My own mother and father could probably attest to the fact I’ve watched more games of footy (live or televised) than I’ve had hot dinners. It’s a sacred privacy and tranquillity when I do sit down on the couch or beanbag to watch, to dissect and to be entertained by a sport I wish I was remotely good at.
I’m in own bubble in front of the TV. I argue with the commentators, I cheer, I cuss, I slam my fist on the floor in similar fashion to Mick Malthouse’s own fist coming down in the coach’s box. I voice my opinions for no one to hear and the ones that usually are appropriate enough to be heard end up on my Twitter, because I selfishly think you all are entitled to my opinion.
So when Justin Westhoff kicked a goal with the ease of a Fitzroy Gardens early morning stroll, the fist came down. Expletives were released and my head was in my hands. And then something changed. “Murph” kicked a captain’s goal, Jeffy popped on through, Ed Curnow kicked a goal I thought was beyond him and Eddie just did what Eddie does so often. All of a sudden it’s roughly four goals in it at the final change. How appropriate that Carlton’s catchcry (and Twitter hashtag) is ‘believe’ – at three-quarter time, I daren’t.
Someone texted me at the final break, reminding me of Carlton’s comeback against the Power at AAMI in 2009, with “Frank” Kreuzer stamping his name on the league with three final-quarter goals. It wasn’t majors this time, but he lifted. Centre clearance, finds Murph, he kicks another captain’s goal and it’s back to four goals. Then Yaz; three goals. Then Eddie, two goals. Then Jeff, four points. I still daren’t dream, but never have you seen a 20-year-old act more like a four-year-old than when Tom Bell stepped up to the plate to put the Blues in front. When Bryce popped through a running shot from near exactly the same spot he’d missed the previous week, it was almost too much to overcome.
But then Port came again and the blood pressure rose. Jay Schulz and Chad Wingard had me cursing once more and a Broadbent poster was again almost too much to handle. To great the relief for all medicos at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the siren went and all the tension released into one great big lump of a journalist (this one) bursting into tears.
It wasn’t so much the victory, but the way the 22 men responsible for it, constructed it. Because behind this victory are a lot of individual stories of blokes under enormous pressure of expectation and reality. To see Yaz turn it on and demonstrate why he is so highly rated. To see Eddie stand up amid speculation of contract numbers, to see Bryce nail that goal, to see years of injury of frustration plague Andrew Walker’s career be put behind him with a standout game and year. And to see the skipper, ‘Murph’ answer so many critics in such emphatic manner and produce what he produced was simply breathtaking.
I was so fortunate last year to know these guys on a very personal level and that is why it was the story behind the win, much less the win itself that forced me into a blubbering mess. And I have no embarrassment in telling the world that it took me a good 15 minutes – well after “Da-da-da-da-da” had been belted out – to return to normal.
TEACHER, FATHER, FRIEND
Just about everything that was expected to happen at the NAB Rising Star on Wednesday happened. Jaeger O’Meara took home the award, Daniel Talia presented it – it all went smoothly. But before all that, one of the great football orations was witnessed by Western Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney.
I remember last year, being on a tram and a Bulldogs supporter asked my thoughts on McCartney’s appointment.
To be honest, I had not heard much of the man before his appointment, so, white-lying through my teeth, I said: “Yeah, he’ll be fine.”
To which my red, white and blue-supporting companion replied: “But he’s never played the game.”
One things for certain dear friend, with hindsight being a wonderful thing, three ex-players are now unemployed. One suspended, one sacked and one jumping before he was pushed. Brendan McCartney spoke about it means to be “footified” – a colloquial term for someone who, like himself, lives and breathes football. He calls “non-footified” people; “civilians”.
It is a 12-minute speech, but I would like to take one chunk of it – on the subject of the role parents play toward young players – to tempt the tastebuds: “They too become recognisable in our talent pathways…they’re no different to any other parent. In fact, when you dig a bit deeper, you’ll realise they’ve gone above and beyond. The travel expenses, the support mechanisms they put in place – they’re the crutch for the bad news, and the leveller for the good.”
I urge you to watch the whole speech, and once you have, you’ll realise the Western Bulldogs are in a really, really good position.
DISBANDONING THE BROTHERHOOD
There’s a lot of highs and lows that go into a football season and for some 5-10% – involving 10 teams – the end of August is one of the lowest. Players are called into the coach’s office to be told they are no longer a required player. I want to – and will – extend further on this feeling of rejection on Bound For Glory News in the near future.
But know this football fans, for all the dwarf inflammation, assaults, drunk and disorderlies, off-field allegations, missed short kicks, missed goals and fumbles; these men are human and the hurt cuts deep. And unless you’ve lost a job before, you won’t know how it feels. This AFL caper; it’s a brutal industry.
