Port Melbourne, Victoria

Peter Vesty is not sentimental about the old Port Melbourne scoreboard.

“I’d like to blow it up or burn it down,” he says, in-between hanging up numbers for a reserves match between Port Melbourne and Werribee. “It’s too dusty, which is not good for my asthma,” says the 67 year old. “The floor’s too dangerous and the tin numbers ruin your hands.”

Peter reckons Port Melbourne’s North Port Oval should have an electronic scoreboard, like Frankston or Casey or Werribee. If there isn’t one at North Port next season, 2011 may well be Peter’s last season in the scoreboard, which was built as a cricket scoreboard at least 80 years ago. The backdrop to the scoreboard tells the tale of gentrification within a once-industrial suburb: high-rise apartments amidst chimneys and factory towers.

Peter grew up in nearby Ross Street and first started doing the Ingles Street scoreboard in 1964. “I was about 20 and the kids doing the scoreboard always got it wrong, so I gave it a go.” That year Port Melbourne hosted a home grand final against arch-rivals Williamstown. “Port won 14.17 101 to 10.5  65,” says Peter as he gets up from his stool and hangs up another goal for the Borough’s reserves.

After hanging up each score he records the details in blue or red pen in notepads on a makeshift shelf. Blue for points. Red for goals.

He looked after the scoreboard again in 1965 but then marriage, family and a move to the eastern suburbs saw him saving his flair for scoring for the summer, for Port Melbourne’s cricket teams. (He was official cricket scorer from 1960 to 2001.)

Photo of 1998 VFL reserves grand final courtesy of North Ballarat Football Club

Peter returned to football duties in the early 1980s and it’s fair to say nothing had changed inside the scoreboard. “There’s just me and the spiders here. At the start of each season I’ve got to wipe away all the cobwebs.

“In the old days you used to do the quarter-time scores from the other games. Trying to watch the game in front of you and doing those scores from around the grounds certainly kept you on your feet.”

Peter’s busiest day was in 1986 when Port Melbourne seniors kicked 47 goals against Dandenong and the reserves kicked 40. He estimates that on a typical day he’ll change the numbers about 200 times aver the course of two games. “My virtue,” he says, as Port reserves kick another goal, “is that I’m good with statistics. It’s got nothing to do with sporting ability because I never had much of that!”

The games Peter remembers most are the close games, especially when Port wins. “You’re confident you’ve got the score right but some doubt does creep in. I make sure I keep my eye on the goal umpires.”

Inside the scoreboard he can barrack as much as he likes. “If the club gets me a computer for an electronic scoreboard I guess I’ll sit in a room beside the coaches and the timekeepers and have to quieten down.”

Port Melbourne is undefeated and top of the ladder in the VFL this season so Peter Vesty’s final games may well be victorious home finals. It would be a fitting end to a long and dedicated career.

(Port Melbourne reserves defeated Werribee 22.8 140 to 8.10 58. The seniors won 17.9 111 to 13.14 92.)

In the early 1940s Ron Bedford and his Evans Street schoolmate Percy Carter hung the numbers on another Port Melbourne scoreboard.

“We had to cart a wooden box full of tin numbers from the Port changerooms to the other side of the ground, where the current scoreboard is,” recalled Ron, 83 years old (and no relation to Peter Bedford, former Port player and 1970 Brownlow Medallist).

“The scoreboard was just a couple of bits of wood with nails on them and a couple of planks of wood to stand on. No ladder to climb. And no shelter

“The numbers were white with a red background and measured – I’ve got to use the old language – about 15 inches by 12 inches.”

Ron and Percy did the scores for two seasons of the Saturday morning  league, for teams such as Dunlop, Carlton Brewery, Holden (“They wore South Melbourne jumpers”), Raymonds, Ruwoldt, and J.J Kitchen (“The soap manufacturers in Ingles Street.”)

“It wasn’t a bad standard of footy. I reckon I learnt my six times tables doing the scoreboard. And if the Brewery team won we’d get two bob, which could keep you going for a long time.”

Ron, a rover, played for Port’s seconds and thirds, including the undefeated 1948 third 18 premiers. “I was very disappointed not to make the seniors. I was told I’d probably get a game with Brighton but I could never play against Port.”

Port Melbourne Football Club was formed in 1874 and has won 15 premierships.

Further reading:

 Port Melbourne Football Club

 The Caulfield Glen Eira Leader, 17 May 2011 

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Vin Maskell

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