Vic Park 1979: An Initiation of Filth and Fury.

It’s funny how nicknames pervade one’s identity and take on a life of their own. My nickname started as ‘Flip’, being a monosyllabic preference to Phillip. Flip Wilson was a popular comedian in the late 70s and early 80s and my brother Tim would listen to his tapes with our cousin Paul and his mate Jeffro. They began to call me Flip Wilson. Then it was shortened to Wilson. When I annoyed them it became ‘Fucking Wilson!’ I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been referred to as ‘Fucking Wilson’ over the years.

Muffled giggling could be heard when Tim, Paul and Jeffro were in my brothers room. I’d occasionally put my ear to the door and hear words like: cunt, fuck, cum, cock and cancer. It was the tape recorder playing Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s in famous Derek and Clive Come Again. Even by today’s standards the content was filthy. I now knew why they didn’t want me in the room.

“Give us half an hour and we’ll come out and have a kick, alright Wilson?”

What could I do? Dad couldn’t be bothered kicking the footy and he had no idea how to play cricket. My brother-in-law John was not interested either as he was brought up in Greece, where the main sports were soccer and basketball. When they did finally come out all teary-eyed from the laughter we did get to have a decent kick-to-kick session in the street. Back then there might have only been a handful of cars in the entire street. Now there seems to be three or four cars in each drive way. The only thing you worried about was breaking a neighbours window if a skewed torpedo punt landed awkwardly.

It wasn’t just about playing footy or cricket with my brother and cousins. Being with them made me feel older and somehow more important. I wanted to be part of their conversations, their banter. I knew they swore because I’d hear them mimicking Derek and Clive when they thought I wasn’t listening. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that they began to swear around me in an open way. Looking back they were pretty accommodating. Paul and Jeffro were twenty-three and Tim had just turned twenty-one. This was the first year I had gone to the footy with them and it made me feel great. I was nine years old.

Victoria Park was a place where I saw the best and worst extremes of human emotion played out while witnessing a game of football. The crowd was parochial in its support of the Magpies, a football club which claimed to represent the working class roots of the area’s residents through the prism of Australian Rules football. Some of this was true as many of the people who stood in the outer terraces with us seemed to be blue collar in the way they dressed, how they spoke and the way they drank alcohol. It intrigued me that they would shout : “Champagne Football!” while swilling warm tubes of Foster’s Lager or Victoria Bitter. I never saw any champagne being consumed in the Victoria Park out through all my years of football patronage. There was never a shortage of cursing and swearing, particularly at the opposition and the umpires. ‘White maggot’ was the popular insult towards officialdom as all the umpires dressed in white uniforms. ‘Sheila’, ‘poofta’, ‘suck’, ‘animal’, ‘bastard’, ‘cunt’ and ‘arsehole’ would adequately describe the general gist of the vocabulary absorbed by my nine year old ears. The absurdity was that if kids mimicked their elders in using the same language they would get told off by the same people using the profanities. It was okay for the adults to unleash their linguistic frustrations in front of the kids, but it was considered bad form for kids to imitate their ‘role models’. “When you’re sixteen you can swear as much as you like. Until then you can barrack as long as you keep it clean, son.” This was the lesson from Smitty to me and his two sons Craig and Robert.

Smitty was vulgar, but not brutishly so. He looked like the bloke in the Go Go Mobile ads and had a beer gut that would test the sturdiest of wheelbarrows. Before smart phones, iphones and other technical devices a man at the footy only needed a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Senses were assaulted at the footy and Smitty would emanate a multisensory smorgasbord. Hot fat footy franks, combined with beer, tobacco and meat pies would make your eyes bleed when Smitty decided to let rip with a bowel busting fart or an elongated burp. A half disgusted, half puerilely humorous : “Fucken hell Smitty! You’re rotten!” would come from us closest.  Smitty loved Peter McCormack and his catch-cry during those seasons was: “Best Fullback in the League.” This was especially so when McCormack’s towering drop punts would almost reach the centre.

