Bridgewater: A home for mudlarks
Rob McLean – July 18, 2012

Former Glenelg and Hawthorn star Tony Hall is well known for two career moments – the first is his miraculous 1992 State of Origin goal against Victoria at Football Park (, the other is slightly more infamous.
In 1989, South Australia headed across to the MCG to take on the might of Victoria, featuring anomalously Jason Dunstall, in a State of Origin contest in which SA got belted  (
The match was played on a quagmire, John Platten famously had his photo taken in a pair of gumboots prior to the match, and Hall injured his knee on the mud soaked oval – tackled by Hawks team-mate and now West Adelaide coach Andy Collins.
Spectators with long memories attending Bridgewater Oval last Saturday would have recalled that moment and how many attributed Hall’s injury to the sticky MCG mud.
Last week’s rain, plus the pressure of a number of earlier games, turned the Adelaide Hills Central Division match between Bridgewater and Mt Lofty into a mud wrestle.

It’s possible, in those conditions, that if Tony Hall had been playing at Bridgey, he may well have done both knees!
During its history, the Bridgewater Oval has earned itself a reputation for producing conditions that would have the average mud lark rejoicing.

In recent years matches at the venue were cancelled after the creek running alongside the oval overflowed, swamping the ground.
As a result, one wing was basically washed away and is now a few metres narrower.

Saturday’s match saw a rolling scrum, with ankle deep mud in some sections of the oval and by the end of the day’s five games, two thirds of the field had become mud.
It is not unknown for players, following matches at Bridgey, to visit a doctor to get treatment for irritated eyes.
To top it off, following the weekend’s game, players returned to the changerooms to find the showers were cold and there was no water pressure – resulting in a number bathing in the nearby creek to clear away the mud.
In what was a crucial game for both clubs, the home side was defeated 2.5 (17) to 5.14 (44).
Judging by the conditions, it was amazing any goals were scored at all.
All of this adds to the unique nature of country football!

The changing face of football media

May 23, 2012

As I’m coming to the end of my playing days, I was reflecting the other day about some of the changes I’ve seen to the game since I first started playing senior football 18 years ago.

Of course there are the changes to the rules, generally filtering down from the AFL, that have seen much of the thuggish displays of the past removed from the game.

Then there’s the change in guernsey styles from the thick woollen jumpers of yesteryear to the slick productions we wear today, while the shorts have gone from Warwick Capper tight to Eddie Betts baggy.

Match strategy has changed significantly, while techniques employed by trainers to get the boys out  on the field have also changed.

But the change that has impacted on me the most, as a media practitioner and serious footyhead, is the way in which we find out the most important aspect of the game – who won or lost.

Growing up in Adelaide, the Sunday Mail’s score pages were (and still are) a treasure trove of information  where you could see which clubs were winning, who was getting belted and which former SANFL stars were still getting around.

But the problem was, if you wanted to find out the scores, you had to wait until Sunday.

Those wishing to find out whether, for example, Mt Barker had edged Hahndorf out of the four, or by how much Port Elliot or Cadell had been belted that weekend needed to wait for the Mail to arrive on their doorstep.

When I moved to the Riverland in 1998, a whole new world of footy updates was opened up to me.

On Saturday nights, at about 6.30, flame haired Darren Heuzenroeder or Rolf Hergstrom would present the scores from the day’s action in both Riverland and Independent matches on RTS 5A, which later became WIN TV – at which point the program ceased.

The South East also had a similar program.

Whole football clubs would stop to watch the five minute program to see what had happened in the other games and the other grades, before waiting for several days for the local press to hit the stands where they could read in greater detail about how their side had mauled the opposition or been mauled themselves.

The delivery of those match reports now come via email but it wasn’t so easy in the past.

Current State Legislative Council member John Dawkins has covered football for both Gawler’s The Bunyip and Balaklava’s The Plains Producer over the years.

He recalls in the early days reading the reports down the line to editors who would then transcribe them for publication, while in more recent times he would fax them to their respective destinations.


For the first century of the game, the local newspaper had provided the majority of the footy coverage, becoming the historical recorder of a sport that brought communities together and sometimes tore them apart.

That has all now changed with the advent of the internet and, in the past decade, smartphones.

Now a simple text to a mate, a click to an app or a glance at Facebook tells you the scores, who did what and can often tell you of any talking points in the day’s action.

Add that to web sites such as this and footy forums, where people are discussing the results of the day’s action just minutes after matches are completed, and the score checking process is a heck of a lot different today.

So, where does that leave newspapers in all of this? For mine, it doesn’t change much at all.

Despite some people predicting the death of newspapers, the types of community media covering our football remain very strong.

Football continues to provide the backbone on which most local newspapers maintain their circulations as grassroots sport online coverage is still very much in its infancy.

Match reports, previews and feature articles remain a highly digested feature of each week’s reading for football nuts.

People are still buying newspapers to see their photo amongst the reports or to catch up on the latest gossip about unhappy players or coaches on the ropes.

And, of course, newspapers remain an important avenue for recording football history so future generations can learn about the heroes and villains of the past.

New technology has slaked our thirst for immediate scores and the death of the local rag has been predicted by many, but the depth of coverage newspapers can provide means they still have a bit of run left in their ageing legs yet.

Which means I still have a job…for now.


True Warriors’ bad break

May 1, 2012

By Rob McLean

Photo: Darran van der Woude (at back)in a marking contest against East Murray last season.

Every football club needs its big hearted characters, the bloke who is the heart and soul of the place and who understands the institution that is a footy club.

Darren van der Woude is just that character at the Moorook-Kingston Football Club in the Riverland’s Independent football competition, so it was with much sadness that I heard that his playing days have probably ended following a severe knee injury in the April 21 match against Paringa.

Darren, or Vandy, as he is known to most around the Riverland, is a paradox – a man’s man, but one who is not afraid of showing emotions. He is also a former team-mate who I call mate in the true sense of the word.

Brought to Moorook-Kingston from Barmera-Monash in the early part of the last decade by former coach Paul Mitchell, Vandy has truly come to represent the Warrior code.

He has been there during the good times, when Mitchell led the club to consecutive grand finals, albeit losses, and is still there now as the wheel has returned Moorook to its position as a rank struggler, exactly where it was when he started.

In the game in which Vandy did his knee, the Warriors failed to kick a goal, adding further insult to his injury. His absence is one the club can ill afford and will leave a massive hole as the season progresses.

During his time at the club, the 34-year-old has become a true leader and is now the longest serving captain in Moorook Kingston’s history and, even with an ungainly kicking style (which makes him an atrocious kick for goal), shows the younger fellows how to play with ferocity and passion.

In his 11th season at the club, Vandy has become Mr Warrior, having also filled senior positions off field at a time when the club was truly struggling for leadership across the board.

Now it seems likely he will be forced to inspire his club from the sidelines. Busting your ACL, plus stripping all of the associated muscles and ligaments from the bone will do that to you.

After a visit to Flinders Hospital and receiving the ministrations of former Adelaide Crow Dr Matthew Liptak, Vandy now faces the long road back to recovery but at least he’s still got his sense of humour, that is guaranteed.

What he has also found this week is that he has got a lot of mates inside and outside of the club, having received plenty of get well messages via social networking or the mobile phone.

The response of genuine empathy for the bloke reveals how highly respected the River Murray Auto Wreckers owner is, as well as how many mates he has, in and out of the footballing community.

ABC to cover SA Country Grand Finals in 2011

The SA Grandstand team of Peter Walsh, closest to camera, Roger Wills and Michael Phillipou do their thing during a recent Adelaide Hills grand final.   Photo courtesy ABC

Life as a high profile football commentator can be a plush existence, working from climate controlled boxes with the best view of the ground possible and all of the relevant statistics close at hand.

Unless, of course, you are a part of the ABC radio commentary team heading off to cover a country grand final each spring.

Over the past few seasons South Australia’s Grandstand crew, headed by the incomparable Peter Walsh, have been packing up the outside broadcast truck and heading to various parts of the state to bring us local heroes doing their stuff in the biggest game of the year.

Previous seasons have seen the team covering grand finals on the Yorke Peninsula, in the Adelaide Hills, Riverland and last year’s sensational Great Southern League premiership decider, in which Strathalbyn ended Willunga’s tilt at seven consecutive premierships in a three point thriller.

The grassroots coverage has become a yearly tradition due to the AFL’s penchant for playing night finals, meaning there is a free Saturday or, in this year’s case, two for the Grandstand team to fill.

ABC Grandstand  producer Andrea Williamson said providing a seamless and professional call of the games can be challenging but fun.

The major issue for the broadcast team is learning the players, their names and their nuances, having never seen any of them before.

However, technical limitations and weather conditions often throw up other challenges the team doesn’t normally have to face in its plush Football Park broadcast box.

“From a technical viewpoint, we are often going to a ground with no broadcast facilities,” Andrea said.

“Sometimes you might be in the forward pocket.

“The Riverland one (which saw Renmark thump Loxton at Barmera) was enveloped in a dust storm.

“But that’s all the fun of it.”

However, you would never know the challenges presented to the team, as the match commentary is delivered in typical, no nonsense ABC fashion.

The yearly grassroots coverage will continue for as long as the AFL chooses to schedule night preliminary finals, according to Andrea.

That move will prove popular with local audiences, which thrive on hearing their local stars enjoying (if they’re on the right side of the ledger) premiership glory.

This year’s broadcast grand finals will come from Angaston (Barossa, Light and Gawler) on September 17 and Tantanoola (Mid South Eastern) on September 24.

Whatever the challenges, whatever the conditions, you can be sure the coverage will be top notch and the Grandstanders will enjoy the country hospitality on hand.

“All of the people, coaches, players and officials, are traditional country football people and they are always so helpful and support us so much,” Andrea said.

“They go out of their way to make sure we’re comfortable and we really enjoy being there.”

A Danish football experience – Q & A with Brant Lang

by Rob McLean – August 23, 2011

Brant Lang (top left) and his team-mates during a recent nine a side tournament held in Denmark and organised by the Australian Embassy. His Danish club is seeking an Australian coach for next season.

Former Loxton North junior Brant Lang is currently playing football for the North Copenhagen Baracudas in Denmark.

Lang, who played in Loxton North’s historic 1999 one point senior colts premiership was at Panther Park in the days of the late David Crutchfield, South Adelaide best and fairest Mac Grummet and explosive full forward Jason Keays.

A defender, he also played for city based club Unley.

In Denmark, for his wife’s employment, for another two years, Lang tells of his Danish football experiences and also puts the feelers out for an SA based footballer who might be willing to travel and enjoy the experience of coaching Australian rules in Europe.

Q: How did you find out about Aussie rules in Denmark?

A: Through rumour that Aussie rules was played here and then meeting the President of the footy club at a netball match in Copenhagen.

Q: What was your first experience of the game there?

A: Training inside a basketball stadium in the middle of winter, which definitely works on your short game.  Then playing my first game of footy outside and being pleasantly surprised how good the standard of football is considering the location it is played.

Q: How different are the facilities and ovals?

A: Each team has its own specific Aussie rules football field and a shared sports clubroom. The ovals are well maintained and generally a little smaller than Australian fields due to the comp being 16-a-side.

Q: What is the club like?

A: North Copenhagen Barracudas is a founding club of the DAFL. We are a successful club, having won the premiership in 1991, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2010. The club is made up of keen Danes and a stable group of Australians. Throughout our history, we have had players from all corners of the globe, including Belgium, Great Britain, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the USA.

Q: What is the standard of the  competition like?

A: Games are played 16-a-side (no wings) and played on a smaller field. Each team plays 10 league games each season plus finals. Games are played on Saturdays. The season starts in mid-April, it ends in September, and includes several free weekends (for travelling around Europe).

A summer 9-a-side competition is also played on a more social level and generally runs from September to October.

Q: What’s it like having a bit of home in Europe?

A: It is a great way to meet new like minded people and helps get over home sickness a lot quicker.

Q: The Baracudas pride themselves on the social side of the football club, why?

A: Socialising is a big part of the footy club and the league.  No matter where you play, you always end up with a beer and burger in hand after the match.  There are generally three to five social events throughout the season held by the Barracudas, which are always well participated by players (past and present) and are great events.

 The football trip is also a big event, where you pay $400,  provide your passport number and leave the rest up to the social committee to organise.  Past trips have included visits to Prague, Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and many other European countries.

Q: What are you looking for from a coach?

A: North Copenhagen Barracudas is offering a young footballer the opportunity to experience life in one of Europe’s most cultural cities while playing and coaching footy in the Danish Australian Football League (DAFL). Be part of our football club as our player-coach for a season, live life in Copenhagen, and use the city as a base to discover Europe.

Q: Who have previous coaches been?

A: Tim Feldtmann (2007/8) , Steven Wood (2009), Nick Ingall (2010) – St.Marys (NTFL) and Swans District (WAFL) player.

Q: What recompense will the coach receive?

A: Honorary payment – North Copenhagen can provide (i) 5000 DDK (approx. $AUD 1000) to cover some of the costs of your stay, and (ii) two-months free accommodation.

Employment – We will assist you getting work. Unskilled labour is readily available and pays well. A 12-month ‘working-holiday visa’ is available to Australians between the ages of 18 and 30.

