Author: Nat Webster

Is there anything more frustrating than hearing someone say, “it’s just a game”? Because for many of us, it is something far greater and more precious about that. We live it and breathe it and study it and feel it like almost nothing else. Your team wins and you’re the king of the world – lose and it’s a week of heartache and ribbing from friends and colleagues (and family if you’re truly unlucky). I’ve started this blog because there are few things I like to talk about more than AFL and I have some really great friends. I also wanted a space to record essays, thoughts or photographs about our great game. My aim is to publish some of my friends’ observations about football and my own thoughts on what’s happening in the AFL - I generally write up my thoughts on the Port Adelaide game each week and the interviews with friends are all published in a first person style. I also wanted to have an online space around AFL that wasn’t the arguing idiocy that forums can devolve into, the incredible bias of Facebook pages, Supercoach anything, or purely match review style pieces. I wanted posts that are interesting to read on a theme or issue and I’m always infinitely keen to hear other people’s opinions when they’re delivered in a thoughtful manner. Some quick information abut me – my name is Natalie, I'm from NSW, I live in Melbourne and I’m a Port Adelaide supporter. A proud Port Adelaide supporter, I should say. I’m also the black sheep of my family as they all follow the Sydney Swans, though consequently I do hold the Bloods very close to my heart as well. I grew up in country NSW watching rugby league and rugby union and we were horrified at the idea of this “aerial ping pong” business until Sydney made the grand final in 1996 – first game I ever watched was the Brisbane Bears v Essendon final that year while I was studying for my HSC. I decided to go with the new team Port Adelaide in 1997 and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Eventually the umpire had to stop the game and came over and said, “Mate you shouldn’t be here” and dad turned around and said, “I’m starting to feel the same way about you”.”

Cheyne coach 1

I suppose the alternate title of this post is ‘What my brother thinks about footy’ because that’s exactly what it is. For as long as I can remember both my brothers (and my dad) have been involved in some code of football or another, be it AFL, rugby union, rugby league or soccer. Typical country kids that had a go at everything. Now that Cheyne has managed to stay in the country for longer than five minutes he’s moved from being a player to a coach and is currently based at the Eastlake Football Club in Canberra. We had a moment the other day when he told me that he likes GWS and Richmond better than Port Adelaide but terrible taste aside, he’s still one of my favourite people to talk about footy with. Not to mention he currently rates as one of my favourite two brothers of all time (and I’m pretty happy he decided to stick around with us).

Name: Cheyne Webster

Age: 33

Recruited from: Eastlake Football Club

Occupation: High school teacher and footy coach

AFL team followed: Sydney Swans

All time favourite footy moment: 2005 and 2012 grand final wins

“I go for the Sydney Swans. Being from NSW I think it’s great that you support a local team and I guess before GWS that was our only local team, so I’ve got an affiliation with them because I’m from there. Clearly they’re successful, which always helps, but I think the players that they’ve got there are really great to watch, plus the culture and their style of play is pretty awesome.

My first game was a long time ago now. I just remember how passionate people were about the footy. I remember going to rugby league games and people just kind of sit there and watch it passively but at an AFL game it seems like it was just non-stop screaming from everyone. People were either screaming at a player or the umpire or screaming at opposition fans. So that was kind of my memory of the first time at the footy though I can’t exactly remember who was playing.

I probably go to the footy four or five times a year. Being in Canberra with GWS playing games there now is great and I try to get to a Melbourne game when I can. Nothing beats watching it at the ground, it’s a completely different experience to watching it on TV. Just nothing beats actually being at the footy. Being a coach, I feel like I’m coaching the team when I watch – I’m yelling out at players to do things or getting upset at how it’s going. I wouldn’t just sit there and watch it, I’m very vocal and I don’t mind giving it to someone who is wearing kit that isn’t from the two teams that are playing. I think that’s important too because it’s one of footy’s biggest crimes, the umpiring.

I’ve got a few good sledges. One is actually something that you said, talking about dropping wooden spoons when someone drops their hat or scarf on the ground. That’s always a good one. It’s even better when people actually take the bait and seriously look around themselves and then realise they’ve been had. The anger in their face is gold. That’s probably my favourite sledge because it’s good to watch when it comes off.

I have been a member of the Swans before but I’m not now. I think it’s probably something I should do because I feel like it’s important for people to be members in order to put something back into the club.

