According to some commentators, I don’t exist. Or worse, I’ve been conjured up by evil geniuses in AFL marketing. The people who dished up Meatloaf as quality fare must have also come up with me. How else could I exist when my team is “plastic” and “unloved”?
For those who believe that the competition should never come North of the Murray, what would someone like me know? I grew up in the days when there was only one game of Aussie Rules on television each weekend, and the sound of the crowds cheering and the parents screaming were around the games of rugby league.
Some of us had a rugby league team from an early age, and we were initiated in the arcane rituals surrounding the offside rule and contested scrums. We had our gods, and they won the Rothmans Medal, the Dally M, or the JJ Giltinan Shield.
But then, suddenly, the sport was at war. Clubs went into different competitions against teams thrown together by players tempted by unlimited war chests. My heart sank and my love for the game diminished.
When I sought solace in the AFL, my local team was Sydney. My allegiance was not tribal, it was convenience. History? Tradition? My recollections were of pink cars and Capper’s shorts. They’d reinvented themselves into a proper team so it’s Kelly, Lockett, Roos, Goodes, Hall, Kirk and Micky O. No dickheads. Just results.
I occasionally went and watched them play, usually when they played my husband’s team. I cheered them on and was on the edge of my seat in 2005 and 2006. I have a red and white checked scarf.
But I live in Western Sydney. I can’t remember the Swans trying to grow the game out here. Certainly potential for membership growth given there’s over a million of us living out here.
Then someone, lured by dollars from broadcast rights and merchandise, decided to give us a team.
And then someone decided to give the team a mouth and heart. They gave us Sheedy.
My son started Auskick last year. He’s been to club night at Blacktown, kicked a ball to Jonathon Patton, had Callan Ward at a special Auskick home training night pass the ball back and forth to him when they ran to the next activity. He’s hooked. And so am I.
Tradition doesn’t spring fully formed from the head of Andrew Demetriou. It must be built. And built by its players, its officials and its fans.
We went to the NAB Challenge match on the weekend. There weren’t many of us, but we were vocal. And there was orange. Orange on toddlers, orange on grand parents. Cheering on kids who are big on potential. Sure, we’d barely fill a bay of the G, but we wanted to be there to build a true AFL club and an AFL community.
Plastic? Artificial? Unloved? Looking around the oval at Blacktown, anything but. There was potential. And there was heart.