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
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.