Here we are at the scene of the crime – the place where I first met Claire and Michael.
It all began on a blisteringly hot day in February 1981, the first morning of the school year – the start of Year 10.
Now, I know what you’re all thinking: 1981?! Surely these good looking, youthful, vital people weren’t even BORN in 1981, let alone starting Year 10 at high school! I can assure you, that I can’t understand it either. It remains one of the Great Cosmic Mathematical Conundrums. Nevertheless…
On that fateful February day, I walked through the school gates in considerable culture shock. I had moved with my family from the city only the day before to our half-built house in a paddock behind Mount Allen – about 10 minutes north of Kapunda. Our electricity was not yet connected. There were sheep, a cow and a horse in our front yard and our house had a moat. And the vintage yellow school bus had just taken me on a 50-minute dirt-road trip to Marrabel-and-back in a cloud of dust you could see from Gundry’s Hill.
Thank goodness I had the good sense to approach Mrs Maloney, the first teacher I saw, and ask her to introduce me to some Year 10 girls. Thank goodness Mrs Maloney introduced me to a group including Claire Louise Morrison.
Starting a new school where the friendship groups have already formed and settled can be tough, but starting a new school in the country, where the kids have all known each other since pre-school, can be especially rugged.
Claire had experienced this, firsthand, the year before, and had magnanimously decided that she would make the transition much easier for any future new girls, should she encounter any. (What a generous and kind decision to have made, Claire. You are a brick.)
Presented with the opportunity on that bright February morning, Claire took the leading role as a one-girl welcoming committee. I remember her smiling at me, stepping forward, shaking my hand and enthusiastically introducing me to Lisa Trotta, Sandra Bell, Cate Dermody, Wendy Fechner and possibly Our-Pam-the-Pastor’s-Daughter. She asked me all about myself, gave me a bit of a run-down on herself and everyone else, and told me where I could meet up with everyone at recess and lunch.
That alone says a lot about Claire and the person she is. But it only hints at the dynamic and direct energy that radiates out of her – her charisma, her sense of humour, the animated way she moves. Well, I knew within two minutes that Claire was lively, generous, outgoing and fun – and an innate leader – and I hoped we would become friends.
Shortly after – possibly that same day – I met Michael Randall. While there was no stepping forward and effusive hand-shaking, I do remember him being one of the only boys who might volunteer helpful information. Aloof. Maybe a little gruff, but at least vaguely sympathetic. I think he saw me going in the wrong direction to find a classroom, and muttered something like, “No, it’s over there.”
Now Mick had met Claire the year before. And, as time has revealed and the Weekend Australian Review can testify, he pretty much fell for Claire on the spot.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: he listened intently to everything Claire said; he laughed at all of her jokes; and, although he did his best to hide it, he pretty much gazed adoringly at her all day.
AND, when he saw that Claire and I were becoming besties, he started talking to me a whole lot more. In fact, as time progressed, I started getting long phone calls from the public phone box outside the Kapunda Post Office.
Why the public phone? Because in The Olden Days, there was only one telephone per house. This one telephone was attached to a wall socket, and the curly cord from the phone to the handset would only stretch so far. If you were lucky, you might be able to pull it tight around the corner of a doorframe to gain a bit of privacy, but, generally, your whole family could listen in on your phone conversation, and – worse – call out embarrassing things.
Your parents would regularly tell you to hurry up and get off – because if you hogged the phone for hours, giggling and theorising over who liked who, and what it might have meant when he said this or she said that – no-one else could make or receive a call. And, get this: there was no SMS, no texting, no SnapChat or memes or gifs or social media of any kind. Not even Email!
These were all good reasons for Michael Randall to put 30 cents in his shorts pocket, bid farewell to Lois, Bob, Jill and Sam-the-Tough-Cat, and ride his bike to the Post Office.
His calls to me were long, hilarious and entertaining, and our own friendship grew as he made his thinly veiled attempts to find out more about Claire.
Of course, I spent even more hours giggling and theorising with Claire – on the phone, on our walks with Bonnie by the duckpond, or scoffing mixed lollies from Rawady’s deli in the Morrison’s sunroom. There was no doubt whatsoever, even back then, that she ‘loved’ Michael Randall – but would she ever ‘lerve-love’ him?
