It was quite the off season for me and the club this summer. I traded my fast and loose life in for the role of fatherhood whilst the Doggies traded in the battler card for the champions pendant. Tom Liberatore to Dale Morris. Footscray to Hawthorn. Both joyously stumbling through the new territory, pretending we know what we’re doing.
Unlike 99% of Dogs fans I wasn’t still basking in the glory, I needed to see the Dogs out on the ground again. I was one of the few Dogs fans that missed the big dance. I watched the once in a lifetime event happen from a pub 15000km away. At the time it was surreal but as I returned to Footscray and saw the town it was confirmed I didn’t get the real stuff. The streets were and still are red, white and blue but the fun had been had. The entire Dogs fanbase got together for a smashing orgy and I got sent the video. Top video, but still a video for a lonely boy in a dark room. I missed out. Sure Wobbies World is a good time, but that it’s soured when you know everyone else went to Wet n Wild.
For this reason I felt that to shake it off I would need get to the first game. Back on the horse and all that. I felt a slight disconnect with this reborn club and wanted current events to engage with, Round 1 would start the reconnection. Slight problem with the plan was a whopper day at work, a baby and girlfriend at home and a night game. Me and the girlfriend have a good system of chopping eachother out after big days and here on Round 1 I was about to shove a spanner in.
The workday ended up worse than it looked on paper, come 6pm and I’m still at work. As I’m about to leave the customer requests a couple last minute jobs, usually ok but not too groovy with the 7:50 bounce approaching. I oblige through gritted teeth and proceed to start being short with the customer, work mate, inanimate objects and start flying around like a madman. This would be fine if I didn’t wear a Dogs shirt to work. The excuse of an important date or vague dinner plan is out the window, it’s obvious I’m a grown man getting pissy cause he wants to go watch his little football game.
The mad man act pays off and I’m home having a beer in the shower by 6:45. The beer is nice prop to get the mental game right for the outrageous act I’m about to commit. Go from a 12 hours shift into heading to the footy. Haven’t pulled kind of stunt yet and after its pilot run I don’t think it’ll get a series. In an attempt to collect brownie points I give the little one a bath that’s closer to a baptism then I’m out the door waving goodbye to my girlfriend, baby and weekend freedom.
I’m at the train station by 7:45 and pull up the game on my phone in time for the first bounce, what a world we live in. To be honest the picture is tickety boo and I start considering a future of exclusively watching the Dogs on the TV. The view is better, I can listen to the commentary and most of all I can psychologically reframe my GF experience. ‘Nah I just think it’s better on TV, these modern stadiums have no soul anyway.’
The Dogs are looking great, tapping the ball around like the Harlem Globetrotters – we’re looking even better than last year. By the time I’m off the train we’ve got 4 goals on the board and as I’m approaching Gate 2 I notice scores of Pies fans booing the screens. I pull out my headphones sending me a 10 second delay radio stream (I’m from the future tonight baby) to see Trav Cloke lining up for goal. He’s smashed it. Lads are flipping off the screen – Footy’s back and it’s terrific.
I then meet a mate inside to learn we’re drinking in the Dean Jones Bar for the next couple quarters. Goody. Nice establishment, good view with full strength beer and it’s the Collingwood Social Club bar – and I’ve got my Dogs jacket on. I pulled on a 5 year old robodog jacket before I left, a jacket I never particularly liked due to my hate of the robodog logo. I think this sudden softening to robodog is some pathetic subconscious attempt to show the swarms of bandwagon bogeymen I was here before them. Of course so far there was no swarms of new fans – there was just me in a sea of black and white with my Bulldogs jacket on.
The bar was of course fine. Sometimes I wish footy fans were more partisan and not let rival fans stroll into their social club. Not this time though, I was quite happy that the pies fans were pretty cheery watching their team now closing the gap on the champs. The Collingwood midfield was dominating, but their inside 50s and defence made it clear the Dogs were a step above. A feeling crept up that hadn’t come too often in the past few years. I knew the Dogs had another gear and would find a way to win even as the margin closed. They even got ahead in the third but I didn’t for a second think a loss was on the cards.
We left the bar to watch the final quarter from seats finally. 1 quarter on the train followed by 2 in the Collingwood bar, what had happened to my glorious return. When we got to the seats my friend introduced me to his parents as ‘the Dogs fan that missed the grand final’. Chuck it on my tombstone, I think I’ve found my life’s meaning. My mate is sick of giving me sympathy now and he’s treating himself to a nice little chuckle. His Dad however gives me a sympathetic look. That’s more like it. It is a tragedy, one worthy of pity. The pity dried up as the quarter went on. Whilst the Pies were able to get a couple goals on the board in the final quarter the Dogs did enough to get the biscuits. A good win top teams get.
Back in the swing of it. Now there’s a bit of new Bulldogs news. It’s not all about Premierships and what a day it was for long suffering fans. Back to the daily talk of ins and outs, handpass technique, contract negotiations – glorious nothing news that’s sole intention isn’t to remind me I was stuck overseas when the Dogs finally did it. Next week, the flag unfurling – lets see how I can make that about me.