Accommodation – We will also assist you in obtaining good accommodation after the first two months of your stay.

Travel opportunities – It will be possible to travel to other European destinations.

Q: What are the experiences on offer from the club?

A: To play one of the best games in the world in one of the best places in the world, whilst meeting some great people along the way.

Q: How serious do you take premiership success?

A: Although the competition is social, it is still taken seriously and we play to win premierships!

Q: What are some other interesting facts

A: Copenhagen has an established netball association that sports two to four  teams that play all year round.  They compete in the European Cup, which has been played in Stockholm and Brussels over the past two years.  In the past, both the Barracudas and the netball club have held joint social events and plan to do so in 2012.

Denmark has sent a national team to compete in the International Cup held in Sydney/Melbourne this year.  They are currently ranked 10th in the world and going from their most recent performances should finish in the top five. They were also runners up in the European cup in 2010 and have a few scores to settle with a couple of the teams Down Under. The team is made up solely of Danish guys that all play in the local league over here and there are some amazing athletes.

At the time of writing, the Danish Vikings had convincingly beaten China in the seeding round, while defeating neighbours Sweden by 39 points in their opening match.

So, if you’re heading off to Europe next year and are keen for a Continental Aussie rules experience, email Brant at:, he’d love to hear from you.



Waikerie 300 gamer Brooke Hoad in action against Barmera-Monash in Riverland B grade football.

When you’ve played a game against Waikerie’s Brooke Hoad, you know you’ve been up against a tough opponent.

And Hoad has made his mark on every level of the Riverland Football League, so there are many players who’ve felt the impact of a contest against the agile big man over the years.

On his way to playing 300 games with the Magpies, an honour he achieved earlier this month, Hoad has the rare distinction of winning a premiership in every RFL grade.

The celebrations began in 1988 with an under 13s premiership, continued with an under 15s flag in 1991 (undefeated) and three years later he concluded his junior success with an under 18s victory.

Hoad’s step into Waikerie’s senior ranks coincided with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history and he has been a major factor in that time, playing 213 A grade games.

His first A grade premiership title saw Waikerie knock off Barmera-Monash in 2001, defeating Loxton in 2003 and 2005 and then a victory in the club’s centenary year with a last gasp victory over Renmark in 2007.

The only premiership that remained out of his grasp was a B grade flag and it took four shots for him to finish off the complete set.

The first three grand final losses occurred in consecutive years (1995 to 1997) and they were followed up by a disappointing result in 2008.

However, last year Hoad achieved the full house when his side, hosting the grand final, defeated Barmera-Monash in a fiery decider.

It was a big year for Hoad, also winning the league’s best and fairest.

No wonder then, with all of this success, Hoad has stayed with the Magpies.

There have been many approaches over the years by clubs in and out of the RFL, even this pre-season saw rumours that he was heading to Riverland Independent club and near neighbour Ramco.

But, Hoad is the consummate clubman.

Not only did he not miss a game for 10 years, he also is a regular volunteer within the club, contributing in ways that many other players would not even consider.

He is at the club every Thursday night for club teas, helps out whenever asked and last season took on the role of marking the beautiful Waikerie oval in time for home games.

Hoad has also represented the Riverland at interleague level, as well as playing in the zone side seven times at the country championships, captaining Murray, Mallee Barrier in 2007.

The 34 year old, who made his A grade debut in 1994, is a club favourite and life member and rightly so.

Upon his retirement, whenever that may be, he will be regarded as a club legend, an honour not easily gained at a club that puts a high price on success.


By Rob McLean, August 9, 2011

Kapunda boy Johnathan Giles, rucking for GWS, is hoping to be elevated from the club’s rookie list for the 2012 AFL season.

Greater Western Sydney ruckman Johnathan Giles confesses the move to Adelaide from Kapunda was pretty big for him.

So you can imagine how  much of a challenge moving to Australia’s most populous city was for the 24 year old, looking to rejuvenate his AFL career at what will become the competition’s 18th club in 2012.

However, 200 centimetre Giles is not afraid of making a big move to benefit his career, as he showed in 2009, transferring from SANFL powerhouse Central District to Sturt to take on the lead ruckman’s role with the Double Blues.

It was a gutsy move leaving the club he’d followed his brother David to as a teenager, where he’d won two premierships while trying to establish himself as an AFL player with Port Adelaide.

However, the move paid off, with Giles shining for Sturt, winning the club’s best and fairest and attracting the interest of the Giants.

Fast forward to this year and Giles is thriving on Sydney life, a city he laughingly described as “different to little old Adelaide”.

With the population and traffic significantly larger, Giles admits it took him some time to adapt.

However, he’s enjoying the lifestyle, along with the chance to play under one of the game’s greats in Kevin Sheedy, GWS coach.

“He’s got such a different look at football and so much knowledge,” Giles said.

“He’s never short of a story, which I’ve enjoyed.”

The other much discussed name at GWS is, of course, rugby league convert Israel Folau and Giles has seen first hand his value to the game in that part of the world.

“(Being) from Adelaide, I didn’t know too much about him but he’s huge here,” Giles said.

“He’s like the Gary Ablett of rugby league and gets mobbed wherever he goes.

“People that don’t know AFL know Izzy and it’s been really great to get that exposure out here.”

On the field and Giles is developing further as a player under the tutelage of Sheedy and former Power mentor Mark Williams.

The big man has worked harder to make more opportunities in the forward line, adding greater versatility to his game – an asset that has become significantly more important due to the substitution rule.

The Giants are currently sitting third on the ladder and have managed to knock off competition front runners (and soon to be AFL rivals) Sydney, a promising sign as the season builds towards the finals.

“We’re getting ready for next year and trying to gain as much (benefit) from this year so that we’re prepared,” Giles said.

“It’s such a young group that finals exposure would be invaluable.”

A strong finish to the year will also see Giles lifted from the GWS rookie list and gain a senior position for what will be a historic season for the fledgling club.

The Kapunda boy, as is his nature, isn’t counting his chickens just yet and is not pronouncing ownership of a position on the inaugural list  – he’s just trying to make every kick count.


While other youngsters his age had AFL stars as heroes, Kapunda boy Johnathan Giles looked up to his older brother David.

“I always looked up to my brother, he taught me a lot, along with my dad,” Giles said.

“My brother was always who I aspired to be.”

The sons of Libby and Ian were avid fans of the Kapunda Bombers and enjoyed nothing better than a day out at Dutton Park watching their heroes run around.

Joffa, as he is nicknamed, recalls doing everything from running drinks to manning the scoreboard, or just skylarking around giving the occasional verbal to the opposition.

Brother David still plays for the Bombers and while he obviously doesn’t get to many games any more, the now Sydney based Giles gets regular updates on the club’s results.

It is not only his brother who Giles speaks to on a regular basis but also his former under 15s coach Charlie Brown.

“He’s been very important in my life,” Giles said.

“There’s been some tough times and good times and he’s been behind me all the way.”


with Rob McLean

South Australia has won the inaugural Country Challenge Cup, defeating Western Australia at AAMI Stadium on Sunday.

SA won the match, which was a curtainraiser to the Adelaide versus Port Adelaide AFL match, by 31 points.

Vice captain Tyson Wait, Imperials, led the way with a stellar performance, while South Clare’s Brodie Murphy booted six goals.

Scores were level at half time before a second half blitz saw the Croweaters stomp the Sandgropers, scoring 10 goals to four.

The side was coached by Willunga premiership mentor Barry Pilmore, with Cove’s Josh Vick captain and was chosen following the recent zone championships held in Port Pirie.


South Australia         2-3 6-7 10-8 16-9 (105)

Western Australia    3-3 6-7 7-13 10-14 (74)

SA Country Goal Kickers: B Murphy – 6, T Oakley, M Woolford – 2, H Miller, J Vandeleur, J Vick, T Baldock, J Taylor, J Farrier – 1. Best Players: Tyson Wait, James Vandeleur, Brodie Murphy, Tom Carroll, Marcus Burdett, Harry Miller. WA Country Goal Kickers: D Buszan, T Noakes, M Thomas – 2, M Gilhome, J Cormack, L Bairstow, K McLaughlin – 1. Best Players: Luke Bairstow, Mark Gilhome, Jordan Adamson-Holmes, Troy Ditchburn, Jace Cormack, Matt Helms.

MEANWHILE, 18 country players have been named in the South Australian Indigenous squad for the inaugural national indigenous under 15s championships on the Gold Coast later this month.

The carnival will see SA, coached by former Adelaide player Eddie Hocking, play five shortened games against the other states over the opening three days, with the top two sides playing a grand final as a curtain raiser to the round 24 AFL match between the Suns and Hawthorn at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, September 3.

The best players from the carnival will be selected in the Flying Boomerangs squad to play in Fiji in December.

The country players selected in the squad are:

Jamalie Atkinson, Sturt /Ramblers; James Brennan, Glenelg/Kalangadoo; Tyreen Gollan, Sturt /Ramblers; Tim Hartman, Sturt/Ramblers; Kupa Henry, APY Lands; Reece Hocking, Central District/Kapunda; Kyle Jackson, Port Adelaide/Central Whyalla; Brendon Jackson, Port Adelaide/Central Whyalla; Brandon Iuliano, Norwood/Torrens Valley; Kym Lebois, Port Adelaide/Ceduna, Isaya McKenzie, Central District/Gawler Centrals, Tyler McKenzie, North Adelaide/West Augusta; Austin Miller, Port Adelaide/Mallee Park; Scott Rathman, Central District/Gawler Centrals; Taylor Sparrow, Sturt/Mypolonga; Kye Turpin, Norwood/Lobethal, Peter Von Heytmanek, Eagles/South Clare; Curtley Warren, North Adelaide/Port Augusta.

The best kick in the Riverland and the Roo returns

from Rob McLean – July 27, 2011

The Riverland is home to many enthusiastic young footballers, kids who dream of hitting the heights of the AFL.

If they rise to that level they would follow in the footsteps of such home grown heroes such as Sam Fisher, Mark Ricciuto and Tony Modra, among many, many others.

West Adelaide talent development manager Andrew Marks recently visited the Riverland, checking out some of the local talent at school footy clinics.

Among the future stars Andrew found was one he described as the best kick in the Riverland.

Surprisingly, of all the young men trying out, the person earning that honour was actually Loxton North Primary schoolgirl Abbey Wilson.

Abbey has some already had recognition in football, having played under 11s for Loxton North for the past three seasons and featuring in an AFL Auskick advertisement filmed in Melbourne three years ago.

This year, with football against the boys becoming a bit tougher, she has chosen to take up soccer, making an immediate success of the sport by being picked in a state training squad.

Andrew has been on the phone to Abbey’s parents Paul and Jane a couple of times to discuss her involvement in the game and is very effusive about her skills.

With the talk engendered during the recent national women’s football championships in Adelaide about the future expansion of the game in that market, who knows where Abbey could find herself in the future.

MEANWHILE, a bloke who has a fair claim to actually being the Riverland’s best kick is Mark Ricciuto and the Brownlow Medallist made another return to the region to play for Waikerie on the weekend.

With the club celebrating the 20th anniversary of its 1991 premiership, Roo lined up for the Magpies’ seconds against Berri.

As expected, the Adelaide Crows legend starred in his team’s convincing win over the fifth placed Demons, booting eight goals.

It was his first game for Waikerie since kicking the match winning goal in the 2008 A grade grand final against Renmark.

According to one of his opponents, Daniel Dawson, Roo was as fit as ever and hadn’t lost any length in his kick.

“He still had his 50 metre kick and was hitting blokes on the tit,” Dawson said.

One of the beneficiaries of Roo’s kicks was full forward and best mate Clinton ‘Scratcher’ Eustice, who received a number of unselfish passes.

According to Dawson, Roo hasn’t lost his famous ‘don’t argue’either, palming off Luke Hefford before having a shot for goal.

Probably, one of the most excited players to have been on the field with the former AFL star was young Demons tyro Zac Trussell who was thankful to have avoided a collision with a Roo.

Via Facebook, he shared his thoughts about the experience:

“Pretty stoked to have played against Mark Ricciuto today. Also very grateful that he didn’t clean me up when he had the chance to.”

“I picked the footy up and saw him out of the corner of my and eye and sh*t myself…I gave the handball off and he hadn’t touched me and I was like, ‘pheww’!”

There are probably a few AFL players who wished Ricciuto had afforded them the same honour.

Mining football talent at Roxby

by Rob McLean – Tuesday 19 July 2011

IT’S a Tuesday night in Roxby Downs and it seems that every single kid in the town is at the local football oval, or that’s how it felt to West Adelaide Football Club talent development manager Andrew Marks.

There were kids running everywhere. Seventy of them resplendent in Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Collingwood and yes, even West Adelaide footy guernseys.

If you ever wanted evidence of the reach of Australian rules football across this state, this training session in the middle of the desert provides firm proof that footy is king.

Andrew, who is in the far north mining community with fellow Westies official Alby Brand, is mystified by the massive turn out and the enthusiasm of the kids compared to their city cousins…and then he works it out.

“There’s no television,” he said. “Well not like we have in the city.”

