Friends

“People say that it’s not an appealing game but you still see big hits, you still see guys breaking the lines, you still see big marks, you still see flukey goals. I’m happy.”

Ben Radisich

I still remember the first time I met Ben Radisich. He was this fresh faced kid from Crime Stoppers who walked into my office to complete a couple of weeks of temporary duties and it looked like butter absolutely wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Within the first couple of hours I found out three things: he’d lived in Canberra, he could drop some of the best swear words with ease and he loved football.  Consider us almost immediate friends on those points alone, although being a Collingwood supporter I would never consider him wholly trustworthy. Surprisingly, he’s also the first ‘Pies fan I’ve spoken with and even more of a shock, he’s actually well spoken. Though if any Collingwood fans need the bigger words read out to them then just let me know.

Name: Ben Radisich

Age: 30

Recruited from: Melbourne via Newcastle and Canberra

Occupation: The man who tells you how to stay safe on the roads

AFL team followed: Collingwood Magpies

All time favourite footy moment: 2010 grand final win

“I guess I was born into a Collingwood family. My dad’s Magpies and all of his extended family are Magpies and he’s one of 11 kids. Mum’s Bulldogs but she’s only one of three kids so I think the weight of numbers was on the other side. I don’t really know how I ended up being Collingwood rather than the Bulldogs because I think there’s probably more pressure from mum’s side of the family to be a Bulldogs supporter. Dad’s weird because his brothers are all die hard footy fans but while he likes the Pies, he was never a fanatic growing up. My uncles definitely were. It’s just… Collingwood, you know? The biggest team in the country, one of the biggest teams in the southern hemisphere as far as sport goes. I’m 30 years on, you’re born into it and you go for the team and they’re your team, you don’t change your team.

I wore it as a sign of something proud that I was an AFL fan. In Newcastle no one liked AFL, it’s all about rugby league as you know. So I kind of wore it as a badge of honour, as something different and the guys used to tease me that I liked AFL but it was something I was proud of and I stood up for it. I’d tell them I like AFL and it doesn’t mean that I don’t like rugby league but I like AFL too. I guess I’m stereotypically Melburnian in a way because everyone here is a sports fan but living in places like Canberra definitely had an impact. I love all sport – I grew up playing cricket and had a go at everything. I played hockey, soccer, volleyball, football, league, netball, everything. If it had a ball and there was running involved then I’d go yep, I’ll do it. So as a sports fan, living in NSW and then Canberra afterwards, you have a team in everything. I didn’t know what rugby league was – or rugby union for that matter – until I went to Newcastle. Newcastle’s obviously a big rugby league town; they didn’t like AFL and don’t like rugby union because that’s not league, league’s the only thing they care about. So I was 10 years old when we moved to Newcastle and didn’t really know much about it. Mum always used to call it “thugby” and say you don’t want to play that game, they’re just a bunch of thugs. Obviously though while I held on to being an AFL fan and being different, you still want to fit in so you learn the game, you watch the State of Origin, you go for a team and Newcastle Knights were pretty big at that time and won the premiership in 1997. I was in Year 7 then. The following year I think the Melbourne Storm came in to the competition and I just jumped on them straight away. I was born in Melbourne, grew up in Melbourne, Melbourne’s got a team now so I’m going to go for them. People used to tease me about that and say you know, you can’t go from the Knights to Melbourne. I said yes I can, I was born there, they never had a team before so I’m going for Melbourne. Then I moved to Canberra in 1999 and obviously Canberra again is big on league but also AFL and rugby union. It was the first time I’d been at a high school where I didn’t get teased for liking AFL and actually found other people that liked it, which was nice. But the the mates that I ended up hanging around with were big into their union so I learned another game and probably went to more Brumbies games than anything else. Being at Bruce Stadium in the middle of winter and whatnot, those are some good memories.

We’re going to wait and see as far as our new son Finn goes. My wife Ash is a pretty die hard Melbourne fan and we’ve had an agreement so far that Finn will get to choose who he goes for in as far as he’ll have two choices, he’s not going to have 18 choices. It’s Melbourne or Collingwood if he wants to go to the football. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll see a little bit of success sooner and for a more prolonged period with Collingwood rather than Melbourne. He’ll make the right choice. At the moment he’s 50/50 split – he’s got a Melbourne dummy, a Collingwood dummy, a Melbourne teddy bear, a Collingwood teddy bear and the list goes on as you can imagine. They’ve all been gifts. We kind of said to each other that the agreement was that he’d be football neutral until he was a little bit older but other people have different ideas. I think my brother’s girlfriend fired the first shot. She’s a Bombers fan and she’s really desperate that he doesn’t go for Collingwood so she bought him a Demon toy for the baby shower. My brother didn’t take too kindly to that so he bought him a beanie and a scarf and the list goes on. Other than that we’ve kept it fairly simple until my best mate came down to visit the other week and he’s brought a basket full of goodies and it was 50/50: Collingwood, Melbourne, Collingwood, Melbourne. We’ll wait and see how that all goes.

I do remember the first time I ever went to the footy. It’s funny, I was probably 8 or 9 and it was at the MCG and it was Collingwood v Melbourne, which is funny obviously for the fact that I’ve now married a Melbourne fan. It was ’93 or ’94, I can’t remember the exact year, and it was the first time I’d ever been to the MCG. It was 90,000, a massive crowd, and Collingwood won by 96 points or roughly thereabouts. I remember Sav Rocca kicked a bag – eight or nine, possibly 10, I can’t remember exactly – but I remember that. And I remember that whoever the Melbourne full forward for the day was, I remember going “well every time that guy gets the ball he kicks a goal too so what’s going on, I don’t like that”. He kicked five or six and I’m assuming, though I can’t remember back that far, that it was either David Schwarz or possibly Jim Stynes, one of those guys. I could probably go back to the record books and find out. But I can remember going to that game. We parked near the MCG and it was $10 all day parking and I think my dad complained at how expensive that was. And then we met one of my uncles and a couple of my cousins on the steps at the gate and we all went in, we went in to the Great Southern Stand and were quite high up. I can just remember the noise. It was a massive crowd and now it’s been famous again in 2010 when we won the premiership, that “Cooooooollllliiiingwoooooood” ringing around the stadium at the end of the game, for the last quarter effectively. I just remember getting chills and going, yeah this is pretty good. Obviously growing up all over Australia but with family in Melbourne we didn’t really get to the football very often so I really remember that one.

I go to the footy but not as often as I’d like. Sadly I probably go to more Melbourne games than I do Collingwood. That’s because Ash is a fan and my brother in law is a fan. I have a Collingwood membership and go to games when I can, a good mate is a Hawthorn fan so when he comes down we try and get to games, I go to the ANZAC Day game and obviously when Collingwood play Melbourne it’s a pretty big deal. Other than that I don’t really have a lot of people to go to the footy with. Occasionally I’ll go on my own but it’s not the same, it’s good to have somebody to go with. While I have a Collingwood membership I also have a Melbourne membership and I look at that two ways: one, I go to enough Melbourne games that it works out cheaper and two, you need some charity in your life. If only it was tax deductible, I mean it is a charitable donation. They need all the help they can get.

I’m much better at the footy now than I used to be. I used to be an ugly, ugly fan. Very much so in my early 20s, I didn’t have a whole lot of my decorum. I was an ugly fan. Living in Canberra you obviously don’t get many opportunities to go to the footy so it was great when Collingwood played a couple of games at Manuka Oval. I remember going there with my mum and dad, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins – my cousins and my aunty are Sydney fans so quite often you’d get Collingwood v Sydney at Manuka. I was pretty well behaved at those games but as we got a little bit older and my cousins, who are younger, got to drinking age we’d go up to the Collingwood v Sydney game at ANZ Stadium every year. Mum wouldn’t usually come; she likes the football but it’s not the Bulldogs so she wasn’t keen on going up to Sydney. But I remember this one year that mum decided to come and we flogged Sydney. We always did – it used to be great because we’d go up there and Collingwood would win every year. So we flogged them and I’d had a fair bit to drink. Some Sydney fans decided to leave early in the last quarter and I gave it to them. I think mum said she’s never coming to see the football with me again because my behaviour was disgraceful. Which was a bit of an eye opener but I’ve just mellowed. I think that’s a lot of people in their early 20s though when you still don’t know quite how much alcohol you can have and you think you’re funny, when you’re just a knob. And I’ve definitely been a knob at the football but I’d like to think I’m pretty well behaved these days.