We kept going back there, every second week to the same spot in R.T. Rush Stand for the next three seasons. Paul and Jeffro would carry a polystyrene esky with enough tubes to last an afternoon and a single can of coke for me. Craig, Robert and I would encourage them to drink quickly so we could at least have the sturdy tin cans to stand on so that we could get a better view of the game. We’d usually get there at midday to watch the reserves or seconds. Or as Smitty would say: “Watch the Magoos kickin’ the dew.” By 2.00pm when the game was about to start, Paul,Tim , Jeffro and Smitty would be well on the way to being tanked. It seemed that most of the outer at Victoria Park was merry by the first bounce. Once the game started, different emotions would be expressed, especially against hated rival clubs like Carlton, Essendon and Richmond.

Bugles and plastic hooters were also fashionable at the time. Craig had a copper bugle that he would blow after Collingwood scored a goal. The ritual was to cheer the goal and then have it augmented by the triumphant blow of the bugle. Most of the fans around us were Collingwood and didn’t seem to mind the cacophony.

I had also bought a plastic hooter to add to the musical madness. I carried it around as if it was a weapon, it was almost a meter long, but it was light and loud. In a game against Richmond a crusty looking old bloke had the misfortune of standing in front of me.
As Collingwood piled on the goals the old bloke kept looking behind, each time with a more sinister degree of passive aggression and impending violence. Midway through the last quarter he’d had enough:

“If you blow that fucken thing into my ear one more time you’ll be walking home with it up your arse!”

His bulbous nose and flaky skin scared me. It sounded like he meant it and Tim had the good sense to tell me to take it easy. “Don’t worry about that silly old fart. As if I’d let him do anything to you. He’s spewing that Richmond is getting thrashed. At the end of the game you can blow it as much as you like.” Luckily, the old codger left with ten minutes to go and me and Craig enjoyed hooting to our hearts content as our mighty Magpies towelled Richmond by nearly ten goals. It was a memorable victory, but I’ll never forget the hate in the old fart’s eyes as he looked at me one last time before disappearing into a late afternoon haze of stale beer, aromatic tobacco and four-n-twenty flatulence.

On the way home I made the mistake of blowing the hooter too close to Jeffro’s ear. He turned around, shook his head, scowled and whispered: “Fucking Wilson.”

Smitty’s Doppleganger.

About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. Gee that certainly brinks back some memories, Phil.

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Was there anywhere better to be, in that day, as a nine year old kid in Melbourne? Cheers.

  3. Brilliant stuff, Phil. More please!

  4. Brilliant Phillip a great memory of the time and bloody funny!
    I wrote my below memory of 1979 at Vic Park though after reading your piece you reminded me of every other week of growing up in the same era as your good self, watching our great game and my writing skills need a lot of work. :0)

    Victoria park memory#

    One Saturday morning in 1979 I left home at 7.30 head down to Vic park via the Johnston St bus or did I just walk & arrive at around 8am line up at the gates and line up might be a hand full of other die hards already there cnr of Lulie & Turner. Buy your footy record about .30c then wait till 11am when the blue coats opened the gates hand over my Kellogg’s junior supporters club card get in for free, then it was the dash to claim a front row possie on the wing of the R.T.Rush stand to get the best view of the entire ground (that was free). Lay out your magpie scarf to claim 3 other seats for your mates. There was only the one row of seats made out of 3 steel pipes that stretched across from the Sherrin stand right round to the pocket in front of the scoreboard. The 2’s run on to the ground you get to see the potential future stars. 1/2 time if mum was broke you didn’t eat until you got home and I’d watch others demolition a pie, but more important was than food was watching the pies rather than eating them! :) But on a good week for mum you would have enough to get a pie/chips/coke & a hotdog! By the 3rd qtr of the 2’s the crowds starting to really build and the adrenalin would start to build by the last qtr the crowd would get right into the 2’s game if it was close. Then when the banners would go up and C’wood ran out on to Vic park to hear the roar of the crowd there was nothing better.

    Cheers Gezza

  5. Super terrific read Phil. Loved it.

    I’m going to Gigs’s today to watch the dogs. Come over for a beer if you’re free

  6. DBalassone says

    Beautiful stuff Phil! The way we were.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Presume it was the same in Melbourne – in Adelaide, the Budget had that Saturday’s race fields from Morphettville, Cheltenham or Victoria Park – results up on the scoreboard (probably for the benefit of the players)

    And the around the grounds scores – “Which game is A and B? Which one is A?”

