Blood line supporter

The Melbourne supporter was tall with an angular, rosy face.  He wore a sleeveless Melbourne jumper with a blue T-shirt underneath.  He pumped his right fist as his beloved Demons had opened up a slender lead against West Coast at the MCG.

He wasn’t hoping for a win.  All he wanted was competitiveness and the Demons were delivering.

The Melbourne fan, Seb, was thousands of kilometres north of the MCG, in Brisbane for a party.  Two people, Stevo and Sherry were renewing their vows.  Their house catered for football fans.  Half a dozen men sat in the lounge watching the game.

‘We’re not going to win,’ Seb said.  ‘But we’re doing well so far.’

The Eagles went in at half time ten points up.  Seb was happy with the effort.  He took off the jumper and put on a shirt and went downstairs smiling.  During the ceremony he stood tall and cheerful.

When the last photograph had been taken and the ceremony was about to turn into a party, Seb checked the score.  West Coast kicked 11 goals in the third quarter and led by 72 points at the last change.  Melbourne managed one goal during the slaughter.

His determination changed.  He gave up his lust for competitiveness and wanted the margin to remain below 100 points.

Seb follows Melbourne by proxy, his father and grandfather were MCC members.  As Seb grew up he was surrounded by passionate Melbourne supporters.  He had no chance or other choice and like most kids he adopted his old man’s team.

The party was riddled with AFL fans.  As the night went on, half a dozen men gathered around a table and talked footy, discussing great players, grand finals and childhood memories.

Most men who love footy are amateur historians and qualified experts.  The ramble was spirited and insightful.

Talking footy invariably led to Melbourne’s current plight.  Seb agreed that Cameron Schwab had to go and bemoaned the state of the list.  He wanted to keep Neeld and players like Colin Sylvia and Jack Watts.

The discussion turned technical, a rant about Brisbane and Sydney receiving extra money in their salary caps.  It was no wonder they won those premierships.  The expansion clubs weren’t spared either.  The AFL is spending millions to prop up Gold Coast and GWS at the expense of the foundation clubs.

‘When we needed good players the Gold Coast and GWS had all those draft concessions,’ Seb said.

The chat was amicable until tanking was mentioned.  Though Seb brushed it off, that’s a different story, it appeared he misread the point that the AFL had created two new clubs with disregard for the other clubs.

Seb didn’t appear angry but he flung a question the inquisitors.  ‘North are zero and three just like us,’ he said.  ‘Tell me how you’d fix your club.’

His question created a momentary void in the chat and put the North fans on the back foot.  The obvious was offered, get rid of the coach, find another big man in defence and a veteran who is cool under pressure.

‘Why do you want to sack the coach,’ Seb said, giving the North fans more back-foot attitude.  He was glaring until he was tapped on the shoulder and an apology of sorts was offered, I didn’t mean anything bad by mentioning tanking, the point was about AFL assistance to the expansion clubs at the expense of clubs like Melbourne.

‘Oh no,’ Seb said.  ‘We tanked for draft picks.  Brock McLean left because of it.’  His mood suddenly switched, and not because one of the North fans was as big as he was.  He ragged on about the losing culture that invaded the club.  The players, he said, got used to losing, because winning didn’t matter.

He regaled us with old memories, of being a kid at the MCG and other suburban grounds, of his 78-year-old grandfather getting ejected from the MCC reserve for abusive language towards opposition fans and MCC officials.  When his grandfather died Seb inherited more than 20-years of football records.

‘He went to every game,’ Seb said.  ‘I’ve got boxes of them.’

‘Never get rid of them,’ one of the North fans said.  ‘They might not be worth much money now but they will in fifty years.’

All at the party offered sympathy and Seb accepted it.  Still, there was that one moment where it seemed he’d been pushed too far.

A few hours later the North fans sipped beers and played pool.  The footy chat was analysed.

For a moment there I thought does this guy want to punch on and I was thinking I don’t want to punch him.  I was thinking how did this happen because he misread the point. 

He was okay until I mentioned tanking and that’s why I said forget about it. 

What we were saying wasn’t offensive or wrong.  It’s what everyone has been saying about Melbourne. 

I think he’s had enough of talking about how shit Melbourne has been for years and he just put it back on us, you know, tell me why your team is shit. 

He comes from a long line of Melbourne fans and it must kill him that he’s never seen them win a premiership. And won’t for a few years.

The North fans laughed and forgot about the chat as they sunk pool balls emblazoned with the emblem of the North Melbourne football club.

There was no smugness as the game went on.  It’s more luck they follow North, and the club has offered success, four premierships since 1970.  Melbourne hasn’t won a flag since 1964, and though North has endured tough times, it’s nothing compared to Melbourne’s misfortune.

Analysis

I have met about five Melbourne fans in my life.  That’s not to suggest they’re rare but they just didn’t seem to inhabit the northern suburbs of Melbourne.  Oak Park was dominated by kids who supported North, Essendon and Carlton.  A few kids followed Collingwood and Richmond.

There wasn’t much variety among fans at school and it remained that way as I aged.  So Seb offered a rare opportunity to talk with a Demon fan, and as a proud, jumper wearing member his insight was interesting.

His angst was understandable too.  Seb has gotten used to Melbourne losing.  In his lifetime he’s seen them play in two grand finals for heavy losses.  He’s had a long time of misery that doesn’t look like ending.

It would be hard to maintain the faith, but when your love is grandfathered in, that blood-line passion is hard to give up.  Seb lives in Sydney and though he isn’t an MCC member, he owns and interstate membership.

Each year he contributes to the club.  He is dedicated and loves talking footy.

He was at his best with those childhood memories but clearly he has had enough.  With the burden of Melbourne’s recent history, talking footy must be aggravating and difficult.  Each topic is negative.

During the chat Seb got a little sharp, that’s all.  It indicated how tough his life in footy has been.  He must wonder if he’ll ever see Melbourne win a premiership and he’s desperate for one.  And he’s not the first football fan to get a little sharp during a lengthy chat.

It happens all the time.  But the chat ended amicably, which is how a chat with men about footy should end.

When was the last time you were involved in a chat about footy that featured a sharp moment?

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. At least Seb has still got some fire in the belly! The majority of Demon’s fans I know have either given up hope or, at the very least, are teetering on the brink.

  2. Caitlin Nobes says:

    I am a Melbourne supporter, and being only 17 years old, I have never really experienced a winning Demons team. Most weeks, after watching Melbourne get beat yet again, I contemplate the ability and the competitiveness amongst the club. I find myself, nearly every time, becoming angered and embarrassed by the situation.

    Much like Seb’s reaction to the first half of Saturday’s game, I don’t care if they don’t win. At this point, and with the club being in this position, all I want is a team of effort, a team that is at least trying to play competitive footy.

    The problem is, Melbourne are years away from the standard of AFL. Many say that GWS and Gold Coast “took” all of Melbourne’s picks, but realistically, they have had a plethora of top ten draft picks over the last few years. The young kids, obviously, can’t develop in a club that are incapable of playing A-Grade footy. Although, the recruiting choices have definitely not been the best either.

    I suppose no matter we say, Melbourne are going to be in this state for a very long time. And until they get some grunt and skill about them, nothing is going to change.

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