Report: JEFF STEPHENSON
WHAT could a poor lad do? He’d just stepped off a ship from Wales after a long, tiresome and anxious voyage, arriving in Australia as an excited, nervous, apprehensive and most likely homesick 10-year-old.
His new home was now in Elsternwick – an inner Melbourne suburb – and not long after settling in to his surrounds his dad took him to a VFL match.
It was one of those “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” type moments.
Because when in Melbourne – what do you do”?
You go to the footy, of course.
So, that’s what this poor lad did.
This wide-eyed youngster was Martin Johansen – okay, no-one calls him Martin anymore, so from henceforth it’s Marty – and his St Kilda-supporting dad decided the time was ripe for the soccer-loving Liverpool supporter to get to grips with the indigenous code then called Australian Rules Football.
The year was 1970.
Marty’s dad was a fledgling St Kilda supporter and on this day the Saints were playing Collingwood.
“The Saints won easily and while my dad was happy, I thought then that as Collingwood was the underdog, I would barrack for the Pies.”
He has done so since.
And, like most of the breed, he has done so rather passionately.
Little did he know it at the time, but the game – we now know it better as Australian football – would become a major part of his life.
He’s lived and breathed Collingwood ever since and after moving to Brisbane the game took on an even bigger role in his life.
Marty is now a fully-fledged Redland follower and volunteer, offering his service each Saturday during the season as the Bombers’ team manager.
But that’s just the half of it.
All the little things that go unnoticed during the off season – the repairs to the surrounding picket fence, the painting jobs, the maintenance on this building or that shed, the scrubbing, cleaning and whatever other odd job is on call at a working bee – you can bet Marty is at the forefront of the volunteers helping to keep Scottsdale Oval in as ship a shape as is humanly possible.
It has earned him a Club Person of the Year award and he’s also a Life Member of the Victoria Point Sharks Sporting Club.
These are a couple of significant honours, but they are not what Marty’s here for – he’s here to support the club and to do whatever he can to help.
His association with Redland goes all the way back to 1990.
At that point he was keen bowler with the Victoria Point Bowling Club – he claims he was talked into it by a couple of mates – and would watch the occasional footy match when he learned the game was played here.
An enforced holiday from his bowling activities meant he became more and more interested in the footy club and when the Bombers – then the Sharks – joined then State League in 2000 Neil Proud singled him out as a team manager.
“The club needed a team manager back then,” Marty recalled.
“Neil knew I was interested and basically dragged me out of the TAB one day and said the job was mine if I wanted it.
“I thought, why not?”
He’s been the main man ever since and each Saturday or Sunday when there’s a game on you can see Marty busily running around organising team sheets, checking after the umpires and basically carrying out whatever chore is needed to be done on game day.
“There’s always something going on.
“It can get pretty hectic at times.”
He’s experienced some wonderful moments along the way and seen some enormous changes, particularly since Redland was elevated into the highly-rated NEAFL competition.
“It’s become more professional, that’s for sure.
“We’ve had real footy blokes come on board – people like Marty King – and what he doesn’t know about the game, even down to the junior levels, isn’t worth discussing.
“We’ve had to learn to improve our ways not just on the field, but off it as well, as you’re playing some pretty serious football these days.”
Highlights include the first time Redland defeated Southport.
“That was a real buzz.
“We were among the easy beats back in those days so when we started winning some games and then playing in finals it was good to stick it up “em.”
He’s seen and admired some great players in his time – Brad Jones, Shane Dupuy and Phil Carse among them – but takes a little more pride in those kids who have developed through the Redland junior program to make the grade at the higher levels.
“Players like Matt Thomson, Adam Boon, Adam Oxley – they’re great kids who’ve I’ve enjoyed seeing kick on.
“There’s been a big number drafted by AFL Clubs, I think 11 in my time here, and it’s always terrific to see them make the grade.”
It has been particularly enjoyable these last few years with Adam, Josh Thomas and Josh Smith all playing with Collingwood.
Yes, Marty admits the chest swells that little bit extra when he sees them in the famous Black and White jumper.
Of course, it should be mentioned Marty’s partner Merrin also has a wonderful resume within Redland’s netball community.
Merrin has coached State Age teams in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT and is presently coach of the State’s Disability team.
She is the Junior Development Officer with the Sharks club and in charge of player development with the Redland association.
The only downside – according to Marty, anyway – is that while he is so passionate about Collingwood, Merrin is equally as passionate about Hawthorn.
“It’s caused some quarrels,” he said.
While Merrin has witnessed her team win a premiership, Marty has not been as fortunate.
“I had the chance to go to the 2010 grand final when we drew with St Kilda, but I knocked it back to go on a footy trip with the boys.
“It would have been great to have been at the G, but then again I had a good time on the trip.”
He must have done – he’s not sure where he went.
Merrin’s memory of Hawthorn’s epic victory against Geelong in 1989 was also hazy, but for a different reason.
“It was just an amazing match with so much going on like Brereton getting bashed and Ablett kicking all those goals and everything else that happened that it all went by in a bit of a blur.
“I had to watch the replay to take it all in,” she said.
Anyway, as the countdown to the 2019 season ticks down, Marty is again preparing for his match day activities.
“I’ve had a great time and loved every bit of it.
“The involvement I’ve had has enabled me to meet some great people and make a lot of friends.
“I hope it continues for a while yet.”
We do too, Marty.
Now, here’s the thing. Remember we mentioned Marty first lived in Elsternwick when he arrived in Australia. That suburb took its name from the largest property in the district at that time – a palatial house called Elster.
Bet you didn’t know this Marty, but Elster is German for Magpie.