Like a man who’s found his spiritual home, you can’t get Andrew to stop talking about Roxby and its hard working footy community, even when he’s back in the city.

He praises the likes of Barry Mitchell, who runs the senior league, and the junior gurus ‘Tater’ and ‘Dags’, who even have a segment on local radio.

And in return, the Roxby community embraces the West Adelaide coaching crew, with people regularly going out of their way to thank them for their efforts.

“The people there are so friendly and thankful for what you do,” Andrew said.

“They love it because you are up there and will stop and talk to you.”

It hasn’t always been that way, as the area was almost a forgotten part of the development and recruiting puzzle, disregarded as a source of talent.

The Bloods though have embraced the area, bringing it into its recruiting zone and putting significant effort into becoming a part of the community.

With a touch of irony, given the vast mineral resources just below the surface across the area, Andrew believes his club is sitting on a talent goldmine.

The senior competition is the Far North Football League which consists of five teams, four based in Roxby and then Coober Pedy, which is 500 kilometres away.

Interestingly the vagaries of shift work in the mines means that the players who train with their team-mates during the week are unavailable to play on Saturday and vice versa.

As Coober Pedy is so far away, the Roxby kids play in a separate competition on a Friday night and are placed in teams that feature names of some of the newer AFL teams.

All matches are played on the town oval, which was developed with the help of sponsors BHP Biliton, who are massive supporters of the local footy community.

Kids representing the Roxby community recently travelled down to Adelaide, where they played a game against Happy Valley at Richmond Oval and went to AAMI Stadium to watch the Miners Cup match between their senior footballers and Broken Hill.

While it was a weekend to forget for Adelaide Crows star Taylor Walker, condemned for having a beer while he watched his mates from the Hill play, it was a huge experience for the Roxy kids, as well as those who accompanied them on the trip to the Big Smoke.

The trip awakened many to the opportunities that are available if they are willing to try and go to the next level with their footy.

Andrew said some lads to look out for in the future include Stuart Orr, Ethan Zeppner, Jayden Brand and Shaun Smith, all who are aged between 16 and 17 and playing at junior levels with the Bloods.

The question is, though, how many of the talented kids can West Adelaide convince to move away from home on the off chance they may go all the way with their footy?

“It’s a big challenge for us,” Andrew said.

“A 17 year old kid can leave school and go to TAFE and then earn $130,000 in the mines.

“So when it comes time for them to make a decision about having a crack, we are going to have to do some serious talk to convince them.”

It’s a job that Andrew looks forward to getting his teeth into.

Western wins state title

The victorious Western Zone team celebrates after their win at Port Pirie’s Memorial Oval on Sunday. Photo courtesy of The Port Lincoln Times.

by Rob McLean – July 13, 2011

Eyre Peninsula based Western Zone has provided the surprise of the SA Country Football Championships by claiming the title for the first time since 1999.

Widely predicted to feature towards the rear of the pack at this year’s tournament, Western benefited from an interchange blunder on Saturday, when Southern committed the cardinal sin of having 19 players on the field deep in the second of two halves.

The four goals removed from the Southern scoreline saw Western take the lead and ultimately win the contest before defeating Central in its second match of the day.

The free kick from Southern should not undermine the achievement, though, of Western taking out the title, having to overcome a very strong Murray South East in Sunday’s final.

A five goal to zero first half set the scene for the 30 point win in the deciding match.

Fittingly, the victors had six players named in the Team of the Championships at the conclusion of the two day carnival: Harry Miller Jnr, (Mallee Park), Waylon Johncock (Koonibba), Tyler Baldock (Wirrulla),  James Pedler, George Pedler (Cummins Ramblers), Carl Semmler (Tasmans), Levi Konitzka (Waybacks).

Grand final:

Western:                                       5.3     6.5            9.7            9.8            (62)

Murray South  East:                 0.1     2.2            3.3            4.7            (31)

Best: Western – C. Semmler, M. Keatley, H. Miller Jnr, G. Pedler, T. Baldock. MSE – T. Wait, N. Smith, L. Davey, L. O’Neil, B. Cordy.

Goals: Western – K. Miller, T. Baldock 3, M. Parker, W. Bilney, C. Semmler. MSE – J. McConnell 3, A. Kurzman.

What they said about the championships:

“This is one of the closest championships that we have witnessed in a number of years.” SANFL community football manager Glenn Rosser, The Transcontinental.

“The Pedler brothers were very good, Matt Keatley was another one, he made the state squad, the young lads in Tyler Baldock and Levi Konitzka, so it’s been a really good effort. We’ve got a lot of young blokes but we always had that experience there.” Western coach Simon Chase, ABC Local Radio.

“In the grand final we played Western who jumped us very early. They had four goals on the board in the first 10 minutes of the game and were in front 5.3 to one point at quarter time and after that we pegged away and chipped away but they were too good in the end.” Murray South East zone director Scott Duncan, ABC Local Radio.

“It was a genuine mistake. In the excitement of trying to give everyone a run we made an error early in the second quarter. But, really, there had been only a minute’s play, no-one had scored in that time and it had no bearing on the result. I don’t think the whole thing was in the spirit of the game.” Southern coach David Earl, Southern Times Messenger.

“We played very well in that game. We started off a bit flat but we picked it up and ended up with a win.” Western zone director Darryl Montgomerie, Port Lincoln Times, speaking of Saturday’s second game against Central.

Final standings: Western, Murray South East, Southern Districts, Eastern, Northern, Central.
Leading goalkickers: Travis Oakley, Northern (8), Paul Smith, Murray South East, Ky Miller, Western (6), Luke Mensforth, Eastern, Andrew Ross, Central (5).
U21 Player of the Championships: Levi Konitza (Western).
Player of the Championships: Matthew Woolford (Northern).
Coach of the Championships:
Symon Chase (Western).

Team of the Championships: Forward – Tim O’Brien (Murray South East), Travis Oakley (Northern), Josh Vick (Southern)

Half Forward – Brodie Murphy (Central), Tyler Baldock (Western), Marcus Burdett (Southern)

Centre – James Vandeleur (Central), Harry Miller Jnr (Western), Waylon Johncock (Western)

Half Back – Nathan Smith (Murray South East), James Pedler (Western), Tom Carroll (Southern)

Back – George Pedler (Western), Phil Bennett (Eastern), Jason Farrier (Southern)

Ruck – Luke Wells (Eastern), Carl Semmler (Western), Matt Woolford (Northern)

Interchange – Levi Konitzka (Western), Luke Davey (Murray South East), Matt Hodge (Southern), Geoff Appleton (Northern), Tyson Wait (Murray South East), Josh Taylor (Eastern), Luke Duncan (Murray South East).

Eagles finally flying high

by Rob McLean – July 6, 2011

Richard Kelly, pictured in his time with Carlton, proved to be the magic charm for the Callington United Eagles, helping the club win its first game since 2008 in his opening game

FORMER Carlton listed player Richard Kelly proved the lucky charm for Callington United Eagles as the struggling club broke its nearly three season long winless run on the weekend.
Kelly, in his first game for the Eagles, was named second best player in the 11 point win over fellow Adelaide Hills Country Division strugglers Sedan Cambrai.
The midfielder, who was taken at pick number 60 in the 1999 national draft but did not play a game for the Blues, notched up over 100 WAFL games with Perth and East Perth but it is doubtful he had ever witnessed jubilation like that expressed by his new team-mates on the weekend.
Callington United president Bill Filmer, who has been involved with the club for eight seasons, said the atmosphere in the changerooms after the game was finals like.
“It was amazing, it was just like winning a grand final,” Filmer said.
“I’ve never heard our song sung louder and with as much passion as that.
“It was an amazing feeling, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.”
Kelly is working at a nearby mine at Kanmantoo and the club has been urging him to play since the start of the season.
While not as fit as he’d like to be, Filmer said Kelly’s experience in the midfield during Saturday’s contest was critical.
The game was in the balance throughout the day, with the Magpies holding the advantage by just over two goals at each of the first two changes.
Callington could have kicked itself out of the game by half time, with 1.8 in the second.
“I guess when you don’t get a look at the goals too often, you can understand a bit of nervousness,” Filmer laughed.
A big effort in the fabled premiership quarter saw the Eagles take control by booting 5.2 and move to an 11 point lead three quarter time lead which eventually proved unassailable.
While Kelly’s input was invaluable on Saturday, it was captain coach Shayne Mitchell, who really made the big difference, being named best on ground.
Mitchell has a strong reputation for hard at the ball football and has been a successful coach at other clubs, such as Kenilworth in the amateur league and Great Southern League club Langhorne Creek.
His three quarter time speech was crucial to keeping the Eagles on track for their first win.
“‘Mitch’ just asked the boys to give everything they had because this win meant more than anything in the world to the club,” Bill said.
The victory was a well deserved reward for a man who put his reputation on the line and has brought a new feeling to the beleaguered club.
“As soon as we met Mitch, we knew he was the man for the job and he has proved to be passionate about the whole club,” Bill said.
“We definitely got the right man.”
Mitchell not only coaches the seniors but also the under 13s, revealing true commitment to the cause.
Other stars on the big day were full forward Patty Thornton, with three goals, and full back Pete Blackwell, who is the man predicted to win the club’s best and fairest this year.
With the hoodoo now over, Bill is confident the club can continue its upward curve.
He is confident the victory will not only boost the club’s confidence but also give it some much needed credibility.
“It gives us belief,” Bill said.
“A lot of footy is played in the head and when you get belted every week, you forget what it’s like to win.
“Not too many clubs will beat us by 40 goals now.”
Having said that, Bill knows that it is still baby steps for the Eagles and the focus is now on playing more consistent footy, as well as winning a second game to stave off the dreaded wooden spoon.
He was also full of kind words for the Sedan Cambrai club, for which he said he has a lot of respect.
“Their boys were obviously shattered and played the game in great spirits but (club president) Chris Tuckwell came up to me after the game and shook my hand,” Bill said.
“They’re a great club and we have an enormous amount of respect for them.”
For the record, before the weekend, Callington United’s most recent win was in round 15, 2008, against Macclesfield – the current crop of Eagles will be desperate to ensure there isn’t such a long wait between drinks next time.

United Eagles 2.4 3.12 8.14 9.17 (71)
Sedan Cambrai 4.2 7.3 8.3 9.6 (60)

Best — United Eagles: S Mitchell, R Kelly, P Blackwell. C Fowler, C Paech. Sedan Cambrai: S Klose, S Blenkiron, B Hutchinson, C Redden, R Johns.  Goals — P Thornton 3, S Mitchell 2, C Paech, R Jordon, L Webb, R Morris. Sedan Cambrai: H Bennett 3, R Johns 2, A McGorman, J Schultz, R Loffer, S Starkey.

Country footy inspires author

by Rob McLean – June 28, 2011

Author: Flinders University student Kate Hayford is hoping to hear your country football stories for a novel she is writing.

Every country football club has its stories to tell and Flinders University student Kate Hayford wants to hear them.
Currently undertaking a PHD in creative writing, Kate is developing a novel about a country football club tentatively titled Shag On A Rock.
Kate loves her footy and has even played the game, for Morphettville Park in the SAWFL.
In recent years her active football involvement has been confined to loudly following the fortunes of Aldinga in the Southern Football League, where her partner Simon Stead plays.
Her first memories of the game revolve around her father yelling at West Torrens games – now she is giving vocal advice from the boundary line, sometimes to the consternation of Simon.
“I’m not a quiet spectator,” Kate laughed.
“I’m a shocker and get carried away and there’s times after the game when I remember things that come out of my mouth and I’m so embarrassed.”
In recent years, Aldinga has struggled, being at or near the foot of the SFL ladder, meaning that Kate has had plenty to yell about, some of it less than positive.
This season though, Aldinga have been performing a little more positively and are currently sitting 11th on the 15 team SFL premiership ladder with three wins.
This all means there’s a more positive feel around ‘Shark Park’ on any given Saturday.
“I just like the atmosphere and it’s only recently that we’ve been able to watch the A grade play some exciting games but I especially like the close games – they’re my favourite,” Kate said.
“I’m proud to watch Simon play and the way he goes about the game.
“Plus I love the crowd mentality, it just carries you away.”
Whatever’s happening, Kate loves the Sharks and the 21 guys who take to the field each week.
Particularly because they give her some great stories (and laughs), along with material for her book which is about a team of ‘no hopers’ on the rise.
Based around a fictional team known as the Cormorants, or the Shags, the idea for the book came from a match between Aldinga and Reynella, the wonderfully
monikered Wineflies.
Tempers were fraying on the field, while ‘advice’ was flying from the sidelines.
Among those proffering advice were the Sharks’ under 18 players who started sledging the Reynella full forward who fired back, lost the plot and got sent off as a result.
According to Kate, it was one of the funniest things she’d seen on a footy field and was, in its own way, inspiring.
“I wrote a short story about that, it got published, so I decided to write a novel about country footy for my thesis,” Kate laughed.
“I’m interested in hearing any stories and incidents, anything to do with football.
“I would like to ultimately use them in my novel, or as inspiration for it.”
At this stage, Kate is about three quarters of the way through the first draft of Shag On A Rock and is looking forward to hearing some more yarns to help her finish it in style.
You can contact Kate via her email address at

Ricciuto pleads the case for grassroots football

Rob McLean – June 22, 2011

Caption: Mark Ricciuto, with MC Tim Lane, receives his Hall of Fame honour in Melbourne earlier this month. Photo: AFL Photos.