    Maybe my mind is failing me, but I don’t remember too many eskys etc at SANFL suburban grounds.

  8. I could hear, smell and taste the footy. Nice one Wilson.

  9. I am sure the piece is an accurate reflection of Victoria Park in the 70’s. SANFL grounds were colourful but not quite as crude. Don Dunstan was more refined than Henry Bolte. But I remember the ankle deep flow through the pissoir underneath the scoreboard at Adelaide Oval.
    I listened to a bit of Derek and Clive, but I found it fundamentally boring, after all the creativity of Dud and Pete. Peter Cook was sporadically brilliant but essentially self absorbed and indulgent. Someone you would like to meet, but not live with.
    My question when I read the piece was at what age would I want young Almanackers to read it? Maybe 15, but then again I am an old dinosaur.
    When we tell war stories about the ‘bad old days’ are we subtly celebrating the rampant sexism, homophobia, racism and misogyny of the times?
    Not for me.

  10. Pete, god help this website if we have to keep one eye on the kiddies with every piece. I say tuck em into bed, and let’s run more pieces like Phil’s. Swearing is bloody fun and anyone who has a problem with it doesn’t have a head for heights.

    PS On Derek and Clive, couldn’t disagree more. Christ next you’ll be saying Bill Hicks isn’t funny.

  11. Kenoath T-Bone.

  12. beachcrave says

    I must confess to some vertigo T-Bone, I wouldn’t want the next gen reading every word of PD’s piece, nor would I want my mum to read it. I understand the allure of a shared vocab and think the site does pretty well to honour the author’s words whilst not alienating readers who range from 9 to 90. Whether some rating system is imposed or not, as an adult I have the luxury of being able to interpret, and elect whether or not I want to accept the import of some words and phrases. Would I have the same choice as a ten year old? Maybe not. I’m therefore happy to ‘read into’ shorthand or slang a more savage language if that is what the author intended than have it spelt out in incontrovertible print.

    That said, I enjoyed your piece PD and think the warning signs were well-posted PB. I may be a chicken-hearted coward, but my early experiences at Vic Park with my Pop who would rock up in his white umpire uniform after officiating at the suburban parks did not leave me with many (or, indeed, any) warm memories of standing in the outer, but I could smell the stale beer wafting on the breeze of slurred aggression as I read the piece, and can only thank the universe that at least the whites meant Pop had generally left his Carlton jumper at home!

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Phil. My experiences going to Victoria Park as a teenager in the 1990’s were different, though still plenty of colourful language and characters in the Sherrin Stand. Just glad I got to experience going there with a full house. As Gigs said, more please!

  14. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks for the responses boys. I certainly wasn’t idealising or romanticising the time. Those who read the piece closely will recognize the satirical humour. The tribalism and atmosphere had a primal edge to it that was both intimidating and titillating. I miss elements of that. I don’t miss the misogyny and racism. Robert Muir used to cop it in particular during that period and people would just laugh it off when he went beserk.

    Derek and Clive were pushing the boundaries in the 1970s and they sounded like they were having a ball while doing it. Not as funny now because we have become somewhat desensitized to crudity of thought and sound. To a 9 year old kid they were forbidden fruit. I tried to go back to when I was a boy when you could get the cane for just saying ‘bloody’ at school. There was no swearing on TV, or radio and SBS hadn’t yet arrived. Being 12-14 years younger than my brother and cousin, I guess I just wanted to feel part of the older gang. Good, bad and ugly these were the adults in my world when I first went to the footy in 1979.

  15. Skip of Skipton says

    What misogyny and racism and homophobia and sexism was there Phil? Was there any? I was on the bottom deck of the members stand opposite you in the late ’70s and I can’t recall any misogyny or racism or homophobia or sexism. I remember alot of banter and passion. I remember culture.

