The Knacker Flag 2014

Reading the just arrived Almanac Book for 2014 set me thinking.  Who are my favourite writers that I turn to first when the new book arrives?

More to the point what does their writing say about the teams they support?  Do some clubs attract a better standard of wit, insight and bonhomie?  A matter that I have often mused about, but never scientifically explored.

So I sat down with the book and thumbed through the biographical notes at the back, grouping writers I liked according to the teams they support.  I had my theories, but I used a crude rating system to see if my impressions were more objectively confirmed.

Mine is not a pure best and fairest system like the Brownlow – my votes were allocated according to something more like the Club Best and Fairest voting systems.  Firstly, my ratings were based on the contribution to the website over the season.  Obviously I have only read a few pieces in the book so far, as it provides my Christmas entertainment.  Players (writers) who only turn up once or twice a year for a brilliant book or website piece, don’t rate with me.  It’s all about effort and consistency.  Spangher not sporadic.

Secondly I like those who share themselves in their articles with humour, generosity and compassion.  I mark down those who merely accurately convey what I already know about what happened in the game.

I went into this exercise with a couple of theories about what makes for a good writer.  One is that familiarity breeds indifference, and the best observers are often removed from their teams in a way that maintains their passion and offers perspective.  Those “inside the beltway” of a team’s season are often too consumed with the conventional wisdom of the crowd and the meedja.  Collingwood fans baying at umpiring decisions – they can’t see the Woods for the frees.

The other comes from research I read many years ago about Australia’s happiest cities.  Melbourne and Adelaide residents were happier.  Sydney and Perth less so (though the differences were marginal).  My theory is that Sydney and Perth are hedonistic cities obsessed with the making and spending of money.  Melbournians and Adelaideans don’t have quite the same compensations and distractions of wealth, so they seek succour in the long view about connection, effort and the journey.

Inside the big cities my theory is that Struggle Street harbours the best writers not Leafy Lane.

Anyway, enough finessin’, lets countdown the PB Knackery Flag for 2014:


18. Melbourne Demons – What can you say? I can’t recall a volunteered match report from the Dees all season.  They probably have to go back to their locked ward straight after the game.  Paul Roos has had an illustrious career as Ross Lyon’s front man, but his laid-back persona suggests he is either a genius or the Chauncey Gardiner of coaching.  No Dark Lady of the Sonnets inspiration for Dees fans.

17. Gold Coast Suns – Knacker Matt Webber wrote a book about them in Season One. The follow up will require colouring pencils judging on the lack of ongoing creativity.  Perhaps they could lure Harms or Dips up from Geelong, if they want an ageing literary star to match Gazza?  First evidence for my ‘money doesn’t buy authorial wisdom’ theory.

16. Brisbane Lions – Must try harder. There are some committed pencillers hidden inside the coloured seats at the Gabba, but let’s face it, there wasn’t much to inspire creativity after Johnno Brown pulled the plug.  Northern refugees tend to stick with their home club (hello Sasha), and since Leigh packed his bags there is little to prise them away.  Peter Schumacher put on a brave face for a while until the unfolding horror turned the Sheikh of Shepparton’s gaze back to Norwood in the SANFL


15. Greater Western Sydney Giants – Have come a long way in a short time, and Kath Presdee keeps up a good front. 2014 was the difficult second (and third) album for the Giants.  Did Richard Naco leave with Chad and Sheeds?  Earl O’Neill is one of my fave writers, but Mopsy seems more into motor bikes and Motown than his newly adopted Monaro’s.  Pamela Sherpa wanders down from the hills when the Giants play in the national capital, but her passion seems as deep as Harms wandering down to Brunswick Street to watch the Fitzroy Ammos.  She would still be a Bomber at heart, if Essendon fans had such a thing.

14. Port Adelaide – Dan Hansen and Rob Bath are the Wingard and Wines of Port Adelaide writers. Brilliant, but two blokes can’t carry the team.  Kochie talks a good game but let’s face it – what genius ever emerged out of breakfast television – Joe Hockey and Kevin Rudd?  I rest my case.  Strike one for my “Struggle Street equals creativity” theory.

13. West Coast Eagles – Gulp. Well it is a bit lonely over here.  Brad Carr ran away to Washington; Dave Bruce to Canberra; and Matt Quartermaine to stand-up comedy and the Almanac Podcast.  It’s all downhill from there.  Frankly the only local Eagles writers spend most of their time forging prescriptions.  Prime exhibit for the unexamined life of the cashed-up bogan.  Eagles PR run a tighter ship at not tolerating dissenting voices than Joseph Goebbels or Peta Credlin.

