I consider myself to have been lucky in arriving at the club culture I fell into at Moorabbin City, especially compared to what I've observed in my latter years involved in the game. Now players have always moved club, but when kids aged 19-20 have had four clubs in a two year time span, something is wrong.
Being a late arrival into the competitive playing ranks, I was more than satisfied to play third team/Sunday League football at Moorabbin. The reserves were on their way to winning a second successive championship, and I never thought breaking into that squad was likely.
Player movement was not as great then, and older players were more inclined to settle at a club towards the end of their careers. Reserves teams were very much that, not as focused on being youth sides as they are now. This meant that in my time I saw many players move down from playing first team football, to the reserves and then finally the thirds. I'm not sure this happens as much these days.
The third team was usually the core of the senior clubs supporter base as well, as well as generally containing around half of the committee as well. A true reserves side also usually provides a lot of support for the first team, whereas we now see many youth/reserve players leave straight after their own game.
When I arrived pretty much all the thirds players went by a nickname and I soon picked up my own. As the youngest player in the team I was linked with the second youngest in the side. That was Eric Igoe, who had been nicknamed "Yogi Bear" (later just "Bear") due to his hulking physique. So I was given the Yogi Bear's offsider's name - "Boo Boo". Thankfully this was quickly reduced to just the single Boo.
There were a couple of memorable incidents involving Bear at games. Doing it tough away at Boronia one day, several goals down already, he had enough when the referee awarded a penalty against us. "Why don't you take it for them as well, you cheating cunt?' he uttered, and with that we were down to ten.
His best effort came against one of the University sides. His opponent (probably on the losing side, they were never much good) didn't take kindly to Bear's marking and chat and informed his apparent social inferior "I'm at Uni, one day I'll be your boss!" Bear set him straight with "Well, I'm an apprentice bricklayer and one day I'll shove a trowel up your arse!'
Some nicknames were based on physical appearances. There was "Buddha" for Sam Laverty and "Fergie" (in honour of the red-headed Duchess) for his brother John. Andy Loney was "Squiggle" after the Mr Squiggle children's tv puppet with the massive pencil for a nose. Peter Crawford was "Little Pete" due to his diminutive stature. Mark Feehan was "Max" for Max Headroom, the MTV character. Nowadays it's probably seems racist but Trevor Bishop acquired "Shaka" when the Shaka Zulu tv mini-series was a massive hit at the time.
Irishman Richard Robinson naturally became "Spud", with Gerard Robinson being "Mash". Little cousin Davie Swords therefore became "Chip". There were a couple of oft-told stories about Spud. One Sunday morning I arrived to see him despondent, head in his hands. When I asked what's wrong he pointed to the pitch. Lining the pitch the morning after a pub crawl following the senior game the day before was not advisable. Neither is trying to scuff out a line with your foot and having another go. Repeat this process three or four times and you get what looks like a group of snakes intertwined. Luckily the ref let us play with some cones to mark the true line down that side of the pitch.
As coach, Spud's team talks were legendary. The best came in a crowded room at Bailey Reserve one day. The club bookie, Brian Morris, raised funds by offering 5-1 on correct score bets for first team games. Due to the frequent use of profanities in his talks, on this occasion bets were being taken as to how many swear words Spud would utter during his oration. All bets were null and void when he twigged as to what one corner of the room was counting as it cracked the thirty mark. A tirade was launched with more fucks than anyone could ever keep up with, and he was right, we were all cunts.
There was another tale that a penalty he took against Kew Deaf went so high and wide of the mark it knocked a kid off a swing in the playground behind. That one was more fiction than fact I think, but he did miss the pen.
While I'm on Kew Deaf, there was another Irishman, Mark "Bap" Withers that had an interesting encounter against them. After a crude tackle on one our opponents, the bloke got up and remonstrated with Bap, become more aggressive with his gesticulating. Bap turned around and asked another "What's his fucking problem, I said I was fucken sorry!"
More nicknames: Stirling Sainty was "Seagull", because he was quick to pounce on a chip I suspect. Victor Holder was "Two-Stroke", after the motors found in Victa lawnmowers. Ed Atkin was "Job" because Ed Job was just too good to pass up. Mick O'Neill had picked up "Suck" I believe due to the way he had fallen under the thumb of his missus. John Bris was "Phar Lap" because of his running prowess before becoming just "Brisi". Craig Forsberg was "Double" because inbred Tasmanians are alleged to have two heads.
Mark Mangan picked up the "Riddler" moniker after a suit he wore which resembled that of the villain from Batman. Paul Morgan was "Woody" after one of the Bay City Rollers. Steve Martin was "Jerk" in respect of one of the movies of another Steve Martin. Steve Seizis was "Alexi" 'cos he looked like Alexi Sayle. Mark Crooke was "Illi" because his temperament matched that of Ille Nastase.
Dave O'Gara's initials meant he was "Dog", not just because he owned a couple. He had a great big Irish Wolfhound, which caused confusion on a foggy winter's night back in my first year at the club 1990. I wasn't driving yet, and my mum had just arrived to collect me from training. As I approached the car, the police arrived and called me over. They informed me that there were reports an escaped lion from the circus being staged down the road at the grounds of Murrumbeena High School had been sighted in the vicinity of the ground, and that I should go back in and inform those left inside to be careful. I didn't, seriously I'd have been slaughtered going back in telling that story. My conscience was spared the guilt of anyone being mauled to death when it emerged that there was no lion missing, a resident simply jumped to conclusions when spying Dog's dog through the blanket of fog.
One legendary character was "Mick the Barman". Mick Bowers was recruited to the thirds via being a barman at the pub the lads stopped to meet in before departing interstate on an end of season trip. An Ocker Aussie, he got talking with the boys and said he wouldn't mind giving soccer a go. He was, let's say, very raw but a very nice guy. Indeed during one game he shook his opponents hand at half-time, thanking him for the half and expressing how he looked forward to meeting him again after the break. We were playing Dandenong, a side loaded with VSL and State team stars from the 1970's, hard-nosed Scots who genuinely wondered if he was taking the piss out of them. He wasn't, he was just like that.
Another instance of that came in what should have been his greatest triumph, when stunning everyone by putting the ball into the top corner from out of nowhere (and thirty yards) on a mudheap at Doveton. For some reason, the ref disallowed the goal, and as we went in to remonstrate it was Mick the Barman who broke it up with "Now, now fellas, the referee is always right".
Doveton was where Tony Wynton picked up his nickname. A former first team player, he was nearing the end of his career, his long 1970's rockstar hair having more than a bit of grey in it. He was having a battle in midfield with a much younger opponent, and after one torrid tussle that opponent's mother called out from over the fence "Leave him alone you paedophile!" And thus for his remaining playing days he was known as "Pedda".
Good, good days.