Inside the Brownlow – Floreat Pica Society style



by Ramon Dobb

Last night, the Floreat Pica Society continued its tradition of having its global network of members in all of the footy hot spots of the world. I was an extremely fortunate recipient of a corporate invitation to the Brownlow Medal and thought I’d share a few snippets of the experience from the inside.

It was my third such invite, having attended back in 1998 and 2000 and it’s amazing how similar all have been. The first big question was “what to wear?” Well it wasn’t a very difficult choice for a bloke, I decided on the same black dinner suit, fancy pleated white shirt and black bow tie worn at both previous events. The trusty (that is trusty, not crusty) old suit is resilient and timeless (well, with my eye for fashion it is) and all it needs is a good dry-clean every now and then and it always rises to the challenge.

Our party of twenty organised to meet up at the ground floor Atrium Bar for a few warm up beers. For our arrival, we entered through the back way, looking like a group of Secret Service agents. The main foyer was cordoned off and a gallery of spectators were huddled up trying to get a vantage point to see the stars arrive. Curiously, they had a Warm-Up Guy working the crowd in between the Channel 7 intro takes and it was quite a boisterous atmosphere. After a few quick Coronas our party made the long trek to the entrance. As the crow flies, the Atrium Bar on the ground floor is about 30 metres from the Palladium entry on Level 1. But given the security and logistics arrangements we almost needed a packed lunch and pair of hiking boots to get there. We had to walk under the grand staircase, around to the Crown Hotel elevators, up to Level 3, out around past the Pool, into the opposite elevators, back down to ground level foyer, into a black lined temporary tunnel, out the front doors, hang a lefty onto the driveway, back through the other front doors, up the blue carpet, up the stairs and finally into the Palladium entry. It was like trying to park at the old VFL Park Waverley car park, every time you turned a corner there was another “blue coat” directing you to another “blue coat” – only that instead of crusty old diggers in “blue coats” the upside was that they were goddesses in spectacular slimline little black dresses.

With all the reporters, lights, cameras and action it was quite overwhelming and as a Joe Public it was a funny sort of feeling walking in alongside the stars. We walked past Woey, Big Trav and partners, amongst others, on our way in as they were getting photographed or interviewed.

As we entered the official Pre drinks in the Palladium foyer, there was a huge buzz. Blokes were getting whiplash trying to catch a glimpse of every frock that went past. I spotted Tuddy a few metres away and was tempted to go say hi and remind him of the day that HB, my best mate Bluey and I all shared a few bevvies with him at the Queensland Magpies function before the infamous 2010 “ill winds” Gabba game, but decided I didn’t have enough dutch courage at that stage.

Entrée was being served and the “blue coats” started to round us up to get to our tables. Our table was at the far left of the room (as you see if from the cameras) and we were in an elevated section which was the “other stage” when the room is configured length ways. It gave us the perfect vantage point to watch over the room. It was a sea of tables as far as the eye could see – there must have been nearly 200 tables and as luck would have it, the Mighty Pies tables (Tables 43 & 44) were only about 20 metres away for perfect viewing. The Admin table with Mick, Eddie & Co was closest to us and then the players and partners on the next one. 2003 winner and coach-in-waiting, Bucks, was on the table adjacent also which he shared with 1990 Premiership Legend and his manager, Ned Kelly.

Entrée was a feisty marinated chicken dish which was washed down nicely with a cheeky NZ Sav Blanc. Main meal was tender slab of beef matched perfectly with a glass of Red.

As we devoured our delightful dinner dishes, the Blue Carpet special was going to air and was beamed on the many screens around the room. It was interesting to watch the players and celebs in our area who you would think might be quite vain. They really didn’t bother to check themselves out on the big screen, unlike us Joe Public mugs. My host reckons he spotted us walking past when they were interviewing Big Trav on the Blue Carpet (sadly a review of the video revealed that it was not to be and I missed my 1.5 seconds of fame and ended up on the cutting room floor again).

Interestingly Ross Lyon and the Freo table were on a table close by as well – it wasn’t hard to spot Aaron Sandilands who had to be careful not to head butt the chandeliers. There really seemed to be an awkward and tense aura when he Rossy walked in and I think he was really feeling the weight of public backlash from his move as he didn’t look comfortable one bit. As the table planners would have it, Rossy and Ned were about 3 tables apart, so when Ned got up for a walk to the loo he had to walk past him and I watched their interaction with anticipation. With a hand on the shoulder Ned said a quick hello and then kept walking – it was short but seemed civilised.

Up until the telecast starts, there’s a fair bit of mingling and walking around. There’s an element of us Joe Publics getting autographs and photos, but it was not over the top and mostly respectful. Back in 98 and 2000 I got a few selective autographs and had a few good chats with a few of the Pies – including a young about to be appointed President who was enthusiastic but gave us a pretty harsh verdict of the work that needed to be done – how wonderful it is 13 years later to reflect on where he’s bought us.

As a Pies fanatic, but a little bit shy, I was umming and aaahing about going up to the Pies table. I had a tenuous link with Neon Leon, in that my Uncle was an assistant coach in his WAFL Colts premiership side and we’d met him a few years ago, so I decided I’d wander over for a closer look at the Pies and say hello to Neon. He was polite but very shy and you could see that he likes to do his talking on the ground rather than in a dinner suit. In a quiet way, I had the feeling he was ready to go and itching for the game to start. I didn’t linger at the table very long but crossed paths with Swanny, who was at his scruffy-chic best, and looked very relaxed and I gave the slight head-nod hello.