    [The last part of this comment has been removed not because of its philosophical position, but because I feel there are better ways of making a point than using abusive language such as ‘Go fuck yourself’ – JTH]

  16. First and foremost, this is an excellent piece of memoir; a piece of significant depth, particularly when getting into the mind of the younger boy with older brothers. I did not read it as romanticisation, so it was reassuring to read Phil’s further comments about his intent. The language serves a purpose. The stories are revealing.

    The other issue raised by two of our editors is also significant. It would not be an issue if we had the resources to have four websites. But at the moment we don’t have those resources, so all readers who love what we are trying to do come to the same place.

    The use of language then is an issue of site GEOGRAPHY. People can see it as an issue of censorship or prudishness or whatever they like. These people can make demands about what we do and don’t do. I will listen.

    But I remind critics taht it is instructive to note the piece is posted – and remains posted.

    I have concerns about offence as I am all for inclusiveness. And it is something I consider.

    T-Bone, I suggest you analyse the comment you have made for its logical inconsistency. Seems you are the one who dictates taste. “Swearing is bloody fun and anyone who has a problem with it doesn’t have a head for heights.”

    I also welcome a discussion on editorial policy, given that kids read the site, and we are looking to appeal to kids and schools. We are also trying to build relationships with junior footy clubs to get their club reports onto our site. This is about getting kids reading.

    The separation of websites will ensure there is no issue at all. Donations to the funding of the cause are welcome.

  17. Thought the languages was intrinsic to the period piece. No problem with the strong language warning if it works for Almanackers. Derek and Live went hand in hand with Cheech and Chong and Captain Goodvibes in those days .

  18. Matt, I agree on the language in Phil’s fine piece. Completely necessary for authenticity and authority and accuracy. Hence, it’s posted. All for language – any language – serving a purpose.

    Re Derek and Clive it was a massive hit for an 18 year old in 1980. I loved how they spoke with such misplaced authority on matters medical, political, celebrity etc Loved Phil’s description of the cassette tapes.

  19. John Butler says

    Laughed a lot at this recollection Lord B. Not sure I laughed so much at the time. It could be confronting to be a nice(ish) suburban Carlton fan at Vic Park. My middle class horizons were expanded, shall we say. :)

    JTH, re the questions you raise, has any actual offence been recorded? Or are we discussing the anticipation of offence?

  20. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    I have a feeling that my piece will be Bambiesque compared to what Litza might come up with after Carlton’s result today.

    While we’re on the topic Harmsy: “What’s the worst job you ever had then?”

  21. JB, I can assure you this is not a theoretical debate.

    1.Understandably a surprising number of readers choose email and telephone to comment, rather than making their thoughts public at the bottom of pieces. I have had a handful of discussions this weekend.
    2. Yes, language has been raised as an issue for some of the private comments over the years. Harshness of personal criticism has also been an issue. And there is also a sort of internal moderation process – in that some readers will contact me and warn me if they feel a comment is defamatory (thankfully). Occasionally something sneaks thorugh.
    3. Also, there have been times when people contact me about the personal nature of some stories – and whether they are appropriate for what is basically a sportswriting site. I explain that yes, they are appropriate. Writers have freedom.
    4. I have also had discussions with sponsor-advertisers and potential sponsors. With a couple of current potential sponsors the first question has been whether pieces are moderated and whether comments are moderated.
    5. This is also the case for organisations to whom we have offered content. How are comments controlled, they ask?

    Thankfully this has been a very minor issue for us as in the main people are respectful and welcoming.

  22. Yes Phil, and on the language aspect of that, we post pretty much everything, including Litza’s rants. Where the language serves a purpose, it stays. There have been a handful of examples over the years where language has added nowt to the yarn, or has been inappropriately abusive, we have contacted the writer and worked through it. Litza has had a few emails.

  23. I’m oddly calm… or perhaps more accurately, punch drunk.

  24. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Matty Q,
    I just realised that Life of Brian came out in the same year and that George Carlin was battling censors in the states over the 7 words. It was also the International Year of the Child.Must have been something in the air. Been enjoying the stuff on the Podcast. In fact it’s one of the main reasons that I’ve revisited the Almanac again. Love the banter.

