Dusk has already enshrouded the Findlay Oval on this balmy Thursday evening.
As the glow of the floodlights takes effect, eighty players or more burn up the track….. jabbering excitedly…..moving frenetically……footies zipping here and there, like tracer bullets……
A hardy group of regulars survey proceedings……Then we spot a lone figure…a massive fellah, who’s following the action intently, up in the shadows of the Hogan Stand.
Funny, we’d only been swapping yarns a few days ago, about the exploits of Michael Nolan, who first pulled on the Brown and Gold guernsey 50 years ago.  Someone jokes that, maybe the ghost of ‘Big Mick’ is re-visiting us ……..
Well, not exactly, but Mick’s spirit will always live on whilst his eldest son is around.
Rick has forged a sizeable football reputation of his own. When I greet him he’s momentarily distracted by a post that has come through on his I-Phone, announcing his decision to relinquish the coaching position at one of Australia’s most famous footy clubs, St.Mary’s of Darwin.IMG_3265
He told them that he wasn’t going on about a month ago, he says, but they’ve only just made it public.


How does he feel ? “Yeah, I’m comfortable with it. After five years in the job, I could sense my energy levels dropping, but I’ve maintained good relationships with everybody. And I didn’t want to damage those by going on for an extra year.”
So he took the opportunity to escape down south for a week or so. Being the football ‘nut’ that he is, he watched three AFL games last week-end, caught up with a few people, then headed to Wangaratta, where his family roots are, of course, deeply-embedded.
Rick’s has been a fascinating football journey .
He was just a whippersnapper when his dad, mum Nettie and the kids moved to Queensland.  Mick had drawn the curtain on a fine career at North Melbourne and was enticed to take up a coaching position with Brisbane club, Mayne, in 1981.
Charged with spreading the ‘gospel’ in this rugby-oriented state , Mick became the face of Queensland football, whilst turning the Mayne Tigers into a QAFL powerhouse.
Tracing his every step was young Rick, who began with Mayne’s juniors as a seven year-old and moved through the ranks, to play 50-odd senior games.
He had just left school, when an uncle, Graeme Smith, the vice-president of St.Mary’s, suggested that a season of summer footy in their Under-18’s would do him the world of good.
He loved it ; grew fond of Darwin and decided to hang around. When he was 21 he qualified as an Aviation Fireman – a job he’s held ever since.
And he began to make his mark as a strong, hard-working ruckman, protective of the will-o-the wisp, magical small men who abound in Top End footy.IMG_3263
Deceptively agile for his size, he inherited ‘Big Mick’s’ gift for deft tapwork and his sound understanding of the game.  Some also attested to his healthy appetite, which was again, a family trait.

A decent feed of Spaghetti Bolagnaise would be Rick’s standard post-match fare, along with a side dish of a couple of rounds of toasted cheese sandwiches.  His hangover-cure was a full Chicken, washed down with two or three stubbies.
Beneath a stern-looking visage  is a warm-hearted, friendly fellah. He loves yapping about footy – and is keen to elaborate when  I quiz him on the reason for St.Marys’ amazing run of success.
They’ve won 32 of a possible 65 NTFL flags since they entered the League in 1952, and have missed the finals only twice.  Rick says the Club was originally formed to give full-blood aboriginals on the Tiwi Islands the opportunity to play regular, organised football in Darwin.
At the time, none of the other clubs would allow full-bloods to play. Thus, a long line of Long’s, Rioli’s, Dunn’s and Virgona’s, among others, have helped create the Saints’ tradition, blending in with the diehard locals.
One of the legends of the Club is the patriarch of the Long family, Jack, who used to sell crocodile skins to Darwin businesses to pay his way from the Tiwi Islands, to play with St.Mary’s .
The assembly-line of champions who have worn the Green and Gold over the years includes 21st century stars Anthony and Iggy Vallejo, Peter ‘Noodles’ McFarlane, Xavier and Raph Clarke, John Anstess and the Illett brothers – Cameron and Jarred.
“People are envious of our great culture, but it’s a culture of hard work. We train harder than any club, but we also have unbelievable bloodlines,” Rick says.
“Every year you’ll be watching a junior game and a Rioli or a Long who’s been living on the island, will bob up from nowhere.”
Rick played in two flags in his 125 senior games with Saints. In between, he fitted in a season at SANFL club Woodville-West Torrens, then realised a long-held ambition when he spent a couple of months with the Rovers in 2001.
He dominated four or five Reserves games and, when belatedly swung into the senior side, fitted in like a glove in two finals matches. He wishes time had permitted him to play more.
He’s always been a keen student of the game, and did a couple of internships with AFL clubs. In the period he spent at the Gold Coast Suns, Rick noticed that Shaun Hart, one of the assistants, had a computer with him at all times.
“His computer was a vital coaching tool. I was pretty impressed. I reckoned that was the way to go,” he says.
Thus, he was instrumental in creating SportsClipMaker, a video analysis software program and sports coaching app.
“Many Victorian country clubs are using it, but it has the potential to spread world-wide,” he says. “Hopefully, I can now devote more time to promoting it.”
Rick first put his toe in the coaching water, as an assistant at St. Mary’s. Then the opportunity presented itself to take on the big job in 2013.
He was apprehensive. “One of my best mates, Stewart Sceney, was putting a bit of pressure on me. He told me: ‘It takes courage to coach, but it takes extra courage to coach St.Mary’s.”
So he took the plunge. Sadly, not long after he’d been appointed,  Stewie, his wife Karmi Dunn and their two kids, died in a plane crash at Anson Bay, on the west coast of Darwin.