I’ve got a couple of favourite footy memories. The 2005 grand final was massive – I was watching it at home with my family and it was just amazing to see a team that had been nowhere for so long just come almost out of nowhere and win it. And then in 2012 I was living overseas and I watched the grand final at an ex-pat pub in Bangkok and I don’t think I’ve ever been drunker in my life. I was screaming in people’s ear that Mike Pyke was the best ruckman in the world… I think a couple of people wanted to punch me in the face. But I just remember being so unbelievably happy.

Last year’s grand final was horrible, losing that way to Hawthorn. I remember wanting to turn it off after quarter time and I’ve never been that kind of person. Then just copping it from a lot of friends who are Hawthorn fans. So that’s a game that I wouldn’t want to really ever re-live.

I’ve got two favourite players, either Adam Goodes or Jude Bolton. I just love the way they both play their footy and they’re both great Swans people and I think they play the game right. I think they’ve both been wonderful ambassadors for the game. Currently I’m a big Luke Parker fan and I think he’s destined to win a Brownlow. He’s just one of those people who kind of embodies everything Paul Roos brought to the club in terms of that Bloods culture. I think he’s a phenomenal player and I also think he’ll be a future captain.

I guess before Buddy and Tippett went to Sydney I would probably say we’d want someone like a Nick Riewoldt, a big tall forward. I’d love Luke Hodge to play for us, I think he’d be exceptional and he’s a very good leader but he’s also hard and tough. I think he’d shore up our backline beautifully.

Cheyne coach 2

I’ve kept playing footy myself for a long time because I always loved being around a place where people had a common interest. That’s why I’m still in footy now, even as a coach, is because people love the game and there’s lots of different ways that you can kind of embrace that and put something back. Obviously playing or coaching is one of them, and just supporting clubs as well. But being around people that just love the game is what keeps me going.

I’ve got plenty of good local footy memories. I think one of the best ones is our dad getting a fine for umpire abuse. That was a fantastic memory. But probably the best one is when I remember going to Sydney to watch our brother play football and dad was just absolutely giving it to the umpire all day. Eventually the umpire had to stop the game and came over and said, “Mate you shouldn’t be here” and dad turned around and said, “I’m starting to feel the same way about you”. The whole crowd did the “Ooooooohhhhhhh” and then dad had no hesitation in leaving after that. It was great. It’s probably my favourite local footy memory.

I guess I’ve always enjoyed studying the game and talking to people about why and how things happen, and how to get the best out of people. There’s a lot of things from coaching footy that translate into my normal job, which is teaching. I also enjoy helping people to get better. I think coaching has probably been more fulfilling than just playing to be honest, because you can see tangible results and there’s pressure on you to help others. It’s a selfless pursuit I think, whereas being a player can be a selfish one.

What makes a great coach is honesty, flexibility, drive, energy. I think they’re probably the four things any coach should really aspire to have. There’s a few coaches I really look up to in the AFL. I always enjoy listening to the Scott brothers and the way they analyse the game. They’re pretty refreshing in terms of their honesty and where they think the game’s at or what we need to do to get the game better. I’d really love to be a player under them because I think you’d learn an infinite amount from them.

I think I’ll stay involved in footy for as long as possible. It’s getting to a point now where it’s becoming an all-encompassing job and I’d really love to make a go of coaching to a point where it would become more than just a part-time pursuit. So yeah, I think I’ll be in it for as long as I possibly can because I just love being around footy clubs.

I’m concerned about the state of the game interstate, particularly in Queensland. I think that the product itself is still really strong but I also think the AFL’s push to equalisation hasn’t quite worked. They need to come up with some ways to strengthen footy in other areas. That’s probably something that needs to change. At the moment there’s really strong teams and really weak ones.

I love just how much people invest in the game. Like, there’s so many people who wear their heart on their sleeve and I think it’s a really great way to get people together and bring people together for a common purpose. It’s just a great thing to be a part of.”

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It will be alright with me.

hinkley and ah chee

For the first time in what seemed like months, I was back at my old local – the Palace Hotel in Camberwell. I’d debated whether or not to head down there but eventually guilt won out. If you’re gonna get your heart broken then you may as well watch it happen on the big screen. I missed the start of the first quarter but a quick score check showed Port were about five goals up early.

Ah, the sweet smell of false hope in the brisk August air.

I settled in with a pint of Coke and realised I was pretty much the only one there watching the game. A well dressed man walked in and asked if they were going to show the Bledisloe Cup, then stormed out when staff said no. I breathed a sigh of relief. For a minute there I thought they’d have no compunction in kicking off the game of who could basically care less between two interstate teams no Victorian gives a fuck about. But they didn’t, and I stayed.

