Alan Jarrott moved on from the Moyhu Football Club at the end of 1974.
Thank heavens for that, I suggest to him.
Had he hung around for another season he would have had to cope with my coaching – and that may have jeopardised the bright future that the good judges were predicting for him.
In time, he carved out a fine VFL career ; became renowned as one of the most lethal exponent of handball in his era and was acknowledged for his astute football brain.
Not a bad effort for a kid who honed his skills in the paddocks surrounding the family farm at Thistlebrook, a tiny speck on the map, about four miles out of Moyhu.
Alan’s the first to admit that he didn’t establish a close rapport with the dairy cows, which were the staple of the family’s income, and to which his brothers Gordon and Neil were assigned the task of milking twice daily.
Eventually, Gordon suggested that Alan curtail his random visits to the dairy, as there was a theory that cows gave less milk when they were in the presence of strangers !
Anyway, there was no time to spare. He and his mate from the adjoining farm, John McVean, devoted most of their idle moments to playing sport.
Both were outstanding tennis players and Alan was a more than handy cricketer ( he once represented the North-East Schoolboys).
Their nightly footy sessions, on the paddock behind the McVean residence, were fair dinkum affairs. Not just a leisurely kick-to-kick, but plenty of tackling and competitive stuff, which inevitably produced a bruise or three.
Rovers President, Jack Maroney, a regular visitor to the Jarrott farm in his guise as a livestock agent, did his best to entice young Alan to the Hawks. But the distance from Wangaratta made it too inconvenient.
Instead, he rocked up to Moyhu’s training and impressed enough to be plonked at centre half forward in the senior side. He was just 16 and was assured by a couple of the team’s elders, John Michelini and Paul Scanlan, that they would shelter him from the rough stuff.
Not that he needed any mollycoddling . Within twelve months he had been selected to represent the O & K against the Upper Murray League at Beechworth.
“I remember that we got a hiding. And the bloke I played on was given the award for Best-afield”, Alan recalls.
Feeling a bit downhearted at the after-match, he was introduced to former North Melbourne coach, Alan Killigrew, The O & K was part of the Kangaroos’ recruiting zone and ‘Killa’s’ role was to be their ‘P.R’ man in the area.
“He spoke to me for about 10 minutes……. didn’t draw breath. When he finally stopped talking, he said: ‘I like you, son…..you listen’ .”
Alan finished High School and chose to undertake a Phys.Ed course at the Footscray R.M.I.T. Whilst playing in the Victorian/Australian Tennis Open early in 1975, he was tracked down by a bloke who was to have an enormous influence on his life – Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan.
” ‘Slug’ was coaching North’s Thirds and Reserves and invited me to have a run . He sort of took me under his wing, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have played a game of League footy, but for him”.
” He was also North’s full-time Development Officer. My hours at Uni were pretty flexible, so I helped him out at school clinics. I absorbed everything that he taught the kids and then put it into practice.”
“He reckoned I kicked the footy like a bag of spuds, and needed to sharpen up my handball. I was determined to improve. For instance, I’d always avoided using my left foot. In the end, after heaps of work, that became my preferred kicking option”.
On the trips to and from clinics, ‘Slug’ spelt out his philosophies on football. And, with typical, brutal honesty, would analyse Alan’s match-day performances. He became, so to speak, his personal ‘tutor’.
After a lengthy apprenticeship, he broke into North’s senior side late in 1977, and was given a decent initiation – the task of keeping an eye on Richmond champion Kevin Bartlett. The elusive, cunning, wispy-haired ‘K.B’ proved a handful for the youngster, who nevertheless, acquitted himself well.
It was his introduction to the art of ‘tagging’, a form of the game at which Alan was to become adept. He confronted, at close quarters, many of the stars of the game, like Leigh Matthews, Tim Watson,Gary Wilson, Michael Tuck, and Gerard Healy, whom it was his task to negate.
So it was as a tagger and occasional ruck-rover and half back flanker that he made his mark. His ability to concentrate deeply, position his body, defend grimly, and shoot out a bullet-like handball from a scrimmage made him a valuable cog in the North side.
His coach Ron Barassi had a great appreciation of the no-frills Jarrott and once offered this assessment of one of his favourite players: ” He turned out better than I thought, mainly through really applying himself to skill acquisition. He started off as an ordinary kick and ball-handler. If he had been a bit speedier he might have been one of the greats…..”
It was little wonder, when Alan was delisted by North at the end of 1981, that Barassi and Jordan, who were now at Melbourne, were keen to lure him over.
“When the Krakouer brothers arrived at Arden Street, I got the flick. I’d played 79 senior games, and was happy with that. I was considering some offers from interstate and the VFA, then ‘Barass’ made contact. It was great to get another opportunity”, he says.
He played more as a back flanker and in the back pocket in 91 games over five years with the Demons and provided valuable service during a struggling era for the club.
“Early in the 1987 season, I broke a bone in my hand and that really hastened my decision to retire. I told the CEO I was pulling the pin and he suggested: ‘would you be interested in coaching the Thirds, we’ve just sacked the coach.’ ”
“So I retired on the Tuesday and was coaching on Thursday night,” Alan recalls.
He stayed in that role for the next year and a half, but declined to apply when it was broadened into a full-time position.
He’s had a few other flirtations with football over the last 27 years. A foray into journalism saw him covering League games for the Sunday Age ; he coached University Blues for a season ; and took an assistant-coaching position with ‘Slug’ Jordan, at the Prahran Dragons.
When Jordan suffered a stroke whilst recruiting for Collingwood, Alan offered to help out his old mate, and concentrated on scouting the interstate teams for some time.
He’s now back at North, and has been Vice-President of the Roos’ Past Players for the past three years.
Post-footy, Alan sampled an array of jobs, but for the last 15 years has been an Insurance specialist. Three years ago he launched his own Insurance brokerage.
These days his competitive juices are discharged by playing A-Grade tennis, alongside an ex-Wangaratta boy Ross Spriggs.
From Moyhu to the wide expanses of the MCG, and beyond, Alan Jarrott’s 170 VFL games stand as a tribute to one of football’s hardest workers…………..