In Kapunda at that time, there grew a mighty Love Triangle. Possibly even a Love Dodecahedron. Between the beginning of Year 10 and well beyond the end of Year 12, the Class of ’83 negotiated the grave situation where everybody loved somebody sometime, but they didn’t love you back because they loved somebody who loved somebody else. All those hopeful hormones with nowhere to go!
And as teenagers growing up in a small country town, this was tragic and torturous. There was school and sport and church and Lutheran Youth and Rural Youth and there was the Clare Castle Hotel and parties at friends’ houses. Once we could drive, there were also discos in the Angaston Town Hall, movies at the Tanunda Drive-in, spooky midnight trips to the Reformatory and early drives to Gawler to catch the train to the city for a day at the cricket. And we went to all of these places, on rotation, with PRETTY MUCH THE SAME PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. So there was no escaping the Mighty Love Dodecahedron.
The angst was real. But so was the friendship.
Even after Year 12, when we started making our way into the wider world, we clung together – a tight band of Kapundians. Claire and Mick and I stayed especially close.
After matriculating (another Olden Days word), and a wonderfully long, study-free summer, February 1984 saw the three of us embarking on studies to become teachers. We chose Salisbury Teacher’s College because it was close enough to drive to daily in Michael’s HQ Holden.
(Of course, it was necessary to tease each other mercilessly about our cars. Claire had dubbed Michael’s sensible white HQ sedan ‘the Parent’s Car’. My Hillman Imp was ‘The Wimp’, and Michael also liked to call it ‘The Shitbox’.
Claire’s Mini Minor didn’t have a nickname but was considered miraculous – mostly because Claire and her passengers continued to survive Claire’s death-defying driving – but also because, at one time it had reportedly transported all seven Morrison siblings, plus Fran’s luggage, home from the airport.)
In any case, the Mini and the Wimp were deemed unsuitable for the daily trips to college. Looking back, I wonder if Michael Randall volunteered The Parent’s Car, not because our cars were unroadworthy – which they were – but more because they both lacked something that proved vital over those long miles: a cassette deck.
I promised myself I would only say kind things about Michael today, on this Day of Days, but, during these trips he did force us, against our wills, to listen to the Animal House soundtrack and the Foul Sixties Music. And it was pre-meditated: he had taped these things on cassettes. (That’s another Olden Days thing.) What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and, through this experience, the bond between Michael, Claire and me grew ever more solid.
I think, even then, we all knew we’d be friends for life.
And here we are today, with decades of shared memories.
There have been annual winter pub dinners to co-celebrate our birthdays. Countless catch-ups for drinks and laughs and to share news of life’s triumphs and challenges. Endless discussions on career choices and child-raising and renovations and travel and world events and art and literature and the TV advertisements that Claire can’t stand. Lively debates about music: Michael make your peace with Pink. Weekends away. Picnics and beach walks and barbecues. Meals that Claire has generously finished for us. The yearly spate of heavy Fringe plays at the Holden Street Theatres. All those amateur musicals we made Michael watch us in – and that one time we actually got him up on stage for talent night at a Rural Youth Rally. There are the jokes only the three of us get. The crippling, weeping giggling fits. Speeches we’ve made for each other at milestone events. And the trips we’ve made together – and for each other – to attend a special event, or just be together – when one of us has experienced sadness, loss, loneliness or grief.
We’ve walked different paths with different people, sometimes even in different countries, but we’ve always made time and space to nurture this magical friendship.
We three made our own love triangle – of friendship love. One where the three sides provide unshakable strength and support.
Within this love triangle, we enjoy the insights we get from the male and female perspective, but I can say honestly that gendery things have never, ever divided us.
Claire and I have acknowledged again and again how important Mick’s friendship has been to us. He’s an extraordinary man. He is thoughtful, gentle, kind, deeply respectful, intelligent, fair, well-read – and so very funny. Mick is a true feminist – an equalist – and we both love him for that.
There are so many kinds of love – and love itself can swell or shrink. Love, even enduring love, can evolve and change.
I’ve spoken about Mick’s ongoing love for Claire, but I have also closely witnessed, over many years, Claire’s deep and abiding love and respect for Mick. As we’ve travelled along our own life paths, there have been times when the deep connection between them has almost broken to the surface. For a long, long time they were not free to acknowledge this, even to themselves, much less to each other. They each honoured the commitments they had made elsewhere and devoted their energies to raising their beautiful children.
