Posts Tagged ‘afl’

In the wake of Bruce’s announcement that he and Fran were pinning their flag to the Collingwood mast after attending the 14-goal smashing of Geelong last year, they were warned to expect a rollercoaster ride (and were met with equal levels of scorn and delight from non-Pie and Pie fans).

The following weeks seemed to bear it out: defeats when they were expected to win; a decent streak ended by North Melbourne in a game that they had led handsomely after half time; a comfortable finals victory away in Adelaide followed by a depressing defeat at the MCG to the Saints on which Bruce had splashed the cash to attend.

Still, this season started with hope. Admittedly, the cack-handed McGuire did himself and the team no favours by declaring the flag was there for the taking (followed almost instantly by the NAB Cup Final demolition at the hands of Geelong, as if the likely Premiers were saying: “What was that, Eddie, you bumbling buffoon?”).

Fran even delighted Bruce by presenting him with a Collingwood guernsey on his birthday, 24 years after he last owned a replica shirt:

Man Utd 1985 home shirt - memorable for the pointy white bits on the shoulders

Man Utd 1985 home shirt - memorable for the pointy white bits on the shoulders

Perhaps this in itself was a portent of things to come: after all the Man Utd of 1985 – Jesper Olsen, Remi Moses, Frank Stapleton, Arthur Albiston to name but a few Old Trafford legends… – was another team that consistently flattered to deceive; a club with a big past and a colourful, but rarely successful, present.

Round 7 of this year’s AFL season marked the one-year anniversary of Bruce and Fran’s Collingwood odyssey. Fittingly, it pitted them against St Kilda, the team they had originally decided to follow by virtue of living there when they first arrived from the UK, only to decide after attending some early matches that the Saints fans lacked even a modicum of passion and that they would look elsewhere.

Going against conventional wisdom (and reason), Bruce even tipped the Pies to finally bring the Saints’ winning run to an end, despite the knowledge that Stumpy (Didak) and Dead-Eye Dick (Anthony) would be missing and that Travis T (Cloke) would again be starting. Had he known that Davies and Medhurst would also be missing, well, who knows, but still, is it any wonder the promising start to his fledgling tipping campaign has becalmed in recent weeks?

On the subject of Cloke, despite constant assurances that he was a remarkably promising teenager and does have the natural goods, his performances since the aforementioned flag-to-mast nailing session bring to mind nothing more than this (just insert “Travis T Cloke” for “war poems”):

Sady, despite the 88-point drubbing, it appears Bruce has already been infiltrated by Pie-fan myopia – the affliction that Arsene Wenger suffers worse than most. As soon as the game had ended, he entered into text debate with a dismissive Crows fan insisting that, really, Collingwood weren’t as bad the the score suggested and, had they been able to score more goals in the first and third quarters instead of behinds (or more usually missing by 30 yards – looking at you, Rocca) while St Kilda pinged over everything from all angles then it would have been far more respectable.

Straws. At. Clutching. Rearrange.

Going back to the Man Utd shirt, however. The season after that particular shirt was replaced, Alex Ferguson joined from Aberdeen. He’s been pretty successful since. Could Buckley have a similar effect when (if?) he takes over in 2010? (And would it be too much to hope that McGuire goes the same was as another joke head honcho – Michael Knighton?)

And rollercoasters do have to go up as well as down, don’t they?


Read Full Post »

So, my second full season of AFL is almost upon us. After a ponderous start, I attended seven live games (six at the G after the flat atmosphere of our debut at the Dome) last year and ended up a Pies fan. To keep the fingers ticking over – and to offer an outsider’s view – I’ve decided to add a new page to G’day, G’day in which I, Bruce, will write about footy.

Here goes…

*  *  *

aflImagine this: at the start of the 2009/10 English Premier League season Tottenham Hotspur are drawn to play Newcastle United in the first game of the season: two of the country’s biggest underachievers – no league title in decades, regular flirtations with the lower reaches of the table – yet both still clinging to past glories and able to attract the odd star player.

Then imagine them being asked to play the game at Wembley – and attracting a sellout crowd of more than 90,000 people, with the tickets going three weeks before the game despite the match being shown on free-to-air television.

Sound implausible? Impossible, perhaps.

Well, in less than two hours, a sellout crowd of more than 90,000 people will gather at one of the world’s greatest sporting stadia to watch the first game of this year’s AFL season between teams – Richmond Tigers and Carlton – that finished in the bottom half of the table last year and who haven’t come close to winning a title in years.

Both still cling to past glories and can attract the odd star yet play a sport that is only played professionally in one country in the world – Australia – and has only a tiny percentage of the worldwide pull of football. In fact, the sport is only really popular in two of that country’s eight states (including ACT), coming a distant third or worse in the most populous state (New South Wales).

