John Fidge Interview 2009

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Note: This interview is Copyright © 2009 John Fidge and Do not republish this story or any part of it without the express permission of John Fidge and


Fidgey, thanks for being the first player to be interviewed for the new "Legends and Larrikins" section of

According to the internet, you played 59 AFL games with Melbourne and Brisbane, kicking 92 goals, including 5+ goals in a game 6 times. Your first AFL game you were only 17, in 1984 for Melbourne and your last was in 1989 for Brisbane. I'm pretty sure you were re-drafted by Essendon a few years after that but sadly that wasn't successful.

JF: OK I thought I'd played 63 games, 32 at Melbourne 30 at Brisbane, and 1 at Essendon, but I count night games, so it doesn't matter.

Please tell us what was it like playing VFL back then, especially as a 17 year old?

JF: my first game was as a 17 year old against Essendon at VFL park, I played CHF on Paul Vanderhaar, and Terry Daniher, kicked 4 goals in a losing side , so it was a pretty good debut, I played 7 straight then hurt my knee, missed 6 then played the last 5 in the seniors.

I was very unlucky at Melbourne as I had some bad injuries, I only played 6 reserves games in my 3 senior years and that was only because of coming back from injury, 1986 was particularly bad as I played only 6 games, because of stress fractures in my right foot.

As you know AFL was very different back then, guys were more muscular, and carried more weight, if you niggled guys you got belted. I played on Gary Ablett Snr once and was holding his jumper when he tried to lead, after about 5 min he quietly told me if I kept doing it he would belt me. I thought about it for 1 sec and let his jumper go, I didn't want to wake up in Geelong hospital with a broken jaw. I played on 5 Brownlow Medallists in my first year, with only 12 teams in the comp the standard was high and there were no easy games , you earned every one of them, that is probably the most disappointing thing about AFL today, clubs have no depth and if you get a few injuries guys get games when they really haven't earned them.

Brisbane wasn't much better, 2 and a half years, heaps of injuries, and a terrible coach in Peter Knights who once dropped me for getting 6 goals kicked on me, when in fact I played Centre Half Forward and kicked 2 myself. The man was an idiot, when Brisbane sacked me the reason Knights gave me was that they wanted to go with youth. I was 21 and already had played 60 games, and 2 weeks before had kicked 5 goals against Sydney. The real reason I suspect is that i belted Warwick Capper in an internal trial game that pre season and I kept asking Knights why he wouldn't play me at full forward when Capper was really struggling, in the end I think me telling Knights one night in the shower that he was bloody idiot got me the sack, I never was very diplomatic.

And a final AFL question, before we get to the real stuff ,what was Mark Mickan like back then?

JF: As far as Mark Mickan goes he was a great player, one the best I played with, very under-rated, Mark was a super trainer, very fit for a big guy, really good runner , pretty quiet off the field, I never saw him really let his hair down, but I always liked him.

How did you end up at Glenelg?

JF: After I got sacked after round 4 or 5, I got a call from every SANFL club except North Adelaide and Norwood, so I had a lot to think about. I didn't know anything about football in South Aust so I asked guys like Choco Williams, Mark Mickan, and Benny Harris about where i should go, they all said the same thing, Port, Glenelg or Norwood. Port spoke to me, but had Scotty Hodges already so I wasn't keen to go there as I really believed I could play full forward if I was left there. Norwood didn't show any interest so that left Glenelg. Cornsey had promised me that I would play Full Forward and I already new Maxy Maynard through the Demons, and I played with Adam Garton at Brisbane, Glenelg were strong back then to, so it was easy in the end.

I was very impressed with Laurie Rosewarne, when I met him, and still rate him as one of the best blokes I ever met in footy. I had some off field dramas in my years at Glenelg with some assault charges and stuff, and Laurie was fantastic with his support, they were always self defence, and I was never found guilty, but the club always stuck by me which was fantastic, and I felt great I could repay that by playing well.

I remember your first game for the Bays, it was at Adelaide Oval and we were playing Sturt, I think you kicked 4 goals. I think I heard somewhere you had arrived only a day or two before and had spent the night on Chris McDermott's couch. What were your first impressions of the Bays?

JF: I did stay with Chris McDermott, when I came over , and he actually gave me his bed and he slept on the couch, great bloke, but his house at Marino was the coldest place id ever been, the walls must have been 1 mm thick. My first year was terrible here I tore my driver at training in my 2nd week here and it took forever to get right, every time I came back it would tear, very painful, and very disappointing, my confidence was at an all time low, but the boys around me were very supportive. Bone, Chris Duthy, Max, Tony Symonds, even when you sort of new they were thinking , sh*t not another dud recruit, which is what a lot of supporters and other people were thinking, I felt they believed in me, its the main reason why I stayed at the club, after getting drafted by Sydney. I really wanted to repay the faith.

