I worked with Clair White for well over a year before a Facebook photo made me realise she was actually a Sydney Swans supporter. What a missed opportunity that was and we could have spent months talking about how good Kurt Tippett looks in a red and white jumper these days. She’s also one of the few people I allow to message me about football on game day because she’s always respectful, though her reputation recently took a hit when she told me she thought Nat Fyfe was good looking. The other week she was on a late shift so that made Clair the perfect person to harass and actually, you know, talk to my friends about what they think about footy.
Name: Clair White
Recruited from: The Yarra Valley
Occupation: Media Officer (after being promoted off the rookie list)
AFL team followed: Sydney Swans
All time favourite footy moment: “Leo Barry you star!”
“I go for the Sydney Swans football club. I go for them because I didn’t have a choice in the matter. My dad went for South Melbourne and now I go for Sydney. That’s really about it. He started going when he was younger and it was thrust upon me. Everyone goes for Sydney (in my family) by blood or by marriage – my mum went for the Bears and now she goes for the Swans.
I feel like I’m too far gone now and I don’t want to be one of those “flip floppy” supporters who just change when the mood strikes. I had a friend who went from Essendon to Carlton when Dale Thomas got there because she thought he was good looking – that’s not a good enough reason for me to change teams. I like the Swans because I think they’re a good club. They’re a nice club. Everyone likes the Swans. They’re like, just the nice guys of the league.
I call them the Bloods sometimes. They still have SMFC on the back of their jumpers and I think that’s important to keep. Sydney people are probably like, “Screw that, it didn’t work in Melbourne and that’s why they came here and look how good they’ve been.” But we gave them their start and it’s important to recognise that. That’s why I go for Sydney, because they were South Melbourne once and our family wouldn’t be the only one that’s like that.
I went to the football for the first time I reckon at Telstra Dome. Or maybe Colonial Stadium was what it was called back then. It was when it was brand new and I would have been maybe about nine or 10. I had a colouring book because I couldn’t stay focused the whole time and we were up in the heavens of Colonial Stadium because it was so steep. There was a lady in front of me and every time Paul Kelly came on she’d be like, “Come on sweetheart! Come on sweetheart!” and it was so cute. So I had the colouring book, the lady and then I had the Footy Record. To get me interested and keep me watching, dad gave me the Footy Record and I was given the task of recording who gets the goals. So now to this day I will get a record. I compulsively fill it out and I cheat the system now because I have an app on phone to check, but I have to leave the ground with the Footy Record all correct. I bring them home and keep them for a while until I think, “Why do I have this?” and throw them out. But they do go home with me.
I feel like I’m bad luck when I go to games. I’ve seen the Swans win in person maybe only two or three times. I’m terrible luck. I go as much as I can because we’re an interstate team so we don’t have heaps of games here – last year I think I missed one of our Melbourne games. As I’ve gotten older it’s been easier to go but I’ll go to other games as well, not just Swans games. Mostly I try and recruit someone who goes for the Melbourne based team and go with them, otherwise I’ve got my sister or one of my best friends is like a Switzerland and will go with whoever, for whoever, whenever. It’s good when you go and you see all the other red and white people there. I remember distinctly being in primary school and having a footy day and everyone’s in black and white or black and red and I’m the only one in red and white. There’s a photo of me in a white polo shirt, red shorts, white tube socks and a red scrunchie. I reckon I was the lone Swan. It was terrible. I remember this one boy who went for St Kilda – who now goes for Gold Coast, which is questionable in itself – saying to me, “Why do you go for an interstate team?”. For so long it felt like that was gnawing away at me and then we got really good so I was like, “Ha ha ha ha ha”. It’s been a labour of love but we got there and now we’re doing alright.
