ALBURY'S Ross Ried has hardly pulled on a boot for his beloved Tigers, but few have done more off the field than the loyal team manager. He spoke to The Border Mail's BRETT KOHLHAGEN about his time at Tigerland.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: You have been Albury's property steward or team manager for the best part of 40 years. Where did it all start?
ROSS RIED: My Dad ('Chum' or Keith) had been at Albury since Jack Jones in the 1950s and was team manager in the 1966 grand final. I raced push bikes as a kid and used to ride to places like Yarrawonga, Benalla and Myrtleford while Dad would drive the car down with all the gear as the property steward. I'd pull my bike apart when I got there and put it in the car and then just follow him around.
BK: When did you take over as team manager?
RR: When Russell Campbell was coaching in 1985. I think I was the runner, property steward and team manager for a while there when Ben Doolan was coaching as we were light on for volunteers at that stage. I was on the board for a couple of years but I'm no board man.
BK: You've been known to have a word or two to say in the rooms after a win or if something controversial happened during the week. Your Dad 'Chum' didn't take any crap either did he?
RR: One of my earliest memories is Dad goal umpiring and this bloke was giving him a gob full about his decisions. Anyway, he'd had enough. The ball had gone through for a point and I ran off to get the footy when it landed in some fresh cow shit. Dad yelled out: 'Ross, leave it there, he can go and get it.'
BK: How much have you missed footy this year after being so heavily involved at Albury for decades?
RR: I have been lost. Luke Daly, Tommy (McGrath), Brayden (O'Hara) and 'Hydey' (Chris Hyde) and others give me a call every couple of weeks to see how things are going. It's been a big part of my life and it's been different. I'm back on the bike now doing anywhere from 15km to 30km a night which I need to because I carry a bit of weight at times (laughs).
BK: You have dealt with some prickly coaches at Albury over the years. Let's start with one of your great mates in Paul Spargo.
RR: I think Grahame Gould once wrote in the club's newsletter that Ross Ried didn't play footy but he taught Paul Spargo everything he knew. When Spargo wanted to give the players a rev up he used to tap me on the bum and say 'you're going to cop it here in a minute' when I hadn't done anything wrong. All the players would then think: 'Bloody hell, Rieidy is his best mate and he's just ripped Riedy a new one'. They then all thought they had better pull their fingers out and get things right.
BK: Legend has it Spargo wasn't happy when his wife, Kate's, coat went missing during a function one Saturday night?
RR: One of the players borrowed or mistakenly took her beautiful coat at the club and he was fuming about it, fuming. Anyway, I lost count of how many 400s the players did the following Tuesday night in the pouring rain. Not mentioning any names but I think little Joel O'Connell may have been involved.
BK: Tell us about the biggest rocket you received?
RR: There were a few, but I remember the 1995 grand final against Wodonga well. I had unpacked the truck and left Spargo's white board out for too long when it was pouring down rain and half of his notes and game plan were washed off. He was a nutcase with his white board and would spend days writing up information. He gave me this look and said something but then he must have thought half of his notes didn't matter anyway because it was just so wet. He just went back to kicking the ball long. I was absolutely shitting myself when I walked into the rooms with his white board though. I'm glad we won that game.
BK: You've worked with some volatile coaches haven't you?
RR: Russell Campbell was probably the first real psycho (laughs). He lived out at Thurgoona and in every room he had butchers paper with teams and notes stuck on all the walls.
BK: And then there is Barry Edmunds.
RR: Barry Edmunds was passionate, probably too passionate. One day he was going off and yelled out: 'Riedy' get me a bloody football' , so I gave him one and he went to bounce it and it went straight over his shoulder and nearly knocked his head off. The players didn't know what was going on and he said: 'See you actually have to go and get the football because it won't come to you'.
BK: He's a passionate Essendon supporter too isn't he.
RR: Spargo, myself, Geoff Cox and Darren Harris are North Melbourne supporters and we went to the MCG on this Friday night with Barry. Barry cracked it after North had got on top and he threw his cap over the edge of the members stand and it dropped to the level below. He spent the next quarter looking for his cap down below under the seats.
BK: What was your take on Peter German's exit?
RR: I was disappointed with the way the Peter German thing panned out. I think the club was ready for a change but he was probably too many steps up the ladder for the Ovens and Murray. Some of the players bought into it and others didn't. I didn't have a problem with 'Germo' because I could see what he was trying to do.
BK: What are your memories of the day James McQuillan suffered spinal injuries at the sportsground in 2014?
RR: It was heart-breaking. I was in the box and they sent me over for a look to see what was happening as we were expecting the game to restart. One of the paramedics said this doesn't look good and I was half in tears. It was a tough day for everybody.
