typewriter.jpeg  Tall Tales and True
Compiled through interview with some of the older and
more mischievous of our footballing community...

The Final Goal
It was the 1938 Grand Final … Cygnet playing Geeveston at Kermandie. In those days there was a big wooden grandstand at the ground which was packed with supporters … one of them was a young 15 year old football enthusiast from Nicholls Rivulet. Her name was Enid Dillon. Enid used to go to the football with a young kid called Robbie Thorp. They must have made a cheeky couple.
 Enid remembers …. “… I heard someone say ‘we’re one point behind and someone else called out ‘there’s 28 seconds to go’. Now you know John Clennett .. well his dad Brian had mills down at Garden Island Creek.. well John came out and marked the ball .. he kicked it .. Cat Herlihy marked it on the boundary, played on… and the ball was through the sticks but hadn’t hit the ground when the bell went.
They used to ring a bell in those days, not a siren. Well they had a big wooden grandstand in those days. It was chock-a-block full. In 10 seconds every person was on the ground. They ran out and carried all the payers off.
This old bloke.. he was a hard old case – old Dan Herlihy – he had nine sons. Someone asked ‘what’s their names’… ‘well he said.. there’s Darby, Joe and Mason, Dooley, Bumper and Flip,and the younger generation’s Puddles, Cat and Rubber-neck.’
.....That was 38 … well the war started then – and there was no football there for three or four years – the soldiers went to the war. There was Basil Kilmartin .. he was a taxi driver in Cygnet later when he came back from the war and got better. He was a prisoner of war. And Allan Bolten … they were brought home on stretchers .. starving when they were in prisoner-of-war camps. And Tassie Cowen’s brother was killed in the prisoner-of-war camp… Algie Cowen .. a fine young man he was .. beautiful young fellow when he went away … and that’s what happened .. he didn’t make it home.”



Cygnet Football Club 1938


Back: Matt 'Cat' Herlihy, R. Sculthorpe, J. Scanlon, R. Kube, F. Matherson. Middle: Brady Henley, Bill Welsh, L. Brereton, Jim Welsh, Stanley 'Pat' Direen, Perc. Wills. Front: T. Sheehan, T. Grimsey, Francis Welsh (coach), A. Paul, J. Brereton, H. Glanville, Bill Henley





No Bunny
Donkey Gordon tells this story … swears it’s true. Football wasn’t always played where it is now. One venue was a cleared paddock in Nicholls Rivulet, another in Garden Island Creek. Now Donkey was quite sober at the time of telling this one … “Well now Irish Jarrett years ago … they had a football paddock cleared down at Garden Island Creek … this was going back many, many years ago. It might have been a bit before my time.
So he couldn’t afford a pair of football boots. So he gets out on the ground (barefooted) and the next thing. Here he is .. he kicked a goal with a rabbit trap on his foot.”


Not Happy Jan
Gormo relates this tale of Bill Adams ... he says Bill told the original at an old players' dinner ... brought the house down

" Bill played for Cygnet in the post-war era. His mum had the old place next to the top oval now owned by the Fitzpatricks. She was a midwife. The games were played on the top oval in those days. Well Bill was playing in a grand-final one year against Kermandie, The final siren went and Bill was left standing a bit out from the goals with a free kick to decide the game. If he kicked a goal ... Cygnet was the winner. If he kicked a point .. they would lose by two points. Well, he lined up .. and missed the goal. He ran straight off the ground and into his mum's place. He picked up his bag and left Cygnet and never came back.

Well he did finally come back ... he turned up twenty years later and went over to see the old place where his mum used to live and he met a young chap there. They got talking.

Bill asked the bloke 'well how old are you mate?' ... and the young man replied 'I don't know ... but I was born the day Bill Adams lost the premiership for Cygnet'."



Tough Men
I asked Gormo to name the tough men of his era ... hoping for a few good tales .. he told a few .. but was very careful not to name names or detail injuries received .. I'll hold those stories until I can weedle the information out of him.

However he gave me this list of hard men ... Hilary Brereton, Mick Direen, Trevor Direen, Ray Polley and Marty Brereton.... He missed one name off this list .. I wonder who that might be?