2010 when we won the premiership is a favourite memory. It’s funny, I moved down to Melbourne halfway through 2010 to work at the radio station and read the news for Melbourne Talk Radio 1377 and also SEN, which is the sports station. When I moved down here I didn’t know many people; I’ve got a bit of family here which is great, but I only had one friend. That friend who I had down here I met at an indoor sports centre I used to work at when I worked behind the bar. It was the middle of winter, it’s Canberra, it’s cold. Even with the heaters on in the indoor sports centre, it’s cold. So I used to wear layers and one of the layers I had on was my Collingwood jersey. And this guy walked in – I’d met him a couple of times, he was a regular and I’d served him beers – it was winter and he’s walked in with a Collingwood beanie. Because I’d had a chat with him before and had a few laughs, I’ve just pulled up my shirt and pretty much flashed him my Collingwood jersey. And we’ve been mates ever since. He’s a few years older than me, I was only about 17 at the time, and this would have been around 2002-03 when this happened.

In 2003 we made the preliminary final against Port Adelaide and I know this is gonna cut close to home, but me and my mate Hutch did the road trip down to Melbourne. I remember we were in the game, preliminary final, and we were in the second last row of the Great Southern Stand. Packed stadium. First half I remember us standing next to each other silently, we were just too afraid to talk to each other. And then obviously the second half got much better and with every play the home crowd got louder and louder and louder. We went out that night and celebrated pretty hard. I remember being at a pub, had never been out in Melbourne before drinking, so we were in this pub and it was probably a dirty old man pub. I remember we were playing some pool and there’s a jukebox going on and the song that came on at last drinks was ‘Today is the greatest day’ by Smashing Pumpkins. I remember belting that song out and my mate having to drag me away from a couple of older ladies that were trying to get me to follow them to wherever they were going next. That was first time I really experienced footy culture in Melbourne and it was obviously a really positive experience.

And then again with my mate, same guy, seven years later I’d moved down and Hutch was the only guy I knew here. I had to work on the day of the grand final and I was doing the night shift. The overnight shift. I remember watching the game at home with my housemates who weren’t overly interested but whatever, I watched it. I had a couple of beers with them. Then as soon as we won I was excited but my flatmates didn’t care so I just had to get out of the house. I had to start work at 10pm that night and I’d had a few beers but I was responsible. I thought, I have to get out amongst the people and enjoy this. I knew where Hutch was going after the game, he was going to the All Nations in Richmond so I was like great, I’ll head there. I remember Hutch stumbling in and all of the Collingwood fans at the All Nations just randomly breaking into celebrations and renditions of ‘Good old Collingwood forever’. That feeling, that happiness of everyone involved, was just incredible and it gives you chills. I remember then getting a phone call from the guys at work saying are you alright, you’re out and about, are you with any Collingwood fans, can you try and get us some radio grabs? I was like yep, cool, so we did that and belted out the Collingwood theme song down the line which was great. That night I went in and worked the night shift, which was 10-6 or whatever, and before I went home in the morning I prepared a couple of voiceovers for them to use later in the day. I remember getting a phone call or a message from Hutch later that afternoon after I’d been asleep and recovered. He’s just gone, “I just heard you on SEN reading the news, I can’t believe you got to tell everyone Collingwood won the grand final!” I guess being on radio that night and obviously the grand final led the news, so to read “Collingwood is the 2010 premiers” you could say that with a big smile on your face. I was never much good at reading the news, it was never something I enjoyed doing – when you’re learning to do it they say to make sure you’ve got a smile on your face – and I think this is the only time I ever read the news as well as you’re meant to because I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I also remember a few days later speaking to my nan and she was saying “oh I heard you on the radio the other night, you must have been pretty happy when Collingwood won the grand final” and I said yeah, yeah, yeah. She asked if I’d been celebrating before work and I said no, I mean I went out and celebrated a little bit, and she told me she thought she could hear that I’d had a couple of drinks on the radio. It’s classic.

It’s interesting to find how footy just kind of makes connections through your life. You do it in hindsight and stuff like that but it’s interesting because if I never met Hutch, I never would have met Ash, my wife. Collingwood brought me and Hutch together and we never knew that we’d both end up in Melbourne years later. I’d been in Melbourne for about three months and I’d been doing the night shifts because I was the new kid in town, getting all the shit shifts like weekends and stuff, so I hadn’t been out. I caught up with Hutch on a Friday night and he’s like, alright I’ll take you out, we’ll go to a few pubs, I’ll show you around and so we did that. We’d been to a couple of places in Richmond and then he said he’d take me to a couple of places closer to my home. I was living up on Burnley Street so I was in Richmond, but we were going out down the city end in the main entertainment area. Hutch said before we went home he’d take us up to a couple of nice places near where I lived and then I’d know where my locals are. So we did that, we went to the Mountain Goat Brewery and then once that closed we went across the road to the Royston Hotel. Me and Hutch ended up playing pool with a couple of guys and there was a girl with these guys. I ended up striking up a conversation with her and lo and behold, it’s Ash, my wife, but I more likely than not would have never been in that pub if I didn’t go for Collingwood and if I didn’t meet Hutch. It’s kinda funny and I actually used it in my wedding speech. I said that if we ever do have children that they should go for Collingwood because without Collingwood, we never would have met – I would have never met Hutch, we would have never been at that pub, we just never would have met. She then tries to say that if Melbourne didn’t create the first football team then there never would have been a football league, so naturally they should go for Melbourne. We’ll keep having that argument. But it’s funny how football plays such a big part – not just in your weekend but you meet people at work or other places with mutual interests. I’m a fairly introverted kind of guy so not knowing a lot of people in Melbourne and then meeting Ash and going out with all of her friends and meeting their partners, football is always something you can talk about. If you’ve got nothing else to talk about you can talk about football in winter and cricket in summer. They’re my two fall backs because while I love sport, making small talk with people I don’t know is not something I’m very good at or enjoy.

In terms of players, these days it’s hard to go past Pendles because he’s so good. He’s got so much time, he’s so composed. Swanny’s hilarious, Jamie Elliott’s exciting, I quite like Brodie Grundy ‘cause he’s young and he’s big and he just puts in a good effort. Back in the day it was Bucks – anyone from Collingwood who’s seen him play, he’s their number one. I remember him beating six Richmond taggers one day and all that kind of stuff. Funnily enough I used to have this thing for Brodie Holland. In my late teens he was the cool footballer and he was dating a model from ‘The Price Is Right’ so that’s someone you look up to. I remember when he used to play as a forward being at Manuka Oval and watching Collingwood v North Melbourne and he kicked a bag of seven or eight. We were on the bandwagon trying to get him to go for the 10 and were screaming out, “Kick it to Brodie, kick it to Brodie!” One of my indoor sports teams ended up being called ‘KI2B’ which was “kick it to Brodie”. I think it was an indoor volleyball team with my cousins so a bit of an inside joke.

Everyone’s got an opinion on the state of the game – it’s too congested, it’s too this, it’s too that. I don’t like the sub rule and thankfully they’re getting rid of that at the end of the year. No matter what else they do though, coaches will find a way to do what they can to win the football. If that’s getting more players close to the ball, then that’s what they’re gonna do – you can’t win the game if you don’t have the ball. If you don’t have players around the ball then you can’t win the ball. So: is congestion bad for footy? I don’t mind watching it. I still watch it every week. I still watch four or five games a week, more if I can. What changes congestion in footy? Do they reduce the number of players in the team, do they go to zones? You’d have three thirds, the forward 50, the middle and the other forward 50 and certain players can’t go into areas like netball. I can’t imagine that’s what they want to do. People say that it’s not an appealing game but you still see big hits, you still see guys breaking the lines, you still see big marks, you still see flukey goals. I’m happy. Collingwood hasn’t won for over a month but I still enjoy watching the footy.

It’s hard to put a finger on what I love most. It connects people. Before coming down here, like I said, you don’t know the football culture, you don’t know this, you don’t know that but there’s nothing quite like finishing work on a Friday, going to Richmond, catching up with a few mates for a beer and then heading over to the game. Unless they’re arseholes if their team wins but then you shouldn’t be mates with arseholes. Win or lose, whether your team wins or loses, you can still then go out and enjoy your night. It’s just that bringing people together, that’s what football in Melbourne does.

 

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“Don’t underestimate the value of a father taking children to the football. Don’t ever underestimate that because it’s a very important thing to do.”

sutherland family

For many years, Roger Sutherland was just a voice at the end of the phone for me. He was the man who would ring into my office to tell us exactly how our day was going to go to hell and who we’d need to speak to try and fix it. We met on the odd occasion during after work drinks but it wasn’t until a chance night out in Athens of all places that we became firm friends. Thing I love best about Roger is that he just loves football. While he’s a staunch Hawthorn supporter, he has such a genuine passion for the game and takes unbiased, unadulterated delight in all the good things about it regardless of what club is involved. Not to mention you’ve got to admire someone who can have a dozen beers with you after watching their footy team get beaten on a trip away to Adelaide. So you could say he’s not a bad bloke at all, even though he does barrack for the Hawks.

