The Queen's Birthday has come and gone and with it yet another Honours List that didn't include me. A long time ago, I heard a whisper from my old pal L A Adamson that I was very close to a knighthood in the King's Birthday list during the 1920s. Sir Arthur Chipping would have had a nice ring to it, I must admit, but even old Dicky Adamson only ever rated a paltry CMG. Me? I had to wait until 1938 to receive a VAFA Certificate of Merit. Since then, nothing.
What was surprising is that Terry Landrigan's name was absent again from the list. I'm not one to argue his merits much, but has there ever been a stronger publicity push than that behind the Old Xavs' Team Manager? Certainly, we haven't seen that sort of promotion since Jack and Fergus Watts retired. Terry, of course, takes it in his stride. As long as young Denis Landrigan kicks goals and the Red and Blacks win, and the helipad at Simon Hunt's house is kept in order, he's a happy man. But to see that pallid poser Cate Blanchett gonged yet again while the great man who travels by station wagon is again ignored is another demonstration of the ridiculous times in which we live.
The very good news is that one of our own - Mike McColl Jones - was indeed recognised. The legendary gag man who worked with Graham Kennedy, Ernie Sigley, Bert Newton and a lot of others, was awarded an OAM. Mike can be found at most home games, sitting in the Toorak Park grandstand, cheering on his beloved Red and Blacks.
So the news wasn't all bad!
And so to winter. June not only ushers in a new phase of the season, but also usually heralds peak travel for the young men of the VAFA competition. The start of the snow season has long been a red letter date at Old Melburnians, yet these days, that is inconsequential among coach-killers. No club is immune from the sudden urges of young men to collect the ticket, suitcase and passport and head off to warmer climes. Mrs Chips, who believes she is still young, will play a golf course in any corner of the world any time as long as she gets hers seniors' concession at the pro shop.
Yes, the times have changed. It seemed to me once that footballers didn't get married in-season. Now they do, and it's usually overseas. It might be too cold to wear football shorts in Melbourne, but apparently any day is a fine time to kilt up for the Scottish summer. But a mid-season break from football to travel can be turned to advantage. My spies at the Old Trotting Track tell me that new VAFA CEO won over the board and sealed the deal with his idea that the Big V team plays in Europe in July. All a player needs to do is be registered with an Ammo club and be headed to a wedding, baptism, twenty-first or engagement party on the Continent, and you're in the training squad.
Yes, I mentioned the new CEO. Brett Connell was named last week to the role and I wish him well. He knows the ropes, having been Football Operations man there for many years after a long career at Ormond. I remember him tossing me out of the social rooms one night when I lit my pipe. No hard feelings, young fellow and best of luck to you.
It's sad to see Michael Sholly go from that role after a decade or so of innovation, but all things must pass. When Sholly left the coaching role at the Old Xavs to take on the hot seat at the VAFA at the end of 2004, I offered him some advice. How well did he follow my sage advice? A mixed bag, really.
- Dye hair grey and grow 'tache to match - they go great with that navy blazer. He ignored this. Developed a few greys, but never donned the moustache, not even in Movember. He wore the blazer occasionally, but often preferred the less formal Association attire, sometimes the spray jacket or the stadium jacket that more easily accommodated the pocket radio, enabling him to listen to Ken Petrucco.
- Install wind farm on top of Alex Johnson Pavilion to attract Renewable Energy Certificates that will keep VAFA in clover for years. He ignored this, obviously believing there was plenty of wind in the board room. The top of the pavilion remains untouched, except for a few footy boots and mouth-guards discarded by players after unsuccessful grand final efforts.
- Develop comedy routine for hosting club lunches at VAFA blockbusters. His natural sense of humour shone through at many a lunch and dinner. He planned a women's competition years ago, which drew great laughter from some. Well, no-one is laughing now.
- Project into that microphone. "Whispering Mike" continued his (Teddy) Roosevelt tradition of "speak softly and carry a big stick". Left the ground announcing to others.
- Have a few cans with Nick Bourke on Thursday nights to talk about the good old premiership days. He may or may not have done this. I wasn't invited, though I'm told Tommy Brain often beat them to the office fridge.
- Eschew CEO's tradition of impartiality and openly sledge teams from the balcony. Mr Sholly never did this. Others tried, but were thrown over the edge by enforcers Anthony "Mush" Amad or Bruce "Poison" Ivey. Gentleman and former board member Ian Munro underlined the continued impartiality at the Old Trotting Track by once refusing Meg Bowen and her golfing companion Mrs Chips admission to afternoon tea.
- Replace old footy photos on the wall with Zorka original paintings. Think investment! The Big V photos were still there last time I looked. It's a reminder to us all that even us old fellows were once young, though there were few photographers (other than Gary Sparke) around when I wore short pants.
- Conduct public inquisitions and witch hunts when 'Wick Burgers are sold out early. Demand for said delicacies evaporated when Michaels Hardman and Fitzgerald became less regular attendees at Xavs games. Mr Sholly, however did, sack the caterers.
- Those locker rooms. Yes, they are still there, and will probably survive the Bayside Council's 20th action plan and possibly WWIII. But the Xavs love them, particularly the Elsternwick rooms out the back, painted red and black in anticipation of another Claret and Stout celebration. I say the rooms should be heritage listed, though I believe the outdoor bathrooms don't deserve the same protection.
- Don't be a stranger, matey! Saw many Xavs' games through the years, but spent a lot of time watching in the lower sections.
Enough eulogising. Let's have a look at this week's games in Round 9 of Henry Buck Premier section.
St Kevin's play down at St Bart's and I'm hoping this isn't the game on the radio, as listeners will fall off very quickly. The Skeevies are in form, too big and too strong for the Mentone boys.
Beaumaris heads to Parkville to meet with Uni Blacks. The Sharks had their chances to beat St Bart's, but could only manage a draw, so it's tough to see a visitors' victory under the spires. Blacks played well in patches against the Xavs, and aren't a bad team. Surely they will win this one and begin to climb the ladder.
Old Melburnians are on the OTT and in come the Hedgeburners. I am thinking it is high time that the Greens find their form, or their chance at finals will soon slip from their fingernails. OMs went very close against a strong Skeevie team, but were rolled at the end, in rather controversial circumstances (or so I hear). This one is a bit of a coin flip. Surely the loss of Lance Armstrong will hurt the Dark Blues and the 'Hoppers will get the points this time.
Over at Waverley Park, De La Salle will attempt to defend fourth position against Uni Blues. Both teams have loads of good players, but they do flirt with form more than some. A draw would be a happy result for others, and indeed it might end with the scores very close to being locked. However, the Sallies beat Collegians here and a week later, Blues were beaten by Colls at the university. So the Blue and Golds start favourites. Not that it means anything, other than to those scions of La Salle who insist on investing in team success with local (and legal) makers of odds.
The other game is the big one of the afternoon. Collegians are back at Harry Trott and meet Old Xavs. The Lions have just the one blemish on their record and are looking strong. Xavs lost two in a row a while back and have struggled to put four quarters together. However, every club plays at its own pace. I have every reason to believe that the Red 'n' Blacks will find form this Saturday. The strongest opponents bring out the best in our boys and with a week's rest, I'm tipping they can get back to their top and win the points. Harry Trott poses no surprises for our team. We've won there many times, so many times that Lex Hibbins is tired of buying me celebratory drinks post game.