The Hammer

rossbrewercollingwood

“Brewer”

The shrink looked at him in a genuinely perplexed manner. In 30 years of psychiatry he’d never heard an answer like it. It was a relatively simple question:

“Do you remember a traumatic event in your childhood?”

Curiosity roused, the doctor continued: “What does ‘Brewer’ mean?”

Harry looked at the portrait of a canary, standing outside of its cage, not knowing what to do next. Without shifting his gaze, he muttered: “The death of hope.”

Harry Hatzis was born Haralambos Hatzichristos at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Carlton. He came into the world on the stroke of half-time during the 1970 Grand Final. His father Ross, formerly Spiros and his older brother Jimmy (Dimitrios) arrived late. His mother Fotini had given birth with little labour and without her husband’s support.

Ross and Jimmy were two among the few hundred Carlton fans who left the MCG in disgust at half-time, thinking that the Blues were going to get murdered. At least they had a reasonable excuse.

Jimmy was ten years older than Harry and hated him from the moment he knew his mum was pregnant. This child was a glitch in his matrix of certainty, attention and a future threat to his relationship with Ross. Yep, Harry was a burden that Jimmy didn’t need.

Ross wasn’t that keen on having another child either. He had a steady job as a waiter at Stalactites in Lonsdale Street. He loved playing Manila and going to watch Carlton at Princes Park with his mates Panos and Rigas. They loved Menzies for he was their ticket out of the poverty in Northern Greece. All three came with sponsored visas on the Patris in 1955. From bread and olives to brothels, beer and bacon. The temptations were overwhelming for the three young lads from the village of Tsamantas, situated on the Albanian border. The last thing Ross needed was another dependent.

Harry barracked for Carlton until 1975 when his mum came home with a brand new Fitzroy jumper which was on special at Woolworths in Smith Street.

“They no have Culton. What I can do?” Fotini pleaded.

Ross and Jimmy encouraged the purchase and began to fill Harry’s head with tales about how great Fitzroy was and how good they will be again. Five year old Harry couldn’t see the sinister motives behind their enthusiasm.

“Why is that fucken bird just staring at his cage?” Harry wondered aloud.

The shrink, Dr Kronk, had been his tenth in twenty years. Harry liked to start afresh every two years because his story and his excuses would become stale. Dr Kronk, steely-eyed and somewhat jaded had become too familiar and a little tired with garden variety manic depressives, who clog up the queue for the psychotics that really need help. Harry ticked all the presumed boxes, but Kronk persisted:

“Does the image remind you of Brewer?”

Harry thought about it for a moment. He remembered the Monday after at school, when he was confronted by that barbed-wire fence of inarticulation, the Collingwood mob. 1981, Grade 5, Preston East Primary School. He was the only Fitzroy fan in a maelstrom of Collingwood, Richmond and Carlton fans. Collingwood were the worst. All the stereotypes were true: snotty noses, cheap runners, bad haircuts, poor enunciation, petty theft, random thuggery, misplaced hubris, multiple step-siblings, lazy eyes, dirty fingernails, puffy fish ‘n chip diet skin and fathers that had to ‘go away’ for extended periods.

Yes, the image reminded him of Brewer. Fitzroy had escaped from the Magpie clutches. After being down by 40 points they held the lead and were ready to meet Geelong in the Prelim when Brewer scored the winning goal for the legion he would call ‘Scums of the Earth’. Fitzroy were like that canary on the wall that day.

Harry walked through the gates on that crisp September morning wearing his Fitzroy jumper with the shonkily sewn number 7 on the back. It was Warwick Irwin’s number at Fitzroy until June of that year when he switched to Collingwood in exchange for Leigh Carlson and Des Herbert. They jumped him and ripped the already tenuous plastic yellow crest off the jumper along with the number. Brian Egan and Jamie Walton were the ringleaders, yelling ‘Brewer!, Brewer!, Brewer!’ into his face as the other kids chuckled uproariously at the sight of a schoolmate being utterly humiliated. Harry never forgot their faces. He cursed them and wished that no good would ever come to them or anyone else who followed Collingwood.

His only real mate was John Margaritis, also known as Johnny St Kilda because it was common knowledge that his mum Mary did some ‘moonlighting’ after finishing her shifts as a kitchen hand at a restaurant in Fitzroy Street. The other kids often wondered how Johnny could afford Adidas runners and trackies when his dad worked in a factory and his mum washed dishes. Johnny followed Richmond and wore the jumper with number 20 immaculately sewed on the back. He always tried to kick torps like Jimmy Jess and yelled ‘Ghost!’ every time he got one to connect.

“Don’t worry about those losers Harry. They’ll forget about it in a few days.”

