Off-Season Odyssey Part 7: Alcohol und Footyball


This Odyssey is turning me into an alcoholic. Each stop, old teammates badger me:

“We haven’t seen you in years! And you don’t want to have a drink with us?!”

So we kick, then drink, as if a little run around has earned it.

Each stop I pick up a few more good memories and hangovers. Each stop I go that bit more broke, feel myself getting un-fitter. I’m almost looking forward to the desert, where I’ll know very few people. The farm work lined up in Bordertown. But even there, I know when we talk footy, it will be over a beer.

What is it about footy and alcohol? Does one have to go with another? I didn’t drink for about ten years, in my footy prime. Personal reasons. Personal problems. You say it doesn’t matter, not drinking, but it does. So often I was on the outer. I missed the drunken sway, the “I love you, man!” which helps a teammate become a mate.

The sharing.

Maybe, I think, it’s a cultural thing. It’s something to do with our hands and guts and minds while we’re hanging out together. We are alpha. We like pain. We play footy, we drink, we fight, we work hard. None of these things need the other, or lead to the other, we are just that sort of person.

Like people who are into monster trucks dig AC/DC.


In Geelong to do some concreting, I have a kick with Steve ‘Jack’ Daniels, then hit it with him and Tommy Harriott, brother of bush legend, Sammy. We played together back in 2000, for a year, and his partner, a policewoman, is at a music festival this weekend.

Tommy’s the only bloke who’s ever drunk me under the table. He’s a tall, solid man, very Timmy Watson-6ft2 ruck rover. He played at about five clubs and coached the one he loved, Thompson, to two flags, in a league of solid standard, before returning home for one final season. We go to nightclubs full of drunk footyheads and pretty women. Everybody knows him. Premiership coaches are royalty.

Tom and Jack order us two scotches each every time, to save time. One of them downed by the time we get back to the table. I can’t afford this. They insist on shouting. We argue on it, then keep drinking.

Even here, in the blurred crowd is Eddy, who I coached, and somewhere else, is Dawesy, who I coached twice and played alongside, all of us a long way from home.

Tommy’s been talking Thompson all night. I look him square in the eye and tell him.

“You’re gunna deny this…”

“Let’s hear it,” he says.

“I remember something you said to me, years ago. We were on a footy trip and I ran into you, fuck-eyed at about 5am. I asked what your latest club was like. You said: Matty, every club I go to, no matter where they are, blokes get up at presentation night and say ‘I love youse all. There ain’t no other club like this on earth!’.”

I wait on him to deny it. He knows I’m waiting on him to deny it.

“I don’t believe in that. I was young then,” he gives the perfect answer.

I think coaching has helped him, as a person. He was always smart, strong. His own man. But he now speaks with that bit more conviction, takes far less words to nail something, to show he knows footy. Or life.

Even hammered, he never, ever has to ramble.


I get three hours sleep, and, come morning, swear off the grog and hit the road, while Tom and Jack keep drinking. They haven’t slept and have no intention of doing so.


Two nights later, I’m in Len-Dog’s shed, in Colac. My best mate on a footy field ever. Teammates, opponents, then teammates again for the longest time, over two leagues and almost two decades. Hell, we shared some adventures!

He tells me about the Sunday shed session I just missed. Hargers, an average footballer and loveable little man, last picked in this year’s Reserves Premiership, was still wearing the jumper four months later, when Big Don lassoed him, stringing him over the beam by his ankles.

Upside-down, Hargers struggled, stretched, and just managed to reach his beer.

“Oh, geez, this ain’t easy,” he said, somehow managing to keep on drinking.


Len-Dog shows me a photo of it, and we crack a drink. The first of many.


I don’t know. I’m not good at much else. Maybe I’m just hiding. Maybe, simply, football is social, like we are social. Maybe it’s why we don’t play golf, or tennis, or do boxing.



  1. Turbo it ended up a massive weekend that 1, enjoyed the kick but as for the picture of harga I was ther in the Len dogs shed one of the funniest things I’ve seen!!! This piece is a ripper mate we will have to add a few for stories soon! Happy new year brotha

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