12. Essendon Bombers– Being men of good grace, Essendon loyalists like Andrew Else, Rod Oaten and Bob Speechley kept a low profile in 2014. ‘My country right or wrong’ was fair enough, and they didn’t insult us with #standbyhird.  My keen footy mind identified two outstanding opposition coaching performances against the Eagles in the Almanac book – Bomber Thompson and Brendan McCartney.  I’m still waiting for the Guest Judge offer from Australia’s Got Talent.  On the positive side the Bombers did find Rising Star Max Wiggins in 2014 – I pick him to win the Davis Cup for Australia before he captains an Essendon flag.

11. St Kilda Saints – Punch lines above their weight. Yvette carries the team, but she has been forced to go to Sapporo, Kentucky and Cooperstown to find recruits naïve enough about the Saints sad history to sign on as crew of the Marie Celeste.  Yoshi shows considerable promise, but arrived too late for this year’s voting.  DD goes to club functions just to get racing tips from drunk owners.  Andy Tuano shows that the club is putting its faith in youth – he still has time on his side waiting for the next hundred year flood.

10. Carlton Blues – Relies on the People’s Elbow off-field the same way they depend on Judd on-field. Tony Robb does a great line in blazing fury, but only Litza consistently keeps the flame burning.  TRobb writes golf; JButler cricket; SCiardulli racing.  Well a Carlton man’s got to have a hobby, to stop him slashing his wrists.  Barb Smith does a nice line in “more in sorrow than in anger” – but it’s become an overworked genre at Princes Park.

9. Fremantle Dockers – Look these blokes can write, but theatre critic David ( Zampatti is the only one who gets around to regularly filing his copy. I can understand it, given the lack of material they have to work with.  Ross Lyon doesn’t have many colours in his palette.  Van Gogh wouldn’t keep turning up to ask himself – beige, bone, off-white, parchment – wonder what I’ll use today?  Still Ross makes the trains run on time (until September)  Les Everett published his history of the Dockers this year (‘Damian Drum – My Part in his Downfall’); Sean Gorman continued to research indigenous footballers (“Docker Greats – Chisholm to Walters – From the Ridiculous to the Sublime); and David Whish-Wilson is one of Australia’s best crime writers (‘Zero at the Bone’ – do yourself a favour – seriously) but “who stole my forward line” is hardly great plot material.  All are great contributors to the Almanac book but rarely lower themselves to talk up the Purple Haze on the website during the season.  Points deducted.  Perth has many creative types.  They all live within 5k’s of Fremantle.  The rest of Perth are either too busy making money, or employed keeping said creative types out of the psych wards and off the streets.  Nuff said.

Top 8

8. Geelong Cats – The Corey Enright’s of literature – used to be somebody once. Now just phoning it in from memory.  Harms, Dips, Flynn, AJC, Burkie – once great, but…..  Cookie is their young talent, in the same way that Rebecca Gibney is a looker.  Harms and Flynn follow the horses for distraction; Cookie follows cows.  Theo should be ready to take over the Almanac editorship by the time of the next Cats flags.  (“We put dad and mum into the nursing home in Cats premiership years” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

7. Adelaide Crows – There are some great Crows writers, but like my Eagles they have to live a long way away to inspire club affection and escape the Adelaide Advertiser. Mickey Randall is in Singapore, and Kenny Hinckley has put out feelers for his return.  Swish Schwerdt is in Melbourne, but his memories of Adelaide are restricted to when Elizabeth had the biggest manufacturing plant instead of the biggest Centrelink office. The bodies in the barrels mystery is now confined to Crows coaches.  Tom Martin fled to Perth to escape 5AA footy talkback.  Ben Footner shows promise.  Rulebook is prolific but he rarely ventures from Bob Neil #1 to the paddock down the road at Bob Neil #2 to watch his Crows.  Like Dave Brown his keen sporting mind tells him that true happiness is found at the Parade with the mighty Norwood Redlegs.  Passing.

6. North Melbourne Kangaroos – Look they had a better season, but the only thing more inconsistent than the football team is their writers. This week’s Warren Buffett is next week’s Chicken Little.  Starkie, Smokie and young Josh Barnstable go up and down like the Aussie Dollar (just caught myself there).  Rob Chanter lent a generous wit this season.  Matt Watson stays sane by living in Brisbane; drinking XXXX in his garage; and building a new rabbit-proof-fence to keep his mate Russ the Ruinator out of Queensland for Kangaroos games.

