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The $410.

monfries ah chee hawthorn

“Do you want to put a bet on?”

My brother, lying on the couch, turned to me and uttered that sentence while I was lying on the floor in front of the heater at our family home in NSW. It had been a big couple of days with illness and the emotion of my dad’s retirement taking it out of me. I’m not much of a punter by any stretch but I said yeah, OK.

“Explain to me what all my options are,” I replied.

My brother went through them but in typical fashion I zoned out halfway through and had to make him repeat them to me. And I still didn’t get it. He suggested we look at a win by a margin and brought up the various odds (that part I could understand). I’d told a couple of mates on their Hawthorn podcast that I thought the Hawks would win by about 24 points but the bookies and everyone else had this lined up to be a flogging. Good for me. I went with $10 on Hawthorn to win by between 13-24 points which was paying $8 and then $10 on Port Adelaide to win by between 13-24 points which was paying $41.

One bet with the head, one bet with the heart.

We went out for a family dinner and missed the start of the game, which was for some insane reason being played at Etihad, the home ground of neither team. I had in my mind it was starting later but no, we missed the opening. My brother brought it up on his phone and told me Port were up. Honestly, I never take that as a good sign this year.

Except by the time we got home and turned it on, they were still up. At the end of the first quarter they were still up. At half time they were still up. And at three quarter time they were still up, though the Hawks had pared the lead back to just a single point.

Once again I find myself asking, where the hell has this Port Adelaide team been all year?

We attacked with confidence, direct and up through the middle. We defended as a team and didn’t panic at any stage. Whatever kind of magic that seems to be in the air when we play Hawthorn, I want it to be there all year long. This was the Port Adelaide team I know and love, the team that plays gutsy, tough, exciting football that makes you remember just why the hell you love this game so much.

I kept waiting for the inevitable reversal in the final term when I thought last year’s premiers would push back and overwhelm us but it just never happened. Both Robbie and Sam Gray played out of their skin, Boak was solid (is there a better captain in the AFL to lead by example? I think not but I’m supremely biased), and Chad was just, well, Chad. Brendon Ah Chee had a brain fade that I thought might cost us the game when he handballed over the top from a close mark to a waiting Monfries, who then scored a behind, however he made up for it with a late deserved goal. Love that kid. Jasper turned defence into attack in the backline and Broadbent and Hombsch were their usual calm, reliable selves. It’s such a cliché but the Power was absolutely on.

I love that next to no one predicted this. The fans just quietly believed, though I’ll admit my head kept telling me something different to my heart.

As the game wound to a close, the scoreline was set just right for me to win the bet. The seconds ticked down and Port sat 22 points in the lead. Tick… Tick… Tick… I’d told my brother that I didn’t care about the bet, I just really wanted the win. But at a minute and a half to go he looked up at me, surprise and delight on his face, and said “I think you’re going to get this.”

Let me tell you, no one has cheered harder for either a Hawthorn goal or Port not to get a goal than I did for that 90 seconds. Every stoppage, every out of bounds, saved us.

They probably heard us screaming from Etihad when that final siren went.

At the end, I was $410 richer. But beating Hawthorn twice in a year that will be better known for the disappointment and heartache it has brought? Well that’s just priceless.

A farewell to arms.

dad police

I am 36 years old and not one of those years has been spent without policing in my life.

Today, in some ways, that will change.

Because today is the day that my father is marched off for the very last time on the parade ground at the New South Wales Police Academy in Goulburn, 39 years after he joined ‘the job’.

It’s the very last day I’ll get to watch mum iron one of those iconic blue shirts. The last time I’ll get to see him leave the house ready to go to work in the career he has loved so much and given so much to. The last time I’ll see him in the leather jacket and peaked cap. The last time he’ll be Sergeant Webster.

Things that I have for so long just taken for granted.

My dad has spent all of those years in the force operationally qualified – from Lane Cove and Chatswood in the city through to country policing in Merimbula and Adelong. The last 21 years have been spent as an instructor at the Police Academy, instilling thousands of now serving members with his own particular brand of wit (debatable) and wisdom (never in doubt).

Does anyone know what an affray is?” “Is it like a fight, sergeant?” “No, it’s when an Asian person is scared.

But some of his most important work has been in the meticulous research he has undertaken over the past couple decades to chronicle every single NSW police officer killed in the line of duty. Names and histories that had laid dormant for years, unrecognised and unremembered. I remember trips to libraries and country cemeteries to find the stories of these people so they could be shared and honoured after they gave their life serving the community. No one has been more passionate about and committed to making sure the broader NSWPF community remember their fallen.