There was a lot of heat in the first quarter and a new record for the most 50m penalties given in a quarter was set (six). Players pushed and shoved, drove in hard on tackles and generally just niggled the hell out of each other. There was a lot of words exchanged millimetres from opposition players’ faces. Port finished the first quarter ahead and the tussles continued as the players walked off at quarter time, with even the runners getting involved at one stage.

I’ll make the point now – in a year of atrocious umpiring, this was the worst performance from those grubs that I’ve seen all year. ALL YEAR. Horrendous.

The next two quarters see-sawed – I think Port was often the better team and we played a nice line in getting the ball into our 50m repeatedly, however we just could not get the job done. A lot of sloppy kicking cost us. Alternatively, the Giants just had to make the break out of defence and all of a sudden they seemed to have free men everywhere in their attacking 50. The wrestling and scrapping slowed down as the focus sharpened on actually winning the game, not just the fight. These were two teams that had a fair bit to play for on either side – Port for pride and to rise to coach Hinkley’s challenge to stand up and be counted, the young guns from GWS looking to make their first finals series. Despite Port putting on a couple of handy leads, it was the Giants who went into the three quarter time break two points up.

So many times during that last half I looked at the clock and wondered how long I would have to stay here to be considered a respectable supporter. How long I would have to watch this for before my heart broke apart again. I remember looking at the match clock as the siren went for the fourth and dreading the fact I still had 30 painstaking minutes to go. I’d forgotten how awful seasons like this felt. I imagined that all I was doing was waiting for the disappointment of false hopes to hit again.

Something happened to that Port Adelaide team that walked out on to Adelaide Oval for that final quarter – they actually came to play. And play they did. They were running through the centre in waves with the same ease as last year or even 2013 and actually kicking goals. They were hard at the ball and I swear, their tackling was as intense as ever I’d seen it. I could almost feel their desperation. Chad Wingard stood up with a couple of magic goals and even the much maligned John Butcher got one. But it was the youngster Brendon Ah Chee that seemed most determined to make his presence known. Four years on our list, debuted in the AFL earlier this season – this was his breakout game for sure. Someone commented that he seemed to be made of “both cement and helium” because he laid tackles that drove opponents into the ground like nobody’s business then floated up high for a screamer of a mark. Kicked a pretty bloody handy goal too. (Let’s not even start on how amazing his handballing is.) Hopefully the kid has nothing but big things ahead of him.

I resisted the urge to bite my fingernails off and as we continued to heap on goals with little answer from the Giants, I finally conceded we might grab this one. Even an old bar fly came to chat to me, correctly ascertaining I was a Port fan before telling me he was glad we were knocking GWS out because he supported the Cats and wanted them to make the finals. Thanks mate. I was probably louder than I usually am but this was important for us. Despite everything, despite how incredibly disappointing this season has been in a year where we expected so much, Port showed they can still come up with a gutsy effort when it counts.

We never, ever give up, as they say. Still an important part of what makes us tick.

It’s been the topsiest and turviest of years, both in AFL and life. It’s almost like whatever I least expected has come to pass and things I felt so sure of have been called into question. A mate told me that this week he was expecting a happy post after the game following the unrelenting glumness of the past couple. Let me tell you, on Friday afternoon I wasn’t so sure. It was not a weekend I was looking forward to. But if there’s something I’ve learned recently it’s this: I have a wonderful family, brilliant friends, a job I love and a life I’m happy with. All it took was two hours on a Saturday afternoon to remind me I’ve also got a football team I’m proud of.

The girls.

womens afl 1

womens afl 2

womens afl 3

I absolutely love these photos from today’s AFL Women’s game at Etihad between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. And I love even more that it was shown on TV for the very first time in the game’s history. By all accounts it was a really close and exciting game, with the Dees getting up by four points 6.4 to 5.6 over the Dogs. I was also pretty happy to read a lot of positive support on social media – in a year when fans seem to be ready to tear down anything and everything, it was nice to see them come together to universally applaud this.

The boy from the bush.

merrick

“…Steve Merrick, the coalminer plucked from the bush to become a Wallaby, and when asked to name his price, didn’t have one.”

While this website predominantly chronicles my and my friends’ love of AFL, I’m also a huge rugby union fan. I was absolutely obsessed with the game as a teenager and would spend hours cutting out newspaper clippings to stick into scrapbooks and recording test matches to watch over and over again. I still adore it though thankfully my behaviour has calmed down significantly since then.

