Meet Smithy, the scoreboard attendant at Klemzig Oval, home ground of Gaza (pronounced ‘gay-za’). The blue and gold Eagles play in the South Australian Amateur Football League, fielding seniors and reserves in Division 1 and nine junior teams from under 6 to under 16.
Smithy (David Smith) started sliding in the white-on-black numbers five seasons ago. “I asked the club if I could do the scoreboard and they said, ‘Yeah, no worries’. It gives me something to do on a Saturday.”
When the Eagles play at home Smithy catches the 273 bus to the ground in plenty of time for the 12.15pm curtain raiser. When he arrives a chair and the box of numbers are waiting for him.
At half-time of each game he walks over to the canteen and collects a coffee and some sausage rolls.
When the Klemzig Oval was re-developed in 2012, the previous scoreboard on the wing was knocked down and a new board built closer to the facilities of the Gaza Sports & Community Club.
“It’s in a better position,” said Smithy. “Close to the canteen.”
During the 2012 re-development Gaza played its home games at Greenacres Oval, where Smithy’s scoreboard was a makeshift arrangement placed on the back of the ute of then-Gaza president Bob Napier.
Smithy, 52, played for Gaza’s C7 all-abilities team some years back. Forward line? Back line? “I played everywhere!”
When not doing the Gaza scoreboard, or going to the Eagles’ away games (you’ll find him near the coach’s box), Smithy gets along to see Norwood. He’s also barracks for Port Power. During the week he works in a sheltered workshop.
While Gaza won’t be in the finals this year, Smithy will still be busy – doing the scoreboard at Klemzig Oval for junior finals.
“Smithy is very reliable, never gets the score wrong and selflessly does it rain, hail or shine,” notes Gaza president Trevor Holst on the club’s website. “Some days this year on the new scoreboard, which is still waiting for his shelter to be built, Smithy has had to endure freezing wind and rain, but he has never once complained. He’s a big part of the club.”
The Gaza strip is gold with a royal blue V and shoulder trim. Previous jumpers were blue and white, then red, white and blue. The name of the suburb of Klemzig changed a few times during and after the two World Wars, from Kobandilla to Klemzig to Gaza and back to Klemzig. After World War 2 the Gaza football and cricket clubs voted unanimously to retain the name Gaza in perpetuity. The seniors’ Division 1 flags were in 2003 and 2011.
The Eagles’ most famous sons, apart from Smithy, are Darren and Andrew Jarman, who both played junior footy with Gaza before becoming AFL champions.
The australianfootball.com website describes Gaza as ‘one of Australia’s foremost amateur clubs’.
Many thanks to Smithy, Gaza club secretary Karen Cini, and The Big Issue’s Patrick Witton, who gave me the tip for the story. (The vendor profile in the latest edition of The Big Issue mentions another Gaza character, Paul, who plays in the C7 all-abilities team. Paul’s story is in the annual fiction edition of The Big Issue, on sale until 29 August – edition 439).