The Dickensian festive season footy fan (Part 3): The ghost of footy future

The Ghost of Footy Future

 

It’s often a tough gig following the Gold Coast Suns. Copping the derision of punters aimed at “the plastics”, contemplating the mass grave of professional sporting teams buried between Helensvale and Coolangatta, realising that the saviour may have merely been a false prophet (glorious though His acts may have been) and simply watching a team that for 6 and a half out of 7 seasons in the AFL, has never really bobbed its head above the high water mark of “mediocre”; it’s not entirely a Dreamworld.

 

As someone who was raised in a household of heartland footy supporters, all of whose members at some stage played at club and/or school level in metropolitan or regional Victoria, had traveled to the storied Melbourne grounds of the MCG, Princes Park and Waverley & had hand-knitted footy jumpers worn proudly from before he even set foot in kindergarten, I tick a lot of the same boxes that many of the Suns’ detractors do.

 

I believe it is precisely as a result of my “traditional” footy upbringing coinciding with the weird sensation of supporting the target of the only time the VFL/AFL has taken a club and rendered it a “Norwegian Blue” of sorts (with apologies to Messrs Python et al) that I have such an affinity with the Gold Coast Suns.

 

Some may assess my feelings as a kind of Stockholm Syndrome (continued Nordic theme unintended) in response to the AFL’s treatment of my Roy Boys. Unless I am entirely mistaken (and therefore a lower profile version of Patty Hearst, sans Uzi submachinegun) the interval of 12 years between the removal of Fitzroy and the announcement of a team for the Gold Coast did much to mature my opinion of the AFL and its at times mysterious ways, as did moving to Currumbin in 2002.

 

The southernmost/easternmost corner of Queensland is a strange place; something not denied by Queenslanders in the main. It was in this strange place that a teenage boy from country Victoria arrived and as teenagers (and Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy) are wont to do, struggled in vain to transplant his entire square peg universe into a round hole of a new home.

 

As I wrestled with hating my family for dropping me into this alien land, reaching out for the tendrils of friendships now two thousand kilometres away, sport provided somewhat of a cushion against this largely hyperbolic and hormonal reaction. Tennis and basketball were the first varieties I encountered, but oddly enough, Australian Football followed shortly thereafter. It was through my engaging with footy on the GC that I had a chance to umpire for the first time & spread my wings to other codes of football that I’d never entertained before – from touch and rugby to even Gaelic (which afforded me the opportunity to compete at the highest level I’d ever reached in team sports).

 

In a small token of thanks for the way that friends, coaches and teachers alike renewed the passion for footy within my heart, in 2008 I resolved to hitch my wagon to the possibility of a team of professionals in my neighbourhood. Early press releases of building the foundations of GC17 were fodder for my keen eye and experiencing everything from mild disappointment that my ideal nickname (stingrays, after the region’s junior representative squad & a nod to the powerhouse local team heavily invested in Gold Coast footy, the Southport Sharks) was to be overlooked for the astronomically incorrect “Suns”, to dashing to join the huddle at quarter time to hear “Bluey” McKenna direct his young charges in the TAC Cup at a dilapidated Carrara Stadium, to simple banter with a close friend and League tragic – borne of Karmichael Hunt’s defection from the Brisbane Broncos…the vast history of the traditional clubs wasn’t there, but stories that spoke to me certainly were.

 

Then there was the debut season in the AFL. Belted by Carlton at the Gabba while Carrara remained incomplete (a poetic reversal of the Brisbane Bears’ home ground situation in the early 1990s), the improbable ecstasy of a last gasp win against Port Adelaide followed immediately by a first quarter demolition job at the hands of Essendon to the tune of 94 points (Kyle Reimers kicked 8 goals. Kyle Reimers! Eight goals!) & the personal twilight zone-like feeling that accompanied the Round 17 win against Richmond. Despite their many deficiencies, I felt a stronger bond with the ones in the red, gold and blue.

 

I still have a fractious relationship with the circumstance surrounding the conception of my third AFL club. While I am somewhat evangelistic about the potential for footy to enhance the lives of those who happen to be located on the other side of the Barassi Line and beyond, I can’t help but feel disheartened by the plight of Tasmanian footy and pragmatically I feel Perth would, could and should play host to a third AFL side.

 

But that’s the thing about the future, it’s unwritten. I still see aspects of myself easily in the thousands of kids supplanted on the Gold Coast today, a strange place that renewed my sense of purpose and belonging in a way I never imagined possible at 14.

 


 

Of course, all of this pertains to the realm of the AFL’s men’s competition – I have soft spots for the Phillip Island Bulldogs, Melbourne University Blues/Blacks/Mugars, the national teams of Japan, Fiji & Vanuatu and in an extension of my ghost of footy past, Fitzroy in the VAFA and the Brisbane Lions in the AFLW.

 

On reflection, perhaps playing on Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (read: eighty footy clubs) would have been just as appropriate as Dickens.

 

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

 

 

The author front and centre representing his adopted home of Queensland in an adopted football code of Gaelic Football

 

 

About

A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.

Comments

  1. Nice stuff, Jarrod.

    Re the Suns: watching their final-quarter capitulation to Melbourne last weekend had me pondering, for the first time, their very existence. How much longer will the AFL put up with this situation? Forever?

  2. Carole Fabian says:

    Thank you Jarrod – this is a lovely piece. I will never sneer at the Suns or their supporters again – your work here is done :-)

  3. Jarrod_L says:

    Thanks for the comments Smoke and Carole!

    Smoke – it’s known as a graveyard for good reason, I hope the Suns can crack the code (maybe we should engineer the climate so more people go to footy games instead of the beach?)

    Carole – what a lovely sentiment, glad it was well received.

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