Annmaree Scanlan Goanna Life
by Annmaree

Being part of the Goannas footie club is not just the footie, boys and beer (and I love all three), it’s the dry Aussie
humour that you just don’t find in Japan.
I first met the Goannas in about 2004 on a bus going from Tokyo to the Narita Cup. I was part of a girls Gaelic football team (I’d never played Gaelic footie before then) that was going to play an exhibition match at the lunchtime break of the Narita Cup. Living in Japan for some years I had missed my Aussie rules, so it was good to watch the Goannas play and it ended up being a great day. I also met Gareth, the most enthusiastic Aussie-rules “pusher” who was a driving force behind getting the Japan footie league (Japan AFL) established here.

Shortly after the Narita Cup, the Clubhouse, Shinjuku San-chome, with Smokin’ Pete behind the bar and many Goannas at the bar, became my regular watering hole. I would go on “Aussies Night” every Thursday, watch some footie (recorded), catch up with friends (Mika, Midori, Migi, Andy Dunlop, Bumper, etc.) and drink a few beers. Smokin’ Pete was always very welcoming, Gareth was always there drumming up new players, and there was a young Japanese Aussie rules player Crazy Horse behind the bar.

On Aussies Night, after most customers had left to catch their last train home at midnight, the Clubhouse often turned into an Australian nightclub with classic Aussie songs blasting over the sound system. The Goannas knew how to party and we’d always have a good time, with Smokin’ Pete leading the way.

Under the strong guidance of Gareth, in 2005 I became part of the Goannas Committee, with regular meetings and beer at the Clubhouse. I was also a member of the Japan AFL Committee – about 10 members, mostly Japanese, with meetings lasting up to 7 hours (being a Japanese group everything had to be decided by consensus, and with Migi-san and Miyasaka-san sometimes those decisions were a long time coming!!).

I also attended many Goannas matches, helping out in any way I could – from water-girl to boundary umpire to goal umpire, rushing back at half-time to give the Goannas their oranges. Many a time when the Goannas were short of players the guys would look at me, but I never actually played for the Goannas.

I did however play Aussie Rules with the Tokyo Geckos, Tokyo’s only girls team, although games were usually once a year, with us being lunch time entertainment at Narita Cups. In one stand-out game only 5 Tokyo Geckos players (including a 10-year old girl) played against a strong girls team from Osaka, and with non-stop running and fast speed, I was exhausted afterwards. Echoes of “Tackle, tackle” were always heard throughout the girls games.

We also had some fun resurrecting the Tokyo Goannas Balls, that had been originally started in the 1990s. So in about 2005, with Gareth’s strong encouragement, we organized a Goannas Ball at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. With an excellent venue in Yurakucho, Australian wine and beers and delicious food, a good time was had; our much loved sponsors were thanked publicly, and through a raffle a lot of money was raised for the club. The following after-party in Roppongi was a night not to be forgotten (or fuzzily remembered).

In the middle of all the Goannas footie and partying in Japan, from 2005 a friendly rivalry began between myself and Ronnie Mitchell, as my team, the Sydney Swans, played strongly and finally made the grand final against Ronnie’s beloved team, West Coast. So after a drought of 70 years or so, the Swans were in there with a chance. Following the Goannas Grand Final champagne brekky, Ronnie and I basically stood drinking side-by-side at the Clubhouse, as the Swans battled West Coast. As usual, the match came down to the final minutes of the last quarter, and the Swans edged home. The Goannas let me party for the rest of the day and night (and looked after me, too).

The next year in 2006, déjà-vu, Ronnie and I and the Goannas were back again at the Clubhouse, Swans v West

Coast in the grand final. Like a screenplay, the game came down to the final minutes of the last quarter, but West
Coast held on, so the partying that day was done by Ronnie, but I kindly joined in (before struggling to go on to Mika’s
 wedding party that night, a little worse for wear).

I have continued to be part of the Goannas Committee from that time to the present, acting as Secretary and then Treasurer, as well as organizing some more Goannas Balls. I have gotten to know many Goannas presidents, including Matt Hegarty, Shane Flannigan, Ronnie Mitchell and David Ogilvy, and vice-presidents, all great guys who love footie. With thanks to Shane, the venue of the Goannas Ball moved to the Australian Embassy, adding to the glamour and class of the event.

I’ve had so many fun times with the Goannas, just thinking about the mischief that we’ve been able to get away with in Japan makes me laugh. The fun included the two-day Narita Cups, partying pool-side with the Japanese uni students at the Narita Radisson, before descending on the only nightclub in sleepy Narita. And partying with the overseas teams from Box Hill North, Indonesia and Shanghai in both Narita and then back in Tokyo. The Asian Champs in Bangkok was also a good time. And more recently there have been fun tours with the Goannas to Nagoya and Osaka. A Goannas game would not be the same without Appsy cheering the guys along.

And of course, without the Japanese guys as opponents, there would be no Japan AFL and no Aussie footie league in Japan. It is thanks to the persistent Aussie guys (think Gareth) and Japanese (like Aussie) in the 1990s, that inspired young Japanese to take up a uniquely Australian game that they had never heard of let alone seen. Currently the Japanese uni students train about 4 or 5 times a week, are young, fit and dedicated to their sport. The Japanese teams are quickly becoming a real threat to the Goannas (just don’t tell them that).

The Goannas now have their favourite pub at Paddys, Roppongi, where Neil looks after us. And very late in the night, when I think the guys won’t remember, I request a Kylie song or two from Neil.

Recently the numbers of Goannas and supporters have also increased, coming from a very broad base, but all interested in Aussie rules. From the opening party early in the year, ANZAC Day celebrations, Narita/ Japan Cup and this year the Asian Champs in Shanghai, there are always fun times to be had with the Goannas.

The Goannas are a good team to be with, and I’ve been lucky to have made so many friends along the way. I get back from the Goannas so much more than I put into the club. And as Smokin’ Pete says, in the end the winner is

 football.
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