Name: Roger Sutherland

Age: Old enough to know better

Recruited from: Melbourne

Occupation: The man who makes sure everything runs smoothly in an emergency

AFL team followed: Hawthorn Hawks

All time favourite footy moment: 2013 grand final win

“I barrack for the Hawks because of their success through the mid 70s when I was very influenced by football at that particular time. I started off as an Essendon supporter. We grew up in North Clayton to start off with and my dad used to take me to Windy Hill to the games and I still remember watching Jeff Blethen play, he was the footballer that wore the glasses on the field. It’s a vivid memory that I have of my dad taking me to Windy Hill to go and watch those games. When I was about nine years old we moved down to south Gippsland and not long after that my dad and my mother separated. We were left stranded down in south Gippsland with really no access to football at all because we only had one television channel and football wasn’t shown on the TV then. We used to have to wait for Monday’s papers to find out who’d won games and who’d done what and how. I think through the mid 70s with Hawthorn having their success I thought “this is alright”. My dad had basically abandoned me at that stage so I started barracking for the Hawks because of their success. Of course that rolled on into the 80s when I was a bit older and we used to travel up on the bus every year to the night grand final, which was our big tour. I saw the Hawks have success there and just loved football from then on so they were it for me. So that’s how I became a Hawthorn supporter.

In my history of football with my dad taking me to Windy Hill and being an Essendon supporter at that stage there, I look at it now being a father myself and I look at the influence a father can actually have on his children in relation to football. When my mum and dad separated and my father left, I lost my way and I was isolated down in Gippsland without football. I wanted to follow football and I, as any nine or 10 year old boy wants to do, wanted to follow a successful team. Don’t underestimate the value of a father taking children to the football. Don’t ever underestimate that because it’s a very important thing to do. It’s part of bonding with your family. So what I find is that going to the football with my dad, it consolidated me supporting that team. When he left I felt abandoned by that and I found my own way as far as football went. I then went off and followed Hawthorn and I have followed Hawthorn ever since. I’ve obviously been a member basically since then and I support the club – I went through the early 2000s when we were having no success at all and I’ve been lucky, I’ve been very very fortunate that the club that I’ve picked has been very successful in my lifetime. Unlike some people.

I know that when my children were born, I’ve got two children, they were stolen by their mother as Collingwood supporters. I let that happen, as much as I didn’t like it I let that happen because I knew the influences my father had on me with Essendon, I knew that in time I could bring them around. The cunning way that I did that was I would take my kids to games and they would come along to games with me ’cause that’s what I would do on a Saturday while their mother was working. I would take them to the football and they would come and watch the Hawks. I would take them to Box Hill games and they would see their idols from the game the day before, the senior players, just standing around the huddles at quarter and three-quarter time or just standing there watching the game. I can talk about players, like there was Hodge and Mitchell, just players like that standing there and my kids were just gobsmacked that these players were standing there with them – they were superheroes to them at the time. By taking them to Box Hill games and taking them to Hawthorn games, they ended up now both being Hawthorn supporters. Much to their mother’s disgust but they both support the Hawks and they will come to games with me. It was part of my routine with my daughter. One thing I’ve loved with my daughter growing up while my son Kyle was travelling, is that my daughter would always come to the football games – it was our thing, we would go to the football Kelsey and I. We had reserved seats, which I still have anyway, but we had reserved seats and my daughter and I would go. My daughter is a funny football watcher. She’s not a yeller and screamer, she just sits there and watches the game, just observes it, doesn’t miss a thing. She just loves it. And then as she grew up and got to 18 and found her own way, she still follows the Hawks but we rarely get to go to games together these days which sort of leaves a bit of a hole for me there. But I just think football is a really good family thing to go along to and just enjoy. Don’t underestimate the impressions a parent can make on their children by just taking them to games because the kids just love it. They just absolutely love it.

Obviously I love Hawthorn’s on field success, but I also just love the culture of the club and the way the club manages their business. I just think they’re the pinnacle of a club to follow because of the identities around that 1980s era: the Dunstalls, the Breretons, the DiPierdomenicos. I see a lot of ex players and people that I followed as icons in the media now, those people who were very successful for Hawthorn. I just really enjoy the culture of the club and how they go about doing their business. It is a real business for them now, that’s how it is, but they’re still the family club.

I don’t remember the specific game the first time I went to the footy but I know it was an Essendon v Richmond game and I know it was at Windy Hill. I was one of those kids who used to sit there with the Footy Record and tick off the goals and the points. We used to buy the Record on the way into the game and my dad would have a pen; whoever kicked the goal I’d have to ask him so I would have been the world’s most annoying son to have at the game. “Who kicked that? Who kicked that?” because I wasn’t really paying attention but I had to have the Record filled out with who’d done whatever.

One of my biggest ever memories at the game is watching Dunstall kick 17 goals at Waverley Park. That’s one big memory. Sitting there and marking the Footy Record because I had my nephews with me at the time and I remember them marking the Record with Dunstall’s 17 goals. Incredible. I was also part of the crowd on Queen’s Birthday weekend when Hawthorn and Collingwood played when there was 93,000 people at Waverley Park. I vividly remember it because I remember people sitting in the aisles all the way around the ground, all the way down. And it was as a result of that game that they brought in the regulations that you couldn’t have any more there. I remember walking back to Rowville after that game with the biggest swarm of people I’ve ever seen. It was incredible.

roger santorini

I’ve seen the Hawks win many premierships and I’ve been lucky in my time. I think it’s been 11 premierships since I’ve been alive. I’ve only missed one, which was the 1961 premiership, because I’ve been alive for the rest. So my best footy memory I think was going to the 2013 premiership and being in the crowd. It was the second grand final I’d been to, I’d seen the Hawks lose against the Swans in 2012, and then seeing them win in 2013 was just the pinnacle for me. One of my greatest memories was last year actually being in Santorini in Greece and getting up at 7am in the morning and turning up at a bar that was owned by an Australian that was showing the premiership and being part of a group of ex-pats that were in Greece and watching the grand final. I ended up falling down, drinking ouzo. We celebrated with beer for breakfast in the morning and finished it off with ouzo and I think we were back in bed by about two o’clock in the afternoon because I was that intoxicated I couldn’t even remember what had happened on the day.

I’ll go to the football every time the Hawks are at home but I’ll also go and watch other teams play as well. My partner’s a St Kilda supporter and I’ll just go along and support her and watch the game because I just love watching football and all that it brings. It’s nice to go to a game and be bipartisan. For the Hawks games I’ll go to everything in Melbourne and I’ll structure everything around going there. I’ve only ever travelled interstate once and we know about that, don’t we? It wasn’t successful but it was an awesome weekend and a great experience. I’d watched the Adelaide Oval since it had been redeveloped and I’d always wanted to go so I ticked that off my bucket list when I went this year and saw the Hawks play Port Adelaide. I’ve never been to Tasmania to see the Hawks play in Tassie so that’s something on my bucket list to do as well.

I stand at the football and I’m a quiet observer of the game. I’m not a person that jumps up and down or yells and screams or anything like that. I’ll do the fist pump for the goals and I’ll clap the good things, but I love to just be there and watch it. I stand at the back of M11, that’s my traditional spot if anyone wants to find me at the football then they’ll find me in the standing area of M11. That’s where I stand every week. I love to listen to the boys from M10 there singing their songs and yelling out some of the comedy things they come up with. It cracks me up and I just love it, love listening to them.

I don’t have any superstitions but I do have a routine. I live on the fringe of the city, just in the west. I always catch the train or the tram, depending on how I’m feeling, into Flinders Street and I wander over to Transport and I always have a pint at Transport. Then I’ll walk up. I love the walk to the ‘G on game day. I love walking with the crowd, I love listening to the banter in the crowd. I don’t need anybody else to go to the football with, in fact I prefer just to go on my own and do my own thing. But I love the banter of listening to people talk about how the game’s going to unfold when they really have absolutely no idea. I walk around the ground and then I go in, I’ll grab myself a beer and stand in my spot at M11. I’ll never leave a game, I’ve never left a game at all and I’ll stand until the very end regardless of what happens. Then I like to walk out and listen to the crowd again. I like to have a beer a quarter, maybe an extra one at half time and then I’ll wander back with the crowd to Young & Jacksons and if we win, I like to go into Y&Js and have myself a celebratory pint. Then I’ll catch the tram and head home and that’s my day.

