By sports editor Russell Bennett
“It’s sort of like I go into a different world when I play footy – adrenaline kicks in and if there are two blokes standing there, I’m going to do what I can to run through them.”
They were the words of a straight-talking Tyson Bale as he told me about his approach to the game he loved most.
He was sitting at his kitchen table in a house on Station Street in Buln Buln at the time, back in 2014.
He’d just been selected in the senior Ellinbank and District interleague side as a 17-year-old and for our entire interview, he just couldn’t stop smiling as he twirled a bright yellow Sherrin in his hands.
What he lacked in height, he more than made up for in ferocity and an unflinching attack on the contest.
Yet off the field he was far more reserved – a quiet, sensitive, loving soul.
And it’s those traits, more than anything, which his family and friends will miss most moving forward.
Tyson passed away suddenly on Wednesday, tearing the heart out of the local community. He was just 24.
Any time anyone so young passes so suddenly, the shockwaves are felt far and wide.
It’s often the unrealised potential that hurts the most.
But Tyson had well and truly put the footy world on notice – not only had he arrived, his star was still rapidly on the rise.
It’s only fitting he lived just a drop punt away from the Lyrebirds’ nest when I first spoke with him six years ago. Footy was in his veins.
He made his senior debut for Buln Buln as a top-age 15-year-old and in 2014 he got the chance to rove to one of the best ruck duos seen in the Gippsland region’s current era – Matt Gray and Bob McCallum.
No wonder there was so much joy etched all over his face.
And he passed that joy on to countless other footy fans one sunny Saturday in May 2015 when he kicked the most memorable goal I’ve ever seen up close.
With just seconds remaining at Kooweerup’s Denhams Road ground and his side trailing Nar Nar Goon by two points, a free kick was awarded to Tyson after he was held on to fractionally too long after disposing of the ball.
He was told to take his kick again, from well beyond 50 on the near-side flank at the Denhams Road end – and this time after the siren.
I was standing in between the visitors’ bench and the umpires’ dug-out.
I took my phone out to record Tyson’s kick – thinking maybe, just maybe, he might pull off the remarkable.
And that’s exactly what he did, as he swung around for a right-footed torp that sailed through at nearly post height.
As soon as the ball left his boot, he knew it was home. With his arms raised, he was swamped by his team mates in a scene of utter euphoria.
That was truly Tyson in his element – where he was happiest.
All I could do was laugh and shake my head in awe, because deep down I knew he was a chance to slot it.
Click below to watch ‘that’ goal from Tyson Bale, against Nar Nar Goon, at Kooweerup in 2015…
Tyson represented the Ellinbank league with distinction at both senior and junior level, and twice won the EDFL’s senior MVP award – the first time of those back in 2014, when he was still under-18 eligible.
He was the best-on-ground medallist in the Lyrebirds’ famous premiership win over Longwarry that year, and went on to have just as stunning an impact at the Warragul Industrials in recent years.
In a rebuilding period for the Dusties in the brutally competitive West Gippsland league, Tyson won the club’s senior best and fairest last year and finished third in the WGFNC’s best and fairest voting – despite his side winning just two games.
He also richly deserved his place as starting rover in the star-studded Team of the Year.
In a sign of his commitment to the Dusties under new coach Harmit Singh, Tyson already re-signed for 2021 three months ago.
Dale Bainbridge, the president of the Industrials, paid tribute to Tyson’s character.
“You have no idea the enjoyment you brought to us all,” he said in an emotional Facebook post.
“Our players are devastated beyond belief. Our supporters love you and everything you did. Our club is shattered.
“Such a wonderfully talented and loved individual.
“There is nothing that can hurt a club more than losing one of our own.
“Our club’s loss is shared with the greater football community where Tyson was a well-known figure and revered player.”
Dusties stalwart Shane Brewster – one of the most accomplished and respected footy figures anywhere in Gippsland – also spoke about Tyson’s impact on him.
“Tyson is the epitome of what Dusties footy is,” he said in his own comment.
“(He’s) tough as nails, wants to win at all cost, relentless and – above all – the ultimate team man.
“Tyson you are an inspiration to me and the whole of Warragul. Whether it be the little digs of ‘Shaaaaaaane’ or the banter between us of your height, I’ll never forget the times we have had.
“It was a pleasure and privilege to play with you and call you a mate. You are the one person that drove me to be a better person and footballer. You are my inspiration and it breaks my heart to see you go. I love you brother.”
Presidents, coaches, players and club people from all over Gippsland paid tribute in a sign, clear as day, that Tyson was as widely respected as he was loved.
Tyson Bale is survived by his father Bob, mother Julie, siblings Rhiannon, Harley, Alicia, and Sharni and a seemingly never-ending group of mates.
For those battling the challenges of this period of physical distancing and physical isolation, remember it need not be a time of social isolation. Reach out to your loved ones – your family and your mates. You will not be judged. You are loved, and you are valued.
Those seeking help should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or by visiting www.lifeline.org.au; Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelpline.com.au; or MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78.