The Great Un-washed

Shortly after moving to Ulverstone in 1971, I was invited to join the fledgling Turners Beach Football Club.

It was a new club, formed that summer, to help overcome a bye in the Leven Football Association, (though that never eventuated as no sooner had Turners Beach been accepted than Ulverstone Districts left to join the neighbouring, and stronger, North West Football Association).

Having played amateur football in Hobart where most if not all clubs were well established with reasonable facilities, I was somewhat shocked with what greeted me when I arrived for my first training run.

For starters players were asked to change in the cold, concrete foyer of the local hall, an area where 6 was a crowd. Thankfully I noticed most players arrived already changed.

Then, after a light run on the then un-fenced, flattened sand-dunes that masqueraded as the Turners Beach Oval, I tentatively enquired about shower facilities.

“Across the road in the caravan park, there’s a shower/toilet block,” I was told, “It’ll cost you 5 cents for 10 minutes, and if you’re lucky there might be some hot water”.

“Or you can go beyond the park and have a quick dip in Bass Strait”.

Undeterred, I signed up.

Match days saw the hall’s kitchen area covered with tarpaulins and used as our change room. There was a kitchen sink for those who wished to wash post match.

The visiting team didn’t have such luxuries – an old dirt-floored shed with a leaky roof behind the oval was put to temporary use.

I soon discovered that these primitive amenities were on a par with the rest of the competition.

Visitors to Sprent used the old church hall some 100 metres up the road. Preston had rooms adjacent to the home team’s but they were small, dingy and also without showers.

The TB Oval was devoid of mud, its sandy base meaning that even on wild, windy, wet days (of which there were many) you might get soaked but rarely too dirty.

Not so at Sprent or Preston where travelling home post match caked in the rich brown volcanic soil of the district was not a fun experience.

In the mid-70s I was given the opportunity one year to be the official scribe for the LFA, reporting on and previewing matches each week.

On one occasion, prior to the Seagulls’ clash with Motton-Preston I began my preview with “Turners Beach travel deep into gumboot country this Saturday…”

It didn’t go un-noticed by the Preston diehards who vented their spleen in my direction throughout the match.

The South Riana ground was in its final year of use in 1971, before the club moved to share the Penguin Oval with their coastal cousins.

My only game there was played in sub-zero temperatures with TB getting a hiding. Fortunately I was playing in the backline and was able to keep warm enough.

Not so fortunate was lightly built rover Johnny Wrankmore who turned blue while resting in the forward pocket and had to be gently revived by using rotting floorboards in the visitors’ shed to start a small fire.

For some reason relations with South Riana were never strong after that incident!

The other LFA ground in the early 70s was Castra, where my strongest memory is of changing in their typical dirt floored shed and then enjoying drinking a ‘long-neck’ from the bottle, served to us by ruckman Warren’ Wog’ Wescombe who used his eye socket as a bottle opener.

For some reason we tended to stay and enjoy Castra’s hospitality post match, possibly because they were the weakest team and we invariably won there, even in our first season.

As the ‘70s rolled on, the situation gradually improved.

For starters, in 1972, I moved into a flat adjacent to the oval where I stayed for 6 happy years (despite losing the front door key within 6 days).

Leaving the flat unlocked throughout this period never caused a problem, except on match days when inevitably one or more of my teammates would beat me home to claim the first hot shower.

It is vastly different today – in the late ‘70s Turners Beach and then Motton-Preston followed the lead of Ulverstone Districts and joined the NWFA, where improved facilities were essential before being admitted.

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