I was only thinking the other day about Steve Merrick, an unassuming bloke from the Hunter Valley, who was seemingly picked out of nowhere to play two tests as scrum half for the Wallabies in 1995. It was in that moment right before rugby imploded and turned professional and after just those two tests, he walked away from representative football. It was – and still is – an incredible story.

Earlier tonight I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed a friend had posted the link to an excellent piece by Patrick Skene in The Guardian about Merrick. It’s an amazing read and took me back to my youth, the days of VHS tapes and pocket money spent on newspapers. Rugby is such a beautiful game to watch and no matter how much of my time AFL takes up these days, union always feels like home.

You can read the article on The Guardian website here – even if you’re not a rugby fan, it’s a brilliant story.

“Having missed his first Wallabies training session due to a previous commitment – ‘I had to bring a mate back to Singo’ – a strange thing happened to Merrick after another session he did make it to. He was pulled into a side room to be met by players sitting at a table who wanted to discuss a rebel union competition. They were offering $100,000 to sign as a professional and if it didn’t go ahead he could keep the sign on fee. Easy money.

Merrick, however, burst into laughter.’I can’t believe I’m hearing this,’ he told them, ‘I play footy because I want to play footy. That’s it.'”

 

“It was my most prized possession. I used to carry it around on my person. I’d just whip it out and go, ‘See my photo with Woewy?’ to everyone.”

Kate Millar

There are few people who can deliver a cracking tale like Kate Millar and even better when it’s over a couple of beers. I mean, the girl’s partied with rock stars and even Robbie Williams has a personal nickname for her (in the best possible way). She’s a passionate Melbourne Demons fan, a big V supremacist and possibly the only person who still has Shane Woewodin up on a pedestal. I’m just devastated she couldn’t find the photo of her sitting on his lap. I met Kate when we worked together a few years back and I still maintain she would have been an excellent detective, though that’s definitely a story for another day…

Name: Kate Millar

Age: 29

Recruited from: Essendon

Occupation: City of Melbourne comms ninja

AFL team followed: Melbourne Demons

All time favourite footy moment: 2000 grand final appearance

I go for the Melbourne Demons. I think my first words were “Go Dees” as a toddler. My mum is major Demons, my nanny was major Demons and there is a bit of a joke in my family that both my nanny and my mum converted my Grandpa and Dad to be Melbourne supporters. Both my dad and grandpa said it was just going to be easier that way, because mum and nanny were both such fanatic Dees supporters. So me and my brother are true Dees – we had little choice. I remember when I was a toddler sitting in the car and my parents saying to me “Go Dees! Go Dees!” My parents have a lot to answer for because it’s led to a life of heartbreak.

I’ve gotta say, if I was ever going to stop barracking for Melbourne it would have been in primary school when I went to Essendon Primary School, which was at Windy Hill. About 95 per cent of the kids there went for Essendon and I felt like one of the only people in that entire school that went for the Demons. And there was a fair amount of kids pressuring me, saying things like “Errr why do you go for the Demons? Who goes for the Demons?”. Growing up it felt like, apart from family, I was the only person of my age in the suburb to barrack for the Demons. I can’t explain why I still go for them but if I was strong enough as a 10-year-old to stand against every single kid at Essendon primary and say “No I’m not changing teams” then I’m strong enough to still go for them now. We’d go to footy clinics at Windy Hill with Kevin Sheedy and all the Essendon players and I’d be the only kid in a Demons jumper. My parents got into our minds young and it worked, it definitely worked.

The first time I went to the footy was a sad day. It was Melbourne v West Coast and would have been in probably about 1994, I want to say. I went with my uncle who is a massive Dees supporter. We were sitting really close and it was really exciting. We were a good team back then but we lost dismally. But that’s OK, I was still really excited to be there and I remember it quite vividly. It was the start of something for me.

Going to the football now… So, this is a contentious issue. Growing up, I went to every single home game without fail and I was a gold member. Then come about 2008, things started to go rapidly downhill for the Dees – I was still a member and I might go once or twice or three times a year, but then I dropped off to the point where come 2012 I couldn’t even name half the players in the team. When I say I was a passionate supporter as a kid, I was over the top. Not only did I know all the players, which is normal, but I knew their heights, their date of birth, I knew every stat about them. I was fanatic, absolutely fanatic. So when they lost, I don’t want to say I’m a bad sport, but it cut deep. It cut really deep. Especially watching them lose to Essendon by 100 points. I’m not proud but I did drop off a bit. Now I’m back on board – though this year I haven’t been to a huge amount of games – I think three. I also still havent renewed my membership. I abandoned my gold membership about five years ago but I’m a few years off getting my MCC membership so I’ll hold out. I want to support the club so maybe next year. I should.