5. Collingwood Magpies – I had them lower in my initial predictions, but weight of numbers forced me to give them a high ranking. I guess I was living back in the 2010 glory years of the Floreat Pica when Fahey, Fithall, MOC, Nadel and Dowsing regularly graced our pages with match reports.  Initially I thought they must have followed Daisy, Mick and the money to Visyland, but they still occasionally turn up when with a grumpy comment when their feathers are ruffled.  And my weren’t they often plucked in the latter half of 2014.  Still credit where credits due.  No-one does a line in maudlin introspection like our Scandinavian bard Haiku Bob – the Ingmar Bergman of footy writers.  Regular as clockwork those icy haikus arrive weekly from the Arctic gloom.  Dani Eid is a delight.  I look forward to seeing her avatar picture in every article.  But really E.Regnans and Luke Reynolds carried the Magpies on their backs this season.  Luke like Pendles never gives up.  ER like Travis suffered a near fatal head injury.  I hope that Travis recovers, and soon gets his mojo back.

The Serious Contenders

4. Western Bulldogs – Not a ranking you normally consider with the Bulldogs, except in a 3 horse race. But my, didn’t their writers put in some top efforts and hard yards this season.  It starts with the names – Cowshedend; Barkly Street End; Crio; Trio and the Bulldog Tragician herself Kerrie Soraghan.  Footy hasn’t seen a better named line-up than that since Kouta, Ang and Diesel.  If only the Bulldogs line-up could play like they write.  Neil Anderson won the only Bulldogs flag in recent memory – at the National Playwright’s Competition.  And they took on board some courageous Essendon defectors like JohFloh, until desperation forced him back to sourcing Chinese Human Growth Hormone from Shane Charter to feed the Doggies ‘talls’.  The Nallei Jerring kids inspired us – pity they’re all 5 foot 2.  Mick Jeffrey continues to stay out of Melbourne and only watch Bulldogs games where they have a winning home ground record north of the Tweed.  I wasn’t born when the Bulldogs last won a flag, and I can collect the age pension soon.  They make the Saints writers look like foolish optimists, but if there is condolence in camaraderie and black humour – the Bulldogs have it in spades.

3.  Hawthorn Hawks – They are a great club and a great team. Which makes them about half as good as most Hawthorn idolaters write them up to be.  Look they probably deserve to be higher, but they have more lawyers on the author list than the High Court.  And we all know the law, money and humility don’t mix.  Rick Kane is a generous author who writes weekly articles in the off season about music, politics, the weather – or whatever excuse he can find to drone on at length about how it all reminds him so much of Hawthorn’s stellar season and orgasmic GF performance.  Hawkporn has replaced Catporn in the Almanac lexicon.  The real highlight of the season was the young talent blooded by the Hawks under the family draft rules – not Will Langford – but Kaisha Thompson and Molly Lennon who showed their struggling dads how to hit a metaphor lace-out on the run.  Unfortunately the insufferable Hawks look like being with us for generations to come.

Grand Finalists

2. Sydney Swans – Have compiled an impressive list with a ‘foreign legion’ of great writers. Mathilde de Hauteclocque turned in another Brownlow/Coleman winning season worthy of Josh and Buddy combined.  “As moody as a North Melbourne barista” will become as familiar as “silly as a two bob watch.”  Swans writers came from everywhere – Mathilde from the Dordogne; Joe Moore from Hobart with a stellar debut season until he falconed it on Grand Final day like Luke Parker.  Tom Bally was a bigger bundle of nervous energy than Gary Rohan by season’s end.  Rocket Gillett continued to phone it in from Mangoplah or the Mekong or wherever he is fostering Australian footy talent these days.  Captain Matchbox Mic Conway made whoopee up until Grand Final day.  Still the heart of the reporting team was back at Lakeside Oval pining for the Bloods to return, thanks to the likes of Chris Brasher and Craig Dodson.  Lawyers (ILatham) were mentioned in their author list – points deducted.