But, as they say, true love will find a way.
As the other paths they were travelling came to an end, they turned towards each other, as they’ve always done, to offer strength and support. They found so much more. And I found myself, once again, on the end of long phone calls – from both of them. All the what-ifs, and could-bes and what-do-you-think-it-could-means were there again. And you didn’t have to be Nostradamus to know that, one day, we’d end up here, at a wedding. And given that these two are the most sentimental, nostalgic people in the Whole World, you could have placed bets on it taking place in Kapunda.
So, here we are, at the scene of the crime…
This wedding brings together two very dear friends, who, this time, have everything on their side. They have the foundation of a long friendship – all the jokes, all the memories, and all the understanding, compassion and trust that goes with that. They know, love, embrace and enfold each other’s children. They have life experience, past successes and mistakes to learn from and draw on to ensure that they face life’s challenges together with kindness, consideration and empathy. They face their future with optimism and excitement. They see the significance of this second chance. They truly treasure each other, and will do everything in their power to nurture each other and the love that binds them…
Lastly, and most importantly, they share a great love of pubs and all things alcoholic and snack-related. This, I know, will carry them through any dark times.
Claire and Michael – my best friends – I don’t need to wish you happiness together. Instead, I wish you long, healthy lives, so that you can wring every ounce of joy out of this enduring love.
I am so very happy to have been a part of your story to date, and feel honoured to have been invited to share it with your friends and family today. I know we all look forward to sharing in every good thing that is to come.
Thanks to everyone for joining us at our beloved Kapunda High School, and here now, in this footy club which is one hundred years older than Claire and me. These places have such profound and affirming meaning for us, and across the ceremony and this reception we’ve wanted to tell our story; our long, sometimes maddening, always beautiful story. I thank Claire for making today the elegant event it’s been. Your dress, the candles, the delicate details you’ve created for this celebration – I love you.
We were still teenagers when Claire rang to tell me she’d won the job. I knew she would – such are her impressive talents and attractive, girl-next-door persona. She was to be a host on the kids’ TV show Cartoon Connection. Of course I was thrilled for her, but also secretly despairing…
I imagined Claire (and her shapely calves) at Channel 7 touring the facility and saying hello to Wheel of Fortune’s Adriana Xenides and the goofy Baby John Burgess. But she’d also encounter the weather presenter, Keith Martyn. According to some, a gruff and condescending figure, he also annually published his own South Australian almanac, the impressively entitled, Keith Martyn’s South Australian Almanac. Now Keith’s book included tide times and details about when to plant tomatoes. How could I compete with this glamour? I could see Claire stepping in and out of Italian sports cars, going to A-list events and having her photo in the Sunday Mail (and not just the Possums Pages). I was right to be concerned at the high stakes: early on in the show they gave away – I’m not making this up – a 14-inch Phillips portable colour television!
I feared that Claire might be swept away from us for there I was, working weekends in Kapunda at Rexy Draper’s service station. Datsun 180Bs returning from day visits to Cadell would limp in with hissing radiators and billowing smoke and the frowning drivers would plead, “Can you fix it?” and nineteen-year old me would reply, “No, sorry. I’m not a mechanic, I’m a historian”. But then, one afternoon, I saw you on Cartoon Connection. You’d taken your dog, Bonnie, to appear with you on the show, and got her to count to ten with her paws. During that segment, you were so engaged with, and proud of, Bonnie that I reckon you forgot you were on camera. In that moment, I knew it was all going to be alright. You wouldn’t forget us. You were still our Claire– and always would be.
But before you moved on from your TV career you were to be offered a job as a weather presenter. That would’ve been fantastic. “Let’s cross now to Claire who’s up in Kapunda outside the Clare Castle Hotel and she’s got your four day forecast (the seven day version had yet to be discovered). Oh, we seem to have lost Claire. No, wait, she’s actually inside the pub! Ordering a brandy and coke!”
