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
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.”