He made his way towards our table dodging through the bustling gathering of blokes all cheerfully engaged in conversation about footy and old school day memories.

“Choofer!” We called out his nickname. “G’day Choof”

He shook hands with us, smiling like a bloke who’d just backed a long shot.

G’days were swapped around. He took a seat.

“By the way boys”, he said leaning over the table, “Just a reminder; no one calls me Choofer anymore. I haven’t been called that since I left this joint in 1981.”

That’s what I love about old school mates; they keep you grounded. No one from my old school days is allowed to get a big head. It would be jostled out of them in a flash. All it would take is a reminder of that embarrassing incident in the locker rooms in 1978 or a boisterous retelling of your very public naked dash from the showers to the change rooms following the theft of your towel.  Jokes would be made about your anatomy. Everyone has a weak point.

I’m at Whitefriars College in Donvale. This is my old school. The old collegian’s footy club is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011. The school itself celebrated its 50thyear in 2010. Currently Whitefriars play D1 in the amateurs but they have been as high as B grade and had a short stint in A grade for one season. We’ve gathered for the first game of the new season under a huge marquee to see the team go around and to celebrate the past players and past flags. Indeed all the premiership flags are hanging from the roof in all their glory. Lunch is a gourmet pie and a plate of green salad about the size of a small Pacific Island. But it’s a fund raiser so no one whinges.

I guessed there must be a few hundred people seated at round plastic tables which are all covered in white butcher’s paper. It’s an outstanding turnout. Lawrence Mooney (of The Match Committee fame and many other media appearances) takes the stage. Loz is an old Friars boy making him perfect for the MC’s job. He’s one of the most naturally funny blokes going around, plying his craft effortlessly and expertly. He knows Whitefriars, he knows the right pitch for his comedy. He nails it perfectly with a combination of classic in-house humour and hilarious stories. Stories of kids getting caught smoking in the surrounding bush land and being chased through the scrub by an ardently anti-smoking teacher. We all knew which teacher he was talking about. We’d all been chased by him. How we didn’t set the dry, highly combustible eucalypts on fire during our smoking escapades is beyond me.

Mooney mentions a kid who was a high achiever in his time in year 12 who has gone on to become a master of the universe. In a moment of brilliant self deprecation, he says

“He’s gone on to become the head of an enormous organization and I’m a B grade celebrity – so who’s laughing now?”

Woody’s arrived and so has RVR and Smithy and Robbo (there’s always a Robbo). The lanky Greg Donnelly wanders in.  Dick Baker is standing at the entrance with his 16 year old son who is 198cm tall and still heading skywards. I see Bugs off in the distance, Lump is having a beer with a few of his contemporaries, and Santa sits down with the usual smile plastered on his face. That smile’s been there since I met him about 35 years ago. Feuta, being one of the organizers, and Sal, the club President, are both buzzing around making sure the day stays on track. It’s a difficult job at any Whitefriars function. Peter “Happy” Hannan sidles over after the speeches to discuss the Pies/Blues clash the night before. We dissect in detail what’s wrong with the Blues. It takes us some time.  We then conclude that the Pies are about six goals better than any other team at present.

Someone yells out that the bar will close in five minutes (in the amateurs the rule is no alcohol consumption once the game starts) and suddenly the people manning the refreshment filled plastic tubs are very popular.

The Friars boys run onto the ground whilst we are still in earnest conversation in the marquee. We miss most of the first quarter but watch as the second unfolds. They’re taking on the Old Mentonians, a team that they both defeated and lost to last season. The Friars boys look more mature this year. Their bodies are carrying more bulk, their run out of defense looks more assured, their tackles stick more often. In a pretty tough, close encounter they look the better side, though the skills of both teams let them down occasionally.

The Friars threaten to split the game open but Mentone kick three quick goals to bring the scores close again.

At half time about a thousand footies emerge from car boots and backpacks. Older blokes congregate near the goals and kids swarm across the forward flank as footies fly in numerous directions and with varying trajectories. They’re like a colony of bats leaving their daytime roost in search of food. The sky is black with them. It’s inevitable that a little tacker is going to get donged on the head. I just happen to turn around and watch a spearing shot from 30 metres out bounce off a kids face. Tears flow. He searches for his Dad but Dad is too busy wheeling around on his right foot having a ping at the goals from close to the boundary. He misses dismally. The little kid sits down alone and holds his face. It’s turned as red as a new Sherrin.

After half time the Friars begin to exert their authority. They grind the game out in the third quarter whilst kicking against the wind. At three quarter time the players get the age old message from the coach – “Don’t think the wind is going to do it for you boys.”

They don’t. Not long into the last quarter they break the hearts of the Mentone boys and surge away to win by 11 goals.

The season has started well. The Friars will be very keen to make the top four after they ran out of legs last season and finished 7th.

It was a great day. Watching some local footy, engaging in some banter with old school mates, downing some cold VBs. Magnificent.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Nice memories, Dips. What year was your HSC year? (If you are prepared to reveal such info.)

