Friends

“You were up in the stands, you were packed in, there wasn’t a seat spare… and I just remember it being the best atmosphere of any football match I have ever been to in my entire life.”

When you become friends with people as an adult and find out about their passion for football, you often miss out on the best parts. Because you get the mature, refined, sedate version of a fan, not the wild unchecked passion of someone’s teenage years where they treated players like modern gods or pin up idols. So it wasn’t until recently that I came to know the full extent of Janae Houghton’s misspent youth. Over beers in Canberra a few weeks ago I learned the full extent of her Collingwood obsession… and it only went downhill from there. When she told me she’d actually written a song about Tony Modra, it sealed the deal and I knew I had to find out not only what she thought about football, but everything about her days as a young football tragic.

Name: Janae Houghton

Recruited from: First the south east suburbs, then the western suburbs of Melbourne

Occupation: Journo turned comms guru

AFL team followed: Collingwood Magpies

All time favourite footy moment: The first ANZAC Day match, Collingwood grand final wins

“I go for the Magpies. The whole rest of my family are Essendon – dad and two brothers, all Essendon. But my pop was Collingwood and used to have this little Collingwood doll, so as a girl he told me that if I swapped, the doll was mine. And I went for Collingwood from there, much to the disdain of the rest of my family. Dad did not respond well. I wasn’t allowed to go to Collingwood’s games, nothing like that, he’d only take us to Essendon. Dad hated Collingwood with a passion.

Probably one of my earliest memories of footy is my older brother playing in the junior footy on the MCG, same as they do now, and I asked dad if I could do it. He said nah nah nah, girls aren’t allowed to play footy – I get there and there were other girls playing, and dad was like, I just thought you were too little and didn’t want you to get hurt. So I missed my one chance to play on the MCG.

The main rivalry in our family has been Collingwood/Essendon, that was massive. My dad has since passed away after he got really sick with cancer. One of my lasting memories of dad is that we always watched the Collingwood v Essendon ANZAC Day match together, and I remember towards the end, maybe a couple of months before he died, Collingwood and Essendon had played. I’d gone there and sat through the first half but he was really unwell and I’d left him because he’d fallen asleep. I’d just gotten home when the siren went and I got a phone call – all he said was “Go Dons” and hung up. It was just one of those ones that I remember, as I said it was the last one he did for me. Smartarse right til the end. Those kind of rivalries live in your family and that’s what footy is to us, I guess.

First time ever at the footy was Collingwood v Essendon, I do remember it. Back at Waverley, definitely at Waverley. So I do remember that.

Going along to the footy with my dad and my brothers is a great memory of footy for me. Being at Waverley too, it was so different to the MCG. It was freezing cold, it was almost like the local football because back in those days you could go on the ground afterwards. And like I said, you’d get there two hours early and you could go up to all the players – that wouldn’t happen now. We had some great chats. Lou Richards we met, and Dipper… so it was back in those kind of days where they would stop and chat to you for 15 minutes. It wasn’t like the gods they are made out to be today. They were really great. Mum and dad would drop us in and you’d be allowed to wait there for a couple of hours on your own – you’d never do that now. But those days are some of my best memories around footy and it’s what I think of now when I think of footy.

We used to go and watch Collingwood train at Victoria Park as well. The access you had to the players back then was amazing – and I know this is 15, 20 years ago now. But you’d go to training and it was just part of what they did, they’d stop and talk to the crowd, take photos and you’d be kicking on the ground next to them. There was none of this sectioning off or whatever. So that was always great, I used to love it. We’d go once every couple of months or so. I had some friends who barracked for Collingwood and their dad would take us down because my dad wouldn’t, he wasn’t going near the Collingwood ground!

At the footy – I’m psycho. Psycho. Want my team to win, yelling out BALL constantly. My partner hates going to the footy with me, we go to Collingwood v Richmond and he hates it. I can’t see outside of Collingwood. I’ll scream, swear, all of that stuff. I’m a genuine Collingwood fan, happy to sit with the club supporters.

Back in the day I was full kit. Scarf, socks, jumper, probably didn’t quite go the shorts, be more your black jeans but I had my Collingwood socks on underneath. I had ribbons, I had badges, the duffle coat. I do love a good duffle coat. Now I probably just wear the scarf and I don’t know if my jumper still fits to be honest, been a while since I’ve pulled it on… I don’t have any superstitions though.

I hate Carlton. With a passion. Typical Collingwood fan. And West Coast – when I grew up my best friend barracked for West Coast, she was from WA and they were always, “oh the weather’s shit here”. It was when West Coast was really good too and they were winning; they were so arrogant about their weather and their football team. We used to think, go back if you hate it here! Even now, whenever I hear about them I always think, bloody West Coast.

I’ve never been to the grand final but the game that probably sticks out most for me was the first ANZAC Day one where they shoved in 101,000 people. And was it a draw or did they win by a point? It would be about ’95, back when you could still get in cheap. I think we were 14 but said we were 10 and got in for $1.70 or whatever it was. You couldn’t pre purchase the tickets back then. They squashed them in, I reckon there was 101,000 people in there that day. I reckon it was a draw, now that I think about it. You were up in the stands, you were packed in, there wasn’t a seat spare – usually when you look across the MCC you see they aren’t all there but nah, not this day – and I just remember it being the best atmosphere of any football match I have ever been to in my entire life. It was amazing. And I was there with all Collingwood and Essendon supporters and we were all on the edge of our seats. So that game really stands out for me, the atmosphere was second to none. (Google tells me it was indeed a draw that day.)

I’m not a member now and I’m probably not as strongly into my footy now as what I was. My partner’s Richmond and my two boys are Richmond, so our household’s a bit more about that. But I was massively into it in my teens. Went every week but that was also when I discovered boys. I’d go and watch Adelaide because I loved Tony Modra, I’d go and watch Richmond because we loved Matty Richardson, loved Nick Daffy, all those players back then. We’d go and see Hawthorn because one of my best friends barracked for Hawthorn, West Coast because another of my best friends barracked for them and because Ben Cousins back in the day. That’s when he was still young and good. Hawthorn for Shane Crawford, Essendon for Gavin Wanganeen, I shouldn’t admit to Wayne Carey but that was before he was known for his domestic violence. I went to the footy heaps in those days. We lived in Doveton, which was 15 minutes from Waverley, so we’d be there two hours before the game out the back of Waverley. The players just sort of walked in through the members so we’d be there ready to meet them all beforehand, dressed in our jeans and t-shirts and scarves and boofy hair.

I also worked at a shop in Dandenong called Sports Trivia which was run by a former Richmond player, Gary Frangalis his name was. We used to have players come there all the time as well. I used to collect scrapbooks of all the players – Gavin Wanganeen was there once and he asked me to send him the scrapbook. I didn’t, I probably should have, but he’d signed it and stuff.

Back in the day my favourite players were Modra and Cousins. I’m devastated about what’s happened to Cousins. Of all time, my favourite player would have to be Dane Swan. Those two were my favourites back then but Dane was something else, he always added a little something. He kept most Collingwood supporters interested in a time when we were pretty crap.

