“I’m not that short sighted that I’ve just forgotten everything that’s happened over the course of my life.”

hovercraft

In the short time I’ve had this website up and running I’ve been incredibly lucky that no one I’ve asked has turned me down for an interview. However not everyone I know is comfortable putting their name to blunt opinions. Phteven is someone I’ve known for a long time and while his passion for the Carlton Football Club hasn’t waned, I’ll admit I’d be hard pressed to own up to being a supporter this year too. So in order to preserve his dignity and allow for his good stories to be told I’ve given him the fake name of Phteven and the occupation of hovercraft driver because both make me laugh as much as the Carlton players do.

Name: Phteven

Age: 54

Recruited from: Diamond Valley

Occupation: Retired hovercraft driver

AFL team followed: Carlton Blues

All time favourite footy moment: 1995 grand final, running on to the ground and catching up to Big Nick

“I follow the Carlton Football Club. The Blues, the mighty Blues, the not so mighty Blues just at the minute, but I barrack for Carlton. It’s a long story but my grandfather played for Carlton in the 1930s. He played one game in either about 1930 or 1931. He worked for the SCC and lived in Brunswick, and would travel vast distances on his pushbike to read meters so he was incredibly fit. He was always a very good sportsman and always said he was a better cricketer than footballer. But he got invited down to Carlton to play and he made the team. He came on as the 19th man in the single game that he played. He was going up for a mark out the front of the Gardiner Stand, which is still there at Carlton it’s the old timber stand – you had the Heatley Stand, you had the Members’ Stand and then the Gardiner Stand – and he obviously didn’t realise that a photo had been taken. So he’s walking to work the next day at the SCC in town and walks past the old Argus building, looks in the front window and goes, “That’s me.” So he went in and bought the photo of him taking a mark in his one game for Carlton, number 13 he was, and I’ve got it. So it was a freaky set of circumstances.

He was employed at the SCC, rode the bike and it was typical that you’d come back for your lunch. A guy comes up and says, “Rex can I talk to you?”. He said sure and the bloke tells him that he’s received two letters, one from Essendon and one from Carlton, they both want him to play for them so what should he do? And my grandfather knew that this guy was a rover or a winger and he advised him to go to Essendon where he would probably more likely get a game. My grandfather was being honest, he wasn’t being facetious. Sitting at the end of the table was a bloke ear wigging on the conversation and he wrote a letter to the then president of the Carlton Football Club and said your player Rex told prospective player X to go to Essendon and not play for Carlton.  So as it happened the president then went down to the coach and said Rex is never to play in the firsts ever again. So he played one game at Carlton in the firsts and the next five or six years in the reserves. He said he would constantly get best on ground but because the president said to the coach that he’s never to play in the firsts ever again due to a perceived act of treachery, that was it. So I’ve got photos of my grandfather not only taking the mark but he also toured Brisbane and Sydney because Carlton did tours back then, long before anything that’s happening now. He’s got photos of him and Harry Valance, the whole team on tour. But he only ever played the one game. So there you go.

My mother, God rest her soul, and my father barracked for Carlton. My two brothers – my youngest brother played for Collingwood for 12 months but has come back to Carlton, my middle brother had a small dalliance with Essendon but we smacked that out of him and got him back to Carlton. And now my girls and my wife barrack for Carlton.

I’m not sure whether it was the first time but this certainly is my most vivid memory – I’ve got some really powerful memories of growing up as a kid and going down to watch Carlton play. I played junior football, probably as a 10 or 12 year old and afterwards my dad said, “Right, we’re gonna go and watch Carlton and Collingwood.” At the time it was ridiculous ’cause we got there late and the ground was packed. He got us in and on the city side on the wing there was a grandstand that just had a tin back and a tin roof on it. So we shimmied our way into the stand and it was packed. I couldn’t see a thing. So my father whacks me up into the rafters of the stand and just says “hang on”. So I’m hanging upside down from the rafters watching the game as a kid and right beneath me – right beneath me – is a massive fight. I crap myself, I’m looking at my father, my father’s yelling “Don’t get down!”. After the fight, which went for only a short time, after the fight there was the circle that no one entered because everyone was too scared to go back where the fight was. So if you looked up, here’s a 12 year old kid hanging from the rafters trying to watch the game… I don’t know how we did it. That’s probably my first memory, my most vivid memory, of going to a Carlton Collingwood game which was a ridiculous game to go to for a young boy.