It’s equally as impressive that dad finishes a 39 year career without even the slightest hint of ‘TJF’. If you asked him he would still tell you that ‘the job’ is the best job in the world.

Police are people doing an often thankless job under what are usually trying and unpredictable circumstances. They are people who deal with the worst society has to offer every day so we can sleep safely at night. When there’s a murder, they’re there. When there’s a fatal vehicle collision, they’re there. When someone has been assaulted, they’re there. When someone has been raped, they’re there. When a home has been robbed or a shop has been held up by an armed offender or a family violence incident has occurred, they’re always there. To help, to console, to investigate, to assist, to placate, to stop, to bring to justice. Every single day they do the things that the rest of the community can’t ask themselves to do.

Whenever I hear people criticise police I think about the inherently selfless people like my dad who have given years of unfailing service to local communities. Growing up next door to police stations and having people knock on your door at all times of the day or night. Having to go to some of the most horrific incidents you can imagine and knowing the victims and their families. Christmases and birthdays and holidays spent at work.

Earlier this year my dad and I stood at the Pambula river mouth, a spot where we used to go swimming as kids. It’s peaceful and quiet and lovely. I pointed at one of the sheds nestled in the sand and said something to him, I can’t remember what. He replied, “We arrested someone for a really bad rape just up there”. There are ghosts around every corner that only fade in time, they never go away. Something for the critics to consider.

But there are so very many great memories too. Christmas parties where the helicopter dropped bags of lollies out of the sky. Road trips in the back on the div van, even the one where my brother threw up on the police radio. Hours spent playing ‘Prince of Persia’ or golf on station computers. Barbecues at the beach where we spent hours screaming with laughter riding around in rubber duckies. Some of the best and funniest people you will ever meet in your life.

My dad telling the story of the line search in the Belanglo State Forest and someone decided to start a wave that went for as far as the eye could see.

I also think of how incredibly hard it must have been for mum at times – all the moves to new towns and the stresses that come with being married to the job. And not once did she ever let us know she was as anxious or worried as we were when we left towns we loved or started at new schools. Mum always just got on with it and it’s only in hindsight you realise how exceptional that is.

I wouldn’t change growing up with police for the world and in so many ways it has defined our family – for the absolute best.

I am 36 years old and not one of those years has been spent without policing in my life.

Today, in some ways, that will change, dad. And in other ways, nothing will change at all.

Because though you have retired, you will always be part of the police family. That never goes away. Besides, you’ve raised two kids who were so impressed they joined police forces of their own. 

And above all else, we are so incredibly proud of you, Sergeant Webster – more than you will ever know – and that won’t change once you take the blue shirt off for the very last time.

“Question not, but live and labour
Til yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
Seeking help from none;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”

– Adam Lindsay Gordon

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

Cheyne coach 1

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

Name: Cheyne Webster

Age: 33

Recruited from: Eastlake Football Club

Occupation: High school teacher and footy coach

AFL team followed: Sydney Swans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheyne coach 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be alright with me.

hinkley and ah chee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girls.

womens afl 1

womens afl 2

womens afl 3

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

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

Kate Millar

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

Name: Kate Millar

Age: 29

Recruited from: Essendon

Occupation: City of Melbourne comms ninja

AFL team followed: Melbourne Demons

All time favourite footy moment: 2000 grand final appearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

20 Questions.

port v dogs

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think he hates people though.

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

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

We gave up. No two ways about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something for Port Adelaide to think about too.

Everything shines just like a postcard.

matt white

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

 

Get lucky.

ryder

I am the only Port Adelaide supporter I know. I’ve met other fans over the years but I’ve never had a Port friend that I could go to games with or sit with for hours over a beer discussing the fortunes of our team. I’ve always been a bit of a novelty (in more ways than one, I’m sure). As the bio says, I’m a New South Wales girl who lives in Victoria and barracks for a South Australian team. The “makes sense” I write at the end is clearly sarcasm of the highest order.

Usually I’m happy to go to games alone and will just sit restlessly somewhere near my people. This time though I managed to rope in a couple of friends to come along and I was seriously looking forward to the night, even though a Port Adelaide v Essendon game held all the promise of being as interesting and skill laden as the Benalla v Violet Town reserves. Both mates were Bombers fans, country boys, decent people with a good sense of humour who like a beer. The only difference was one I’ve been friends with for nearly 15 years while the other has been a mate for only really about six weeks. This should be fun.

Of course because this was the only time I’ve managed to drag friends along to a game this lovely lady called me up and offered me corporate box tickets. Which I had to decline because, well, it just wouldn’t be the done thing to ditch your mates.