I’m a really nervous, anxious, chew my fingernails type of watcher. I don’t like close games. Sometimes I feel like I’d prefer to lose a game by 50 points than two points, because I get so anxious. If it’s really close and we’re behind then I have to distract myself and just get on Twitter and look at Titus O’Reily to make myself feel better. I’m like, you know what, this will play out the way it needs to play out but I don’t need to be engaged in this right now because I’m too anxious. But I’ve gotta say this year, even if it’s a close game, I still get excited even if we lose. I go into the game thinking we’re gonna lose and so if it’s really close, that’s a good thing – though, don’t get me wrong, when we lost to St Kilda with 19 seconds to go there was a tear that came out of my eye. But for the Dees to play a really competitive game, that’s exciting because Melbourne haven’t been that team for eight years. Eight years. That’s eight years of my adult life, I was 21 the last time Melbourne were even competitive. So for the first time in eight years we’re competitive and I’m excited.

I don’t have any superstitions now but I used to when I was young. Not religiously, and it would really depend on the game, but if I was doing something at that time like eating a jam doughnut and we hit the lead, I’d be like bring me six jam doughnuts and I’ll continue to eat jam doughnuts. So superstitious in that sense. If I turned on the TV at quarter time and we started losing, I’ll turn off the TV. I’ll follow it on the app because I’m a bad omen. But I’ve gotta say, this year the games that I’ve been to at the ground, we’ve won. So perhaps I’m a good omen.

Best footy memory is easy. Got this one easy. So I’m gonna break it down to a year – 2000. Which is an obvious one for a Melbourne supporter and everyone will say, “Oh 2000, Melbourne made the Grand Final, oh so great, whatever”. 2000 for me was epic times. In about 1998 I developed an unhealthy obsession with Shane Woewodin. Prior to that I had my woollen jumper with an iron on number three on the back for Gary Lyon. I was at a game, maybe a year or two after Gary had retired, and Shane Woewodin caught my eye. I was about 12 years old, I was starting to get feelings I didn’t really understand, and I couldn’t get enough of this Shane Woewodin. He did something spectacular during that game and that was it, I took off my jumper and I started trying to rip off the number three to replace it with 22. Ripping off an iron on number on a woolen jumper is not as easy as it sounds, so I made a real mess. I still have the jumper but it’s tattered with a ripped number three on the back. So I went out and I bought a new jumper and I got 22 stitched on the back. I was really excited about this and I was going to the games every week. Then in 2000, in my memory it was beyond the odds, we made it to the Grand Final. I remember the prelim and the semi where we beat Carlton and North Melbourne (I think) and I remember the feeling. “Holy shit we’ve made it to the grand final”. That year Essendon was on the top and the only team that defeated them that year was the Dogs (I think). Yet we had made it to the grand final and I was the happiest. But getting into the grand final was only half as happy as I was that Monday night before the game when the Brownlow was on. I was watching on a little TV that we had in the spare room. I was in high school at that time and mum used to be pretty strict with watching TV and going to bed early and doing homework, so my brother and I used to secretly watch from the spare room. Shane Woewodin was the dark horse, total outsider, but yet he was slowly creeping up in points, and I’m knowing the stats and I’m knowing the games late in the season, so I’m thinking Woewy is an absolute chance here, he’s an absolute chance. Then when he won – I can’t remember if I cried but in my head I did – I was the happiest, happiest person. On my jumper I had about 10 player badges, remember how you’d get the badges? I removed every single badge except Woewy and I wore it right in the centre. I was just so happy. I went to school the next day wearing my jumper – I went to a private school, so I had on my footy jumper and my footy scarf with my uniform. That week I also went to the Herald Sun building to buy a photo of Woewy holding up the Brownlow. The original photo – I had to have it. I just could not have been a happier person that week. It ended pretty suddenly on the Saturday though, when we lost the grand final by an amount that my brain has repressed.