It’s time to go Nathan Buckley, I think. It’s sad because I absolutely loved Bucks as a player but it’s just not happening. I also think it’s sad that’s it’s going to taint him as well. He’s gone from this club legend to where we are at now. Look at Hird. And my brother, my older brother, to this day is devastated about what happened and still won’t really have a bad word against James Hird. I remember him in maybe the 1995 grand final? Maybe 1993? He played that every week and it was just Hird, Hird, Hird in our family. Everyone loved him. It was sad his downfall, it was absolutely terrible. His own fault – possibly. But to go from being the most loved person at that club to potentially the person you don’t ever mention is awful. Even I loved him and I still struggle to associate him with that bad of things. No one wanted to see him try and take his own life either. It’s that same with Buckley – not that I think he’s going to end up that way – but I don’t want him to be remembered as a shit coach when he was such a brilliant player.

One of my favourite footy memories would have to be meeting Modra. I just remember – was I 14? Maybe, would have been about 14 – and me and my friends just idolised this guy. We went to all the games, cut out the pictures, any time he was on TV we taped it… We’d built him up as this sort of god or whatever. Somehow through the footy stuff we did we met this guy – and it sounds so weird now, if my mum knew it all she’d probably kill us – we’d met this older bloke, which sounds awful. It was just through a love of the Adelaide Crows as well. I remember he’d got our phone number and him ringing our home. Mum was like, “who the eff is this old bloke?” He said, “No, I can get the girls in to meet Tony Modra” and even mum was a bit suspicious. Can you imagine that happening now? You’d be ringing the cops, it just wouldn’t happen. Or put a Facebook post up and ring the cops saying this old bloke is ringing my daughter. But he said to mum, “No no no, I promise you I can get the girls in to meet Tony” and all this. I have an older brother so mum said if he took me, I was allowed to go. So yep, right, that was fine. We toddled off and they were at some hotel in the city they always went to so we went down there. It was just at the time when he shaved his head. Remember that? It was towards the end of his Godra days. I was there and my heart was pumping and it was such a let down. He was so effing rude. He just sort of did a photo and gave a grin and that was it. He didn’t stop and give you any of his time, though most of the other Adelaide players did. Do you remember Wayne Weiderman? Big ugly bloke and he was lovely. He stood and chatted to us because we were just these teenagers who loved footy. But Tony, who obviously got chicks chucking themselves at him all the time – and we were not the coolest chicks he was going to pick up, not by any stretch – he didn’t even stand up, he just kind of let us stand next to him and have this photo. So it was a really disappointing moment. I remember being so excited and then being “oh”. So that was a bit of a let down.

We did send Tony a copy of a song we wrote for him through some Adelaide people we knew but never sang it to him. Never got a response though!

I’m not into footy as much now, but you sit down and watch it – my partner Ben watches every game of footy in our house – and the minute you do it just takes you back and you absolutely love it. It’s so Melbourne. I love grand final week. We take the boys in now and we do the parade and go to all that stuff. People are so happy about the footy. I was thinking about it a lot last year because the Western Bulldogs got in obviously – I didn’t grow up in the western suburbs but live there now. I’ve never seen the western suburbs so happy. Before the grand final we ran into a couple of blokes that Ben plays footy with and I was saying, “You know, it’s so great to see everyone so happy and I don’t even think people will care if they lose, they’ll still be happy.” This guy was like, “they will fucking rip this place apart if they lose. There will be the burning of cars.” This was just before the grand final and I was like, “oh ok, let’s just hope the Bulldogs win then, shall we?” We even went along to the Western Oval for the day last year and it was just amazing, the passion people had. Ben took the boys to the Bulldogs training in the lead up as well and my youngest little boy, Jesse, had fallen over in the mud. And Ben was standing there thinking, oh shit what am I going to do with him, and then he feels a tap on the shoulder. This bloke goes, “oh g’day, I’m Peter Gordon,” and Ben’s like “oh, hi.” Peter said, “I’ve just seen your little boy fall over in the mud so I’m just going to take you into the shop and get some new clothes for him.” Ben told him not to worry about it because we just live up the road and Peter said, “no, I’m not sending him home like that.” Ben said we don’t even barrack for the Bulldogs, we’d feel awful. Peter just said he wasn’t sending a little boy home like that and walked him into the shop, $100 worth of Bulldogs gear and got him changed so he wouldn’t go home muddy. It’s that kind of thing that makes footy so great. Especially with a club like the Western Bulldogs – I mean, come on, Eddie McGuire’s probably not going to do that, is he? They’re a real community club. At Collingwood we would have just gone in and stolen the stuff… Ben was blown away and he’s a staunch, one-eyed Richmond supporter. It’s that thing about Melbourne, you belong somewhere and you feel passionate about something, it’s all of those things that makes me really love it. I still do.

My oldest Archie isn’t into footy as much but loves the Tigers and his favourite player is Dusty Martyn. Jesse’s never without a footy – he’s only two but he’s always walking around with it under his arm. He’ll toddle off each week with Ben to the local footy as well. Ben’s hoping in the next year or so they both get into it a bit more so he can take them to the AFL. Archie’s been to a game but he got a bit bored halfway through. He’s only five so that’s to be expected. But Ben is really looking forward to taking them and I can’t wait to go to Collingwood v Richmond with them. They usually only want to know when the Tigers win though so explaining to two little Richmond fans when their team loses by less than a goal, like they have plenty of times this year, is interesting. My brother’s kids are all Essendon with him and they’re fanatical, they go to all the games. His little boy is nearly seven but he had to try and keep all the stuff from him that was going on with Essendon, because how do you explain to a then-five year old what’s happened? They’re his heroes and he loves them. I guess that’s another part of footy too, these blokes aren’t just anyone, they’re someone’s heroes. His bedroom has got the big cut outs of the players all over the place and stuff.

We’ve done Auskick a bit and look, can’t force them into it but Ben and I would really love them to. You can go down the path of drugs and things like that but I’ve always seen my brothers involved in footy and that team environment and it’s somewhere to belong and do the right thing; they’re not just floating. So I like the idea of them being involved in that type of environment as well. I really hope that they do play.

The AFL does a good job of keeping this thing called footy alive in Melbourne and I think that’s really important. Remember for a while we thought Hawthorn and Melbourne were going to fold? I know part of that was the AFL stuff but I’m glad we’ve kept those teams. We’ve seen the game integrate into other states and it’s great that it’s promoted outside but it’s not quite the same. Keeping footy alive in Melbourne is important.”

Sing this to the tune of I need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler:

Isn’t there a football player who can steal my heart away?
I stayed at home on a Saturday
And I found him on the replay

His name is MODRA
Anthony Modra is the one that we love
He’s gotta be strong
And he is gotta be blonde
And I think he was sent from above.

I need a hero,
I’m holding out for a hero to the end of the game
He took the best mark
And he kicked the best goal
And I think he was sent from above…

REPEAT

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“You can’t really compare anything to the joy you get out of footy.”

There is little to no doubt that anyone who has ever worked with Luke Zammit – like I do – would describe him as one of the nicest blokes you would ever meet. Since getting a foot in the door as an intern, he’s managed to secure a full time spot on the playing list thanks to demonstrating his capacity for hard work, sense of humour and ability to throw a chicken nugget into a waiting mouth from 20 metres. Luke’s an all round top bloke and you know when you walk in for a weekend shift with him there’ll be no complaints about leaving the TV on Fox Footy for the next eight hours. As a Tigers fan he’s well and truly been conditioned for disappointment but their last minute narrow losses have been a severe test of character for even the most die hard Richmond fan this season. And while Richmond have long been the team we love to make fun of, there’s one thing that makes all opposition supporters happy to see them get up – that cracking song. Here’s what Luke thinks about footy, ninth jokes and, of course, YELLOW AND BLACK!

