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After last year’s victorious six pack of Cooper’s on the sofa, this year Bruce decided to watch Man Utd’s Champions League Final match against Barcelona with a crowd. The Charles Dickens Tavern, in Collins Street, seemed to have the best reputation for liveliness when it came to early morning football and, rocking up at 2.30am to find it rammed and rowdy – and not too dissimilar to an unpleasant episode in Blackpool watching English football fans’ latent yobbishness explode in the build up to a match against Germany – its reputation was deserved; by 3.15am they’d stopped anyone else entering while 1001 Man Utd Goals played on the screens surrounding the pub as the singing got louder.

A vivid dream the night before had Man Utd winning 2-0. That full back Patrice Evra scored the first with a mazy run past three players from inside his own half should have been warning enough that the dream was unlikely to be matched by reality. When the ball turned into a giant choc chip cookie as Ronaldo rolled in the second (the cookie being too big for the goal and requiring Ronaldo to jump on it to break it and ensure all parts of it were over the line) the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear. Still, the bookies in England were offering 250-1 on Evra to score first and 2-0 so why not have a dabble?

Another omen appeared shortly before kick off; Irish actor James Nesbitt walked in. In town to shoot a film, he soon confirmed the opinion Bruce had formed from his TV persona – i.e. that he’s arrogant and charmless – by announcing he was on the phone to Sir Alex Ferguson the night before and would have been in Rome were it not for his shooting schedule. However, Bruce passed the moment off as a mere coincidence rather than a harbinger, like the time he and Fran met Nick Cave wandering around the Him exhibition.

Several hours on and inspiration drained by the heavy defeat and the after effects of several nasty pints of Tetley’s (the other choice was Carlton Draught so what’s a man to do?), G’day, G’day will have its first guest contributor: Bruce’s younger brother, in the form of the texts detailing his descent into despond…

“That’s what I wanted to hear. 2 nil you reckon. I like your ball s.” 2.32am

“Excellent work! I am putting a bet on that then. Not sure if cookie bet will be available!” 2.43am

“That sounds amazing! Nearly home will let you know odd s!” 3.34am

“That’s too good! I have been watching a lot of united clips of late! I forgot to say how good park s birthday was. Random yet brilliant.” 3.40am

“I am trying to recreate our old pro evo team on fifa at the moment*” 3.45am

“What does grouse mean.” 3.45am

“Right bet s on. 250 to 1 for evra first and 2 0.” 4.16am

“Thanks. Smack him for me i hate that c***.” 4.40am

“I like that even though he s a c***.” 4.45am

“Anderson and giggs off tevez and dimi on. Why the fuck is he playing giggs wayne and ronaldn out of position.” 5.39am

“Fuming. Wayne should be up front ronaldo can fuck off buy ribery. Carrick been poor fergie got team wrong. I am miserable.” 6.36am

“Iniesta is the man. I will happilz see the back of ronaldo. Get ribery. Fucking wank.”  6.47am

[* The team in question being:

GK – Michael Jackson (for his famous white glove)

RB – Lemmiwinks (for his startling similarity to Gary Neville)

CB – The Beast of Bodmin Moor (toughness)

CB – Gandalf (height)

LB – A Peter Kay / John O’Shea hybrid (one a fat doppelganger of the other)

RW – Timmy (?)

CM – The Radical MC HP (versatility)

CM – Bruce

LW – Jimmy (?)

CF – Rooney (then at Everton, but we loved him already)

CF – Bruce’s bro

Nothing like a misspent youth… except a misspent mid-20s.]

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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.

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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!”

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