He says of these men ... "the other team always had a fair degree of respect for them". That's a nice word for it Gormo.. "respect" ... other people have told me that visiting teams used to start shaking & perspiring, white faces and deadly quiet as their bus passed through Cradoc on its way to meet the big men of Gorm's era. They reckon not a single word would be heard between Cradoc and the Cygnet oval.

As I said, Gormo was careful to be pretty polite about the way they played their football in those days. But you can't ignore the twinkle in his eye.

As Hilary Brereton said to me the other day when I told him I had heard he was a feared opponent. "I never touched an opposition player". "No" added his wife Maureen... "they were too busy getting out of his way".

Gormo says of these men .. "they were legends of our footy club. They had no time to spare for anybody except their footy club and the football. They were just tough guys. They played it hard ... all the time they played it hard".



Birth of a Legend
There are not many names to shine brighter in the annals of the Cygnet Football Club than the late Robbie Thorp. He played countless games, won 3 best-and-fairests, was the first player to kick 100 goals in a season, captained the club, coached the Reserves and then went on to achieve life-membership for Claremont after years of successful coaching in Hobart. Now each year Cygnet and Claremont play off for the Robbie Thorp Cup.

Back in 1938 a young 12 year old Robbie Thorp was standing outside the Middle Pub in Cygnet one Saturday morning, seat out of his pants, soles out of his shoes, nothing much to do. Up rolls the bus loaded with Cygnet players off for weekly battle against Kermandie. Out jumps a player .. grabs young Robbie .. tosses him into the bus ... off they go. Robbie had never been to the football. But this day the boys looked after him ... gave him lunch, invited him into the changerooms, sang songs for him on the way home. Forgot to tell his mum .... ooops.

Well he got back in one piece, well fed and watered and his eyes opened to the generosity and good mateship of the Cygnet Football Club. He often told people in later years how amazed he was that the older guys had bothered taking an interest in a scruffy young fellow like him.

His mother, who had spent the day in a frantic state wondering where her little boy had disappeared, obviously forgave the kidnappers, for Robbie was soon found to be hanging around the clubrooms, giving and receiving a bit of cheek and, as things turned out, taking a bit of interest in the game itself.


Stitched Up
Some rivalries never die. Gormo told me this tale on the solemn promise I wouldn't spell out the name of his old foe. He tells the story of a Grand Final in the 70's ... we won't say which one ... it was against Kermandie. The Cygnet tough men weren't the only players feared in the Huon. One man in particular , a brute of a big fellow with a mean way of accounting for his opposition, lined up for Kermandie against the brave men of Cygnet. He soon took control of the game, feeding the ball down the ground to a young Phil Martin who later went on to make his name in the AFL.

It was looking bad. Gormo says "no one could touch him, no one could hold him, he was too big and too strong"…. “ things weren’t too good about half way through the second quarter and Ray Polley came over to me and said ‘We’ve got to do something about that big fellow that’s playing centre half forward for them .. and I said – oooh … well it’s either you or me isn’t it - … and he said – yep –

… I said – well Ill've have first go at him … but if I miss him I’m going off”

I asked Gormo what he meant by that and he replied “well it wouldn’t be healthy to stay around … he’d be coming after me for sure”. Sounds to me like Gormo still has the occasion to peek over his shoulder on dark nights in strange towns.

“So” continued Gormo “we stitched him up and ended winning by 10 points”

I’ll try a bit harder next time to find out what “stitched up” means.



Umbrellas From Hell
So you think it was the tough Cygnet footballers who struck the greatest fear into the hearts of visiting teams and their supporters in the 70’s. Wrong. What really set the knees a trembling and the hearts a pounding was the horror of the terrible three … Cis Fleming, Marcia “Darkie” Direen (Jamie’s great aunt) and Mrs Joseph … these 3 Amigos arrived every week, armed to the teeth and ready for battle. It wasn’t the broad sword or the cudgel, the weapon of choice for them was … the trusty umbrella.

It was said of them “they were one eyed Cygnet supporters, our boys could never do wrong … criticise a Cygnet player and they would be into you … they couldn’t look sideways without the old whack …people would be going away holding themselves where they’d clobbered them … especially Huonville … they’d cop it worse than anybody”

Cis was the fiercest of them “ she had the umbrella every time she came to the football … and she’d give it to ‘em  .. there’d be no back peddlin’ .. and no one would ever come back at her because she was a big strappin’ woman… and she had this sort of vicious look about her too…. that people were scared of her…. They’d only have to say one thing about one of our players and – Woooop!! She give it to them anywhere.. wherever the umbrella landed.”



Terminator 4
Shirley is everybodies’ favourite aunty. Generations of children including my own have sat in the grandstand having a cuddle with aunty Shirl .. their mouths stuffed with lollies and chips, learning to cheer the Port on. Generations of their mums and dads have floated around the ground on Shirley’s Irish coffee. We all love her. Dear old thing.

However .. there is another side to this old sweetie. Shirley told me this one herself … “It was down at Franklin… and it was a really wet day. Leon Synnott was the coach.
We were standing out on the bank watching it … and there was this couple  alongside of us and they were hammering Leon, and hammering him, and hammering him all day. And I said to this young guy .. he’d have been in his early twenties…  ‘any more of that and you’re going to cop it ‘ Any way he kept on and on and he had a sneering look at me as he did it. So I went right over to him and stuck my finger in his face and said ‘once more if you run Leon down I’m going to thump you’.
And he kept it up and he kept it up .. so I just politely walked over and hit him on the cheek fair below the eye.. and before you could say Jack Robinson this great big lump came up. And he was so embarrassed he climbed back over the fence and sat in his car for the rest of the game”
So you think this story ends here .. but no, in true Terminator style .. you know how it goes … you think you’ve escaped the dreaded beast … but no .. it comes back for one last go at you.  Shirley continued …
“ well after a while I climbed over the fence myself and went over to him and put my head in the car and I said to him ‘well I warned you didn’t I.. I told you three times .. and you wouldn’t take a warning .. so you’ve got to take what you got”
I think the lesson from this one is … next time aunty Shirl offers you a coffee and scones .. remember to say your please and thank-you.


The Power of One
It was some time in the early 30’s. Open the imagination. In the mists of time the rugged footballers of the Huon took their football with deadly seriousness. Toke Sullivan was a rangy old ruckman, one quote “he was a thorny old bastard”. I believe he was Betty Joseph’s dad. Well the game was on at Franklin. The Huon was in flood. The team took the bus off  along the road to the Huon bridge. The river had tipped over into the Huon township and stranded them at the bend. Toke, however was living in Franklin at the time, working on an orchard there. So he turned up for the game.

Well match time arrived. Out onto the ground swarmed the enemy, out marched the umpires. And dressed in the black and white…. Toke Sullivan.

The umpire summed up the situation … and turned to Toke. “Well fella … what do you want to do “

Toke  calmly looked over at the opposing horde and turned resolutely to the ump.    “Bounce the bastard”



Greg Howard’s record
You’d think the facts surrounding this great milestone would be chiseled in granite. But .. no … as I’ve discovered in researching these stories there’s always more than one version of any event. In fact even the year Greg kicked a record 22 goals against Franklin was in dispute the other night .. we had arguments ranging from 1968 to 1976. Greg himself had to think a few times and consult the honour boards before we could get it right … Gormo was coach he said .. so that makes it… let’s see.. yes well 1976. “I’m sure it was 68” answered Rip.

Greg tells us that the week before, Gaiza Paul had broken the old record by kicking 18 goals. Greg certainly eclipsed that!  He says he spent the following week black & blue. “They spent more time punching the crap out of me .. if they had concentrated on punching the ball they might have done better”

So we have a number of versions of the events surrounding goal 19 .. the one which broke the record. I present them in the order I heard them. Vote for the one you believe is the correct one….

Version 1  [Oigle .. on the ground that day ]
Greg was one goal short of the record. Now Carrot Barnes had the ball .. he was streaming up the cricket pitch. Carrot just hated Gaiza Paul and couldn’t stand him holding the goal-kicking record. I was running up the flank.. so I called out to him “Carrot … remember the record, remember the record .. don’t let Gaiza hold the bastard”.. so Carrot  turned around & hand-passed back to Greg who proceeded to pop it through the goals.

Version 2 [Un-named Spectator]
Gormo Dillon was getting bored at full back.. they were leading by 180 points .. Franklin had just kicked their first point of the game.
Gormo ran from full back to full forward, marked the ball & kicked it back to Greg at centre-half-forward…

Version 3 [Rip … team mate]
“I was there on the ground that day .. remember it as clear as daylight”
Okker Jarret had the ball.. running into an open goal. He turned around in the square & fed it back to Greg 40 yards out at centre-half-forward.”
“Are you sure Rip” …. “Yep… remember as if it was yesterday.. I’ve heard other stories but that’s the correct one.. I was there”



The Club Song(s)
In 1990 coach Mark Devine revived the tradition of  singing a club song after a win. Trent Cowen penned it. Trent, as you might know, is an ardent Hawthorn Fan. I believe Trent and a couple of fellow Hawks fans conspired together on this project … so now you know why the song is as it is… and why Trent continues to smile to this day. But, putting that bit of cunning aside, the song has grown to be much loved at the club. I am told that Robin Wills posted the song on the clubrooms notice-board one training night and was told to piss off. It stayed there for a few weeks, apparently ignored by the players, but somehow someone got it going.  For the first few weeks the players sounded far from rousing in their efforts ..  but bit by bit enthusiasm for the song grew and soon they had the words and tune mastered and the boys belted it out with increasing volume. The crowd of spectators in the changerooms started to sing along too and young kids could be heard practicing it around the oval. For a few years we had Alan Haugland in the centre of the circle of linked chorallers, taking yet-to-be-seen photos. As the years have passed by, each group of players have added their own quirks to the tradition. But always it is a moment of letting go, the start of the evening’s celebrations. Thank’s Mark.


These are the words .. alas .. sung to the tune of the Hawthorn club song……


“We're a happy team at Cygnet
We're the Mighty Fighting Port.
We love our Club, and we play to win,
Riding the bumps with a grin (at Cygnet).
Come what may, you'll find us fighting
Team work is the thing that talks,
One for all and all for one
Is the way we play at Cygnet.
We are the Mighty Fighting Port.
Oih, Oih, Oih!”



However, “We’re the happy team …”  is not the only club song in our long history. For many years a much loved Magpies song graced the club and the town. I recently had the pleasure of having Betty Thorp sing it for me. Charlie says the song was sung pre-war but somehow faded out in the 60’s. This song wasn’t sung in victory. It was sung in the bus, on the ferry, around the piano, at the bar, and wherever good ale was served.


Here are the words … supplied by Betty and Charlie.  download and hear Betty & Charlie sing the old club song


Around the southern coast of Tassie
There’s a Magpie football team.
They are very very classy
For they train on Cascade Green.
Huonville, Franklin & Kermandie
All have tried to keep us back.
But we’ve got ‘em breezy
We can beat ‘em easy
Come on the Magpies white & black.

We are a premier football team
And every man’s a star.
When we’re not playing football
You’ll find us at the bar.
Our forwards they are nippy
Our backline solid too.
Our wings, our rucks, our rovers
Will show them a thing or two.

The Cygnet boys are happy.
The Cygnet boys are free.
The Cygnet boys are happy.
When they’re out upon a spree.
They never ever quarrel.
They never disagree.
And the password of the Cygnet boys
Is come and have a drink with me.

Cheer boys cheer, we’ll be the premiers.
It’s only now we’re coming into fame.
For we can lick ‘em all around
On their own or any ground.
If they’ll only play
A fair and dinkum game.

One, two, three, the Cygnet boys are we.
Four, Five, Six, we’ve got ‘em in a fix.
Seven, Eight, Nine, we can beat ‘em anytime.
It will be a rough time
In the old town tonight.



Without a doubt
Without a doubt, one of  the longest kicks ever recorded in the Huon was Oigle Bone’s drop kick for goal from the cricket pitch in the centre on the Huonville oval. Oigle was renowned for his drop kicks. It was said“he had an uncanny knack of putting the drop-kick away .. even in the wet”.

Well this day Oigle planted one .. it sailed from the centre … all the way, high through the goals and onto the top of the pine tree hedge at the southern end of the ground. It toppled over the hedge & ended up bouncing down the road.

