My mate Chris Dane died yesterday. He was as loyal a mate as I have known.
We met at the Bar in 1971 when we were both starting out. We appeared against each other on a couple of occasions. I then had a hang-up about Melbourne Grammar boys, but I was prepared to make an exception for Dane because he supported Melbourne.
During the late 1960’s, I had suffered the Demons’ pain with a mate from school who was a medical student. Then I got into the MCC and for years I suffered alone. In about 1975, I asked Dane if he would care to share the pain. His first marriage had exploded badly. He needed succour. I used to call on him in Oban St, South Yarra, have a Scotch, and we would go and have lunch, and then go to the footy. As often as not to say that the only mistake we made was to leave the bloody pub.
This went on, across all the suburban grounds, then for about twenty years. It was a very Melbourne thing, and we both loved it for that reason – of course, without saying so.
We tailed off as his second marriage soured, the AFL spread beyond our best suburban boundaries, and TV meant that we were not getting enough at the MCG on Saturdays – after lunch at the Prince Alfred. In the name of God, we were not dedicating our off time to the dregs of the League for the sake of it. Lunch and later was very much a boys’ thing. This was our time.
For four or five years around 2010, I shared chambers with Dane. He was still in full practice in crime. Serious crime. Dane had an earned reputation for being fearless.
I made guest appearances in chambers. On one occasion I was seeing one of my Anglican priest clients. Dane bowled in. I introduced my bloke and said that Dane had acted for more serious crooks than most people had had hot dinners. Dane puffed himself up to his full height and announced that he was acting for Her Majesty the Queen. I was very glad to hear that, because Dane, like all of us, had his flaws. One of them was a ferocious ability to bite back at people in authority who got in his way and who he thought were not up to it. People who become partisans of their side of the register to that extent cease to be professional, and I think Dane had got it right by the end.
On another occasion, I had taken into chambers a .22 rifle in a very respectable gun bag. After lunch, I called in to collect it. Dane was there with a guy with the hallmarks of serious crime. Without missing a beat:
Don’t worry. He’s only called in to pick up his gun.
[Crim.] Really! [To me.] What sort of gun is it?
Possibly not your go, Sport. Small bore.22 that would hardly stop a bunny.
In about 1987, I was hearing tax cases. For light relief, I used to get some cases of SP bookies being charged with stamp duty on their takings. It was a relief from tricky issues of equity or tax that could end up in the High Court. I was walking up William St one night. I heard a voice from the other side of the road. It was Dane. ‘Comrade. I am appearing before you tomorrow. I’m for the bookie.’ Two seconds later. ‘And that’s not an admission.’ I laughed out loud. Next morning, something like the following colloquy took place.
I just want to understand your case.
You had run the pub for 16 years.
And on only one night were you holding money for bets on the races.
And that happened to be the night the wallopers arrived.
The guy I saw most Melbourne games with after Dane was Ross Milne-Pott. The same pattern – plain misery after a good lunch at the beer garden at the Prince Alfred.
But the three of us were there together on that ensainted day at the Western Oval in 1987, when we got up to get into our first finals since 1964 – and we cried like children on the train until we cried into our beer at Young and Jackson’s.
Sportsman – you were as loyal a mate as I have known – and in this whole vast universe, personal loyalty is what counts. It was given to you and me to climb that last mighty mountain before we leave, and I am so glad for you.
I will say farewell with an anecdote that you would like. Ross and I could not handle the stress of watching the first two finals live. Sheer cowardice. We huddled in corners in our own homes emailing each other while getting one or two from you.
And then I got one from you.
It may be safe for you to turn the TV on now. They are ten goals up in the last quarter.