Name: Luke Zammit

Recruited from: North west suburbs of Melbourne

Occupation: Gun intern turned media officer

AFL team followed: Richmond Tigers

All time favourite footy moment: Any Richmond win

I am a Tigers supporter. My dad goes for Richmond – no one else in my family does and his parents didn’t either, he just picked it randomly because he likes Tigers and now I’m suffering the consequences. When I was about five or six, I was sort of 50/50 at one point because I was being dragged towards Carlton by the rest of the family, which wouldn’t have been a much better result for me anyway. But I’ve ended up going with Richmond because basically my older brother said, “Look mate, dad needs someone to go for Richmond and it’s not going to be me.” So I’ve ended up being a Tigers supporter.

I think the joy with Richmond comes in the fact that they’re so underachieving that even the little wins mean a lot to us. I remember when I was growing up we’d only win maybe three or four games a season so you’d be absolutely rapt to be second bottom of the ladder. Even getting close to making finals or just being on the fringes of being a successful team or beating a top side, I think I get a lot more enjoyment out of it than perhaps supporters who actually get used to that sort of thing. I can’t really imagine what it will be like if we do achieve something real like winning a final or making a grand final or anything, what that level of joy would be, because the bar has been set so low.

I’ve heard too many ninth jokes. Way too many. Richmond give people so much material, literally every week we come up with another way to cause the criticism and jokes to come our way and people stick to the ninth thing. I don’t think we’ve finished ninth since 2008 and I’m pretty sure North have finished ninth twice since then. We haven’t made prelims like them though. I’m open to criticism and I’m open to copping it as a Richmond supporter but the ninth thing is very uncreative.

I love so much about footy. I play it and I understand it and I really watch for things that other people probably don’t. I’m looking at tactics, looking at a decision a player makes to go 15m inboard or gives a handpass out the back. I just look at everything and I appreciate every part of it. But I think what really makes me love sport in general or love the footy is the history behind it. I always think back to history whenever I think of the team and what they’ve achieved. I’m constantly thinking about that. I spent so many nights as a young kid up late on Wikipedia or Google just looking at the 1963 AFL season or something stupid – who won the best and fairest for South Melbourne in 1955, just everything. I think because I’ve looked into it so deeply and have this appreciation for everything that is going on and has gone on before, I really do appreciate what’s happening in the current seasons. I think about the whole thing in context.

I have an uncanny ability to remember scores. I don’t if it’s come up from sitting at my computer watching live scores – the numbers are probably ingrained in my mind by now. It’s a bit scary how much footy means to me and every little game, every little win we’ve had, I genuinely remember. Especially these past few years, Richmond have been middle of the road and so every game’s important, it’s not like you’re too high on the ladder to worry about losses or too low on the ladder to care about them. I watch every game intently and for some reason scores just stick. I’ve always been pretty good with numbers but I’ll remember little things like oh, that was the day Vickery kicked three… that was once maybe. Little things just tend to stick with footy. I could forget what I had for dinner last night but I won’t forget that at three quarter time this player stood up to get us over the line in a game at the end.

I have this weird memory… a few years ago I was thinking that I had this memory of being at a Melbourne game when I was really, really young, I reckon I would have been about three. I thought this must be a fake memory or something I’d been told about, I don’t know. But I went and asked my dad and said I remember being at a Richmond v Melbourne game and my memory is that the siren goes and we walk off really disappointed, like shattered. Dad was like, yeah you would have been about three and it was 1997 with Richmond sitting fifth on the ladder at the time. All we had to do – we could afford to lose to Melbourne and we still would have slipped into the eight but if we beat them, we would have probably climbed up into the top four. So we didn’t go there with any kind of idea that we were actually going to slip out of the eight that day but we got smashed and we ended up finishing ninth. So that probably doesn’t help my cause with the ninth jokes but that was my first Richmond memory and it really set the tone for another 15 years of pretty much that.

I was actually at Richmond’s biggest ever comeback win. We were 52 points down against Hawthorn, it’s not very Richmond-like to come back from behind. We find it hard enough when we’ve got a six goal lead. We were at the footy with one of my dad’s best mates at the time and he went for Hawthorn; everyone loves a win over Hawthorn at the best of times but to come back from 52 points down… We ended up winning by three or four goals. That one sticks in there as one of the best games ever.

I’m not superstitious but I have my own routines for dealing with the stress of games. My dad is superstitious – he thinks they’re bad because of him and if he watches the games then they’ll lose. I think he must be in a category with a whole bunch of Richmond supporters because we lose a lot and there’s a lot of supporters out there who think they’re the curse. A few years ago I was really finding it hard to deal with the stress of Richmond going from like, the four wins to the nine-ten wins category and being on the fringe of the eight, it was a bit too much for me. So what I used to do was actually watch the scores on the AFL Live update rather than watch the game or listen to the radio. And I don’t mean like check in, like normal people would, I would literally just watch the screen and watch the scores for two and a half hours because that was the only way I could deal with it. It was just numbers. But then even that got too much sometimes so I would cover the scores and just look at the inside 50 count because then if we got an inside 50, I’d check our score. It’s pretty much next level, yeah.

I am a Richmond member and I do it to support the club. I’ve been playing footy for about the same time I’ve been a Richmond member and often I couldn’t get to the games. This year I’ve been able to get to a lot more games because I haven’t been playing footy. I still don’t think I get my money’s worth out of it, even if I was going to every game because Richmond really aren’t paying back the faith. But I do it as a way of hoping it will help the club in some small way.

I’m a weird type of fan. I’m not your conventional football supporter; I don’t fit into the sitting there quietly or sitting there enjoying the game category, I don’t fit into the just absolutely crazy nutbag supporter category either. I’m more – instead of actually supporting Richmond, which is what most supporters would do, I tend to just give crap to the other team. I’ll come up with a way to just really grill every player over any individual thing. I’ll come up with something I’ll never even realise I’ve thought about a player before… They’ll be a player I like from the opposition club and I’ll still find a way. Like, they could miss a handball target or something tiny or I’ll grill them about something they did five years ago, you know as an 18-year-old rookie or something. If I was sitting next to me I’d be getting quite angry at the footy.

It mixes up a little bit who I go to the footy with. I’ve taken my girlfriend a few times but she doesn’t want to come with me any more. I go with friends and then I regret it because I just get grilled, especially I we lose by less than a goal or something and they decide not to be on my side. Recently I’ve been going a lot with my girlfriend’s aunty actually because she’s a die hard Richmond supporter as well. We actually connect on that level. It’s funny, we went to a mother’s day game – it was the Richmond v Freo game where we lost after the siren – beforehand we were grabbing food and they thought she was my mum when we were talking to the food attendant. They’ve said something like “you should pay for her because it’s mother’s day” or whatever and she just took it, just claimed that I was her son. So I think she might like me more than my girlfriend does.

I have a general rule – I think any supporter who wears three or four items of their club’s colours is overdoing it. I mean, you can tell if you’ve got a scarf on that you go for that team, I can see that. As a kid I had the classic scarf with all the badges on it, all my heroes who were just pretty average players. These days I’ll probably go with a Richmond item; a jacket, a jersey over a jumper or something, just something discreet usually.

