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The Kapunda Cricket Club: Long Necks in Brown Paper Bags and the Patron Saint of Spoofy

kcc-derro-and-spoofy

In 1880 the Australian Test side played a match in Kapunda against a local team. The shops shut at noon and thousands gathered. The national captain, Billy Murdoch, congratulated the club on the Dutton Park pitch. It was coconut matting.

The national side made 401 with opening bat AC Bannerman registering a century. The local side accumulated eighty, despite there being a batting line-up of twenty-two chaps. Only one fellow, TR Bright, got to double-figures with twenty-seven. Ten made ducks. Can you imagine a Wade/ Maxwell conversation happening back then?

“Hey Skip, got a minute?”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

“I see you’ve got Bennett coming in at eighteen. And I’m batting at nineteen.”

“That’s right. He’s actually made a run this year.”

*

Saturday night saw the celebration of Kapunda Cricket Club’s sesquicentenary, and it was held at Dutton Park. Arriving late afternoon Woodsy, Bobby Bowden and I wandered down to catch the closing stages of the A grade fixture against Freeling. On the grass and under the shade we had a yarn with Tolly, Bart, Whitey, Goose and Rexy who were taking refreshment as preparation for the evening. Kapunda took four wickets to secure second place.

*

Away games still mean meeting at Rawady’s deli in the Main Street, just next door to the Sir John Franklin hotel. Thirty years ago, we’d head off to Eudunda or Angaston or Truro in a car with no air-conditioning. FM radio barely existed. Bench seats like those in HQ Holdens allowed six so only two cars might be needed. Toranas and 180Bs were rightly seen as selfish.

You’d be squeezed in and somewhere like Riverton was only about twenty minutes away, but with cramping calves and eyes stinging with the smoke of a dozen Winny Reds you’d slide from the seat with a soaking back like you were being born.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

In a change room at Dutton Park some memorabilia is on display. I wander through. Old bats- GN Scoops and Fielkes, and boxes- such as the one made famous by Froggy are there, as are old score books. One from 1987 is on a bench and Bobby Bowden finds the match against Greenock, the one cruelly documenting his eighteen ball over. I’d forgotten that he and I opened the batting, but then when this happened, why would we?

Sudden by international standards, the demise of England’s G Swann was glacial compared to Bobby’s. At the start of his final ever over for the Kapunda Cricket Club he was a reliable medium pacer. Eleven agonising minutes later his bowling career was dead.

It began with a couple of wides, progressed to a malignant lack of confidence and culminated with Bob, broken, walking to the wicket like it was the gallows, and trying to complete a legitimate delivery. It often ended up at slip, or skidding forlornly, ashamedly, down to fine leg. His mental self-disintegration was total.

Subsequent pub analysis confirms that Bob’s eighteen-ball over only contained seven legal deliveries, and therefore nearly thirty years on, remains incomplete. I was at mid-off, and lobbed the ball to him, fifteen times. I felt increasingly like I was throwing him a box jellyfish. Or a can of XXXX.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

Cricket clubs provide much. Social instruction. Gentle exercise. Weekend structure. But mostly they generate memories. Eagle Rock with whites around ankles, slopping up beer and Bundy in a Tarlee disco. Tony Clarke spinning the black vinyl of “Walk Like An Egyptian.” A fella like Flab who, in astonishing dedication, wore his cricket whites until Tuesday. Yeah, Tuesday. Twice. Did these have to be burnt? If we had a nuclear waste storage facility (no doubt on the site of the former Railway Hotel) they probably should have gone in there.

I think of Spoofy. I think of the front bar in Puffa’s late on summer afternoons. Boys drinking West End from handles. No TAB or big screens. No pumping music. Just three coins, clasped behind the back. Not trying to win, but trying not to lose. Goose Mickan. Someone chirping, “Good call.”

The final moment and someone- hopefully not yourself, trudging off to buy for everyone like GS Chappell after his fifth consecutive duck. This, of course, all belongs spiritually to Whitey, the patron saint of Spoofy, or as he now calls it, “The Free Beer Game.”

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

And then, late afternoon somehow squeezing back into the HQ Holden as Chris Hayward once said, “Like ten pounds of spuds in a five-pound bag” we’d drive through the dusty warmth back home. This often included calling through a pub like the Greenock Tavern to get a long neck in a brown paper bag. One each for the journey.

Just as the drive to cricket could seem eternally long, as a seventeen-year-old the trip back home with a derro could be horribly brief as now within Kapunda’s town-limits you tried to gulp down the last of the beer. The HQ would swing into a park outside the Clare Castle Hotel, and you’d stare down the neck of the bottle, looking for the fish bones you’re sure are swimming about in there, wondering how the older blokes actually drank the stuff. Safely inside, after three schooners of Nugget’s finest, you’d recovered and all was fine. You were set.

This is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

*

It was a great night. There were stories from JL Mosey and Sarge Johnston and laughs and life memberships. Wayne Phillips made a funny speech in which he referenced Fatcat and IVA Richards and the beginning of his relationship with his wife which, in part, began atop Gundry’s Hill overlooking Kapunda.

After midnight, everyone drifts outside to the veranda. It seems like it’s only nine o’clock. There’s a looming full moon and the skittish clouds race across the velvet. After a blistering week, the cool change is arriving.

I call back into the club next morning on my way home and ask what time the celebration wound up. Matt says, “I left at ten to four and there were still about sixty here.” Impressive.

Some nights the stories just won’t let you go to bed. There’s too much to say, too many hands to shake.

And, this is the Kapunda Cricket Club.

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KCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch onKCC Rawadys Deli squashed into Holdens Jock McGregor six Craig Hutton hat trick Rocket Tanunda Light Pass tie Leo Carter trained at KHS Fergie and Phil Bob and Christmas Greg Chappell hat Greenock dozen runs Interest in Caulfield Cup Spoofy Long neck Old score books Flab in whites until Tuesday 298 Dean Waugh Flipper coach ASADA 29 NSW Fatcat can’t guarantee that After midnight migrate outside, looming moon and skittish clouds 4am sixty folk, stories stretch on

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Growing Up In A Footy Club

KFC

 

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-

http://www.bombers.com.au

*

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.

Just briefly.

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