The tradition for us as three boys, me being the oldest and my two younger brothers, was that we would make what was – when you think about it – a fairly arduous trip. The bus to Northland, the Bell Street bus up Bell Street to Sydney Road, the tram down Sydney Road to Princes Park, we’d watch the game, the tram back to Sydney Road and Bell Street, a Ferguson Plarre sausage roll on the corner – shop’s still there, the bus back to Northland then the bus home. So we’re talking at least a 10 hour day to get to the football but I loved it. It was a treat that we would go.

We knew that if it was close that to get on TV that night me and my brothers had to run down to the fence and hope that the ball came close, then when the ball came you hung over like a idiot. Then you got home quick enough to watch the replay, either on Channel 7 or Channel 2. That was it, that was our highlight. And the other big highlight was running out on the ground after the game. My most vivid memory is running up and catching up to John Nicholls and smacking him right in the middle of the number 2 and just getting sprayed with sweat. I had no idea.

I do go to the footy as much as I can, I actually enjoy it. I love the club. I’m not that short sighted that I’ve just forgotten everything that’s happened over the course of my life. We’re in a lot of trouble a the moment, we’re in a lot of trouble and I think that guys are down on confidence and until that comes back and until we can get a new mix of players in… It almost feels like to me as if we have to start again. And I’m sure that’s not true, I’m there are some gems down there like Patrick Cripps and a few of the other guys we’ve got down there who will carry us forward into the future. But there’s a fair bit of work to do down there I think. But everyone will get their turn at that. All the last couple of years has confirmed to me is that you have to have absolutely everything going for you to win one. It’s so hard. So yeah, we’ll be back. We’ll be back. We have to be. We have to be back.

I’ve gone through a number of phases. I’ve gone through the manic phase as a young fella where I quite enjoyed the interactions at the football. I’m more of a theatre goer now with the occasional spasm thrown in. And it’s usually got to do with blokes like Ray Chamberlain – I think the funniest thing I heard was on radio when Robert Walls was on with Rex Hunt and they awarded some Tontine pillows, I forget who they awarded them to. And someone in the box said we could reward Ray Chamberlain with a Tontine pillow and Robert Walls said yeah, he could use it as a sleeping bag. Just stuff like that. Occasionally I yell out. I’m not on it all the time but I will pick out the odd inconsistency in my view that I think needs to be pointed out. And then I realise shit, I’m 100 metres from the play, they’re not going to hear me anyway. But yeah, I’ll yell out. I don’t just sit there and cop it but I don’t go stupid either. I try not to.

I did go to the football with other people. My brother coaches a team now but I used to catch up with him – he lives a little way away so it was a great catch up for us. I’ve maintained my membership though and I pretty much go by myself, which is fine, I’m happy with all that. I’m happy just to sit there and watch it; believe me, there’s plenty of space at Carlton games now, you can sit pretty much anywhere you want! I’m not overly superstitious about wearing the same boots or jumper or anything like that; in fact, I probably go to the football and don’t identify as a Carlton supporter. I try and de-identify myself. I’ve got a witness protection program because it’s pretty frustrating at the moment. As I said, there’s plenty of spots to sit at a Carlton game now.

On any given day I could be driven to hate anyone. It’s probably easier to name who I don’t hate. Pretty much anyone that we can beat at the moment I don’t hate, everyone else I hate. It’s hard being a Carlton supporter at the moment. All the traditional vile supporters I’ve run across in my time… I still hate them. Hate’s a shocking word. But it’s only from a football perspective. Essendon – yeah, we’ve had run ins with them. The Pies – yeah, I’ve been smacked at Victoria Park in the head by an old bloke carrying an umbrella. Turned around to smack him and there’s 15,000 people there ready to kill me. That was a very long time ago. So yeah, just your traditional targets of hate that you could reasonably expect from a Carlton supporter.

I’m not a big one for the pre game experience. I see quarter time, half time and three quarter time as a time for pensive reflection, not for hearing Britney Spears or Taylor Swift. I use that time to talk to a fellow supporter or analyse where we’ve gone wrong. Our clubs see it as a way of giving away footballs or television sets. So the game’s changed and I get that, I get that, but I don’t particularly like that part of it. Which may sound strange. I get it and I understand they’ve gotta get kids along to the ground and make it as attractive as possible. But yeah… sometimes I just don’t get it. And that’s why I smashed the hovercraft.