Woewy was an unhealthy obsession for me. I used to go to go to family days at Melbourne – actually, even worse than that I used to go to training at Junction Oval.  I was “Woewy Woewy Woewy” all the time. I went to this family day and you could line up for a photo with Woewy. It was a weird set up, although I didn’t think it was weird at the time, where you sat on Woewy to get the photo and they’d print it out and put it in a card for you. It was my most prized possession. I used to carry it around on my person. I’d just whip it out and go, “See my photo with Woewy?” to everyone. Then when he won the Brownlow, on the opening page of the card I put the Herald Sun photo that I’d purchased. I used to go to training and every time Woewy would come past I’d ask him to sign this or that. I got every single player to sign my jumper but I’d put my hand over the centre of my jumper and say, “You can’t sign the point because that’s reserved for Woewy”. You’d get weird looks, whatever, I didn’t care.  I remember asking Wowey to sign the photo of me sitting on his lap and then I went back 5 minutes later and got him to sign the Brownlow photo I’d purchased. I’ll never forget the weird look he gave me when I did that because he’d seen that he’d already signed the photo of me sitting on his lap, but now I was asking him to sign something else. I didn’t care. We were destined to be together. I still remember doing the maths in my head thinking he’s nine years older than me, so the age gap is not that big, this can happen. Woewy was my guy.

I feel like I need to explain though how that came to an end. I woke up one morning and my mum actually came into my room, I think I was about 16. She said, “I need to tell you something” and she told me Woewy was going to Collingwood. I was so upset, and so mad that I called up the Melbourne Football Club. And when I say I called up the Melbourne Football Club, it wasn’t the first time I’d called them. And when I say called “them”, I mean I called the receptionist who’s name I think was Gail. I feel like Gail knew me as well – “So is there any training tonight, Gail?” So I called up and I said, “Gail what is happening, this cannot happen!” She was like, “I have no comment to make”. It was a year after Woewy had won his Brownlow, I didn’t know what was happening, I was genuinely devastated. So to express my devastation, I made a cassette tape about Woewy’s time at Melbourne. I had a CD called ‘My Heart Beats True’ and it had all of these different versions of the Melbourne theme song. The opening track had a selection of players talking about their experiences at the club. I’d listened to it a million times because Woewy talks on it –  at the end of the track he says “I’ve started my career here and I want to finish my career here, finish my career here, finish my career here…” in an echo. So I made this cassette tape where I went through that CD and I just hit pause and record on all of Woewy’s clips talking about the Melbourne Football Club and how much he loves it. It was a Woewy compilation. Then I wrote this really heartfelt letter saying that Woewy doesn’t want to leave I can’t believe that you’re doing this, I’ve attached this tape, and you need to reconsider because listen to him, he’s clearly said that he started his career here and wants to finish his career here. I wish I had a copy of this but I don’t. I never got any kind of reply. It had a cassette attached to it! Right? It was heartbreaking. I was genuinely, genuinely shattered. After that I had to call my relationship with Woewy quits because I couldn’t love him anymore. So I don’t. Well I do.

My favourite player these days depends on the day. Bernie Vince is the obvious – he is arguably the new age Woewy. He is a stunning individual. He’s also extremely talented. Jesse Hogan is extremely exciting for me; he’s so young and so big and so strong and I just feel like Jesse Hogan is going to be the new David Neitz, right. We haven’t seen a strong forward since David Neitz and Jesse Hogan is the light at the end of the tunnel. He’s already strong but he’s only going to get stronger. So I’d have to say that Hoges is probably my favourite.

I am a big Watts fan. I think that Watts has been really hard done by – when Paul Roos says that the AFL set the number one draft picks up to fail, I completely agree with that. He has been targeted by everyone, even Dees supporters. Dees supporters can’t be all that proud of themselves over recent years because there was a time when they were booing their players off the race. Watts came in at a time when we were a really shit team and sure, he’s had bad moments but that’s not a reason to boo a player. You know what, he’s not the first number one draft pick that we’ve had who hasn’t been a legend. Travis Johnstone was a number one draft pick and he played in our premiership side so he wasn’t a bad player, but he wasn’t a superstar. If anyone was ever going to get holding the ball it was always Travis Johnstone. Jack Watts is the same. But I’m a fan of Watts and I root for him if he’s going for goal.

I don’t hate any team, but Fremantle are very irrelevant to me. I remember when they came into the league and I was thinking, “oh that’s cute”. Cool, we’ll get these purple guys in and even out the ladder, there’s going to be eight on top and eight on the bottom so cool, OK, whatever. I don’t know many Freo supporters but I can’t help but feel they have a pack mentality. They feel like they’re part of an untouchable army – they live on the other side of the country where 50 per cent of footy fans will barrack for Fremantle. Unless they’re playing West Coast, they dominate the crowd at home games, are surrounded by their own and carry on like they are at the FIFA World Cup. In Victoria, originally geographically everyone stuck to the pack but now it’s so fluid. My friends all barrack for different teams, we sit next to supporters wearing any colours at games. The Purple Army shout loud in Perth but it’s a stark contrast when they go to a game at the MCG, the only way they’re going to be surrounded by other Freo supporters is if they happen to walk into the urinal at a particular time when there are two other Dockers supporters on either side of them. Or when the five of them car pool to the footy together. They come from a different perspective of supporting footy than I do. They live in a pack. And they hate, hate, West Coast. Like, broaden your horizons. This isnt WAFL. I’m perhaps being unreasonably bitter the top two ladder positions are from WA, but if it’s a Fremantle v West Coast grand final this year it will be an irrelevant grand final for me.

