Almanac Footy: The Legend of Gil







Even as an 18-year-old, Tommy had a knack for recruiting players to suit up with the CYs. Back then, the Under-19s were often a player or two short, so it was never a surprise when an unfamiliar face turned up to training with Tommy, who would urge the secretary to sign up the new chum. It was imperative that pen was put to paper as soon as possible, for we had seen a few positive mindsets revert to the negative halfway through a freezing June night at the Fearon.


One memorable recruit was a fellow with whom Tommy had participated in a between lecture kick-to-kick at Melbourne Uni. Not so long after the lad had proven himself adept at the drop-punt in front of Tommy’s discerning eye, he was lacing up his boots in a woollen gold and blue hooped jersey on a muddy deck somewhere in Fawkner. It was a long way from that manicured quadrangle adjacent to the law faculty. But to his credit, Gil Spencer could really play the game; his quiet demeanour and raffish good looks belied a toughness that saw him dive into packs where even angels might fear to tread.


When we picked him up en route to away matches, we would stare agog at Gil’s terrace house in one of Carlton’s best streets. Our carload of yobbos from Williamstown would almost be too embarrassed to toot the horn lest we were reported for disturbing the peace in this leafy street. (Almost). He played about ten games, in which he was always one of our better performed. But when the season finished, we never saw him again. Tommy would provide the odd rare dispatch but, in the days before mobile phones and the internet it was much easier to lose contact with an acquaintance.


The following season an eagle-eyed club official noticed that Gil was still eligible to play in the Under-19s. Playing stocks were in a more parlous state, so contact was attempted. Alas, Gil had deferred his studies and was backpacking his way around the world, no doubt with a story or two to tell about his brief time at the CYs.


37 years ago, the CYs was new to the VAFA, and still searching for its footing and identity in the Ammos competition. The club was a little looser and a little less observant when it came to adhering to certain rules. Particularly in the Under-19s, where players would flit in and out, rarely attending training, and appearing on a Saturday looking for a game of footy. Much recruiting was carried out in the pubs of Williamstown on a Friday evening prior to the game. Registrations and documentations were a fluid affair, meaning that – occasionally – a player would take the field under a ‘bodgie’ name. More often than not, that name would be the blissfully unaware, globetrotting Gil Spencer.


I still wonder what would have occurred had ‘Gil’ polled another couple of votes in the Under-19 competition best-and-fairest that season. Playing nearly every game, he missed out on the award by only three measly votes. Although it must be said that finishing in third place was an excellent effort, given he was not even in the country during the football season.


Arguably, he was Tommy’s most successful recruit.




You can read more from Smokie HERE.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The Adelaide Uni Blacks had an equivalent by the name of JT Goose.

  2. Reminiscent of Jim Young’s Any Old Eleven, the story of the cricket team out of Naughton’s. A great book for those who love the game, and a quiet one.

  3. That’s a great yarn Smokie. The reverse of Gil Spencer used to happen (probably still does) over on South Australia’s West Coast when German backpackers and the like, drawn to the surf beaches around Elliston would be recruited at the local pub on Friday nights when Limpy Les was pouring the ‘falling down water’ as wine writer Philip White once described it. These guys would suit up on Saturdays in the ressies or magoos often in loaned Dunlop volleys and participate in a sport they’d never before seen let alone played.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Love the use of the word “occasionally”. I believe this kind of thing may have happened “occasionally” down my way in the past but harder to do in country areas where most people know each other than I imagine it is in the city. Fair effort to for Gil to finish third in the vote count, I wonder if someone has ever won anywhere under these circumstances?

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