  25. Oh, one other thing I should’ve mentioned earlier…

    Brilliant work, Phil.

  26. Fucking funny, Phil. Fucking funny.

  27. Phil, want you onboard for the podcast as soon as possible. That goes for all the other Knackers too- we want your stories. Cheers

  28. Rick Kane says

    Nice one Mr D

    I reckon it’s time we revisit the bugle and plastic hooter. (An aside: these days I guess plastic hooters mean something far different than it did in the innocent days of ’79!).

    I had forgotten about the cacophony of noise from the fans and stands, brought on by goals in the days of yore. It’s time to bring it back. I reckon we bring the noise, if not to the AFL, then to local competitions. I’ll see you at the next Darebin Falcons U18s NFL game. Blow the bugle every time the Falcons kick anotheree!

  29. E.regnans says

    G’day Phil – as for Luke, the scene of Victoria Park you evocatively bring to life there is unfamiliar to me. But I greatly enjoy the sentiment.
    Loved your role of younger brother existing within touching distance of an exciting, forbidden world… it comes to life.

    On the broader issue of language/ content/ editing/ censorship, I’m in the camp of shepharding, rather than policing. I reckon we (as a society) undersell the abilities of kids and people in general, to make up their own minds about what to read/ access.
    I reckon exposure to ideas and words and thoughts of other people is great and should be encouraged. And then, that education around “what is a voice?” “what is an opinion?” “what is my role as reader?” “what are my options?” is the way to go.
    In my view, kid gloves and boundary fencing etc etc are less important than equipping people (adults and children alike) for their inevitable meeting with coarse images/ language/ video footage.
    It will happen. It’s out there.
    The scenario could equally apply to religious or political comment.

    As for the writing: it’s probably a judgement call when coarse language (or political or religious language) adds to or indeed is a necessary part of a story, and when it is overt or unnecessary or crass. This memoir sets a time and place context using the language of the time and place. Some match reports set a context of emotion using similar language. I hesitated before submitting a cricket report set as a Roddy Doyle-style coarse conversation earlier in the year, but finally sent it believing the context (imaginary pub scenario) carried the context.
    That judgment will be made by each reader, each with a different personal history.

    My daughters (8 and 7y.o.) love reading and love reading my Almanac stories. I was happy for them to read my expletive-laden story, and to have a chat with them about where and when such talk is seen and when it is NOT. No worries.

    One attraction of this site is the variety of voices and styles on display. I reckon that people will soon make up their own minds about which stories (and perhaps writers) they do or don’t like. Easily done. Plenty of diversity here.
    Very interesting topic.

  30. E.regens … that was beautiful mate. And on stuff we like and don’t like, I think the world of yours. Keep those literary styles coming (and looking forward to a John Kennedy Toole from ya!)

  31. I know what plastic hooters mean to me, Rick!

  32. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Dave, That is really generous of you mate and I appreciate the time and effort you took to post the response. My 14 year old daughter and her friends read it and they had a giggle and were genuinely interested about how it was as a fan back then. I’m in the shepherd camp too and as T-Bone said swearing can be ‘fun’ mischievous and even cathartic. However, it is also important to acknowledge the concerns of others who might not see the humour and context as appropriate.

    I grew up in a working class family and profanity was a part of the expression of some members, whether it be humorous, vitriolic, expressing frustration or just filling the space because of an inability to articulate themselves. I’m neither proud or ashamed. It’s just the way it was.
    Rick, trust you to spot the double entendre…That is so West Preston.
    And Harmsy, thanks again for reaching out. Being an Almanacker is a bit like being a Highwayman. Once you’re in…

  33. Terrific piece Phil. Gee I hated going to Victoria Park – unless we won.

    There can sometimes be a fine line to walk for a site like the Almanac. But I would make two points:
    1 – JTH is spot on, this is an issue of content geography. If the resources were greater the separation of content may be easier,
    2 – the language in this piece, as others have said, was part of the piece. The essence of it really.

    I loved it for its honesty.