I have a membership and my number on my scarf is 25, which means I’ve been a member of the Hawthorn Football Club for 25 consecutive years. I believe that everyone who supports a club should take out a membership in some basic form; the clubs make it very very easy for people to be members these days, you can pay the membership off in 10, monthly instalments. You’re not a supporter of the club if you’re not supporting them financially. That’s my belief.

Nat and Roger Adelaide

I think one of my favourite players of all time that I really enjoy watching is Hodge. Even though he’s a current day player I just love going to the games and watching Hodge play because I love watching him direct – I mean he’s called ‘The General’ – and direct the traffic around the ground. I think when Hodge doesn’t play we lose a little bit of direction out on the ground. I love the identities of the game. I remember watching Brereton play, I remember watching Dunstall play, DiPierdomenico, and a player that I always loved watching too was Gary Ayres. Out of the backline, just tough. Tough.

You couldn’t go past Nat Fyfe now could you. I mean, you’d take Fyfe in a heartbeat. For today, you’d take Nat Fyfe if you were grabbing any player from another club. I think as a 6’2″ midfielder with a tank like he’s got… He jumps and he always lands on his feet, he’s like a cat. He soars through the air, lands on the ground like a cat and keeps on going. He’s just an incredible footballer. I’d go to a game just to watch Nat Fyfe play football.

The player that I don’t like is Adam Goodes. I’m a Hawthorn supporter and yeah I was part of the Goodes booing, purely because of what he brings. He makes football all about himself. He’s used football as a platform, he’s obviously been a champion of the game – he’s a dual Brownlow Medallist, he’s absolutely a champion of the game no matter which way you cut it. But I think he makes it all about himself and I just think he’s a genuine flog in the way he goes about doing the things he does. I know everyone doesn’t agree with me and I can assure you it’s certainly not a racist thing from me, I just think it’s all about the bloke with the “all about me me me” attitude he has and he even manages to turn the game around that’s someone else’s milestone and make it all about him as well. He’s the player I most like to hate in the game.

We have our traditional rivalries. I should have a soft spot for Essendon because that’s where I started. My dad’s gone now, he’s deceased, and I should have a soft spot for them but of course there’s a huge Hawthorn Essendon rivalry. I went through the 80s with the heartbreaks and euphoric feelings of that. I think Essendon is the team I most hate losing to, though I hate losing to Collingwood as well. But there’s no clubs I really overall dislike, I just like going and watching them for who they are and how they’re going about it.

I think the inconsistency in the umpiring frustrates me more than anything about football. I struggle with players today struggling with goal kicking routines. I think it’s annoying that professional footballers these days are paid big money to kick goals – I love the goals on the run and the side kicks and the check sides and things like that – but I just see people marking the ball these days with an inside 50, taking two steps back, marking the spot, pacing themselves out, going through their routine of coming in and kicking a goal, and then the ball just spearing off the side of the foot and just not going through. The people that I admire most are the ones that you can count on that just stand there, walk back, walk in and kick the goal. Then back to the centre for the bounce again. I just get annoyed at these routines and the technical side that they’ve brought into the game these days. Just frustrates me.

I just love going to the footy, being part of the crowd, being there. I’ve said to you before, I just love footy full stop. Yeah, I’m a Hawthorn supporter but I just love footy and I love going. I love what it does to people. I think it’s fantastic. If there’s one thing I really hate it’s when we play Sunday twilight games – I hate waiting the whole weekend. And now that we’ve got Thursday night games I hate waiting until Sunday night to have to play football or to go to the game; if you lose, you’ve gone through a whole weekend and then seen your team lose. Nothing better than playing on a Friday night, winning on a Friday night and then sitting back and enjoying the whole weekend because you don’t really care what happens after that.”

“I like to think of it as dual citizenship. You know, I’ve got Australian and Greek citizenship, and I’ve got Brisbane and Melbourne citizenship.”

Melbourne-Demons-vs-Brisbane-Lions-Live

The story of how Jane and I met is a funny one. Around nine years ago we worked for two separate companies that had decided to merge. After the first meeting of the management team, my boss came back to our office and said, “There’s a girl over there I reckon you’d really like Nat.” When I asked her why she thought that she said it’s because she had a Melbourne Demons scarf hanging over her chair. Right. We eventually met and guess what? We hit it off thanks to our mutual love of not just AFL but pretty much most sports (though I can’t imagine I’ll ever come around to soccer sorry Jane). Nine years and countless footy games later we’re still great mates – it probably helps that we both know what it’s like to have great affection for two football clubs. I had a chat to her about footy and despite my best efforts she refused to admit that the 2004 grand final was the best of the modern era. Hmmm. 

Name: Jane Lytras

Age: 39

Recruited from: BrisVegas

Occupation: One of the brains behind the Australian Open

AFL team followed: Melbourne Demons and Brisbane Lions

All time favourite footy moment: Brisbane Lions threepeat

“I go for Brisbane and Melbourne. I follow Melbourne because my grandpa played for them and Brisbane because I grew up there. I followed the Bears when they were crap. Mum’s family had an AFL background because grandpa, when he moved from Melbourne to Queensland, helped start up the QAFL. On mum’s side of the family it was strong, one of her brothers was in the Queensland team and one of her nephews as well, but he was replaced in the team by Jason Dunstall. So on her side there’s a strong Aussie Rules history and then dad when he came to Australia from Greece, even with his soccer background, the first time he saw Aussie Rules he said “I wish I’d moved here earlier so I could have played it.”

When the teams play I’m torn. I have been known to lose my voice and seem like a strange person cheering for both sides at the same time. Plus I normally choke myself because I’ve got two scarves around my neck. If they were playing against each other in a grand final… Oh my God. People have asked me this before. OK – I’ve seen Brisbane win three premierships and I have not seen Melbourne win a flag so I’m afraid I would have to say I’d be going for Melbourne.

People just say to me that you can’t have two teams and then they try to say that I’m trying to hedge my bets but I kinda point out where Brisbane and Melbourne are on the ladder at the moment and that you’re not really hedging your bets. I like to think of it as dual citizenship. You know, I’ve got Australian and Greek citizenship, and I’ve got Brisbane and Melbourne citizenship.

The first game I ever went to was Brisbane at Cararra and I think we were playing Essendon because I remember there were Bombers that flew over that gave us a fright. I don’t know if that was the time I got Mike Richardson’s autograph or not, but I was pretty excited. We didn’t really go to the AFL much when I was growing up because it was down at the Gold Coast so we couldn’t always make the trip down to see it. Once the Bears came to the ‘Gabba we got memberships and mum, dad and I used to go a lot.

At the game it depends on if I’m drinking. If I’m not drinking them I’m your classic Demons clapping hands, jolly good and well done. If I’m drinking then I’m probably a little bit louder but I’m never abusive. I do say “boo” and we always used to boo when Matthew Richardson kicked for goals because it seemed to work. Then my mum and I met him when we were in Paris and he was so lovely that mum just went, “I’m never going to boo that boy again.” And we haven’t since. I also think my behaviour depends on who I’m with at the game, that influences me a little bit. I can remember a friend of mine moved over from the UK and because the Dees were on the bottom of the ladder he decided to go for them. Going to games with him was fun, you know, educating him in AFL. He used to get quite worked up and if I wasn’t having to go to him “I don’t think you should be yelling that” then I was probably yelling as loudly as him.

I don’t have a membership. I did for a long time for both Brisbane and Melbourne and then I couldn’t justify the cost of both. Brisbane only gets five games down here and it’s still quite expensive. Then I moved over to the UK for a year and when I came back I just never renewed them. I know that I should and I know that I can get three game memberships but… I still get emails from both clubs, I just don’t go to games very often, so I’ve let it go.

I was there when Shaun Smith took the Mark of the Century. That was amazing. I was also there when Jason Dunstall kicked his 1000th goal in a game at the ‘Gabba, which was pretty exciting even though I’m not a Hawthorn supporter. And obviously the three Brisbane premierships are special memories. Oh… I don’t know if I have a favourite. Maybe the middle one against Collingwood because it was a closer game? Although I remember going to one of them, I can’t remember if it was against Essendon or Collingwood, where it was one of those classic Melbourne days where it was raining during the morning, we got to the ground and it was beautiful and sunny, we won, and then as we were leaving it started kind of snowy hailing. So that day kind of stands out in my memory as well, though not for the actual football. There was also one where Michael Voss came up holding the trophy and stood on the fence right in front of us. It was Vossy, so everyone was going off.