MEANWHILE AT THE LOCAL…
While in a lull at my local watching the Essendon/Richmond game, a booming voice silenced all across the bar: “BT’s love affair with Dusty Martin has got to be Rolf Harris-like.”
WHAT THEY SAID
Another ripper at the local just the night before: “Matt Spangher – looks like Jesus, plays like Mary.”
An unnamed player-manager interviewed by afl.com.au: “It might only be a small amount of apprehension, but no one can take the ASADA investigation for granted.”
Like I said earlier, it’s a brutal industry. Unwanted Bulldog, Daniel Cross: “Yesterday I was hanging out my son’s jumper and saw it with the number four and ‘daddy’ on the back and I broke down in tears because I won’t see him wearing it any more.”
Melbourne chairman, Glen Bartlett on Paul Roos’ appointment: “This is the most significant news for this club for a very long time.”
The Footy Almanac’s David Bridie on Melbourne’s defence: “Colin Garland and James Frawley…have classic defender poor posture. Defenders need bad posture, especially in the Melbourne back-line. They should both be All-Australian…they have done more defending than any other two defenders in the comp.”
Departing West Coast Eagles coach John Worsfold: “My time is done as coach of this footy club. I couldn’t have had a better time, I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
“Why the hell does the media know before us.” Nic Naitanui’s tweet upon hearing the initial reports of John Worsfold’s resignation. He later deleted the tweet.
“I was actually giggling in the beginning because I had been told by the producer during the break, before we went onto the next segment, and I thought they were having me on.” Andrew Demetriou after Seven’s “Talking Footy” where he was sent into laughing fits having heard of the Clinton Jones/Dwarf incident.
On CollingwoodTV, Jackson Paine asks Dane Swan what his favourite finals event from another sport is: “The Spelling Bee competition on ESPN.”
The Age sports reporter Will Brodie comparing episodes of HBO Drama Boardwalk to the Essendon drug saga: “The show’s milieu was a bit like the Essendon crisis – sordid, borderline unbelievable, demeaning, a sewer swirling every character inexorably down.”
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Carlton. The first time I’ve ever cried about football. Stirring scenes to get themselves into their fourth finals series in five years.
Marc Murphy. Has carried the weight of the 50,000 Carlton members’ expectations on his shoulders this year minus a pre-season and a few weeks to recover from a fractured face. Played a true “lead-by-example” captain’s game.
Jaeger O’Meara. Shocked everyone by winning the NAB Rising Star Award…
Daisy Pearce. Capped off an amazing year winning the VWFL Best and Fairest. Her year as included being the number one draft pick of the first ever women’s match, captain of Melbourne and captaining the Darebin Falcons Premiership side.
Joey Falzon. The Northern Blues Property Steward was award the Alec Gillon Award for Outstanding Service to VAFA/VFL football after 31 years of voluntary service at the J.J Liston Trophy night on Monday night at Etihad Stadium.
Bryan Mace. The Frankston Dolphins player, manager, coach, icon was rewarded with VFL Life Membership.
Kane Lambert. Accepted an invitation to the AFL State Combine and was one of the best players for Victoria in the VFL vs. WAFL state game. Also took home the VFL Rising Star Award and Wingman position for the 2013 VFL Team of the Year. Missed out on the Liston Trophy by one vote.
Willoughby AFL Under 12s. Capped off a memorable season with a Grand Final win on Fathers Day. Congratulations to Henry Davis and his Willoughby teammates.
Leigh Fletcher. Won the VAFA Division 1 Best and Fairest on Wednesday night. Will line up for Hampton Rovers in a Grand Final next Saturday.
Nathan Jones. Won his second Melbourne FC Club Champion award on Thursday night. Becomes the only player since Todd Viney in 1998 to win two Best and Fairest awards – that’s a seriously long time without a stand out player.
Paul Roos. Good luck.
Ryan Griffen. Unfairly maligned by the rest of the competition, the Bulldog star took out his second Charlie Sutton Medal.
Steve Clifton, Mitch Hallahan & Jordan Schroder. The trio tied for the J.J Liston Trophy as the VFL’s Best and Fairest – the first three-way tie in history. For Clifton, it was his second time winning the top prize, becoming just the seventh man to do so.
Emma Grant. The Bendigo Thunder Coach was awarded the VWFL Coach of the Year award in just her second season at the helm.
Lance “Buddy” Franklin. Doing just about everything to bring the walls crashing down at Hawthorn. Unnecessarily suspended and has withdrawn “Hawthorn FC Footballer” from his Twitter bio. Read into it what you will.