I’m not gonna lie, having the most loved club song actually means a bit. When that song plays, I just think, you know what, everyone’s envious right now. We get to sing along to this and you’ve got supporters out there for teams like Fremantle – when they stole that win off us earlier this season it’s just a shame that their song had to play over the speakers. What are their fans going to do, oh you’re Freo are you, you’re Freo heave ho? Richmond’s theme song is a really important thing to the fans. When they get to sing that “yellow and black” part, when it comes up and you just hear the entire MCG roar, it’s pretty special. I’m glad we have a cool song. Richmond’s got that right, we just need to get good players now.

When Dimma started, I thought, oh this bloke really knows how to handle a press conference. Now Dimma gets on my nerves a little bit – that whole idea of people being press trained and having fall back sayings and stuff like that, I think he’s taken it to a whole new level. You’ll find that he does the exact same things in every press conference. He has the same expression, he crosses his arms and leans forward over the mike. He says this quote – I hear him say it about 40 times during a press conference – he says “these types of players”. He’ll go, “Castagna, Butler, these types of players.” We get what type of players you’re talking about. Then he’ll fall back on to things like “we’ll learn from this, we’ll learn from that” and mate, it’s been seven years, I don’t think we’ve learned anything except for how to lose a game when we’ve got it won. So. I think he needs to stay though because the main issue with Richmond over the past 30 year period has been the instability of our coaches. The club just throws people out after a couple of years when there’s been no success instead of recognising that the problems are much deeper than that. Give Hardwick another season, I reckon. I think the signs are there and it’s a pretty open competition right now so it’s a good time to start playing well.

When I think about the best players at the club over the years, I have to mention Richo Man, Matthew Richardson. He was probably our only good player for 17 years, there were a couple of other serviceable players that played alongside him and that’s all they really were. He carried the team for years and he copped so much even though he was an absolute icon of the club. I can’t imagine where we would have been if he hadn’t played for us during that period, even though we were unsuccessful. He was just great to watch, one of the best all round players I’ve ever seen. He could play up on the wing, on the half forward line and just had that engine, all the physical attributes that you need. There’s hard triers and stuff but then there’s players like him and your Nick Riewoldts and your Pavliches and stuff who are just blessed.

I’ve always been a massive, massive supporter of Trent Cotchin. He’s a Brownlow Medallist now and there’s no arguments about that. He finished second to a player who used drugs and at the end of the day, I don’t understand the criticism he gets for winning that Brownlow, there’s nothing he could do about those circumstances. And people forget how good a player he was that year, he was a favourite alongside Jobe, so it’s not like it was a shock like Woewodin was in 2000. When people compare Woewodin to Trent Cotchin it makes me very angry. Cotchin’s won three best and fairests at Richmond and now a Brownlow – he’s been pretty successful for a player who’s in his mid 20s. I think he’s very underrated and since he won or was awarded that Brownlow has actually stepped up quite a bit. I’ve got a little bit of a man crush on Trent. I said I’d name my first born Trent. I played at the same junior club as Trent. I call him by his first name because that’s just how we roll. I styled my hair the way it is right now because of Trent Cotchin. I couldn’t pick a hairstyle – you should see my photos from when I was between about 14 and 17, I experimented with at least 10 hairstyles. I stuck to this one because of Cotchin.

Across the game, I do love Scott Pendlebury. Scott Pendlebury is unbelievable to watch, like he just blows my mind the amount of time he has with the ball. I look at him and think, how is he so calm and how is he not being tackled because he looks like he’s moving really slowly. he must just see space like no one else does. Runs the perfect lines and always rises when Collingwood need him to. If I could pick any player in the comp right now to come to Richmond to have for say a year, not thinking about how young they are or longevity of anything like that, I’d have to say Scott Pendlebury.

There’s a few teams I hate. Richmond make a lot of enemies because we’ve had a close loss to pretty much everyone in the competition now. I hate North Melbourne – I don’t know what it is about them, I just can’t stand them and I can’t stand their supporters. When we lose to them, which is often because they’ve got our measure, I just can’t understand it. They’ve got a whole team of inside midfielders, they’re all just triers, they don’t have a single player on that list with actual talent or excitement or anything. And for years a 39-year-old was carrying them. Plus they made two prelims in a row to top it off – I hated them enough but then they fluked their way into two prelims and thought they were on the edge of a premiership. They won nine games in a row and then it all fell apart, which was awesome to watch. They’ve been more competitive than I would have liked this year, I would like them to drop off a little bit more. And I hate Carlton. I just have to hate Carlton.

I think the game is marketed a lot better now than it used to be. I have a real appreciation for that sort of thing. Footy these days – everyone’s an expert, everyone knows everything, they can tell you how many touches Tom Mitchell had last week or how many uncontested possessions your team is getting or this and that. There’s a million footy shows now because the game is a business and I know people worry about that but if you’re running an elite sport and you want it to be at the highest level it possibly can be, that money and the finances side needs to be there. I think the AFL has done really well to get the competition to where it is now. We’ve got 18 teams which is phenomenal – I can’t really see it getting bigger from here but 18 teams is probably a good amount. I do like the expansion.

I’m not naïve with all the rule changes and all the changes to the whole system – the fans who come out and say that they don’t need to change all the rules and want to just leave the game probably don’t really understand the way the game’s evolving and that these changes are being put in place to ensure the game doesn’t lose it’s attractiveness. They do need to slow it down a bit though. Week to week rule changes are a bit extreme and when they say “we’re going to have a focus on this this week” you can really see it and it affects games. The players need to know what the rules are and have a really thorough understanding of what they are on the field and I don’t think they do. I think you see they’ve got a lot of indecision about them, like with your rushed behinds and your deliberate out of bounds and where you put your head over the ball or you slide in, what the correct interpretations are for that week. I don’t think players need to be worrying about that and I don’t think they should be worrying about that when they’re playing games.

Growing up, I was always looked at as this kid who was a smart kid, someone not designed to be playing sport, you’re built for other things – that’s the way my parents looked at it, anyway. When I finally got old enough to drive myself to footy I started playing. Within three games my parents wanted me to quit because I had a sore shoulder. They thought I didn’t have the pain tolerance for football because I couldn’t lift my arm up to get my shirt on. My brother was a very good footballer as well. He started in Under 16s so he didn’t have much of a chance but he had a better chance than I did. I think he was probably a little bit more mature at that point, body-wise as well. My parents were just convinced that it wasn’t my thing. My favourite bit is the fact that I turned it around and a year and a half later they were at my best and fairest, telling me they were so proud of me. I was a midfielder and spent most of my time there, but I’d rest up forward and try and kick a couple of goals. I usually just hacked them through, I had no composure around goals. I was a lot better when I wasn’t expected to kick them. As soon as I took a mark 20m out it was zero chance that was going through.

In my first season, I went up to my coach, who I barely knew, and he’d seen me play one good quarter of footy in a practice match and I knew he was a little bit excited about it. I said to him, “I think we’re getting killed out the back and I think we need to play with a spare back” and he said that he thought the same thing but he didn’t know who we were going to put there – if we were going to put anyone he said it’s probably going to have to be you. So I ran spare back and just collected a lot of easy ball, but it gets you into the game, gets you into the mindset, you’re constantly thinking. That spare back was something we played with throughout the year and if we were against the wind or something like that, it’s where I’d get thrown. I loved the responsibility of it and it made me think that I was playing a really important role for the team, so it always got me in the zone.