ANYONE who knows the Mark Ricciuto story knows that his football life began in Waikerie.
Every profile piece on the Adelaide Crows champion tells of his premiership with Riverland Football League club Waikerie as a teenager and SA football legend Neil Kerley trying to sign him up there and then.
They will also know that his first season of SANFL with West Adelaide involved long road trips with his father Murray, with the promising footballer doing his homework in the back seat of the family car on the return trip.
It is an intrinsic part of the Ricciuto legend.
So it was no surprise that Roo returned to his homeland in his acceptance speech upon receiving entry into the AFL Hall of Fame in Melbourne last week.
Referring to football communities like the Riverland as Aussie rules’ heartland, Roo’s impassioned plea for the AFL to not overlook community football was typical of the man – always earthy and keen to give back to the game that he loves.
In his speech he referred to Ramco, the small town next to Waikerie where he grew up, along with the former Mid Murray competition, which concluded in its 100th year in 2009.
“Although it is great to see the Gold Coast and GWS, I just hope that with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that is being done, that we put as much effort, resources and brain power into the traditional football states to make sure we don’t lose players like myself or Brad Helbig at Richmond, who grew up at Ramco,” Ricciuto said.
“We need to make sure we don’t lose clubs like Morgan or Cadell and make sure they stay strong as much as we can.”
When the Mid Murray competition finished up, so too did the Morgan-Cadell club, already the result of a merger in 1994.
Ricciuto’s plea comes at a time when football people are questioning their role in the Aussie rules food chain, given the money being poured into non-traditional markets.
Along with the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney regions, the AFL is injecting dollars into overseas markets to fund player development and expand the talent pool that is available to the Australian game.
Meanwhile, the AFL and SANFL are debating the future direction of the game in South Australia, with the management of the two AFL licences being investigated and inetivable changes to the state league.
Understandably, demographics require the AFL to take a broader view of the game, something with which Ricciuto does not disagree.
However, he said the impact of such growth on the heartland areas, with such proud football traditions, needs to be considered.
“I know you can’t throw money in the wrong places but those towns that don’t have footy clubs aren’t the same town once the footy clubs are gone,” he said. It is a message that bears thinking about. Thank you for remembering us Roo.

Another Perry making her mark

by Rob McLean – June 15, 2011  

Brittany Perry in action for SA against NSW in last year’s under 18 girls national football championships. Gawler girl Brittany Perry has enjoyed a rapid progression in football having only taken up the game last year and representing SA in the senior women’s championships last week.

WHILE Ellyse Perry was in the media spotlight last week, having added soccer World Cup squad selection to a similar honour in cricket, a young girl with the same surname was also making her mark in sport in Adelaide.

Gawler 17 year old Brittany Perry last week debuted for South Australia in the national women’s Australian rules football championships.

With talk of a growth in numbers and improved coverage of the women’s game, the Trinity College year 12 student comes into Aussie rules at an interesting time.

There are currently 73,000 female footballers, from Auskick to senior levels, and the AFL is keen to see its brand expanded in the women’s game even further.

Perry is a product of that growth which has seen South Australia’s senior competition expanded to six teams.

With an eye to the future, Perry talks of the game’s growth potential but does not go overboard in her expectations.

She is realistic about the prospects of the much discussed profile development of the women’s championships and the possibility of a national club competition.

“There’s been some big growth in the past couple of years,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure that the administrators are pushing for it (improved coverage).

“It’s all over my head, really, and it won’t hit for a couple of years yet – it will be a great thing when it  happens though.”

If Perry continues to play she will clearly be an ambassador for the game which she has only taken up in the past two years.

Already she can see the benefits of the women’s game’s expansion.

“There would be so many players out there, it would improve football 110 per cent among women,” she forecast.

“It would improve the skill and even the knowledge of the game.

“This is SAWFL’s 20th year and I only heard about it last year, so that will definitely improve as the game grows.”

Her club, Central District, is in its second year of existence and while it has struggled this season, is currently in fifth spot, an improvement on 2010 when it took the wooden spoon.

“We’re doing better than I expected this season,” Perry said.

An increase in player numbers would only benefit the South Australian state side which finished last in division one at the titles.

In its three games, the Croweaters lost to Queensland by one goal; suffered a 56 point belting to powerhouse Victoria, in which Perry kicked half of her team’s 2.2 scoreline; and conceded a 51 point defeat by WA.

Victoria again won the national title, the first to feature Tasmania, defeating Western Australia by 82 points in a lopsided contest.

Perry played as a utility throughout the series, spending time up forward and in defence, and said she felt a special thrill when she kicked SA’s first goal in the final term of its match against Victoria.

Hearing the roar of the pro-SA crowd when the ball went through for the long awaited major had her pumped.

“The scoreboard doesn’t always reflect the game – we were much better than the losing margin suggested,” she said.

Perry was introduced to the game the same way in which many young girls are – through watching her brothers, Brad and Matt, who both play at community level.

However, she has SANFL female development officer Emma Gibson to thank for her transition from basketball.

Gibson introduced her to the women’s form of the game and she has rapidly become a rising star, captaining SA’s under 18s last season, her first in the sport.

Of last week’s matches in the senior side, Perry said the standard of the national matches was a firm step up from club football.

“It was amazing, it was a lot harder than you’d expect for women’s footy,” she said.

“The skills are so much better and the group of girls were fantastic, it’s so good to be involved.”

Looking to the future and it would appear that Perry has plenty of options.

In the 2010/11 cricket season she was rookie contracted by the SA Scorpions in domestic cricket, while she also hopes to complete school and head into a career related to physical activity where she wants to “help people to get the best of themselves”.

As for that other Perry girl, the South Aussie is not related to her but has a special affinity with the double capped Australian sporting star.

“She’s such amazing person, she’s a role model for us all,” she said. You can bet that one day, Brittany Perry will be someone looked up to by other young girls looking to make their way in sport.



Stuart Boxer (far left), along with fellow Wisanger Football Club life members Ian Boxer, Gilbert Bates and Richard Turner in 1996.

If Stuart Boxer ever wished to study his family tree, his first port of call would probably be to check out the honour boards of the Wisanger Football Club.

Over the years, the Kangaroo Island club, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has seen massive contributions from the Boxer, Barrett, Turner and Bell families – all of whom Stuart is related to in some way or another.

The familial link starts right from the beginning, when Wisanger commenced playing challenge matches against Kingscote, Hog Bay, Penneshaw and Muston.

“My great grandfather on my father’s side was the first president (George Turner) and my grandfather on my father’s side also had the role, so did my father, uncles, my brothers and cousins,” Stuart said.

Among the great players in the club’s history have been Stuart’s brother Ian, a decorated full back, and cousin Warren Boxer who won a Mail Medal and coached the club for 13 years (before moving to Marble Range on the state’s west coast).

It doesn’t stop there either, with Stuart’s wife Lenore also heavily involved in the club’s foundations, along with son-in-law Steven Sampson.

While the Panthers’ current colts captain, Liam Sampson, is Stuart’s grandson.

Lenore and Stuart’s daughter Christine are also life members of the community’s netball club.

“There’s a hell of a lot of history within my family at the football club,” Stuart said.

As is generally the nature of KI clubs, Wisanger is mostly made up of members of the local farming community.

Stuart, along with son-in-law Steven, operates a property with sheep and fat lambs, some cereal and a few cattle.

It is the familiarity and family atmosphere at Wisanger, which makes the club so special, according to Stuart. “It’s a very much local team,” Stuart said.

However, according to Stuart the club has also benefited from the arrival of newcomers to the district, particularly those who have moved in as stock agents, bankers and school teachers.

“We’ve had some wonderful people contribute during the time they’ve been here,” he said.

Among those who have emerged from the club is Port Adelaide premiership ruckman and current Richmond assistant Brendon Lade.

Of course, like many clubs, Wisanger has been through its tough times, even dropping out of the A grade competition at one point.

But over the years there has been plenty to celebrate, with premierships regularly being added to the board.

The first of 16 titles came in 1934, with the most recent won in 2005, when the Panthers defeated Dudley United by 55 points.

The most successful stint came between 1968 and 75 when Wisanger played in every grand final, winning four in a row between 1970 and 73.

Stuart was playing in those days but the closest he got to being a premiership player was in 1961, his first season, when he was 19th man.

Wisanger defeated Nepean Bay 7.8 to 3.15 and Stuart, unlike many would be, was not all that upset about missing the chance to play an active part in his team’s success.

“I didn’t play on grand final day – I managed to avoid doing that,” Stuart laughed.

A half back flanker in his earlier days, Stuart later played full back in a career that spanned around 10 years.

After his playing days, Stuart embraced a variety of roles within the club, including secretary and committee positions, finishing his time as an administrator as the league commissioner.

Along with many other family members he has received life membership of a club which has always been a part of his life and he proclaims to be the heart and soul of his community.

“It’s just great being part of a group with a common interest in running a sporting facility,” Stuart said.

“It’s vital in a country community to have something like a footy club during the good and the bad times.

“It’s where you go to have a chat and a breather and unload your problems.”

The Wisanger Football Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a centenary game against Kingscote on July 23rd.

A book is also set to be released to commemorate the centenary.

For more information about the celebrations, contact Rob Ellson on 0427 231 854 or


Rob McLean – 31 May 2011

The glory of a premiership is one that remains with you for life.
In recent years, Willunga (Great Southern) and Tanunda (Barossa Light & Gawler) have knocked up a string of consecutive flags in dominating their respective competitions.
But not everybody gets to experience the joyous release of being in front on the scoreboard at the final siren.
For some clubs, premiership success is just a wisp of a dream, something that only happens to others.
The current longest A grade premiership drought in SA country football being experienced by Great Flinders Football League Club Eyre United.
Formed from the merger of Eastern Eyre clubs Butler, Lipson and Ungarra in 1963, the club is yet to taste the ultimate success.
In fact, it has only played in three grand finals, with the closest margin being the 2004 decider when Ramblers won by 11 points.
Interestingly, the club dropped back to B grade from 1997 to 1999, winning their only flag in the last year before returning to the top division.
Back east, the Heywood club plays in the Western Border Football League and since joining that competition in 1964 has only played in two grand finals.
Those two premiership deciders were played in 1964 and 1965, with North Gambier (19 points) and East Gambier (6 points).
The next longest premiership drought in South Australian country football belongs to Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara club Kybobolite which last tasted success in 1974.
Kybee, as it’s colloquially known, played in the 1975 grand final, losing to Border Districts by eight points, as well as premiership deciders in 1978, 1987, 2003-04.
Next in line is Riverland Independent club Wunkar, which won its last flag in 1976, defeating Moorook-Kingston.
Since then, the Bulldogs have played in five grand finals, including 1977 and 78 and the most recent in 2008 when the club fought out what is regarded by many as the greatest Independent grand final of all time, losing to Paringa by a kick.
Still in Riverland football and Barmera-Monash is currently sitting on top of the RFL ladder, having lost last season’s grand final to fierce rival Berri.
This year, coach Mark Wilden will be looking to win the club’s first flag since 1989.
The Roos might currently be premiership hungry but in the 80s, the Buff Tyrell led Lakesiders swept all before them, winning titles in 1983 to 1987 and then 89 (that period of success followed three straight losses starting in 1980).
Meanwhile, the Burra Booborowie Hallett club in the North Eastern Football League was formed in 1986, following a merger, and until recently had only played in one grand final (1986), losing to Brinkworth Spalding Redhill by two goals.
But in 2009, the club broke its drought with a hard fought victory over Blyth Snowtown, eventually running out 27 point victors.
The clubs which merged to form BSR were similarly starved of success in the years prior to their mergers.
Burra’s last flag was in 1976, Booborowie’s was in 1969, Hallett’s in 1957 (losses – 1958, 62, 66, 68) and Booborowie Hallett (formed 1970) did not win a flag and was on the wrong side of the ledger three times (1972, 78, 79).
Proprietary Risdon Lions is a merged club still waiting for premiership success, having played only one grand final since the 1992 union of the two clubs, losing to Port by 17 points in 2002.
It is worth noting that another recently formed club, Callington United Eagles, is yet to play in a grand final since starting in the Hills Country Football League in 1995.
For one club, ending the premiership drought may remain a dream, with Eastern Eyre club Rudall looking likely to merge with Cleve at the end of this season.
Rudall last won a flag in 1977, defeating Darke Peak by 14 points, with grand final losses following in 1977, 78 and 2001.
In the historical stakes, Eyre United’s premiership drought is not only the longest currently but also in confirmed country football history, replacing River Murray club Meningie (1954-2001) at the top of the heap.
Lost in the mists of time is the Morphett Vale record.
The Southern Football League club was formed in 1898 and the first recorded title was won in 1978.
Following that first title, the floodgates opened then, with flags in each of the following three seasons.
Between 2004 and 2007 the club also won consecutive titles.
However, the records on the club appear incomplete, with Morphett Vale having merged with others or been in recess at various points throughout its history.
Every year a premiership drought extends, is another step closer to that elusive victory.
Southern club Reynella found this out last season, winning its first flag since 1977 – giving other drought stricken clubs hope that their time will also come.