  34. Give me the harsh outer of Vic Park back in the day when the footy let alone the crowd was no place for the faint hearted, compared to the often sterile orderly atmosphere of the crowd in today’s game.
    Don’t get me wrong I still love the footy today and growing up watching footy was nowhere near as ‘comfortable’ as today, but watching the game will never seem as good as it once was in my book.

  35. Gezza, I agree. Comfort has never been a parameter for me, and many others. Interesting to find the words which describe the authenticity of the footy experience of half a century ago. Phil’s done a terrific job here. Why does that experience seem more authentic? I have spent a long time thinking about that.

  36. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    for me, the ritual had more power and meaning in the sense that it had a stronger connection to place, club rather than brand and an affinity with players. I felt like I watched working men play and now I feel like I’m watching athletes at work. Paying money to watch blokes work is not much fun unless they doing something really creative.
    Lack of saturation coverage ensured that there was an element of mystery about what went on at other games and in the lives of the players and coaches. I miss that space to imagine and not knowing stimulated a curiosity and wonder that is lacking now.
    Game style: Even in mud heaps stoppages were rare and watching players battle the elements was also intriguing. How do you defend a two goal lead going into the last quarter when the opposition has a 3 goal wind?
    Risk minimisation is killing the spirit of the game. I don’t think Aussie Rules is a game that that lends itself to uber professionalism. Too much creativity and flair is subdued. I might be getting old and perhaps overtly nostalgic, but I find it very hard to watch today’s game. I’ve only been to three games this year and I’m even considering not renewing my MCC membership. That’s how serious it has become and I know that I’m not a voice in the wilderness. Would love to hear other’s thoughts. Cheers.

  37. Tom Martin says

    Wonderful Phil. It’s like you bottled that ‘stale beer, aromatic tobacco and four-n-twenty flatulence’ and released it in its cybernetic form.

    I saw a game at Vic Park once. I was a pimply faced 16 years old and it was overwhelming.

    The school I went to in Adelaide had an annual game against another school’s 1st XVIII in Melbourne, which alternated between the two cities. I was in year 11 when we ventured to Melbourne, and one of the slighter lads in the squad. Our game was scheduled for the Monday and we went over to Melbourne on the Saturday morning so we could go to Vic Park to watch the Crows play.

    Our coach was the magnificent Peter Thomas, who was an unlucky fringe player for Sturt during the glory years in the late 60s. Pete was head coach of Prince Alfred College footy for a generation, and had shepherded a succession of stars into senior footy, including Scotty Russell who was playing for Collingwood at the time and organised some tickets for us, as I remember it.

    So that’s how a group of twenty odd Adelaide private schoolboys found themselves huddled in a corner of Vic Park in ’93 to watch the Crows take on Collingwood. Very few Crows fans made the trip over to Melbourne for away games back then; even fewer made the pilgrimage to Vic Park on that day. In fact, no other Crows fans were visible. Or at least as visible as we were, bunched together in a forward pocket and made excruciatingly prominent by those of our number who had optimistically branded themselves in Crows beanies, scarves and other regalia.

    Pete and Ken Watson, the coach of the seconds, patrolled our group with an alarming level of vigilance and we were prohibited from leaving the area to visit the kiosk other than in groups of four or more. This was a restriction I found amusing at first, but which I quickly understood to be a necessary precaution.

    The vitriol that we absorbed over the course of the game intensified with each quarter. Before long we were assailed with beer cans and outright abuse. The environment had gone from being merely intimidatory to downright dangerous by the last quarter and we left the ground early, to a cacophony of jeers and threats of violence.

    Unanimously we found the experience absolutely wonderful. The tribalism of the Magpies fans went beyond anything we had ever experienced. I treasure the experience as a precious moment in time in the history of the game’s progression from suburban class warfare to today’s multi-media family oriented extravaganza, for good or ill.

    I guess I look on the question of Phil’s use of language in the same way. Exposure to the brutality of adulthood can be a healthy experience for a young person, provided you have responsible and caring people to guide your way.

  38. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks Tom. You did well to get out in one piece. It was a particularly hostile crowd that day. They could sense that the Crows were a team to be reckoned with as a young Tony Modra kicked 5 goals and took this screamer:

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