It’s a long hard road being a Melbourne Demons supporter and so it takes a special person to work themselves up to barrack for them. Westy is just that sort of person. Not only is his glass half empty, it’s been smashed to pieces by some pissed bloke in Bay 13. Despite that, Westy still loves the game itself and is incredibly thoughtful about his opinions on it. This season has given him a sliver of hope that there’d be light at the end of the tunnel as the Dees have actually won a game or two, so I decided to collar him and speak to him about football (and who might be the worst Brownow Medallist of all time) before ski season started.
Age: 750 (being a Melbourne fan ages you prematurely)
Recruited from: Ivanhoe
AFL team followed: Melbourne Demons
All time favourite footy moment: Meeting Ron Barassi followed by the day we trade Jack Watts
“I actually started off my life barracking for Footscray. Somehow even in the mind of a five or six year old kid I knew they were pretty bad while I was going for them. Their great white hope was Simon Beasley and there wasn’t much else going on for Footscray at the time. I was a bit of a laughing stock at school because they were losing all the time, so in about grade one I decided I would change the team I went for and going through my mind was that it would have to be a good team. I counted up the number of premierships that teams had at the time and I didn’t want to be too facetious and go for the team with all the premierships, but Melbourne had a pretty good strike rate back then so I thought ‘they’ll be my team’. Since grade one I’ve followed them religiously.
I’m the only Demons supporter in my family. My dad went for Collingwood and actually had a couple of training runs down at Collingwood reserves. Mum was Hawthorn because my dad had a chemist shop in Hawthorn and was a sponsor of a couple of the local footy boys, as you do. I think we’ve still got a lovely picture hiding in the roof at mum’s place of one of them, don’t know who it was. My older brother was Carlton, sister was Fitzroy and my younger brother might have been a Swans boy for a little bit and then changed over to North Melbourne.
As kids we had arguments but now since Fitzroy folded, my sister has lost the passion for it. My younger brother is out of the country so he doesn’t get to follow it too much and my older brother is down in Tasmania so he’s not following it much either. Mum was only into the footy because of where dad’s shop was. So there’s really no arguments with them now. My sister still loves the game in general but she doesn’t get worked up about it now her heart and soul has been ripped out. You know how it goes. Stella is already a Dees fan. Libby goes for Collingwood and one of my brothers-in-law also goes for Melbourne so it’s actually nice to find a person with the same affliction as myself.
I don’t remember the first time I went to the footy but I remember a lot of early games we went to. Mum and dad had trouble accommodating all of us kids as obviously there was four different teams to go for. I do remember going to Fitzroy v Melbourne out at Waverley Park and seeing a couple of those games, which was great. Those were the days of Robbie Flower and Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson so you just went out there to watch what Jacko was up to or watch Robbie dance along the wing, which was fantastic. At the time I think my sister had Bernie Quinlan and players like that running around so you’d get to see ‘Superboot’ as well.
I’ve got lots of games that I remember that I’m very distraught over. There’s the 2000 grand final that I cry over. I remember seeing Melbourne play Hawthorn at Princes Park and Dunstall was just coming back from a knee reconstruction or maybe he had the crash helmet on, one or the other. We got flogged there. I remember Jimmy running over the mark and Buckenara scoring. I remember all those ones. In terms of a most enjoyable game I’m waiting for the grand final win for that one.
There’s a couple of umpires who I don’t like officiating Melbourne games. I think everyone has that, a couple of umpires that they do or don’t like. Look, I think they do do a pretty good job in a game that’s fast, dynamic, ever changing… Of course they’re going to get some stuff right, they’re gonna get some stuff wrong, but that’s part of what makes the game what it is I think. The video review, well that is what it is. I think they could make it easier and quicker. Otherwise the umpires are doing the best that they can, maybe make them a bit more professional, pay them a proper salary so they can all train towards it. Then maybe you get total consistency, which would be good.
I go to the footy a fair bit. I don’t always see Melbourne games but I do watch a fair bit of football. I have a smattering of Collingwood and Carlton in there because that’s what the brothers-in-law go to and I’ve also got the MCC membership. It’s broadened my horizon a bit that way.
