The Miracle of Geoff Leak (Leek)

 

 

By Barry Dickins

 

 

 

 

Many torps ago there was Geoff Leek whom my father knew and played cricket with down at our local church. It was the unhappiest land of them all. Known as The Reservoir Baptist Church it approved of capital punishment and its sententious Sunday School teachers knocked your young head right off if you fidgeted during a tutorial upon the grisly crucifixion of Christ, who I liked.

 

Geoff Leek was a fairly useful swing bowler back in those days up at The Donath Reserve in Keon Park, near Thomastown but closer in spirit to Hell.

 

Leek was very big and friendlier than the usual Essendon ruckman who was more likely to kick a thing than pat it, such as a cow turd, of which there were many on that frontier park that boasted goal posts made of bent iron with bent oval knobs on them to make it harder to clear the wonky point post. Geoff Leek cleared them.

 

 

I used to go up to the oval way back then in the late 1950s and watch Dad facing up to the likes of Squasher Newton, who was six foot six and a half in his jocks at the tender age of seventeen and went on to become both the bouncer at The Reservoir Baths and then a natural progression to Senior Sergeant At The Lalor Police Station.

 

Dad long-handled Squash at cricket practise and no one ever found the ball, although I met a little kid with a cold once who said through his mucus that he’d plucked a warped leather-case ball once out of a frozen-over puddle and got it with a bit of old stick. I don’t know why exactly but I believed his statement at once. I was so proud of that big hit by my dad.

 

 

I watched the bowlers come and go in the always squall at The Donath Reserve and I see them all now with cheap short back and sides that cost them twopence off the Italian barber in Broadway who lied that he knew Mussolini.

 

These bowlers took ages to come in and deliver their various deliveries and they imitated Freddie Trueman even though they didn’t have long black hair hanging down at the front like him; or else they imitated Charlie Griffith of The West Indies, rather a long way from Barbados. I wondered why they copied people who were famous, even dead, even mythologised as Bradman.

 

But Geof Leak was incapable of forgery. He was so sweet and tall and the only thing he had in common with Freddie Trueman was that he also had black hair which was long at the front and fell sometimes over his avuncular nose. He never went crook, not once, Geoff Leak. Not that I ever saw and I knew he was beautiful as a hundred yard grass-cutter through the slithery couch-grass.

 

Down at The Brunswick Oval in 1959 I saw Geoff Leek in the ruck, up against Butch Gale with a right royal battle between giants. It was awe-inspiring to watch Butch and Geoff contest the football together right on the saturated snail-killer-boundary hand-put-there.

 

Old blokes used to do the white boundary for the seconds with a strange device that trailed the dreadful unreliable chalk along the uneven grass and even boulders, or they resembled boulders to my young eyes, possibly they were corpses of dead pie men.

 

 

After the trailing-on of chalk for the all important white boundaries these chalky men went up the pub and they boundaried no more. But new chalk men did the outlines for the firsts so the umpires and players could sort of see where the ball went out of bounce, in their fashion.

 

 

Fitzroy hated Essendon fifty two years ago with the hot passion of a soldering-iron laid on your father’s old boy.

You only had to see a Bomber come on and the home crowd went funny and picked up half a house brick.

But I as a little boy cheered on Geoff Leek as he ran nobly down the opposition race because he was a mate of Dad.

 

 

I called out ‘Good on you Geoff!’n as he so gallantly ran on in his huge red and black jumper, he was happy to be anywhere Geoff was, he was a kindergarten teacher it was said at our place, and a Christian, the only one I ever met who laughed and was kind and nice to you because he felt like it. That was his disposition. Nice.

 

 

Not many footballers are, not in my experience at least. They are usually in love with their own tattoos and tough reputation and work out their value depending upon how many ladies they’ve impregnated.

 

But Geoff Leek was courageous in the ruck at The Brunswick Oval that Saturday afternoon and he loped round the slushy ground all the day without ever panting or pouting. My dad gave me the dreadfully expensive ‘Footy Record’ that cost him a zack and I got hold of his grey lead pencil to tick who booted what in it.

 

Some men used a blue biro but as Dad pointed out they were no use because if you printed a mistake with a biro you couldn’t rub it out. Pencils are first drafts of genius.

 

The players I dreamt of for Fitzroy in those days were Wally Clark our rover with a fantastic ‘flat-top’ hair cut so that he looked like a rushing new-clipped hedge out of someone’s front yard.

I loved Butch Gale as soon as I saw him and I adored the balletic manner in which he palmed the ball over to Wal, then winked at him and Wally ran like mad to boot another one.

 

I loved every single thing in every single aspect, like life suspended in aspic or even Aspros.