You played 69 games for the Bays kicking an incredible 316 goals. Please tell us about a few of your highlights

JF: The next year was a great year kicked heaps of goals, played in a grand final, if I hadn't of missed 7 weeks with a dislocated shoulder who knows how many I might have kicked, but i was always unlucky with injuries. It's the story of my career, it was great playing in front of McDermott, Maynard, Marshall, and Symonds, Chiggy, Lamb ,Jameson, Gibbs, these blokes could hit you from most angles, but I think I lead into their vision pretty well too, which is an important skill for a forward to learn. Blokes like Liptak, and Scooter Salisbury you had to lead half pace because you would have to change direction mid lead, but they were great players too. We had a great side in my years, Darren Mansell, Michael Murphy, John Seebohm, Simon Hele, all great players. Unfortunately we didn't have good ruckmen in my years at the club, and I feel that's the main reason we got beaten in the 2 grand finals we played in, both games we got killed in the ruck.

I suppose the highlight for me was playing in a such a good side for the first time in my senior career, i thought my Christmases had come at once. Going from being a forward in average AFL sides, to a key forward in a dominant SANFL side where the full backs weren't very strong, well let me say it was fantastic, I always felt if I didn't kick 6 goals i had a sh*t day.

I loved playing Port, to me it was like playing AFL again and to kick 5 or six against them was a great effort. The day I kicked 13 against Westies at the bay was good, they were 2nd at the time and played in the grand final the year before so they were a handy side. 11 in the 92 preliminary playing on Weidemann and Bulluss was a good day too, i think at half time that day I had kicked 5 goals 3 points and the side had only kicked 6 or 7 so that was pleasing. I think I kicked 9 goals 11 points against South at the Bay , so as bad as I kicked I still got 20 kicks and for a full forward that's not too bad. There were plenty of highlights, and I was rapt to repay the faith Laurie and the boys had in me, that really meant a great deal to me. I always just wanted to have other players know that I could play good footy.

The nicknames you have been called?

JF: My nickname at the club was Phantom, long story as to why, but it stuck, especially with Johnny Symonds. He still calls me that.

Did you enjoy your reputation as the enforcer down the Bay, looking after the little guys such as Campbell Flower when Northeast was giving him a touch up?

JF: As far as the enforcer stuff goes , it was something i never thought of deliberately, on or off the field if a mate needed me I would do my best to help them. I never thought twice about it, just a natural instinct. I never thought it was my role or any crap like that, but I was always taught to fly the flag and get in there. Some blokes have short memories, and don't realise some of the risks and chances you take , but that's life and I wouldn't change much, you are who you are.

You played under three coaches at the club. Describe each one for us?

JF: The coaches?

  • Cornsey was great, he always used to ask me who my best Coach was and i knew he wanted me to say him, but i used to tell him it was Ray slug Jordan my Melbourne under 19 coach, only cause I knew Graham hated slug from his North Melbourne days, but Graham was the best coach I had, only thing he lacked was his defensive match ups, he got them wrong in 1990, and Port got too many soft goals, but he was very good for me, he basically left me alone.
  • Kym Hodgeman was a guy who in his first year struggled to coach guys who were his close mates, I always felt he coached with his heart a lot and sometimes, not all the time but sometimes picked guys because of friendships, but in saying that, He did a fantastic job in the 1992 final series and really had become very good. The club made a big mistake not reappointing him in 1993.The thing with Hodgey was he was very stubborn, I kicked 97 goals in about 14 games in 1992, I had a torn Planta Fascia muscle in my foot that I carried all year. I missed a lot of games, he always made me play 1 in the B grade before he would put me back in the seniors, well I kicked 10 goals in both those games, so i thought it was pointless to do that. I still stir him that he cost me kicking the ton that year, can you imagine Hawthorn playing Dunstall in the reserves, or Lockett coming back through the reserves? Just his way of proving he was boss I suppose.
  • Mark Williams was born to coach, I very much liked Choco, I played with him in Brisbane, and had a lot of respect for him, but the year he coached my back was just about stuffed so again I missed a lot of footy, but history shows how good a coach he is. Not many people know this but Choco rang me to sound out how Glenelg players would accept him if he applied for the job, I told him to apply because I knew he was going to be great.

I haven't seen you on Snout's Hill this year, I presume you are still actively following the Bays?

JF:Of course I still follow the club, I love Glenelg footy Club, i love walking into the place and looking to my left and seeing my name on the honour board, with such great names. I didn't achieve much in footy, and many people in Victoria view my career as a failure, but i tend to think that if during 10 years I had 20 operations, played with spondiolythesis in my back and still managed 60 AFL games and 70 SANFL games it was far from an ordinary effort, and I'm very proud of that.

Thanks Fidgey.

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