I went back and played one game this year for the thirds. Last year I filled in when I could and played seven games and managed to sneak the best and fairest, which was nice. They asked me to come back this year and I said it probably wasn’t a good year for me but I’ll come play one game. Going back to the club you notice what you miss. Having something to look forward to in the week and getting up on a Saturday knowing you have a game that day. The little moments you have there – they’re not comparable to anything you can achieve in your normal everyday life. When you play, you really do have memories that last a lifetime. Like, oh remember when I snagged that goal from the boundary or when I took that screamer… You can’t put a value on it. You can’t really compare anything to the joy you get out of footy.

“It gave them something to be part of, something to believe in, something to support and you see it in the faces of supporters at games just how important it is to them that their team goes well.”

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A couple of years ago I was discussing football with a friend and her family. Mid-way through a sentence, her dad cut in and said, “well what would you know about the game anyway?” and dismissed her opinion. I very clearly remember thinking to myself – my dad would never do that to me. In fact, my dad is one of the reasons I have loved football of many codes and developed such a passion for sport over the years. I grew up in a household that not only watched football every weekend but played it and lived it. And though the Websters were late to AFL, I like to think we’ve made up for it with the intensity of our support. Whenever people try and claim that football players and supporters are nothing but morons, I think of the smart, kind, generous, funny men in my family – led by my dad – and know for absolute certain that that particular generalisation isn’t true. As a player, coach, team manager and supporter, my dad has spent over 60 years involved in football and passed his love of the game and willingness to be involved down to us. This is what he thinks about football.

Name: Danny Webster

Recruited from: Cooma, Sydney, Merimbula and lately, Goulburn

Occupation: Retired sergeant

AFL team followed: Sydney Swans

All time favourite footy moment: 2005 grand final

I go for the Sydney Swans because I love them. When I first started watching AFL in 1996 I naturally went for the local team and the first game I ever saw from start to finish was the Swans and Essendon. There was probably a lot of ignorance involved at first I guess, I just didn’t know anything about the game. I didn’t like it. I was brought up in a rugby league state in a rugby league town and I grew up playing rugby league, so I naturally just played and liked rugby league.

I think AFL is a very pure game and there’s a lot of skills in it. There’s a lot of talent amongst the players and the coaching staff. It’s just a very watchable sport; it’s not over in 10 minutes, it take a bit of time to get through a game but it just captivates you I think. The spirit of the game is very strong and people just love it – there’s no doubt that it is the national game.

I can’t remember the first game of Australian Rules I went to. Probably was one of the games that my son Paul played when he was 15 and playing for Goulburn. Because he was playing in first grade I had absolutely no idea what was in store so I just stalked along the boundary line thinking that if there’s a fight, well I’ll run on and have a crack myself. There wasn’t though.

I think maybe the first AFL game I went to was a game in Sydney at the Olympic stadium, what’s that, the ANZ Stadium, to watch the Swans one day although I can’t remember the exact date or the game or anything. I do remember I was just awestruck by the whole thing. Being able to sit there and rather than just seeing bits and pieces on TV, being able to see the whole field and really appreciating the whole game as a real 360 degree game – as opposed to rugby league or rugby union where you’re very much in a small confined area following the ball, if that makes sense.

I’m very sedate watching the footy. I like to support the umpires… hahaha. No, I’m not as loud as I used to be and it does depend on what comp you’re at. I remember I hurled a bit of abuse at Matthew Pavlich one day at a game and just mentioned to him that he had nothing. So then he’s taken a screaming mark and kicked a ridiculous goal and about 500,000 people turned around and looked at me. I had to stand up and make a quick apology. I do love Pav.

At home I’m probably the same, I yell and scream a bit and am probably still very critical of the umpires, but I think they deserve criticism because I don’t think many of them are very good. Certainly not as good as they think they are.

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The grand final in 2005 where Swans won is probably the best game I’ve ever seen. Leo Barry took that great mark right at the end to pretty much close the game off. I guess because a lot of people, a lot of Swans and South Melbourne supporters, had probably gone a life time and never seen them win, for me to see a premiership within less than 10 years of me watching was great. They’ve since won another one of course but I’d have to say that first grand final is the best.

When Cheyne’s team got into the semi finals at Eastlake for the first time ever I think, for a reserve grade side, it was just a very good achievement. That’s probably the best local game I’ve seen. Unfortunately we didn’t get past that first semi final but it was such a great feeling for our team to have been there.

I love the club – Eastlake – that I’m a team manager for and the fact that one of my sons is a coach there is an attraction and of course I get to see him every week. But I just like doing what I’m doing and I realise that clubs need support staff, they need volunteers. No club’s got too many of those sort of people and it’s good to have people who will do the one per center things and keep everything ticking over.

I think by going to the local football you appreciate the dynamics not only of the game itself, but the whole set up for the game – the preparation of players, the equipment, the support staff, volunteers, the input that supporters have… It just gives you a broader picture of the game itself, I think.

What do I love about local footy? Not the umpires. My best sledge over the years has possibly been the one you kids always talk about in Sydney where I was taking photos and doing my best to give the umpires some support with some well timed advice at one of Paul’s games. It was just a few tips on what they were doing wrong. And the umpire ran over to the boundary line and he told me to move away from the field because I shouldn’t be there. Then I said to him, “mate I’m starting to think the same thing about you.”

Once at the tribunal I got a $50 fine for umpiring abuse and again, that one was just offering advice. Once I gave away a 50m penalty but a few times I’ve had umpires run over to the sideline and reciprocate by giving me some advice. I have been told by our club a couple of times to shut up.

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I suppose I like the Swans because they’re my team but I also like them because of the way they play football – they play good, hard, attacking football. They can be very scrappy at times, very scrambling at times but I think they play a good hard game.

Kieran Jack is my favourite player, I’d say. Over the years I liked Barry Hall, even though he wasn’t at Sydney all that long, Paul Kelly was very good, Paul Roos was good, Andrew Dunkley I liked… I can’t think really of any Swans players that I haven’t liked. I wouldn’t be getting Poppy at the Swans. Anyone but Poppy. Not sure who I would get though, I can’t really think.

The team I hate is North Melbourne. I think because they continually try to push this Shinboner bullshit and it just doesn’t wash. I just don’t like the way they play, I don’t like many of their players – only maybe a couple over the years, but they’re just a team that don’t appeal to me.

The commentary is disgraceful, mostly. People like Bruce McAvaney and Dennis Commetti, the Bristle, most of them are just disgraceful. Dermott Brereton over-commentates, Lingy is an over commentator too, I think he must be Dermott’s disciple. Some of it’s good and I do like Eddie McGuire’s commentary although you can’t listen to him when Collingwood are playing. Some of the commentators are really good – what’s that young, fresh faced bloke’s name? Huddo. I like him. The commentators who I think do a better job are the ones who aren’t probably those half dozen people who are really considered the top, like Bruce and that. I think there’s time for a change of the guard really. They’re disgracefully biased and if you’re watching a game and your team is a non Melbourne team, then you really feel it. You know, they make stinging comments – they try to mind read, someone will kick a good pass and they’ll say “oh he didn’t really mean that” or there’ll be a line ball decision and “oh gee, the Swans should have been penalised for that”. It doesn’t go the other way. And I’ve watched games where two non Melbourne teams are playing and they have no investment in the result, but the commentators will make it very clear who they want to win.