I went to all three of the Lions grand finals and the one that Port won as well, so all four that Brisbane were in. I was living in Sydney when Melbourne were in the 2000 grand final – I had Optus, that was when C7 used to broadcast it and I got C7 just so we could watch the grand final – then we got thrashed by what I think was the biggest margin in history at the time. 2004? That was the one where Alastair Lynch and the Wakelin had the punch on. We were right down near that, it was hilarious. Alastair Lynch was just doing all these air shots. My mum came to that one with me and she hadn’t been to the other three so she though she was the bad luck. You would think it was the best grand final of the last 20 years, wouldn’t you? I don’t think so.

Worst day at the footy is easy. So one day I went down to Geelong to see them play Brisbane. The train broke down or there was a crash on the tracks, I think it was one stop away from Skilled Stadium. So we weren’t going to get to the game in time unless we got off at that earlier stop and walked. Got there, cold, raining, standing out in that standing area, pouring with rain, windy, the Lions didn’t score for maybe the whole of the first quarter and then in the second quarter they might have gotten a couple of points. Jonathan Brown was injured, we got thrashed, and that was the first and last time I ever went to Skilled Stadium. I hate Skilled Stadium so much because of that that when Melbourne Victory had three games there this past year I didn’t go, and I’m a Melbourne Victory member. So I did not even utilise my membership, that’s how strong my hatred is.

With Dees, before the Bears were around, my favourite player was Robbie Flower. Then when the Bears came along I was a massive Choco Williams fan. One of mum’s workmates used to do the photography for the Bears and he used to give me the photos that he didn’t need. My bedroom walls were covered in black and white photos of Brisbane Bears players and there were a lot of Choco Williams ones in the centre right above my bed. Darryl White was a big favourite at Brisbane as well, Vossy and Simon Black. Jack Trengove for the Dees is a favourite now. Apart from being a good player when he’s not injured, he just seems like he’s very wise for his age. Got a good head on his shoulders.

You know what? I don’t love Jack Watts because I’m not really into blonds but I think people give Jack too hard a time. I feel bad for him because I think a lot of pressure was put on him. I hear Dees supporters yelling stuff at him and it makes me really angry when people yell at their own players. I remember a Brisbane v Sydney game once – and it’s the only game I’ve ever left early – where I was ready to punch a Sydney supporter. The Swans were beating Brisbane and this guy behind me just kept screaming at Leo Barry and abusing the crap out of him. We were close enough to the goal square that Leo Barry could have heard everything he was saying and I just thought, you’re supporting that team, why are you screaming at that man and saying horrible things?

When I lived in Sydney I hated the Swans because even though Brisbane were winning all the time, we always lost to them. It drove me mental. And then since I’ve moved to Melbourne it’s more St Kilda just because of all the off field crap with them. I have a love/hate thing with Chris Judd because I think he should have come to Melbourne. But at the same time I know he’s into philosophy and stuff so I can’t hate him. It’s like my Russell Brand thing where I don’t want to like him but I do.

The thing that I love about footy is the thing that I love about sport in general where it can be a great unifier. You can be having a shit time in life but you go along to a game and it will be an amazing game and it can just lift you up and make you forget about all the other stuff that’s going on.

It’s hard to kind of sum up what I don’t like. I don’t feel like I’m as big a fan as I used to be, I feel like the game is not quite in touch with the people as much as it used to be. I know the AFL is trying to do something about that. I feel like it’s over-umpired a little bit as well. It makes it difficult for there to be flow in the game and it can also make it a bit confusing, I also hate how some commentators are too familiar with the players to be commentating. If I hear Ling call Leigh Montagna ‘Joey’ again I will – to quote Terry Wallace – spew up.

No! Shane Woewodin is NOT the worst Brownlow Medallist of all time. Can I please tell you a story behind this. So, the first time I saw Shane Woewodin – even though I’m not really into blonds – I thought, oh he seems really lovely. He was suddenly my favourite player and this is when no one really knew who he was. I was still up in Brisbane then and I remember my sister and I went to a Brisbane v Richmond game at the ‘Gabba and we were drinking with a group of people in the Lions Club afterwards. We started talking about Brownlow and this was in like, March or April. I as saying back then that Shane Woewodin is going to win the Brownlow Medal and one of the Richmond guys was like, “Pfft, you’re a girl, what do you know.” Another one was like, “Shane who? No one knows who he is.” And who won the Brownlow Medal that year? Shane Woewodin. It might have been a superficial bet but he still won.”

“I’m normally, you know, a pretty reserved kind of guy but I do tend to unleash at the footy.”

1993

Pretty much all of my best memories from the end of my time in Canberra have one bloke in them – Christopher Mark Iverson. Although Ivo was technically my brother’s friend, we ended up living with a big group of other people in a Melrose Place style complex in Kaleen and chaos soon ensued. He’s still one of the best damn alcoholic Trivial Pursuit players I’ve ever met however his penchant for singing tones rather than words on SingStar continues to get under my skin. What I’m trying to say though is that Ivo’s a good bloke, despite the fact he’s a) a Bombers supporter and b) a lawyer. Now that we both live in Melbourne we catch up now and then for Coronas jammed into bowls of frozen margarita and, of course, to talk about football.

Name: Chris Iverson

Age: 33

Recruited from: Albury Wodonga

Occupation: Legal eagle

AFL team followed: Essendon Bombers

All time favourite footy moment: 1993 grand final

“I go for the Essendon Bombers. Why? That’s a good question. Footy is a big part of my family; my mum never followed football until she met my dad and then was quickly indoctrinated into the football way of life. My dad goes for Collingwood and my mum now goes for Brisbane – she’s from Brisbane. Who knows why my dad goes for Collingwood but he does, and he goes for them as all good Collingwood supporters do, he’s one eyed. I have three older brothers and two of them now go for Richmond and one goes for Collingwood. It was a big thing within my family for me, the youngest child, to pick a side. There was two and two – two Collingwood and two Richmond – and my parents and my older siblings were all trying to corrupt me. Anyway, it was a big thing. Family friends also tried to make me go for Sydney, but basically by the time I was 11 my best friend at school was a mad Essendon supporter and he and his dad brought me down from Albury Wodonga to Melbourne to go to an Essendon v Carlton game. I don’t know if you can recall the Essendon/Carlton game in the 1993 early rounds but basically Sticks Kernahan took a mark after the siren and just needed to score a point to win the match. He took the mark 35m out, slight angle and kicked it out of bounds on the full. It was a draw. I’d never been to such an exciting game. To top it off, my mate’s dad knew someone who got us into the Essendon rooms so I then went and met Sheedy and all the Essendon players, got all their autographs and I thought “Oh I might become an Essendon supporter.” Then we came back for the Essendon v Adelaide preliminary final that year and Essendon were down by about 45 points in the third quarter and basically they came back, stormed home, won the match and then the following week won the grand final. I thought, “Yep, that’s it, Essendon.” I wandered between Collingwood, Richmond, Sydney for a while in my youngest years, but then 1993 Essendon, that was it.

That said, it’s hard to keep going for them now. It’s too late now to change teams – my family gave me grief in those early years for changing and it would be even worse now. I think when you’re seven or eight then you’re entitled to take a little bit of time to work out where your allegiances lie – it’s such an important decision! Once I made the decision to commit though, that was it through thick or thin. I’ve got no time for people who switch teams or get on the bandwagon, that sort of thing. Our mutual friend Jimmy, he’s the worst. He has gone for pretty much every team in the NRL; the Chargers for a while there, St George – when I first met him he was a St George fan, then the Canberra Raiders for a bit, then he switched to the Titans when they were first formed and said “Yep, this is the team for me and I’ll never switch again,” now he’s back with the Raiders again. Literally he changes teams all the time. (To be fair Jimmy’s girlfriend is a Raiderette aka Canberra Raiders cheerleader so his most recent switch is probably understandable.)

The past three years have been tough, very tough. It’s been hard to admit you’re an Essendon fan. The drugs issue is such a polarising issue with people. And when I say polarising, that kind of makes it sound like there’s a 50/50 split either way but it’s not. It’s – how many teams are there in the comp? – it’s 17 against one usually in term of the views on the issue.

When people hear I’m a Bombers fan they usually roll out the “drug cheats” line. It’s all about the drugs at the moment and has been for the last three years. People didn’t tend to say too many bad things about Essendon in the years before that; everyone had teams that they hated like Carlton or Collingwood and not to say that everyone liked Essendon, but people didn’t hate Essendon the way that they now seem to. I think it’s ridiculous, when this all happened in 2011 and we have the current players in 2015, to think they are still now benefiting from taking some type of illicit substance. Half the players aren’t even there. Even for those who are still there, I don’t think that what they took was necessarily, on a worse case basis or even on ASADA’s case, something that was going to have a lasting effect. So I think that’s a bit unfair that people are still talking about them doping or being on drugs now. Anyone who’s watched any of our last two or three games would know that’s not true!