Johnny was the only kid from Preston East that accompanied Harry to Northcote High in 1983. It was Johnny who came up with the nickname ‘Hammer’ for Harry after Harry couldn’t hammer nails straight in Woodwork class. Harry tells anyone who listens that he was named after the wrestler Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine. They both loved wrestling and Johnny is still Harry’s best mate to this day.

Dr Kronk nodded his head and lifted his eye to the clock on the wall. He scheduled an appointment for the following week when he promised that they would talk about ‘Brewer’ in greater depth. Harry was relieved. He’d found another empty vessel for his story.

To be continued…
In the meantime, here are the last 6 minutes and 12 seconds of the 1981 First Semi Final.

About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.

Comments

  1. Great yarn Phil. I was Harry at school a few weeks later after the ’81 GF. I should have been sent to therapy, along with 80,000 others.

    What a game that SF was though. Some great goals by both teams in the frantic final 10 minutes – Boof Davis from the wrong pocket, Daics & of course Brewer.

    Had Ross played in a flag it would have been a great football oddity given his brother Ian played in the 1958 premiership side.

  2. Brilliant, Phil. Your career-best form continues.

  3. Brilliant.
    Keep it coming, Phil.

  4. Brilliant article, Phil, though I can’t bring myself to watch the last 6 minutes 12 seconds of footage.
    If only the Collingwood No.20 had suffered from Brewer’s droop that sad day.

  5. cowshedend says

    Ripping yarn.. thanks Phil

  6. G’day Phil,

    I’m sad to see how Harry was treated as I had similar experience in my childhood (my age is close to his age).

    I reckon he has / had hatred feeling towards Collongwood as a Roy fan as well as towards the Blues.

    I look forward to reading the rest of the story.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  7. Brewer was so typically Collingwood!!

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Bit harsh hanging shit on Roy fans.

    Gold, Plhilo.

    Free Monday/Tuesday next week?

  9. Good story … I also experienced similar conditions at St Johns East Melbourne where the Roy’s supporters were seriously out numbered by both Collingwood and Richmond supporters but that was in somewhat earlier times so some things never change.
    Like Fitzroy Pete I cannot watch the video … To many bad memories I was there in the forward pocket when Brewer kicked the ball over his head for the winning goal

    Terryi

  10. Phillip- like others I’m keen to see where this goes. Your description of the Collingwood supporters is brutal, but as a Magpies man yourself you have a licence!

  11. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Do most fans have that one game that really sticks in their craw?

    Fitzroy fans I hung out with became apoplectic with the mere mention of the name ‘Brewer’, I don’t know why it hit a nerve, maybe because he was an unlikely journeyman/utility that kicked the winning goal. Skinny, average looking, unassuming – all the elements of an anti-hero.
    Incidentally, it was Brewer who refused to chase Wayne Harmes in the pivotal moment of the ’79 GF. That’s the memory that gets the bile flowing for me. The name ‘Harmes’ has a similar affect on Pie fans old enough to remember.

    JD, it was definitely misery two weeks later and those Carlton pricks were waiting in the same spot. Harry called in sick that day.

    Starkie, I’ve been called lots of things in my life, but I’ll be damned if I sit here and let you get away with calling me ‘Plhilo’. Tuesday might be goer. Will email you by Sunday.

    Thanks for the comments and encouragement gents. Hope the series gets some legs and provides you with some cheap entertainment at least. Cheers

  12. You got style, Phil. Love it.

  13. Pie Porn.

  14. The combination of key forwards Ross Brewer and Craig Stewart was right up there with Dunstall and Dermie (I think I’m starting to understand why we didn’t quite get over the line in 79-81).

  15. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hey Damo, what about ‘Butch Edwards’ ? You’re right. How did we even make those GF’s?

    Cheers ER and Mickey, interesting seeing it from an opposition perspective. We are actually worse than I thought!

    Peter B, Pie Porn beats Blue Bukkake.
    Fitzroy Pete and Terry, momentous Roy victories not far away.

  16. Many terrific lines – and a character established already.

    “that barbed-wire fence of inarticulation”

    More please.

    By the way, Phil’s collection of footy writing – Fandemic – is available. Contact me and I’ll send you in Phil’s direction [email protected] Lots of interesting ideas to get you thinking written in an engaging and entertaining style.

  17. Luke Reynolds says

    Love the story Phil. Look forward to hearing more from Harry. Thanks for the footage from the end of that Final, I’d never seen it. Good footy. Good Daicos hair.

  18. Great stuff Phil,
    I just watched those last six minutes and felt immense disappointment for Fitzroy.
    I still do.
    I still can’t believe Fitzroy were forced out of the AFL.

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