Tasmania's West Coast football remembered | Photos

At Rosebery state school in 1960 to field two football teams required drilling down from grade nine to grade three.

I was in the latter and selected as 19th man for Dundas when Darrell French sustained a cut to his eye and was taken from the field.

There were only eighteen jumpers and I could not wait to don Darrell's. It was not to be.

"Leave the jumper on,” Dr Patterson said.

"I will fix the cut first."

I was crestfallen. I did not want to go on. I wanted to wear that jumper.

It is 1971 and we are on a winning streak. Rosebery have recruited well and are coached by the tough and skilful Peter Webb, a Hec Smith medallist and an inspirational coach.

It is the second semi final played on the gravel in Queenstown.

The two Rosebery teams are the stand outs in a six team competition the remaining four of whom are from Queenstown.

Toorak, the Tigers, have run us close all year. Rosebery, the Saints, will prevail in a tough and spiteful semi final and move straight into the grand final in two weeks time.

It will come at a cost.

Peter Grimes our star half forward has been knocked unconscious and is lying prone, face up, in the middle of the ground. I worry for a brief second that he might be dead.

I am not the only one with misgivings - the usual all-in stoush is put on pause while other players take in the scene.

Later Peter Webb squares up with the assailant, Ian Burgess, and is subsequently booked and suspended.

Burgess gives as good as he gets. On another day it could be him lying there.

It's a rugged form of accounting where in this instance we finish decidedly in deficit: our coach, dynamic captain and fierce protector of his team mates is out of the grand final.

Toorak win through to challenge us for the flag. We are allocated the Gormanston change rooms.

A Gormanston trainer remarks pointedly to no one in particular: "The last three premierships have come out of these rooms."

We take this in. No one comments. The mood is a heady essence of forced calm and heightened expectation. The change rooms are anything but - rudimentary as a description flatters our surroundings.

A tin shed, scuffed floor, walls wearied and punctured by a generation of hard boots and errant footballs; and dank showers with all the appeal and grace of an abandoned urinal - were good enough for Gormanston's champion triple premiership team.

We will take on the omen with good grace. No one complains. With half an hour to the first bounce Webb starts to prepare us.

"What are you going to do to them?,” he challenges.

"We'll bowl them over," we rehearse.

"Louder," urges Webb.

"We'll bowl them over!," we bellow.

We settle down. Check our gear. Tie and retie our laces. With ten minutes to go we are seated around the walls of the change rooms. Webb starts in, softly spoken, intense and reassuring.

A quiet murmur plays out in the background. We are back on the unforgiving gravel ground after four years for another crack at our first WTFA flag.

Serious money has been waged by passionate supporters among them our President Max Fitzallen. Webb lets them be. His concentration is total.

The murmurs fade to a respectful background hush. Finally Webb arrives in front of Grimes. The team sheets have been handed in. He takes Grimes in. He is almost abusive as he spits at him.

"I am not playing because of you," he says.

There is total silence now. Webb pauses, from his clothing he pulls out his football jumper and thrusts it at Grimes.

"Wear this,” he snarls. "Wear it with pride!"

We are stunned. Supporters and players alike.  A silence alien and distracting is only broken by the sound of our boots on the floor. We are running on the spot. Coiled beyond sustainable tension.A barrage bristling to be unleashed.

"What are we going to do to them?," Webb shouts.

WE'LL BOWL THEM OVER!

Had there been no door we would have made one. Had those tin walls been made of brick would have not mattered in the slightest. We hit the ground hard and the scoreboard complies.

We have a six-goal lead. Toorak rally. They are magnificent, none more than their talisman and hard man, the opposition's perfect match for Webb, in Barry Munro.

They head us and we rally in turn - enough to win. It has been epic - a grand final worthy of a sporting drama in any of the world's great sporting arenas.

For this day the gravel ground and Queenstown's spartan hills are the perfect backdrop. Grimes too is magnificent and features amongst the best players.

It is 2011. A 40-year reunion has been organised and we are off to Rosebery. Peter Grimes arrives at our place at Hillwood, just out of Launceston, in good time.

He parks his car, a bomb of indeterminate vintage, on a slope, to get it kick-started when we return. Grimes has done things his way in the intervening years.

Never one to be afraid to put his head in a tough place on or off the field, he bears the hallmarks of a life hard lived. But it is still the same old Pete.

Cheerful, ready for a laugh and he has a surprise. He brings it in to show my wife. Together we marvel at its condition.

We travel west and pick up Max Glozier, a premiership best and fairest winner. The two-and-half hour journey goes quickly as we reminisce and catch up.

We have a good turn-out. This is also a Rosebery-Toorak annual dinner, the two teams having combined 25 years previous in 1986. About two dozen Rosebery and Toorak players from that climactic day in 1971 are in attendance.

Up on stage we are introduced. Barry Munro is given a hero's welcome. In his prime Munro was a bear of a man with a forehead that could crack concrete. He looks all of his 70-plus years.

Weary with a hint of fragility that is more the proud legacy of a survivor than impending mortality. He makes a speech and then hands over to Peter Webb.

Webb has aged a little differently. Smaller in stature he has rounded out and his piercing eyes that once flashed with contempt and challenge now resemble a more philosophical acceptance. He is gracious and speaks for only a short time.

"We have had our day,” he says, reminding us all that we are here at the generosity of the present players and their supporters and families.

Before he can leave the microphone Peter Grimes appears before him.

With a reverence befitting his pristine offering, from one warrior to another, he gifts back to Webb: The Jumper.

  • Tony Newport was born in Zeehan and grew up in Rosebery. He is a storyteller and singer/songwriter appearing recently with a West Coast themed concert at The Unconformity, Cygnet and Tamar Valley Folk Festivals. For further details: www.jettyroad.net
Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop