A retrospective slide-show. The Pash Papers launch Adelaide 1999

Pash was a Magarey Medallist in Adelaide in the late 1930s. In the 1950s life Murdoch gave him space in The News, then Adelaide’s afternoon tabloid, to talk about football. This was space for whatever took his fancy, not for the obligatory match reports. It was space in which to philosophise about the game of Australian Rules which he loved so much.

This is the sort of thing I mean:

The footballer is perhaps going up in the world. He is now protected more and more from the too-intimate intrusion of the public. There is more than a suggestion of a race apart in the tunnels of entrance now constructed for them at suburban ovals. Small boys may no longer come to gaze upon the grim three-quarter-time assembly. Spectators shivering in their draughty stands or rattling with cold on the mounds, may no longer rub shoulders with the great whom they have come to see – no longer mere quasi-amateur exponents of a popular art but highly paid entertainers. And entertainers are the new aristocracy.

That was written in 1955.

As it happened my father was taught by Pash at school and thoroughly admired his football writings. One thing led to another and finally the dream came true of collecting some of them into The Pash Papers. The launch was a splendid affair with footballers from the 1930s rubbing shoulders with more recent stars such as Graham Cornes.

Cornes, since his playing days, has taken on the roles of journalist and commentator. He is a staunch supporter of the notion that football history matters. That might seem self-evident, that history matters, but in fact the AFL administration has a disgraceful record in that regard. This is discussed here.

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This is a charming excerpt from 1954 on the relationship between umpires and the crowd:

At Prospect on Saturday I fancied I heard somewhere in the crowd the despairing cry : ‘Alpin, you need glasses’. ….Since the target of this ill-meant advice was Umpire Dale, the effect was mildly comic, and if one examines the observation closely enough it seems to call forth all manner of interesting interpretation.

It seems to say, for one thing, that all umpires are alike, even to the extent of looking alike, as Umpires Aplin and Dale actually do – upon a quick glance at long range, as I can testify. It suggests that Ken Aplin, who has undoubtedly made an impact upon SA football in his time, is now almost the eternal umpire, whose spirit pervades any football ground even where he is not. It expresses further the popular view of the umpire as a panting myope with the tardy whistle. It might even serve as a starting point for an essay on barrackers – that boisterous ‘crew’ of football lovers whose occasional unkindness is largely redeemed by humour.

Pash died last year, but his writings live on and isn’t the culture of Australia Rules Football the richer for it?

Tony Lockett highest goal-kicker? AFL falsifies its history

The AFL had a whale of a time making a huge media promotion from the idea that a (then) current player – Tony Lockett – was going to become the highest scoring goal-kicker ever, overtaking Coventry…only trouble is, as the AFL well knows, Coventry was not the highest. Ken Farmer was the highest by a large margin. Nobody will ever overtake his figures, even his total, let along his average.

It is typical of the AFL to have no respect for its history and to manipulate it as it pleases. The reason the AFL thinks it doesn’t have to acknowledge Ken Farmer is that he is South Australian, while Coventry is Victorian. But the AFL can’t have it both ways. Either the AFL is something which started in the 1980s and has no history prior to the establishment of the national body, or it is the history of all State Football Leagues prior to that time. The one thing it can’t be – well, except to the rabidly Victorian amongst us – is Australian from the 1980s and Victorian prior to that.

Ken Farmer was a contemporary of Gordon Coventry’s. When Ken Farmer overtook Coventry’s record everybody in Australia – Victorians included – now considered Farmer to be the highest scoring goal-kicker in Australia. You have only to read the newspapers of the day to know that is true.

The AFL has to decide: is it actually a national body representing a national sport, or is it a Victorian body, representing Victorian interest, despite its national pretentions. If it is a national body with a history extending before the 1980s, it has to behave appropriately and reinstate Farmer as AFL’s highest-scoring goal-kicker. Anything less is plain dishonest.