The news devastated the St.Mary’s club, but strengthened their resolve for the season ahead. The Saints took all before them and went through the season undefeated.IMG_3260
That was certainly a highlight for Rick, but the flag win he cherishes most came in March 2016.
He’d lost key players John Anstess and Ryan Smith in the lead-up, then Ben Long was rubbed out after a gruelling Preliminary Final.

“Within five minutes of the start, two blokes did ACL’s, and just before half-time one of our stars, Justin Cooper, broke a collarbone. Mickey Coombes, another key player, was out of the game with an ankle injury at three quarter-time.

When the last quarter started we had no bench, it was 33 degrees and 95% humidity. We were two goals down and barely hanging on”
“With a minute or so remaining in the game, Shannon Rioli threaded his way through a few Wanderers players and booted the goal that gave us victory by two points. It ranks as one of the best of our 32 flags.”

(to see vision:  https://www.youtube.com/watchv=lSwnIpEq3wk )

The following season St.Mary’s belted old foes Wanderers by 57 points, to clinch Rick’s third title in four years.

This year they started sluggishly, recovered, but were always just off the pace – bombing out in the First Semi Final against Nightcliff.
He concedes that coaching in the Top End is a tough gig.

“You’re allowed a maximum of four fly-in players ; there are the boys from the Communities, like Wadeye . You have to make sure they’re picked up, fed and accommodated .My wife Danielle was terrific in helping me with this.  “
“Additionally, the blokes from down south need to be settled in Darwin by October 1. You try to ensure that they all fit into the Club okay……And most of all, hope they can get a kick .…………”IMG_3266
Rick likes to think his coaching methods were strongly influenced by watching his dad in charge at Mayne. His younger brothers, who  both made a considerable imprint on the game, have also carried the Nolan name with aplomb.
Dan started with Mayne, played 54 games with the Rovers, 100 at St.Mary’s, close to 200 with Heidelberg, and finished with two seasons at Mornington.
Dale’s career followed a similar trajectory – Mayne, St.Mary’s, Heidelberg and Mornington.

Rick will certainly find time this year to visit his 14 year-old son Noah, in Sweden. He’ll also take his usual trip to Bali, to play in the Over-35 Masters Football Carnival.
But the next stage of his career awaits. He’s unsure what it will involve at this stage, but there’s no doubt he’ll remain heavily involved in the game……………..IMG_3254


You’ve heard the story about the kid who used to plonk a rubbish-bin in a forward pocket at the Showgrounds. He’d drill 70 or 80 kicks at it, then drag it over to the other pocket and repeat the exercise.

Became a triple Geelong Premiership hero,  Norm Smith Medallist and media darling. They dubbed him ‘Stevie J’.

………. And the larrikin with loads of talent and spunk. North Melbourne officials lobbed at Myrtleford’s McNamara Reserve one night, whisked him off the training track and named him in their side the following Saturday.

Lou Richards was a fan and handed him a moniker that stuck. From then on he was ‘Slammin’ Sam’ Kekovich.

…………Sam played in the ‘Roos’ first Premiership with a hulking fellah from Tarrawingee, who made his name at the Wangaratta Rovers.  North’s talent scouts came up to a Grand Final to cast an eye over another lad- Johnny Byrne –  but were so impressed with the ruckwork of Michael Nolan that they signed the pair of them.