In 1991 I was living in Kimba and that November, you and Trish came to visit one weekend. Our worlds were expanding and we were all being pulled on different paths, but a photo from that weekend captures the moment when you and I sat together at Lake Gilles on a wooden sign – looking out towards the horizon. Things shifted that weekend, and we turned towards each other and in the two months that followed, I thought our time had arrived. On Boxing Day I went to America for three weeks and with you as a constant, joyous reference point I visited San Francisco and Phoenix and Santa Barbara and I stood on the snowy rim of the Grand Canyon. I was at some of the most exciting places in the world but, most exciting was the thought that you were awaiting me, back home across the Pacific in Adelaide. But the world turned. You continued with your life and I, mine. I did the only thing I could: I went out to Buckleboo one February afternoon and for the Kimba Cricket Club took 5/15. Gee, I bowled well. My in-swinger was never better. Tragically, we were later rolled by Waddikee who went on to win the A grade grand final.
And then, precious Claire, after almost thirty years, our paths changed and we found ourselves again sitting side-by-side, gazing at the horizon. In early 2020 we allowed ourselves the kind of indulgence only permitted those in love: we flew to Sweden for a week. We drove (not in a Volvo) across the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo and then near Lyungbyhed to a secluded cabin. It was a remarkable, enchanted time. Some evenings we’d walk through the forest to a dark, still lake and climb onto a creaking pontoon. We’d sit at the table with a lighted candle, pull a rug over us, eat olives and talk of all we’d done that day, and of old friends, and things over the years that had made us laugh and things that made us cry, and of our children, and our hopes. And geese would skim across the lake and gather on its island and you’d smile at me in that heartening, exquisite way. Around us a peculiar, blue twilight would grow above the trees and my heart was singing for I knew, after all the desperately rushing decades and the long aching years, that finally, finally – kind, clever, funny, amazing Claire – we were together.
Sleeping, dusty streets. Saturday afternoon like a still creek.
Memories, rushed and gentle on every corner. Footy, cricket. Bikes.
A pasty each up by the high school lawns. Awash with grey Midford shirts. Roman sandals. Unfinished essays. The poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins. Year 12 Biology and a vegetation transect on Banksias.
A cricket match shout from the oval. Share a beer and chat in the pub later with my cousin, Froggy. The captain. Rolled for bugger-all.
Visit our history teacher, Macca and his wife, Kerry. Discuss 1983 and everywhere since. Feel seventeen again.
Dinner around a big kitchen table with old friends, Woodsy and Sue. Happy collision of past, present and future. Not enough time to see others. Next time.
Sunday morning. Out to scan the golf club. Admire the lush fairways and nod at the greens which replaced the scrapes of my youth. Recall the handful of 21sts. White HQ Holdens lined up like butchers of West End. Hoodoo Gurus blasting into the cold night.
Drive back across the River Light bridge towards the city.
I think about the Christmas holidays we had as kids, often spent up the river. Invariably hot, we’d stay in parks and places like those around Lake Bonney. I still hold great affection for the Murray and we go there regularly with our boys. I thank you and Mum for this vital legacy.
But I do remember one time at Loxton when we came home to Kapunda early because Jill and I were fighting so much- not my fault mind you. Upon reflection this was especially disappointing as, by then, Jill and I were in our mid-thirties.
As always, it’s beautiful to be in the Barossa, thanks to everyone for coming here today.
Dad loves to talk footy. When I ring up or we’re around a table with a shiraz in hand there’s a pattern to our discussion. We start with the Crows. Who’s playing well, who’s not? Will we make the finals? How good is the Honorable Edward A. Betts?
We then touch on Port. Not for long though. Years ago, I told Dad of how Tony Morrison, a keen Norwood fan, and the father of an old school friend, Claire, called Port “the Filth.” Then for a while when we’d mention Port instead of calling them “the Filth” Dad would call them “the Slime.” No, it’s not funny, is it Jill, but it amuses me still. The Slime.
We then move onto the SANFL and talk of Glenelg and how they’re travelling. Not much joy in recent years, but we used to speak glowingly of Rory Kirby and former captain Ty Allen. If on the terraces at the Bay I’d seen Peter “Super” Carey or Graham “Studley” Cornes I’d update Dad about the adoring crowds flocking around Super, and then of course, about those crowds somehow not adoring Graham.
Finally, we move to the Barossa and Light and analyse the competition there. Who’s playing well for Tanunda and Nuri and, of course, Kapunda. Whenever I go to Dutton Park it makes me proud to see RW Randall on the life membership board. These chats remain important. Even when yakking about the Slime.
When Kerry and I lived in England Mum and Dad came to visit in 2004. We had a fantastic month or so travelling through England, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy. One night we saw a play called Blood Brothers at London’s Phoenix Theatre.