I think the AFL is well organised, I like their draft and salary cap, things like that. I think that all works well. You know that if your team’s on the bottom, then the likelihood is that they’ll hopefully swing round and be on the top a few years later. If you haven’t enjoyed it then a few years later they’ll be on the bottom and you will have missed it if you weren’t watching. I’d do something about the umpiring though. I just think it’s generally poor and I don’t think it needs to be.

What I wouldn’t change is how players interact with supporters. Even the very best of the most elite players in the AFL spend time signing autographs for kids and supports, so I certainly wouldn’t be changing that. I’d probably look at ways we can improve umpires and I think we need ex elite players to be umpires rather than people who clearly have never caught a ball before.

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I went to the rugby union a couple of weeks ago and watched the Brumbies have a good win and that was great, I also watch some rugby league on TV – mostly Manly games because I’m a Manly supporter. I think the rugby league is on an upturn again, it went for a long time after the Super league dramas where it just wasn’t very attractive. When Manly were chucked out of the comp that was the end of it for me and I didn’t watch any rugby league for a few years. Now I do enjoy watching it again, although it’s a very different game to the game I played years and years ago.

I loved everything about playing footy. Probably the biggest thing was all the friends through that, you sort of make life long friends playing footy. It is very much like going into battle with people I think and you form those life long bonds and friendships. You might run into somebody you haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years who you used to play footy with, and the time just falls away and you’re back to where you were the last time you were talking. I think that’s probably one of the really positive things about playing footy. The other thing is it’s just good to play sport and to play a hard, contact sport I think – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it was mine and I loved it. If I had any regrets I think I’d wish that I had of been a lot better at it than I was.

I think sport is still very important to those small country towns. It was extremely important when I was a kid. When the local footy was on on the weekends then the whole town would head off to the footy and most people in those days, in the 1950s and 60s, would walk. The grounds were always packed and people just loved it and they lived for it. It gave them something to be part of, something to believe in, something to support and you see it in the faces of supporters at games just how important it is to them that their team goes well. I think the better thing about AFL is that people don’t take it as seriously and cling to the results as much as some other codes – you go to the AFL and if your team’s been beaten then you cop a bit flak from the other people and it’s all good natured, and then if your team wins you make sure you stick it into a few of them as well.

Cooma was such a multicultural area in the true sense of the word with all the people, mostly Europeans, who went there to work on the Snowy scheme. Soccer became big in Cooma and they’ve had Aussie Rules there since those days as well. It struggled a bit down there because it is the heartland of rugby league but there were so many people with so much time and local sport just captivates those people. They don’t turn up in droves to watch the cricket for some reason but I guess a game of cricket is just a little bit too long for people, where is goes all day or all weekend. It’s not so much a spectator sport unless you’re watching Australia play England or something like that.

My favourite memory of playing would be the 1980 grand final in Merimbula where we won. Winning a grand final, even Z grade in Gulargambone, is just every bit as good as winning one in a first grade comp in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane or anywhere. The 80m try I scored in Tathra was pretty good, too. I’ve been back since and measured it and it’s probably closer to five though. Kicking five goals in a grand final was probably my best effort though, I’d say.

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“So he had kind of strung me out where I thought I was literally going to get the camping chair and then at the last minute he’s like, I’ve just got us the tickets.”

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I’m not sure how I came to realise Amelia Harris was a huge footy tragic – we’ve been dealing with each other for many years now, both during her time at the Herald Sun and now in her role as a media advisor, but it seems like it’s just something I’ve always known. When I was thinking about who I’d like to interview for the blog this year she was high on my list, though it took some gentle arm twisting (and a breakfast out to indulge our mutual sweet tooth) to convince her to answer the questions and not ask them for a change. Despite the fact she goes for Collingwood we manage to get along very well and so she is the very first friend of the year I’ve harassed for their thoughts on football. Enjoy.

Name: Amelia Harris

Recruited from: Melbourne

Occupation: Ex-journo, now media advisor

AFL team followed: Collingwood Magpies

All time favourite footy moment: 2010 Grand Final

“I was probably born into a Collingwood family. My dad is a big Collingwood supporter and there was probably no other choice, really. My mum’s a Hawthorn supporter and comes from a Hawthorn family but I think my dad just won that battle from the get-go. I just couldn’t imagine going for anyone else now. Very few people change footy teams; I think once you’ve got a club you generally stay with them for life. I really just couldn’t imagine ever going for anyone else.

What do I love about Collingwood? Well, it’s great thinking you go for the club that everyone else hates… Collingwood has a great working class history, too. Obviously it’s also been great to see some success, like in 2010, and that’s pretty special – plus I got to share it with my dad and that was really nice.

I can’t remember the first time I ever went to the footy. I was about two-and-a-half in 1990 and my mum took me and dropped me off at the game – I went to the first quarter with my dad. When I was little I was really obsessed with going to see the banners. I think my mum was basically waiting at the back of the Hilton to drop me off for the banners and that first quarter, then did a bit of a rendezvous with dad and picked me up. Obviously dad watched the rest of the game and then I know we went to Victoria Park the day after. That was actually a pretty significant weekend in my life. I didn’t know it at the time but obviously there was the Collingwood flag and it as the weekend the Herald Sun was born with the merger of the Herald and The Sun – I went on to work there for seven years, so yeah, a pretty significant weekend in 1990. My dad kept all the papers including the first edition of the Herald Sun which I think was from memory ‘Lethal’s Weapon’. So I’ve still got all of those in my wardrobe, which my husband hates. They’re gathering dust. But you know, they’re important to me, so…

My first year at the paper was actually in sport. Obviously there’s a lot of AFL training sessions that need to be covered so occasionally I’d go to them but I tended to do a lot more country footy or amateurs footy. Which was kind of good, because a lot of people are into ‘ammos’ and it’s a nice ice breaker. When I was doing something for work in South Melbourne the other day I got talking to a Channel 10 cameraman and somehow we got talking about amateurs footy. It’s a really easy conversation. Country footy was great too because you learn where all these far flung towns are – now I hear places and I think, “Oh that’s in the East Gippsland League or Central Murray or whatever”. I also kind of thought for a while that it would be interesting to cover sports affairs, so more that ‘business of sport’ type of round. But then I fell into police reporting and so that just kind of happened.

I often go to the footy with my dad and that’s kind of always been our thing. So it’s good to see him and catch up with him. Generally you always know a few people going to a game. I’ve got a good friend who barracks for Geelong so the last few years there’s obviously been some great Collingwood v Geelong games and we’d go together, which is fun. It’s nice to catch up with friends and just have a great arvo. Hopefully see the Pies win.

I’m an MCC member but I’ve let my club membership go in the past few years. At the start I was doing both but now I’ve been a bit disloyal I must admit. About 8-10 years ago I was probably going to say 14 or 16 games a season but in the last few years it’s dropped off a bit. So I haven’t been a club member for a couple of years though I probably should.

I am a screamer. My husband hates it, he’s mortified. I can be very unhinged. And I’m past the point of caring now.

