Someone recently described Cathy Ebert to me as “still one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet” and I couldn’t have said it any better myself. After all, you’d have to be a pretty good person to put up with being my best friend for nearly 20 years and living with me not once but twice. We’ve had years of watching football games of all codes, from Bledisloe tests through to rugby league State of Origin to that time we went to the SCG for Paul Roos’ last game in 1998 and almost drowned in a torrential downpour. Cath is one of my favourite people to watch footy with (and talk about footy with) and one of the few I can stand sitting with when our teams play each other. Plus you know someone is top shelf when one of your favourite footy memories is celebrating together after their team absolutely flogs yours in a grand final. Just don’t ever mention Nick Davis to her…
Name: Cathy Ebert
Recruited from: Melbourne via Canberra and Dubbo
Occupation: Sports administrator extraordinaire
AFL team followed: Geelong Cats
All time favourite footy moment: 2007 preliminary final and grand final wins
“I follow the Geelong Cats. The first game of footy that I watched was the 1989 grand final. We were actually on holidays in Ballina and the grand final was on, Hawks and Cats. I thought well, I’m 11-years-old and I like Cats and I don’t like Hawks, I like blue and white and I really don’t like the poo and wee colours, so that’s how I started going for the Cats, just for that reason. We’ve had some bad years ever since I started following them but they’ve turned things around. I like that they’re a bit of a middle of the road side where we’ve had some good success but I don’t think they’re arrogant like some of the other sides. I like that the Cats are a good, strong, hard-working team and they’re proud. They generally give most games a go. Plus you’ve gotta love Gary Jr, Selwood and Bartel.
Dad used to be a Collingwood supporter or so he says, now my parents go for Sydney. I think mum and dad are a bit disappointed that I don’t go for the Swans because growing up we only got two channels in Dubbo – it was ABC and Mid State Television or something like that, and all you ever got was Swans games. So it’s probably a bit surprising that I’m not a Sydney supporter but I definitely stick with the Cats over the Swans, that’s for sure. There’s been a few incidents with mum over the years. I think probably the most memorable one was the 2005 preliminary final between Sydney and Geelong where the Cats were winning by 24 points with five minutes to go and then Nick Davis kicked a bag of goals for the Swans. Mum decided to ring me straight after the game and I probably wasn’t in the best mood to talk. I basically told her I wasn’t going to talk to her and I think I might have hung up on her or put her on to you and she talked to you. You just said the one word that night: “yesssssssss”. I can still hear it, “yesssssss”. I wasn’t quite sure whether to go up to my room or to hit you or to kick the TV. It was good that the Swans at least made it worth it and went on to win the grand final. So at least the Cats could say they were close. That was funny that night because I never really expected to win and I think that’s the thing with Geelong: I never really expected to win that game but then I had the hope that we were going to win with five minutes to go and being four goals up. It’s just crushing and Geelong over the years have done that, they did it in a final against Hawthorn recently. I never actually thought we were going to win that game but Varcoe missed a goal in front and then Hawthorn won. Sometimes I’d rather be beaten by 100 points than just be thinking of all the what ifs.
First time… I remember seeing Geelong v Carlton in 1997. I think that might have been one of my first AFL games. I came down to Melbourne, I was at uni in Canberra at the time and I came down with my friend Jules for a weekend. We went to Geelong v Carlton and that was at Optus Oval and the Cats won. Then the next day I think we went and saw Bombers v Collingwood which was the ANZAC Day game. So I think that was maybe one of my very first games, which was a bit interesting at Optus Oval full of Carlton supporters. People were mixing up my Cats scarf for a Carlton scarf. I think after that there were a few games at the SCG throughout uni but I’m pretty sure that trip to Melbourne was the first live AFL game I saw.
I have an AFL membership with support to Geelong. Even though I actually haven’t been to a game this year. In the last few years since having Hollie I’ve been lucky to go to a handful of games. This year I haven’t gone to any but I think I’ve watched every single game the Cats have played on TV. When we first moved to Melbourne I remember we’d try to go to a game on Friday night, go on Saturday and then Sunday, sometimes we’d be going from one game to another in the same day. I just loved footy and loved going to the game and getting a doughnut afterwards if the Cats won. That was always good.
Often when I’m watching a game at home, if the Cats are losing then I wait until the end of the third quarter and if they’re still losing then I might bring out the scarf. I have to make sure that if I’m going to the game, I have to find a person from the Salvation Army and I have to give them a dollar, and if they say “God bless the Cats” then I just know we’re going to win. I think in the game against Collingwood in 2009 to get into the grand final I got there and as I was walking up to the MCG I couldn’t find any Salvation Army people so I was starting to get in a panic. I think I actually did a full lap of the MCG just to find one and just when I had nearly given up I finally found a guy. I gave him a dollar and he did say “God bless the Cats” and to this day I think that’s why we won.