I’d make it cheaper for people to go to games. I’d lower the prices of merchandise. I remember I went across to New York and a mate of mine there owns a sports bar. I wanted to take him over a Carton jumper that he could hang in the bar but they’re 100 bucks. I thought, OK I’ll buy him a t-shirt that he could wear around and they’re 50 or 60 bucks. It’s too dear. Just ’cause you’ve got Nike and Mars and the Carlton logo on it – make it a bit more accessible and cheaper for people to buy your merchandise and promote your goods. Surely that’s what it’s all about. I think there’s probably some stuff they can do. I know that they’ve lowered the food prices. It is still a touch expensive in my view. Footy brings such a buzz to Victoria and the product at the moment is fantastic.

Favourite players… Wayne Johnson. Jimmy Buckley. My mother worked at La Trobe Uni and looked after David McKay when he came down so I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Swan. Geoff Southby. So many of them, so many good players. But I really loved Wayne Johnson, really loved Jimmy Buckley and blokes like Ken Hunter, all those guys. Rod Ashman, David Glascott… We had so many good players. Mark McClure – he was certainly not in the pantheon of centre half forwards but for us it all just worked. Braddles, Sticks, so many good players. Peter Bosustow for the short time he was there. Carlton just had that ability to attract the right player at the right time and mould them in such a way that they were just so successful. It was blokes like David Parkin as coach who took the whole thing to another level. I have the utmost for David Parkin and what he’s done, what he’s done for Carlton. He’s probably my favourite coach. A lot of people have put in a lot of time down there and it’s a real shame to see where we are at the minute, but I think that the way football’s going at the moment everyone’s going to take their turn at that over the years. We just have to suck it up now and get better. But there’s been whole range of players down there over the years that I’ve just loved watching over the years. Jezza had the ability to run flat stick in a stooped position, just a fantastic athlete. Well ahead of his time. We had some great players at Carlton, we really did. We had great teams through the 70s, into the 80s and into the 90s. What a time to grow up being a Carlton supporter. It was as if we could never lose – now it’s as if we can never win. So there’s been a bit of a turnaround.

I recent years I loved watching Kouta, though he’s been gone quite a while now. Fev had the ability to light up a stadium. I was there the day he kicked his 99th goal at Etihad Stadium. I was really disappointed that he didn’t kick 100, he’d had a really good year. And just Juddy. I just so much enjoy watching Juddy. He’s such a good player and has been for us the last five or six years. I actually feel that we’ve underachieved for him and I’m a bit miffed and a bit disappointed that it’s worked out the way it has. I think the move was right, I think getting him across was the right thing to do at the time. people sometimes lose context, of why you do certain things at certain times and to get him across gave the club a whole deal of hope. We lost Josh Kennedy in the transfer and that’s swings and roundabouts but I’m so in awe of what Judd does and how he goes about it. Yeah, he makes the odd mistake along the way but he’s just been such a professional person and such a good player who has the best interests of the club at heart in everything that he does. I think he’s been a very special player, both at West Coast and at Carlton.

Gee, there were quite a few lads running around for Greater Western Sydney who are going to be fantastic. Jeremy Cameron is a fantastic player. Nat Fyfe. I watched a little bit of him on the weekend and he’s a really good player. There’s a lot of good players. I like to see the emergence of young players and there are a few coming along like Lachie Neale at Freo. Freo have got a really solid team this year, they’re gonna be hard to beat. I suppose this is where my interest has waned a bit because growing up, probably like a lot of other kids, I could tell you names, numbers, where they were recruited from, the whole lot. Now these days there’s so many players playing and I don’t watch a lot of TV other than the Carlton games. To actually pinpoint one particular player or a group of particular players is hard. I suppose I’d stick with the mainstream guys and I’m probably more interested in just how we’re developing at the moment. That takes up a lot of my interest and a lot of my time. I watched Matthew Dick the other weekend who we’ve recruited, who’s come down and whilst we got flogged, you could actually see in him there will be a player emerge in time. I like to watch that. Carlton has had a long history of, “We need a centre half forward so find the best centre half forward in the land and get him over”. You can’t do that any more.  So to develop your own people and get them up and running gives me even greater pleasure. That’s why I’m so happy that people like Steve Silvagni are down at the club because I think he obviously has the ability to pick talent and see talent like it is.