‘The Galloping Gasometer’ was to become a VFL cult hero.

………….Richmond recruiters took an immediate shine to Doug Strang when they saw him playing for East Albury in 1930. They thought they may as well invite his likely-looking brother Gordon down as well. In just his second game Doug kicked a lazy 14 goals and Gordon (‘Cocker’) dominated at the other end.

They figured in the Tigers’ Premiership victory the following year, alongside another O & M champ Maurie Hunter, who was by now a star of the game.

…………..A tall, blonde lad from Corowa-Rutherglen was just 16 when he booted 12 goals against Myrtleford in 1987. He was destined for the top, the experts proclaimed.

John Longmire had a striking physique, athleticism and an attitude beyond his tender years. Three seasons after his O & M debut he won the Coleman Medal and North Melbourne’s best and fairest. Subsequent coaching success with Sydney has added further lustre to ‘Horse’s’ burgeoning  resume’.

………….Fitzroy lured a star forward from Albury in the mid-thirties. Exasperated by his wayward kicking, they experimented with him at centre half back. Such was his dominance in the new position that Denis ‘Dinny’ Ryan took out the 1936 Brownlow Medal…………..


It’s O & M  Hall of Fame time. Since its introduction in 2005 more than 60 champions have been duly honoured.

But who is the greatest home-grown product of them all ?

I’ve touched on a few, but the list of stars is as long as your arm. For argument’s sake, I’ll throw in a few more of the 350-odd who have ventured to the ‘big time’………Lance Oswald, Bert Mills, Don Ross, Daniel Cross, Percy ‘Oily’ Rowe, Fred Hiskins, Brett Kirk, Joel Smith, Daniel Bradshaw, Dennis Carroll, Fraser Gehrig, Dinny Kelleher, Ben Matthews, Lance Mann, Les (Salty) Parish, Norm Bussell and Jimmy Sandral.

And some, like Robbie Walker, Stan Sargeant, Brian Gilchrist,  Neville Hogan, ‘Curly’ Hanlon and Dennis Sandral  didn’t find the urge to leave home, yet are right up there when the experts compile a list of the ‘Best from the Bush’……….


But there’ll be no argument about the Best-Ever.

Haydn Bunton won Brownlow Medals in his first and second years at Fitzroy – and  another, three years later.  Scribes of the thirties lauded the precocious talent of the lad from Albury, who had been forced to stand out of the game for a year. It was alleged that Fitzroy had paid him an illegal sign-on fee and thereby flouted the Coulter Law.

His brilliance had originally come to the attention of talent scouts when he starred for the O & M against a combined VFL team in 1928. He was still 16, but already exhibited wondrous skills.

Some years after his retirement, Haydn reflected on his early days and his entry to senior football:

“…..By the time I was 13, my two elder brothers George and Cleaver were playing for Albury and my younger brother Wally was already showing promise of doing the same.

That year – 1924 – I played football for the Albury School on Fridays and for Albury in the Ovens and Murray League on Saturdays.

In my last year at school I captained the school cricket team and hit 805 runs at an average of 201 and took 43 wickets. I’ve often been asked why I gave up cricket after only one District season with Fitzroy.

At times I wonder myself. I could get runs, but I was always a pretty stodgy bat. I had the chance. In 1927 I was chosen in the Riverina team to play Country Week in Sydney and made 3 centuries.

The next season I again got among the runs with 4 more centuries. Bill Ponsford came to see me at Albury and asked me to play for St.Kilda. I would have gone, but my mother was against my doing so.

In fact, when I did leave Albury to go to Melbourne to play football in 1930 it was still against my mother’s wishes. My father only agreed when he saw how keen I was.

It was around 1928 that the turmoil in my life began. For four years I’d been playing football with Albury………Four Buntons were in the Albury team. George was centre half forward and Wally centre half back. Cleaver took the knocks and the coach Bobbie Barnes, and I picked them up.

When I’d won the Best & Fairest for the team for three years -1926,’27 and ’28 – we played against a visiting Essendon side. Frank Maher, the State rover, was opposed to me. I had the better of him all day. At the time I thought I was king of the world. When I look back, though, I realise Frank was near the end of his time after a brilliant career. His legs weren’t as youthful as mine.

In 1929 the pressure was really on. Eleven Victorian clubs – all except Collingwood – came after me. They sent their men with all sorts of propositions, and they laid on the charm with a trowel.