The charge of the game, the fury of men’s hind-legs. The faces of those men crowd in on me now as I recall the broken noses of them and the recently-divorced look of most of them as they jogged down the giddy and introspective blood-stained concrete race that led to fisticuffs and ruptured buttocks.

 

The tallness was inspiring but no more uplifting than the remarkable speed of the dwarf-men who received the ball from their higher-ups, then grimaced up at their heroic Irish Catholic chins that only ever understood one thing in life. Their father’s fist.

 

The fragrance of bitten underpants and shock of me seeing pink nude testicles in the goal-square where Russell Crow stood with nothing on because a bad Bomber had munched everything of clothing off him. Russell Crow was from Warracknabeal and was said by Len Smith he could lift a ewe over a corral fencepost with one hand, which was why Fitzroy got him.

 

I had never in my life of twelve years seen brewer’s droop before, or seen my dad’s ones, he was so modest he showed probably in bib and brace.

 

But to see and to admire the balls of Russell Crow in the freezing cold goal square in that was was rather unique and miraculous for a Baptist boy like me. Fortune And Men’s Old Boy.

 

A runner came out and gave Russell a brand new pair of both footy jumper and shorts and under-chunders which he put on with the bare minimum of fuss, like all good Royboys should so as not to hog the limelight or bore their supports through the sin of time-wasting. He whacked them all on and went on the better and I think kicked a not-bad major from the gasometer end.

 

The match proved a torrid affair with boredom setting in just where we were sitting or standing, depending on drunks.

I witnessed a particular drunk, a wino, chuck a beer bottle filled with fresh cement at a boundary umpire which jobbed him on his head and just about killed him with both the shock and relief of it.

 

The man who threw it got arrested by two coppers and they dragged him outside the gate and bit him. A man who saw the bite told dad about it at half-time and dad agreed you didn’t see men get bitten much these days, and then the conversation kind of fizzled-out. The man who threw the beer bottle full of cement was cheered when he hit the boundary bloke. It knocked him rotten.

 

Another thing about that game was the setting on fire of certain rubbish bins and the tipping on of petrol later to keep the home fires burning. The look of that sort of thing was dramatic but possibly dangerous, it was hard to say just how bad it could become. Maybe the stadium could be incinerated as an act of love?

 

 

 

The other men who played that day for us included Ray Slocum, whose name I worshipped as it really seemed like the sensation of slow-motion, which was sort of how he used to sprint.

A guy named Sleep who actually fell asleep during a boring bit of the last quarter when the umpire called Brophy fell over in a huge mud-crater right in the centre and although the crowd jeered him and threw bottles it was not funny. He lost his hard fought for dignity in that fateful slip and the pagan mob mocked him good and proper.

 

‘Poor thing!’ cried Dad laughing at him through the field-glasses and then giving me a geek.

‘There is no justice in football’, he added as he hoed into one of mum’s sandwiches and sniffed at it to see if the tomato was off or not. He handed me one. Cheese and tomato. A foot thick it was with too much white pepper in. I sneezed something shocking.

 

 

The rain ceased right on three quarter time and the crowd hated that. ‘I demand not to be sunburnt!’ cried a drunk however nobody laughed because it didn’t make any sense.

‘Footy Record’ kids got sworn at, as they deserved because of the spiralling cost of their publication that seemed all ads to me.

 

Dad he crouched down right by me and offered me a burnt brick two sit on, which I did at once and it proved very nice and cosy.

He said to me ‘I bet they put Geoff Leek on the ball in the last quarter; I mean they have to do something to stop the rot, the Bombers if they want to beat Fitzroy. It’s no good resting him, although I notice he pulled up lame not long ago’

 

It rained like mad in the last quarter with hundreds of drunks jobbing each other instantly with cheap umbrellas the second the inky heavens came undone over Brunswick Oval, true home of pleurisy.

It was hard to see who was who in the great deluge that made grasping the ball like trying to pick up someone’s head in the wet.

 

Many heads had come off including Kevin Murray’s funny kicked-in one without any teeth in it, and his head could be sort of detected running along on its contorted own like the hub cap of a rusty station wagon running on empty. The Roys were running on empty with nothing in the tank but the lovely pathological hate of Essendon.

 

‘Why do we hate The Bombers, Daddy?’ I asked my wet-through father who was engaged in the ancient act of eating his hat and screaming out to Fitzroy ‘Put in the hard yards. Fitzroy!’

I had never seen him eat his hat before’ I guess he was just pretty worked-up on it. Maybe he’d had a bad week with his printing and had a few slow payers.

 

A few seconds to go and the scores are equal now and you cannot possibly see a single thing. Due to the pelting rain and golf ball hail stones bouncing on mums and kids alike, ice tearing through pie boy’s iced-over money and all the fires going out in the lit-fires of rubbish bins. You just cannot see.

