Aliases abound.

Polky, Peter Pan, Connor, Snoopy, Craypot, Ms Paula, Mongrel Punt, DO, Butcher, Charlie, Chris, Jimbo, Jay Gee, Dic Dic, Hoppy, Roy the Boy, Swan Doggo, W1 (which sounds like something’s missing from a central London address), Rado (Is that short for radical?), KB, Top Gun, Le Roy, Benny, Gazza, Bitch Lips, Miss Boston, Mr Boston, Wolfy, Scotty, Milton, Club Christo, Mad Dog, Mimi, Cheif Nut (that’s the way he spells it!), Demon, Dave, Maz, Derek, Lavinia, B.I.G. (Am I supposed to be impressed by the abbreviation marks? Is this some sort of corporation or maybe just a man with a corporation?), Chap, Damo, Ben, Green Man, Mike, Maverick, Hector, Harry, DATO, Three Balls, Tom Wills.

All but one are my 50 rivals in the Footy Tips competition run by the Prince Albert Hotel, a rambling old nineteenth century pub in a central Adelaide back street that’s relatively unbastardised and definitely unpokified. It’s interior hasn’t been opened up (read gutted) and its character destroyed by chrome and steel, such hard, cool, cold materials. It’s one of about half a dozen pubs which remain pokie free.

Tom Wills is a real historical name. He was the chief founder of Aussie Rules, the best cricketer in the country in the days before Test cricket, a real sport, but also a bloke who knew the insides of pubs, who hit the piss hard, and when his life went out of control ended it all by picking up a pair of scissors and stabbing the pointed end into his heart. I wouldn’t expect Cheif Nut, Bitch Lips or Roy the Boy to know this. General historians don’t know this, only sports historians know this. I know this.

There are some real names. I know Lavinia sounds like Miss Lavinia, a Southern belle waitin’ on her gen’lman callers, and played by Tallulah Bankhead in a Tennessee Williams play, but she’s actually a theological librarian with a penchant for a bubbly and a ciggy. Derek, her friend, who also enjoys a bubbly and a smoke, is a property developer with an interest in pubs, financial as well as social; Chris is a gay mortgage broker; Milton is a photographer, one of the city’s best; Ben is a part-time barman with an alert mind given to making up general knowledge quizzes for customers; Gazza is an affable, sometimes rowdy, former real-estate agent, former publican who enjoys a champagne or four; Charlie is the manager who keeps things rolling along.

I don’t know Miss Boston but I figure if she won a beauty contest to represent a city of four million souls she’s a bit of a looker in the American way, six foot tall, legs that run up to her shoulders, light tan skin, straight white teeth, long blond or brown hair, that bounces and waves. I can’t say I know Mr Boston either but assume he’s her brother, stands six foot four, does weights but doesn’t overdo them, looks good in a suit without bursting it at the seams. They must be the lunch trade. And talking of trades I think I know Butcher and it has nothing to do with his trade. He often drinks butchers and we’re talking the South Australian beer measure of a seven ounce glass.

I do know Craypot. Craypot has a shack at Nora Creina, a little fishing village south of Robe, and an amateur licence to catch crays. He keeps his freezer well stocked. He’s also Adelaide’s only left-wing real-estate agent (self-proclaimed). An associate said he’d heard he was doing well. ‘He’s got a niche market’, I said. A niche market that’s 51 per cent of the population (party preferred) – he ought’a be doing well!

I have a clue about Bitch Lips. I figure she’s a woman with a sense of humour – they’re often a rare species – so it could be one of the barmaids, a fresh-faced strong young woman who’s doing Phys Ed or Human Movement or whatever they call it these days. She’s sort of relaxed about things. On the other hand it could be Craypot’s wife. Yeah, maybe it’s Craypot’s wife.

I’ve never met Mimi who’s drawn a heart on her match programme as in ‘Mimi Loves Crows’. With one win out of eight she might need a shoulder to cry on. I’ll offer. I’d like to meet Top Gun, I’ll tell you why.

The main rule of the competition is to get your entry in on time – before the bounce of the first ball of each round. If you fail to do so you’re given two points. If you pick all eight winners you get eight points and a free bottle of truly execrable house champagne which is a major disincentive to be a smart-arse. The main advantage of being in the tips is not to win but to partake of the free schooner of beer or glass of house wine that goes with the weekly ritual of making selections. It costs $20 to enter at the start of the season which is money well spent for 22 glasses of wine or beer during the minor round.

