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Come together.

vale phil walsh

I read this piece from the Sunday Mail by Chris Kenny on one of the Port Adelaide Facebook fan pages today and I loved it so I’m reproducing it here.

Crows versus Power showdown at Adelaide Oval shows how footy brings people together

Mothers will take their sons to the footy today, fathers will take daughters, families will go together, children will take their parents and some blokes will take kids for mates who can’t make it.

Strangers will have a laugh, stir each other, share each other’s joy or offer retorts to opposing cheers. For every one of them today it will be just a little different.

Footy brings people together, so that even rivals depend on each other. Crows and Port supporters won’t like to admit it but without the other, footy just wouldn’t have the same edge – losses wouldn’t be so sour, nor victories so sweet.

Somehow today, these great rivals will do battle with the ultimate fraternity of the footy family emotionally underlined through a tragedy that unites the clubs.

It is a trauma that is almost unspeakable, ripping at the family aspect that is deeply embedded in our game.

Children will be hugged that bit tighter today and I reckon mates at the bar might linger a little longer in a handshake.

At the SCG, just over two weeks ago, I joined two mates and their wives to watch Port play Sydney.

Footy has been a constant in our lives. We had played together at school, we went to SANFL games as kids and teenagers, and then played again as adults.

As the years rolled on, we took our own kids to games, coached and supported them and watched the progress of each other’s children.

One of my sons was with us that night and one of my mate’s sons of the same age was out on the ground playing for Port.

From when they were not much more than toddlers, we used to take this pair to Crows games with their brothers and our other mate’s daughters.

We’d take them down to West Lakes for every home game, rugged up in their red, blue and gold, all of us Crows fans, adults and kids.

Now look at us – watching Port in Sydney – barracking for a Port player, if not Port.

And loving it.

It was a tough night for Port but we had a wonderful time.

Mere words can’t describe the deeply satisfying joy of a catch-up with old friends while you enjoy a game you’ve all shared a passion for over the decades.

In the second half, I asked my mate, concerned about his son’s form, why Port had struggled this season. Before he could respond, I chipped in with my own answer, teasing him.

No Phil Walsh, no Port, I suggested. Well, he sighed, raising his eyebrows to acknowledge the Crows coach was, indeed, missed at Alberton.

None of us was to know this was just hours before Walsh’s life was to be cut short and others’ lives shattered.

My friends broke the news to their son early in the morning and, like most of the Port players, it was every bit as shocking and upsetting for him as it was for the Crows.

Still, the brutal reality after any untimely death is that life must go on.

At the SCG that night, we bumped in to a young man who is the son of another old footy mate.

This mate had died, all too young, nearly 20 years ago, yet there he was, alive in the eyes of his son. It was beautiful, sad and comforting.

And it underscores one reason Walsh’s death is so upsetting.

We don’t know the details and will leave all that to the judicial system.

But we know that as well as a life unfairly cut short, it is a family torn apart against the natural order, with that generational legacy fractured.

It screams out a general warning about domestic stresses and the need for constant vigilance against the violence, mental health or addiction issues that can arise in any family, no matter their outward success.

We’ve no on-field champions in our family but footy and family have been synonymous — we played in teams coached and umpired by mum as well as dad, we’ve all umpired and coached too, and played and cheered with sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles.

As kids we’d watch dad umpire matches, bristle at people abusing him as “four eyes” then run on to the ground to kick the footy with him at half-time.

Even when we were playing footy as adults, with kids of our own, my brothers and I used to keep an eye out for dad’s car at the ground – it always felt better knowing he was there.

Many players from both sides in the Showdown are bound to feel the presence of a fatherly figure today as they strive to “get the job done”.

Adelaide Oval will be all about family – including football families – as the great game brings people together to punt every day cares aside

CHRIS KENNY SUNDAY MAIL (SA)

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

sutherland family

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

Name: Roger Sutherland

Age: Old enough to know better

Recruited from: Melbourne

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

AFL team followed: Hawthorn Hawks

All time favourite footy moment: 2013 grand final win

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

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

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

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

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

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

roger santorini

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

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

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

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

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

Nat and Roger Adelaide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lanterns.

Adelaide Oval Walsh tribute

What a tough week it’s been in football.

At some point I had to make the decision to begin to disengage from all the Walsh tributes or else face the prospect of remaining in a downward spiral of sadness. Nothing I read or watched was going to change the situation and so many wonderful things had already been said about the man who was such a huge part of the Port Adelaide Football Club for so many years. It was time to take a step back. Otherwise I feel like it just becomes ‘tragedy porn’ and the meaningfulness starts to wane.

