What Makes a Footballer?

I can marvel at Judd.
But barrack for Goodes.

Voss was a Champion.
Pike was a legend.

Campbell Brown can be a goose.
That’s why we love and hate him.

Nick, on song, is a sight to behold.
Jack is always entertaining.

They’ll shine it off him, but he has that wanker streak that, simply,
a great full-forward.

Tony Lockett once said to a mate of mine who played about 100 games with him.
“Next time you have a shot from anywhere outside 35 rather than pass to me, I’ll fucking kill you.”
Can you imagine how hard those eyes are up close, when he’s breathing on you?

Dunstall wouldn’t even stick up for his club when they were facing merger.

SOS was a Champ.
Danny Frawley was a true ‘servant of the game’,
a great foot soldier.

When I saw him out there,
I was looking at 100,000 top blokes and country footballers.

Matty Scarlet wins Premierships.
No, more than that, he makes them happen.
But I love watching Brian Lake go for marks and get stroppy.

As a kid I wanted to be Jimmy Jess,
saw myself in Spud,
and couldn’t relate to Ross Glendening.

Ross Henshaw looked like one of the Muskateers. How the hell could you not barrack for him!?

Crazyhorse? Cunningham?
They were tough, brilliant aliens.

Their faults made them.

I never cared what Michael Gardiner did off the ground. It wasn’t my business.
The more boring people attacked the bloke, the more I barracked for him.

I wish to God I was Dean Cox,
but know I’m more a Flannigan
or Symonds.

There are no champions under 25 years old.
Many All-Australians aren’t.
Champion is a big word. You have to do that shit for about a decade,
like Guy McKenna and Andrew McLeod did.

Like Gary Lyon didn’t.
He had a Champion Year, but was always stuffed by injuries.

Sometimes the hype puts you off a fine player.

I never saw Bobby Davis play football,
but he was a Champion bloke, no worries!

The first story I ever had published had Paul Roos in it.
He read it and sent me a handwritten letter.
That meant a lot to a young bush worker.

To me, he’s a Champion.

Jobe Watson makes me want to barrack for Essendon.
Milne makes tens of thousands of people not barrack for St.Kilda.

Some players grow into being people.
They just keep doing it. You find the older they get, the more you start barracking for them.
Scotty West was a prime example.

Lazar Vidovic liked a blue. It was worth the two or three weeks we’d miss him.
Rhys-Jones was just cheap and nasty.

Like politicians and whores,
in the end, everybody in the world who never played against him, loved Libba.

The Pod IS everybody over 25! Everybody!
He looks like a man, one in search of a 4-wheel drive track, or barbie.
That’s why we like him.

King, for Richmond, is every kid.
He keeps the memory of Michael Gale alive. And Matty Dundas.
So does that wranger for Brisbane.

Spalding did a great job at CHF. He was another servant.
But Billy Brownless, jumped, fell, ran around, dropped marks and kicked massive torps
and we fucking loved him for it!

Leigh Matthews was a thug,
Bobby Skilton a Champion, and a legend.
Glen Archer and Francis Bourke were tough and courageous.

Poor Gary Wilson was never on telly.
Matthews got the glory,
but Flea was the latter three of that quartet.

Not a ruckman from the 70s and early 80s wasn’t stark raving crazy.
Except for Peter Moore.

He won Brownlows, and was boring.
Just ran in circles that finished where they started and got the umpire’s attention.

I never went to the footy just to watch him.

I once had a beer with Nicky Winmar.
Lillee to Marsh, Winmar to Lockett.
What a footballer!

I bet Cameron Ling is the sort of bloke you’d enjoy talking to.

About footy, surf, the Great Ocean Road,


  1. Matt – I was lucky enough to have a short chat with Lingy about a year back. Champion bloke.

  2. David Downer says

    More Zurbo brilliance! Top stuff.


  3. Which wranger from Brisbane? There are about 8 of them…

    A friend of mine has put forward the theory that Voss’s positive discrimination in favour of the red heads has been his downfall as a coach. (“Look at the colour of his hair mate. He is favouring the bloody gingers!”)

    After the 2007 GF, a group of Geelong players made a post season trip to Bali, (not all the team, but Mark Blake, ‘the unlucky omission’ was on tour). The boys met up with the Bali Geckos and by all accounts were all “top blokes”.

    Another top bloke who I reckon you would rate Matt is Geelong/Essendon’s John Barnes. Met him after training with the Geckos during my first Movember. Genuinely salt of the earth. The loss of a computer hard drive with 10 000 songs was tragic enough, without including the photos including a photo with Barnesy…

    Not the case with all visiting players.

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Thanks DD!

    Gus, yeah, there was too much hype around Barnesy. I would have loved to simply meet him, though. Would wouldn’t?

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    The Zurbonator has hit a purple patch! When I was Centre-Half-Back at Preston RSL I modeled my kicking on Jimmy Jess and his 70 metre torps out of half-back. Love the ghost!

  6. graham from rocherlea says

    leigh matthews,peter moore and david rhys jones all champion players.
    was leigh matthews regarded as one of the best of all time?????
    i don’t think you saw them play

  7. Two I have always loved.

    Craig Turley came runner-up in a Brownlow and not long after chucked it all in, bought a combi and went on a year long surfing trip. Admittedly his back was stuffed, but I liked that story. The Dees coaxed him out of retirement, but he was never the same. Perhaps a lacerated scrotum will do that to you.

    I also remember playing golf at Yarra Bend when Benny Gale joined our group. While waiting on one of the par 3’s, he teed up and hit a few balls up the cliffs into the mansions overlooking the city. Can’t remember the exact reasoning, but it had something to do with their money.

  8. Matt Zurbo says

    Classic, Shaken!
    There was a bloke from Apollo Bay who did a Turley while playing for Fitzroy. He never regretted it. Good luck to him.

  9. The thing that struck me about Barnes was that he played as a ruck, yet he was only about 6’3″ or so. He must have been giving away inches to most of them, but in hindsight, he always seemed pretty equal on the ground. I guess that is what makes a champion; a complete lack of acceptance of the limits of your ability…

  10. Matt Zurbo says

    Gus. Yeah, Champ, as the piece implies, is in the eye of the beholder. For me, it’s not just about ability and Stats, but Character, too. Barns was not a Champion AFL player, to me, anyway, but seemed an absolute champion bloke. He gave the lot every time he pulled on a boot.

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