It was pretty flattering and mighty bewildering. It would have been a game son who got a big head with my dad. In fact, his stern advice to me when I eventually left to play in Melbourne, was: “If you get swollen-headed don’t come back to this house. I want no son of mine to become too big for his boots.”

Looking back now, I almost blush with embarrassment when I think of how I arrived in Melbourne – a typical hick from the sticks’. My felt hat was dinted in four places, I wore a navy blue suit, the coat cut high at the back, the trousers almost bell-bottomed, cut-away double-breasted waistcoat, butcher blue shirt – and 4 shillings in my pocket when I stepped on to Spencer Street station.

Carlton officials were supposed to meet me. They were never at the station -although they claimed they were. I went straight to the head office of New Zealand Loan and asked for the manager. “Has my transfer been arranged to here from Albury, sir?” I asked. “What transfer, Bunton ?” was his staggering reply. I told him that Carlton had arranged it.

He rocked me again with his reply: ” I know nothing of any transfer, Bunton. In any case, we don’t transfer professional footballers.”

That was that. I was out of a job. I went out and immediately rang Tom Coles, the Fitzroy secretary. He got me a job straight away, working with Chandler’s, the hardware merchants. I signed there and then with Fitzroy…….”


Because he was forced out of League football for a year, Haydn caught a train back to Albury each week-end of the 1930 season, to play for West Albury.

Then, almost from the time of his League debut, he became a celebrity.  In 119 games with Fitzroy, he kicked 307 goals, was twice their leading goal-kicker, twice club captain and was captain-coach for a year.

In 1938 he transferred to Subiaco, where he dominated the WAFL, winning three Sandover Medals in his four years in the west.

Haydn settled in Adelaide in 1945 and played his final season with Port Adelaide. He then went on to become a League umpire and, finally, a League coach with North Adelaide in 1947 and ’48.

He suffered serious injuries when his car veered off a road near Adelaide and hit a tree in 1955. The colourful life of the legendary Haydn Bunton was over at just 44 years of age………….

















“The Big Dance……”

It’s been at the back of your mind for months. What a thrill it would be if the Club could maintain its form and win its way into the Grand Final.

You start to make a few sacrifices – go easy on the grog, make a commitment to work a touch harder on the track, heed the coach’s advice to mentally prepare for each game.

The results are there to see. You experience a run of good form, start to snag a few goals, and the side gets it all together, finishing comfortably inside the Final Four, despite losing the Round 18 game by 50-odd points.

Facing the titleholders in the first semi-final, the experts predict that they’ll be too physically powerful, but the boys finish strongly and win in a canter.

The dose is repeated in the Prelim……… The flag is now within touching distance and, as you and your team- mates lock arms and belt out the team song, a nervous – and exciting – wait lays ahead……………


In mid-September every year, Philip Doherty takes a moment to reflect on that day in 1971, when he helped to change the course of a game of football with some irresistible heroics – and in so doing, probably altered the direction of his life.

I track him down in Albany, the scenic Western Australian coastal city which overlooks the Indian Ocean. He’s been ensconced there for the past three years.

When I suggest that I’d like have a bit of a yarn with him, he reminds me that the last interview we conducted was very late one Saturday night, decades ago, when he was just tentatively emerging in the game.

The headline : “CARROT-HAIRED BEANSTALK IS A RIPPER”, accompanied the article, which detailed his rather tardy arrival on the football scene ; his improvement at Centrals, under a former Rovers player Jack Ramsay ; and his imageblossoming as a key forward with the Hawks.

They dubbed him the ‘Flying Doctor’. At 6’3″ and 13 stone, he was just 18 when he snagged six goals in a Reserves Grand Final. His 85 goals in the two’s had complemented the handy input of one of his partners in attack – a kid called Steve Norman.

Like ‘super-boot’ Steve, ‘Doc’s’ progress was steady.

But both were ready to explode in 1971, as they occupied the key forward posts in a developing Rovers side. Norman was the fast-leading, sure-kicking spearhead ; Doherty the high-leaping, skyscraper-grabbing, enigmatic centre half forward.

