A Tiger in a Nest of Magpies

Alexander Eastham shows a kicking style reminiscent of the great Ted Whitten.

Alexander Eastham drills the footy.

By Phil Dimitriadis

Alexander John Eastham is a different cat. In fact, he is a tiger. Yes, my grandnephew barracks for Richmond. The noteworthy feature of this highly unexpected phenomenon is that 99% of his immediate family are Pies fans. His paternal grandfather Jock is the president of the Gippsland Magpies and has been known to avoid the odd family function just so he can watch the Pies. His dad, Mark played for Prahran under Brian Taylor and alongside Sam Pang, the third greatest Chinese footballer of all time. Mark clearly has a case of acute turnstile fever when he goes to the footy. Collingwood to the core, Mark is as passionate as they come. His uncle Nick, myself and his other grand uncle Tim are beyond tragic. So what happened to AJ?

AJ is seven years old, yet his fiercely independent nature has been evident since he was a baby. He slept when he wanted, ate when he was hungry, smiled when he had to and threw tantrums at the right moments. He has dash in his spirit and has little time for conformity. Perhaps he has been influenced by his maternal grandfather John and his mum Cassandra. John came to Australia as 17 year old in 1967 and lived in Victoria street Richmond. In the early 1970s my dad owned a shop less than a block away from where John lived and he took a liking to my sister Julie. The feeling was mutual and they married in 1975. While John barracks for Richmond, he has never been a big footy fan. He just likes to stir his Collingwood in-laws and has had plenty of opportunities to do so over the years. John also helped start the tradition of world championship wrestling when Sunday morning free-for-alls would erupt above the shop as Spiros Arion and Mario Milano took on The Great Mephisto and Steve Rackemann.

All my nephews, nieces, daughter and now grandnephews have been initiated in the Phil Dimitriadis School of fake hard knocks. AJ is the most recent graduate and passed with flying colours. He has kicked out of the infamous ‘Uncle Phil’s Brainbuster’, numerous spiked pile drivers and was then able to wriggle out of a particularly treacherous Scorpion Death Lock. He captured the coveted EPCW (East Preston Championship Wrestling) title by delivering a series of vicious drop kicks, leg sweeps and suplexes. This gruelling conditioning has served AJ well as he is excelling at a number of sports.

AJ does Auskick and plays for Apollo Parkways in Greensborough. He enjoys playing in the midfield, kicking goals and has a particular liking for grid matches, when the kids finish their training with match practice. He wears his Richmond jumper with pride and as we can see from the photos, he has a sound technique by hand and foot. He would like to wear the number 9 on his back because his favourite player is Trent Cotchin. AJ also loves to sprint and has an uncanny knack of finding space and swooping on the loose ball. He uses his pace to break away from the packs and is a penetrating right-foot kick.

Soccer is also one of AJ’s favourite sports. He is learning to play different positions and much of the focus has been on developing passing and ball control skills. He plays Under-7s for the Eltham Redbacks. Thankfully, he is of the generation of kids who don’t need to feel pressured to choose between codes. He plays soccer on Saturday mornings and then gears up for footy every Sunday. His parents and grandparents watch him play regularly and his three and a half year old brother Xavier is closely following in AJ’s footsteps with his love for sport. AJ’s older brother Calan, turns twelve this year and he is a keen basketballer. The Easthams are a sporting family and the boys have all been influenced by the passion shown by their dad who also coaches Auskick. Mark’s ambition is to be the next David Cloke. He admits no shame to wanting to live off the sporting success of his three sons. In fact he would be delighted and who could blame him?

AJ enjoys athletics and is a member of the Green Briars Athletics Club in Greensborough. Their club colours are yellow and black. He is learning and participating in long jump, distance running and sprinting along with a range of other pursuits in the athletic arena. He loves sprinting the most, but the long jump is becoming one of his favourite activities. An all-round sportsman in the making.

When I ask AJ why he follows Richmond his response is simple, yet poignant: “My favourite animal is the tiger. I don’t like birds. There is no way a bird can beat a tiger”. Fair enough. One thing is for sure, AJ is no sheep.

About John Harms

John Harms is a writer, broadcaster, publisher, historian, speaker and teacher. He loves stories.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.