The Jumper

by Andrew Fithall

April 1965. Prep at St Joseph’s Numurkah. The school spanned from Prep to Form 4. Dad had come from his teaching job at the local state primary school to our school to take some boys for football training. My oldest brother Chris was in Form 2 and was staying for training. He could get a lift home with Dad and I therefore, could ride his bike home. It was a 24-inch; too big for a five-year-old. Dressed in my school uniform, with my Collingwood jumper over the top, I headed home via the main road which was the Goulburn Valley Hwy – no town by-pass in place then – to our McGregor St house. For some reason I decided to drop in to pay a visit to the church – a right turn off the highway. The driver of the FC Holden travelling in the opposite direction wasn’t at fault. Those external door handles that stick out can do some damage if they hook on to your shoulder.

The Goulburn Valley Base Hospital in Mooroopna was more than twenty miles from Numurkah – a long way for Mum to travel every day for the ten weeks I was in hospital, made more difficult with six other kids at home. Remarkable that in this regional base hospital the doctor had the skill to take the repair option. The alternative, which had been seriously considered, was to remove my right arm. But they did have to cut away my jumper.

A number of operations ensued including a couple where they took skin from my thighs and patched it on to my shoulder. The FC driver visited and gave me a plastic clown’s head full of lollies and an easter egg. Some sick kid stole and ate the egg when I was in theatre being operated on. Some time into my hospital stint, my Uncle Frank and Auntie Marie Godfrey from Ivanhoe sent me a new Collingwood jumper. It had been supplied by Ray Gabelich. This photo is from the Shepparton News of May 21. The pennant is mine; the high-tech banner is the work of the photographer. Underneath it read:

Many temperatures may rise tomorrow for the traditional VFL clash between Melbourne and Collingwood. The young patient at Mooroopna Hospital gets his temperature taken in plenty of time. He is Andrew Fithall (5) of Numurkah, obviously an ardent Magpie fan.

I am glad that in the blurb they didn’t mention the bit about Ray Gabelich. I found out some years later that it was made up. I still want to believe it was true.

Chris never made me compensate him for his wrecked bicycle. The next year he headed away to Ballarat for school. The following year the rest of the family followed.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.


  1. Great piece, AF. It almost makes me think good things about Collingwood supporters.

  2. AF – lucky escape for you by the sounds of it. If your arm had gone we would have been calling you “Leftie” (not in a political sense).

  3. Peter Flynn says

    What’s all this twaddle about the ‘tradition’ of Melb v Coll on Queen’s Birthday?

    Seems a bit like the ‘tradition’ of the Boxing Day Test.

    Melb beat Coll by 2 points the next day (May 22, 1965).

    Melb are thrashed by St K in the ‘traditional’ Queen’s Birthday clash.

    Hope your arm mends.

  4. Andrew
    Initially I thought it was a photo of Herb !

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    Gorgeous photo and story. Glad you survived.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says


    great shot which captures the mid 60s photographic feel beautifully. I can see Bob Rose, Des Tuddenham, Ian Graham, Gabbo, and Terry Waters around the bed trying to cheer you up…had they been in Mooroopna!

    The eyes never change mate.

  7. David Downer says

    Nice one AF.

    The AFL today wouldn’t approve of such un-branded un-sponsored merchandise.

    Even the sign would come brandished with Emirates and Westpac logos….


  8. John Butler says

    Actually AF, it’s very easy to tell its you.

    Glad they sorted out the one arm thing.

    Now if they could only do something about the one eyed issue… :)

  9. Phantom says

    Was it Napolean or Schickelgruber who said give me a child for five years and they will be mine for ever?

  10. The lesson here, Andrew, is not to ‘for some reason’ drop into church.

    You see many a player with their shoulders all taped up. They’ve got nothing on what you endured way back then.


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