    I still go to the footy (AFL) with guys I went to high school, primary school and even kindergarten with. It’s true what you say about keeping each other grounded.

  2. Gigs – I’m a 1981 boy. Was it VCE in 1981?

  3. No, it was still HSC in ’82, which was my year (not at Whitefriars, although I went to La Trobe Uni with an ’82 Whitefrairs boy).

  4. Dips
    It was a solid first-up win for the Friars.
    I will be at Whitefriars on April 30 (round 3) when they host Willy CYMS.

  5. Steve Fahey says

    Great stuff Dips

    Is Dick Baker the guy who was also known as Richard Baker and played some footy at Comm Bank in F grade before playing for Whitefriars ?

  6. Steve – the same one. Hard as nails was Bakes. He appears on the Almanac site from time to time under the cunning disguise of “Bakes”, usually niggling away about bloody Collingwood, stirring for a reaction. You out there Bakes!!

    #3 Gigs – obviously I have to ask who that was.

    #4 – Smoke – might see you there. Go Friars!

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Dips,

    didn’t the Friars wear black and white stripes? I used to watch the Herald Shield in the early 80s on a Saturday morning. They were warm up matches for the old night comp.

    I also think that fellow Knacker and Age Journo Mark Hawthorne was a Friar. Used to drink with a few of them Friars boys in the early 90s. On the surface, nice conservative lads, but after a few beers…

  8. Dips,

    Whitefriars? Are we aloud to say that these days.

  9. alowed

  10. #7 – Phil – brown and white. You must have had a B&W TV. Mark Hawthorne is an old Friar. I hope he has the fond memories I do.

    #8 – Phantom – you’ve obviously been watching the Andrew Bolt case. In Adelaide there’s a Blackfriars and in Perth a Greyfriars.

  11. #6. Dips, his name is Andrew Mernagh. He was a redhead. Haven’t seen him since uni but have seen his profile on “Linked In” or somewhere like that.

  12. #10,

    and George Foreman markets meat fryers.

  13. Steve Fahey says


    A good Collingwood man is Bakes, Dips.

    I pulled out my 1990 GF Day photos this afternoon and found a couple with him in it. I remembered that we ran into him and his mate Marty Keogh after the game and they joined us for some revelry !!

  14. Dips – you nailed the atmosphere perfectly! Isn’t it amazing to see what 70 regular blokes generate over 25 years. And to think that this is repeated at all clubs.

    Steve – nice to hear from you. I had no idea…. I well remember catching up on that magic day in 1990 with MK et al. It was like the end of the war. Last year was just as good.

    Love to win another one with this side before another outfit inevitably catches & passes us.

    Cheers Bakes

  15. Greg Donelly says

    Great work Dips…I had a great day….the lanky one

  16. Dips,
    You captured the day perfectly, the day was great and to catch up with blokes I have not seen for may years was sensational.
    Some of them mentioned that in the early days of the Friars, I could actually play some footy.

    Old Boys Footy, it still brings us all together and go over the Good Old days!

    Well done Dips

  17. #14, 15, 16 – cheers boys. Hope we can do it again soon. Go Friars!

  18. Pamela Sherpa says

    Love reunions Dips. Everyone I have been to has been sensational. Glad you enjoyed yours.

  19. Dips, L. Mooney’s position? And re the Willy game: they are big friends of the Almanac as well – another terrific ammos club. Really enjoyed your yarn Dips. Felt like I was there.

  20. Steve Fahey says

    #14 Bakes – post a message on one of my articles and I’ll get your email address and forward you those post-match euphoric photos

  21. You had me all the way … until you mentioned VB.

  22. Dips,

    Great to see you haven’t lost your genius with the written word after all these years!

    It was a brilliant day – good footy by the current 22, great reminiscing, and the mandatory haranging of the larger then life JB.


  23. Mark Hawthorne here. Just saw my name mentioned (six years too late).
    Nice read DIps. I have a few things to add:
    1. Yep, I am a Friars Old Boy. (I wore #23)
    2. It was brown and white vertical stripes with a gold collar in my day. A tale goes, after we won the Herald Cup in ’86 some wag at the VFL sent our jumper to Collingwood and Hawthorn and told them it was the league’s proposed “merger” jumper for the two clubs. They believed him.
    3. Playing for the twos on the “bottom oval” in ’87, i distinctly remember winning a free kick out of the ruck. I looked up and saw six defenders and two forwards. The other four Friars players were down in the bush having a smoke mid-quarter. Needless to say we were losing badly.
    4. I find any suggestion I drank regularly with Phil Dimitriadis in the 1990s highly defamatory.
    5. My last game of football ever was on Wandsworth Common in London circa 1998. Mark Zanotti and I collided. One of us ended up concussed. When I came to on the boundary I was heard to say several times: “It’s OK Andy, I’m right to go back on.”
    My team mates apparently stared at each other, as we had no Andrews in the team.
    Andy Dalrymple was my footy coach at Whitefriars.
    I thought I was back at Donvale.

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