Of the many Tasmanian connections to this year's AFL Grand Final is one dating back half a century to the state's most infamous venue.
The 1971 Western Tasmanian Football Association Grand Final at Queenstown's notorious gravel oval was a thriller, Rosebery defeating Toorak by a couple of goals, 20.18 (138) to 19.12 (126).
On opposing sides were players whose sons would go on to play for Melbourne - one of them becoming a much-loved captain.
Long-serving Demons skipper David Neitz is the son of Alec Neitz, who played for Rosebery, while Colin Garland's father, Colin Senior, lined up for Toorak.
Tony Newport, who recently published the book Gravel and Mud - an anthology of football in the mountains of Western Tasmania with John and Chris Carswell, takes up the story.
"Colin Garland Senior, better known as 'Cokey', was a real high flyer for Wynyard and a picture of him taking a high mark was an advertising feature on the back page of the NWFU Official Program for many years," Newport explained.
"Alec Neitz was an electrician working for O'Donnell Griffin who were contractors for the new shaft that EZ were sinking at the time. He wandered down to pre-season training in a St Kilda jumper at Rosebery and asked for a game."
Newport said it soon transpired that the strapping Neitz was a St Kilda reserves player who would become a major contributor in Rosebery's first premiership.
Neitz almost did not play in the grand final. He had a badly infected in-growing toe nail and could barely walk.
A passage in Gravel and Mud says: "His coach Peter Webb, a former East Launceston premiership player and Hec Smith Medallist, encouraged Alec to show him the infected digit with the promise that he would see what he could do. Webb did not muck around, whilst pretending to inspect the offending toenail he ruthlessly ripped it off.
"To this day he says, 'He would not have played otherwise'. One gets the distinct impression that if he was the one with the infected toe he would have done just the same. They did not come any tougher than Webb who also happens to be a long-suffering Melbourne supporter."
Originally from Wynyard, Colin Garland Junior played 141 games for Melbourne between 2007-17 before returning to his former club North Hobart during the 2018 TSL season and subsequently joining Clarence.
Ulverstone-born Neitz kicked 631 goals in 306 games for the Demons in a career spanning from 1993 to 2008. He was captain for the last nine of those seasons.
The West Coast connection was strengthened when Chris Fagan served as an assistant coach at Melbourne between 1999-2007, during which time the club reached the 2000 Grand Final.
Born in Queenstown, Fagan - who would go on to serve under Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn before taking charge at Brisbane in 2017 - played all his junior footy on the gravel oval, amassed more than 250 TFL appearances, won premierships with Hobart in 1980 and Devonport in 1988 and can recall seeing Alec Neitz win the WTFA's Bartram Medal while playing for Rosebery.
Interviewed in The Examiner in 2007, the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame member, whose two daughters were both born in the state, said: "We always found playing on grass really unusual. It's actually a good practical surface because there's so much rainfall around the area. Rosebery Oval was 40-odd kilometres away and was unplayable by mid-year, but the gravel oval you could play on in any conditions."
For more details about Gravel and Mud visit gravelandmud.com.
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