I’m also not saying that we didn’t do anything wrong – of course we did.  But, at present, the only thing we’ve been done for is ‘poor governance’ and I reckon that there’d be quite a few clubs that have subsequently taken a close look at the governance of their supplements programs and made a few changes.

I’m not necessarily on either side when it comes to Team Bomber or Team Hird. To be honest I thought last year when Bomber was in charge and there was pressure on the club to get rid of Hird or for Hird to resign himself, I was thinking yeah, maybe Bomber should stay on. It was just going to be too divisive for Hird to come back and Bomber has a proven record as head coach at Geelong. But then I just wasn’t all that happy with the way Bomber went about it at the end of the year and since then he’s been wanting noting to do with the club it seems. I’m kind of thinking that maybe we made the right call. I mean, the jury’s out on whether Hird’s actually a good coach or not and Thompson’s got two premierships to his none, but he took a bit of gloss off his record. He was the favourite son all through last year, right until the very, very end.

Absolutely this has damaged Hird in the eyes of Bombers fans. He was the absolute golden child, could do no wrong and even giving him the most favourable assessment now you can’t say he’s still the golden child. You just say he was a great player and leave it at that, I think people tend to agree. I don’t think he deliberately set out to do anything wrong in 2011, I think he was probably naïve and took some bad advice from someone who he thought was a guru, who had certain qualifications and who had worked at lots of clubs in the NRL – turned out he was probably nothing more than a charlatan.

I probably came down from the Murray once a year for the footy when I was growing up. We went to a lot of Collingwood games, I remember going to a game out at Victoria Park back in the 80s. I also think I went to the SCG a few times, went to the ‘Gabba in Brisbane, went to the WACA even – the WACA! They didn’t really tend to play much footy there, I went to the WACA before they started playing out at Subi. I didn’t go to a single game when I actually lived in Perth though – couldn’t get a ticket unless you were a Dockers or Eagles member! I probably go to the football seven or eight times a year now. I missed the first five weeks of this season as I was overseas or interstate but I’ve been to a couple of games so far. I probably went to seven or eight games last year and the year before, since I’ve been living in Melbourne.

I don’t have a membership. I decided when I moved to Melbourne I was finally going to take up a membership because having lived in Canberra, Perth, overseas, it just never seemed worth paying out for one. I must also admit that when I lived in Canberra I tended not to follow AFL as much as I used to and what I do now do because you just don’t get as much coverage there. So then when I moved to Melbourne at the start of 2012 I really looked at the packages and was pretty convinced I was going to get a good membership and go as much as I could. Then the so called “darkest day in sport” happened. That was enough to put me off – I didn’t think we’d even have a team at one point.

It’s not my best self at the football. Let’s be honest. I also get so nervous that I tend to have a few pre-game frothies. This is what I mean by not my best self: I’m normally, you know, a pretty reserved kind of guy but I do tend to unleash at the footy. I don’t tend to boo anyone for non politically correct reasons – I wouldn’t boo Adam Goodes for instance – but I do tend to have a go at the umpires and if I think they’ve made a bad decision, I will boo them. Which I know in current times is questionable but anyway, I still can’t help myself. My other thing I yell out is “Ball!” Just “Ball,” that’s it.

I’m not very superstitious by nature but until this year, there was a particular mate of mine that whenever we went to a game or even whenever we watched a game together, Essendon always won. Actually it might have been a game at the end of last year when it all fell apart and it hasn’t been any better since. But for the first 18 months I lived in Melbourne I was convinced that if my mate Kabe and I watched every game together then we would be undefeated for the season.

In terms of being there live, the best game I’ve watched is the 1993 preliminary final against Adelaide when we were down by so far them came back and won. It was outstanding. Watching on TV it was probably the week after, the grand final or the 2000 grand final. I’ve also been to quite an unusual number of draws. Another one against Carlton in the final round last year. They’re my highlights.

I can still remember my saddest day as an Essendon supporter. It was the preliminary final in 1996 when Plugger kicked the point after the siren. I remember watching at home with my family and with maybe two or three minutes to go we kicked another goal which put us up by two goals and I went nuts through the house. I was yelling out, “We’re into the grand final!” and I was doing laps of our house, screaming and carrying on. My parents and my brothers were all yelling at me to sit down and shut up. Their teams had all been knocked out and I don’t think they were all that keen on my team making the showdown. About 30 seconds later Sydney kicked a goal. And I then very quickly shut up, even though we were still up by six points. Then they kicked another goal and I went dead silent and there was this terrible look on my face. Then when Plugger took that mark for the kick after the siren, I ran to my room and I’m pretty sure I cried. It was a very, very sad day. I haven’t overcome that since – I won’t celebrate until the final siren (though I was pretty confident by quarter time in that game against Melbourne last year where we won by 150 points!). I don’t hate Sydney because they were kind of a bit shit for a long time, they did alright that year but then they were nothing again for a long while until the mid-2000s. I don’t hate them and if it was to happen with anyone then I kind of felt a bit sorry for the Swans because they were so unsuccessful for so long. And they still didn’t win that year. As soon as they beat us I was absolutely going for them in the grand final against the Kangas.

It seems wrong now to say James Hird was my favourite player growing up but he was a champon player, even if there are huge questions marks over his coaching. Matty Lloyd as well, obviously a powerful forward back in the day. In recent times I think Jobe has not just been a great player on the field but off-field as well, he’s really matured a lot as a player and a person. I actually didn’t think he was much good when he first started out – he was a pretty terrible kick.  But he’s worked so hard on his kicking which is why I admire him more, it’s not just natural talent with him.

At the moment I’d take Nat Fyfe but I think Gary Ablett Jr is the best that I’ve seen. I know that Carey was a fantastic player in his time but the ease with which Gary holds the ball, tackles, shakes a tackle… When he’s at his best I just am in awe. Carey might have taken a good pack mark and all that, which Ablett doesn’t tend to do, but for everything else I think Ablett’s the best. And, dare I say it, better than his father who was absolutely one of my heroes growing up.

I’ve definitely got some rivalries. Richmond, for family reasons I always enjoy beating them. Likewise Collingwood but who doesn’t? Those are probably the two biggest ones. West Coast as well just because we’ve had some fantastic games over the years, the Sheedy incident waving the scarf and sticking it up them that day and I’ve been to a couple of games against them since then and it’s always good. Then there’s the moment where Hirdy hugged the bloke when we played West Coast – that was fantastic that moment.

Things I hate… I hate the war on Essendon. I hate the advertising. I hate the LED signs at Etihad Stadium because it’s such a distraction. I don’t know if I like the sub rule. I think I’d scrap that. I mean, I’ll still keep watching the game whether they have that or not, but it’s one thing that if I was on the rules committee I’d get rid of. I don’t like it. Personally I think it cheapens your games record if you’ve spent 95 per cent of the game sitting on the bench. I kind of get the impact of being a man down, with rotations and things if you just have four on the bench, but I don’t know. I just never warmed to it when it was introduced and still haven’t.

I struggle to even answer why I love footy. I love everything about the whole experience, AFL more so than any other sport. Living in Canberra I got into league for a while and union as well in a big way but that tends to be quite polarising in terms of you either like one or the other – there’s still so much class warfare attached to both. Whereas AFL is a great leveller I think, particularly in Melbourne. It’s something which just permeates through the whole community. Going to the game and having such massive crowds, it’s a great experience. It really is the greatest game of all.”

“If you knew me in my normal environment then you wouldn’t pick it but I’m certainly a different person at the footy.”

Breust

Last Monday I was at work, rolling about slumped over an exercise ball because it was quiet, and waiting for the Melbourne v Collingwood game to come on. I lifted my head and with a glum expression said to my colleagues, “I really miss Carla. If she was here now she’d be talking about the footy with me.” And it’s true – no one I know can talk about every single facet of football like Carla Coslovich can. Want to have a discussion about the best looking players in the league? Carla can. Want to talk about form centre half forwards in the comp? Carla can. Want to debate media coverage of a complex issue or a rule change or how bad Luke Hodge’s parachute tracksuit was when he got drafted? Carla can do all of that. Sadly for me (though not for her) she’s just started a year’s maternity leave so I collared her on her last day and made her have a serious discussion with me about footy. And by serious, I mean I don’t think we looked at that ripped shirt photo of Matt De Boer even once while we were talking. That’s progress.