I’d like to meet Top Gun because I reckon I’m quick on the draw, meaning that I make my selections in the shortest possible time. I ask Craypot to time me but when he does so the pen the pub supplies has a faulty mechanism which prevents the ball point being ejected and I lose 15 seconds. I also have to borrow glasses – bi-focals as it turns out – and that costs more time. Forty-one seconds is a major disappointment. However, if I had my own glasses, my own pen, I reckon I could reduce it to a personal best of ten seconds. Top Gun would have to work hard to beat that.

Results matter and don’t matter. Still, you check the score. After eight rounds Chris, the gay mortgage broker, is out in front with 46, Cheif Nut (who still can’t spell) has 45 and I’d like to meet the Cheif just to help him out with his little problem. There’s a cluster in the low forties and high thirties – a couple of real-estate agents, an industrial officer, a former arts editor of the Advertiser, two photographers, a debt collector, the theological librarian and a car salesman – and then a drip down to the also-rans.

I run into Chris and present him with a bookmark I’ve been carrying around for a fortnight. It’s been developed as a promotional tool for History Week by the almost exclusively female staff of the History Trust, a quasi-government instrumentality. It features a photo of a hunky-looking bloke in a flannelette shirt and tight jeans with some leather haulage gear wrapped around his shoulders. Pure beefcake. In the interests of gender equality I ask where is the cheesecake on the other side. There isn’t any. So I keep it for Chris, hoping the bloke is his type.

Chris is aware of his score and shows me a bar graph he’s made of the entire distribution. Fancy meeting a fellow stats man! I note that the bell-shaped curve is skewed to the left in the direction of the high scores. We mention t scores and z scores in passing and that the distribution doesn’t take account of Three Balls who hasn’t submitted an entry – an excess of testosterone probably! We agree that the bell-shaped curve is skewed in the shape to be expected with the poorly-performed entrants losing heart if they ever had heart in the first place.

Craypot is off to South America for a month with his wife (maybe Bitch Lips) and he is negotiating with Charlie about whether they can send in their tips by email. I can just see the pair of them on top of Mount Aconcagua or Chimborazo at 20 000 feet plus, worrying about how the Tigers did get up in that away game.

Chris is having a beer with Gazza. The bookmark is face-up on their table. Chris says he’s not sure whether the beefcake bloke would like him more for being gay or because he’s leading the footy tips.

A Tipping Point is ‘the level at which momentum for change becomes unstoppable’, a situation that has gone too far, is out of control, demands a reversal, a backlash. Malcolm Gladwell defines it as ‘the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point’. Tom Wills with 33 is on the same score as Gazza and Bitch Lips, and just one ahead of Roy the Boy. It’s company but bad company. There’s pride at stake after all, a profession, a reputation to uphold.

‘A pair of scissors, anyone?’

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Tony Robb says

    Great work Bernard.

  2. Ms Pavlova says

    Hmmph. It seems that while Cheif Nut can’t spell, Tom Wills can’t read. It’s Ms Pavlova, not Ms Paula. And Ms Pavlova would like to know just who Bitch Lips is. She’s certainly not Craypot’s wife unless he’s a bigot. Was it that Charlie had already dimmed to lights, or Tom Wills didn’t have his specs with him? Ms Pavlova strongly suspects this is an intentional and churlish “mistake” because she, who knows jack about football, is soundly beating Toms Wills in the Footy Tipping comp.

  3. Ms Pavlova says

    Dear Moderator – whoops – that was meant to read bigamist, not bigot. I’m sure Tom Wills will make much of that but it won’t improve his scores.

  4. Chalkdog says

    Great work Bernard,
    I thought I was the only one to check out the tipping boards in pubs. I was in the Exford a week or so back [an older style city pub in Melbs Chinataown] where more than half the entrants names contained the word “Chimp”. I thought Id found Bob Skiltons family home. Will pop in there and note the variations “for the record”.
    PS I think Bitch Lips could only be someones ex-wife

  5. Tallalulah says

    Miss Lavinia still has a penchant for bubbly – genuine Pariz fizz as we speak – but the ciggies are a thing of the past. Hopes her friend has given up the cigs as well … Footy tipping? Haven’t had a score in weeks if you know what you I mean. That’s Europe for you. World game indeed!

  6. Chalkdog says

    Called into the pub I mentioned in “4”. The names in the theme were Chimpy, Chimp Chimp Hooray, Grand master Chimp, Chimpys Boss, Sir Chimpalot, Wozzas Chimp &, strangely Champy.
    No sign of Bobby Skilton!

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