‘Would have been Tinder’: Ex-Saint married to PM
Before recent events in Belgium, Chris Stone was best known as the last footballer to regularly wear glasses, or goggles, in VFL games.
A 23-game player with St Kilda from 1978-81, Stone these days is a highly successful businessman who also happens to be married to Sophie Wilmes, Belgium's first female Prime Minister as of October 27 this year.
Stone, 60, reflected on an interesting life this week after he returned to Belgium with his wife after attending the NATO conference in London.
Jon Anderson: Let's go back 40 years and those goggles.
Chris Stone: In my first game against Collingwood in 1978 I came on late and my first kick was a right-foot goal. My second kick, on my left foot, was also a goal. So the next match I started in the 18 on a half-forward flank opposed to Alex Jesaulenko. Jezza kicked the ball as I was pushed in the back, the ball hitting me in my eye. I was taken to hospital and missed a fair bit of football.
JA: Hence the squash goggles?
CS: Not quite. Over the summer I was playing district cricket with St Kilda, fielding at silly point, when a batsman cut the ball straight into the same eye before the days of helmets. So off to the same hospital and same doctor. I came back with some modified squash goggles and was christened "Zorro" by Gary Colling.
JA: Maybe drawing a long bow, but the story goes in Round 2 of 1980 you and a teammate ran into each other, prompting president Lindsay Fox to sack St Kilda coach Mike Patterson.
CS: I don't remember which of my teammates I crashed into, but I know it was at Moorabbin and I was tagging Hawthorn's Peter "Felix" Russo. It was quite embarrassing. I was focusing so much on my role that I didn't notice my teammate. The press got hold of it and within the week Mike Patterson had been sacked as coach with Alex Jesaulenko to take over.
JA: How do you go from there to being married to a PM?
CS: In 1982 I played with Newtown in Sydney under Sam Kekovich. I then went back to Caulfield Grammarians and played a few games for the Victorian rep side and got All-Australian. I then moved to Sydney with work and played at North Shore under Barry Breen before work took me to London for six years where the Earls Court Kangaroos won a couple of flags.
JA: You still hadn't met the budding PM?
CS: No. I moved to Brussels in 1994 and formed the Brussels Saints after getting some kit from St Kilda. Sophie and I met 20 years ago in a bar in Brussels. These days it would have been Tinder, but back then it was a bar.
JA: What is it like being married to a head of state?
CS: Fairly mundane (laughter). We were at Buckingham Palace this week where we met the Queen, Prince Charles, Camilla, Princess Anne and Donald Trump at cocktails. Quite surreal. Then we had dinner at 10 Downing St.
JA: Had you ever met a Prime Minister previously?
CS: Yes, I have met a few of them, but I haven't slept with any other Prime Ministers (laughter).
JA: When will you bring the PM and your four children to Melbourne next?
CS: We are coming back to Melbourne in July. I will catch up with people like Bruce Eva, Jeff Joseph, Glen Casey, Mark Kellett, Michael Nettlefold, Rod Butterss and Ken Sheldon.