Of course, there’s been a separate sort of heartache when it comes to Port Adelaide this year and that’s been their repeated on field poor performance. Week after week after week I’ve gotten my hopes up only to have them dashed, usually in the worst possible way. A Thursday night game against Collingwood at home at Adelaide Oval – with the teams sitting 12th and 5th respectively – didn’t fill me with any great sense of anticipation. Even though this was going to be the club’s first match since Walsh’s death, I honestly just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. This game was going to mean a lot to us and it would just hurt too much to lose.

So I didn’t. I accepted an invitation from a friend to have dinner at one of our favourite places in the western suburbs and caught up on all the things happening in each other’s lives. Football barely rated a mention until around 8pm when I asked if she minded if I checked my phone to see what the score was. She said that was fine so I pulled it out and noted we were 26 points up in the first quarter. Not that that filled me with any great sense of hope or satisfaction, not this year. Though a small part of me wondered if the ‘good’ Port Adelaide had shown up to play.

We finished dinner, said our goodbyes and I got in the car to drive home along the Tullamarine Freeway. I listened to music the whole way, resisting the urge to turn the radio on and listen to the game. I stopped at the supermarket and checked my phone again; surprisingly we were still up. I put the phone away and did my shopping. Drove home and pulled into my drive way. Checked again. By that stage there were encouraging messages from my family and friends about how well Port were doing.

I walked upstairs and my phone pinged with a message from my brother that there was just two minutes to go. Port were four points up. I paced the room and made the executive decision that no matter how much this might end up hurting me, I was going to watch until the end. Collingwood scored a point to bring it back to within three. Kicks went repeatedly into their 50 and Broadbent stood up with some calming marks. The clock continued to count down and time never felt so slow… Three points.

I stood there, just a metre in front of the television, willing the unthinkable to happen. Bracing myself for the worst.

Then the final siren went, the rain came down again and I burst into tears.

That one’s for you Walshy.

Watching Ollie Wines sob on the field only to be comforted by captain Travis Boak nearly broke my heart. You forget he’s just a kid. Even Kenny struggled through his post match interview and I could hear the emotion in his voice. Life just doesn’t seem fair at times; it isn’t fair. Not by a long shot.

As good as that win was, we saved the best until last. The lights of Adelaide Oval went down and the most beautiful tribute went up. And as it played on the screen people shone their own lights in a mark of respect and remembrance for someone who still had so much to offer our game.

We never carried days on our own…” Last night we all carried our grief together. And at that moment I knew that it wasn’t alright, but we were going to be OK.

wines and boak

Of my people.

sydney v port

I’ve realised over the years that people arrive at their football team one of two ways – they are either born to them or they choose them. The born to people are the ones who grow up in a family who support the one club or live in the club’s homeland. The choose to people are those who give consideration to who they are going to support, weigh up all the options and then make a decision based on gut instinct or some other intangible. Both paths are equally powerful and can deliver a lifetime of impact.

My family are all born to people. I am a choose to person. And doesn’t that cause friction.

Let me explain. All five of us are NSW born and bred, people who grew up watching and playing rugby league on cold weekends. Later it was also rugby union that fought for our attention and similarly divided us into NSW Waratahs v ACT Brumbies supporters. We all arrived late at the game we often referred to as “aerial ping pong” and it wasn’t until the Sydney Swans made the 1996 grand final that we took any interest in AFL at all.

So being good NSW people, dad and mum and both my brothers went with the Swans and have stayed true to them since. They’ve seen them play in five grand finals and win two of them. One of my all time favourite memories is racing into the city after the 2012 grand final win to meet up with my brother Paul who had come down to watch the game. As I walked into his hotel lobby he stepped out of the lift and we ran excitedly towards each other, hugging and jumping up at down in excitement at Sydney’s win. I have long adored the team of my people and for many years I also had a Swans membership. I love seeing them play well and I will cheer cheer the red and the white so hard against almost any other team in the competition – except one.

Port Adelaide. My team, the team I chose. Picked in the summer the year before they started in the AFL in 1997, they were the new team, I was the new supporter and they were going to be mine. The specifics of my reasoning have faded over time but my support has not, even when they break my heart like they have done this year. I’ve watched them play in two grand finals, winning one. I was at the MCG on the day of the losing grand final, one of the worst scorelines in history, and stayed right until the bitter end. Then I got hideously drunk at a pub in the city with my Geelong supporting best friend, vomited under a table and lost my 2004 premiership scarf.

I dread the couple of times a year Port Adelaide plays Sydney and I pre-emptively cringe when I look at those rounds when the new draw comes out. I know they are going to be tough because my family makes it tough. Port has the worst record against Sydney so I invariably end up bruised and battered after facing the brunt of their piss taking. My brothers can be particularly brutal so as much as I love Sydney, there is absolutely no team I’d rather beat.

Of course, my nightmare is a Port Adelaide v Sydney grand final.

