A Mothers’ Day Reflection

 

By Steve Fahey

 

Having previously written about Dad’s lifelong love for the team from the suburb in which he was born and raised, I thought that Mothers’ Day was an opportune time to pay tribute to my mum Anita’s contribution to my love of the Pies, footy and indeed, sport.  Yes, I did manage to skirt around the word obsession !

 

Mum grew up in an Essendon-supporting family.    Her father, Eric Feltscheer, was a star country footballer, and was awarded a large and impressive trophy in 1934 for being the best player for the Wimmera League in a post-season game against Carlton at Stawell.  These were the days when a VFL club’s end-of-season trip was more likely to involve visiting regions which grew barley than the more recent expeditions to Bali.  I don’t know a lot about her mother Lena’s sporting prowess outside her being part of the winning combination in a 1930 country mixed doubles tournament, for which we still have the trophy.  Unfortunately she was a little early for Hopman Cup. Mum was a talented sportswoman, being a state finalist in sprint events as a schoolgirl and a good netballer and tennis player.

 

Mum started work in 1953 at the city office of life insurance company City Mutual.  She could not possibly have known that this employment would end up in her being a passionate Pie, which occurred through a combination of love and money.  A week into her new job she admitted to a female colleague that she was bored.  The colleague replied that she need not be worried because there was a boy returning to work after leave next week, and all he ever talked about was football, cricket and horses.  Barely a truer word has ever been spoken – Mum and Dad started dating not long after, and her connection with the Pies grew quickly.

 

As for the financial aspect, VFL “High-Low” cards were popular fundraisers/sweeps for social and sporting clubs in the 1950s (and indeed until the late 1970s in my memory). The cards involved being allocated a combination of two teams each round, one nominated to kick the highest score of the round, the other the lowest.  If your teams fitted the bill you won.  Yes, Dreamteam and Supercoach are not the first competitions in which you could end up cheering for despised rivals !  Anyway, early in her employment Mum hit the jackpot, winning an amount greater than her weekly wage.  As Collingwood was the “Highest” on her winning card, she developed even more affection for the Pies.

 

Mum and Dad married on 29 September 1956.  This was two weeks after the VFL Grand Final, which The Pies lost for the second successive year to the Dees.  Dad had insisted on the wedding being two weeks after the Grand Final to cover the possibility of a replay ! You’re getting the picture, Mum was a very understanding person.

 

This was certainly not the only time that a fair amount of tolerance of Dad’s passions/obsessions and excesses was required from Mum, and I was the beneficiary on several later occasions.  There was the time in 1971 when at age eight I missed school for a week with a nasty ear infection, before getting ready on Saturday morning to head off with Dad and my older brother to see the Pies take on the Roys at the Junction Oval.  We were excited by the prospect of seeing The Sharpshooter (Peter McKenna) register his century of goals for the season.  Mum’s reasoned arguments about why I shouldn’t go were quickly countered with Dad’s arguments about the importance of the occasion.  A compromise was hastily negotiated – my Pies’ beanie was to cover my ears at all times !!!  Mum finished the discussion with a very succinct outline of her likely response to Dad if I was sick for school on Monday!  The Pies got the bikkies, The Sharpshooter got the ton, and family harmony was consolidated over the traditional Saturday night post-footy crockpot casserole.  (It was the ideal meal as the time we returned home from matches was highly unpredictable, especially at the Vic Park games.  I could recite the honour boards in the foyer of the Social Club backwards due to the hours we spent waiting for Dad to emerge !).

 

The following year I played my first season of footy, turning out for the Banyule Under -10s.  Mum was the quintessential sporting mum of the era, doing all of the work but never being in the limelight – driving me to training, washing my dirty gear and standing in the bitter winds of winter to watch the games.  The day after our narrow loss in the second semi I woke up feeling ill and covered in spots and was diagnosed with the chicken pox.  Mum consoled me for the fact that my footy for the year was over.  By the Sunday morning of the game Dad convinced me that I was OK, I played, and we won, proving once again that correlation is not causality.  I recently sorted out some boxes of stuff that my siblings and I divided up after Mum’s death in 2005.  The footy records for these finals were in one of her scrapbooks, alongside the cutting from the local paper which listed me in the best players in one of the games.  I was amazed that Mum had so fastidiously chronicled the achievements, sporting and otherwise, of the four of us.  For me, this early chronicling was a wise move, as being in the best players didn’t happen much before that, and even less frequently afterwards.  I peaked at age 9 !  Oh yes, we lost the GF by 4 points after leading at three-quarter time.

 

I played some of my early tennis with Mum.  She was a great role model of sportsmanship, and demonstrated to me that you could be very competitive but maintain a perspective that it was a game.  Unfortunately it took me many years to pick up this lesson (and it is remotely possible that I occasionally forget it for two and a half hours many weekends between late March and September !)  She understood that I was very competitive, and occasionally had a quiet word when my behaviour needed to be reined in.  She was firm but fair when I returned home on a couple of occasions with a broken racquet.

 

When the four of us were all old enough to be doing our own thing and dad became officially involved on match days, Mum started going to Pies games more often.  She quickly became passionate and while she was nearly always her usual compassionate and reasoned self, there was the odd exception.  She had a strong dislike of particularly vigorous opposition players, notably Leigh Matthews and David Rhys-Jones.  On the famous day in 1986 when Banksy squared up for an earlier incident with Rhys by knocking him senseless as he waited under the ball, I am reliably informed that Mum was seen standing and applauding long and hard !!!  When Lethal Leigh joined the Pies as a coach, Dad was quick to organise for Mum to meet him and to pose for a photo with him.  This photo featured in the photo carousel presentation at Mum’s funeral.

