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
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.”