AFL Round 16: Barracking for Switzerland

By Matt Quartermaine

My older brother, Simon, comes east from Perth twice a year on a work conference and we try to catch a football match. We don’t get to see our team the West Coast Eagles often, but we actually prefer to soak in the atmosphere of two Victorian teams going hammer and tongs to get the balanced atmosphere that’s not possible at a West Coast match in Melbourne or Perth. The last match we saw was a tepid affair between Hawthorn and Richmond, which was only salvaged by a last quarter four goal burst from Buddy Franklin. This time we struck it lucky this year when we went to the Hawthorn/Collingwood match at the MCG.

We got into the Hawthorn members area thanks to Hawks stalwart Ricky Kane on the promise that this would be his only chance to see us supporting Hawthorn. Watching a neutral game I normally wouldn’t care which team wins, but when it’s Collingwood there’s always room for exceptions. My dislike for Collingwood dates back to the late eighties when I would go to Victoria Park and be surrounded by the biggest bunch of whingers who wouldn’t even go up when an opposition player took a screamer. Also an old school friend who played for the Eagles told me some Pies fans spat on them going up the race, and that was when Collingwood won!

We found ourselves behind a rabid Hawks female supporter with the number fifteen painted on her face in the brown and gold. As the teams ran on to the ground she admonished her two kids for not waving their Hawks flags with more vigour. She then turned to her little girl, who looked to be all of five years old, and told her to “wave your flag or you can go sit in the car… And the car is a lonely place.” It’s moments like these that galvanize spectators, as a couple of young lasses and I exchanged disbelieving looks and settled in for the game.

The first thing I noticed was how much the speed of the game has advanced since I last saw a game live. Television doesn’t do justice to the modern games’ rapid handpasses as players jostle for a modicum of space that will allow them to break free and head for their goals. The standard practice in the centre is to run away from the goals to get room, as one of your team mates runs at full pace the reverse way to receive the deft flick as the first player is swamped by the opposition. It was art in motion. The first quarter was evenly matched, but Hawthorn’s composure in the backline was impressive. The second quarter saw the Hawks get a lead and Collingwood peg them back to end up in the lead at the break.

The half time break produced the first controversy of the match. I went to buy a hot dog, having remembered to mortgage the house so I could afford the food at the footy, but was dumbfounded when I realised I was going to be charged extra for sauce. In all my forty-seven years of life I have never seen anyone buy a hot dog and say “Hold the sauce, thanks.” A hot dog without sauce is like Mick Malthouse without a scowl; it just doesn’t happen; so I pocketed the sauce container in protest. Stuff tanking, the number one priority for the AFL this year is to bring back the giant sauce containers (and the mustard and mayo squirters as second and third priority picks).

The third quarter saw Hawthorn break the spirit of Collingwood, doing the hard tackles and hassling that’s been missing from their game all year. The fourth quarter saw Collingwood unable to recover, especially after a magical

Hodge/Buddy/Hodge/Buddy/goal moment to start the last. Hodge and Franklin were at the top of their game, but I was also very impressed with Josh Kennedy’s hard work in and under. It was a great game even though I couldn’t give a cracker for Hawthorn, because if someone asked me to go see 40,000 Collingwood fans go quiet, I’m there like a shot.

The moment of the match occurred afterwards at Jolimont station, when the platform gets packed like Tokyo peak hour. My brother started to get Perth boy claustrophobia as we saw our train wasn’t due for at least a quarter of an hour, when a mystery Epping train rocked up out of the blue. As the masses looked up to check the schedule, a V-shaped wedge appeared in the crowd and I dashed through like Hodge on a burst and secured a seat for the three of us. The train was a filled with silent Collingwood fans, until one piped up in a subdued conversation with a pearler: “You’re not a champion until you’re a champion”. Too right, and you haven’t really enjoyed football until you’ve seen Collingwood lose.

Comments

  1. Spot on about the sauce Matt. I think you can get sauce free at Idiot Stadium. BUT, as I was waiting outside gate 6 last week I heard the announcer say “all commercially prepared food must be consumed before entering the stadium.”

    What a disgrace. I don’t know how he did it but somehow my mate Dave got in with his unopened pack of Saladas. Up yours Collo!

  2. Danielle says:

    Sneaking food in should’nt happen at all because we should be able to bring any food that we want!
    Us girls have an advantage because we carry handbags.
    my friend and i were able to sneak in McDonalds and Subway into the cinemas. The good looking boys were not smart enough to check our bags but they were able to remember that we were in cinema 10!!
    The AFL security always check backpacks but NEVER have they asked to check my handbag.

  3. Josh Barnstable says:

    Dunno what my dad was thinking last year. He thought he could get into the footy with an apple and a knife to use as a peeler. It didn’t go down well haha.

  4. Danielle says:

    OMG hahahaaa rofl at Josh’s dad!!!
    :):):):):)
    Danni

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