Watching at home I give up and walk away. I just can’t watch it. At the game I’m very involved in it. I’m not a yeller for the whole match but I will scream out ‘ball’ – you get some crowd involvement but I do try and keep my head. I used to go with a mate and he’s a passionate Melbourne supporter. He would just go off at everything… You know those blokes who hang over the railing and yell, “What are you doing umpire? What’s wrong? Rah rah rah rah rah!”. He’s a mild mannered man outside but he gets MCG fever – he walks in there and off he goes. Nowadays you would hear me maybe two or three times a match. It’ll probably be on a ball call. And I don’t commentate, I’m not one of those blokes that sits there going, “Ohhhh did you see that?” or “What are you doing Roos? Move him!”.
I yell at my own team. I don’t abuse them. I’ll yell, “Good work!” or whatever cause sometimes you sit near the boundary and you think that they can hear you, whether they can or not. “On ya bike!” is one. I’ll be there with my brother in law and there’ll be frustration talk about the stupidest thing that has just occurred and unfortunately for Jack Watts, he is the man who cops most of our ire at the moment.
Being an MCC member I’ve gotta have a collared shirt on so it’s hard. I used to kit up and put the footy jumper on, make sure I had the scarf and the hat, the sunnies, the binoculars, the radio, the back up batteries for the radio, the bag, lunch, drinks, the whole bit. Now, no. Now I just take the radio and the headphones in. That’s standard issue and all that has to be taken.
I don’t have any superstitions. I can’t affect the outcome of a game. Don’t have to sit there and mark goals or points, don’t have to buy the Record, don’t have to get the same train, don’t have to sit in the same seat, don’t have to take my lucky blanket. Mind you, back when I was going with my mate who gets the MCG fever, there was a time when he thought the LaManna banana was lucky because we were sponsored by LaManna. It was a big fucking blow up banana that people would bring to the games and the whole bit. People would yell out, “The LaManna banana’s here, we’re gonna wiiiiinnnnn!!!”. Aaaaand then the LaManna banana met an untimely end. We actually started losing after that so maybe he was on to something. He was all for the LaManna banana.
Before I was an MCC member I was a passionate Melbourne supporter and I would fork out five, six hundred dollars a season. I started off when I first got a job and had money coming in buying the normal membership, then I started upgrading to support the club. At the time it was the Legends membership and Bob Johnson was the inaugural legend. Went with those then that tier folded and you ended up becoming a Red Legs member. I did as much as I could to support the club. After Daniher went and we started having a lot of on field problems I still supported the club and still bought my memberships, but I got so frustrated with Melbourne. It was the days of ‘tanking’ and we were losing games, they weren’t blooding players. It’s a symbiotic relationship between fans and the club, which doesn’t get talked about that much in that as a supporter I’m actually their employer as far as I’m concerned. I’m paying their wage through my membership, I’m paying out money and I couldn’t support the shit that I was seeing on the field. So my membership stopped and I’ve been distraught since then. I’m just waiting for us to turn the corner and start travelling in the right direction.
I feel I’m very close to buying a membership again this year. There were performances in the past where I didn’t think the players were trying, so I’d sit there and I was having a hard time justifying putting all this extra money into the club. I had to scrimp and save – it’s a lot of cash and you were getting poor results for it. If something hurts, why do you keep doing it? I’m hoping now – and I don’t want to sound like a bandwagon jumper now the nasty ‘tanking’ stuff is behind us – that I can move into fully getting behind the club again.