I can’t really explain where the love of footy comes from. The other weekend I watched Melbourne beat Collingwood and that was great in itself because it’s Collingwood – everyone hates Collingwood. But the great thing was that there was some really good team play going on. The feeling that I get when I watch Melbourne, and I’ve lived basically my whole life watching Melbourne by myself unless I’m with my family, but you can’t match that feeling where your team is doing so well. Even if they’re not winning, it’s great ball play and they’re showing great skills and when they finish that game and they all come together, there’s just nothing like it.  It just puts you in the best mood. It’s beautiful. Go Dees.

 

20 Questions.

port v dogs

It seems every week has to end with a dust up at the moment, no matter how good or bad the lead up is. This one was a cracker; raised voices outside a hotel in Brunswick after 12 hours spent in the company of each other and a never ending stream of beers and ciders. To be honest I’m not even sure where it came from. A comment that escalated after I couldn’t provide an answer and suddenly he’s storming off into a taxi leaving me standing on the side of the road wondering what the hell just happened.

“I hate people,” I told him, several times, “they are the absolute worst”. He questioned why and asked me what had specifically happened to me. At least I think that’s how it started, everything is fuzzy at that point. I told him I’ve watched from the sidelines a parade of the worst of human nature for the past nine years but the answer wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t give an example specific to me and if I’m being honest, there really isn’t one. There’s never been something so traumatic in my life that someone has done to me that I’ve been absolutely shattered. Not to say there hasn’t been awful things happen but I couldn’t pinpoint a specific tragedy that lead to my sweeping statement about human nature.

I think I stuck my tongue out at him at one point in a poorly chosen attempt at levity but it didn’t work.

Earlier he had suggested I was “hard to get to know” and I was horrified. He later described it as “distressed”. I told him, in an early afternoon phone call designed to smooth things over and ensure the friendship was repaired, that I thought there was an element of truth in his statement and that’s probably why I reacted the way I did. He also said I asked a lot of questions and he’s never really had someone do that. I wish I had of asked if that was a bad thing.

It’s disconcerting to have someone you’ve known for such a relatively short period of time nail some aspect of your personality that you hadn’t really considered. It’s equally disconcerting to repeatedly hear them give opinions on things and think, “fuck, that’s exactly what I think”.

I don’t think he hates people though.

I wouldn’t suggest I hated them but there wasn’t a lot to love about Port Adelaide yesterday. We’d beaten the Bulldogs earlier in the year but were nowhere near favourites to repeat it in the second half of the draw. It was a small crowd at Etihad and I barely saw any of my people there as we walked into the stadium. Possibly not the best of omens, especially given were a team that could ‘technically’ still make the finals.

All up we were woeful. Coach Ken Hinkley later described it as their worst ever loss in his time at the club, not because of the score line but due to the fact we didn’t bother to show up to play. For a proud club whose motto is “we never ever give up” it cut pretty deep.

We gave up. No two ways about it.

I watched the game from high on the third level with my friend, berating him for clapping the Bulldogs goals. Traitor. As it wore on I realised that as much as I might want to leave I would need to stay and suffer through all of this or I would never hear the end of it. I think I’ll file it away for the next time we’re successful – I will be able to sit there and say I was there the day we gave up against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad. I can talk about how much it hurt and how good it feels now those days are behind us.

Later on in the night we had a discussion about whether it’s worse to have a fantastic season and just miss out at finals or whether losing all year is harder. Having lived through both Port Adelaide eras now I’d say the latter is harder, by far. So I’m going to fold this season up and put it in my back pocket and pull it out occasionally during those good times for some perspective. Because I know those good times are coming, they have to be.

There’s been a lot to think about today. Do I really hate people? In an exceptionally broad sense I find them frustrating and disappointing and awful at times but perhaps I can concede I’m overstating things when I say “hate”. Am I hard to get to know? I’m very good at banter and humour but I struggle with talking about personal things. I feel like if I tell someone something then I give away a little piece of myself that I can’t get back. It’s easier not to be exposed.

