Harms: On (the wonderful) Geelong fan

by John Harms

I know it is awkward to talk about your own, but sometimes it has to be done. And it has to be done honestly. So I’m going to say it up front: the Geelong supporter is the embodiment of all that is good and true.

The world has never seen, in any place, at any time in history, a finer people than Geelong people, nor a finer example of a cultural institution than the Geelong Football Club.

Were Shakespeare living now, he’d be writing plays about Geelong. He’d be dipping his thumb-nail in tar and committing to iambic pentameter the lives of the people of Geelong. He’d be writing about characters like Bobby Davis, in whom the elements are mixed so perfectly; about Max Rooke, as determined a soul as has ever walked the earth; and Billy Brownless, because Shakespeare loved characters who appeared outwardly foolish, but were actually very wise.

In millennia to come, as archaeologists scrape around in the digs of ancient Ryrie Street and Latrobe Terrace, finding hair-dryers (those big 1960s ones) and tea towels (with images of the wool stores and the eastern beach) and menus and newspapers and old school photos, they’ll down trowels in head-shaking delight and say: what a fine redhead race were the people of Geelong, and what an amazing thing was the Geelong civilisation that it could hang on to nineteenth century colonial life while actually living in the twenty-first. Scholars will ask questions: how could a people lose so many times yet remain so happy; who was this prophet they worshipped, Gary Ablett; and what is this thing the chicken parma and pot special?

Geelong fans are the most wonderful people.

I love how they have turned up for generations, first to Corio Oval, which was their ground, their place. The place where during the 1870s and 80s Geelong led the way. It was Geelong footballers who believed in possibility, teaching the world what Australian football could be. It was Geelong footballers who transformed the dire rugby scrimmage of the muddied metropolitan oaf, to the open, free-flowing indigenous game that it has become. Geelong footballers, free-spirited and free-wheeling, taught the world that you could stand outside the pack, and receive, and run like blazes, and kick it to the wide open spaces of onion weed where your mate could run on to the footy.

It was the fine young men of Geelong who breathed life into football, and they were unstoppable, winning seven premierships in nine years in the 1870s and 1880s. In the colonies, Geelong was known as the town with the football team.

This is my team. This is our history.

Yet we were never greedy. We were always happy to share the premiership around. We wanted others to know the joy we had known, and thus began the great Geelong tradition of the premiership drought. The first premiership drought lasted until 1925, during which time we learnt resilience and determination, which served us well through the Depression.

We became profoundly loyal (except to our 1931 coach Charlie Clymo whom we sacked and sent back to the railway workshop at Ballarat with his one year-one flag record in tact).

We remained loyal despite being disappointed when we had to move to Kardinia Park, a move appeased by our record winning-streak and two premierships in the early 50s. And another one in 1963.

But it was during the 44-year premiership drought that Geelong fans were elevated to a higher spiritual plane. We learnt suffering. And in learning the essence of suffering we learnt to reach out to others, to empathise with all those lost souls at Footscray and Fitzroy and South, for whom life is one deep valley of tears. We became the most sensitive of people.

And we knew we had something special. Wherever life took us – and exile made us all the more zealous – we took our team with us. And no matter where we were in the world – on the terrace, on the wallaby, on the piss (in Earl’s Court) – we could tell when the hoops were running out of the race. Because our hearts would lift.

We are Geelong. The finest club. The finest people.

We’ve played the game as it should be played.

Every now end then, for 150 years.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo9, Anna8, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Danielle says:

    awesome writeup!
    its always good to hear people sticking up for their team.
    P.S Bartel is a champ, Mackie and Hawkins are spunks!!

    Danni

  2. JTH – thanks for your honesty.

  3. Andrew Fithall says:

    As a Magpie, I married a cat. Of the four offspring from that union, one is a Cat and three are Magpies. Does that mean Magpie genes are dominant? If so, does that scare you?

  4. I don’t know John. I’m not sure all Geelong supporters are generous and well-intentioned about sharing success, I know I’m not. The many, many years of underachievement, and failure when it counts (as recently as last September) have removed any lingering trace of sympathy or empathy from me where football is concerned. Having personally attended 5 losing Grand Finals, I can’t recall too much goodwill or consolation being offered to me on those occasions. Instead it helped to instil a hatred of losing that only Grand Final victories can ease.

    I can’t speak for other Geelong fans, but personally I hope the club has finally woken from its slumber and is as greedy as it is possible to be. Especially for big silver cups. Our trophy cabinet is embarrassingly bare compared to others. The style of game, or spirit you play in, is all very nice, but ultimately, and correctly, clubs are measured on premierships. And we’ve got a long way to go to erase decades of mediocrity.

  5. johnharms says:

    Mark

    It was a moment of rare generosity – but I felt obliged to romanticise my own – especially in the Age column, because I ahd the opportunity to.

    A flag every year would be nice. In fact a flag this year would be nice.

    JTH

  6. John,

    Yep fair point. It will be very interesting to see how the team shapes up in the coming weeks as we get everyone back.

    Just in passing, has anyone else glanced at Geelong’s 150-year anniversary book? It’s a ripper. Superbly put together. Although I found no mention of the polar bear enclosure that used to be behind the goals yet!

  7. "Puk" Athol Pukallus says:

    Hi Harmsie,
    Remember me? I loved your coverage of the Cats/Hawks game. What a thriller! But what about the mighty Saints!
    I have just discovered this “Footy Almanac” sight. What a great idea! I will stay tuned.
    I remember your living for the now when we competed on your putting course in the H Block Staff Room!

    Peace and Joy,
    Puk

  8. johnharms says:

    Puk

    Great to hear from you. Hope you enjoy the Almanac crew. It’s a happy madness.

    Do you still look like Rex Hunt? And go fishing? Are you at St Peters?

    If you send me an email j.t.h@bigpond.net.au I’d love to hear the Family Pukallus news.

    The golf didn’t ever improve my putting.

    JTH

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