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Bob Murphy: Tory the table tennis tormentor – Western Bulldogs

Bob Murphy pays tribute to Tory Dickson ahead of his 100th game. - Western Bulldogs

Bob Murphy pays tribute to Tory Dickson ahead of his 100th game.

If you’d have asked me three years ago if I was a good table tennis player, I would’ve feigned a pause and then said ‘yes’.

Sure, I hadn’t played since the mid-90s, but I was more than handy, or so I thought.

Someone brought in a ping pong table to the footy department at the kennel.  Officially it was ‘to improve hand eye co-ordination and help athletic brain function’, but essentially it was a good way to kill time between training sessions.

Along with most of the veterans, I would watch on as the pups goaded each other into playing games for bragging rights and noticed that the standard was pretty high.  It was only a few months in that the inevitable call was made – ‘let’s have a tournament’.

Seeds were announced and the draw followed.  It was sent out to all players and tension was building. Because of our age and the fact that no one had ever seen us take the court, veteran Matthew Boyd and I were pitted against one another almost as a novelty act. 

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I was privately offended.  It was time to test out my elite skills that had been lying dormant for some 22 years. 

A healthy crowd gathered for the ‘seniors’ clash and they were treated to unforced errors and tantrums. Matthew ‘Keith’ Boyd wiped the floor with me.  I was stunned.

I watched on in amazement for the rest of the tournament at the level of skills shown by just about every player at the club.  Every player under 34 anyway. 

Keith was out in Round 2.  From the qualifying rounds, five players emerged as the ones to beat. 

Bailey Dale, who waved the paddle as Mark Waugh once waved the willow.  Jack Macrae, the Ivan Lendl of the miniature game.  Zaine Cordy, who played in slow motion to a soundtrack of Mozart. Lachie Hunter, a crafty and cunning angle spin master, and Tory Dickson. 

Tory is one of a very small group of players I played with over 18 years who might have been just as good, if not better, at another sport other than football.  He was a natural on the table tennis court and had the brattish confidence to go with it.

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Eventually it was Dale and Dickson who made the final and a capacity crowd entered main court (the table was wheeled into the big meeting room) and short of the national anthem, it had all the feel of a Grand Slam Final.

Tory played like Forest Gump in the final, proving to be far too good for the young prodigy in Bailey.  As the reigning champ, he announced himself as a big game player.

12 months later another tournament was organised.  The ensuing months between tournaments had seen Tory’s ranking slip down the order, but his big game credentials were once again proven when he saved his best for the big games in front of the big crowds.

The match up of Dickson vs Macrae was a tantalising one for all of us, because both players carried an arrogance that did lend itself to the rest of us bestowing the villain tag on both of them.  Like Darth Vader facing off against himself. 

And then it happened.  With his back against the wall on the scoreboard, Tory was returning serve.

Jack whipped one of his classic serves across court.  Time stood still and with the reflexes of a woodpecker, Tory, staring straight ahead, swung his paddle behind his back and hit a winner down the line. 

It was the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen in a social sporting event.  Jack even clapped.  He clapped!  Jack does not clap. 

Tory plays his 100th game this week.  In many ways, his ping pong has matched up with his footy. 

He’s competitive, skillful and he has saved a lot of his best stuff for the very biggest stage. 

Best table tennis players in Bulldogs (recent) history.

  1. Tory Dickson
  2. Zaine Cordy
  3. Jack Macrae
  4. Lachie Hunter
  5. Bailey Dale 

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