READ MORE - MR MODEST - THE STORY BEHIND JOHN FORBES
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IT HAS been at about noon each Saturday for the past six weeks when John Forbes starts to get restless.
For that's the time when he should be getting picked up by his mate Noel Hercus to head off to a Mitiamo away game, or he'd be driven the short distance to the ground named in his honour by wife Fay to watch his beloved Superoos in action at home in the Loddon Valley league.
On Saturday it would have been a trip to Bridgewater for round six - and what a game it most likely would have been given the reigning premier Superoos and Mean Machine were touted as two of 2020's top flag contenders.
Regardless of how the two teams are tracking, Mitiamo's games against Bridgewater are always among the most eagerly-awaited of the season for Forbes - one of the icons of not just the Superoos, but the LVFNL.
"I love those Mitiamo v Bridgewater games... it reminds me a bit of Collingwood v Carlton," Forbes said on the weekend.
"Every time they play it's a good, tough game of football and Bridgewater is a great club with such a fantastic record. It would have been a great game."
However, instead of one of his cherished days at the football, Saturday was another day without it for Forbes, who like so many is dearly missing the camaraderie and community spirit that a day at the local football/netball offers while seasons are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I can tell you, I get very anxious when 12 o'clock comes around on a Saturday and nothing is happening," Forbes said.
I can tell you, I get very anxious when 12 o'clock comes around on a Saturday and nothing is happening
"The great thing about football is that's it's just such a wonderful social occasion... nothing beats it."
Forbes watched his first game at Mitiamo as a six-year-old more than 70 years ago, with his passion for country football stemming from his father, Les.
"My dad was the original secretary of the Mitiamo District league when they had clubs like Hunter out near Elmore, which didn't have dressing rooms and players used to change in an old caravan," Forbes, 78, said.
"They could only fit six into the caravan at a time, so by the time the last blokes had got changed the game had already started.
"But football is just in my blood... you know when it's a Saturday morning because things are going very slow."
While local football did cease for several years in the 1940s during World War 2, even though he's now had six Saturdays to try to adjust, Forbes is finding it tough to fathom that while the game does have its challenges, country football has stopped.
"I remember I was with Tony Leonard (3AW football commentator) one day and a New South Wales fella said to him, 'what would you Victorians do if football stopped'," said Forbes, whom the LVFNL's reserves best and fairest medal is named after.
"Tony said we'd throw ourselves out of the nearest window... that's how much it means to us and that's how a lot of us are feeling without it.
"It's such a shame for the kids that they can't be out there playing and for us at Mitiamo the club is such a big part. We're only a small town, we don't have any major industry which makes it hard to get a major sponsor, but we've got the club.
"The farms are getting bigger all through here and they are squeezing the little bloke out. But the trouble is the blokes who are taking over aren't associated with football, so the football people we've got are precious."
Hercus too is feeling a major void without his weekly Loddon Valley outing to look forward to.
"The club means everything up here. It's the chance each week to catch up and see everyone... I was involved at Yarrawalla many years ago, but unless it's for a funeral I don't see anyone out that way," Hercus said.
But it's not just the game day enjoyment - on and off the field - that Forbes and Hercus are missing while there is no season being played.
There's the Thursday nights at training and dinner afterwards in the Mitiamo clubrooms that are also on hold for the meantime.
"We'd have pasta nights, parma nights, roast nights, casserole nights... some nights we'd do 80 meals, so that's a big part of the club too," says Forbes' wife, Fay, who has been helping prepare Thursday night meals and volunteering in the canteen for years.
As well as the absence of their teams in action, no doubt what Loddon Valley league fans are also missing too is their weekly dose of league history that Forbes provides in the El-Vee.
Forbes was the instigator of the league's El-Vee program during the '70s and continues to contribute with his weekly flashbacks column. His post-match interviews after Mitiamo home games are also being missed.
"After home games Forbesy will do interviews... sometimes it might be with the opposition or one of our new players and they are always entertaining," Hercus says.
"Hopefully, we'll get to hear them again soon."
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