I don’t really have any superstitions but I always used to have a Cherry Ripe with my dad at half time. And I’d always have the bigger half. Always. And do you remember those Cazaly chocolate bars? They were only available at the MCG. They are a lost relic. It was like this caramel, coconut, nougat thing that you could only get there. But otherwise a Cherry Ripe at half time was the only non-negotiable. I normally take my scarf but I’m not pedantic about sitting in the same seat, or getting the same tram or anything like that. So I’m not too bad.

A couple of games that stand out would be that Easter Monday game against Carlton in the mid-90s where Mick McGuane had seven bounces and kicked a goal. Always good to have a win against the old rival in Carlton.A couple of those preliminary and qualifying finals in 2002 and 2003, that one where Didak kicked – was it against Adelaide? Or Port? (It was Port, thanks for bringing that up mate.) Ha, I didn’t want to say it! Didak kicked that goal from the boundary in the 11th hour. And then obviously in 2010 it was a dream come true.

I went to that grand final. My dad and I had gone in the MCC ballot and as usual there was a computer system fail, so we had one ticket, which wasn’t great, and had been trying to figure out what we were going to do. Basically on the Thursday or Friday I had said to my dad – I’d just finished work and I was doing police rounds at that time – that I thought I had no chance at that point and I’d have to go and camp. So I was going to go to my mum’s after I’d finished work, get the camping chair and the sleeping bag, and then I was arranging with my dad to pick up my car and take it from the work car park so it wasn’t there for three or four days. I was saying to dad, “Oh I’m going to mum’s house to get the chair and whatever and can you do my car, so I guess I’ll sleep the night and then see you on the Saturday morning” and dad said, “That’s fine, I can do that or you can come on the ticket I bought because I just went and got two tickets at $900 bucks or something”. My dad hates corporatisation of football and buying those tickets was obviously very last ditch, because he’s never been into any of that. So he had kind of strung me out where I thought I was literally going to get the camping chair and then at the last minute he’s like, I’ve just got us the tickets. I was this close to sleeping out.

So we went and it was just this weird, hollow feeling when the siren went and it was a draw. I looked at him and he looked at me and I thought, oh my gosh I’ve gotta do this all over again next week. The week was really tortured. I was working the day after the draw, 7am police rounds and I remember we had to go to Collingwood and stake it out. I was so distracted for the whole week and it was terrible – I could barely function at work. I think by the Wednesday things had evened up. With the draw you’re never going to have the ticketing issues like normal so I think we kind of knew by that Thursday that we had tickets again. We went and then I think it’s one of the few times I’ve seen my dad cry. We went with an old friend of ours who’s a mad Collingwood supporter and who had been really unwell, so that was really nice because he sadly died a few years later. But yeah, it was an amazing day. I was a crying mess. Doing it all again was just torturous. Terrible.

When I was a kid I was a big fan of Mick McGuane, which mortified my mum. I was a big Scott Burns fan too; just a nice guy, all round good guy, great player. I actually think now that he’s probably the person for the top job. I don’t know who I’d get to join us. I still think you need a quality full forward to win a grand final so maybe someone in that position but I don’t have a pick. I’ve never really contemplated too much about who you’d love to have come to Collingwood. Not recently, anyway.

Carlton is probably the team I love to hate, that’s been going on for years. I think that rivalry is going to go on forever really.

I would have liked to think that Collingwood would have made the eight this year but it’s not to be. I’m not sold on Nathan Buckley and again, I think Scott Burns has a better footy brain. If I had my way I think he’d be better in the coaching chair.

I think it’s great that the AFL subsidise Auskick so much. I mean, obviously there’s a benefit in that for them, but I do think it’s a really good thing. I think it’s a great way to make football accessible to families. I think these days it’s harder and more expensive for the average fan to be engaged with their club or the game. If you really want to be watching every game then you’ve got to have Foxtel, you can buy a club membership but there’s no guarantee really that you’re going to have a seat if your team is in the grand final – and for most people that’s what it’s really all about. I think the food is too expensive at the football and I just feel, particularly in the last few years, that the game is becoming more corporatised. I worry that that’s at the expense of fans.

I think football is all I’ve ever known. I grew up in a family that always had football as it’s number one sport and I’ve never had anything else. All my cousins, my mum, my dad, my grandma, everyone I guess, have just always been mad about football. It really is like a religion in Melbourne and it’s such a great social talking point. You ask people who they barrack for before you ask them a bunch of other things. It’s sort of that common ground and even if it’s someone who barracks for a different club you can still have a good conversation with them about football. Some people obviously care about it more than others but nearly everyone in Melbourne has some form of interest. It’s a great thing to talk about with your friends or work mates and there’s a nice social cohesion to it.”

“I like the simple things – I used to love just going to the football and watching Gary Jr kick me a magic goal.”

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Someone recently described Cathy Ebert to me as “still one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet” and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. After all, you’d have to be a pretty good person to put up with being my best friend for nearly 20 years and living with me not once but twice. We’ve had years of watching football games of all codes, from Bledisloe tests through to rugby league State of Origin to that time we went to the SCG for Paul Roos’ last game in 1998 and almost drowned in a torrential downpour. Cath is one of my favourite people to watch footy with (and talk about footy with) and one of the few I can stand sitting with when our teams play each other. Plus you know someone is top shelf when one of your favourite footy memories is celebrating together after their team absolutely flogs yours in a grand final. Just don’t ever mention Nick Davis to her…

Name: Cathy Ebert

Age: 37

Recruited from: Melbourne via Canberra and Dubbo

Occupation: Sports administrator extraordinaire

AFL team followed: Geelong Cats

All time favourite footy moment: 2007 preliminary final and grand final wins

“I follow the Geelong Cats. The first game of footy that I watched was the 1989 grand final. We were actually on holidays in Ballina and the grand final was on, Hawks and Cats. I thought well, I’m 11-years-old and I like Cats and I don’t like Hawks, I like blue and white and I really don’t like the poo and wee colours, so that’s how I started going for the Cats, just for that reason. We’ve had some bad years ever since I started following them but they’ve turned things around. I like that they’re a bit of a middle of the road side where we’ve had some good success but I don’t think they’re arrogant like some of the other sides. I like that the Cats are a good, strong, hard-working team and they’re proud. They generally give most games a go. Plus you’ve gotta love Gary Jr, Selwood and Bartel.

Dad used to be a Collingwood supporter or so he says, now my parents go for Sydney. I think mum and dad are a bit disappointed that I don’t go for the Swans because growing up we only got two channels in Dubbo – it was ABC and Mid State Television or something like that, and all you ever got was Swans games. So it’s probably a bit surprising that I’m not a Sydney supporter but I definitely stick with the Cats over the Swans, that’s for sure. There’s been a few incidents with mum over the years. I think probably the most memorable one was the 2005 preliminary final between Sydney and Geelong where the Cats were winning by 24 points with five minutes to go and then Nick Davis kicked a bag of goals for the Swans. Mum decided to ring me straight after the game and I probably wasn’t in the best mood to talk. I basically told her I wasn’t going to talk to her and I think I might have hung up on her or put her on to you and she talked to you. You just said the one word that night: “yesssssssss”. I can still hear it, “yesssssss”. I wasn’t quite sure whether to go up to my room or to hit you or to kick the TV. It was good that the Swans at least made it worth it and went on to win the grand final. So at least the Cats could say they were close. That was funny that night because I never really expected to win and I think that’s the thing with Geelong: I never really expected to win that game but then I had the hope that we were going to win with five minutes to go and being four goals up. It’s just crushing and Geelong over the years have done that, they did it in a final against Hawthorn recently. I never actually thought we were going to win that game but Varcoe missed a goal in front and then Hawthorn won. Sometimes I’d rather be beaten by 100 points than just be thinking of all the what ifs.