Paul Roos has made a difference in some respects but I want to see the legacy he leaves. Originally I thought that when Kevin Sheedy was on the market that he was the one we should have taken because the marketing for him would have been fantastic for the membership. The way he coached, or was coaching, he got kids up. You look at what he did up at GWS – while he didn’t have wins, he has really put the groundwork in for them. We’ll see what Roosy’s legacy leaves. I get frustrated, like I know Paul doesn’t win pre-season games. Didn’t when he was at the Sydney Swans. For Melbourne it’s a different kettle of fish because when you’re a team that’s so poor, or has been playing so poorly, you need to give your members hope so they buy the memberships and your club keeps on going and getting stronger. You need kids in the school yard who think that Melbourne had a couple of wins, to become supporters. Because if you don’t have any wins kids at school aren’t going to barrack for Melbourne. My two nieces go for Melbourne and that’s only because their dad does, and they keep it very very low key. You are a laughing stock as a Melbourne supporter at the moment. With Goodwin, we’ll have to wait and see. You never know, we might pinch Beveridge. He’s a man that’s got players playing for him. Clarko’s an ex Melbourne boy too, it would be interesting if he came back.
Did love Jimmy Stynes, did love Schwartz when he was a young bloke – he was fantastic, did love Allen Jakovich, but the player I used to love the most was Rod Grinter. In some of the dark days he was just a real hard nut footballer, like David Rhys Jones but the Melbourne version. And not as bad. Grinter was good and we had Lovett and Viney, those sort of blokes there too… That was a great team with a lot of great players. My favourite player now… well, it’s not Jack Watts. I used to love Stefan Martin as well, just because I could sit in the Members’ and flamboyantly yell out, “STEFAAAAAAN!”. We had Stefan and then we sent him up to Brisbane, sadly.
Ollie Wines. Geez. When you’ve got two blokes like Wines and Viney that feed off each other and compete against each other and strive against each other and make each other better when they play against or with each other, why would you not go, “I’ll take that”. It’s like Jack Watts or Nic Natanui. Who do you take? Nic Nat. I think Wines was always going to be good. If you’re looking at Jack Viney, then Jack Viney is good. And this kid’s on the same par and he would have been great at Melbourne because he would have competed with Viney. I also see the fact that Melbourne didn’t take him as something that’s possibly spurred him on to be an even better player for Port. He’s just a crackerjack kid.
If I could put any other player from any other club in our side then I’d take Selwood from Geelong. Hard nut, leads by example. For us it’s what we would need. If he could just be plucked and stuck in there helping out Nath Jones then that would be fantastic for the midfield. I don’t mind Nath, he’s good. He’s getting there and obviously he’s got passion for the club which is part of what it is (being captain). Also he does lead by example and he’s now getting other blokes that are following his example, whereas for the last couple of years he’s been the only bloke that’s getting caned every single weekend.
I hate any team that beats Melbourne, so pretty much everyone. No one jumps to mind in terms of a player that I hate, or love to hate. Must be something about my old age that you just sit there and enjoy watching these blokes go out and play, no matter what. Jonno Brown was fantastic for so long. But no, I don’t really love to hate anyone these days… apart from Jack Watts. He’s my whipping boy, the poor bastard.
The best thing about footy is winning. Footy is a fantastic escape for two, two and a half, three hours. Now I’m such an ancient bastard I can sit there and think, “Oh I could have been a football player” or “I could have done this…”. Dream on, son. You know how it is. It’s just a fantastic escape for that three hours, it’s a fantastic contest, every game you go to you can get that winning feeling at the end of it. I always have hope for the first five minutes of every game. Then you’ll see which way the ball’s bouncing for the game or you’ll just see if they’re switched on or not, and if they are or aren’t then that’s when you go “I think we might toss it”. Or we might have the feeling we’re gonna lose this one, you get that feeling early on. And then there’s the games that are absolutely crackerjack, like last year’s one where we just came out and beat Essendon. It was just fantastic.
I would get rid of all the talk about the changing of the Brownlow to the best player and make sure it’s always entrenched as best and fairest. That’s the ultimate for me, it’s the best and fairest, it’s not just the best player. To me it’s like you may as well give out gold medals at the Olympics to the drug cheats as well because here’s the fastest man in the world – he’s not the fairest fastest man in the world but he is the fastest. To me that’s the same as the Brownlow. It’s gotta be some bloke who should be admired for the skills and the whole shebang.
Shane Woewodin is not the worst Brownlow Medallist of all time. Definitely not. There has been quite a few shockers that have gotten it and Shane is no way the worst. Plus we traded him and got good money for him.”