The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things.
Setting off to the MCG on Saturday, I open up a tiny, well cordoned off, neglected and private part of my brain that conceals a dark and awful history.
Like a room that must not be entered in a horror story, or a part of your past consigned to the basement of your recollections, I harbour a secret that on Saturday creeps to the surface.
The time has come.
I feel the need to share what my family know of me, and eventually accepted, but I have seldom shared (without the addition of amber fluid late at night) to those around me.
The all-embracing, non-judgemental, slow to anger, quick to forgive and generally understanding Almanac clan will, I am sure, not turn me away when I come clean about my dark secret.
I once barracked for the Blues.
There. I said it, it’s out there. Let the cleansing begin,
I grew up in a staunch Carlton family, on my father’s side. My mother’s family, whilst not as passionate about football, were South Melbourne through and through, and when my dad met my mum’s family in the early 60’s, the 1948 Grand Final still loomed large in their acceptance of, football allegiance aside, a perfectly respectable lad.
When my father was a teenager, and his parents bought the Dromana Hotel, he boarded during the week with his aunt and uncle in Carlton. They later had a cat called Jezza and she would be one of those mad and wonderful women at Princes Park known for belting opposing supporters on their heads with her brolly.
I had a Carlton jumper and first went to game at Princess Park.
Then, in 1973, when I was 6, the Tigers beat the Blues in the Grand Final. So I swapped. We doubled up in 1974 and by 75, I was bolted onto the yellow and black.
Why I was allowed to change clubs I never explored. My father was interested in football, but not with a passion that would lead him to try to bring me back into the Navy Blue fold, or threaten me with alternative accommodation should I stay with the dreaded Tigers.
Since then, I have been with Richmond, feeling rewarded for my switch up until 1982 and questioning it occasionally ever since.
It was probably this that led me to allow my son to pick his team, which resulted in him swearing to stick by me with the Tigers when 4 and then settling on the Hawks when about 6. He’s 13 now, has seen a flag and I still let him live with us, which I have always felt was a sign of my growing maturity in these matters.
I am very confident heading into this game, almost skiting to my son’s Blues supporting mate we give a lift to on Saturday morning on the way to school house athletics at Burwood. By day’s end the bluebird of happiness has crapped on my washing, and it all hasn’t ended nearly as well as I had planned it to.
I am at the game with two best mates, Julian and AJ. Julesa mirrors the Tigers. He’s had his ups and downs for a while, hasn’t ended seasons as he’d like despite early promise, but is now heading towards the 8 and winning many more than he’s losing. There’s a massive upside to both Julian and the Tigers, and both have an enormous amount of love and support coming their way.
AJ, despite being a Dees man through and through, is very much like Carlton. Unfailingly positive, even over confident sometimes, he sees potential in so many things and I envy his permanent good cheer and ability to always be up and about.
We start like millionaires, Bootsma on Jack a weird mismatch and with Houli, Grigg and Morris giving drive from half back, we kick 8 in a glorious first quarter, with Jackson picking up possessions everywhere.
In the second, Robinson switches his focus from grabbing Martin to grabbing the football and his presence is ferocious. With McLean and Scotland crumbing everything and Gibbs on the forward line for a change showing why he was valued in the draft so highly, a 5 goal lead turns to just 5 points.
At half time, AJ and Julesa go out for a kick while I make notes and see the most astounding Mohawk I have ever seen, on an Auskick kid in the grid game.
The car parks are shut, so there’s plenty of room for kick to kick outside, which is great to see. AJ’s return reminds me that the Dees could do with Pettard and Mclean back in their side.
The third quarter approaches to the sounds of Frankie goes to Hollywood. Apparently Two Tribes are going to war, and sex and horror are the new gods, which means the day won’t be a total waste.
Essendon’s issues and potential to fall out of the finals, coupled with progress scores from Port’s match, clearly give the Blues hope, although Robinson shows a short attention span when it comes to maturity and a 50 for a hit on Jackson puts us in front through Vickery. Casboult takes 2 big pack marks and we are behind at the last change.
In the last, our entry into the forward line is poor. We hit the post a few times and when Tuck misses late it’s over.
Vickery has played well, but Deledio apart, there are not many four quarter contributors. Warnock impresses in the ruck for the Blues, who even if they miss the finals, would love to finish the season beating us and the Dons next week.
I leave with a strange feeling, of comfort that we’ll be in the finals but concerned that efforts like this will make it a short stay. How we beat the Hawks in the rain seems a mystery.
The irony is that my favourite player when I was a kid was Malthouse, and I wore his 7 on my back when I got my Richmond jumper. I seem to recall I got the number as it was my favourite number, and then checked who wore it at the Tigers and followed him. At any rate, I admired his play and endeavour, and I think my willingness to be a back pocket when I played footy and a full back (still) playing hockey was part of an early admiration for defence over flashy forwards.
The Tigers will play in September, the Blues who knows. I have confronted my switch in allegiance and am OK with it.
The time has come Tigers.