 

After the 1990 Grand Final I made my way into the Southern Cross Hotel late in the evening to see Mum and Dad at the official club celebration.  In those pre-mass security days, I easily talked my way into the area just outside the function room and they came out to see me.  I was delighted to see their elation and hear Mum‘s laughter when I asked her if she still thought that Lethal Leigh was a dirty so–and-so.  I could not possibly have known that this would be the only Pies premiership that I would share with them, and cherish this memory.

 

In 1998, my then two-year old daughter Holly made her debut watching the Pies at the G with Mum, Dad and myself.  It was a proud day for all of us to continue a family tradition.  The following year Dad died, and just a few months later I joined Mum in the Ryder Stand seats the family had bought for many years (F122 and 123) for the Pies’ final game at Vic Park against Brisbane.  It was the end of an era in many ways and an emotional day.  The irony of that day was that the coach of Brisbane was one L Matthews.

 

These days the family tradition continues, as Holly and I go every week with my younger brother Paul and his three boys, Liam, Jacob and Joel, and there is always spirited competition for the “first goal” nomination.  Mum is there not only in spirit, but is remembered in the Pies scarf around my neck which she knitted for my older brother Kevin in the 1960s.  John Harms described it as “… a scarf that looks like it was knitted by Nanna while she watched BP Pick-A-Box” when he wrote about the Floreat Pica Society in The Age in 2008.  JTH might just be a bit lucky that Mum is not here to respond !!

 

Mum was an absolute rock in my life, including my sporting life.  She was always there, always facilitating and always supportive, but rarely in the limelight.  The many opportunities which shaped the passion for sport which I developed early in my life simply wouldn’t have happened without her.  Like many, I didn’t fully appreciate her love and input until I was an adult, but fortunately got the chance to express my appreciation and love.  I’ll be wearing the scarf she knitted at the G on Saturday night and remembering her very fondly then and on Sunday.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Lovely reflection of your mum Steve. My mum passed away on Anzac day this year -( after that awful Essendon effort!) Ironically it was 2 years ago on Anzac day that she attended her last game and we had our photo taken together at the footy to go with the first game report I did for Footy Unleashed – forerunner to this website.

  2. Steve Fahey says:

    Thanks for your kind words Pamela, and my sympathies on the passing of your mother. Hold the memories tight, including on Sunday.

    It was a pleasure to write about Mum, and the Floreat Pica email list, some who knew Mum, have also been very kind with their reflections – your and their remarks are greatly appreciated.

  3. wayne smith says:

    Steve,
    Enjoyed your trip down memory lane. Stories of the past are the constants of life. I grew up a fanatical Carlton lad and in the 1970 Grand Final I was crying nearer to half time when watching the Pies and Blues on TV back in Albury. My nanna said to my cousin and I at half time, “time for action boys, lets kneel and say the rosary.” The rest is history!
    Now I’m on loan to Hawthorn as our son plays for the Hawks. I will always be a proud blue boy and remember those great days back in the 70’s and 80’s.
    Happy Mother’s Day to our mums and to our grandmothers and proudly wear that scarf for your mum on Sunday.
    Cheers
    Wayne

  4. Peter Fuller says:

    Steve,
    Thank you for this beautiful reminiscence. Family is everything as Kim Beazley reminded us. It’s clear my mother had similar values to yours, as I was also taught to play all sport with due respect for ethical obligations, respect the game, play by the rules (and the conventions), respect opponents and officials.
    My thoughtlessness was my failure to recognise the gift of my mother’s devotion, until I was advanced in years. Happily I took the opportunity to tell her so before she died four years ago. I particularly recall her following me around to matches on public transport to see my unfailingly modest performances, and then after I had my licence and car, the joy of driving her to matches, when I was playing. The conversations on those car trips are a precious memory.
    Mum was a passionate Fitzroy supporter, who was never reconciled to the perfidious conduct of the AFL in railroading them into the Brisbane shotgun marriage. Her last match as a spectator was that dreadful day at the MCG in August 1996, when the Lions were flogged by Richmond. Although she retained a passive interest afterwards, a little bit of her died after that day, because football had been such a huge part of her life. Thereafter she barracked for no-one, but against a number of teams, with varying intensity.
    The blessing of parents who cared, supported us in our successes and sustained us in our failures is priceless. Since my mother was the crucial parent – dad working away for long periods – it’s good to be reminded in this significant week by Steve’s post why Mums matter. Happy Mothers’ Day to all Almanac Mums.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Steve thank you beautiful story very well written and you gave me a gentle reminder of my mum and dad’s significance in my modest sporting life from my mum organizing after noon tea and dad scoring in cricket to my dad time keeping in footy
    Mum has always been the quiet rational one although I can remember her going off at a umpire when , Dennis Sachse received a controversial free kick for the roosters against the redlegs in a final at the parade in the early , 70s . In 2013 there was immense family pride as , The Ashwoods became the 1st dual family life members of the mighty , Ad Uni FC when dad joined myself as a life member in which mum has always been the efficient rock of support and such a huge part , Steve’s post a fantastic reminder of the significance of my mum , THANKS MUM

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