Words and photos by Wayde Petersen.
THE Bears (they wear a jumper that looks like a bad acid trip or a Jackson Pollock painting in maroon, gold and white) have won the past three Picola South East premierships and like another team wearing a horrible jumper, they’re gunning for a fourth. Unlike Hawthorn, the Bears have gone to the back of the pack in the league after a few retirements and player clearances, they’ve lost their first game in over two years in the first round to Katunga (the Swans).
Adding to the esoteric nature of the club, Tungamah’s theme song is based on the John Denver country hit Thank God I’m a Country Boy!, called Thank God I’m a Tunga Boy!. I’m not the biggest fan of John Denver or country music (although I love Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Willie Nelson), but sung with gusto, their theme song sounds great.
The Bears joined the Picola League in 1995 from the Tungamah Football League after a VCFL restructuring saw them and Katamatite leave the moribund TFL to the PFL. They changed their nickname (Grasshoppers to Bears) and jumper (green and gold to maroon with a gold V and white trim) because of a clash with Yarroweah which doesn’t clash anymore because the ‘Hoppers are in the Picola North West League now.
Tungamah have enjoyed great success in the PFL winning premierships in 1999, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015, adding to the 13 other premierships they’ve won in various competitions since 1882.
Tungamah’s most famous player would have to be Les “Salty” Parish, a tough, heavily tattooed utility (in the days before hipster baristas when tats meant tuff) who played for Tungamah and then Yarrawonga in the Ovens & Murray Football League before finding his way to Fitzroy in 1980 where he played 87 games, kicking 52 goals, when the Lions were a strong club in the VFL.