Current top premiership droughts
*Grand final losses since in brackets and current 2011 ladder positions in bold.
1963 Eyre United – GFFL (85, 86, 04) 4/6
1964 Heywood – WBFL (64, 65) 10/10
1974 Kybobolite – KNTFL (75, 78, 87, 03, 04) 4/11
1976 Wunkar – Riv Ind (77, 78, 91,98, 00, 08) 9/9
1977 Rudall – EEFL (78, 01) 4/5
1979 North Whyalla – WFL (82, 91, 03) 2/6
1981 Bridgewater – AH Central (90, 93) 10/10
1984 Gumeracha – AH Country 5/10
Kingston – KNTFL (85, 97, 00) 11/11
Millicent – WBFL (88) 7/10
1985 Flagstaff Hill – SFL (87) 9/15
1988 Kongorong – MSEFL 4/9
1989 Barmera Monash – RFL (95, 99, 01, 10) 1/6
Nairne Bremer – AH Country (90) 6/10

Thanks to Peter Lines, author of Encyclopedia of South Australian Country Football Clubs, for his help with this piece.

The day Port Elliot broke the drought

May 24, 2011

by Rob McLean

“THERE was great jubilation when, with 20 seconds to go, Tom Sullivan, down from the half back line, kicked the winning goal.”
That was how the Southern Argus reported Port Elliot finally breaking its infamous four year Great Southern Football League losing streak.
It was a winless run that had earned the Bloods notoriety inside and out of the league.
The Adelaide media had reported on the progress of the club as a running joke and football supporters across the state smirked as each new humiliasting result was recorded.
The streak even resulted in Port Elliot traveling to the tiny river town of Cadell to play in a match, sponsored by a brewing company, to see which was the best worst club in South Australia.
But to those inside of the club, each ignominious defeat was its own source of pride. Despite loss upon loss, the struggling club was showing true character to stay alive.
Apart from a brief renaissance in the 1993 and 1994 seasons, when the Bloods, with the help of some paid players, made the finals, the last decade of the club’s existence was bleak.
A club which had seen relative success with 10 premierships was belted from pillar to post..
The first taste of real notoriety came in 1995 with some massive beltings at the hands of Victor Harbor which had former Glenelg star Ross Gibbs as the spearhead.
In seasons 1995 and 1996 the Bloods played in 16 matches in which their opponents scored between 46 and 72 goals.
The majority of those scores occurred in the ‘96 season with Victor Harbor, Strathalbyn, Willunga, Encounter Bay, Mt Compass and Goolwa all feasting on the Bloods’ carcass.
Club games record holder Dave Whitbourne (235) said the players at the club had become used to losing and weren’t all that flustered when it happened.
“It was just good to go out there and have a kick with my mates and have fun,” Whitbourne recalled.
It got to the point where by 1998 it seemed the team had forgotten how to win, being within contact at three quarter time in several matches, only to go down.
It is only in recent years that Callington United has usurped Port Elliot at the top of the state’s highest scores list with their own collection of diabolical beltings, prompting one newspaper sub editor to produce the memorable headline “Cally just atrocious”.
Between 1986 and 2001, Port Elliot’s final season before merging with Goolwa, the Bloods won nine wooden spoons.
All of this set the scene for that fateful last minor round match of 1998, when the spirit of the Bloods had one last chance to pull through for a win.
Earlier in the season, Port Elliot had come agonisingly close to defeating neighbours Goolwa. This was to be a last shot at redemption.
In tough conditions, the Bloods battled against a strong breeze in the first term but at the long break only trailed by the slender margin of two points.
A goal each in the third quarter left the match in the balance, setting up a grandstand finish with nothing but pride on the line.
When Goolwa coach Peter Rea gave the slip to ‘Skull’ McPhee and scored a major early in the fourth, the Magpies had some breathing space.
However, into the game came Sullivan.
A journalist at the Victor Harbor Times, Sullivan had been recruited by a work colleague at the start of that season and was unburdened by the club’s ever expanding string of defeats.
An ankle injury had kept him out of much of the last half of the season, only returning in time for the final match.
As far as candidates to kick the match winning goal went, he was probably amongst the most unlikely.
“It was my first game back from injury and I didn’t spend much time on the field that day,” Sullivan recalls.
The ball squirted forward and into the hands of Sullivan, who remembers feeling desperate to secure Port Elliot a win.
“I was calling for the ball as it rolled along the ground,” Sullivan said.
“I got it and turned on to my left side and gave it all I had.”
The ball sailed through and Sullivan was embroiled in a ruckus as his victory starved team-mates celebrated.
With just 20 seconds left on the clock, the Bloods valiantly defended their territory and secured the long awaited drought breaking win.
The Argus had 18 year old centre half back Matt Williams as the Bloods’ best, with midfielder Robert Gregory next.
Also gaining mentions were Whitbourne, Allan Ellis and Nigel Mack.
The best for the vanquished were Grant Mills, Rick Davis, Darren Drake, Bernard Kustermann and Josh Vick.
According to both Whitbourne and Sullivan, the party that night was pretty good. Although, understandably, memories are fuzzy.
Whitbourne, who clearly lives by the adage that winning isn’t everything, said the long awaited victory was much more important to the hard working committee than for someone like him.
He suggests that people such as secretary Pam Wright deserved the plaudits for keeping the club going to secure the win.
In the following days a media frenzy followed, again, but this time football’s equivalent of Hollywood’s Bad News Bears were celebrating.
Channel Seven’s Today Tonight was among the media teams to venture to Port Elliot to cover the story. Throughout their visit match winning goal kicker Sullivan modestly stayed in the background, giving his team-mates their chance at glory.
While he could understand the interest, the equally modest Whitbourne said it was weird being interviewed for a news story.
Whitbourne, who began his senior career in 1988, was born and bred Bloods and gave the club further reason for celebration in the following week – winning the GSFL Mail Medal.
In a close count, two votes in the final game, against Goolwa, gave him the medal.
“It was a pretty good week,” Whitbourne said.
“It meant more for the club, (due to) not winning too many games.
“It didn’t go down too well with the other clubs. I wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to it, though.”
From there, there was precious little else for Port Elliot to celebrate in coming years as the club continued to struggle.
In 1999, the Bloods picked up only one win for the season, again the victim was Goolwa (round 10), and in 2000 managed to drift up as high as sixth on the premiership ladder.
With both clubs struggling, 2001 saw the merger of Port Elliot and Goolwa.
The merged entity took on the black, red and white colours but since then, Goolwa Port Elliot has failed to make a grand final and has reverted back to the black and white colours of the Goolwa Football Club.
Whitbourne attended the first few training sessions of the merged entity, before moving to the Riverland town of Barmera.
He continues to play today, running around for the Barmera-Monash B grade side in his Asics sneakers and continues to confound the opposition with his superlative fitness, speed and skills.
Sullivan now lives in Adelaide and only played the start of the 1999 season before taking off for an overseas holiday.
His only senior matches of football were with the Bloods but he has certainly left his mark on the game.
His goal kicking exploits are still common conversational currency, if only because his mates often introduce him to others as “the guy who kicked the goal to break Port Elliot’s losing streak”.
Not a bad mark to leave on the game at all.

Lillia’s cause unites footy clubs

by Rob McLean – Tuesday May 16, 2011

The Cluse family in a happy moment with Lillia, whose short life has inspired the Eudunda Robertstown Football Club.

Coach David Cluse (centre) celebrates winning the North Eastern Football League’s 2010 under 17s premiership, the historic first title for the merged Eudunda Robertstown club.

AT ITS core, football is about guts and glory but it is also about friendship and looking after your mates.
And it’s not always on the field where football clubs are at their best, as Eudunda couple David and Kathy Cluse have found.
On August 19, 2008, the couple’s third child, Lillia, was born at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide.
She was born with pseudodyastophic dysplapsia, a very rare form of dwarfism and was moved to the paediatric intensive care unit, where she lived much of her short life.
Lillia was only the 11th known case of pseudodyastophic dysplapsia in the world and the first in Australia.
The condition restricts bone growth and Lillia’s ribs did not grow enough to allow normal lung function, meaning medical intervention was required regularly to allow her to breathe.
Finally, after nine months of sustained and dedicated care in PICU, it appeared that David and Kathy would be able to take their beautiful daughter home.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse.
“Lilia had a respiratory arrest and was placed on life support,” Kathy said.
“Our worst fear was realised, she was at the end stage of pulmonary hypertension, meaning her heart was working too hard because her lungs were too small.
“She was not going to come off life support.”
Knowing how important it was for the family to have their daughter and sister at home, the W&CH staff allowed Lillia to go home for the first time, it was only the second time a patient on life support had been allowed to return home.
Lillia died in Kathy’s arms, also surrounded by her father David and brothers Lachlan and Rylee.
Throughout the whole emotional time, members of the Eudunda football and netball clubs, which last year merged with former Mid Murray club Robertstown, provided critical support to the family.
Like any country community, they looked after their own and now, each season, the Lillia Cluse Memorial Day football match is played against Riverton Marrabel Saddleworth United with money raised from the day going towards PICU.
The family has strong links with both clubs, as Kathy taught at Riverton Primary School and was employed there while pregnant with Lillia.
Both communities are equally passionate about making sure as much money is raised as possible for PICU.
David, who was senior coach of Eudunda from 2006 to 2008, is comforted by the way in which the north eastern communities have ‘adopted’ his family.
“We’ve both had opportunities that we would have had to wait for in the city,” David, who is a teacher at Eudunda Area School, said.
David and Kathy both love the way that Saturday is a family day, with parents and kids involved in either football or netball.
Both have had significant experience of city based sport, with David playing for Salisbury North, Woodville West Torrens and Grovedale (Geelong), during a Victorian study stint.
He is currently the North Eastern Football League’s association coach and last year coached the Saints’ under 17s to the merged club’s historic first premiership.
Kathy’s family have been heavily involved in the Salisbury North Football Club throughout her life.
“I see a huge difference, I guess, with footy and netball following each other,” Kathy said.
“It’s more of a family type environment.”
The proof of the pudding is in the support Kathy and David have received since starting their campaign for some much needed funds for PICU, which became such an important part of their life.
So far, through a variety of fundraisers, over $13,000 has been raised for the unit.
On the day of the memorial match there are donation tins and a raffle with the theme of pink, Lillia’s colour.
Last year, A grade football coach Adam Turrell was so taken by fundraiser that he donated $1000.
Earlier this month the pink footballs and netballs from the club’s Pink Day, raising awareness of breast cancer, were auctioned with the funds going to the cause.
“It’s amazing, we only started this up to give back to the hospital and we’ve just found the football and netball club have both got right behind us and had no hesitation in doing this,” Kathy said.
“It’s one of those good things about living in the country, we wouldn’t have got this level of support in the city.”
The third Lillia Cluse Memorial Day will be held this Saturday at the Eudunda Oval – to offer your support for this fantastic cause, contact Kathy on 0422 399 097.

About PICU
PICU looks after seriously ill children from South Australia, the Northern Territory and other country areas in neighbouring states.
The unit has 13 patient beds and two family rooms.
“Having a child in intensive care is draining and stressful but the PICU staff are a great support,” Kathy said.
“Money from our fund will go towards making the unit more family friendly.”
So far, funds raised by David and Kathy Cluse and their local community have been used to set up Skype, with a pink lap top, care packages for emergency patients and the purchase of new recliners for the unit.

John’s a Rooster, through and through

by Rob McLean – Wednesday May 11, 2011

A clipping from Gawler’s Bunyip newspaper heralding John Dawkins’ 200th game for Two Wells in 1986
JOHN Dawkins is the first to admit he was only a middling performer during his playing days with the Two Wells Football Club.
However, that didn’t stop him piling up over 200 games for the Roosters, both in the Gawler and Districts and then the Adelaide Plains football leagues.
Known to many across the state for his role as a Liberal parliamentarian in the South Australian Legislative Council, John’s contribution to the football club has not ended on the field.
Over the years he has seen it all at the footy club (including the demerger of the the Two Wells Virginia Football Club which operated between 1959-74) and this year is its patron at it celebrates its 100th anniversary.
In terms of premiership success, the Roosters have not had much too cheer in recent years, the club winning its last premiership in 1987.
Since then, Two Wells has played in three grand finals (including 2009) but has been unable to add another title to its tally of nine.
The centenary is a momentous occasion in any club’s history, so is there any pressure on this year’s squad to finally crack the premiership nut?
“It would be a pretty good time to win one, wouldn’t it?” John mused in his typically understated fashion.
“It won’t be easy, as it’s a very competitive season.”
“We had a very good year two years ago and then a disappointing drop off last year with injuries taking their toll.”
As you can expect, the other clubs aren’t going to give the Roosters too much sympathy and will be doing everything in their power to prevent a centenary premiership.
At this stage they have their work cut out, sitting in the bottom half of the seven team competition with only two wins, just ahead of the struggling Hamley Bridge, who they lost to in the last round.
It is a far cry from John’s peak playing days in the mid 1970s when Two Wells won three straight A grade flags.
The run started in 1975 in the club’s first year following its demerger with Virginia, defeating South Gawler by 69 points.
The following year it was Willaston suffering at the claws of the Roosters, who won by 41 points, and then, in 1977 the trifecta was completed with a victory over Gawler Centrals by 23 points.