It certainly won’t be happening this year, though not though any fault of the Swans who look red hot. Even missing key position players Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett through suspension they still managed to get over the line last Thursday night by 10 points. What a heartbreaker. Port looked valiant at times but never really good enough to win, though they kept me guessing right until the bitter end (thanks for nothing).

There’s really not much to say about Port Adelaide this year that I haven’t said already and I can’t see much point re-capping another ordinary outing in detail. We’ve been wildly disappointing in a season where I think I could realistically say many of us dared to dream we’d be premiers. Week after week they’ve let me down and it’s getting harder and harder to watch the games. The one small point that has consoled me recently is a piece I read by Malcolm Blight who said most teams that experience a significant increase in form – like Port did over the 2013-14 seasons – generally hit a plateau before rising again. In 2006 Geelong finished 10th and in 2007 they were premiers. So it can be done. All I’ve got to do now is keep the faith.

Thursday was one of the most topsy turvy days I’ve had in a long, long time. It started with some poorly delivered news I didn’t get a job I’d applied for, then a couple of hours later I got a medal for some work I did a few years ago in the job I already have and love. My current colleagues said some gorgeous things that made me feel valued and the colleagues I nearly had expressed the right amount of outrage I wasn’t going to be theirs. I bantered with new friends then had drinks with some old. People told me my hair looked good (always a win). My parents told me they were proud. Despite some wildly fluctuating circumstances I realised that I really am surrounded by good people and that there are great things to come this year. Everything will be OK.

And of course, the team I chose got beaten by the team of my people. Of all days it had to happen on that one. But you know, I still wouldn’t change my choice for anything.

Vale Phil Walsh.

phil walsh

“Because when some footy people hurt, we all hurt.”

I read that line on Friday morning, just hours after waking to the desperately tragic news that Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh had been murdered. Friends had already begun to send disbelieving text messages and it seemed almost inconceivable that this had occurred. I think shock was, and is, still the primary reaction of most people.

Walsh was much loved at my club Port Adelaide, where he spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach including the premiership winning 2004 season. His contribution to the short history of our AFL club was immense both as a person and an employee. When he left last year it was with the best wishes of everyone at the Power and the feeling he was ready to make his mark as an AFL coach. To read so many heart felt pieces from Port players past and present over the last couple of days highlights just how much we still felt like he was one of our own.

Was. The hardest word to say at a time like this.

Watching the Collingwood and Hawthorn players link arms in the centre of the MCG on Friday night was an incredibly powerful moment that lost none of its poignancy as it was repeated through the rest of the round’s games. It was led by Alastair Clarkson, a man who spent time coaching at Port Adelaide alongside Walsh. Then I saw Damien Hardwick following the Richmond game and was reminded he would have played under Walsh at the Power, as did his assistant coach Brendan Lade. Another assistant, Mark Williams was one of Walsh’s best mates and of course the Port coach in that premiership year. Their opponents, GWS, have two former Power players in Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan as assistant coaches. On and on it went; having played at three clubs and coached at four there is no doubt so many people felt like Walsh was in some way one of their own.

And clearly football fans have all felt the same way too. Tributes built up steadily through the day outside the Adelaide Football Club’s headquarters with the navy, yellow and red sitting alongside the teal, black and white in a unique mark of respect. People took to social media to post photographs of their club scarves tied outside homes and offices in a show of solidarity amongst the football community. #weflyasone has never seemed so apt.

I can’t begin to imagine what the Walsh family is going through now, compounded no doubt by the fact their family has been so shattered by the loss of not just a father and husband, but also a son and a brother. It’s just unthinkable and almost unbearably sad. I hope those who knew and loved Walsh best take some comfort from the fact that all footy people feel like they have lost someone special – because when some footy people hurt, we all hurt.

Rest easy, Phil Walsh. How precious and fragile this life is.

scarves out for walshy

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

Melbourne-Demons-vs-Brisbane-Lions-Live

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

Name: Jane Lytras

Age: 39

Recruited from: BrisVegas

Occupation: One of the brains behind the Australian Open

AFL team followed: Melbourne Demons and Brisbane Lions

All time favourite footy moment: Brisbane Lions threepeat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we’re talking about this week – Round 13.

cats

1. Redemption – Much was made of the fact it was Geelong veteran Corey Enright’s 300th game but the Demons spoiled the party. After their heartbreaker against the Saints the week before it was good to see Melbourne back on the winner’s list, led by an outstanding performance from Bernie Vince. Channel 9 might have jumped the gun a bit though…

2. Hird’s holiday – So Big Jim headed to Europe for a week during the bye to finish a business course and all hell broke loose. Is this even an issue? Really? I reckon clubs can decide what best when it comes to running their own teams. Storm in a tea cup.

