Piesse, Ken – Great Australian Football Stories

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Foreword by Mike Fitzpatrick, softback

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Foreword by Mike Fitzpatrick, softback. ‘A wonderful smorgasboard for the footy fan… ‘  Special price

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1 review for Piesse, Ken – Great Australian Football Stories

  1. Ken Piesse

    In his foreword AFL chief commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick says: ‘From the Wimmera League’s 1926 Grand Final arrangements, to Mrs Ron Barassi’s ‘say’ and Bobby Skilton’s Unbeatables … these are just a sample of the ground Ken Piesse covers in Great Australian Football Stories.
    ‘Ken seems to take on the role of a historical ‘Guru Bob’, hovering over all the articles ever written about Australian football which display the human history of our magnificent game, finding quaint and marvellous stories from small country competitions as well as the elite big city leagues.
    ‘The history of the game is as much about the passion of these small communities as VFL and AFL Grand Finals and Ken captures the balance expertly.
    ‘The 1926 Grand Final arrangements caught my attention because of my own experiences at footy organisation matters where I soon learnt to expect the unexpected. In the ’70s, I was involved in organising three Oxford–Cambridge Australian Rules games. The last year’s duties included transporting the Oxford outfit to Cambridge on time for the game … in some sort of ready-to-play shape. Not only did the bus and food need to be organised, but so did the slabs for the way back, the arrangements for the WAGS and so on. Rod Eddington and I took our girlfriends. Helen still rates it as the worst game of football she has seen. My organising counterpart in Cambridge was Andrew Shelton, a committed Dees man and now a lifelong friend. The teams ran out, Oxford with its customary cohort of Rhodes Scholars (including Chris Cordner and Chris Maxwell) and Cambridge with more than a smattering of ring-ins from Earls Court to a brace of Aussie-born London bankers. I recall going down to full-forward where the 6 foot, 11 stone full-back shook my hand with a disappointed expression: ‘I thought you’d gone home,’ he said.
    ‘The game progressed well – Oxford was winning easily and it was being played in a great spirit.
    At half-time Andrew approached me with a suggestion that we change the umpire – who’d done well – with another ‘man in white’ who had been agitating on the boundary for a run.
    ‘This was done with good humour, the first umpire having enjoyed his day. Within minutes, the game was chaos, with fights and mean-spirited bumps and tackles as the new umpire quickly lost control.
    ‘At three-quarter time, Andrew approached me again, with the proposal that we send the umpire off and reinstate the original guy. I concurred. Andrew demanded his whistle and thankfully he went quietly, a little relieved that it was over. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen an umpire sent off.
    Ten years later, this time in the US, I was helping to organise the annual Aussie Rules match in Central Park. My football career was over, but given my history I was expected to do all the contact with Australia and arrange jumpers, footies and personalities. This year we had arranged VFL supremo Jack Hamilton to turn up. On the Friday before the big game I was working the phones hard trying to find and then have released two sets of Seekem jumpers and several T. W. Sherrins. In the end I packed the kids in the car on Saturday morning, drove to Kennedy Airport and got them to open the bond store and release the package.
    ‘The jumpers were an essential part of the game but to get them, I had to put the money up. Everyone else was perfectly happy with this. At the game, I handed out the all-important jumpers on the basis of a verbal agreement to pay. We had a whale of a game and then in true kleptomaniac tradition, almost all took their ‘free’ jumpers home. The next year I put a friend in charge and we made it crystal clear that jumpers had to be bought – even then we were still heading for a small loss. But in this, my final year, the jumpers were successfully auctioned, thus more than recouping my previous outlays. I have always thought the small gain from the auction symbolised my gradual progress in the ‘Big Apple’ from Victorian government finance bureaucrat to a passable investment banker.
    The game itself was played on two baseball diamonds back to back, near Strawberry Fields in Central Park. It was noted for John Wylie’s spectacular mark which he still talks about and Jack Hamilton’s handshake which made sure my just-broken finger was crushed permanently out of alignment.
    ‘Enjoy Ken’s work. It’s the sort of tome that can be dipped into from time to time to remind one of the history, the personal enjoyment and the breadth of our wonderful game.’

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