‘Doc’s’ a bit hazy about the lead-up to the Grand Final, so I quiz his old coach, Neville Hogan, who has an uncanny ability to recall events of the past at the drop of a hat. I ask him to outline the role that the lanky number 18 played in that finals series:

“One of the rules we implemented before the Prelim Final was that players had to wave their hands above their head when they were on the mark,” Neville says. ” I remember ‘Doc’ just standing there day-dreaming when his opponent, Benalla’s Brian Symes received a free kick early in the game. I screamed out: ‘Put your hands up’. ”

“Symes kicked the ball into him. He grabbed it, swivelled around and snapped a goal. He seemed out of sorts early, but didn’t look back from then on. Marked everything within reach and kicked four for the day – I’m pretty sure Steve kicked five and we went on to win easily.”

“There was a ‘blue’ in the first quarter of the Grand Final and a big fellah from Yarrawonga, Jimmy Bourke, whacked ‘Doc’. He was playing on a bit of a tough customer, Alan Lynch, who was as good a centre half back as there was going around.”

“He had kept him right under control. At three quarter-time we were in real trouble – 20 points down, and Yarra were playing like winners. They had kicked seven goals to one in the third quarter”

“In one of those moves born out of desperation, we shifted Brian O’Keefe to centre half forward and plonked ‘Doc’ in the pocket.”

” I can remember looking up at the scoreboard early in the last quarter. The clock had ticked over to the eight minute mark and ‘Doc’ was lining up for his third goal in five minutes, to give us the lead. He’d taken three spectacular marks and converted each time.”

The Rovers swept to victory, by the comfortable margin of 19 points at siren-time, thus triggering wild delight. It was the beginning of a decade of triumph for the Hawks, but it was to be Philip Doherty’s final game for the club.

North Melbourne secretary-cum recruiting guru, Ron Joseph had watched the finals and, in the midst of the premiership celebrations a few days later, invited him down to Arden Street for the 1972 pre-season.

“I was keen to have a crack at League footy, but sorry to leave my mates at the Rovers,” says ‘Doc’, who had played 43 senior games in the Brown and Gold.

So he left his job in the Spare Parts division of Alan Capp Motors, and walked into a similar role at Kevin Dennis Holden.

The VFL’s controversial zoning system had been in vogue for five years . The Murray Border district was North Melbourne’s allotted area, and other North-East boys, Sam Kekovich (Myrtleford),Vin Doolan, John Perry and David Pretty (Wodonga), Gary Cowton (Benalla), Phil Baker (Rutherglen) and Ross Beale (Yarrawonga) were also training.

‘Doc’s’ premiership team-mate, Mick Nolan and another young Hawk, John Byrne, were lured down to North a year later, so it had become a mini-O & M side.

It was to prove a sensational era of change for North Melbourne. Under the coaching of Brian Dixon, the ‘Roos were only able to snare one win in 1972, but ‘Doc’ would have been quietly pleased with his year.

He broke into the senior side for the last seven games, booted two ‘bags’ of four imagegoals and played a prominent part in the sole victory against South Melbourne.

The season had no sooner finished when it was announced that Ron Barassi was taking over as coach and three top-liners – Doug Wade, John Rantall and Barry Davis, had been lured to the club.

There was an instantaneous transformation, and the discipline instilled by the firebrand, Barassi, altered the culture of the club. They finished just outside the five in 1973, but for ‘Doc’ it proved a disappointment.

He managed just four more senior games, and when North began the wheeling and dealing to recruit W.A champion Barry Cable, his name was thrown up as possible ‘trade bait’ .

Eventually, he was included in a deal involving David Pretty, Michael Redenbach and Doug Farrant being cleared to WANFL club Perth, enabling the legendary Cable to cross the continent to line up with the ‘Roos.

The spacious grounds and near-perfect conditions suited ‘Doc’s’ style. He enjoyed a fine first season and helped Perth to a Grand Final berth against East Fremantle.

Fired by the superb play of first-year on-baller Robert Wiley and with David Pretty also in good touch, the inaccuracy of Doherty possibly contributed to East Freo being still in touch at three quarter-time.

He marked strongly up forward and finished with 5.6, but East ran away in the last term, to win by 22 points, in front of a crowd of 40,000.

After two more seasons with Perth, it was all over. He had moved on to selling cars, which began to consume more and more of his time. That, and an active social life, which he had always been keen to maintain, drew the curtain on the football career of Philip Doherty.

The car game has remained ‘Doc’s’ passion. He owned a business – City Toyota – at one stage and is firmly implanted in the West. He has returned home just four times in the last 42 years.

One of these included a nostalgic visit to the Findlay Oval a couple of years ago, when he enjoyed soaking up the memories of those days of yore………..





















