How Punchlines tracked down the wild man of the bush!

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SCOT PALMER has pounded out PUNCHLINES persistently and professionally for so long he has almost forgotten when it all began. Here he tells how he found the missing ruckman…or at least his wet socks:

THE prized land of Tibooburra near Yellingbo, at the foot of the Dandenongs, raises some of the finest beef cattle, grows sought-after grapes for wine and has dogs that sniff out the scrumptious truffles from the property’s bushland. It also houses an amazing football landmark that few people would have ever seen or heard of.

The property belongs to a famous football family, the Kerrs of Carlton, whose patriarch the late Laurie raised his kids to love the big Ponderosa-style spread and to ensure that it is properly preserved.

The farm includes a once-ramshackle miner’s cabin that became known as “Carl’s Shack” and earned a spot in footy folklore. The cabin “hide-out” featured in a famous search after Saint legend Carl Ditterich went “missing” to seek a period of inner reflection. It was as though the giant ruckman disappeared off the footy map because of the frustration he was feeling over umpiring decisions. He was reported 19 times in a spectacular career and missed St Kilda’s only premiership in 1966 because he was serving six weeks on the sidelines!

When he vanished, it was said that he sent a telegram to St Kilda telling them he was quitting the game.

That was back in 1979 when I was Sports Editor of the Sunday Press. Finding the elusive and volatile Carl became a mission and a challenge. And it wasn’t easy.

Eventually I tracked him down to the shack on a property he then owned jointly with St Kilda ruckman Geoff Cayzer, now a high profile Bayside real estate agent.

With photographer John Lamb, I set out to uncover just how the blond powerhouse had been surviving. The hut had a dirt floor and open fireplace, where a couple of very large St Kilda socks were hanging to dry by the fireplace. I knew I had my man!

It was very basic accommodation with a lean-to toilet way out back. Carl had been known to take serious issue with the press from time to time and few journalists or photographers liked testing his temper.

When we first pulled up in the car Johnny Lamb issued the instructions: “Go knock on his door. If he comes out and is angry I will be back here. If he comes towards me I’ll whip the film out of the camera and hide it in my sock!”

We needn’t have worried because the big man wasn’t home. However, the picture of the wood-cutters shack gave the Sunday Press a colourful and intriguing front page.

The old pile has now gone, bought by the Kerrs and rebuilt as a sturdy looking weekender. A sign on the side of the hut recognises its past as “Carl’s hut”.

Laurie Kerr’s son Peter said this week his dad had bought the adjoining property, once owned by Ditterich and Cayzer, and had wanted to preserve the hut as part of footy folklore even if it had no Blues connection.  Laurie was a Blues legend as player and powerbroker, made Carlton’s team of the century and was a key figure in the bold move to lure Ron Barassi away from Melbourne to coach the team to two flags.

The Kerr farm has another football connection, as Peter Kerr explained: “Our Woori Yallock neighbour Damien Monkhurst (the former Magpie ruckman and now a coach at Hawthorn) persuaded us to have Hawthorn up there before a premiership win.”

The farm is also a great gathering place for the Kerr family and Peter’s brother lives there (not in Carl’s shack!) and runs the vineyard.

“We have Christmas and Easter functions for the family and the kids,” said Peter. “We intend to look after it and keep the memory of big Carl alive.” He was pleased to tell us my story from the long-lost Sunday Press has been framed and is hanging from the wall inside.

And Big Carl? He is now 71 and, by all accounts, a much mellower man!

 

IN all of his 60 pro fights (48 wins) Barry Michael’s footwork was impeccable. He could weave and sidestep out of tight corners and then show superb balance. What went wrong the other night when the former IBF world champ woke up after a big day out to visit the toilet? It was dark and the middle of the night but he had made the same walk countless times. This time he missed the step and crashed to the deck, a place he usually managed to avoid during his career. The toll was three cracked ribs, a bruised kidney, a very nasty dislocation of a finger and a trip to hospital. He’s now well on the mend and if you need to check him out try the BARcelona wine bar in Hampton St, Hampton, where he is a part owner.

 

CARLTON’S flag-winning side of 1987 will gather at Etihad Stadium on August 18, the night before their clash with old rivals Hawthorn. The big question is whether one of their favourite sons, rover Mark Naley, will be able to join the celebration. The South Australian star has been recovering from brain surgery after collapsing on a footpath late last year. The Blues say Naley has been making a good recovery since a tumour was removed. The silky-skilled left-footer is well remembered in that grand final for wearing long sleeves in 32-degree heat. Two of the Blues were affected by dehydration following the game. Officials are confident another former champion from SA, Peter Motley, will be at the historic gathering. Sadly, Motley didn’t play in the 33-point Grand Final win over the Hawks after being severely injured in a road accident.

 

IF any of those deep thinkers at the AFL have taken notice of one far-out suggestion that Nathan Buckley should be co-opted into the AFL organisation to fill one of the three recent controversial vacancies, I would say this to them: Forget about it. Firstly, I question how Nathan would settle into a desk job after the active life he has been leading. Secondly, there are at least two men with impeccable qualifications for high office who could fill spots for the future. One is Richmond’s current CEO, Brendon Gale, whose CV is outstanding. A fine player, a former chief of the Players’ Association, a lawyer by profession and now head of his own club. The other is Geelong’s Brian Cook, who had a long and varied footy life playing with Box Hill and Melbourne. His work with the West Coast Eagles was outstanding as it has been as CEO of Geelong. No doubt there are others, but if Bucks does step down as coach of the Pies as expected I say, “Save him for another day.”

 

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Author: Scot Palmer

VERY few personalities are as well known in the world of sport as SCOT PALMER. He was a fine sportswriter on The Sun News-Pictorial and a news-breaking Sports Editor on the Sunday Press, Sunday Sun and Sunday Herald Sun. But he was best known for his famous column, Palmer’s Punchlines, which ran for a record 25 years or more (he’s lost count!).

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