Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : VFL            Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

 

EDDIE MELAI DIES in 2004

Sadly, Eddie Melai won't make it to the Dandenong Reunion on Saturday 2 October. Eddie passed away on Wednesday 28 April. The following extract is taken from my book Cleary Independent. Eddie was one of the great characters of the old VFA. I first came across him in 1975 and first exchanged words at Coburg in 1976. He was very special.

Eddie Melai in the Redleg colours after another victory.

 

EDDIE DOES A RUNNER

I've seen it a few times over the years, which probably explains why one of my most indelible memories of Eddie Melai is the image of him standing over Port defender Bob Profitt in the 1976 VFA grand final. Profitt had earned something of a reputation with the very tough, all conquering Port Melbourne of the 70s. However, Melai, a big athletic ruckman with Dandenong from the mid 60s until 1976, was not just a grand looking man. He could handle the heavy traffic.

When Channel Ten (then Channel O) swept into VFA football in 1967 it brought to life one of the most talked about eras of Victorian football. Melai, a matinee idol in a sea of rough nuts, made it unique. Sadly, he died of a stroke, aged 63, last Wednesday. After first coming across him on the television set the late 60s I met him in person on the football field in 1975 and 1976. I still remember him casting a glance my way as he wandered towards the three-quarter time huddle at Coburg in 1976. 'Watch out you little fucking ****'he growled, those brushy eyebrows rising and falling in unison.

Eddie in his VFL/AFL days

Having played in two premierships with Dandenong (1967/71) and now in his mid 30s Melai retired before the end of the '76 season and took on the job as club runner. On grand final day 1976, approximately 30,000 people flooded the St Kilda Junction Oval for what was to become a truly bizarre grand final. And as always, Eddie Melai was centre-stage. After Dandenong defender Allan Harper knocked Port champion full forward to the ground behind play brawls erupted across the field. Just what happened between Profitt and Melai was unclear. However the television footage clearly shows Melai, with his hands in Marquis of Queensbury pose, watching as Profitt hits the turf. He was subsequently suspended for six matches and fined $500. 'If you don't look out for yourself, someone else will,' was one of the more amusing comments to pass through his lips.

On Saturday 2 October the Dandenong Team of the Century will be announced at a function in Dandenong. Melai is certain to be named in the team. Football was different in Eddie's day. The actions of a minority who mastered the king hit on unsuspecting opponents, is not worth romanticising. Eddie Melai wasn't one of that mob. He was a great player, and what the old timers would call a 'real gentleman'. And he is one more reason why we should never have let the AFL (I think it was Ian Collins' idea) change the name of this great competition from VFA to VFL.

AND THAT GRAND FINAL - AS TOLD IN MY BOOK -

CLEARY INDEPENDENT - HARPER COLLINS - 1998

Violence aside, the 1976 VFA Grand Final was a classic piece of television soap opera. The sight of the blonde Port Melbourne doctor, in bright red top and black flares, removing the hand of tearful veteran trainer, the late Alan Thomas, from her ribcage as she scurried from the field, having attended to her favourite player, the wounded Fred Cook, was a gripping moment in the annals of football broadcasting.

So too was the performance of Dandenong's official runner and recently retired ruckman, Eddie Melai. A big man with thick, dark eye brows, Melai planted the feet and, to the cheers of those who'd suffered at the hands of cocky Port full back Bob "Bullwinkle" Profitt, sent their nemesis to the turf.

While all this was happening the redoubtable, granite-headed "Gorgeous" George Allen, who came from a long line of Port Melbourne Allens, had sent Dandenong's lovable, goal-kicking wizard Pat Flaherty, down for the count in retribution for the havoc Harper had wreaked at the other end of the ground.

A left-footer with a facade of vulnerability designed to protect him from the assassins who roamed the VFA, Flaherty kicked goals in profusion. Unfortunately in Allen's Port Melbourne world, an injury to one was an injury to all. And as Flaherty was the nearest member of the enemy he would pay dearly. This was a Grand Final to remember.

 

 

 

 
 

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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