After joining the club in 1971, straight from school footy at Prince Alfred College, John had played mostly B grade football.
In 1976, the Roosters needed a second ruckman to back up former North Adelaide player Geoff Norton and lanky John fit the bill nicely.
To this day, John is full of admiration for his team-mate, describing him as a top bloke.
“He allowed me to do more ruck work than I needed to do,” John recalled.
However, John did not have much to do on grand final day that year, watching on as the first emergency while his team secured the second of a hat trick of flags.
“I was 21st man,” John said.
“I didn’t even get on the field.”
It was still a moment to be celebrated and John said he enjoyed the festivities, especially as the side featured some of the best players ever to wear a Roosters Guernsey.
Among the players were North Adelaide pair Ken and Maurie Francou, who was the coach and known to many football fans these days as the father of Port Adelaide star Josh.
After that, it was mostly B grade duties for John as he went on to celebrate his 200 game milestone in 1986, a match in which Two Wells got belted by South Gawler.
The following year saw two big moments for the club, it returned to the Adelaide Plains Football League (for the first time since 1973) and John played his final game.
He is the first admit his last match was a less than glorious conclusion to his career.
“I finished playing in the backlines, as you tend to when you slow down,” John recalled.
“The last game I ever played was against Balaklava, the club was short and I hadn’t trained.
“They put me at centre half back on an 18 year old who wanted to run around a bit, I knew it was the end then.”
Like any great football servant, the disposal of the boots didn’t end John’s involvement with the game and to this day he remains a strong supporter of the Two Wells Football Club.
From league delegate, at the age of 24, league vice-president to club president, John has filled most roles.
“I just love the club,” John said.
“I lived half way between Two Wells and Gawler and looked at the three Gawler clubs but couldn’t make up my mind, so Two Wells it was.”
He said the friendships he has made through football is what playing sport is all about, with or without glory.
While, the politician and community leader in him also sees the very important role the sport plays in building better people.
“It’s a great developer of leaders,” John said.
“I see a lot of people in the country whose leadership skills have been developed and tuned through footy clubs and that’s something I’m proud to be involved with.”
John was even a football correspondent for firstly The Bunyip and then the Plains Producer, two very famous South Australian country newspapers.
He recalls those times fondly, particularly the efforts required to ensure his copy got to the newspaper by deadline in those very different times when fax machines were in their infancy and email was only a glint in a computer programmer’s eye.
John has even been involved in recording the club’s history for the books Two Wells: Then and Now and Life Around The Light.
All of which makes him eminently suitable to be working on a committee organising the TWFC’s centenary celebrations, including the reunion to be held on July 16, following the game against the Hummocks Watchman Eagles.
John is hoping many old cocks, sorry Roosters, will make it back for the big day.
“It’s very difficult to track everyone down, so if you are someone or know of someone who played for Two Wells, get in contact with us,” he said.
“We will be delighted to hear from anybody that’s had an association with the club.”
For more information, contact John Dawkins on 8522 4576 (h) or 8237 9312 (w).

GOOD FRIDAY FOOTY – Should we follow suit?

by Rob McLean – May 3, 2011

Big crowds such as this one watching the South Mildura and Irymple match in the Sunraysia Football League were par for the course at Good Friday matches played across country Victoria.

Why no Good Friday football in SA?

IT is the debate that comes up every year, should football be played on Good Friday?
Not one football league in South Australia played on Good Friday – not even the AFL or SANFL programmed matches for this holy day.
However, football and netball matches were played right across country Victoria attracting huge crowds looking for a footy fix.
At Sarah Oval in Mildura, South Mildura hosted Irymple in a contest that is played on the same day each year, with the clubs alternating home match duties.
This was the second time I’d had the chance to enjoy this contest and on both occasions a bumper crowd has witnessed a good match.
Locals say that the match is the most looked forward to minor round match on the football calendar by players and spectators and the crowd size is only rivalled during the intensity of finals.
In a match between two undefeated Sunraysia Football League sides, early on it looked as though the Bulldogs were going to rip apart the Swallows.
At quarter time the home side had nine goals on the board, with the lead stretched to 71 points by the long break.
Balranald recruit Ryan Harris was absolutely superlative, ripping apart the Swallows midfield, while former West Adelaide, Waikerie and Loxton player Denny Fox was dominant in the ruck.
After half time though, Irymple’s chief David Byrnes (a former Loxton coach) inspired his team and the margin was gradually lowered, until a final quarter major from Loxton North premiership player Hayden Cook ended hopes of an amazing victory. The Bulldogs ultimately winners by 43 points (21.10.136 to 13.15.93).
While the high intensity match provided a quality contest, it was the mood of the day that was the most outstanding factor for a neutral footy fan.
The spectator areas were full, the crowd was in a jovial mood and the accompanying netball matches were well supported.
This was just one of 16 matches played across rural Victoria on Good Friday.
From Ballarat to Mildura, footballers were hitting the ground on a day in which crowds were swollen holidaymakers and football fans who might usually be watching the AFL.
At Shepparton, the town’s two clubs started the season off with former Demon Russell Robertson booting seven goals for the Shepparton Swans, who also featured fellow AFL player Nathan Brown.
While in the Murray Football League Tocumwal defeated visiting Congupna in a match that was most notable for the fact that the visitors forgot their clash jumpers, meaning both sides wore near identical red and white guernseys.
On the other side of the country, the WAFL also played on Good Friday, with reigning premier Swan Districts recording its first victory of the season against East Perth.
It was the first time the WAFL had played on Good Friday and the match was declared a huge success.
Which all leads to us wondering why no league has taken up the opportunity to play Good Friday football in South Australia.
Perhaps it is the AFL’s continued reticence to playing on the day which guides the local programming decision makers of our leagues, or perhaps it is good, old fashioned values which is determining the choice. Maybe it’s just not been thought of at the grassroots level.
However in this increasingly secular day and age, whichever South Australian football competition makes the call to play will surely benefit.
It will be a tough decision to make, given the decision to break ranks on Good Friday football will cause much debate among club officials, let alone the broader implications of playing sport on a holy day and the vocal commentary that could result from those outside of the sport.
Of course other logistical issues would also evolve, should a club make the decision to play, including getting club players and supporters on board for what would be a showcase game.
For any club in South Australia brave enough to set the cat among the pigeons, the rewards are there to be enjoyed.

Footy in Asia taking baby steps by Rob McLean

Thursday 28 April 2011

Former Mt Gambier lad Dwight Stuchbery had the honour of being skipper of the Hong Kong Dragons in the Anzac Day football match against the Vietnam Swans in Vung Tau.

ANY footballer who takes to the field on Anzac Day does so with a sense of pride, honour and respect.
While thousands of football fans around the nation were gearing up for Monday’s now traditional Anzac Day clash between reigning premier Collingwood and resurgent power Essendon, some overseas Aussies were reflecting on their own Anzac Day game played on Saturday, one with just as significant a meaning.
Fittingly, those fields were in Vietnam, on a ground at which Australian soldiers played football during what the locals call the American War.
Among them was former Freeling footballer Shaun Cooper, representing the Hong Kong Dragons in what was the first international Aussie rules tour of Vietnam.
Former Trinity College student Cooper, who last year moved to Hong Kong to work as a research executive, enjoyed playing in the 2011 ANZAC Friendship Match in Vung Tau.
“There were a few Diggers who played back during the war present and Vietnam had (former AFL star) Richard Osborne representing them on the day,” Cooper said.
Osborne actually played the first half for the Swans and the second for the Dragons, giving both sides a chance to enjoy the benefits of his still exquisite skills.
The uniqueness of the situation was not lost on Cooper, nor was its symbolism.
“Being an Australian, playing a game of Australian rules football and being able to exercise a civil liberty that so many have sacrificed to preserve is a pretty special thing, something to be celebrated,” he said.
“We were taken for a tour of some of the battlefields and war memorials on Sunday and attended the dawn service on Anzac Day.”
The visiting Dragons didn’t get the result they were after, losing by 42 points (12.17.89 to 7.5.47). It was the Swans’ first victory over the Dragons in several attempts.
David Hadley, playing in his last game for the Vietnam Swans was named best on ground, as judged by Ron Vernon (Vietnam Football League 1967 premiership player)and Kevin McMillan (Vietnam Vet).
Cooper enjoyed the opportunity to play in Vietnam and came home with his own battle scar, caused by a grassburn on his leg. Which is nothing, of course, compared to the injuries suffered by many of those who served in Vietnam and unlike those impacted by the war, all of his memories will be pleasant.
While, the Anzac Day match was a significant highlight for the Dragons, it is only a small part of the ever growing Aussie rules football picture in South East Asia.
This year has seen the introduction of the South China Australian Football League competition.
The competition features two teams from Hong Kong, Red and Blue, along with Guangzho and Macau.
In the first round of the SCAFL, all four teams played a round robin competition, with each team playing three games of 15 minute halves.
Further matches are programmed throughout the season, with the sixth and final round played in June.
The Hong Kong Dragons will also enjoy a tour to the Phillipines, as well as to Bangkok for the Asian Championships in August.
Hong Kong came third in the championships last year and in 2011 is hoping to knock off Dubai, which won its third straight title at the most recent convening of the nations.
Of course, football in Asia is nothing like it is back home in Australia.
Given the scarcity of land in Hong Kong, the players, mostly ex-pats, find a ground wherever they can to play. Earlier this month, the SCAFL round two match between the two Hong Kong sides was played on a rugby field in the middle of the famous Happy Valley Racecourse with 12 players a side.
The rugby goals, including crossbar, were used to score majors, while a couple of witches hats acted as behind posts.
“I have been assured that this is generally not the case, the games are usually on a bigger ground and there are some goal posts getting around,” Cooper remarked.
There are cricket fields in Hong Kong and occasionally matches can be played on them, when the local officials will allow access.
Hockey and soccer fields also serve a purpose for the Aussie rules fanatics.
The teams have to travel to mainland China if they wish to play on an oval the equivalent of the verdant pastures back home.
According to Cooper, the Guangdong University of Technology Stadium has an oval that was purpose built for cricket at the Asian Games, so the field was spacious and the surface was of good quality.
As for the playing standard, it’s a bit of a mixed bag and there are no support staff to make sure the players are strapped up or oiled down for the matches.
“Overall, the standard and playing conditions aren’t too bad considering we’re in Asia, although I don’t see us taking on Australia any time soon,” Cooper said.
Matches are also played during summer, in hot and humid conditions of around 36 degrees and 95 per cent humidity.
The teams are, of course, generally made up of ex-pats which, according to Cooper, means there are some good players getting around.
The club’s captain Dwight Stuchbery is originally from Mount Gambier and while attending Sacred Heart College in Adelaide was in the same team as current AFL stars Matthew Pavlich and Chad Cornes.
Former St Kilda player Matthew Jackson and ex-Norwood star Troy Clements, who has only recently returned to Adelaide, have also worn the Dragons guernsey.
Following a move to the island for work, former Geelong and St Kilda player Darren Flanigan recently joined the club as coach.
It is a position Flanigan is eminently suitable for, having coached in the Victorian football nursery of the TAC Cup.
While it’s mostly Aussies hitting the park for the club, which was formed in 1990, there are also some newcomers to the game.
“There are the guys who have never seen the game before but come out with their Aussie mates from work,” Cooper said.
“We have a few Irish guys, Americans, French and a Swiss guy having a run around.”
As for the locals, very few have taken an interest in the crazy game and those who have, have experienced it in Australia during studies or holidays.
“Other than that, there is not a lot of awareness about Aussie rules football,” Cooper said.
“From my office, there isn’t a single person who knows what AFL is, or understand how it differs from rugby or gridiron, despite my considerable efforts to educate them!”
Interestingly, there is a little bit of interest in the game in mainland China.
Brisbane and Melbourne played the first AFL game in the world’s most populous nation in October last year.
The Lions led for much of the game but a late goal to Liam Jarrah saw Melbourne steal the game.
The China venture is probably better known to football fans due to yet another boozy Brendan Fevola incident that ultimately was among the long list of issues that saw Brisbane, his second club, rip up his contract.
AFL administrators are building strong links in China, due to the large population, from which it is hoped a rare talent might be unearthed (think of an Aussie rules version of bastketballer Yao Ming).
There would also be immense economic benefits should Chinese involvement in the game take off and Cooper has seen firsthand some of the work being done to promote the game there.
“Speaking with Australia’s Consular General in Guangzhou, Grant Dooley, on the recent tour and he said that they were beginning to raise a bit of interest amongst the locals there, so hopefully the game can continue to expand in this region,” Cooper said.
“I think the introduction of the SCAFL will go a long way towards achieving this.”
It is probable that Dooley, the club coach and patron of the Guangzhou Scorpions, sees it as part of his mission in China to leave the game’s footprint in the key Asian nation.
All of which begs the question as to how Cooper keeps in touch with the footy back home.
Today’s technology allows ex-pats to follow the game on-line, while the Australia Network is on cable television in Hong Kong and has, this season, dropped its commitment to the NRL, meaning there are now even more AFL games shown each week.
All of this means there is plenty of opportunity for the ex-pats in Hong Kong, which is on a similar time zone to Australia, to get their footy fix.
“For me, footy is a social aspect,” Cooper said.
“Getting around a good bunch of guys who are in a similar situation as myself, watching the AFL on Friday/Saturday nights.
“It all brings a bit of normalcy to life, and a taste of home.”
For more information about the Hong Kong Dragons visit their website:

