This column is generally about the superstars of Border and North East sport. But not everyone can be good. Some are average. And then there's The Suburban Footballer. As a footballer, he's a great celebrity. Plenty mightn't know it, but Tom Siegert started at the Wodonga Bulldogs. The Border Mail caught up with him this week.
THE BORDER MAIL: Firstly, welcome back to The Border Mail, Suburban Footballer, but is this the first time you've been mentioned in the paper since you were a sporting prodigy from Wodonga High School?
THE SUBURBAN FOOTBALLER: I have never been mentioned in the sports section, I have featured regularly though in the Crime Stoppers section.
BM:You started your career with the Wodonga Bulldogs and there's a great story about you challenging O and M Hall of Famer Brett 'Bear' Allen to a wrestle. You gave away 30 kilograms and 15cm, how did that go?
TSF: 'Bear' had a reputation as the strongest guy at the club and it was a title I had had my eye on for quite some time. It was after a big day hanging out by the tinnie booth that I decided to challenge him to a wrestle. I didn't think about it that much at the time, but a few days later, when I eventually woke at the Wodonga Hospital, it occurred to me that perhaps wrestling was not one of my strengths.
BM:I know you rate Dean Harding highly, can you explain then why, when he was coaching the Bulldogs from 2015-17, he refused to have you on the coaching staff?
TSF: Dean is a good guy but we did disagree on a few things which eventually led to him kicking me off the coaching staff. He liked his assistants to remain in the box until the final siren while I liked to head up to the tinnie booth midway through the second quarter. In the end we agreed to disagree.
BM: You played against some guns in that era, Chris Stuhldreier, Stephen Ash, Glenn Page etc, who gave you the most problems?
TSF:Stuhldreier kicked 23 goals on me once but quite a few of those were in junk time and to be honest, I think I got the better of him. I tagged Page and Ash on several occasions with both players averaging over 70 possessions but again, the majority of those were cheap kicks in the back half. None of those players really caused me any problems.
BM: In your time in the O and M, what was the best sledge you received and from who?
TSF: I remember one day we were playing at home against the Raiders and a voice from over the fence yelled that I was "a disgrace" and an "embarrassment". It didn't stop from the opening bounce to the final siren. I used to hate it when mum came to the footy.
BM: What's the funniest moment you saw at O and M level?
TSF: Every year when they announce the Hall of Famers and I am overlooked. An absolute joke.
BM: But by the time you reached your early 20s, you were sick of the rat race of Wodonga after growing up in Allan's Flat and headed for the serenity of Melbourne. In all honesty, how many clubs chased you?
TSF: I'm not normally one to brag but pretty much every club in Melbourne was chasing my signature. Admittedly, I did tell them I was five-time Morris medallist Robbie Walker and every one of them lost interest when I turned up to pre-season training, but it was still nice to feel wanted.
BM: You settled on the Caulfield Bears in the Southern Football League, why was that?
TSF: In the end it came down to the almighty dollar. They were the only club that weren't going to charge me to play.
WATCH: SEE HOW THE SUBURBAN FOOTBALLER IS HANDLING LIFE IN ISOLATION
BM:Your career could only be described as disappointing. What happened?
TSF: If I'm being honest, I think I became complacent. In under 10s I came third in our club best and fairest and I guess I just thought it was going to happen and ability alone would take me to the highest level. I really took my foot off the accelerator. After 26 straight seasons where I have barely had a kick, I'm starting to think perhaps I should have worked harder.
BM: You don't mind giving it to blokes, I saw when former North Albury ruckman and one of suburban football's most decorated players in Ash Eames retired in 2018, you said all he had going for him was his size? Ash is now a policeman back here in Wodonga, how did that sledge go down?
TSF: I loved playing on Ash. Although he had me for size, he was no match for my sledges. I remember once giving it to him and he hated it. He had the last laugh though when he pulled a few strings and had me spend six months in the clink for parking in a loading zone.
IN OTHER NEWS:
BM:Just on work, you've certainly had success in a number of areas, what do you regard as your greatest achievement?
TSF:After 10 years working at the Ross Faulkner factory I was pretty proud to be promoted to 9IC. Unfortunately, I was sacked a few weeks later when I actually picked an order incorrectly and the SANFL had to play their grand final using plastic under 10s footies. Not my finest hour.
BM:Now this is a sports column, but there's an old saying behind every good man there's a good woman, How is your partner Tammie, I believe she's been a rock of your career?
TSF:She sure is. Technically we haven't been 'together' since 2015 and she is currently engaged to our captain Slinger, but I am confident it is just a bit of a rough patch and we will be back together soon. She means the world to me.
BM:Thanks for giving me so much time, but three years of unemployment will do that. There could be possibly countless, but more likely no, kids interested in one of the great underachieving careers of all time (63 reserves games over 14 years), if you could pass on a bit of gold, just to give them hope, what would it be?
TSF: Always run to the closest cone. It may not seem like much but, over a career, it could save you several kilometres.
BM: And finally, you recently released your first book, The Suburban Footballer, how do you explain that not one copy was sold?
TSF: My plan was to sell the book outside AFL games. I set up my stand outside every game in round one. I am not sure what happened but the crowds seemed a lot smaller than usual. I pretty much gave up after that.