Name: Carla Coslovich

Age: 37

Recruited from: Manningham

Occupation: For the next year it’s going to be mum (again)

AFL team followed: Hawthorn Hawks

All time favourite footy moment: 2014 grand final

“I go for Hawthorn. Both my mum and my father barrack for Hawthorn and I grew up in a Hawthorn family dating back years and years. We lived in Linda Crescent, Hawthorn, directly opposite the Glenferrie Oval, so I lived and breathed it from day dot. I think I’d be murdered if I stopped going for them but deep down I just love them so much that I couldn’t even begin to think of barracking for another team. I think when Hawthorn nearly merged with Melbourne in ’96 it was one of the darkest days and I never wanted it to happen. It’s always Hawthorn for me.

The first time I ever went to the footy it was at Princes Park, the old Princes Park that was Carlton’s home ground so Hawthorn always felt like the red headed step child there, it never felt like home. I used to go with my grandparents and my grandfather would take a medicine bottle and fill it up with a little bit of whiskey. My job at the footy was to make him his coffee with his ‘medicine’ and we sat there. It was always the same group of people that went for Hawthorn. The early 80s were good for us. It was 1986 and a premiership year so I remember that first game and that season for all that it was, cause it was a year we ended up on top. It was good.

I became a Hawthorn member in 1978, the year of my birth. My grandparents joined me up so that’s 37 years this year. I go to the game every week as long as it’s in Melbourne. I go with my cousin and we have our memberships that we renew every year. We’re two peas in a pod and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What I love most about it now is that I get to take my daughter every week who’s starting to follow in my footsteps, albeit a much subtler version.

I’m an annoying supporter and I know that. My mum, my brother, my husband refuse to sit with me because I’m so loud. I’m probably too one-eyed and my voice is just so high pitched and annoying. But I can’t help it and I’m not like that in any other forum. I’m pretty reserved and quiet, I mean I like a bit of a laugh, but at the football I’m almost a different person. It’s almost as though I go back to being very primal. I’m just so nervous that I’m annoying to be with.

Oh yeah, I’ve had arguments at the footy. Stand up arguments, pushed each other against the chest, but mainly verbal. These have mostly been on the odd occasion where it hasn’t been Hawthorn’s home game and you’ve got to buy tickets or I use my husband’s MCC to sit there – not often do I have an argument with someone in the MCC though. If I’ve sat in the outer or it hasn’t been our game or it’s an Etihad game then I have quite often had a verbal. If you knew me in my normal environment then you wouldn’t pick it but I’m certainly a different person at the footy.

I can’t stand the one eyed supporters or those ones that get on the bandwagon. I hate the people who don’t have that AFL etiquette whereby if your team doesn’t win, you don’t want to be told on the Monday morning when you get to work or teased; you just take it in your stride, understand you’ve had a bad week and move on. So those uneducated people who come out of the woodwork if their team have had a win and you don’t hear from them for the rest of the season, they annoy me.

I have lots of superstitions. I find I’m exhausted by October because of all the things that I make myself do throughout the footy season, but if I don’t do them then I kill myself. I have the undies, the good luck undies, although they haven’t helped that much this year! I have to listen to my brother’s All For One Hawks podcast every week prior to the game. I have to say a particular saying and prayer in my shower facing a certain direction, on the day of the game. And every year I have to do something, like a ‘value add’ to the year. So a couple of years ago in 2013 when we went back to back, I got a tattoo that’s got to do with Hawthorn. And so on and so on, there’s always something that I add each year that is different. And I have to watch the same video in my bedroom every night when I go to bed for the entire footy season.  So from round one right up until the premiership. It’s Jonathan Creek, a UK TV murder mystery/locked room type mystery show. He’s got about 28 episodes so one of the 28, but I must watch one of his episodes every night for a good six months. In September I don’t eat. If you ask me what month I’m at my thinnest then it’s always September. I live on breathing or smelling food for the month of September, I just get too nervous. So yeah, there’s a couple of superstitions there that leave me exhausted.

I have two favourite players. My favourite player in terms of hotness would be Luke Breust – I can’t even deal with his hotness. I would say though that my overall favourite player has to be Luke Hodge just because he leads from the front. You can hear him directing the players on the ground from where I sit with my membership. He’s very loud, he’s very directive, he’s purposeful and I just love how hard he is at the game. I’ve also got lots of favourites from when I was growing up, mainly because they fall into the hotness category! Otherwise I really loved the combination of Jason Dunstall and Dermott Brereton. I suppose growing up they were really powerful forwards and a good duo up front. Because we were so successful in the 80s and early 90s they were really prominent, so for me they’re in all my best memories.

Looking at our list now in terms of our ballgetters and our clearance players, I would love Joel Selwood. I know he’s sort of coming up to the end as well but just the way he attacks the ball, his tenacity, yeah he might duck a little bit but there’s skill in that as well, and I think he’s a phenomenal leader. So I would love a Joel Selwood at Hawthorn.

I don’t like to admit to this out loud but I love watching Buddy Franklin. For all the heartache that I went through when he left Hawthorn, I do love watching him play. I think his natural ability, his height and his size, the way he runs… his engine is just absolutely phenomenal. He’d have to be a stand out player for me.

I suppose that for me, the teams that I hate would have to be based on modern rivalries. If you speak to some of the older Hawthorn supporters they go for the Hawthorn-Essendon rivalry, but not so much for me. It would have to be Geelong and Sydney because they’ve been our nemeses for the last eight or nine years. In terms of players, I hate the North Melbourne football side in total. Yeah, there’s a few… Tommy Hawkins. And I can’t even pinpoint why, he’s just a big salami and I can’t stand him. I have no basis for that but I cannot stand him. He really just gets under my skin.

I would have to say – and it’s not just because it’s just happened – the 2014 grand final is my best moment because of the year that we had. We lost our coach to a syndrome, we lost about 10 players along the way like Gibson, Mitchell and the like who were out for 9-10 weeks and then you had others who missed significant amounts of time, so in terms of list management it was difficult, we had an interim coach for five weeks who got us through five consecutive wins, no one had us going back to back because of all that we had going on in the year. To get up and to beat Sydney, who we’ve got this rivalry with, it was almost a bit of a grudge match because of the 2012 grand final were we were expected to win. Sydney was on top of the ladder and rightly so because they had a brilliant 2014 season, so to get up and win by that much, everything just fell into place. They ticked every box, they went into it, they were hard, the tackling was hard and it was just tenacious from start to finish. So to win by 63 points in a grand final I actually got to sit there and I enjoyed every moment. The thing for Hawthorn that season, the hashtag in the finals series was #everymoment, and I didn’t realise what that meant until the end of the game. I thought, I did actually enjoy every moment of that.

Football is about how it makes me feel. Not just on the day but the lead up to any game, for the whole week it’s the excitement I feel, the nerves, the anxiety. I love the friendships that I’ve formed as the result of footy and the banter in the office and at home. It brings me and my brother and my parents closer than we’ve ever been because of a football team. I also this it makes us absolutely united as Melburnians and I don’t think that any other state can say that they have that love of footy like we do. So it makes me proud to be a Melburnian because of AFL footy.

Sometimes the off field stuff tends to get in the way of the on field stuff. Some of the political banter that you hear on talkback radio sometimes overshadows the good stuff that happens. So for the last two years Hawthorn have gone back to back and all you hear about is ASADA and Essendon. I think that really overshadowed two sensational seasons that Hawthorn had.

I would change the change. I hate that they change the rules every year just for the sake of change, so that interpretation of the rule really makes things confusing for supporters. One season I know that dropping the ball or incorrect disposal looks like this, the next year I’m looking at it and I don’t get it. I just find that frustrating.

If I was a five-year-old boy and playing with a Power Ranger I would think Hawthorn’s away jumper is a sensational looking uniform. I don’t mind Jack Gunston in it, I think he looks beautiful and if you’ve got a top rig, go for it. But whoever designs our away jumpers needs to be shot.”

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

hovercraft

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

Name: Phteven

Age: 54

Recruited from: Diamond Valley

Occupation: Retired hovercraft driver

AFL team followed: Carlton Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think people give up too easily on coaches or players and they don’t give them a chance any more.”

beck and bombers

Beck Angel is one of those people it’s almost impossible not to like – she’s bright, bubbly and pretty with an infectiously charming personality. That said, she does barrack for Essendon. Hard. So I suppose no one’s perfect. Beck’s also one of the rare people who grew up in the heartland of the club she’s supported all her life (except for one week) and it’s been a difficult couple of years for Bombers fans. I had a chat to her about Jobe, peptides, Jobe, attending the Brownlow, Jobe and why she yells out “Napkins!” at every game. And we also touched on Jobe.

