Tigers turned to the treasurer for a top-up

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GARGLING gatherings in the garage, the Plugger pig plot and multiple Macs, SCOT PALMER’S Punchlines is a parade of plenty:

BACK in the 70s these three Tigers might have been discussing the price of gas and how the oil crisis had sent it soaring from 50 cents a gallon to almost $1. Wrong! Neil Balme (left) Kevin Sheedy and Mal Brown were wondering whether the garage owner, Ron Carson, had opened the fridge inside.

The Swan Street petrol stop served a far finer drop than Mobil Super and those boys, as well as the rest of the Tiger players, knew they could drop in most times and top up with a glass or two of the foaming beverage.

Thirsty Tigers at the pump: Neil Balme (left), Kevin Sheedy and Mal Brown.
Thirsty Tigers at the pump: Neil Balme (left), Kevin Sheedy and Mal Brown.

Carson’s garage had a deserved reputation as a hideaway for Richmond players to do some bonding over a glass of liquid amber. The photograph by the pump put a smile on big Mal’s face this week. “Everyone at the club knew what the players did in the back room at Carson’s,” laughed Mal. “Tommy (coach Tom Hafey) knew and turned a blind eye. So did Schwabby (CEO Alan Schwab) and even our supremo Graeme Richmond.”

Ron Carson was treasurer of the Tigers at the time but fulfilled a second role pumping out beers inside for the boys while motorists waited outside for their Mobil at the pumps. When the players didn’t go to Carson’s for refreshment they slipped off to the London Tavern Hotel where publican Sammy had a private room set aside for them. It was in Sammy’s where the Tigers hatched up many pranks to liven up the heavy training nights that Tommy set them. One was when they souvenired the bicycle of the legendary property steward Charlie Callander, who for 63 years had safeguarded the Tigers jumpers, shorts, socks, towels and footballs like they were a king’s treasure. Mal said they weren’t allowed to get a new pair of socks unless the old ones had at least three holes in them. “He was miserly with everything and we were all afraid to cross him or pinch anything from the shelves.” Brown said the players concocted a plan at Carson’s one night to get even with Charlie. “They pinched his bicycle,” said Brown “then they wheeled it across the street and padlocked it to the fence of the local brothel.” Nobody was game enough to look Charlie in the eye for more than a week.

THE multi-million-dollar revamp of the Moorabbin Oval is nearing completion for the return of the Saints and included in the project we have noted room for a piazza. How toffy is that when for years the main gathering spot for St Kilda stalwarts was the area between the players’ race and the umpires’ race. It was about 30 metres of territory that no rival fan dared to enter. It became known to all and sundry as the “Animal Enclosure”. We have been able to obtain a photograph of the area from the fanatic who actually named it, journalist Russell Holmesby, who christened it in an early Saints magazine. Some well-known people used to crowd into the enclosure on match days, including radio hosts, musicians and a couple of future pollies.

We have been told that some of the people involved in letting loose that little pig with “Plugger” Lockett’s Number 4 on its flanks at the SCG were actually patrons of the “Animal Enclosure”. There are conflicting tales about who was behind the plan to spring the pig on the unsuspecting spectators and players but the great goalkicker remained unamused by the affair. Writing years later in his autobiography he said: “I was livid when I saw that (the Number 4 porker) and I vowed to make the Swans pay.” And pay they did. Lockett wasn’t playing in the pig match but the next time he went into battle against the Swans he kicked 11 goals and copped a seven-week suspension for smashing defender Peter Caven’s nose.

The Saints win and all is happy in the “Animal Enclosure”.
The Saints win and all is happy in the “Animal Enclosure”.

Holmesby told us that the old footy bible the Sunday Press helped enhance the area’s reputation by regularly referring to it when things got hot at Moorabbin. Days when Robbie Muir might have been in full flight or “Plugger” was taking on the opposition single-handed. Essendon actually gave the club some notoriety when it labelled the Saints “animals” after one match in which several players were injured.

St Kilda has made some poor decisions over the years, the first being the day it left the Junction Oval and the next departing from Moorabbin. Their homecoming at the end of the year could be the turning point in the club’s future success.

MOST readers will recognise the byline of sports commentator and writer Hamish McLachlan. You know, the bloke who does the SEN breakfast show with Tim Watson and Gary Lyon, works for Channel 7 and has a brother who happens to run the AFL. But, I wonder how many remember the footy writer Hamish McLaughlin? Back in the early 70s McLaughlin was writing football and doing a pretty fair job of it for the new football paper Inside Football. Working with him were two other writers, Peter Clinch and Jim Bond. Suddenly, all three vanished from the scene which is not surprising because none of them really existed.

Young publisher Eric Beecher had started Inside Football and recruited writers from The Sun and the Sporting Globe to work under noms de plume. I was the phantom Hamish McLaughlin, Greg Hobbs was Peter Clinch (a name taken from the phone book) and the dashing Ian McDonald became Jim (007) Bond. If I remember rightly, the persuasive Sam Kekovich was in charge of selling advertisements.

Why the aliases? Fellow Sportshound Greg Hobbs recalled this week that we were warned by our boss at The Sun: “You can’t work for anyone else. If you do you’ll get the sack.” I had two kids so I needed the extra money and took the risk of becoming Hamish. Hobbsy remembers the pay was a bit slow coming as the paper found its feet but it survived and is now in its 47th year, having recently become part of the group which runs SEN.

 Hamish McLaughlin (alias Punchlines Palmer) reports for Inside Football.
Hamish McLaughlin (alias Punchlines Palmer) reports for Inside Football.

The story featured here was after a North Melbourne game where Keka obviously was on fire as was Alex Jesaulenko for the Blues. It would have been like having Dustin Martin and Buddy Franklin going head-to-head today. We were provocative in those days. Hamish was handing out advice to Kanga coach Brian Dixon and giving a frank comment on the umpire, Bill Deller. It’s good to look back on those Inside Footy days and I hope that as a digital newspaper today it keeps rolling on. One day they might ask me back as Hamish McLaughlin, or get the other bloke who spells his name a little differently!

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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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