It’s remarkable by any standards, even more so when one considers that the two teams represent two suburbs of the same city, suburbs only separated from each other by a couple of kilometres; in this respect it’s more akin to Aston Villa vs Birmingham City, perhaps. Again, can you imagine 90,000 turning up to watch them play the first league game of the season?

It’s down to one thing: an obsession – media-driven, but in the blood of most footy-loving Australians anyway – with the return of Ben Cousins: once the greatest player in the game, then a junkie who got caught, now on the road to redemption (the fans of Richmond Tigers hope, at least). Admittedly he is up against the man with whom he once dominated the sport while at the West Coast Eagles, Chris Judd, who will captain Carlton, but it remains incredible that the sport and stories such as this can have such a pull on Australians or, more specifically, Victorians and a few others.

For me, only one story from the many rehashed over the past months needs retelling. It was the day Cousins arrived in Melbourne after being told he could play again after a (very brief) one year ban. No team appeared willing to touch him; even Collingwood, so long a home for the waifs, strays and fallen idols of the game, turned him down, their president Eddie McGuire later claiming footage of an as yet unseen documentary on the player’s destructive lifestyle prevented them from making the expected move.

As part of his readmittance into the game that made him, it was announced that he would undergo an unprecedented number of urine samples (dozens throughout the season) and could even be tested through a hair sample up to three times a year. For this – the most effective way to test for drugs – to take place, a hair sample must be at least 2cm long.

The moment when Cousins walked through Melbourne airport, hair freshly shorn to a number two crew cut (6mm) and, we later learnt, with his body freshly waxed all over was priceless.

“Come test me then, fuckers,” he seemed to be saying. “Oh, you can’t. Ha!”

So, while most experts are tipping another titanic battle between last year’s finalists Geelong and Hawthorn (cheers for the $23 profit in the Grand Final, chaps) for the flag (they were fresh out of trophies when this all started out so had to make do with a flag), the intrigue into whether a raging cokehead really has cleaned up his act could prove just as enthralling.

As for me, much as I’d love to see Collingwood challenge for the title as they’ve boasted they will, I can’t see it. I stand by my comments made after the Pies – Crows match at the G in the second half of the season that, on their day, they have enough star players to beat anyone. Sadly, their day is never often enough. For what it’s worth, I think they’ll finish third.

While we find out, I’ll try and learn the rest of the terms I didn’t pick up last year, hope to work out what is meant by various tactics and, with any luck, pen some wry observations on the game from someone who wasn’t born into the game but, quite unexpectedly, was won over by it in just one season.

My forecast?




Western Bulldogs


St Kilda

North Melbourne



Brisbane Lions



Port Adelaide


West Coast


Read Full Post »

Moving house is really no excuse for a total lack of activity here for the past two weeks. However, it’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

But, while Bruce attempts to eat into the G’day, G’day backlog, here’s something he got involved with in an attempt to understand his new home…

Read Full Post »

Go Pies!

What’s not to love?

Three games into our fledgling career as Aussie Rules fans (enough for a red scout badge) and our knowledge is still pretty sketchy. Goals and behinds we get, but why when the ball goes off the side is it sometimes thrown in by one of the camp guys in bright-coloured shirts and at other times given to one of the teams?

However, it didn’t take a seasoned pro to appreciate the skill from Collingwood’s Dale Thomas at the weekend. His team already in the ascendancy, the long-haired Pie took the ball out wide on the left, snuck infield and, against all expectations, dinked a wee grubber kick through the posts from the tightest of angles for an outrageous goal.

Not quite Daniel Craig

Not quite Daniel Craig, is he?

Reminiscent of Lee Sharpe against Barcelona in 1994, Shane Warne’s first ball in test cricket, or this in its display of pure, audacious skill, it was the ultimate middle finger salute to the battered Geelong. The majority of the 78,000 Friday night MCG crowd shot to their feet in an eruption of unbridled, gutteral joy and high fives left palms stinging with that most pleasurable of pains. Even the neanderthal racist sat behind – who had earlier been threatened with a trip to the mental hospital by her not particularly evolved partner for calling one of her own players an “indigenous monkey” – rose above her innate hatred with a smile.

Our host at the match, proudly wearing his Crows jersey (nope, not switching Channel Islands for you Aussies with your strange terminology*), forgot himself and was on his feet yelling inanely. Hours earlier, when Bruce had declared a soft spot for Collingwood, the Crow had told him:

“Maaaaaate! Everyone hates Collingwood. I support the Crows first and anyone playing Collingwood second.” But here he was, swooning at the twinkling toes of Dale Thomas et al.

It was that kind of night, a rare moment when men transcend their mortal bounds and become gods. Dave, the pork pie hat-wearing lifelong Collingwood fan alongside the Crow, was gushing, barely able to speak.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in years,” he managed between blubs.