 

The siren sounds like a car horn reverberating in your soul and in your memory-book and right in your soul-where the pneumonia is.

The Bombers are exhausted and begin to limp forlornly off and assistant coaches and one-eyed trainers try and help them up the vile concrete race into the viler room where there is no heating for them, deliberately. They pneumonia off.

 

But the umpire has blown the whistle and ordered a free kick to be paid even though the game is officially over; with tons of exhausted Royboys trudging off like war victims, for such they are with six pounds a match and nothing on the tea table for the hungry tin lids if you don’t play.

 

The players kind of come on again to watch the dark but bright sight of Geoff Leek handed the black Sherrin right on the boundary and the players laughing at the idea of him even kicking that ball-it is so dark and wet and all the fans pissing off. But he grins and gets his left great big football boot off because it’s all busted and it nearly clocks a kid on the fence the way he kicked it off, a souvenir now obviously. A size 200 football boot of Geoff Leek.

 

He comes in, it’s a joke, it’s eighty yards if it’s an inch and in bare foot with no Bomber sock on or anything, his enormous left big callused toe with big thick bandages wrapped tight around it manages to kick a goal and the Bombers win by six points. It is a torpedo drop kick that made it all the way as a truly inspired go at goal.

 

He is carried off the ground and nobody for Fitzroy Football Club does the siren because as someone pointed out, they’ve just done it and you don’t do it a second time, do you now?

‘Good on you, Geoff!’ cries my father and the Bombers run their friendly Christian giant up the race into history.

 

 

Comments

  1. ‘I demand not to be sunburnt!’ cried a drunk however nobody laughed because it didn’t make any sense

    One of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

    Thanks Barry. Another beauty.

  2. Malby Dangles says:

    Loved this story, thanks for sharing!

  3. Michael Crawford says:

    It’s great to be reacquainted with the wondeful writing of Barry Dickins. I was an avid reader of his regular contributions to the Emerald Hill and Sandridge Times (a sister paper of the Melbourne Times?) in the early 1980s. In fact, in these’formative’ years, my writing style was heavily influenced by the style and irrelevance of Barry Dickins.

    Consequently, in my HSC year of 1983, I got 72% for English. I was hoping for more. Either I was a poor imitator of Barry Dickins, or the HSC English examiners had no appreciation of the genre. A combination of both I assume. At least I passed. Maybe I would have done worse if I had not been educated’ by Barry Dicknis’?

  4. Beautiful tale, thank you Barry.

  5. Peter_B says:

    I’ll have, what he’s remembering.

  6. I don’t remember exactly when I realised iI loved Melbourne. But one footy weekend in 1999 might’ve been it. First Fremantle beat Melbourne on Friday night at the MCG when Tony Modra kicked 10. On the afternoon before the game we went to Young & Jacksons where I read a story by Barry Dickens in a local paper about being a Fitzroy supporter and even Carlton Draught tasted good.Next day I watched Carlton beat WC Evil on the TV and, just for a couple of hours, loved Aaron Hamill. Perfect weekend and Mr Dickens was a big part of it. And to think he was born 200 years ago.

  7. Peter_B says:

    Les – This is what’s so great about the Almanac. We can fight like Kilkenny cats on one thread. And be blood brothers on the next. You can choose your friends, but your footy team chooses you.

  8. Bravo !!!!

  9. Fair dinkum Barry, Geoff Leek was a really great bloke and a great ruck man, (we took him to training one night in a 1938 Austin 10, somehow sitting between my brother and I, in the back seat ), but he couldn’t kick his way out of a wet paper bag. Loved the story though.

  10. Rick Kane says:

    The saddest thing about this story is that it doesn’t resemble the AFL commissioned game as we know it today at all. The past is, indeed, another country. Reading Dicken’s wonderful tale makes me yearn to travel there.

  11. Rod,
    I recall your contribution on the site about the family encounter with Geoff Leek and chauffeuring him to training.* Also since you’re a committed Essendon man, I’m inclined to bow to your judgment about his kicking.

    However my recollection is more nuanced, in that I seem to remember his kicking (especially accuracy in kicking for goal) improving in the latter stages of his career, which would be about the time of the game Barry D describes.

    That said, Dickins’ writing tends to pay more respect to literary truth rather than factual precision, and it’s no certainty that G. Leek dobbed a goal after the bell from a long way out to give the Bombers a narrow win.

    I don’t think anyone has yet alluded to the fact that Leek was a commentator/match reviewer on ABC-TV. He always gave me the impression of being a good-hearted bloke, and unlike many past players of that era, he didn’t think that all those who played the game after his retirement were hopeless.

    * I dug out Rod’s article, thinking it may be of interest in the context of Barry D.s contribution.
    https://footyalmanac.com.au/?p=2280

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