1. Richmond Tigers – Look it was a close call, but the ghost of St Tommy and their no finnessin’ writing style got TLSPRF over the line in the 2014 Knacker Flag comp, to my eye. Captain Wrap stubbed out his cork-tipped Turf filters in the eye of the Flying Syringes all season, which got bonus points from me.  Mr Wrap speaks in a lingo understood only by those of us who stood at our father’s knee in the muddy outer prior to 1969.  Those under 50 can try using babel fish to translate – but it is the sound of a thousand slandered umpies to me.  Crazy Cheryl Critchley lashed herself to the mast; held her nerve and kept her head as those around her lost theirs.  What better preparation for tilting at windmills and leading the AFL Fans Association assault on the AFL behemoth, than being a lifelong member of TLSPRF?  Speaking of jumping ship, how about that Sean Curtain swearing “never again” just as the Tigers launched into their record breaking winning streak?  Sean has sworn off the Tigers more times than I have sworn off the punt and the bottle.  By August, Sean was back on the singing syrup with the rest of the Tiger army.  John Green came back from Preston North End to endure another season with the loveable losers.  He even pioneered an app on Great Tiger Landmarks to visit before they are all sold off to developers in the newly trendified Struggle Street.  Stainless Steele showed his usual forbearance.  But it was the kids who won me over, and got the Tiges across the line for the 2014 Knacker Flag.  Callum O’Connor and Paddy Grindlay were as nervous as long tailed tigers in a room full of rocking chairs come Round 23.  But they are bred for the triumph of expectation over experience down at Punt Road, and the boys were rewarded with a one-way bus ticket to the Keith Bakery for the Striped Marvels Elimination Final fizzer.  Character building, but that’s how we like it at the Knackery.

Summing it Up

That’s my call for the best team of Almanac writers in 2014.  How do you see it?  Have I marked your club too hard?

Who knows what 2015 will bring?  Gold Coast have sacked Guy McKenna and appointed Ernest Hemingway.  The Bulldogs would have been better off with Miss Marple; at least she knows where the bodies are buried.  The Crows bloke is so well-credentialed he has by-lines from the Bordertown Bugle.  Paul Roos seems to have run out of best sellers, and Chris Scott has an ageing character list and little plot development.

The Dockers list is so old that they check the death notices in the West Australian, before they check the Injury List.  I just hope my Eagles appear on the back pages of the West more than the Court Listings in 2015.

What do I take from 2014?  Disappointment breeds a nice line in whimsical consolation.  Money buys fame not creativity and achievement (just ask Sydney).  Lawyers suck.  Distance creates a touching melancholic yearning through the hazy lens of memory and ‘what might have been’.

Knackers are the salt of the earth.  You can read ‘em like a book ($30 plus postage and handling from Malarkey Publications).





 If you’re keen to read more writing from the ‘Knackery’, click here to order a copy of the 2014 Footy Almanac




  1. Grant Fraser says

    Well played Peter. Kaisha and Molly were my stars for the year. Look out for more Junior Hawkporn next year from “A. I. (Alexis) Fraser, as told to RGF”.

    PS – did any other club get written about in the 2014 Alamanac? Will have another look over summer.

    PPS – Junior Hawkporn sound bad…sorry.

    R G Fraser, B.Ec LLB.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Agree with your B and F’s except for the Hawks’ rating. I think they could probably swap places with the Bulldogs.
    If consistency and effort be a large part of the criteria then the Bulldog writers should slip into third place.
    Of course Hawthorn supporters haven’t got the angst and the black-humour to sustain them throughout the season. They don’t need it as they slip to the top of the ladder each year and just emerge at finals time to write calmly about another expected victory. To top it off this year they introduced a new cult figure reminiscent of the second coming.
    Perhaps I don’t know the Hawk writers that well, but I always look for a write-up in the Almanac after a win and never find one. Maybe Bulldog supporters have more to write about. Either for the miracle win against all odds or the never-ending drought between premierships.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very entertaining PB harsh but fair !

  4. Thanks for the mention PB. A member of the premiership writing team, and getting a bit of my Almanac piece read out on the Podcast last week? Priceless.

    Great line of yours “Can’t see the Woods for the frees”, brilliant.

    PB and Neil, I think if the Doggies can convince T-Bone to make a return from his 12 month self imposed layoff, you guys will challenge for the Alamanac flag in 2015.


  5. Possibly a bit subjective Mr B, but if the immediate post-war lingo is your inherited vernacular, enjoy it while you can. I’m working on my modernity over the Long Dark Summer. Nevertheless, TLSPRF will take their team’s listing as an omen for 2015. Loved your summary BTW. For its humour and its veracity.

