Come together.

vale phil walsh

I read this piece from the Sunday Mail by Chris Kenny on one of the Port Adelaide Facebook fan pages today and I loved it so I’m reproducing it here.

Crows versus Power showdown at Adelaide Oval shows how footy brings people together

Mothers will take their sons to the footy today, fathers will take daughters, families will go together, children will take their parents and some blokes will take kids for mates who can’t make it.

Strangers will have a laugh, stir each other, share each other’s joy or offer retorts to opposing cheers. For every one of them today it will be just a little different.

Footy brings people together, so that even rivals depend on each other. Crows and Port supporters won’t like to admit it but without the other, footy just wouldn’t have the same edge – losses wouldn’t be so sour, nor victories so sweet.

Somehow today, these great rivals will do battle with the ultimate fraternity of the footy family emotionally underlined through a tragedy that unites the clubs.

It is a trauma that is almost unspeakable, ripping at the family aspect that is deeply embedded in our game.

Children will be hugged that bit tighter today and I reckon mates at the bar might linger a little longer in a handshake.

At the SCG, just over two weeks ago, I joined two mates and their wives to watch Port play Sydney.

Footy has been a constant in our lives. We had played together at school, we went to SANFL games as kids and teenagers, and then played again as adults.

As the years rolled on, we took our own kids to games, coached and supported them and watched the progress of each other’s children.

One of my sons was with us that night and one of my mate’s sons of the same age was out on the ground playing for Port.

From when they were not much more than toddlers, we used to take this pair to Crows games with their brothers and our other mate’s daughters.

We’d take them down to West Lakes for every home game, rugged up in their red, blue and gold, all of us Crows fans, adults and kids.

Now look at us – watching Port in Sydney – barracking for a Port player, if not Port.

And loving it.

It was a tough night for Port but we had a wonderful time.

Mere words can’t describe the deeply satisfying joy of a catch-up with old friends while you enjoy a game you’ve all shared a passion for over the decades.

In the second half, I asked my mate, concerned about his son’s form, why Port had struggled this season. Before he could respond, I chipped in with my own answer, teasing him.

No Phil Walsh, no Port, I suggested. Well, he sighed, raising his eyebrows to acknowledge the Crows coach was, indeed, missed at Alberton.

None of us was to know this was just hours before Walsh’s life was to be cut short and others’ lives shattered.

My friends broke the news to their son early in the morning and, like most of the Port players, it was every bit as shocking and upsetting for him as it was for the Crows.

Still, the brutal reality after any untimely death is that life must go on.

At the SCG that night, we bumped in to a young man who is the son of another old footy mate.

This mate had died, all too young, nearly 20 years ago, yet there he was, alive in the eyes of his son. It was beautiful, sad and comforting.

And it underscores one reason Walsh’s death is so upsetting.

We don’t know the details and will leave all that to the judicial system.

But we know that as well as a life unfairly cut short, it is a family torn apart against the natural order, with that generational legacy fractured.

It screams out a general warning about domestic stresses and the need for constant vigilance against the violence, mental health or addiction issues that can arise in any family, no matter their outward success.

We’ve no on-field champions in our family but footy and family have been synonymous — we played in teams coached and umpired by mum as well as dad, we’ve all umpired and coached too, and played and cheered with sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles.

As kids we’d watch dad umpire matches, bristle at people abusing him as “four eyes” then run on to the ground to kick the footy with him at half-time.

Even when we were playing footy as adults, with kids of our own, my brothers and I used to keep an eye out for dad’s car at the ground – it always felt better knowing he was there.

Many players from both sides in the Showdown are bound to feel the presence of a fatherly figure today as they strive to “get the job done”.

Adelaide Oval will be all about family – including football families – as the great game brings people together to punt every day cares aside



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