RADIO TAB’s Gerard Daffy from Ubet, is forever singing the praises of his home town, Warrnambool in Victoria, when he appears on RadioTAB’s Sports Breakfast show.
In 1974 ‘The Bool’, as many call it, hosted a cricket match between the touring England (MCC) team and Victoria Country.
I was there, freezing to death on the hill, the day after attending my first Melbourne Cup meet, where I backed Taras Bulba, (which is still coming).
The Tweed Valley in Northern NSW was my home, and I had never previously been further south than Sydney, so it was quite a shock having to rug up against the cold wind coming off the sea at Warrnambool.
The warmest piece of clothing I owned was a Murwillumbah Brothers’ rugby league zip-up jacket, which offered little protection.
I was only 22 at the time, and playing rugby league in the Group 18-Gold Coast competition. Some local youngsters asked if I played for Richmond in the VFL. Evidently my jacket looked like a Richmond Tigers’ top (and I looked fit enough to be a VFL player). When I said I played rugby league, they went: ‘Yuk (or something to that effect) Rugby’. I said: ‘No. League’, but, at the time, I didn’t realise they wouldn’t have had a clue about the difference between league and union.
The highlight of the cricket was 94 by England’s Brian Luckhurst in their 4/158 declared; while 42-year-old off-spinner, Freddy Titmus claimed 3/26, as the locals struggled to 5/83.
Freddy was lucky to make the tour, given he had lost four toes, when he became entangled with a speed boat propeller in Barbados, during England’s tour of the West Indies in 1967-68
That night I played pool in a local pub, with some local lads. Maybe Gerard Daffy was among them.
The next day, I drove to Albury, staying at a pub (‘The Albion’, I think) where a Albury Blues’ official offered me a contract to play with them in 1975, in the Group 13 competition. (The other club in Albury was the Kangaroos. Today, the Blues and Roos have joined forces to form the Thunder). I should have taken up the offer, because the Blues went on to win the Clayton’s Cup as the best team in New South Wales Country. Instead I played for the Wingham Tigers in Group 3 and we failed to make the semi-finals of our competition.
The next time I was back in Albury was February, 1990. I was a rugby league writer for ‘The Courier-Mail’, and I was sent there to cover a Channel 10 Cup quarter-final double header, with Penrith defeating Gold Coast 22-12 and Wests beating St George 14-12. Steve Carter was man of the match for Penrith, while Cameron Blair was judged Wests’ best. (Canberra went on to beat Penrith in the final, played at Parramatta Stadium).
It was a memorable night in Albury.
The football was good, and after the games I enjoyed a few ales at the Air Force Club, where a number of players (Mark Geyer among them) were also having a coldie, and behaving themselves.
On leaving the club, I bought a hot dog (or something similar) from a street vendor, only to lose the dental cap from my front teeth. (The cap had been put in after I copped an elbow to the jaw playing for Brothers at Murwillumbah, against Old Boys, back in 1973).
I thought, ‘I’ve either swallowed it, or it’s fallen into the gutter’. So down on my hands and knees I went, looking for the tooth, as a coach load of cricket fans pulled up, after attending a day/night international between Australia and Pakistan at the MCG.
What a sight I must have made. And I didn’t find the tooth.
Normally I smiled at the cabin staff on flights to and from Brisbane, but this time I was too embarrassed, and too vain.
Photo: Freddy Titmus