This afternoon I got a message from a mate asking if I as thirsty because they were heading to a pub in Fitzroy. I replied, saying I was hungover as fuck but I could do with a Coke and the company. So I went and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. We had a brilliant time, telling stories and laughing until I could barely breathe. They had a girl there with them that he grew up with and we hit it off superbly immediately – it was like we should have been friends for years and years. I thought again about the concept of being “hard to get to know” and how you can feel an immediate kinship with someone you have only just met. Imagine missing out on all these good people for no good reason. I’ve always considered myself to be an optimist but perhaps it was time to get back to walking the talk.

I asked him last night how we had known each other for so long but had only recently become friends. Then I told him that our friendship made me think it was nice to know there are still good people out in the world, even if you haven’t met them yet.

Maybe people aren’t all bad. And maybe some things are worth the risk and the effort. “We never ever give up” as they say.

Something for Port Adelaide to think about too.

Everything shines just like a postcard.

matt white

Some weeks are just the worst. Nothing goes right, from the second they start until the moment you shove them out the door on a Sunday night. This week has been one of those for me.

It actually started on a Saturday, with the news my brother had been involved in a serious collision. The horror and shock of it all took a few days to settle in; it just didn’t feel quite real on that cold Saturday night. Sunday went past in a blur given I had a series of existing commitments to keep me occupied and by the time Monday afternoon arrived, I was feeling it. I begged off work and used some flex time on Tuesday to have a day off, a day where I drove to the beach in Torquay and did nothing but think, walk and eat caramel slice. It was the best kind of day to have when you’re worried and I thought it would see me through.

Wrong.

The end of the week bought an incredibly emotionally trying job at work and involved me making some decisions I still haven’t reconciled myself to. It’s funny, the rational side of my brain knows I had no other option and placed in the same position again I would make exactly the same choice. But it doesn’t mean I feel comfortable about it, no matter how much I turn it over and over and over in my mind. I wish it would have been different.

It was a full moon this week and what they say is absolutely true – it always brings out the worst in human nature.

Friday brought an awkward series of moments with a friend. Things could barely get any worse and honestly, the only thing that was holding me together was running it off every night. Music playing through my headphones as I cut laps on dark deserted streets, past mansions lit up to illustrate lives I would never have.

“Feel it coming in the air / Hear the screams from everywhere / I’m addicted to the thrill / It’s a dangerous love affair / Can’t be scared when it goes down / Got a problem tell me now / Only thing that’s on my mind / Is who’s gonna run this town tonight…”

Football was something to both look forward to and dread this week. It would be something of a distraction of course, but the way Port Adelaide’s season was going meant this could end very, very badly. The Tigers got up over Hawthorn on Friday night in something of an upset. Melbourne beat Collingwood. The Gold Coast drew with West Coast. Jesus. This could go either way.

On Saturday my brother was discharged from hospital and suddenly everyone knew what had happened after he posted details on Facebook. I’d been very quiet, telling only three people, because despite everyone’s best intentions I knew I wouldn’t want to talk about it over and over. I’ll deal with it in my own way, thanks.

And yet it was a couple of small moments of kindness from a few people that got me through mostly. A message or a call or a hug when I least expected it and most needed it.

I worked all weekend and made plans to watch the Port Adelaide v St Kilda game from the comfort of my desk. What a treat that would be for my colleagues. I turned it on at 1.10pm and prepared for the worst. I cannot say that I expected a 63-point win but it was grubby and sloppy. At times we showed flashes of the real Power but then we’d stuff it up by overcooking handballs or some incredibly poor kicking. The skills level across both sides was mediocre for much of the game and despite that hefty scoreline, it felt painful to watch at times.

Ollie Wines dislocated a shoulder. Chad kicked a couple. Robbie Gray turned on an absolute belter. Boaky had another brilliant captain’s game. I loved seeing Matty White back in the side.

It’s nice to still be on the winner’s list, though this season has been hopeless and hope less at times.

Of course, my perfect week had to end with a stand up row on Sunday afternoon. Voices were raised. It was an argument where I knew I was right but I wouldn’t win, and yet I had it anyway knowing how futile it would be. Excellent. It was really all I needed to finish up.

As I was getting ready to leave he said to me, “You’ve really worked on your tact.” My eyebrows shot up. “Really?”, I questioned. “No,” he replied and shook his head with a half smile.

I walked out, ready to run the week behind me and make a fresh start. Thank God I’ll never have to live this one again.