe its time for Bluebaggers Anonymous.

  6. I love any dipping of the lid to the great Henry Lawson.
    Thanks Dave!

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