We started off the night at a pub across the road from Etihad Stadium, my old mate and I catching up and keeping one eye on the Richmond v Fremantle game as we sipped our beers. Despite being friends for so long it was the first time we’d actually ventured to the football together. He’s naturally a bit of an introvert but I was cautious that a few beers in he might unleash. I also warned him about my new mate and said I had no idea which way he was going to go so if it got embarrassing then we’d just go to the toilet at quarter of half time and never come back. New mate is a bit of a smart arse, possibly more so than me. When I’d asked him what sort of person he was at the footy he replied, “Mature, modest, witty etc. I’ll let you fill in the blanks”. I tell you what, I could fill in the blanks and I was worried they weren’t going to be complimentary.

Eventually the three of us united and after exchanging the appropriate introductions and pleasantries headed off to buy our tickets. Etihad confuses me, I always end up somewhere I think I’m not supposed to be and Saturday night was no different. We were in a carpeted bar, drinking more beers and talking shit. I reckon I spilt about a third of mine but not to worry. Before we knew it the siren had sounded and the quarter had started so we made our escape to find seats.

For a game between two teams languishing at the bottom of the ladder it did its best to stay entertaining. Wingard almost took mark of the year and the goals were flowing fairly freely in both directions. Even the three of us managed to behave ourselves. I’m a nervous football fan and my natural exuberance tends to go out the door a bit when I’m at the game. The pair of them were pretty quiet too, though later I found out it was more likely because they’d been bordering on hypothermia for most of the night. (On the other hand I am from Goulburn where it is, to use a particular turn of phrase, “fucking cold and windy” all through winter. Also I’m tough.) It was the four middle aged Port Adelaide supporting women in the row in front of us that provided the most entertainment and probably the least insight on the game.

I have a bit of a thing about mobile phones when I’m doing things with people. Real people = real conversations and I always put the phone away. After going to get beers, coffee and food at half time – and running my trusty “do I have anything on my face?” joke with a giant smear of mustard across my cheek – I checked my mobile mid-way through the third quarter. Three missed calls and two messages asking me to call dad urgently. A message from my brother in Canada asking me to call my parents urgently. Shit. This is not likely to be good. You don’t leave messages like that for anyone who’s part of a police family. I bolted down the stairs and started calling, my dad answering with the news my brother had been involved in a serious collision. He was riding his scooter and the car opposite was indicating a right turn before the driver changed their mind and went straight. My brother had begun the turn and was collected, left sprawled on the road with the bike in disrepair. Mum and dad were at the hospital with him now. He’d been wearing his full face helmet so a CT scan was only a precaution, but turns out he’d broken his foot and his upper arm. His back hurt and they were worried about the potential for him having cracked vertebrae, though it turned out to but three broken ribs instead.  He could still move everything, which was the best part.

They don’t call motorcyclists ‘temporary citizens’ for nothing. He’s so bloody lucky.

I walked back to my seat in shock and I’m not really sure I processed it very well. I started watching the game again. I stopped drinking. We were all fairly silent. To be honest it didn’t seem quite real.

Port got ahead in the final quarter and Bomber-turned-Power player Paddy Ryder kicked a couple of match winning goals for us while the crowd booed him like he was Adam Goodes at a Hawthorn match. I remember reading something years ago that Aaron Hamill said after he left St Kilda to play at Carlton. “Why wouldn’t you want to be booed?” he said. “Why would you want to leave a place with everyone’s best wishes?” I think in context that’s so right – you want people to be disappointed that you’re not part of their club any more. Travis Boak had the ultimate captain’s game, leading by example and finishing with a couple of his own. We weren’t pretty, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we got there by 13 points. Essendon coach James Hird later said that Ryder had had a “lucky night” and had really no impact on the game until the end. Maybe, but he had an impact when it counted. You’re officially one of us now, Paddy.

After the final siren sounded and me and the two (by now) very cold boys stood up, we listened to the Port Adelaide song boom around the ground. Both of them agreed it was a terrible song but I don’t care, I’ve never tired of hearing it. We left, slowly and quietly descending the stairs with the other fans and then getting lost in the spill of people across the bridge to Southern Cross Railway Station. “What are you guys doing now?” my new mate asked and I told him I just wanted to go home and call my parents. Understood. We said good bye and he left to catch a train back to his hipster suburb and probably a few extra pieces of warm clothing or a heater. My old mate tried to convince me to have one more beer while the human traffic wanting to ride the trams dispersed but I just wasn’t up for it.

I sat on the 109 tram home, my head propped against the glass as I watched the suburbs of my adopted city flash by. Football and family and friends and just… life. It never turns out quite how you think, never goes how you expect. I still end up being surprised after 36 years.

And a “lucky night” in more ways than one, for more than a few people.