IN REMOTE south-west South Australia, some 74 kilometres west of the nation’s oyster capital of Ceduna, is the small wheatbelt settlement of Penong.

Penong’s arid, treeless terrain is characterised by dozens of windmills which pump the local water supply from the Anjutabie Basin – and a lone flagpole from which a Carlton Football Club pennant proudly flies.

The eye-catching roadside ensign, featuring the famous CFC crest, was recently spotted by the Club’s Life Member Andrew Mansour as he and his wife Judy Leahy drove past en route to the Kimberleys.

Ricky by the flagpole, Windon, Penong

“I just couldn’t pass our grand battle flag flying on the highway - obviously a staunch supporter occupies the adjacent land,” said Mansour, who completed a U-turn to snap a photograph or three of the flag as it fluttered in the breeze at a property called ‘Windon’.

Mansour’s observation required immediate investigation and a phonecall was promptly placed to a potential lead - Mick Aitken, co-owner of the Penong Caravan Park.

Was Mick the flag flyer?

Alas, no.

“We’ve been here four years and the flag was there then. It was the first thing I noticed when we drove to Ceduna,” said Aitken.

“I’m a Lions supporter, so the flag’s not mine, but I can put you onto a bloke who will know.”

Sure enough, Aitken’s informant – a fourth generation Penong local named Tim Hardy – didn’t have to think twice when asked.

“You’re looking for ‘Lips’ Collins. It’s his flagpole and he’s a big Carlton man,” said Hardy, who duly put the correspondent in contact.

Ricky ‘Lips’ Collins, a 56 year-old semi-retired council construction worker born and raised in Ceduna, has been hoisting the Carlton flag at Windon for each of the past 25 winters (and the Australian flag for the past 25 summers).

“I’ve always had a fetish for flying flags, particularly the Carlton one, which I’ve always put up, even when we were on the bottom,” said Collins of the ritual. “The flags only last three months because they deteriorate, but I’ve got quality flags from a place in Melbourne – The Carlton Shop - so I’ll keep putting them up.

“Some of the locals get into me over it and I reckon a Collingwood supporter once knocked a flag off. But Carlton people love it, including our Brownlow Medallist Gordon Collis, who recently got in touch after seeing the flag as he drove past – and the truckies love it too, because they like to know which way the wind blows.”

Carlton Life Member Andrew Mansour and Ricky Collins

Collins, his wife Nikki, son Billy and daughter Jessie live on a 100-acre subdivision of the old farm, whose ‘Windon’ acronym is a throwback to the christian names of the original owners Winifred and Donald Trewartha.

He purchased the property in 1996, long after forging links with his beloved Blues. As he said: “I’ve been a Carlton supporter since the Premiership year of 1981, mainly because my old man barracked for Collingwood - and we knocked them off in the Grand Final”.

“I’ve been a supporter ever since and a Member for the past 27 years,” said Collins, who later posed for a photo beneath the flag with the intrepid Mansour.

“I was at the MCG when Carlton thumped Richmond in the last home and away round of 2000 - and from 2010 until Covid hit in 2020 Nikki and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in Melbourne and got to Carlton and St Kilda games, as Nikki’s a St Kilda Member.”

For as long as his beloved Blues field senior teams, Collins will quite literally fly the flag over the Penong skies – and he particularly looks forward to raising the ensign with an even greater enthusiasm over the coming weeks.

Of his team’s fortunes for the duration of 2024, the flag flyer replied: “I’m quietly confident, but we still need a few back”.

“If we can get Cerra right and maybe Jack Martin, we’ll be looking good,” said Collins.