It’s been two whole weeks since Hump Day drew the longish bow of asking footballers who wore glasses for their thoughts on goal umpires who can’t see. That’s far too long between musings on sporting specs, a relatively pointless pursuit that, sooner or later, was bound to lead us to Geoff Blethyn.
Where would we be without the internet? goes the modern refrain of the easily amused. Well, certainly not gawping at the website of a ”global online optical store” that’s flogging ”Geoff Blethyn eyeglasses” under the teasing subheads of Fashion, Stars and Hot.
”We believe that many men and young fellows know and adore Geoff Blethyn,” begins the sales pitch, a rather lofty presumption from what appears to be an American company referring to a bloke who’s now 62 and played the last of his 84 games for Essendon about 37 years ago.
It goes on to say Blethyn ”has achieved lots of achievements” playing with Essendon ”in the VEL”. What’s more, he ”has a slim figure and is easy to spot on the field because he wears glasses”, with his signature brand being ”widely preferred among the athletes and the outdoor sporting activities lovers”.
All of which was news to the man himself.
”At least they spelt the name right!” Blethyn said on Tuesday, immediately finding a link to the ”Martina Natratilova” model in the same ”classic” series. ”I need a new pair, I might order some and see what happens.”
Told that we’d already tried and been informed by email, ”Sorry, this frame has been out of stock and we will not get them back recently,” Blethyn laughed. ”They went out of stock in 1973!”
Down to a ‘T’
That was, of course, the year after the then 21-year-old kicked 107 goals, a feat that would ultimately mark him as the only Bomber between John Coleman and Matthew Lloyd to bag a ton – bespectacled or not.
His place in football folklore was already assured, yet who wouldn’t want a pair of glasses named after them? But wait, there’s more!
Blethyn also currently features in a range of T-shirts designed by Hobart artist Chris Rees, in a series dubbed ”1970s Footy Enigmas”, which was also yet to cross his online path. ”Goodness me! Shouldn’t they pay us a royalty?”
His daughter phoned recently to tell him she’d bought a footy card of her old man on the internet, to which Blethyn replied he could have given her one out of an old shoebox at home. ”She’ll get a thrill out of this,” he said, adding that he might have to get one himself.
Other ”enigmas” in the stylised series include cult figures Vinnie Catoggio (faceless and defined only by his Afro and Carlton jumper), Robert Neal (also without face, only freckles) and Robert ”Bones” McGhie (in which Rees marries a Scanlens footy card image to the famous Rennie Ellis photo of the Richmond defender smoking on the MCG). Michael Tuck, Peter McKenna, David Dench, Robbie Flower and other greats fill out what Blethyn calls an odd collection, but one he is chuffed to be a part of.
”We’re all a bit quirky in our own way,” he says of the attention his short but memorable career still brings. ”I’m not sure how many people are lucky enough for that to happen to them. I don’t take it as an insult, it’s the way it is.”
Blink of an eye
Blethyn now lives in Adelaide and works as a property adviser. Work always took precedence over football, resulting in the now-unthinkable scenario of a century goalkicker quitting the competition to take a job as state manager for a textile company in Western Australia (Blethyn spent the 1973-75 winters in the goal square for Claremont, had a final season back at Essendon in 1976, and played in a Port Adelaide premiership in 1977).
”I was 21, and that [sort of job opportunity] doesn’t happen to too many people,” he reflects on the move, adding that he’d seen Peter Hudson wreck a knee early in 1972 and was conscious that his own career could be over in a flash. ”Whether that was the right or wrong decision, you make it the right decision.”
He has led a diverse life; for 15 years he owned a chain of jeans shops called Major Pants, and last laced the boots as playing coach for the Malaysia Warriors in 2000, when he’d just turned 50 and was setting up a direct marketing business. ”When you’re too old you lose your brains as well as your ability.”
Blethyn was just 17 when he kicked four goals in the Bombers’ losing 1968 grand final team, and recently found himself reminiscing over a time in his life that at once seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago. ”You wake up some mornings and think of your footy, you’ve been somewhere that your mind’s taken you back to a training night or something ridiculous … and you wake up and you’re 62, whereas a few hours ago you were 23.”
Discovering that you’re both on a cool, retro T-shirt and the inspiration for a style of eyewear so popular it’s apparently sold out globally surely gives you licence to pontificate. Blethyn thinks the need for speed has hurt the modern game as a spectacle, and admits to moments when the television has been turned off.
”I really enjoy watching Geelong, Essendon obviously, Collingwood – the attacking sides. ”[But] there’s been periods where you turn off the television because it’s boring as hell. I just can’t watch St Kilda or Fremantle, they drive me mad.”
Of the Bombers’ current, unprecedented drugs dilemma, he is phlegmatic. ”It depends how cynical you want to be, doesn’t it?” In essence, he sees a team trying to get to the edge of what was allowable. ”And that’s the modern game, isn’t it?”
Back to those glasses. Blethyn is short-sighted, his view of the distance resembling the air in a steamed-up bathroom. As a junior he wore steel-rimmed specs, but full-backs kept complaining of cuts. ”It got to the point where I wasn’t going to be able to play.”
A Collins Street optometrist searched America and found nylon-framed glasses with hardened glass lenses that would only pop out the front, making them safe to wear on the football field. The frames had to be regularly immersed in water lest they became brittle. ”They were my godsend.”
Nothing could safeguard them against the immediate aftermath of his 100th goal in 1972, when a police horse trotted onto the ground to protect him, the crowd ran at him from all directions, and Blethyn was crushed up against his equine bodyguard. ”I turned around into the horse and it slobbered all over my face.”
The ”Geoff Blethyn Eyeglasses” make no mention of being horse-slobber-proof, but surely it’s only a matter of time.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.Categories : 杭州龙凤