Premiership captain's parents ready for another flag

Sitting in Max and Babs Bickley’s modest kitchen in Port Pirie is a long way from the roar of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

You can almost hear their hearts beating for the Adelaide Crows, the club made famous in the 1997 and 1998 AFL premiership successes.

Mr and Mrs Bickley are probably Port Pirie’s biggest Crows’ fans – their son Mark captained the two premiership teams so far.

They don’t mind the possibility of giving over the mantle of being the only parents of a flag-winning skipper.

They are happy to hand the honour to the parents of today’s leader Taylor Walker, if Adelaide can achieve the unthinkable against Richmond.

Mark will be at the MCG as a special comments man for Radio 5AA and will dash onto the oval to present the premiership cup to Walker, if the Crows win.

Mr and Mrs Bickley said it was a far cry from the days when Mark ran around the Solomontown Football Club as a boy.

He later played in the Spencer Gulf League, won the Madigan and Recorder Medals for best-and-fairest player and took the field for South Adelaide and then the Crows.

All the while, Mrs Bickley was cooking up a storm in the kitchen at the Cats clubrooms for Friday night meals and helping with fundraising.

Mr Bickley is a former Solomontown player and coach and is often seen at the club.

The couple will team with long-term friends the Zoanettis, of Adelaide, to watch the grand final in Melbourne after a stop-over in Ballarat.

“We have outlayed $1000 already, but it is worth it,” Mrs Bickley said.

She said Mark’s children and wife would be at the match.

On Monday, Mark had media duties at the Brownlow Medal count “doing the red carpet”.

“He and former Tigers player Matthew Richardson will take the premiership cup down to the oval before the game,” Mrs Bickley said.

“He has to run back up and call the match and, if they win, he has to run back and present the cup.

“It would be a big honour for Mark.”

Mr Bickley said he and his wife would be “rapt” for Walker to accept the cup from their son.

“Some people think Taylor is spasmodic, but he has a strong body and is a brilliant kick and mark – an old-style footballer,” he said.

“He might only have 10 or 12 possessions, but it is what he does with them, bringing other players into the game. That is what captains are all about.”

The couple revealed how Mark had stepped down from an assistant coach role at the club after the arrival of the late mentor Phil Walsh.

Mr Bickley said their son would be “on edge” when he was assistant and caretaker coach.

“If they lost, he would be terrible,” he said.

“After a match, you couldn’t just go and have a drink, he would have to study the video footage of the forwards who he was responsible for.”

Mrs Bickley said her son had felt that Walsh should not have to take on the “old ones” when he took over the reins as coach.

“The radio station had been after him for about 12 months. He thought this was a good chance to go away from coaching and move into commentating,” she said.

With a wry smile, Mr Bickley added: “You don’t sort of get long service in coaching.”

Mark is also involved with the Crows Show on Channel 7 and writes columns for The Advertiser.

Mr and Mrs Bickley laughed about a mix-up at the 1997 grand final when Mark, having kept a low-key approach to the big match, had failed to arrange for them to visit the changerooms packed with revellers after the match.

But they did so in 1998 and later attended the Crown Casino. Their other son, David, also a talented footballer, and his wife Judy had painted their pitbull terrier dog in Crows colours on grand final day.

Mark and team-mate Kym Koster had tattoos applied above their ankles after the premiership.

“As tough as Mark is supposed to be, when we were in Adelaide with them he was saying ‘put some lanoline on it, Mum, it is so sore’,” he said. “They were bloody sooks.”

The team was toasted at a gathering of 200,000 people in Adelaide and later received the “keys” to the city of Port Pirie.

The couple said it was “wonderful” to again have the chance to see a Crows’ premiership.

Mrs Bickley said they had gold membership regarding finals tickets for the past 20 years in the hope of a flag-winning repeat.

“We found out we are in the Ponsford Stand, but we are there and we are not ‘standing’,” she said,.

“I feel emotional even thinking about this coming weekend.

“We tried everything – train, plane and bus – and we are going with friends who have been going with us since 1991.”

The friends are the Italian family, the Zoanettis, who had a relative once play for Sturt.

The Bickleys and Zoanettis met when sitting side-by-side at a match and have kept in touch ever since.

The proud parents still have a hard-headed approach to the game.

“Once you get in the grand final, you have a 50-50 chance. We hope that we can take it out,” Mr Bickley said.

No doubt the couple’s hearts will be racing on the big day.

This story Heartbeat of Crows in Pirie | VIDEO, PHOTOS first appeared on The Recorder.