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Inside Play: Thomas Robert Portelli

YOU ARE? Thomas Robert Portelli. I've worked at the MCG, looking after the high-profile people in the MCC Committee Room, for 49 years. I retired once, when we were shifted over to the Southern Stand and they updated the Committee Room, but then I thought I'd start again. I didn't want to finish.

THAT'S SERIOUSLY LONG SERVICE: Once I get dressed up in black and white I drop about 10 years of my age. It's different if I'm doing other things, like gardening; I get tired. But when you love something you do it easy.

When I started at the MCG, it was in the Richmond Room, downstairs on the wing. Some of the committee came down and said, ''Tom, we need you in the Committee Room.'' When I was 40 years there the committee took me to the Athenaeum Club and presented me with a gold Longines watch. It was lovely.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE GUESTS YOU'VE WAITED ON? Keith Miller, the cricketer. I looked after him and I'll always remember that he posted me a letter. I've got the note in front of me:

''Dear Tom, What a whiff of fresh air to the luncheons at the MCG that I've attended over the years. This brief note is simply to offer my sincere thanks for looking after me almost tenderly. Your presence alone, and your personality, makes my day. Most sincerely, Keith Miller.''

Probably about four or five weeks after I got that letter I was invited to his state funeral.


I've served Elton John at the MCG, he was a very nice person. I've served every prime minister of the day except Julia Gillard, and I think the nicest prime minister I've served ever was John Howard, only because when I would top his glass up - he'd drink either chardonnay or sav blanc - he'd always turn to the side and say, ''Thank you''.

I'm showing my age now, but I also did national service with Teddy Whitten. We went to Puckapunyal, in the first intake.

WHAT'S YOUR PRE-MATCH PREPARATION? My nails are always very clean, my shoes are always polished. I make sure I always have a white shirt, underarm deodorant, a clean shave and plenty of nice perfume on my face because when the girls kiss me I feel like I'm Elton John. At the end of the day I've got that much lipstick on me.


HOW HAS WINING AND DINING AT MATCHES CHANGED? I used to be flat out with people ordering Scotch, double Baileys, red wine, this and that. Now the favourite drink is mineral water, and people put their hands over the glass.

In the old days the Committee Room was only for men. We used to have a room at the back where the ladies used to go. It was only when they went over to Lord's and saw the ladies and men were together in the Committee Room there that they were combined here.