“There must have been a hell of a wind that day Oigle to kick that far” .. commented one listener. “Yep”retorted Oigle “It was blowing fair into my face”.

After hearing this story I asked Oigle himself who he thought were the longest kicks in the history of the Huon.  Oigle named these prodigious booters … 1. Murray Steele (Channel, Sandy Bay, Tasmania). 2. Kerry Doran (Cygnet, Sandy Bay, Tasmania). 3. Johnny Bone (Cygnet, North Hobart). I believe him .. having seen both Kerry & Murray kick the ball regularly on Queenborough oval 60-70 metres…… torpedoes mind you … sad the art has been lost. Oigle recounts a day when Murray Steele, playing for Channel at the Snug oval one day …. it was  blowing a stinker of a Southerly, roosted the ball from the centre towards the northern goals .. it sailed through all right …. then continued on & finally bounced through the goals at Bellerive, winning the game for Clarence vs Glenorchy. Now that was a kick!!!


Some things Never Change
You know Lloyd O’Malley. Until recently he was the guy who served petrol and delivered gas-bottles around Cygnet. There’s more to Lloyd than meets the eye. He is an accomplished grass-roots poet, and in his retirement, is writing his first novel about growing up in the Huon. I can’t wait to read it. Lloyd tells this story about a football match in 1955.

“ In my last year in primary school at Huonville … I would have been 11 years old at the time … I was picked in a football team for Huonville to play Cygnet. Bill Stewart was our sports-master…. Well known to the Cygnet players … he was the Phys-Ed teacher at Huonville and at Cygnet as well .. so he was known to all of us. But he was our coach at Huonville to play Cygnet.

Bill played football for Huonville. Immaculate!! He loved oiling his legs. He was one of those flashy players. Pressed seams on his white shorts. Socks always pulled up. Couldn’t kick a football to save his life !!

Well he had us dressed up in these uniforms. We had to have our hair combed, faces scrubbed, boots polished and white jumpers .. Huonville used to wear a white jumper with a red V in those days. I had to borrow an old shrunken cricket jumper of my uncles’s. And Mum sowed some red ribbon on it for the V and the number on the back. And my brother’s football boots that were about 7 sizes too big for me so they had socks stuffed into the toes of them. And we looked immaculate. In the photograph we looked immaculate. And we came down to play Cygnet Primary School. And out came the Cygnet Primary School kids in their sand-shoes and their old knikker-bockers and any old trousers and whatever. A few of them had black and white jumpers on.

I think they beat us twenty seven goals to one … and I touched the ball once before three-quarter time. Old Bill reckoned .. If you’re going to be a good football team you’ve got to look like one.


Great One-liners
….. (more to be added … contributions welcomed)

Ray Polley … “Don’t knock 'em out … just stun them a little”
[that way they’re no bother to you but they won’t go off the ground]



No Balls
As team doc. I’ve seen some astounding examples of courage and determination over the years. Standout examples spring to mind. Tony “Mad Dog” Madigan and Daniel “The Fuhrer” Walter both took to the field in Grand Finals with freshly broken arms. Ian “Sausage” Coulson came back to football after suffering a Grade 3 Le-Forte Fracture of his face. [I have listened to an interview with a well known AFL star who couldn’t bring himself to play again after a similar injury]. This year Jamie Direen continued to play in a game against Sorell after he had shattered his foot in a rucking duel. We regularly see players who pull their own dislocated elbows, shoulders and fingers back into place during a match and just casually mention it to the medical staff in the change-rooms after the game.

But the medal for the greatest act of bravery must go to the little fellow with the tattoos and spiky crew-cut from Lindisfarne who ran back onto Cygnet Oval one Saturday afternoon a few years back … after losing both testicles !!

To make this story a bit clearer I firstly should give the reader a short lecture on male physiology. The prize jewels in every man’s collection hang at the end of a pair of springs known officially as the Cremasteric muscles. As every mother knows, go anywhere near an infant boy’s scrotum … and these little muscles dance into action .. and pop… up go the balls, out of sight, into the protection of the baby’s fat little groin.