The story revolves around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, who were separated at birth, one subsequently being raised in a wealthy family, the other in a poor family. The different environments take the twins to opposite worlds, one becoming a councillor, and the other unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their friendship and leading to the tragic loss of both.
We were in the front row and it was brilliant. See it if you can. At interval Mum and Kerry bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. In second half everyone was crying again- Mum and Kerry at the tragedy of the story, Dad and I at how expensive the wine was.
We wish him and Mum well today, over the bowls season and for the future.
Born in Oxford to the 3rd Marquess of Zetland and his wife Penelope Pike, and schooled at Harrow. Not what you’d necessarily expect of the man singing the world’s catchiest tune. Ladies and gentlemen, Lord David Dundas!
At least it was in 1977 when I first heard it on Countdown on a Sunday night. I recall my cousin Boogly was a fan of the song too. We first heard it one wintry evening after a Kapunda Footy Club function (piss up) when we repaired to his house. No doubt having toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. We ate these often. His mum, my Aunty Claire, makes a wicked toasted sandwich.
If the song sounds like a jingle that’s because it originally was, having come to life to promote Brutus jeans, a company started by two London brothers in their teens. The jeans were popular among mods, sharpies and scooter boys.
With a laid-back melody underpinned by a memorable keyboard the lyrics commence
When I wake up in the morning light
I pull on my jeans and I feel all right
I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on (ch-ch)
I pull my blue jeans on, I pull my old blue jeans on (ch-ch)
Back about a year we entertained friends from Kimba and Kentucky- as you do; these should be twinned communities- and this song came up. With sufficient sparkling beverages onboard (Ale and Shiraz) we located the song on YouTube and played it on repeat, sitting on our patio as we (Bazz and I) yodelled out into the undeserving night sky with the “ch-ch” bits being an aural highlight. Neighbourhood dogs still growl when I pass.
Happily, the song is now also on Spotify with nearly three-hundred thousand plays while other songs by David Dundas have only attracted meagre listens making him, I think, a one-hit wonder. But, Fatboy Slim liked it so much he sampled it on his song “Sho Nuff.”
It will be another vital plank in the musical education of Alex and Max and I’ll play it for (at) them when an opportunity arises (imprisoned in my car). You should listen to it too.
I’m not sure why it was chosen. Maybe, because it’s convenient and the tram runs outside the front door. The Kings Head on King William Street prides itself on offering only local beers and wine and its food is also sourced entirely within the state. Brilliant.
So, last night about a dozen old mates congregated in the pub. Congregate’s a good verb for we function as a congregation which, of course, means people attending worship. We exchange the important details. Home. Kids. Schools. Work. And then we get to the evening’s real agenda: the past. The stories tumble like a waterfall.
There’s the footy grand finals, and Lukey’s screamer at Angaston oval. There’s Bongo’s unlikely major from inside the goal square. There’s the boys all getting a hat like Rexy Ryan’s.
There’s the cricket grand finals. Where is Jeff Charity?
There’s schooner schools and the afternoon when Stef dropped four and owed 28 beers and had to drive back to She-Oak Log to get more money.
And then there’s Tarlee discos with Tony Clarke spinning the records and the lads still in their cricket whites.
There’s the boys at Adelaide Oval late in the day after lots of niggle with some rough-nuts further up the hill and someone retorting, “If I want shit from you I’ll squeeze ya head” and then it was on, and as the toll climbed there’s Lukey advising, “If you just lie there, then they won’t hit you” and then with our Spidey senses tingling, knowing to all meet up in a pub an hour or so after scattering.
There’s Chris on the boundary at Angaston and “Gilesy, you dropped an expletive lemon” and the rest of that ragged evening doing laps of Quodlings’ farmhouse with his Dad hobbling after him.
There’s Sundays at the Railway and opening the blinds around mid-morning with Uncle Mick Dermody and raspberry in our butchers.
There’s Mikey’s T-18 and Woodsy’s 180B and Crackshot’s ute and Lukey’s Alfa.
There’s Cathy Coppin’s sympathy when we didn’t have enough for a ‘goon ($2.20) and she said, “Here. Just take the bloody thing.”
There’s spoofy at Puffa’s and Whitey saying, “Good call.” And then he lost and had to shout anyhow. Again. But you already knew this.
There’s the Pines and the Duck Pond and Gundry’s Hill.
