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Goodbye mate....

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:26pm
My mate Don passed away today. Thanks for teaching me how to do a "droppy" the correct way. Your with mark now mate!
Thanks Cornsey for writing this great story.

DON Lindner gone? It seems impossible. Never was there a character larger than life itself, more confident in his ability and more striking in his persona.

You knew when Don was in the room. It wasn't that he was loud or boisterous, simply that he had a presence that you couldn't ignore. At 73, he was tall, fit, trim, tanned, with that glorious head of immaculately groomed hair.

I watched him play tennis three weeks ago. There is something about seeing old team-mates or old opponents in action that compels you to stop and watch for a while.

Saturday afternoon on the grass courts at Memorial Drive is busy, with dozens of tennis players of varying standards competing against themselves and their opponents.

Of course Don stood out. The explosive athletic ability and power that propelled him over packs and around opponents had long gone. The old footballer's legs, restricted by the legacy of ankle and knee injuries had slowed down.

Instead, he relied on economy of movement, precision serving, delicate slices and the guile that comes from decades of playing the game.

He and his partner, obviously a mate also of senior years, were facing a couple of younger, fitter, and, at first glance, more accomplished players.

However, an hour later, when I asked one of the younger players whether they had beaten the old guys, he shook his head.

"Nah, they got us," he said. Don loved his tennis almost as much as he loved his football.

He was a great player, in the true sense of that overused adjective. Of course, he knew it. When the discussions about the greatest players arose, he would be quick to start.

"Well, let's see – there was Don Lindner, Barrie Robran...". He might even have been serious, but no one could ever take offence.

Don had played 284 games for the Roosters when he retired in 1970.

He could have gone on to the magical mark of 300, but he said, with unusual self-deprecation at the time, that he didn't think he was playing well enough to continue.

He won North Adelaide's best and fairest on three occasions, and in what was one of football's more appropriate moments, was awarded the 1967 Magarey Medal retrospectively in 1998, when the SANFL ruled wisely that players who had previously lost the medal on a countback should receive the award retrospectively.

He often joked that he didn't have to buy a new dinner suit for that presentation because the one in which he was married still fitted him.

He was married to his wonderful wife Jan for 44 years. Two souls in tune with each other, it was a happy marriage that was blessed with four children, one boy and three girls.

But the family was devastated when their son and brother, Mark, died 21 years ago, One can only ponder the grief of the mother who loses her son and then unexpectedly, her husband who had been the love of her life.

South Australia's greatest footballer, Robran, had two idols when he was developing as a young footballer in Whyalla: North Whyalla legend, Mick Vanvacas, and Don Lindner.

The only reason Robran went to North Adelaide when the rest of the football world was clambering for his signature, was to play with his hero, Don Lindner.

Lindner loved hearing that story. "Of course the young fella had good sense," he invariably joked, although many thought he was serious.

However, I once saw Robran, who never said a stern word to anyone, give his hero a blast on the football field. In 1969 Glenelg was thrashing North Adelaide at the Bay, and at three-quarter time, coach Geof Motley moved Don, the captain, to full forward.

Within 15 minutes, despite the game being out of reach, Don had kicked four goals.

But he was flippant about his game, never took it too seriously, even when his side was being beaten.

At a ball up in front of the North Adelaide goals, Don was his jocular self which incurred the ire of Robran, who let his captain know that his attitude was not what was expected at the time.

Don always said his most enjoyable year was in 1963, when as a player-coach he took the team from sixth to the grand final, although it lost to Port.

He played in that famous state team that beat Victoria on the MCG. It was the era before interchange was allowed and Neil Kerley says the turning point was when Neil Hawke was injured in the first quarter and replaced by Lindner, who proceeded to dazzle the Vics with his mercurial marking.

Our revered Advertiser journalist Merv Agars wrote that Lindner was "the most sensational high mark in league football since WWII".

He told of how, during the national carnival in Brisbane in 1961, he turned a game against WA from a three quarter-time 20-point deficit, into a thrilling two-point victory.

Even the Victorian coach, the late Len Smith, was moved to describe Lindner's performance as "out of this world."

Don played football for fun. The family's successful livestock agency, The House of Lindner, occupied his working day.

The irony of this impeccably groomed (he would always comb his hair before he ran on to the footy field) and immaculately dressed man selling pigs and cattle was not lost, but it never bothered Don.

He was always the life of the party – quick with a joke, (at which he always laughed, even if no one else did) and as the auctioneer at the club's fund-raising functions.

Robran talks about Don's relaxed approach to his sport, how he never took it too seriously and the escape it gave him from his working day. "At half-time, regardless of the state of the match, he would always say, `C'mon boys, let's go out and have a few droppies'," Robran recalls.

It's inconceivable that Don should have gone so suddenly. Only a few years ago he was playing in those Novita charity games before the Port-Crows Showdowns at Footy Park.

We laughed at his old-fashioned high-cut boots, but he still ran around and got a few kicks. It seemed he would go on forever.

He and Jan had planned to spend New Year's Eve quietly by themselves, but at the last minute his old team-mate, Barry Hearl, invited them to the Hampstead Hotel for the end-of-year celebrations.

Don, who fancied himself as a rock and roller, had just finished dancing with Hearl's partner Julie to the tune of Suzie Quatro's Devil Gate Drive, when he collapsed while walking off the floor.

First, the lead singer of the resident band, Dance On, then the paramedics, performed CPR for over an hour, getting some response but Don could not be revived.

At 73, given his level of fitness and zest for life, he was too young, but perhaps it is the way he would have wanted to go.

Every day when Don went to bring in his morning paper, invariably in his boxer shorts, he fed the birds on the front lawn.

Yesterday, when Jan collected the paper, there were six doves, cooing, wait-ing to be fed. The symbolism, like the grief, is almost overpowering.
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