And so it was with this little fella on the field that day. Poor guy got a blow where it hurts the most… and up they shot. Out of sight .. gone. He must have been some pain .. because, out on the field he reached down to feel the damage .. and … Oh God NO. I can just imagine it. Like a wounded man on the battlefield he must have cried out for his Mummy.

Up in the packed grandstand none of us had any knowledge of the unfolding drama as the unfortunate little man was ushered off the field into the changerooms. At least, not until 2 anxious trainers appeared on the tarmac in front of the stand. “Hey Doc”… one of them yelled “Can ya come and help us… we’ve got a player down here who’s lost his balls”

Oops .. big mistake. Now we all knew! Well it was no real surprise to the Cygnet contingent who had already come to the conclusion that day that the whole Lindisfarne team were lacking a testicle or two.

I slowly made my way down to the opposition changerooms, past the two flapping trainers. And there he was. Hand up his shorts … scared look on his face. Of course, by this time the cremasteric muscles had let go and the crown jewels were back in their bag. The little man had found them… and boy… he was not going to let them go. Not until we had explained things in words little tattood men with spiky hair can understand.

A look of relief spread over his face and out he trotted to join the fray. Ooops .. mistake number 2. Oh dear .. the Cygnet crowd can be cruel some days.



Hear No Evil
Over the years Cygnet Football Club has been blessed with the services of several men of the church. Most recent was Brendan Connell who played 72 games for the Port and won the Synnott Brothers trophy in 1986. Brendan was a fine player who continues to return to our town in his new role as priest and in his old role as friend.

Going back a few years Father Alan Mithan in 1964 and 65 thrilled the Cygnet crowds with his exceptional skills. Alan’s brother played for Melbourne in the VFL, and it was said that Alan would have walked into the same team if it were not for his calling. Harold Halton describes a goal Alan kicked from the player’s box. Harold remembers “He was a big man with a big kick .. oh boy you wouldn’t believe the kick that day”

Then there was Brother John Mularvey. John arrived in 1945 to set up the school farm. On the field John has been described as “a wizard .. he was that good”. John had problems .. he decided to play under an assumed name to prevent the pestering of the football talent scouts who might hear he was in town and try to lure him to the big time. But it was from another direction that Brother John met his fate. No .. it was the Archbishop of the day who, on hearing that Mularvey was pulling on the boots for the Port, and also, believing stories of foul and uncouth language emanating from the football changerooms on a Saturday afternoon… summonsed the brilliant player and banned him from the game. Harold remembers “It was totally
unfair .. the rest of us players had nothing but admiration and respect for the man … the stories of foul language were completely untrue”
 Yeah sure Harold.


Donkey’s Bag
Footballers don’t always plan their exit from the game. For the good Brother John Malarvey, it was a ban from the Archbishop. And for Donkey Gordon it was a ban of another kind. “In those days” explained Donkey, “drinking on Friday nights was banned”. “And sex too” pipes up Marj. Yes , even sex was
thought to impair a footballers performance in those days. All players had to hit the ground fully loaded!

So it was that Donkey had two major challenges to meet every Friday night. Well, the ban on sex was no problem Marj saw to that! But the ban on the drink was more than Donkey could bear. He was 32 and a man of fearsome determination and a fair love of the amber fluid. He had played a lot of football, both in Victoria for the Northgate Association, and in Cygnet where, despite a lack of height, did pretty well as a tapping ruckman. I asked a few old-timers what sort of player he was. The same three words were used each time to describe his playing style .. “Rough as guts”.

“Well” admits Donkey .. “I turned up a bit late one Saturday .. and a bit worse for wear”. “I used to bring my kit along in an old Gladstone bag .. I was half way through changing .. I had one boot on and one boot in me hand .. and the coach sends over the team manager … he wasn’t in a good mood … well he looks at me and says ‘Listen Donk .. your bag is not required’. Well I takes aim with me spare boot and tossed it at the coach…hit him fair in the head…. and well that’s how I ended my playing days with Cygnet."

Yes, that day, Cygnet Football Club lost a great character, Donkey gained a great story to tell at old-players’ reunions … and .. poor Marj .. she lost her Friday nights’ off.


If you have a favourite Footballing story related to our club past or present, please feel free to submit it by email to :  Website Administrator