There’s Kapunda High and a HQ Holden opening up a rear gate and a Torana having strife out the front one Saturday after a cricket club show.
There’s a woolly-faced monkey (Puggy/Slide/Greg) buying more than one of us our first beer in the Clare Castle Hotel. When he was fifteen.
There’s the Kapunda Pizza Bar and Johnny Guzzo and getting kicked out from tilting his pinball machine. “Fungul! Out! Out!”
There’s Lumpy Nixon and Dobby and black duffel coats and black ripples.
There’s a bus trip to Coolangatta and all falling asleep in a nightclub watching Boom Crash Opera and missing “Onion Skin” after fifty cent Bundy’s.
There’s New Year’s Eve at Lukey’s and Dad saying, “You young lads won’t drink a keg” and replying “We’re already on our second.”
There’s Puffa saying, “Here you yo-yo’s take my radar detector. Buy me a beer when you get back!” And we drove all the way to Brisbane and returned.
There’s Whitey and the Lienert brothers and Beetle Teagle and Wally Moyle and Nugget Coppin and many others.
It’s a ripping night. There’s giggling and tears of laughter and stories. Just stories. No politics or work or superannuation. Just stories.
I’m at the game tonight, but would’ve been happy at home as it’s the last Friday night, minor round clash to be called by Dennis Cometti. With his 1970’s AM radio drive time vocal stylings he’s become a cherished feature of our game. Combining this with precise description and fabulous wit has made him iconic.
“Gasper, the unfriendly post” is his best line in a galaxy of gems. Imagine his joy as the Sherrin was launched by the star Tiger and banged into the upright. How long must he have sat on that?
My personal metric indicating his influence is that every time I say in my head, “West Coast Eagles” I can only complete it in the voice of Dennis. And now like the famous definition of an intellectual: a man who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, I challenge you to silently repeat, “West Coast Eagles” but not in the honeyed tones of Dennis. See? Impossible.
We saw the 2006 preliminary final at Footy Park between the Crows and Eagles in which we were ahead comfortably at half-time. Probably cursing us, a friend texted- We’re going to the GF. As Ben Cousins gathered disposals at will and shrugged off desperate, lunging Crows in the second half, and the result became certain a mate grunted, “Bloody Cousins is killing us. It’s like he’s on drugs.” Mmm.
Drafted as an emergency ruckman former Kapunda boy and church minister offspring Jonathan Giles is at his fourth AFL club having been at Port, Essendon, and most productively, the Giants. He enjoyed an interregnum at Sturt where he won the 2010 best and fairest, while his SANFL life started at Central District. I’d like him to next go back to Kapunda and win a flag, then go to Glenelg and do the same before finishing his career, like many a road movie, in Fort Lauderdale. His “Places I’ve Played Footy” Facebook app is busy.
Giles is brilliant tonight, and makes the Crow ringleader appear tired. Interviewed after the match, Sam Jacobs confessed, “The only one who could ever outreach me was the son of a preacher man.”
As has been the season’s pattern the home side is sloppy early, and save for a couple clean bursts, this endures all evening. The Eagles apply good pressure across the ground and we make catastrophic quantities of errors in every facet of the game from kicking to handballing to dropping easy marks to unplumbed decision-making, most notably when Lyons snapped at the Riverside goal and missed, instead of getting it to a team-mate in the square. I’m also certain that for their post-match meal some of the Crows even went the tofu option.
It takes the Crows twenty minutes to register a major and this comes through McGovern. At the other end the Coleman Medalist is murdering us, continuing the long relationship between grassy expanses, deadly accuracy and Kennedys. He gets five in a solid outing.
Gaff, Priddis and Shuey are getting industrial volumes of ball, and we don’t seem to be doing much about this. Having reinvented himself as a half-back flanker, former Hoodoo Gurus guitarist Brad Shepperd is going well. Good times for him, indeed.
Local highlights are rare, but Tex offers some after midnight insights with his deft footwork in the centre before it lobs to Eddie who goals. The competition’s biggest scoring forward line has a Bolivian prison evening with but two majors to its members.
Our third quarter is goalless. Someone later comments that the match felt like a forfeit. Let’s hope the Adelaide Crows’ 600th game was an exorcism.
