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Memoirs of a Water Boy - The Top Wing Boys

Updated: Sep 2

Willunga oval has a two-metre drop from the eastern (top) wing to the western (bottom) wing.

Willunga players have it drilled into them from the day they take their first toddler steps, not to kick to the bottom wing. Not only because it’s uphill from there to the goals but also because the bottom wing is where the water runs and the mud coagulates.

As the waterboy I don’t mind getting wet if it rains but I draw the line at standing ankle-deep in mud. Call me ‘precious’ but I’d sooner shade my eyes from the sun all afternoon than sink into the quagmire. I man the top wing. As a result, over the past 18 seasons, I’ve got to see the top-side wingmen up close. It’s usually where the nippier members of the team are positioned so they can use their speed on the firmer turf.

The first ‘regular’ top-wing man was Matthew ‘the magician’ Moody, the A-grade Best and Fairest of 1999. When he won his B and F he was praised by the coach for how much he’d brought to the club. His reply? ‘This club has given me more than I’ve given it.’

Moody, along with Sammy A, Jules Farkas, Mitch Portlock and Marcus Burdett, get my votes as the most skilled (freakish?) players I’ve seen in red and white since I joined WFC in 1995. Moody’s white and red guernsey remained white even on the muddiest of days because he never played on the bottom wing.

‘It’s in my contract, Al. I don’t do mud.’

If we were playing away and the opposition’s ground was a mud heap, he’d have a last-minute hammie strain and be unable to play.

‘Read the contract, Al.’

Moody was wonderful to watch and I was lucky to see him in action at very close quarters.

I’ve caught up with Matthew a few times since he retired, at his kids’ (and my nephews’) school footy but since he hung up his boots, he’s never once been back to watch the Demons play. I miss him. Not that we spoke much – he was a man of few words. He let his actions speak. Nowadays, on Saturdays, he watches his boys play footy then, if family time allows, plays golf, another sport at which he excels. He’s had more holes-in-one at Willunga Golf Club than he’s had schooners of beer.

Other wingmen I’ve seen use their speed and evasive skills along the top wing are Brad ‘the Bull’ Haskett, Micky ‘Fleet of Foot’ Balas and Craig ‘Both Feet’ Nelson. All are exhilarating to watch at close quarters. On a few occasions, the Mighty Miegs has cameo-ed on the top wing. Moody would beat Miegs on freakish skills but I’m backing Miegs to win the least-words-said-on-a-footy-field award over Moody, although not by much.

The top wingers always get the last drink as I dash (?) out of the centre square back to the safety of the top wing. They also get the last word from me as I make my way uphill. Sometimes a word of encouragement, sometimes meaningless chat, sometimes cheek.

I love the top wing and the top-side wingmen.