THE DAY TATIARA STOOD TALL by Rob McLean 19/4/2011

SATURDAY, July 4, 1992, was a red letter day for the Tatiara Football League.
It was the day the competition took on the might of the city and won in a single point Foundation Cup thriller that showed the rest of the state that the little football league straddling the South Australian and Victorian border could hold its own.
Right from the get go, the TFL coach Garry Fenton was confident his team could win the match but it would require their best efforts.
“In general, the team that wins in most positions and makes the least mistakes, seem to be in front at the final siren,” he said in the TFL Budget, the self described official organ of the Tatiara Football League.
“Today will be no exception and we have chosen the best team possible within the Tatiara to do that.”
The team had experience, in skipper Greg Kennett, who had played for Tatiara in every game since 1987, and precocious young talent, in Bordertown teen Grant Dahlitz.
It also had determination to win, playing on its home turf at Bordertown.
The SAFA side came with big wraps, with Athelstone’s Garry Chillingworth (who later played state cricket for SA), Pooraka’s Paul Dittmar and Mark Boettger (ex Central District) and Plympton’s Darren Chandler amongst the squad.
In a pre match wrap, Adelaide based football expert KG Cunningham had predicted a convincing SAFA win, a prediction which the country boys were only too keen to remind him of later on.
Early on though, it looked like SAFA was going to live up to expectations of a comfortable win, with three early goals setting the pace.
The onslaught was punctuated by the TFL’s first major to Dahlitz.
By quarter time though, the home side had four majors on the board and scores were level, with SAFA booting 3.6, a harbinger of things to come for the visitors.
In the second term, SAFA really pressed for victory with Pooraka forward Michael Niesen proving a target but it was the heroic efforts of Tintinara’s Richard Harkness, Sean Faehrmann and John Burgess, both of Mundulla, that kept their team in the game, turning back a number of attacks by the visitors.
Through their efforts, the match remained an arm wrestle, with half a goal seperating the two teams at the long break (SAFA 6.13 v TFL 7.4).
After half time, SAFA’s speed and height proved superior but a return of 3.8 kept the home side in the match at the final change.
At half time, Glenelg delegate Geoff Tanner had told TFL stalwarts not to worry too much, as “given a close finish, Tatiara will win because a better team will always beat a better side in a close situation and Tatiara always has the better team”.
With the final term started, Tatiara supporters began praying for the Tanner prophesied miracle to occur, hoping their boys could surpass SAFA and bring home a victory.
It was a tense final term and the kicking jitters continued to impact upon SAFA, booting four straight behinds, before Plympton’s Lincoln Rogers added a major, seemingly putting the visitors far enough in front.
A further two behinds extended the lead to 31 points.
But the Tatiara men were not be denied and they stormed back into the match when Mundulla’s Roger Hunt set up an easy goal for Leeor’s Mike Kuchel.
Harkness, his work done in defence was thrown into the middle and he set his will upon the game, turning it on its head.
The former West Torrens player drove the ball forward regularly to set up several goals and chipped in with one himself, reducing the margin to just one kick (or six crooked ones if you were a SAFA player) with eight minutes remaining.
The SAFA under 17s in the stand were the sole voices of support for the visitors, as the partisan locals let rip in their support of Tatiara.
It was now or never for a team desperate to instill pride in the local football competition.
Against the flow, Niesen took the lead back out but determined Harkness threw everything at the opposition.
With help from Brenton Wiese, 1992 Mail Medal winner Brenton Lee (a hockey player in what is thought to be his only season of senior football)and Ashley Grant Tatiara again closed the gap to just five points.
Fittingly, it was Harkness who kicked the goal that put the TFL one point in front with just 40 seconds remaining.
The tension was palpable and the barracking of the home supporters increased at what would be the final bounce.
SAFA drove the ball into attack, the crowd roared that bit harder and the siren came blissfully just as the visitors looked like they might steal the win back.
The old maxim is that straight kicking is good football and never was this fact truer than on this wonderful day for TFL; final scores TFL 15.8 (98) d SAFA 11.31 (97).
Harkness fittingly was named best on ground, while SAFA’s best was the prodigious Robbie Kent.
Huge ruckman (and four time Mail Medal winner) Hank Budell, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was influential for the home side, as was former West Torrens player Terry Woodall.
Interestingly, the TFL under 17s were on the other end of a one point loss in the curtainraiser, with the SAFA boys coming back from a 17 point three quarter time deficit to win, kicking off a remarkable day of football.
In the TFL under 17s side that day was 93 game AFL player Simon Cox (Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, Glenelg, North Adelaide), who showed his exceptional talent with a six goal haul.
In a totally unbiased report the following week, the Budget declared that there had never been a greater win than this one.
“It takes a very good team to come back against the odds in the last quarter,” the Budget recorded.
“It takes an exceptional team to do it twice.”
The Budget could not resist a parting shot at the ever popular KG, either, addressing its final comments to him.
“To Mr (K.G.) Cunningham and all those other sports commentators who have never heard of us, despite a record breaking six year run and a Foundation Cup under our belt, perhaps now you will take notice, but we doubt it.”
Sadly, the Budget also foretold of the competition’s short term future.
“There is no denying that the Tatiara League is facing a crisis and an uncertain future but whatever the future holds there is one thing that will remain a constant for many years to come and that is that the Tatiara dress jumpers will always be worn with immense pride by those who have earned the right to wear them,” it said.
Sadly, the Budget was spot on, as the match was the last time that players represented the TFL in the navy blue and white colours, with the competition folding at the end of the season when Tintinara secured a merger with Border Downs, in the River Murray Football League competition, before moving to the Mallee Football League in 2002.
The remaining clubs decided a five team competition was unworkable and merged with a neighbouring league to form the Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League.
Incidentally, SAFA, Tatiara’s opponent in this titanic battle, was also no longer a going concern by 1996.
It may have been a match between two ultimately doomed leagues but it was one for the ages.

A grade
Tatiara: 4.3 7.4 8.7 15.8 (98)
SAFA: 3.6 6.13 9.21 11.31 (97)
Best – Tatiara: M. Harkness, S. Faehrmann, A. Grant, J. Burgess, H. Budel, T. Woodall. SAFA: R. Kent, S. Hocking, R. Sawford, C. Grigg, M. Wormald, G. Simpson.
Goals – Tatiara: M. Kuchel 5, D. McCarthy, A. Grant, R. Harkness 2, G. Dahlitz, A. Hawker, G. Dinning, S. Groth. SAFA: M. Wormald 3, W. Pierson, P. Dawkins 2, R. Sawford, M. Cocks, L. Rogers, M. Niesen.

Under 17s
SAFA: 3.3 4.8 9.9 13.10 (88)
Tatiara: 5.2 8.6 12.8 13.9 (87)
Best – SAFA: A. Hardacre, D. Sylvestri, T. Fagan, R. Brokensha, C. Payne, K. Allen. Tatiara: S. Cox, R. Murch, S. McFarlane, B. Perry, M. Densley.
Goals – SAFA: C. Payne, R. Fagan 2, G. Fischer, A. Hardacre, D. Capogreco, L. Newman, A. Cox, R. McLean, D. Sylvestri, D. Toch, R. Pitson. Tatiara: S. Cox 6, B. Perry 3, S. McFarlane, S. Mock, B. Loller, A. Schreiber.

* Thanks to the Border Chronicle for help with researching this piece.


Tuesday April 12, 2011

Photo caption: Lyrup will take on East Murray in this weekend’s Independent football grand final rematch, setting off the competition’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Photo courtesy Jane Wilson, Riverland Weekly.

A RUMBLE in the jungle will kick off Riverland Independent football’s 40th anniversary celebrations when premiers Lyrup take on vanquished East Murray in this Saturday’s grand final rematch.
The Lions and Tigers will do battle as two more Independent stars are added to the list of 38 players named as champions of the competition in Riverland football’s 100th anniversary two years ago.
Celebration co-ordinator Rob Lehmann has seen it all since Independent footy’s inception in 1971, never missing a grand final, including playing in two for Brown’s Well (a loss in the opening year and a victory in 1972).
The first grand final, won by Moorook-Kingston, was one to remember, with the Bombers in front when the last siren rang.
However, infamous umpire Gerry Hume failed to hear the siren and signalled a free kick to Moorook when a jubilant Bombers player threw the ball in the air; the resulting kick from Daryl Swanbury saw the Beetles win the first Independent premiership, establishing a tradition of close grand finals which continues to this day.
There have been many people question Independent football’s relevance since then but the competition remains a unique adornment to the Riverland sporting community.
Lehmann said nine teams were involved in the first season of Independent football, which was formed after Wunkar (having merged with fellow East Murray Football League club United) sought a transfer to the Upper Murray B grade competition.
However, there were already 14 clubs in that competition and Lehmann said it was felt that the teams affiliated with the A grade competition, known as the ‘Big Six’ by some, should remain where they were, with the remainder forming a new competition.
So, Loxton, Loxton North, Waikerie, Renmark, Berri and Barmera- Monash remained in the Upper Murray competition, while a new division, featuring Wunkar, two Brown’s Well teams, Cobdogla, Paringa, Moorook-Kingston, Gerard, Chaffey and Lyrup was born.
Since then, Gerard (and later Riverland United) and Chaffey have disappeared, with the second Brown’s Well side culled, while East Murray, Ramco and Blanchetown-Swan Reach have since joined the competition.
In the first days of the competition, the Mallee clubs were particularly strong due to the large workforce on local farms.
But the mechanisation and downsizing of farms, according to Lehmann, has seen things swing in favour of the river based clubs such as Lyrup, Paringa and Cobdogla, all of whom have dominated the premiership listings over the past 15 years.
Of course, like in many rural football competitions, the standard of play has dropped over the years but Lehmann said the importance of the competition to the smaller Riverland and Mallee communities should not be under estimated.
“When it first happened, it was a very strong competition, which it was right through the 70s and 80s,” Lehmann recalls.
The role Independent football plays in providing fodder for the clubs in the main towns was disregarded from the start, as many people feel it still is today.
“It probably wasn’t appreciated at the time that they (the Riverland A grade clubs) had a lot of players coming to them at the time from these clubs,” Lehmann said.
“Independent football is a stepping stone.
“There have been lots of lads who didn’t make under 18 teams at the bigger clubs who have honed their skills and gone back better players.”
Lehmann said Pat McCann, who started at Brown’s Well before moving to Loxton and then onto North Adelaide, is a prime example of a player getting his start with the Independents.
In more modern times Shane Schubert (West Adelaide and North Adelaide), son of former Roosters player Rick, and West Adelaide and Glenelg player Mal Greenwood got their junior starts with Brown’s Well and Moorook-Kingston respectively.
Last week, a 16 year old named Nathan Brown, who many predict as an SANFL star of the future, made his A grade debut for Loxton North having played two years of senior footy for Wunkar, where his sublime skills astonished all who watched.
At Berri last year, two former Cobdogla premiership players in Kym Sampson and Stephen Raeder helped the Demons to a grand final victory in the club’s 100th year.
And keep an eye out for Zac Bates, who played for the Flying Boomerangs over the summer and is beginning the first steps to what could be a promising career at West Adelaide.
Bates started playing juniors at Moorook-Kingston when he was knee high to a grasshopper and is now the possessor of some of the silkiest skills going around.
Lehmann believes the existence of the Independent competition has kept a sense of community alive in places like Brown’s Well, Wunkar and even Moorook-Kingston, where the shrinking population means it is ever harder to field sides.
“If it wasn’t for football, some of these areas would be dead,” Lehmann said.
It is easy to argue that while Independent football continues to exist, football in the Riverland and Mallee is at its healthiest, with the competition providing an avenue for around 200 footballers to play the game each week.
Although not denying Independent football faces challenges as it looks to the future, Lehmann said the competition he loves with a passion will continue to defy the trend which sees smaller competitions across the state, like the neighbouring Mid Murray, closing up shop.
“It will continue on, no doubt about it,” Lehmann said defiantly.
The 40th anniversary celebrations commence this Saturday at the Lyrup oval, with a formal dinner to be held on May 21 at the Cobdogla Club, the theme for that night being premierships and grand final umpires.
A book release is also planned, while a time capsule honouring Independent football will be buried at the RFL AGM later this year.
If you have been involved with Independent football and would like more information about the celebrations for the year ahead, contact Rob Lehmann on 0400 916 224, or email


Peter’s heart and soul is in footy

Tuesday 5 April, 2011

Football tragic Peter Lines with his Adelaide based granddaughter Emily, with whom he was able to spend time in the city as a result of his unexpected health issues.

