|Issue No 109||31 August 2001|
The Locker Room
Working Class Heroes
By Peter Lewis
Sydney officially bade farewell Swans stalwart Troy Luff this week, a player who won a city's respect through determination in the face of his own incompetencne.
Luff was with the Swans since 1990, right through the infamous 21 game losing streak. It's a sign of his career that when the drought finally broke, Luffy was out injured.
Twice the Swans dumped him, placing on the transfer list, only to have second thoughts and add him to the following year's list. But through it all, Luffy kept doing what he does best - trying. He's not particularly, tall, particularly fast or particularly good - but it's a credit to modern AFL that there's still a place for a player with tons of heart. If there's a mark to be taken backing into a defender's elbow - chances are Luffy will be in the pack. He may not take the mark, but he'll never shirk the grab.
When the Swans turned it around and went all the way to the Grand Final in 1996, it was Luffy who was at the top of his form. History will recall that when the Swans went ahead early, it was not Plugger, but Luffy that kicked the first tow goals of the game. It was great fun - the chants were a constant challenge for the Troy Luff fan club - no pop song went untouched - Luff is in the Air, All You Need is Luff, Luff me Tender, I Honestly Luff You - and so on.
And with every success came the threat of disaster - it became a common sight to see Swans coach Rodney Eade dragging Luff and giving him an earful down the hotline. Luff would cop it and get out there again trying to turn it around.
In recent years, Luffy has spent more and more time on the bench 0- christened this year 'The Troy Luff Stand' - or even running around in the seconds - where he gave the same wholehearted performances for Port Melbourne. But it was fitting that he made it back to the Firsts for his last SCG game, and as the rain set in took the final mark of the game.
As his teammates chaired him from the field, I couldn't help thinking that Luffy was a star, not because of what he was, but what he wasn't - he was not a deadest champ, he was not a big-head, he was not dull. He was a trier - a working class hero - and his very presence added to the humour - and humanity - of the game.
Luff's career got me thinking about other working class sporting heroes:
- Kerry Hemsley - Balmain front-rower from the eighties, brought the Milperra bikie look to the League, only went one way - forward.
- Tommy Raudonikis - west half who lived hard and played hard. When he lost a testicle to cancer, responded with the timeless quote "you only need one ball to play football"
- Shane Warne - the yobbo with talent. His best moment was probably the Quit for Life scam where he stopped smoking precisely long enough to take home the money and then lit up again. Brilliant.
- Jai Turiema - training regime dominated by pizza and lung-bsuters. Celebrated his long jump silver medal by heading to the closest pub.
- World woodchopper Big Dave Foster - proof that a beer gut and elite sport and not mutually exclusive.
- And Olympic swimmer Petria Thomas - who finally learnt the hard way that bombing in the pool is prohibited.
The common thread, none have been seduced by the prevailing ethos that equates elite sport with robotic. On and off the field, they were happy to make mistakes in the hope of kicking a goal. We warmed to them because they were more like us, rather than the glamour jocks that made us feel so inadequate.
Few can kick a goal from fifty - but we can all muff the ten metre hand-pass. Thanks Luffy, you've done it for all of us.
Interview: Union Power
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan surveys the union movement's troubled relationship with Labor.
International: Spreading the Word
Veronica Apap profiles Kamal Fadel and the battle he is fighting for the independence of his homeland of West Sahara.
E-Change: Training for a Wired Workforce
Education is the entry point into the new economy; but the system still reflects an industrial age view of the world.
Unions: AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers
Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.
Politics: Chatting with Enemies of the State
Brazils MST is the largest and most radical social movement in the Americas. The CFMEU´s Phil Davey drops in for a chat.
History: Struggle and Inspiration
Rowan Cahill argues that it is only through understanding history that we can make sense of the present plight of workers.
Technology: A World Without Microsoft
Heather Sharp argues that all technologies involve political choices and moral values. Computer software is no exception, and it is Bill Gates' choices that dominate.
Review: Let There Be Rock
Kid Rock and Beer Bong, Australia’s Oldest Rock Fans review the week’s music and political events from the safety of the bar stool.
Satire: Tampa refugees ask to go home: "It's less inhumane than Australia"
The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005