There’s been a few good memories over the years. I like the simple things – I used to love just going to the football and watching Gary Jr kick me a magic goal. I loved whenever he did something brilliant. The year of 2007 – I think the grand final was good and I sat on my own but I sat with a lot of old Geelong supporters, you know, women in their 70s where it had been a long time since they’d seen a premiership. Nobody sung the song until the siren went even though we were up by so much because they were just worried that something might happen. We had that feeling that we could still lose this. They were in tears and so happy at the end. But I think even the final against Collingwood to get into the grand final is probably the most memorable for me. We were sort of winning and then we were only up by a small margin with a few minutes to go and nobody really knew how much time there was left. There was such intensity in that game. Then when the siren went it was the realisation that shit, we’re in the grand final. That’s half of it, just getting there. So that’s probably one of my most memorable matches.
Gary Ablett Jr is easily the best I’ve ever seen. Just the excitement that he brings to a game, he can just turn around a match. He can do the things that other players can’t do and he just has so much time – very rarely does he kick poorly or make a bad pass. His decision making is perfect. He’s definitely, without a doubt, the best I’ve seen. I’m still hopeful that he’s coming back to the Cats for a swansong. I remember the Geelong footy club called me up to buy some raffle tickets or something once and I think the prize was $40,000 or something. They asked me what I’d do with the money if I won and I said, “I’ll buy Gary back”. I think I was a bit short and $40,000 might buy him back for a game, maybe. I was a bit sad about the way it all happened, just because of Bomber Thompson and him being so outspoken at the end of season dinner about Gary needing to go and find himself. I mean, it makes sense if you’re young and you’re being offered that amount of money, plus you need a life outside of Geelong. But I am still hopeful. I think he’s signed with Gold Coast again but I haven’t given up hoping he’ll come back to us one day. That hope might be fading a bit though.
These days I like watching Selwood. I think he’s tough as nails and he just gives it his absolute all. He is the heart and soul of Geelong at the moment. There are probably other great players too, in other teams, but I tend not to watch as many games or opposition players any more. I’m hopeful Dangerfield will come to the Cats. If I was taking players from other clubs then it would be him, or even we need someone like Kennedy from West Coast. We need a forward. We need somebody to help out Hawkins. Sometimes I think back to people like Nathan Ablett – he wasn’t the big star at the Cats but he just worked well into the mix. We need a forward that can work well with Hawkins because he’s such a big bloke that takes up so much space. Boak. I’d take Boak any day. We nearly had him. And I quite like Alex Rance, I think he’s just a really good player.
I don’t like Hawthorn for obvious reasons being a Cats supporter. There are certain players at Hawthorn that I particularly don’t like, such as Mitchell. I don’t like Brian Lake at all either. He should have stayed at the Dogs and kept his original surname; now he’s gone to Hawthorn and become a Hawk and changed his name I can’t stand him. But I also don’t like Adelaide and that’s because I still think back to 1997 when the Cats finished second and Adelaide finished seventh, however because we didn’t have lights for our stadium and couldn’t get a game in Melbourne, we played our home final against the Crows over in Adelaide on a Saturday night. Nigel Smart I think it was kicked a few goals and Adelaide ended up winning, so since then I’ve always hated the Crows. I don’t like the tactics of Fremantle sometimes, but there’s not one particular player I can’t stand. There’s a lot of North Melbourne players I haven’t liked over the years but it’s probably not quite as bad now.
I think in Melbourne it’s always going to be AFL first. Before we moved to Melbourne I was a St George-Illawarra supporter in the NRL and you do watch a bit of rugby league and also rugby union living in Canberra. One of the things I find in Melbourne though is that it’s fully about AFL. You could be at work in the kitchen for example and you can start a conversation with someone and it always ends up being “Who do you follow?”. Or when you get someone new at work, the first question they get asked is “Who do you follow?” and if they say something like Hawks, someone will say “Oh how did you get past the recruiter?” or if they say ‘Pies it’s, “You must not have disclosed that in the interview because we wouldn’t have hired you”. That’s just how it is. I remember coming to Melbourne when I worked in Canberra with Swimming Australia and we’d come down here in December for an event and there’d be eight pages of the Herald Sun dedicated to football in the off season. It just purely is an AFL town.
Sometimes I don’t like when there might be an incident and the media just focuses on it for the next six weeks so it drags out, whether it’s actually a big issue or not. I think in terms of the actual game itself, some of the rules like holding the ball – it’s just hit and miss each week, you know. It’s like those signs you see that say ‘Police are now targeting speeding’ and instead it’s ‘Umpires are now targeting holding the ball’ this week, or chopping of the arms or whatever. I think it’s just the inconsistencies of umpiring that are so frustrating.
I love the passion of fans. You know, people just get so involved and it’s amazing. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a lot of games but I love being at the ground with the atmosphere and you can just lose yourself. I remember a game, Geelong v Bulldogs back in about 2007 or 2008 and something happened, Cooney did something, and I stood up out of my chair and put on a five minute rant about something or other. You know, you just lose yourself in it. It’s that passion and excitement of following a side. I like when players celebrate when they’ve done something good – Motlop can do some magical things and he’ll get the crowd going and things like that. Just being there and being able to see it is always great.”