Leaving a sullen Adelaide Oval as the West Coast Eagles song plays I realise where I’ve heard it before. It was in 1985 during the final credits of a (bad) Andrew McCarthy film.
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.
It was a sparkling, jaunty morning. The kind only had during university holidays. Thirty chaps in whispering knots, around the first tee of North Adelaide’s south course.
As casual golfers we’d no experience with a gallery. Rocket, Puggy and I watched Crackshot have a few swings. He’d get us underway.
Exhibiting an opening batsman’s concentration, his backswing was neat. A purposeful downswing. Sixty eyes followed it as it flew up and through the autumnal sky. Remaining patiently on the tee, however, was his Hot Dot.
Now like a crashing Black Hawk’s rotor, minus the Jesus nut, Crackshot’s driver was in whirling flight. Sounding like Rolf’s wobble board it propelled up the fairway, then skimmed across the Kikuyu before finally, as in a Samuel Beckett tableau, it lay motionless and forsaken.
“My palms were sweaty,” claimed Crackshot.
I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber.
Sadly demolished, Kapunda’s Railway Hotel experienced a fleeting infamy, among the ridiculous, by opening at 8am on Sundays, when, in situ, we’d get raspberry cordial splashed in our West End Draught butchers.
Angelin was the publicans’ son. In the hotel ballroom he played me Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Once. I recuperated. Everything about the Railway Hotel was ridiculous.
But Angelin 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, Rocket, got the tap from the centre bounce. Angelin 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 him.
He surged towards the half forward line. Fifty-metre arcs were un-invented, but he was beyond that when he bombed it. 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.
Hey Moose! Rocko! Help my buddy here find his wallet!
The history of Spoof suggests English public schoolboys, darkened cupboards and loosened trousers. But for me it’s afternoons in Kapunda’s Prince of Wales, or Puffa’s, as it’s widely known.
Called ‘the ancient art of mathematical calculation as played by gentlemen,’ Spoof is a drinking game fabricated upon failure. It is a drinking game of cheerful cruelty, for it identifies no winners, only the loser.
Whitey loved Spoofy, and grabbing three coins, he’d jangle them at you with the same cacoëthes as the cat that was bitten by The Gambling Bug in the cartoon, Early to Bet. Whitey always found takers. Laughing, drinking, spoofing. In concert.
One afternoon Whitey lost. Many, many times. It remains a pub highlight even among the punters who weren’t there.
How can it have been so long since I played Spoofy?
Now I know why tigers eat their young.
It was a noble idea. Improve standards by running an evening clinic with Test umpire Tony Crafter. So we congregated in the Marlboro Red fug of the Kapunda clubrooms. Our guest officiated across the planet, but tonight, would field some exotic questions.
Angaston Muppet: Tony? May I call you Tony?
Tony Crafter: You may.
AM: Saturday in the A3’s I bowled a bouncer. And the batsman stuck up his hand and caught it. What do you think?
TC: If he had time to let go of the bat, raise a hand above his head and then catch it, it must have been a bloody slow bouncer.
AM: Well, yeah. But what should happen?
TC: You should give up bowling.
AM took charge massively. He changed topic.
AM: Once in the A3’s I appealed for a LBW.
TC: How did you go?
AM: Robbed! The umpire said he couldn’t make a decision. He reckoned I’d run down the pitch and blocked his view.
TC: Fair enough. That’s a reasonable response.
AM: OK, the umpire can’t make a LBW decision! Could I then appeal to the square leg umpire?
The Angaston Muppet, I’m assured, is currently a senior advisor within the federal government.
Be the ball, Danny.
Milan Faletic was a good average footballer. Turning out for West Torrens and Port Adelaide in over two hundred games, his nickname had pubescent, but lasting appeal. They called him Spoof.
At Port with Spoof was Rod Burton who became senior coach of the Kapunda Bombers when I was a boy. He was menacing. He had mad eyes. Replace shark with Burton and Quint’s still right
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’
Crackshot, Rocket and I were on the wing by the timekeepers’ box when Burton had a boundary kick in. The box also housed the PA, and during the B Grade club stalwart Bruce Dermody pontificated
Ladies and gentleman. The canteen is selling pies, pasties and sausage rolls. 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 mountainous screw punt. Spiralling instantly above the gum trees, the Ross Faulkner footy bisected the posts, and below the mound, down near the weedy trotting track, on the service road, it landed.
Blighty’s goal was but a stab pass.
