The following memoir features in First Use Of The Ball- Celebrating Football In Kapunda Since 1866. I’m most grateful to sporting legend, local historian and my former teacher Paul McCarthy for the chance to contribute to this special publication.
If you love footy and stories of colour and passion I’m proud to say the book’s available at the Kapunda Football Club, and certainly not the Essendon Football Club website at-
Growing up in the Kapunda Football Club was fun. It does take a village to raise a child, and in part many of us were guided through to adulthood by the Bombers. Sometimes in affirming, character-building ways, and sometimes by one of the Mickan brothers.
Eudunda. Heading across the hills before descending into the town, a bluish plain swims into view. This flat scrubbiness seems, on certain days, as a becalmed, wintry ocean. As a kid I used to think, instead of this saltbush and mallee, it’d be fantastic if it was the sea. As it was, eons ago. Even before the Robertstown junior colts all wore mutton-chops on their colossal faces which sat atop of their colossal frames.
To the north, and by Burra Creek, is the locality of World’s End. Snaking nearby we find Goyder’s Line, which shows where rain and soil might allow crops to be grown confidently. Goyder is still right.
Sitting in Mum and Dad’s car by the Eudunda oval, Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” plays on 5KA, in grim competition with the hail hammering on the roof. It turns to a sleety, possibly snowy gale. It’s diabolical, even for Eudunda, and forces the footballers to scurry over the fence, and huddle between the Kingswoods and Chargers. There’s no afternoon delight for them. I’d never seen such an apocalyptic storm, and know it’s serious when I see Boo Menzel leap the hoardings and hide by a souped-up Torana.
Although I was only ten World’s End seemed even closer.
My old mate Trevor Lucas took what many reckon is the best mark ever taken by a Kapunda Bomber. 1985, Angaston oval, U17’s Grand Final against Riverton/Saddleworth. Still lanky even today, Trev ambled out from full-forward like a slow-motion deer, rose impossibly to the crest of the pack, and grabbed it. The footy stuck! It’s a mighty moment.
When the video was shown at their recent reunion this got the loudest roar. Like all treasured yarns it gets better over time, and Trev’s grab is now becoming stratospheric. By 2030 his mark will surely defy physics.
I spent most of that season in the Bombers’ B grade. We barely won a game. In the forlorn huddle at three-quarter time of the final match we were down by truckloads. Our coach’s address- he may have been a Mickan- was less Barack Obama than drunken barracker. “Well boys we’re in trouble. Again. And we’re out of excuses. The season’s done. I don’t know what to say. Just go and run a lap. Or something.”
Now demolished, Kapunda’s Railway Hotel hosted a fleeting infamy, among the ridiculous, by opening at 8am on Sundays, when because breakfast was apparently too early for beer, we’d get raspberry cordial splashed in our West End Draught butchers. Once we were chaperoned down there in the cool morning air by none other than Mick Dermody.
Years before this the publicans’ son, Mick, went briefly to Kapunda High. In the hotel ballroom he inflicted upon me Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Once. I recovered. I tell you, everything about the Railway Hotel was ridiculous.
But Mick could play footy. He was a thumping kick, and when he connected, he sometimes achieved the mythological quality known in country sport as, “good purchase.”
In the Junior Colts one Saturday at Dutton Park our ruckman got the tap from the centre bounce. Mick seized the footy in that clean, untouchable way he had. Suddenly frozen as if in a sci-fi telemovie, the Tanunda boys were incapable of tackling. They simply stared, wide-mouthed and slack-jawed.
Mick surged towards the half forward line. Fifty-metre arcs were yet to be discovered, and he was outside that when he bombed it, a monstrous dob. Perhaps prog-rock had already pinched his conceptual clarity. It was a behind. To the Tanunda Magpies.
He’d kicked it the wrong way.
But, gee, it was impressive. I’ve never seen a better point.
Meet me down by the jetty landing
Where the pontoons bump and sway
I see the others reading, standing
As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay
“Reckless” by Australian Crawl takes me back. With a funereal bass line, and a snare drum like gunshot, it’s prominent in the soundtrack to my final year at school, 1983. At the Kapunda Swimming Pool it got a workout, in between us sneakily bombing the canteen, and poor Mrs Chappell. This was also the year I fractured my arm playing senior colts. June and my season, wrecked.
As the locum had not aligned it a fortnight later my arm was to be re-broken. Six more weeks in a cast. Look! There I am on a hospital bed as the doctor looms and mumbles.
“Ouch! It’s hurting!” I sense the subterranean crunching. Doc is an absorbed professional, and continues his medical manipulation of me. “Be quiet please!” I am in distress. “No, it’s really hurting!” Not just Masters bakery is out of sausage rolls distress. Or even Skyhooks have split distress. It is monolithic pain.
Minutes later the doctor squints at the drip. He realises. His tone transforms. “Oh! I’m so sorry. I’m very sorry!” There he was, fracturing my arm with feverish enthusiasm, but somehow, he forgot to turn on the anaesthetic.
After, the local veterinarian gave me artificial insemination gloves to slide over my cast when showering. Happily, for the district’s young and old bulls and me, these were not pre-loved.
Mini-League training was Wednesdays at Dutton Park. Former stationmaster and beloved club servant Bruce Dermody was our coach. He was patient and grandfatherly. At least twice a week Bruce would holler, “Hold that ball straight lad when you kick!”
With goalposts across the ground we’d have scratch matches down the trotting track end. It was the best fun of the week. It was our innocent island. It was our world. Only stopping because of the gathering gloom, we’d then cycle home to chops and three veg (mashed spud, carrots and peas), Dukes of Hazzard and bed. Even now when I dob the Sherrin with my boys I can still hear Bruce’s urgings, “Hold that ball straight, lad!”
Bruce met his wife Melva at Bowmans, a railway siding between Balaklava and Port Wakefield. It’s long gone. They lived for the club, and it was their family. We remember them well.
When I was at Kapunda High Former Port Magpie Rod Burton became senior coach of the Bombers. He was menacing. He had mad eyes. He could seem unhinged. Even for a Port player.
As a boy listening to one of his particularly ferocious pre-match speeches in Angaston’s claustrophobic change rooms I came within a wobbly gasp of wetting myself. I’m reminded of him whenever I watch Jaws and Quint, the great shark-hunter and his Indianapolis speech
Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’
Paul “Crackshot” Masters, Rod “Rocket” Ellis and I sitting on the western wing by Dutton Park’s timekeepers’ box when Burton had a boundary kick in. The box also housed the public address system, and across the day Bruce Dermody made regular catering announcements. These are as burned into my memory as Father Moore’s lilting sermons from St Rose’s pulpit
Ladies and gentleman, the canteen is selling pies, pasties and sausage rolls. There’s lollies for the kids. And the liquor bar will open at 2.30 for all your refreshment needs.
We were behind Burton. Deliberately, he pushed off the fence, and launched a colossal screw punt. Spiralling instantly above the gum trees, the Ross Faulkner footy bisected the posts, and below the mound, way down near the trotting track, on the service road, it landed like a depth-charge in a submarine movie.
Blighty’s after the siren goal for North Melbourne was but a stab pass.
As the Holden Commodores honked in praise, and duffel-coated kids including us shrieked, Burton smiled.