BK: You visited James in hospital the next day in Melbourne didn't you?
RR: Spargo and myself were in Melbourne for the Ovens and Murray schoolboys and we phoned the family to see if there was anything we could do. They said it would be terrific if we could drop into The Austin Hospital. It still sticks in my memory. The spinal unit is somewhere you just don't want to be. To see Jimmy with tubes in him everywhere was just horrific. It was something you never forget.
BK: The club rallied around James didn't it?
RR: The club formed a group to help him along and support will be there for the rest of his life. Jimmy is going well. Kathryn and him have been overseas and are engaged. He's a great kid.
BK: Let's get to your playing career. You played a quarter in the reserves for Albury at Yarrawonga when a car load of players were late following a breakdown once. How did that go?
RR: Greg Dawson (league operations manager) will kill me for this but the boys were late so myself and Ronny Newell and one or two others pulled on the boots. We had no players so somebody had to play. I don't think I got a kick before we ran off again at quarter-time when the players arrived.
BK: I'm told you did however enjoy five minutes of glory during an intra-club match?
RR: One night we were playing at the sportsground and they stuck me in a forward pocket so I wouldn't get in the road. I couldn't believe it when the late, great Jay McNeil came down and picked me up. Anyway, the ball came over the back of a pack and I grabbed it and kicked a goal. Then another one came down and I soccered it through for another one. I thought this was alright. Not long after that the ball came down again and I got the best right hook you will ever see. Jay knocked me clean out. I woke up and all these players were standing over me. Jay thought he had killed me.
BK: You were a massive Jay fan weren't you?
RR: He's been one of my favourites, He loved standing on peoples' shoulders taking screamers and could play anywhere. Coelli was great and I remember Peter Gorski having 45 or 50 touches one day. He was a gun too.
BK: What about since Albury's golden run started in the mid-1990s?
RR: Timmy Scott because he was feisty and dangerous, Jeremy Masterson, (Stephen) 'Bucket' Clarke because he had no fear just like Peter Wilson. Glenn Page, Joel Mackie, Chris Hyde ... I could go on. If I wanted to stand next to someone though, it would be Shaun Daly.
BK: Glenn Page was a unique character wasn't he?
RR: That's one way of putting it. I remember one day we had come back on to the ground after half-time and only had 17 men out there. The opposition had kicked a goal ... Spargo was going off. Then we see 'Pagey' running out of the clubrooms. He was sitting on the toilet and didn't know the game had started.
BK: While you have been Albury'sproperty steward or team manager for years, you have held similar roles with the Ovens and Murray for 25 years. You were sacked once though weren't you?
RR: It was the notorious bus trip when the boys got kicked off at Benalla after 'Juice' Kingston started driving the bus up the road when everyone had stopped for a piddle. I was a bit crook and had gone home in The Border Mail car earlier and was in bed when my phone started ringing at 2am with players wanting lifts. On the following Monday or Tuesday, Ronny Montgomery, who was the league general manager at the time, called and said: 'Riedy' someone has got to take some heat for this so you have been sacked'.
BK: Bit harsh?
RR: I thought so (laughs). I think he re-appointed me by the start of the next interleague though.
BK: You had some great interleague fun didn't you?
RR: For sure. We went to Donald once and I kept watching this bloke climb up a ladder on to the clubrooms roof with a bucket. I asked someone what he was doing and he said he was just topping up the hot water service. Anyway at the end of the day he was going backwards and forwards with this bucket so I checked it out and apparently he was carrying the hot dogs up and putting them in the hot water to keep them warm for the canteen. Our blokes had been showering all day in dirty hot dog water.
BK: Why have you stayed involved for so long?
RR: I just enjoy it. At Albury, I can't go into the opposition rooms after games because I have all of the gear so it's been good meeting players from other clubs through interleague. I enjoy seeing how the elite go about their football and I've made some lifelong mates at other clubs through it.
BK: You were a torch bearer for the 1986 Commonwealth Games but had an absolute ball working for the drug agency at Sydney 2000 Olympics didn't you?
RR: It was the best job in the world. I had to tell the athletes they had 15 minutes to come with me to the station to do their business. It was fantastic because I did the cycling and Kerry's (wife) cousin Scott McGrory won a gold medal with Brett Aitken. I went to the boxing and sat behind Kerry Packer and saw the fencers who were absolute lunatics throwing around tables and going berserk if they lost.
BK: What was the highlight?
RR: The gold medal play-off between the Dream Team and France. Everyone wanted to be involved with the Dream Team and I sat behind them but I was involved in the French testing. The Dream Team went home in their jumbo jet an hour after winning, but the French boys hung around drinking champagne and were terrific blokes. They gave me a warm-up top which is one of my most prized possessions.