I don’t mind watching with other people. I do like watching with my dad, mostly just to laugh at how loud he gets, knowing full well no one can hear him and that most of us don’t really know what he’s yelling about anyway. Even though I’ve been brought up around footy I’ve managed to get to 23 years of age without knowing all the specifics of the rules. I played netball when I was younger and when you’re in it, you know everything. My mum came to watch me play netball for 12 years and could not tell you a single rule. She did it because she said it kept her less stressed. If she didn’t know the rules then she couldn’t get upset. I’ve taken a similar approach to football – I know if something looks wrong and I’m like, you can’t do that. You can’t grab that guy around the neck, that’s bad. Or hold that ball while he’s holding on to you. I’m a big “BAAAALLLL” fan but I’m not much of a sledger. My dad’s a big, “Open your eyes!” while I’m more of a “Pfth. Pfth. Oh. Pfth.” That’s about it, I don’t get too emotional.
I haven’t been to Sydney to see a game. I know. I was actually in Sydney last year with some girlfriends when the Swans had their family day and I was like, “Guys, we gotta go” and they were like, “Noooooo!”. I haven’t been interstate for any football – I’ve seen so many at the ‘G and Etihad. I have a friend who goes for the Pies and he always goes up to the game up there and they always beat us. He messages me and I don’t want to talk about it. It’s really depressing.
I’ve cried at home watching the football but I haven’t cried at the football. I cried in 2006. I’ve been yelled at by people when I used to work at Etihad in the bars and food outlets. There’s a lot of pressure on pies and beer at the football and as a 16-year-old, if you don’t have cold beer then you’re getting an earful. It’s nuts. I have cried in those halls of Etihad while going to get change or ’cause I’ve run out of water or whatever. It’s intense and it’s interesting to see the demographics between games. If you were working a North Melbourne v Melbourne crowd, it would be different to working a Carlton v Essendon game. The different people that the different clubs bring, and the different vibe the supporters bring. It’s such a cultural and human experiment watching all the supporters interact. There’s also the difference between a footy crowd and a soccer crowd and their different actions are super interesting too.
My favourite day at the footy probably isn’t anything to do with the actual football. When I was in first year at uni I did a week’s worth of work experience at AFL House due to constant pestering of their Communications Director. When I was there they said just let us know if you want tickets to anything and I got tickets for my family, as well as my aunty and uncle who go for Melbourne, to a Swans v Melbourne game at the ‘G. We got these tickets and they were nice seats because they’re corporate or whatever and being there with them – we got trounced by the Dees and you don’t want that to happen – but it was great. I can’t be sad at the football. I like being there. It’s the same if you go to something like a concert and you know you’re there with people you have something in common with, I find it really fun and you can’t be sad. You can be really angry, but you can’t be sad.
In 2005 when Sydney won the grand final I was at home and both those years, 2005 and 2006 I was so nervous. Though as much as I do love football it gets to about halfway through the second quarter and I do lose interest for a while. I lull. When it gets to fourth quarter I’m all there though. I was really angry we didn’t do anything more exciting when they won in ’05 – there wasn’t a big crowd at our house so we couldn’t all hug, it was just my family. I’d just turned 14 so there wasn’t much I could do; I probably just went back to watching TV. In 2012 when we played in the grand final I made cupcakes, red and white and decorated. I made a bet with my dad, who didn’t think we’d win, that if we won I’d get to paint his nails red and white and he had to wear them to work. So we won and I alternated nails red and white and then did dots on the nails. I think I was more excited about that than the actual win. It was awesome.
I don’t want to talk about last year. I think the thing I didn’t want the most was to have to come in here and look at Carla, my Hawks supporting boss. Last year… was terrible. It’s like we forgot why we were there. Or how to play football or what a football was or how to function. It was bad. It was bad and I think because it was Hawthorn it was even worse.
I am quite fickle with favourite players and I have a soft spot for different players for different reasons. Adam Goodes holds a dear place in my heart because I feel like he’s a attached to a golden era of the Swans and many of those players have now left or retired. He’s great and I think he’s really good for our team off the field as well. I think he’s a good leader. Luke Parker – very good, Teddy Richards – am a fan, Mike Pyke – token Canadian and do love him. I was a big Ryan O’Keefe fan for a long time until he made it clear he wanted to move back to Melbourne and I took that as a personal affront. I was like, “No we’re done. No Ryan, no. We’re done.” And I was a big Tadgh Kenneally fan for a long time with his little jig. I’m really not that picky though.
