There is nothing like being in a Melbourne pub on a Saturday night watching the footy. Last weekend, we took the kids out for an early dinner. We ate outside, but then came in for dessert because it was cold. There was a crowd of people standing in front of the tv because it was the last ten minutes of the footy game between the Bulldogs and GWS. Not our teams, but of course, we had to barrack for the Bulldogs so there’d be one Victorian team in the grand final.
We didn’t know anyone else in the pub, but it was clear we were all connected by our mutual desire for the Bulldogs to win. A pregnant woman apologised for blocking our view. A man told another woman that he had never cared for the Bulldogs before but he really hoped they would win tonight. The noise level went up and down, up and down as the Bulldogs scored a goal and hit the lead, then lost their advantage again. There were fist pumps for another goal from the Bulldogs. Everyone shouted, ‘Go Doggies!’ as if our voices could propel just one more goal though the white sticks. Our kids stared at the tv, Spanish churros halfway to their lips.
And finally, the siren sounded, the Doggies hugged each other, the GWS players collapsed on the ground and the pub erupted with cheers. It reminded me why it’s fabulous to be a footy fan, in a Melbourne pub watching a semi-final.
And because this is a book review post(!) I wanted to share a wonderful non-fiction anthology about footy, From the outer, footy like you’ve never heard it, edited by Alicia Sometimes and Nicole Hayes. This is a diverse collection of essays, recollections, musings and stories from writers who are Aboriginal, gay, lesbian, female, male, with a disability, from outside Australia.
The editors wanted ‘to broaden the conversation to reflect the extent of this diversity’, of people who love footy in many capacities. The best way to show you the diversity of this book is to give you a snapshot of the voices.
Kirby Bentley – I still believe that the diversity of footy brings people together, regardless of race, fitness, skill set or upbringing. Aussie Rules is Australia’s game, and more and more, it is providing opportunities for young girls and women to play professionally. They now have a pathway to the women’s league, which is fantastic for the next generation of girls.
Christos Tsiolkas – To this day, I have sympathy for the player who goes off-side, or has the crowd screaming furiously at them, ‘Ball!’ The embarrassed shrug of their shoulders, their refusal to look out to the crowd, the spitting out of an expletive: I know exactly how they feel.
Jacqui James – In 2000, after Docklands Stadium was only just built, Francis decided to take me to my very first footy match. What would have been an exhilarating experience turned into a war with the stadium. We didn’t realise all the disabled car parks are underground, and my 2.4 metre-high commuter van wouldn’t fit. We had to park outside the ground instead. It was very painful and difficult, travelling all that way… The game, however, was incredible.
Van Badham – She is, after all, an emotional person – and her love of AFL gives her a safe place to put those emotions, from exuberance to anxiety, from disappointment to simple, overwhelming human joy. Mum loves the game because it is a spectacle, and it’s this quality she admires the most in her team.
Peta Searle – The goal of a great coach is to guide, inspire and empower people to achieve their full potential as players and as people, by getting them to believe in themselves, and then to stretch the limits of their beliefs. Great coaches are emotionally mature, keenly self-aware, and have the ability to manage their emotions. They are able to create substantial relationships with others, are empathetic and tuned in to their players’ feelings. They must have genuine care and interest in all of their players and support team. But most of all they coach the person, not the player.
Tony Birch – Whenever I want to replenish my attachment to Fitzroy I head for the old Brunswick Street oval and allow its spirit to draw me in.
Erin Riley – I loved the natural way the ball moved, free of arbitrary offside rules. I loved the pace and the skill of the players. I loved that a 30-point margin at three-quarter time wasn’t enough to feel safe. I loved singing the song and donning the red and white. I loved the ritual and the passion. I loved the game.
Alan Duffy – ‘This is a Hawks family, Alan,’ were the words my prospective in-laws told me when I first started dating their daughter nearly six years ago.
Bev O’Connor – Some women would have been insulted, but my view has always been simple: someone has to be the first and if we can do a half-decent job it should mean the barrier gates open and women can come flooding in from the outer.
Leila Gurruwiwi – I have been subjected to and witnessed racism – both blatantly and subtly – in the wider community and within the AFL scene, and until you have been somewhere where you are seen as different because of the colour of the skin, you can’t truly understand how it feels.
Are you going to watch the Grand Final tomorrow? Or are you going for a long walk in peace or heading to a quiet shopping centre? And did you relate to any of the voices within From the outer?