Ah bless

“You’ve found your team!” yelled the Crow as the hooter sounded to end the match – an 86-point against the odds smashing, the kind that deserves a commemorative DVD and mug set.

Indeed I had. Like my love for Man Utd in England, my flag is now well and truly nailed to the mast of the most reviled team in the AFL. After all, you get to shout: “GO PIES!” while eating pies. What’s not to like?

My lack of allegiance, apparently. Due to our first home in Australia being in St Kilda, Fran and I had chosen to follow the Saints, only for our first visit to one of their games at the Telstra Dome to leave me feeling bereft of love for the club and in search for one deserving of my heart and soul.

“You can’t just go changing teams like that,” said Fran, bringing me back down to earth with the sombre acceptance one would expect of a lifelong Charlton FC supporter. “I’m staying loyal to St Kilda,” she added as we crossed the park outside the MCG to a backdrop of hundreds of singing fans high on the ecstacy of a Pie-induced endorphin boost.

“GO PIES!” I replied.


* What is this “guernsey” nonsense all about?

Read Full Post »

A few new pages and posts belatedly added…








“For the lucky few who own breweries the temptation to test the famous idiom and organise regular piss-ups must be nigh on irresistible. Yet resist they do…”


“Watch out for the ones who run the ball back to the centre after a goal: their little legs go so fast and they do a fantastic little hop, skip and pirouette at the end, which is quite marvellous”

Read Full Post »

If you’re planning to climb even the first few rungs on the ladder to becoming a fair dinkum Aussie then, in Victoria at least, you need to take an interest in Aussie Rules.

Fran and I arrived as the AFL season was on the verge of its much-hyped kick off. According to the papers, all we needed to know was:

  • Some top player has moved to a once-top club that’s now dreadful
  • Geelong is going to win
  • It’s the done thing for former stars to take drugs, assault people and get paid to talk about it
  • It’s the done thing for current ones to piss in public

Seemed simple enough.

As we’d landed in St Kilda, it seemed only fair to follow the Saints: star players a big, blonde Viking and a balding ape who runs as if wading through treacle.

Last night was their match against the Western Bulldogs at the Telstra Dome. What luck we brought them, watching them throw away a 37 point lead to lose by 38. Awesome.

However, we learnt the papers were misleading us. What we really needed to know was:

  • The pitch is fucking huge
  • There are never less than 200 people on it: players, physios, stray children and referees (watch out for the ones who run the ball back to the centre after a goal: their little legs go so fast and they do a fantastic little hop, skip and pirouette at the end, which is quite marvellous)
  • The players smack each other about off the ball and the refs don’t give a monkeys
  • It’s cheap to get in (a third the price of a Premiership game in England)
  • You can drink. Not only that, large numbers of people never actually leave the bar areas and watch the game within touching distance of their next Carlton Draught
  • Despite the boozing, there’s little in the way of passionate support. St Kilda fans leaving early were chuckling as if they’d just left the cinema after watching Platoon

What was perhaps most bizarre was that in a country where swearing is part of the very fabric (whatever certain politicians might claim) everyone watched their language. You can hear “fuck” on daytime radio, worse on the telly in the evening, yet what was the worst we heard, despite the drunkenness and one of the biggest turnarounds in AFL history?

“Ah, nob off, ref!”

Can’t see it replacing the more carnal expletives at British football stadia.

Read Full Post »

24/7 losers

It’s 7.30am on a Thursday morning. Bruce forms the entire audience for Manchester United versus Bolton amid the ever-twinkling neon, falling coins and endless AOR ballads of the Crown Casino. Behind him, two young Aussies are watching Tottenham play Chelsea on the big screen.


They’re joined by an older, portly guy spotted ordering a Bundy and Coke at the bar minutes earlier as Bruce waited for his coffee. The newcomer instigates a conversation about footy (Oz-style – the AFL season’s much-hyped start is tonight). Snippets of conversation drift over the commentary: slating the Adelaide Crows; his love of Collingwood.


Talk turns to his personal life.


“I’m 43, I’m tattooed from arsehole to breakfast time and I can get drunk and fall over like the best of them,” he declares. “No problem.” Suddenly, the game becomes less interesting.


“Like I said, I’m 43,” he continues. “My partner’s 56. I met her in jail 14 years ago when I was doing another stint.” Bruce is not sure the young guys watching the other game, one dressed in work clothes ready for the office when the final whistle arrives, were expecting this. Bruce sneaks a glimpse over his shoulder and sees them shifting uneasily. Please go on, he prays. The jailbird obliges.


“Yeah, I killed a guy. Was supposed to be doing 23 years, but got it down to 16 and served just 12,” he says. “Then I met her and I’ve not been in trouble since.”


“Well,” says the nervous office worker. “At least you can enjoy the good life now.”


“Nah mate. It’s fucked!”

Read Full Post »