3. Taking a gamble – Brent Guerra starred on the back page when he recounted the gambling addiction that took hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. It’s definitely not a new issue when it comes to AFL players but thepart that raised everyone’s eyebrows was when he spoke of Hawthorn’s “gambling culture.” Needless to say the club weren’t happy and fired back pretty quickly. I’ll always have a soft spot for Guerra after a shoddy kick from him in the 2004 prelim against the Saints effectively got Port into the grand final and the rest was history.

4. We’re the Eagles, we’re flying high – Daniel Kerr’s interview on The Footy Show received mixed reactions (I haven’t seen it personally). There apparently appeared to be a lot of avoiding the question when it came to his drinking at drug taking while playing with the Eagles and overall it left a lot of people unsatisfied.

5. Power’s off – Not the season we wanted at Port Adelaide and it hurts. Losing to Carlton is just salt in the wound.

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

1993

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

Name: Chris Iverson

Age: 33

Recruited from: Albury Wodonga

Occupation: Legal eagle

AFL team followed: Essendon Bombers

All time favourite footy moment: 1993 grand final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we’re talking about this week – Round 12.

hawks power ranger

1. Bye, bye, bye – Why is the bye spread over three rounds this year? Why are they playing a Thursday night game this week? So many unanswered questions.

2. Power Rangers are go – Yep, we’ve all seen the comparison shot with Hawthorn’s shiny shiny away jumper displayed next to the white and gold Power Ranger. Even Titus has had a crack at it. I cannot believe that was the end result and everyone in charge went, “Yep, we’re happy with that one.”

3. 41 seconds – The poor Dees can’t take a trick at the moment, going down to the Saints right at the very end. Alan Richardson’s reaction in the coaches’ box was a ripper though – skip to the last 30 seconds of this video to see what I mean.

4. President’s Round Table – I finally got around to watching the President’s Round table on Fox Footy with David Koch, Eddie McGuire, Andrew Pridham and Peter Gordon and it was one of the most interesting football segments I’ve seen in a long time. Honestly, I was riveted. Nice to hear from these guys for a change and I thought the questions were really well moderated. I can’t find a link online but the synopsis is here.

5. Origin record – 91,513 at the MCG to watch NSW beat Queensland in game two of the rugby league State of Origin. Cracking night and pretty happy to have seen the mighty Blues get up. The yelling out during the one minute’s silence for Ron Clarke probably wasn’t the highlight (or necessary) though.

Bringin’ on the heartbreak.

wingard v geelong

These are getting harder to write every week.

On Friday I will admit I nearly cried all the way home after the game – or, I should say, during the final quarter of the game. I was working afternoon shift and not due to finish until 8pm. This meant if we were busy and I had to work all the way though, I’d make it home some time in the third quarter. So a colleague and I ordered pizza and settled in.

I suppose both my offsiders got an unexpected glimpse into what kind of supporter I am. I turned the sound down to almost mute because I couldn’t take the commentators. All the non Victorians will know what I mean when I say they always tend to try and ride a Vic team home. I grabbed a wooden ruler and twisted it repeatedly in my hands because otherwise I’m going to end up with scarring across my knuckles from digging my nails in. And then I paced. And paced. And jerked around. All while being totally silent in a mostly silent room. Nah, that wouldn’t have been odd at all.

The first quarter was good. We looked like we might have this one and even pushed out to a five goal lead at one stage. It felt like we were just getting the car warmed up and were waiting to accelerate off down the road. Then the Cats got a couple of lucky ones – that Robbie Gray handball kicked mid-air by Motlop springs to mind – and it was closer than I wanted.

Second quarter was alright but not as promising. Third quarter I waited for that acceleration to kick in and it just never did. Every time we grabbed a goal I expected the tide would start to turn but Port just didn’t want to put the effort in. It’s like they were doing just enough to stay in it and give me hope without actually wanting to win.

At three quarter time I packed my on call gear up and headed to the car. It was the vibe… And I was right because by all accounts we were hideous in that final 30 minutes. I just couldn’t bear to see this happen again and be forced to stand there while the Cats belted out their song. So I drove home, mostly in silence, and wanted to cry. The next couple of days I struggled to shake off the glum feeling because that was a win we definitely should have grabbed. It was a Friday night game at home FFS!

Wingard was sensational, the one shining light on an average night. The thing that pleased me most is that he played such an unselfish team game despite his individual brilliance. Shows to me how much he’s maturing as a player. Carlisle also tried hard and pretty much kept Hawkins right out of the game. Hombsch continues to improve each week as well; right now it’s our backline holding us up because out forwards don’t seem to be able to find a kick anywhere. Our game plan has stalled and we struggle under pressure. The fitness just doesn’t seem to be there or maybe it’s the willingness.

This is getting harder and harder and more heartbreaking each week. I want that side who kicked 60 God damn points in a quarter against last year’s premiers to run out again. Because the way we’re going, we’re not going to see September, not one tiny little bit.