When umpire Peter Lines holds the ball aloft to signal the start of this Eastern Eyre Football League season, it will be a milestone of significance and not just because it’s the first game of 2011.
In July last year, Lines thought he might have umpired his last game. In fact, given that he had travelled to Adelaide for medical tests that ultimately necessitated a triple heart  bypass, Lines could be excused for thinking he had seen his last game of football.
The major operation was a roadblock that would stop the sporting aspirations of most people but football tragic Lines will not be denied.
“After the last six months, I’m looking forward to it,” Lines said. Having only finished up playing football, for Cowell, five seasons ago, following a 30 odd year career that saw him play with East Murray, Loxton North, Brown’s Well and Wunkar in the Riverland, Lines
had never experienced any feelings of ill health.
He had put a shortness of breath down to a lack of fitness and nothing more, although the fact his brother had recently experienced a heart condition did have him wondering.
“The only signs I had was I was running out of breath (when umpiring),” Lines recalled.
“I was covering the ground okay and as I got further into a game, everything was better and I was freeing up. “Eventually, I went down to Adelaide and never came back.”
It was obviously a traumatic time for Lines and his close family but he has come out the other side with a new lease on life, thanks to the procedure and a changed lifestyle that has continued since returning to his West Coast home in August.
Lines has even returned competitively to his other sporting love, tennis, playing in a losing grand final two weeks ago. He has also returned to employment in his role as janitor and grounds maintenance man at the Cowell school and sporting complex.
“I went back to work full time at the start of the school year,” he said. “That was just one of the little steps I have taken along the way to recovery. “On Saturday, when the footy season starts and I’m umpiring A grade, it will have come full circle.”
While the convalescence period might have frustrated some, it gave Lines an opportunity to work on his major passion – country football history.
Lines is the author of 2008’s highly popular Encyclopedia of South Australian Country Football Clubs and he has begun work on an updated version of that tome, to be renamed South Australian Country Football.
It was a job that was not meant to begin for at least another 12 months but having some extra time on his hands, Lines found himself again delving into the annals of football history.
The book will be updated with newly found grand final scores, along with the ones which have been played since the book was first published, while there will be additional inclusions such as a list of every country player who has gone on to play football at SANFL and AFL levels. It will also feature lists of prominent goalkickers and games record holders.

Lines is clearly a sucker for punishment but obviously his passion knows no bounds, as the Woodville West Torrens supporter explains in the introduction to his first book.
His love of the game started in his time at Netley Primary School, where he recalls being taught by Port Adelaide half back Dennis Errey.
“Yes, it (writing the book) has been a huge undertaking but as it has been my hobby for such a long time, it seemed that when I commenced my research I was already halfway there,” he said.
The second book is still a long way from being completed but at least Lines has a headstart on the project.
Meanwhile, he will continue to be actively involved in the game at Cowell, where he moved to seven years ago seeking a change in lifestyle, having worked in pubs for the best part of three decades.
You wonder whether Lines lives and breathes the game, especially when you consider part of his job is to line the ovals at the Cowell sporting complex.
For Lines, the opportunity for a life in the sun, with more relaxed working hours, rather than those in the hospitality industry, prompted the move to the Eyre Peninsula.
“It’s a nice relaxing lifestyle,” he said. “It’s a lot better than working behind a bar and calling last drinks at two in the morning.”
Lines has certainly embraced the local football culture, concluding his playing days with a B grade premiership with Cowell, before moving on to umpiring.
With many of the competition’s umpires coming from one town, the partisan local football supporters in many cases have found him to be a breath of fresh air.
“I’m perceived to be a bit more neutral than the blokes that have been living there for the past 20 or 30 years,” he laughed.
You get the feeling that Lines will be involved with football for as long as he walks this mortal coil.
The introduction to the South Australian Country Football Clubs concludes with the platitude, long live footy. It is one that most of us can certainly agree with and furthermore, long live Peter Lines.

If you have any information on country football in South Australia which you think will be of value to Peter, please email him at

Among the subjects he is looking for information on are the following:

Most games played in a career of country football; Kicking over 100 goals in a season; Most goals kicked in a grand final; Most goals kicked in a match; Most goals kicked in a career; Most premierships as a player; Long serving administrators (presidents, secretaries, treasurers and patrons); Most seasons as a senior coach; Most seasons as an A grade captain; Most club best and fairest awards; Highest score kicked by a country football team; Teams with records for consecutive wins and losses; Most games umpired – Field, boundary and goal.

Country SA continues to contribute to the AFL
By Rob McLean

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Former Waikerie lad Brad Helbig, playing for Richmond, was one of two SA country bred youngsters to make his debut in the opening round of the new AFL season, Melbourne’s Luke Tapscott being the other.

Over the years, South Australian country football has made a major impact on the AFL scene and the opening round of 2011 proved no different for regional Croweaters.
For some there was elation, for another there was the disappointment and trauma of serious injury, while the performances of times past were recalled by a select group of former players.
This week in Football People we take a look at some of the big moments from the opening round of the season involving players from the SA bush.


At Tigerland it was former Waikerie junior Brad Helbig, drafted via West Adelaide, wearing the famed yellow and black guernsey for the first time.
Helbig has made a huge impression at Richmond, resulting in his debut appearance at the MCG in the season opener against Carlton.
Some players find themselves living the dream of kicking a goal with their first touch, but Helbig was, unfortunately, caught holding the ball in a crunching centre square tackle. Welcome to the big time, lad.
In a losing side, Helbig, wearing the famed number 32 of fellow Waikerie product Mark Ricciuto, picked up an encouraging five kicks and five handballs on debut.
The MCG was also the place where Orroroo’s Luke Tapscott made his big time debut, playing for Melbourne against Sydney.
In what turned out to be an enthralling match, Tapscott performed more than serviceably for the Demons making a big impression with his long kicking and a ferocious bump on Sydney’s Rhyce Shaw.
He picked up 16 kicks and three handballs in a good start to his AFL career.
What’s more, he operated at 89 per cent efficiency and the leadership crew at Melbourne would be impressed with his efforts.

Luke Tapscott’s big boot:

Debutant crunches veteran:


For Yorke Peninsula boy Jay Schulz there was no joy arising from Saturday’s match against reigning premier Collingwood.
The Central Yorke Cougars product injured his knee in a fairly innocuous incident in the second quarter of the Powers’ thumping at the hands of the Pies.
At first, fearing a season ending injury, the medial ligament strain is only expected to see Schulz miss two months of action.
A disappointing blow for the key forward who, this season, was added to the Power’s leadership group and was keen to give his team a strong attacking target.


Fremantle’s Michael Walters kicked a clutch checkside goal at the conclusion of Saturday night’s enthralling game against Brisbane at the Gabba on Saturday night, in fact it was the winner.
His fist pumping celebration certainly will be shown on AFL highlights reels for the remainder of the season.
Walters, is a West Australian product, having been drafted from Swan Districts.
However, he is the son of former Loxton footballer Michael Walters.
Locals who can recall the skills of Walters senior say he was a highly talented player, who like his Docker son was keen on the high grab.
Walters senior also played SANFL with Central District and is regarded as a legend at metro club Salisbury.

Walters’ crunch goal:

The reunion

The Crows scored a stirring victory over Hawthorn on Saturday night, coming from behind to clinch a win on the evening the club honoured the players from its first team in 1991.
A look through the list of Adelaide’s first playing squad reveals the large impact country South Australia had on that first team.
At least 10 players on that inaugural list had a country background.
The Riverland provided a strong bunch of players to that 52 player list, with Grantley Fielke, Darren Bartsch (Loxton), Mark Mickan, Michael Murphy and Bruce Lindner (Renmark) all named.
Clare’s Eddie Hocking, Solomontown’s Mark Bickley and Lameroo’s Rodney Maynard were also inaugural Crows.
While that wonderful West Coast breeding ground produced Darren Smith and brilliant ruckman Shaun Rehn.
An impressive contribution from country South Australia, which continues to be reflected across the AFL today.

Mallee footy memories inspire Lehmo    22 March 2011

ALTHOUGH the childhood heroes of popular comedian Anthony Lehmann, stage name Lehmo, wore the famous brown and gold colours of his beloved Hawthorn, his heroes weren’t Hawks but rather the players of the Brown’s Well Football Club in the South Australian Mallee.
Lehmo spent his winter Saturday’s following the fortunes of the Bombers in the Riverland Independent football competition and his heroes were the likes of former North Adelaide player Rick Schubert, the first man ever to run on to the field at Football Park, SA’s home of football.
He recalls those times as glorious, when 10 cents worth of lollies were worth much more than the two Minties you might get today.
“I loved those days, watching Brown’s Well with my dad, who would have a transistor to his ear getting the footy scores from Adelaide and Melbourne,” he recalled.
Having left an accounting career to try his luck at comedy, Lehmo’s road to fame started in Adelaide media and has progressed to the stage where he is now heard on Melbourne breakfast radio and is a regular on Channel 10’s football program Before The Game.
However, it is his Mallee roots that Lehmo still harks back to, as evidenced by his show White Line Fever, which will commence its season at the Melbourne Comedy Festival later this month, following a stint at the Adelaide Fringe.
Lehmo’s is a sporting background which saw him serving beers to his cricket team-mates at 14 and partaking in football, cricket, golf and tennis in the small Mallee town.
“Writing the show has been lots of fun, thinking back across all of those years,” Lehmo said.
“As soon as I started thinking about it, all of the memories came flooding back.
“I became very nostalgic.”
An unashamed sports fan, White Line Fever takes Lehmo back to the Mallee and his days of first watching, and then playing, football and cricket with Brown’s Well.
It is the traditional childhood of many an Australian youngster.
The Lehmann family name is synonymous with the Brown’s Well district, which is based around the pinprick town of Paruna.
Lehmo grew up on a farm at Peebinga, an even smaller dryland community just east of Paruna.
It is such a small community, that Lehmo once told a joke about how the local council tried to create a tourist attraction there and called it ‘The Big F**K All’, which pretty much tells you how big the town is.
However, come Saturday in winter, the local farming community would down tools and find enough players to play football and netball.
Until 1969, Peebinga played in the Brown’s Well Football League, before the clubs in that competition merged to form the Brown’s Well Football Club.
In its first year, the combined Brown’s Well side took out the premiership, winning four more premierships between then and 1982.
“My best memories of Brown’s Well was playing in the colts (under 17s) grand final in 1983, which we won when I was 14,” Lehmann said.
“I tell a joke in my show that it’s not that great a performance, because it’s kids ranging from ages five to 16 playing in that grade.”
The Bombers also played in the senior grand final that day, going down.
On that same day, Brown’s Well lost the senior grand final, to Moorook-Kingston by 31 points.
It could be from his colts experiences that Lehmann first saw the comedy of sport, as five year old kids fumbling the ball were quickly rounded up by their teen opponents.
This sort of team make-up still occurs in the Independent colts competition today, providing plenty of laughs but also opportunity for an occasional unexpected heroic cameo from a five year old filling the numbers in a forward pocket.
Today, the Bombers struggle bravely, week in, week out, having won less than 10 games in the past eight years.
Their last premiership was against Mallee rivals Wunkar, a game in which Lehmo’s brother Tim, then a veteran player, was a part.
A rise to media identity has taken Lehmo away from the game, but he still keeps tabs on the Bombers, the club with which he managed to play one game (against Cobdogla) with his older brothers Kelvin, Bernie and the aforementioned Tim.
However, the club has never asked him to make a guest appearance, one which would surely attract some media attention, even if only from the crowd at Before The Game.
“I can guarantee you they would really have to be struggling for numbers if they called me,” he laughed.
“I would be like (legendary North Adelaide full forward) Grenville Dietrich), I’m not quite as nimble as I was in those days.”
And, of course, like in most country towns, once the footy boots were hung up for the season, the cricket bats would come out and these times also get a fond mention in White Line Fever.
“My first sporting memories include playing for Brown’s Well in cricket,” he said.
“It was such a struggling team that as soon as you became a teenager, you had to play.
“It was like a typical suburban competition with a dodgy kit that had only a couple of bats and some barely usable pads and two boxes; you had to get the box off the outgoing batsman – hardly hygienic.
“After three o’clock everyone had a beer in their hand, and after five they were catching one handed.”
Older brother Kelvin spent a bit of time shielding a young Lehmo from the better bowlers but he did manage to a top score of 70 or 80 at Wanbi, on a cracked pitch behind the local pub.
Although his memories of country sport are fond, Lehmo is under no illusion about his ability to play today.
The days of wondering if he would still be good enough are long gone.
“I always considered myself a chance as long as I was younger than the oldest player (on the footy field), I stopped doing that in 2002,” he said.
Just for the record, the Hawks fan believes his team can win the AFL flag again this year, winning the title from reigning premiers Collingwood, who he believes will go into the decider as favourites and choke.
We’ll have to wait and see whether his prediction of a Collingwood choke comes true but one thing is certain, the seasoned veteran himself won’t fail on the stage.
White Line Fever plays at the Portland Hotel, Melbourne, from March 31.