Craig Willis was calling the shots as MC and then when the real deal commenced there was some good banter from Andrew Demetriou and Bruuuuuce. Somehow, Andy reinvents himself at the Brownlow each year and shows that he’s got a sense of humour and some personality, which is clearly not too evident in any of his other public appearances. And then there was Bruuuuuuce. Boy he’s got some eccentricities about him when he’s not on camera. He wanders around like he’s in another world, nervously shakes and jiggles his legs as he obviously rehearses his lines or computes all those facts that are in his head so they are ready to be used. All that was missing was a big leather chair for him to sit in and for him to start stroking a cat.

One of the unique aspects of the night is the action in the TV Ad breaks. As soon as it cuts to an Ad break, the lights come on and a crack squad of black uniformed waiters storm out of their bunkers armed with trays of Crownies and bottles of Red and White wine. As they surge through the crowd, the dilemma arises as to whether to stay and ensure you don’t miss out on a bevvie, or take your chance and hit the conveniences. If you do attempt the toilet run, you need it to be timed to precision so that you don’t get locked out. At each break they throw open the doors then shut them as the telecast begins again. There’s even a 30 second countdown clock on the big screens around the room. So if you are not inside by then, you’re out in the foyer until the next break.

During the telecast most people alternate watching the big screens or the live action on stage. By chance, Bucks’ closest video screen was right next to our table and he was in my direct line of sight to the stage. So for most of the night, I had the coach-in-waiting in the foreground of my viewing. It was amazing to watch him. He was so focused on every moment, almost transfixed on every detail and absorbing it all.

The vote count started off perfectly, as soon as Pendles and Swanny had 5 votes in the first two games and last year’s winner had none, I felt pretty confident that Swanny’s post Arizona form would give him a good shot at winning a well deserved medal. As the night wore on, every time the great man got a vote, my guttural cries of “Swaaaaaanny” got longer and louder. With a couple of rounds to go it was in the bag and the only concern I had was whether Sam Mitchell might poll more votes and tarnish the win. Thankfully for both of these warriors Swanny deservedly won outright. He was an extremely popular winner in the room. I was rapt it was bloody fantastic. I loved his speech, he’s such a loveable larrikin and in between the wisecracks he speaks with clarity and conviction.

With the ceremonies over, the Pies players and entourage were out in a flash to prepare for more important things.

In the wash-up everyone hit the floor and mingled and sought out mementos. I timed my run well when walking past Ned Kelly sitting alone after just finishing a chat so decided to get his autograph. I approached with a firm handshake and the old line of “wanting to get a 1990 Premiership legend’s autograph”. He jokingly said “what do you want me for, you don’t want an old bugger like me” which I quickly countered with a “yes I do, you’re a 1990 premiership legend and it was the greatest footy moment of all time”. He was more than happy to oblige.

As I walked back I came face to face with Razor Ray, with my new found dutch courage we made eye contact and I think he was looking for a sign of validation or support from me, but I out stared the little theatrical over-umpirer and he diverted his eyes in defeat. PS. If VB ever make another of those blokey commercials, I reckon Razor Ray could be the placard bearer for the ‘punching above his weight” group – he did very very well for himself.

As I wandered past the Pies Player Table 44, I noticed that the official Brownlow Table Number Card was just sitting there. I figured that on a night where Swanny won the medal that I’d souvenir it and add it to the pool room at home.

It was now time to make our way to the official Crown Lager After Party and keep up the festivities. The band (John Farnham’s backup singer, can’t remember her name) was fantastic. 1977 Medalist, Teaser’s partner for the night picked up the 3 votes for best dancer – she was like an Eveready Bunny going on all night, solo, partnered or multi partnered, she was a dancing machine. The wife of Port Adelaide’s coach was outstanding and picked up 2 votes with a great show of dancing, especially supported with a well fitted dress. Former Pies, Hawks and Roys player Tony Woods picked up 1 vote with some very smooth moves with a bevy of beauties.

The final siren sounded at 2:30am and there were plenty of players from the 15 also rans kicking on. On the way out I ended up next to Andy Ireland and shook his hand and complimented him on being a Collingwood legend. He was very humble and still had a soft spot for the Pies and said he tries to attend all the past players functions.

As I wandered through the casino they were pumping Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing On The Ceiling” through the speakers. Given this song’s significance to 2010 GF MkII it was a great way to celebrate the end of Brownlow night and start the focus on the big game for Saturday.

Go Pies and Floreat Pica.

About Ramon Dobb

A footy and cricket fanatic. A lifelong passionate one eyed Mighty Magpie fanatic. My writing is unashamedly written with one black & white eye open only - so please don't take offence, it's nothing personal, it's just the black & white way! Also a lifelong player and member of Washington Park Cricket Club, the Mighty Sharks. My 15 minutes of fame includes regular contributions to Hot Pies, the 1999-2004 Fanzine, and regular contributor to the Coodabeen Champions weekly competition from their heady 3RRR days. Go Pies and Floreat Pica.


  1. Dear Ramon, great piece. I watched the last hour on TV and can now see it so clearly through your eyes, that of a footy tragic and fan, gobsmacked to find himself in the middle of the party. Well done for the autographs and sightings and good luck for Saturday. It’s a tough one to call.


  2. John Butler says:

    Ramon, I’m impressed with your recall of detail on a night where free libation would have been in abundance.


  3. Thanks Yvette and John. John, in answer to your question, I too impressed myself somewhat as I did give the sponsor’s products a very good nudge. I had a trusty notepad where I somehow scribbled some legible observations – then with a very heavy head the next day, you know how you get those “ohhh, yeah I remember that” moments, well I had a few of those which came to me throughout the day.

  4. Pamela Sherpa says:

    What an experience. Your encounter with Razor Ray made me laugh.

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