As the Holden VC Commodores honked in praise, and duffel-coated kids hollered, Burton smiled. Just briefly.
My ears are more alert than my eyes. I hear the song before I see anything.
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 last year at school. This was also the year I broke my arm playing junior football for Kapunda. June and my season, wrecked.
A fortnight later my arm was to be re-broken, as the locum had not aligned it. Six more weeks in a cast! So with Mum watching I was on a hospital bed as the resident doctor loomed and mumbled.
“Ouch! It’s hurting!” I sensed the subterranean crunching.
Doc was an absorbed professional. “Be quiet please!”
I was in distress. “ No, it’s really hurting!” Not just Masters bakery is out of sausage rolls distress. Or even Skyhooks split distress.
Minutes later the doctor squinted at the drip. He realised. His tone transformed. “Oh! I’m so sorry. I’m very sorry!” There he was, fracturing my arm enthusiastically, but, somehow, having neglected to turn on the anaesthetic. After, the local veterinarian gave me artificial insemination gloves to slide over my cast when showering. Pleasingly, for the district’s young and old bulls and especially me, these were not pre-loved.
We’re at the Australian School in Singapore. It’s Auskick registration on Australia Day. With blonde mops, the boys now merge. Unlike much of Asia, no one here takes their photo. Ninety-five inches of rain annually means there’s artificial turf. However, they’ll be in the cavernous gym. No footy boots. Not yet.
The covers band chugs along. “Reckless” runs into “Flame Trees.” More country town wistfulness. Bouncy castles. Bins bulging with ice and drinks. BBQs and stalls. Barefoot blokes, clutching lagers, kick to kick. They spill nothing. They could be Geelong backmen. We rush the Singapore Sharks footy tent.
An official measures them. The Sharks jumpers are green and gold. The major sponsor is a Boat Quay restaurant and bar. Our coach anticipates. “Who do the boys support?”
“I reckon I’ve got a Tex Walker left.”
And so Alex is to begin his career as number 13. Could be worse. Shane Ellen kicked five in the ’97 grand final wearing 13. We like Tex, but I can’t envisage our first born cultivating a Broken Hill mullet.
“Number 8 for the little fella?”
“Sounds good.” Nathan Bassett is Adelaide’s best number 8. The boys’ mother’s favourite too. Dependable. Left arm like a telescope, and an under-age kicking style.
Welcome aboard, Max.
A bouncy castle seduces us like sirens, both footy ground and Greek mythological. I think ahead. What do we want for our fledgling footballers? A thirst for sport and endeavour. Skills, but also camaraderie and community. And ultimately, social and personal responsibility.
As Malcolm Blight maintains, football is difficult. You wait for your turn in a handball drill. It devours your boyish patience. Mostly, you don’t have possession. You watch the ball up the other end. Zinging anticipation. And then- it’s coming your way! Make a decision. Quick. Do something! But there’s fun too.
This, an ex-pat isle of footy, is itself on an island. The Singapore Sharks is new, whilst I began at Kapunda. Launched in 1866 at the North Kapunda hotel, it’s among the world’s oldest football clubs, in any code, operating under its original name. Magnificently, its website is
My home club owns this, and Essendon’s behemoth doesn’t. I imagine Kapunda as a brittle island up against the seismic bullying of the AFL. I imagine Demetriou ringing the club president, and in a loutish, aborted monologue, trying to acquire it.
Mini-League was my Auskick. Wednesday training at Dutton Park. Former stationmaster Bruce Dermody was our coach. He was grandfatherly. “Hold that ball straight, when you kick lad!” We’d have scratch matches with goalposts across the ground, down the trotting track end. It was an innocent island. It was our world. Only stopping because of the gathering gloom, we’d then cycle home to chops and three veg. Dukes of Hazzard and bed.
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. Now they are also gone. With blind, familial loyalty Alex and Max often announce, “I’ll play for the Kapunda Bombers!” Their Poppa, my Dad, is a life member. Football flows like rain. A stationmaster? My boys are likely to be coached by a web-master.
Leaving this rowdy islet of Australiana, the band jangles through Powderfinger’s “My Happiness.” What varieties of happiness might football offer Alex and Max? What will it teach them of the tantalising connections between danger and beauty? Others and self? Will football become a faithful, tormenting mate, or fade like a sepia photograph in a museum?