When I found out we’d spent that obscene amount of money on Buddy I was very emotional and I didn’t like it. I’ve gone now from not liking it at all to liking Buddy for three hours a week to being OK. He seems to have mellowed out a lot and I don’t know if that’s because he is in Sydney and I don’t see him all the time or because he has really grown up. He’s engaged now. But I was very nervous that Buddy was gong to unsettle our team and he’d be a bad off field influence. He probably has been and I just don’t know, but they haven’t imploded yet so he can stay until we get our money’s worth. So, for like the next 25 years…
I will take a dislike to a player if when they win the grand final they aren’t nice to the kid that gives them the medal. Like with Tadgh Keneally, he did his jig but did the jig before high fiving that little kid. And even though I’d liked him for seven years that did take away some of the love. If you’re not nice to that little kid then, no, you’re done.
My creepiest moment was during that week at AFL House and they had some kind of big team, maybe a world team and Michael O’Loughlin was there. I was kind of excited because that’s Micky O and he’s kind of a Sydney legend. But then I lost my absolute shit when Bobby Skilton walked in the door. I lost it. He’s like this tiny little old man now and I couldn’t even talk. I was trying and I couldn’t ask him for anything, I couldn’t do anything. I was just in full Bobby Skilton meltdown mode.
I have a jumper but I don’t have a number on my jumper. I think that reflects my fickleness regarding favourite players and I can’t do it. I have a scarf that’s probably from that first bloody game at Colonial Stadium. It’s pretty gross and it’s got my name that mum stitched on to tell who’s is who with my sister and me. And I’ve got a beanie somewhere, one of those old ones with the logo and the pom pom on the end. I don’t know where it is though.
I have a soft spot for Melbourne. They would be my second team out of all of them and it’s like, “Why do you pick the struggling youngest child?”. Or oldest child as it may be. I liked them before Roosy and a lot of my extended family go for Melbourne. I like the tradition and I just feel like Melbourne seem important. I don’t know why. And then there’s the Jim Stynes of it all and you get all emotional, plus they were almost broke then they’re not broke and you’re like, “Yeah you can do it!”. And they suck all the time. When Roosy went there it felt like the stars were aligning. I was very sad when he left the Swans but now I like John Longmire so I don’t mind as much.
I would give Tasmania a team. I reckon they’ve earned it. Hawthorn can’t just be getting all the love from Tasmania, they’ve had enough. No more for Hawthorn! There’s no real team I have any big issues with though there’s some teams I like less than others because I associate them with people who I don’t like that barrack for them.
I really didn’t like Matthew Lloyd when he used to play because he as annoying. I don’t like Ryan Crowley because I think he’s a bit of a douchebag. There’s some funny guys, I think Dane Swan is hilarious and I could listen to him talk for ages. I think Jimmy Bartel is funny because he’s quiet, he’s quiet-funny. I like Pav. I love Joel Selwood, oh my god yes. I was a big Jack Trengove fan from Melbourne. He hasn’t played for a year and a half though because he’s got a bung foot.
I do follow a lot of sports journos and a few players on Twitter but I get sick of the players tweeting annoying stuff like their holiday to Bali. I don’t care. I watch bits and pieces on the Footy Show and the news, pre game stuff and I also have the Footy Now app on my phone.
I like the politics of sport. I would like to work in that space one day and I think it’s interesting to look into how clubs function. I’m probably more interested in that than I am in stats and that kind of boring crap.
The best thing about the football is… anything that can unite people like that, where you can take four hours out of life and just be at the football. There’s no pressure. But at the same time, something that is literally as simple as some men kicking a ball through some sticks will stop this town. Even at work I have to be ready – if James Hird quits his job tomorrow then I’m getting nothing in the paper because the first dozen pages are going to be about Hirdy. The best thing about the footy is that you can just be at the footy, you don’t have to worry about anything else.
Sydney will make finals this year but I don’t think we’ll win. I reckon at the end of the home and away we’ll be maybe fifth. I reckon we’ll get later into finals but I don’t think we’ll finish at the top. We have just dropped the bundle before. I’m very sceptical and I’d rather aim my expectations low and be surprised rather than bitterly disappointed.”
Great interview, Nat. Loved every word of it.
Thanking you big fella.