  6. G’day Peter,

    As I haven’t read the Footy Almanac 2014 yet that my generous friend Yvette sent me, I cannot comment on the Knacker Flag, I am afraid to say. But I am happy that you mentioned about me. Thank you so much!

    It encourages and motivates me to write interesting articles in the next footy season. I would love to get more live coverage of St Kilda games. And indeed I have to make a way to Melbourne in the very near future.



  7. kath presdee says

    I’m feeling a bit like Callan Ward after that Peter! Thanks for that!

  8. Not sure I follow you PB? Harms won’t be going into a nursing home in the next 24 months? And Theo is far too young to be an editor.

  9. Fantastic Peter. Meticulous, brutal, funny. Loved it.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    At least they used some local Elizabethan common sense and moved the Centralslink Office into the Holden’s factory rather than build a new one.

    In fact it may also become a new all-weather SportsEnormoDome (Worldwide HQ for Squarsh and Electric Light Cricket).

  11. Ben Footner says

    I show promise, thanks Peter! Does that mean I can now demand 1 million a year for the next 7 years a la Tom Boyd? Haha.

    Have loved your work over the season too Peter.

  12. Good to see our writers are way ahead of feeling any need to keep some grumpy old bastard in Perth happy.

  13. Collingwood shafted again.
    No surprise.
    Play on.

    Hope your night is a beauty over there.

  14. You are a harsh marker, PB.

  15. ‘true happiness is found at the Parade’ – rarely a truer word. Coopers & Grant Burge too! There is something about being a South Australian expat that enhances your South Australianness. Perhaps, hence our diaspora.

  16. Thanks for the kind words, Peter, just can’t handle the heartache of another runners up finish though!

  17. Mark Duffett says

    Indeed DB, I’ve never felt as South Australian as when I’m not there.

    Oh, and ‘punch lines above their weight’ was BOG for mine. Well played, Mr Baulderstone.

  18. sean gorman says

    just got out of the shower to de-eagle myself having been at the avenging and pb’s digs. Tops food and company with several purple bros in the mix. fixed the world and its malaise – though I think putting the entire west coast side on cattle trains and shipping them out to the wilderness as Zampatti suggested was perhaps a little ott. I’d make them walk personally.

    Fair enuff call PB us Docks are a tad lazy but thems the breaks and this gig is a love job for me mate. But i take your point. Cheryl Critchley would be MVP for me. always working hard underneath the pack to get the ball (read: message) out.

    Thanks also to Les E whose deft driving skills were….deft. you can skipper me any time Les.


  19. Peter Schumacher says

    Hi Peter, fantastic to rate a mention amongst such a pantheon of writers, will have to lift my game as I expect Brisbane to do and get back into it.. Have had complete writer’s block since spending some time in Russia and finding out that those people in Moscow that I stopped at random in the street to inquire as to their knowledge of the Brisbane Lions either had English worse than my Russian or otherwise didn’t know or care and worse than that didn’t know or care that they didn’t know or care. Oh and they hadn’t heard of the Redlegs either,

  20. It’s a harsh wake up call, but fair. Inspired to write more Lions pieces, given that; a) Yvette and Yoshi have the Saints B&F to fight out, unless DD gets off the horsies, and b) us Queenslanders only get about two free to air Saints games a year it makes it a bit difficult to get a handle on them…

    Look out for a tilt at the top 8

  21. Luke Reynolds says

    Compared with the great man S.Pendlebury-can’t complain about that.

    Disappointed with 5th. But we’re all putting in personal bests at Collingwood pre-season Almanac training. The 2015 Knacker flag is a realistic goal.

  22. Mick Jeffrey says

    Got more mentions in this article than I did on local club B&F night, scary thought. But don’t worry, got some trips planned for 2015 all being equal.

  23. Jamie Simmons says

    Well PB, if your words were intended to inspire and infuriate those north the Tweed, I dare say they have worked. Was happy with my words this year but, like Pearce Hanley, I’ve been overlooked for All Australian yet again. I have recruited another writer for next year to share the burden and, if the words of my fellow Banana Benders above are anything to go by, expect Brisbane to be next years big improver. Well done sir.

  24. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Peter,
    came late to this piece. Completely missed it at the time, thanks for the ranking, and Yoshi, if he keeps up his writing rate of 2-3 pieces a week, will topple me in no time.

    It sounds like you had as much of a blast writing this is the rest of the above had in reading it. Well played.

    See you in Perth this year!


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