First time… I remember seeing Geelong v Carlton in 1997. I think that might have been one of my first AFL games. I came down to Melbourne, I was at uni in Canberra at the time and I came down with my friend Jules for a weekend. We went to Geelong v Carlton and that was at Optus Oval and the Cats won. Then the next day I think we went and saw Bombers v Collingwood which was the ANZAC Day game. So I think that was maybe one of my very first games, which was a bit interesting at Optus Oval full of Carlton supporters. People were mixing up my Cats scarf for a Carlton scarf. I think after that there were a few games at the SCG throughout uni but I’m pretty sure that trip to Melbourne was the first live AFL game I saw.

I have an AFL membership with support to Geelong. Even though I actually haven’t been to a game this year. In the last few years since having Hollie I’ve been lucky to go to a handful of games. This year I haven’t gone to any but I think I’ve watched every single game the Cats have played on TV. When we first moved to Melbourne I remember we’d try to go to a game on Friday night, go on Saturday and then Sunday, sometimes we’d be going from one game to another in the same day. I just loved footy and loved going to the game and getting a doughnut afterwards if the Cats won. That was always good.

Often when I’m watching a game at home, if the Cats are losing then I wait until the end of the third quarter and if they’re still losing then I might bring out the scarf. I have to make sure that if I’m going to the game, I have to find a person from the Salvation Army and I have to give them a dollar, and if they say “God bless the Cats” then I just know we’re going to win. I think in the game against Collingwood in 2009 to get into the grand final I got there and as I was walking up to the MCG I couldn’t find any Salvation Army people so I was starting to get in a panic. I think I actually did a full lap of the MCG just to find one and just when I had nearly given up I finally found a guy. I gave him a dollar and he did say “God bless the Cats” and to this day I think that’s why we won.

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There’s been a few good memories over the years. I like the simple things – I used to love just going to the football and watching Gary Jr kick me a magic goal. I loved whenever he did something brilliant. The year of 2007 – I think the grand final was good and I sat on my own but I sat with a lot of old Geelong supporters, you know, women in their 70s where it had been a long time since they’d seen a premiership. Nobody sung the song until the siren went even though we were up by so much because they were just worried that something might happen. We had that feeling that we could still lose this. They were in tears and so happy at the end. But I think even the final against Collingwood to get into the grand final is probably the most memorable for me. We were sort of winning and then we were only up by a small margin with a few minutes to go and nobody really knew how much time there was left. There was such intensity in that game. Then when the siren went it was the realisation that shit, we’re in the grand final. That’s half of it, just getting there. So that’s probably one of my most memorable matches.

Gary Ablett Jr is easily the best I’ve ever seen. Just the excitement that he brings to a game, he can just turn around a match. He can do the things that other players can’t do and he just has so much time – very rarely does he kick poorly or make a bad pass. His decision making is perfect. He’s definitely, without a doubt, the best I’ve seen. I’m still hopeful that he’s coming back to the Cats for a swansong. I remember the Geelong footy club called me up to buy some raffle tickets or something once and I think the prize was $40,000 or something. They asked me what I’d do with the money if I won and I said, “I’ll buy Gary back”. I think I was a bit short and $40,000 might buy him back for a game, maybe. I was a bit sad about the way it all happened, just because of Bomber Thompson and him being so outspoken at the end of season dinner about Gary needing to go and find himself. I mean, it makes sense if you’re young and you’re being offered that amount of money, plus you need a life outside of Geelong. But I am still hopeful. I think he’s signed with Gold Coast again but I haven’t given up hoping he’ll come back to us one day. That hope might be fading a bit though.

These days I like watching Selwood. I think he’s tough as nails and he just gives it his absolute all. He is the heart and soul of Geelong at the moment. There are probably other great players too, in other teams, but I tend not to watch as many games or opposition players any more. I’m hopeful Dangerfield will come to the Cats. If I was taking players from other clubs then it would be him, or even we need someone like Kennedy from West Coast. We need a forward. We need somebody to help out Hawkins. Sometimes I think back to people like Nathan Ablett – he wasn’t the big star at the Cats but he just worked well into the mix. We need a forward that can work well with Hawkins because he’s such a big bloke that takes up so much space. Boak. I’d take Boak any day. We nearly had him. And I quite like Alex Rance, I think he’s just a really good player.

I don’t like Hawthorn for obvious reasons being a Cats supporter. There are certain players at Hawthorn that I particularly don’t like, such as Mitchell. I don’t like Brian Lake at all either. He should have stayed at the Dogs and kept his original surname; now he’s gone to Hawthorn and become a Hawk and changed his name I can’t stand him. But I also don’t like Adelaide and that’s because I still think back to 1997 when the Cats finished second and Adelaide finished seventh, however because we didn’t have lights for our stadium and couldn’t get a game in Melbourne, we played our home final against the Crows over in Adelaide on a Saturday night. Nigel Smart I think it was kicked a few goals and Adelaide ended up winning, so since then I’ve always hated the Crows. I don’t like the tactics of Fremantle sometimes, but there’s not one particular player I can’t stand. There’s a lot of North Melbourne players I haven’t liked over the years but it’s probably not quite as bad now.

GoBlues

I think in Melbourne it’s always going to be AFL first. Before we moved to Melbourne I was a St George-Illawarra supporter in the NRL and you do watch a bit of rugby league and also rugby union living in Canberra. One of the things I find in Melbourne though is that it’s fully about AFL. You could be at work in the kitchen for example and you can start a conversation with someone and it always ends up being “Who do you follow?”. Or when you get someone new at work, the first question they get asked is “Who do you follow?” and if they say something like Hawks, someone will say “Oh how did you get past the recruiter?” or if they say ‘Pies it’s, “You must not have disclosed that in the interview because we wouldn’t have hired you”. That’s just how it is. I remember coming to Melbourne when I worked in Canberra with Swimming Australia and we’d come down here in December for an event and there’d be eight pages of the Herald Sun dedicated to football in the off season. It just purely is an AFL town.

Sometimes I don’t like when there might be an incident and the media just focuses on it for the next six weeks so it drags out, whether it’s actually a big issue or not. I think in terms of the actual game itself, some of the rules like holding the ball – it’s just hit and miss each week, you know. It’s like those signs you see that say ‘Police are now targeting speeding’ and instead it’s ‘Umpires are now targeting holding the ball’ this week, or chopping of the arms or whatever. I think it’s just the inconsistencies of umpiring that are so frustrating.

I love the passion of fans. You know, people just get so involved and it’s amazing. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a lot of games but I love being at the ground with the atmosphere and you can just lose yourself. I remember a game, Geelong v Bulldogs back in about 2007 or 2008 and something happened, Cooney did something, and I stood up out of my chair and put on a five minute rant about something or other. You know, you just lose yourself in it. It’s that passion and excitement of following a side. I like when players celebrate when they’ve done something good – Motlop can do some magical things and he’ll get the crowd going and things like that. Just being there and being able to see it is always great.”

“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.”

“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.