I think I know who’ll coach them next year. I think I know who I’d want but we’ll see. Mick’s not to blame. He’s not. I think he’s gotta share partial blame and I think he’s gotten some players to the club that at the moment haven’t lived up to expectations. But I think he’s also gotten some younger kids in who clearly will develop. For some reason Carlton supporters seem to have a degree of impatience that perhaps other clubs, like St Kilda or Footscray who haven’t had a lot of success, don’t have. I can imagine a Footscray supporter thinking, is this a false dawn? Is this another false dawn for us this year? And it probably isn’t. They’re on a real trajectory for success I think on the back of what is one player. And that’s Marcus Bontempelli. He brings that whole club new hope. I think if they continue to build they could end up anywhere, but everything will have to go right. You can turn things around quickly and I think Mick had tried. When you look at Bryce Gibbs signing up for five years and a couple of them signing up long term, they were lulled into a false sense of security. It’s only two years ago that we were a couple of kicks away from playing a prelim final. It’s only three years ago that we beat Richmond from six goals down. But it just shows you how quickly the game moves and how you’ve got to move with it otherwise you’re left behind. And you need a fair bit of luck as well. It’s almost the perfect storm.

I love the continual evolution of the game. I sat behind the goals one day at Etihad Stadium and I watched Scott Camporeale kick out from fullback and then run down to the other end of the ground in what seemed like the blink of an eye and kick it to a bloke who kicked a goal. I just thought, how did he do that? I can only guess at the levels of fitness these blokes achieve. I like that, I like the combativeness. To watch a good game of football there’s just a flow about it, there’s just an aura about it, there’s just something about it that keeps drawing me back. A good game of football can hold your interest for the whole two-and-a-half hours that it’s on but there are other games at the moment that are just rubbish. That’s a worry. I think we’ve probably got two or three or four too many teams in and I think that from time to time, there are perhaps some players that are playing – and good on them – but they perhaps wouldn’t have made it back when it was a 12 team comp.

It’ll never happen but I’d probably dump a team or two. I’d make sure that in a fixturing sense that every team plays each other at least once and then as you rotate through the next three years, or whatever the mathematics works out as – if it’s three or four years, that everyone’s played each other the same amount of times. So in other words, I wouldn’t stack the draw. Look at Carlton – we’ve got the next two Friday nights on the telly and really, it’s hurting our brand. So I think there’s perhaps the potential to keep Friday nights open and then possibly, though it might be difficult from a fixturing point of view, then look at bringing the best two teams from that weekend on to play on a Friday night and really showcase the game.

There’s a few things I don’t like about football. I think, that on the back of what I’ve just said about the players’ athleticism, I have no time for umpires who think they are bigger than the game. No time at all. So I’ve watched it go from one to two to three umpires, and I’ve seen umpires inject themselves into games just because of their ego, and that really really gives me the irrits. I don’t like that.

My prize possession is a photo of me and my daughter with Sticks and Parko and the premiership cup from 1995. That holds pride of place. I was really really fortunate in 1995 to go down to the Carlton rooms before they played Brisbane in that final. I am just in awe of that moment. To be down there and watch the players before they run out was a moment that I’ll never forget and it was really an honour to be down there. You know, I was there the day Blightly kicked that goal, I was there the day the Brisbane Lions kicked us when Warwick Capper kicked that goal, I was there when the fish and chip stand caught on fire, all those little things meld together. Braddles kicking that goal in the grand final and looking across and winking. I’ve seen Greg Williams – one of my favourite players and a bloke I detested at Sydney – come to Carlton and he’s an instant hero. That’s how much it can change. Lots and lots of good memories. I’ve been privileged to be able to barrack for the club.

That ’95 premiership was a special moment because it was the last one and the one I remember the most. And there’s the other premierships. My daughter was born on the 23rd June, 1988 so if you work back nine months to 1987 you can probably work out what’s happened there. She’s a twinkle in the eye. My wife will kill me for that.”

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