Name: Beck Angel

Age: 31

Recruited from: Airport West

Occupation: Communications superstar for Toyota

AFL team followed: Essendon Bombers

All time favourite footy moment: 1993 and 2000 Grand Finals, meeting Jobe Watson

“I go for Essendon because I have to. It’s a family tradition to be an Essendon supporter. I grew up in the area so it’s Bombers for life. It’s certainly not the peptides that keeps me going for them now; Jobe Watson keeps me going. Except for three in-laws – one aunty and two uncles- everyone else goes for Essendon. For a week in oh, I think it would have been about ’94 or ’95, I barracked for Carlton. That was because my best friend Rosanna barracked for Carlton. My grand dad lived around the corner and I went around to see him and knocked on the door for him to open up, then I said “Grand dad guess what? I barrack for Carlton!”. I thought he went to open the door but he locked it and told me I wasn’t coming in until I barracked for Essendon. So I soon earned the error of my ways.

Because I grew up in the area, a lot of people I know went for Essendon. The local shops were always Essendon, people my dad worked with worked at the Essendon footy club, my next door neighbour worked at the Essendon footy club. In my area it was all very Essendon.

I can’t remember the year, it would have been probably ’91 or ’92 but I’m not really sure, but my first game was Essendon v North Melbourne. My dad took me and I went with all of my relatives. That was when I could walk and I was in the Southern Stand on the third floor, right up the top. My uncle was there who barracks for North Melbourne and the rest were Essendon. Essendon were losing but we got up at three-quarter time and then we lost. I was devastated. After that I always thought that if a team was winning in the third quarter then that means they have to lose, because that’s what happened to Essendon.

Probably the 1993 grand final is my favourite moment. I was very young and I was in Queensland with my family and we were watching it there. It’s more the lead up to it rather than the actual game. In Queensland we didn’t realise about the heat… Mum and dad took us to the supermarket and we got red and black balloons and streamers, and our 13th floor balcony was opposite the beach. We covered it on the morning with streamers, Essendon red and black, and put all out balloons up there then went to the beach. We kept hearing, “pop, pop, pop” and the balloons were all popping in the heat. Everyone was like, “What the hell? Who is this putting balloons up?”. Then we watched the game and we had our footy jumpers and our scarves on. When we won we were running around the pool, knocking on all the apartment buildings telling everyone Essendon had won. We couldn’t work out why no one in Queensland cared! It was just a very magical moment.

Worst moment was my first time at a grand final for Essendon, which was 2001. We lost and I was devastated because I missed out on the 2000 grand final. I went with my dad and I lined up for ages at the MCG to get tickets. Dad also wouldn’t let me get my face painted ’cause he sad he wouldn’t sit near me. I remember Vanessa Amorosi was playing and I was crying already at the start – my dad was very embarrassed that I was crying during the national anthem. And then Essendon lost and I must admit, I couldn’t bear to be there right at the end of the grand final so we left with about two minutes to spare. I couldn’t bear to watch the Essendon players down on their knees with their face in their hands and being very upset. It was my only grand final experience watching Essendon and it was shattering.

It’s been a tough few years to be an Essendon supporter. I feel for the players and football hasn’t been as enjoyable to watch. Even watching a game but knowing afterwards that James Hird’s going to talk about it or he’s going to be complaining about something in the media, or Caroline Wilson will be bagging Essendon for the fifth time that week… I don’t really like reading about it. I now think this season’s over for me after WADA’s appeal.

I don’t want to stray away from the club and I still love Essendon the same, it’s just not as enjoyable when the only thing people talk about when they find out you’re an Essendon supporter isn’t how they played on the weekend or how amazing Fletch is to still be playing at 40, it’s about the peptides. We’ve all heard it, you know when someone says “Uhhhh are you taking peptides?” and the joke’s old now. It’s certainly torn supporters and I think there are those who support Hird and those who don’t. I think everyone support the players and still wants to do the right thing by the club but it’s Hird who is splitting people.

Gavin Wanganeen is still my favourite player. He was my first favourite player ever and I loved everything about him. Most of all he was very good looking. I cried when he went to Port Adelaide. I cried myself to sleep for about a week but I was comforted by the fact he was going back home. I also love everything about Jobe Watson. I love watching Joe Daniher as well, I think he’s performing really well and he’ll continue to. I’m always interested in seeing him. But I really can’t go past Jobe Watson these days.

hodge and beck

There’s not so much another player I’d like to have at the club, I’m pretty happy with the Essendon team. There’s obviously some other good players out there, like I love Luke Hodge and I think he’s great. He’s getting on in his career but I think he’s great and he seems like a really good leader. But I’m pretty happy with who we’ve got. I’m happy we got Chappy (Paul Chapman) and I think we’ve stolen some good players, which is great.

On the field I hate Carlton, Collingwood and Hawthorn. I don’t like anything about those three clubs. I’m sure there’s nice things about them away from football but I hate them all and that’s probably because they always play well against us.

I haven’t had a membership in quite a few years. I used to always have one. The reason is my family stopped going to the football after we made the move to Etihad. My dad strongly opposed the move from the MCG to Etihad and went to all the meetings. Because of our fan base, he felt Etihad or whatever it was called at the time was too small. So I don’t have them to go with. My dad has been to Etihad once for a soccer game and he hates it. He refuses to go there for football. My other friend that I would always go to the football with, he moved to Queensland so I haven’t had a membership since he went up there. Of course I do occasionally get tickets through work.

If things go bad, I scream out “Napkins!” and repeatedly yell out “Napkins, napkins, napkins!”. When I was really young it worked, so in my head I just keep repeating the word ‘napkins’. I still do that now. I think it stemmed back to my nanna’s house and we did it while playing billiards. So I just repeatedly say it. When I was younger it was a little bit more out of control. This was actually when I was watching the games so people must have thought I was special. I also had different songs when different players got the ball. When Long got the ball I’d start singing, “Lalalala Long, lalalala Long, lalalala Long Long le Long Long Long” and when Harvey got it, it was “Harvey world travel, the travel professionals…”. I would have songs for a whole range of players and I’d sing them. I can’t remember what the others were. I try to forget. Now it’s only “napkins”.

When I’m not yelling “napkins” I get very stressed watching the football, but I can’t articulate myself. So I just move around in circles and just go “Oh nooooooooooo” in a really high pitched voice and just making noises because I can’t really say anything as I’m so stressed. I’m not good. My dad hates watching football with me and my brother hates it too. I can’t sit still.

I don’t have my jumpers any more because they don’t fit. I have my scarf and I will never get a proper scarf. This one has been my scarf since the early 1990s. I actually plait it as well and separate the red and the black then plait it when I’m getting stressed at the football. I always wear my scarf and then I just have other things around the house. Like I still have my Dean Solomon framed picture in my study. I had to throw out my Gavin Wanganeen stuff because it was too heartbreaking.

nat and beck2

I think footy is the closest thing to a religion in Victoria, it’s always about who you know and who you go for. I remember once I started dating someone and I asked him what team he barracked for and he sort of didn’t really have a team. He got back to me and said “I kinda go for this team” and the fact he didn’t say “I barrack for this team” meant we didn’t go out again. I was like, a man not liking football is not a man for me. I think it gets you passionate, you have your ups and your downs but it brings everyone together and you make friends just from common interests. Or you like to bag Collingwood or Carlton fans.

The thing that I actually hate the most about football is that I think people give up too easily on coaches or players and they don’t give them a chance any more. There are coaches who didn’t have a great start decades ago and then they built on their skills and became great coaches. Nowadays it’s very ruthless and I actually feel for the coaches and the players. I wish that would change and we got behind them a little bit more rather than always criticising them.

The Brownlow was the best day of my life, I now know what people feel like on their wedding day. It was fantastic to go. I couldn’t go to the toilet the whole time I was there because I knew a football player would be in the disabled toilet and I didn’t trust myself not to abuse them. And I felt that as a representative of Toyota, the AFL’s premier partner, that that would not go down well. So I couldn’t go to the toilet the entire time. I spent 15 minutes trying to find Jobe and I nearly gave up trying to get through everyone, but then I saw Dyson Heppell’s hair and it was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen. Because when I saw it I knew it was Dyson and I knew Jobe would be sitting there. I couldn’t get close enough to him so I shoved my friend in front and said you just have to tell him there’s a girl in a wheelchair that wants a photo with you. Jobe just saw me in the wheelchair and it was just… magic. He came over and smiled and I couldn’t talk to him, I was so nervous. But I got my photo.

I didn’t have a problem with the double denim. When I watched Jobe that day I was more concerned about his hair to be honest, than the double denim. His hair was… interesting. He needed product in his hair, I think and it needed to be a bit shorter. I was also getting annoyed because he didn’t have stubble, because I do prefer Jobe with stubble. I also kept looking at him dreamily and thinking, “Oh my gosh this is Tim Watson”. I love Jobe and Jobe is Tim and I love Tim. And then I dreamt about having dinner with Tim, Susie, Jobe and myself.”