THE boot is never far from the mouth when LAWRENCE MONEY is prowling the airwaves for classic footy caller howlers:
It’s often claimed that AFL players today are fitter, faster and more skilled than those of yester-season – but not so. If you study the expert observations of the commentators in the mid-1980s there is no question: that was the golden era of the AFL/VFL, a period when footballers’ freakish talents simply boggled the mind.
For example, the great “Geelong Flyer”, Bob Davis, told 3AW listeners in 1985 that,“Richards turned himself inside out three times.” Incredible! How the hell did he do that? Richards’ opponent must have been utterly bamboozled.
Another example: Harry Beitzel on 3AW reported that Paul Salmon was about to go back in to play with an unimaginable handicap: “Salmon is warming up with no sign of that right knee of his.” Heaven knows how his lower leg stayed attached to the thigh but Salmon somehow ran, jumped and marked with a knee missing.
A remarkable effort and eerily similar to that of Bulldog hard man Jim Edmond. “It’s good to see Edmond has got his hands back,” said Jack Dyer during the same season. Playing without a knee, playing without hands, you just don’t see that today.
And how about the dexterity of players back then? One afternoon in season 1986 Peter McKenna spotted Sean Wight pull off a miracle: “Wight ran in with his legs up in the air.” This seemed to defy the laws of propulsion as the feet are normally the appendages a footballer uses to do the “running in” – but, as the late Demon was a supremely gifted athlete from the Emerald Isle, we have no reason to doubt this astounding report.
Equally extraordinary was an effort by a player named Silvio Foschini who played for Sydney, then St Kilda. Commentator Bill Jacobs, a highly reliable observer of the great game, described the amazing incident in 1985 this way: “Foschini nearly had his head pulled off. Featherby goes to ground and picks it up and boots it 40 metres down the ground.”
I kid you not – despite being separated from his cranium during this torrid passage of play, Mr Foschini finished the game for the Saints and shaped up next week for another one. It’s what used to be called “G & D” – guts and determination. A truly magnificent effort.
Dwayne Russell (2017): “Did everything right until he did it wrong.”
Cameron Ling (2017): “Collingwood shouldn’t take any overly necessary risks.”
Matthew Richardson (2017): “He was impeded and the forward always put a little bit of mayonnaise on it… about five dessert spoons’ worth.”
Ted Whitten (1983): “The umpire bounced the whistle”.
Ian Ridley, re the Victorian state team (1985): “We have to have players who can run over the top of the ground.”
Unidentified 3AW commentator (1986): “The scores are equal in this one-sided game.”
Jack Dyer (1984): “I think it was a deliberate accident.”
Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria's best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age -- and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines -- before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.