Weekend at Burnie’s Neighbour (Wynyard)

Five brave blokes, and two even braver women, met up at Melbourne Airport last Friday morning with one aim in mind. To cross the ditch between Victoria and Tasmania, and track down a legendary beast said to have roamed Van Diemen’s Land for many a long year but which hadn’t been seen for almost as many. Notoriously shy and not seen on the mainland for nigh on eons, the seven of us had as our sole objective, a face-to-face meeting with this mythical creature.

Indeed, is that all this creature was? A myth? Much had been written and read of this being, but sightings, there had been precious few. It would be down to us – seven hale and hearty Footy Almanackers – to see if we could once and for all dispel the myth, or in fact prove the existence of this supposedly timid yet worthy Taswegian beast.The seven of us each had our own skill:

  • John Theodore Harms was our skipper. Without his leadership, the other six of us were nothing more than a rabble. (As it turned out, in spite of – or perhaps because of – his leadership, we were little more than a rabble for much of the weekend anyway.)
  • Andrew Fithall was our navigator – it was he who knew the most likely places that we would find our quarry.
  • Dips O’Donnell joined our crew as our purser, keeping a tight reign on our collective coin so that not too much was spent in pursuit of our prey in those first manic hours on the island.
  • Yvette Wroby assumed the role of pictorial record-keeper. There would be no point sighting this mythological mammal if we could not return with proof of its existence.
  • Pamela Sherpa was there to provide us with sage advice, ensure we were adequately sustained and that we did not stray too far from our chosen path. (I mean, with a surname like “Sherpa”, what other duty could Pamela fulfil?)
  • Andrew Gigacz – Gigs would keep us appraised of the facts relevant to our  search for the holy grail – and many that had no relevance at all.
  • And finally, Peter J Flynn. Ah yes, Flynny. The man who we knew would come to our rescue when we were devoid of any further hope; when felt we couldn’t go one step further; when we felt that we could not have one last beer. We knew that Flynny would be there to lift us across that unpassable hurdle with the words, “I reckon we could have one more”.

And so we began our trek, in an aircraft so primitive that there was merely one flight attendant aboard and our only chance of solid nourishment was a choice of a biscuit or some no-name brand of chicken flavoured chips.

Despite such adversity, we made it to this far south isle intact. Disembarking from our craft, we could not possibly have known that within minutes – nay seconds – we would come face-to-face with our quarry.

We stopped and stared. We had not even had the time to steel ourselves for this moment – and yet there before us lay the creature of our wildest dreams. But this creature was no myth, no fairy tale. The beast was real. And his name was… The Phantom.

Also known as Bill Walker – and what a lovely bloke he turned out to be. Ready to meet us there with a hired minibus, he was the epitome of the perfect host. Opening up his beautiful holiday “shack” at Rocky Cape for us to enjoy throughout Friday afternoon and evening; forgoing a big night on the turps so that we could have one ourselves as he chauffeured us around; introducing us to the lovely folk at the Wynyard Footy Club, and to Max Brown who went on to launch the 2011 Footy Almanac at the club that night; and doing it all again on Saturday and into Sunday.

The launch was terrific. Max, Bill and John all spoke wonderful words and kept the packed clubrooms rocking. Then it was back to the shack to see the last quarter of what was an enthralling match of footy between the Saints and the Tigers. All the more enthralling because we watched it through the lens of Bill’s magnificently large home entertainment unit. The screen alone must have been all of 12 inches wide. And every piece of play we witnessed that night was accompanied by a magical bright green “3” that hovered in the top right corner of the screen. It was magnificent.

Fortunately for Yvette, she’d left us for the safety of a motel to see this game. She would not have appreciated the fact that most in the shack were happy for a Tiger win. The late evening was highlighted by a sumptuous feast, prepared by Bill himself and accompanied by Mrs Phantom’s spinach pie, which hitherto had also been the stuff of legend. And the night was topped off by the reliving of many tall tales, mostly about Geelong for some reason, and a viewing of several pieces of footage of the Cats winning finals and flags.

Saturday saw us watch the mighty Wynyard (also the Cats) dismantle archrivals East Devonport and stamp themselves as genuine flag favourites in the NTFL. BOG was none other than SOB (son of Bill), George Walker himself.

An afternoon of footy and saveloys gave way to an evening of trivia, with the Almanackers (sans Gigs, who had gone back to the motel to witness two of the bigger upsets of this footy season) coming in fourth.

Sunday morning found us in the minibus, wending through the beautiful coastal heights of northern Tassie, until we reached the house of Clint, the Wynyard Cats’ ever-reliable number 39. Not only reliable on the footy field, Clint came good on the previous evening’s promise of a breakfast of salmon, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomato and Flynny’s favourite, “Johno’s Sauce”, while we gazed out of his floor-to-ceiling windows at the stunning coastline views.

And then, seemingly no sooner than it had begun, our quest was over as we bade the no-longer mythical – but still legendary – Phantom a fond farewell.

The flight back was as primitive as the first had been, but this time those chicken-flavoured crisps tasted like manna from heaven. For we had reached our holy grail and spent the weekend with Mr Walker – the man who cannot be thanked enough for his hospitality.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Gigz

    Chicken flavoured crisps always taste like manna from heaven … though i appreciate the perspective

    As for the beast???? After our riffing the other day, I expected it would be a Sasquatch.

    Gorgeous peice mate

  2. Lord Bogan says

    Flynny=The Professor
    Dips=Thurston Howell
    Gigs=Oh Dear.

    Seriously, great story mate. Wish I was there with you :)

  3. Thanks Zitter and Phil. Make sure you’re with us next time, Phil!

  4. Thanks for making me Ginger. It certainly felt like Gilligans Island, and we could happily have stayed stranded.

    Good report Gig’s


  5. Great stuff, Gigs.

  6. I don’t know Yvette. Mary-Ann was the one I liked. Ginger was to high mainatainance.

  7. Better to be Ginger than Thurston Howell’s wife, which was the only role Phil left for me!

  8. Lord Bogan says

    At least you’re rich and you get to spend some quality time with Dips, Gigs :)

  9. The subliminal aspect to Gilligan’s Island was that each of the characters apparently represented one of the ‘seven deadly sins’.

    Phantom’s report is yet to come. He was on the straight and narrow for the crucial landing on the island after the storm.

    (“Phantoms see and hear many things” – Old jungle saying)

  10. Shane Johnson says

    Well done phantom…and how good are the savs

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