J.P. Makeham

UNE Sporting Great, Only Hall of Famer, Legend Status.

Bill Malcolm (Page College 1973, 1974, Armidale City 1975,1976, UNE IV 1975, 1976, Armidale City 1979,1980)
Jack Makeham, Patron-in-Chief of the UNE Australian National Football Club had impeccable footy credentials: Uncle Bob, a tall gangly centre half forward played in “The Machine” – the Collingwood teams that four consecutive flags, 1927-1930. Bob, farming with his brothers including Jack’s Dad at Loch via Korrumburra, would come down on the train to practise on Thursdays, stay and play, and head back on Saturday night. One of Jack’s prized possessions was one of Uncle Bob’s premiership medallions. Jack loved the Magpies, and frequently swore allegiance to them despite them losing a swag of grand finals in the 60s and 70s.

Shortly after coming to UNE to teach farm management economics in the late 1960s, and about to turn forty, Jack himself turned out for a football match, playing on the half back flank against another outrageously funny character and fellow luminary of Australian agricultural economics, John Quilkey. For those of us who knew both of them, imagination fails us – what a sight that would have been! Jack dashing around the wing, sometimes with the ball…

Jack’s sporting claims did not start and end with being related to a Magpie champion though. Right up until Jack broke his leg in a car accident in Nigeria in 1982 (Jack was luckily asleep on the back seat of the ill-fated vehicle, sending a message from hospital a few days later ‘at least they’re not sending me home in a body bag’), Jack played pretty good tennis. Several lunchtimes a week he and his colleagues from the Agricultural Economics Department and the ABRI staged a never-ending tennis championship. Jack was surprisingly handy at the game, playing also on Saturday afternoons. Jack came back from Thailand one time bearing the title of Campion of Northern Thailand, having soundly thrashed the reigning champion who was a splendid player despite having only one leg. A tennis devotee, cricket was never Jack’s go. Watching cricket once, Jack proclaimed, ‘That fast bowler could have my wicket any time he wants it…’

‘Jack was a sporting all-rounder though, devising a regular sporting contest for his mates – a quadrathalon – held at the Armidale Golf Club, involving darts, snooker, pokies, and middies with 7 oz. sherry chasers (Dr.Mick). Again defying expectation, Jack’s dart prowess wasn’t half bad (he’d get that dead-eye squint and with a bit of a weave up he’d somehow manage to heave the dart at the critical moment, with totally surprising accuracy), The long shots in ‘Snook’ were a worry though. The much unlamented Brother Brophy of St Joseph’s Geelong and his poor tuition in Trigonometry 101 took a pasting when snooker was on the go. ‘Grand concept but’ was the saying as another misdirected ‘shunt’ went wildly awry.

Jack had the pokies worked out. In Sydney’s infamous St George’s Leagues Club, feeding the machines, Jack noted the bloke playing the machine next to him remove his coat. Immediately this bloke pulled a jackpot. Jack, feeding his own machine, and ever the quick learner, quickly removed his trousers and pulled the handle. As security was escorting him from the premises Jack was shouting, ‘Just goes to show, you can’t extrapolate’. And, in the middies with the sherry chasers leg, for the rest of the quadrathalon players, it was daylight second.

Jack’s deep well of sporting enthusiasm extended to the races- gallops and the dishlickers. At the Saturday greyhound racing at Armidale one day Jack was walking around dragging a dog lead tied to his belt. When questioned about this Jack, genuinely shocked, exclaimed ‘bugger-I’ve lost me dog’. Jack loved the intellectual challenge of studying race form and picking horses to carry his couple of dollar bets. Each week Jack would religiously buy and study the famous pink racing guide ‘The Sportsman’, which he called the Sportsperson. At the races, whether Armidale, Flemington, Caulfield, Randwick or Walcha, Jack loved to get on the rails on the home turn, where the jocks were bustling, shouting at each other for a run and the whips cracking. Early morning trackwork at Randwick, all mist and snuffling racehorses, hard-faced jocks and inscrutable trainers, Jack bumbling around observing, shouting ‘Whoa there Nugget’, ‘Gee up Dolly’, getting in everyone’s way – literally frightening the horses – an old racing snout mutters to his mate ‘must be an old cocky’. (Nugget and Dolly were the two three-quarter draught horses Jack drove ploughing at Burnley Horticultural College, whilst a student on University holidays. Imagine that. If you can. Think of Diablo and the Makewell, the Makeham solution to the first Oil Crisis of the 1970s. Jack, with Diablo pulling the Makewell buggy, solving the oil crisis).

So it came to be that it was the most natural thing in the world for J.P.Makeham to become number one ticket-holder and chief patron of UNE’s fledging Aussie Rules outfit. Sunday arvo’s, bottom end of Consett Davis, Jack would be there – swinging the bookies bag (an old tram conductors satchel, which some low-life knocked off in 1980), ‘6/4 on the field’, ‘piss off Sawers, betting against your own team Robb’, ‘Mungus get out of that’, ‘This is a $100 goal Brendan’, ‘Don’t worry you Gunnedah blokes, I’ll pay- just have to first go to the Railway to cash a cheque’.

Where’s the piss and what’s the score?

Who Bets?

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