Rick Nolan is a condensed version of his late Dad, Mick. He used his large frame to advantage in an impressive football career, which saw him play in four states and include in his CV, a few appearances with the Rovers in 2001.

But he forged his reputation in Darwin, in 140-odd games and 2 premierships with St.Mary’s. Rick is now 40 and has turned his hand to coaching. After a year as an assistant with the N.T Thunder rep side, he was appointed to take charge of his old club for the 2013/14 season.

Rick has a rugged countenance and a stern-looking face, but beneath it all he is a kind and caring soul. His mum, Nettie, is over from Brisbane for the Grand Final tomorrow, but she has decided not to stay with her eldest son. “He gets pretty uptight and he’ll probably be pacing the floor tonight. I’ll leave him in peace,” she said.

When we renew acquaintances with Rick, he wears a pained expression. You get the feeling the weight of expectation is bearing down on him.

And little wonder. St.Mary’s have won 29 N.T flags in 60 years of existence. They are on a 38-game winning streak, but some experts give Wanderers, their opponents and arch rivals, a realistic chance of causing a boilover.

Saints are a crackerjack side, but the ‘Nuk Nuks’, as Wanderers are known, led them at ¾ time a fortnight ago before being overpowered in the last. They are welcoming back AFL premiership player Daniel Motlop, who has served an 8-week suspension, incurred in an earlier game against the ‘Green Machine’. One of 4 Motlops in the side, he’ll surely give them a lift.

When we bid adieu to Rick, he says: “It’s hard to believe that 2 hours of footy, gone wrong, could f….. up your year “. Sleep well, Rick.


Darwin’s Marrara Oval is the centrepiece of Australian football today.  Forget anything that’s happening down south! It’s been a sweltering day after a stormy ‘Wet Season’ night and the town is agog, as all roads lead to the spectacular sporting precinct on the outskirts of town.

We’re advised  to avoid the huge grandstand. Gets too hot, they say. So we opt for the far side of the ground, where a whiff of a breeze offers slight relief.

What an atmosphere!  Dusk takes over, the lights kick in and a crowd – close to 10,000 – have packed in and are expecting a clash of the titans.

They’re not disappointed. It has everything that Top End footy can produce. Saints kick the opening four goals of the game into the breeze and look set to run away with it. Iggy Vallejo, a Saints stalwart, has been given the job of tailing Daniel Motlop, who doesn’t fancy the attention he’s receiving.

An incident on Wanderers forward line produces a decent punch-up, but once the dust settles Wanderers seem to flick the switch and come back into the contest. Our previous recollection of N.T footy was that it was high on risk-taking and low on accountability. But this game has a terrific level of defensive pressure and has developed into a classic.

But Wanderers just can’t peg back the Saints sufficiently, although they draw to within  10 points in the last ¼.  Ex-St.Kilda player Raph Clarke has performed some heroic deeds and is my choice as BOG. Mark Blake, who played in Geelong’s flag 4 years ago, has been unstoppable in the ruck and lifts to another level when the pressure is on in the dying stages.

But it’s not until battle-worn star Peter McPharlane, winner of the League Medal, juggles a mark and lines up a set shot for goal from a fair way out, that you feel the game could be taken out of the ‘Nuk Nuk’s’ reach.

The crowd hushes, but a vociferous dark lady continually thumps the advertising hoardings in front of us, to try to distract the Saints skipper. ‘Noodles’ McPharlane, Dimboola born-and-bred, nails it. Even though Wanderers continue to fight the game out, the siren beats them and St.Mary’s have clinched flag No.30 by 21 points.

The giant colour screen portrays all of the post-match celebrations and finally it settles on a taciturn gentleman, whose back is being slapped by St.Mary’s supporters. Finally, the mask disappears and a slight grin creases his face. Rick Nolan, premiership coach, has dropped his guard.

The ‘NT News’ in the following days, lauds the Saints and their class on and off the field. They pay homage to the coach, who is now basking in some of the glory of the premiership success. St.Mary’s President of 42 years, Vic Ludwig, says he is the most studious coach he had seen in all his years at the famous club.

“His pre-game, matchday and post-game work in terms of video and player reviews is incredibly articulate and a credit to himself,” he says.

Veteran scribe Grey Morris also weighed in with some praise. “I’m sure his late dad, Mick, the North Melbourne premiership ruckman, was looking down on him on Saturday night with a tremendous amount of pride”.

Enjoy the rest of the year, Rick.