Despite being born and bred in the home of Aussie Rules — Melbourne — my husband has never followed footy in his life. This takes some doing, in a city where football is not only the major religion but practically compulsory! ('Football' meaning Aussie Rules, of course. They do have Rugby and Soccer; those are called Rugby and Soccer.)
I grew up in Tasmania, which, back in those days, was its second home, but I managed to escape the general fanaticism too. Then I went to Melbourne.
‘Who do you barrack for?” asked every new acquaintance. When I told them I didn’t barrack for anyone, they said, ‘Oh, you have to barrack for someone. You’ve gotta have a team.’
I was studying at the University of Melbourne, in the suburb of Carlton, and eventually lived in Carlton too. So I decided to barrack for the Carlton footy team. I learned how to say things like, ‘Carn the mighty Blues!’ with every appearance of enthusiasm, but it’s just pretend. I never went to a Carlton game and only know the name of one player, the great Alex Jesaulenko of decades past. (Everyone knew that name, even if they didn’t barrack for Carlton; just as everybody knew the names of other greats such as Ron Barrassi, Lou Richards and Norm Smith. Living in Melbourne, there were some things you couldn’t escape.) In truth, I never know how ‘my’ team is doing unless they get into a Grand Final, which I find out at the last minute, or even after the event.
For a while I joined the Anti-Football League and wore the badge. Journalist Keith Dunstan started the Anti-Football League so that people who longed for intelligent conversation that was not about football could identify each other at parties. Unfortunately, we all found ourselves talking about football more than ever, as the Aussie Rules fans would bail us up and demand to know why we were against the noble sport.
Anyway, you get the idea — my beloved and I are not keen on football, and manage to live our lives blissfully unaware of it most of the time. Grand Finals come and go and leave us unmoved. Today, however, I had a strong urge to watch the latest Grand Final on TV, and he entered into the spirit of it too. As Carlton wasn’t playing, we decided to barrack for St Kilda. I lived Bayside for most of my time in Melbourne, which made the Saints my local team; also they have the best club song — ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ of course, with only the slightest change of wording.
We settled down in our armchairs and had a thoroughly good time, cheering or groaning in all the right places. We got quite carried away and found ourselves yelling advice to the players. I don’t know what came over us, really. Who knew that watching footy could be such fun?
It was a very exciting game, which ended in a draw. The final point was scored just before the closing siren sounded. I wonder if we can stand to watch the replay next week?