IF Jack Woodman wasn’t the oldest Swan, he must have come pretty damn close.
Mr Woodman, a former Albury plumber who died on Sunday, aged 89, first saw South Melbourne play in 1932.
Fifty years later he became a foundation member of the Sydney Swans when South Melbourne moved north — one of only six such fans from Albury.
In the 1930s, living 200 metres from the Albert Park ground, he played in all the Swans’ age groups up to the reserves in 1941 and 1942 as a full forward.
He was proud to have trained in the red and white guernseys with heroes such as the legendary Bob Pratt and Austin Robertson, but Hitler and Hirohito upset his promising football career.
Mr Woodman enlisted after turning 18 in 1942 and ended up by a different sort of seaside — on Bougainville as a corporal coxswain in the 1st Australian Water Field Ambulance.
The enemy were not only Japanese soldiers but crocodiles and sharks who lurked off the beaches and swamps where Mr Woodman and his mates tended to wounded and sick Diggers.
They gathered more than 200 casualties from the Battle of Porton Plantation in 1945, weeks before the Japanese surrendered and accepted chocolates and cigarettes from the Diggers before being locked up.
Ten years ago Mr Woodman recalled those tough times, but typically joked about carrier pigeons used to notify medical staff of casualties.
“We ate the pigeons afterwards,” he said.
Mr Woodman married his wife, Irene, in 1944 and after the war moved to Albury, playing football for Lavington (not the present club) in the Chiltern and District league and became a committee man and life member of North Albury.
In 1986, the couple’s only son, a leading racing cyclist, died after a road accident — the John Woodman Memorial Wagga to Albury Road Cycle Classic is held in his honour.
Some years after Mrs Woodman died, Mr Woodman moved from Lavington to Culburra, near Nowra, where he died at a retirement village.
He leaves daughters Kay and Ann and seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at St Marks Anglican Church in North Albury tomorrow at 2.30pm.