The Lousy Bounce – Part 2

Copy of Royboy 1996 (after Edvard)

The fourth of July means one thing to Americans, and quite another to Royboys and Roygirls, for it’s the day in 1996 when our AFL footy club was taken from us.  Vale Royboys.    

Here’s the second part of my 1996 diary extracts, originally published in Maroon & Blue – Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club (Vulgar Press, 2006).  A bit rough, but that’s how they were written.  Part 3 will appear in mid-August.

30 June 1996

Is anything ever straightforward with this club?  Yesterday’s game against the Cats may well be the last played by the Roys thanks to the accumulated debts rattled up over the years.  An administrator’s been appointed to run the club, winding it up if necessary.  All thanks to Naura Insurance, who are calling in their debt of $1,250,000.  This character says his sole interest is to get the best deal for creditors and so he now has the power to send us to Brisbane, Upper Kambucka, Mongolia or even close us down Full-Fucken-Stop.  ON ANY TERMS as long as the creditors get their dosh.  So while merger with North meant we kept some identity and were still Melbourne based, now we could end up anywhere and maybe with little to show for our hundred and thirteen year history.  But to add to the murkiness, ‘cause we haven’t any money, the AFL has to guarantee to fund us over the last nine games of the season.  The AFL commission meet tomorrow night and may well decide not to prop us up for the last hoorah since it’d save $6 million in merger incentives, plus a million for the rest of the season.

I wept more than a bit on Friday night when all this was announced.  Rang Ant and Dave who were as stunned and upset as I was of course.  Shock and despair have a way of strangling the vocal cords so none of us said much beyond ‘Fuck’ and more ‘Fuck’.

Come Saturday’s game there was a thick air of gallows humour about, at least amongst us lot.  We actually had some ‘fun’ amongst the thrashing handed to us by Geelong (and the umpies).  Suppose we lot were intent on celebrating our possible Grand Finale as ‘Barrackers in the Outer’.  We must have done a fine job ‘cause we kept our section of the ground laughing regularly.  Towards the end of the game a dear old RoyGirl standing in front of us turned around and told us she hadn’t had so much fun at the footy in years – we’d made her day.

So as the Baby Royboys came off the ground, we gave them a send off like a win, cheering, clapping and singing the most stirring, fantastic club song ever written in the history of human footballing endeavour.  Maybe a thousand of us then surrounded the race and chanted F-I-T-Z-R-O-Y and hollered the song again and again and again. Tears streamed down faces young, old and in-between.  (I’m choking now).

‘This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but a whimper’ – hoping desperately this doesn’t come to fruition this time tomorrow.

2 July 1996

And now for the Bad Stuff; the wobbly world of Royboydom.  Waiting for news from the AFL Commission meeting last night was a dreadful experience.  Ma rang, Kay rang, Jorge rang, each letting me know I’m in their thoughts in this Darkest Time.  With no news forthcoming, my anxiety levels skyrocketed.  Finally (finally!) ‘Talking Footy’ came on air.  But at 10.30pm there was still no announcement.  What can that mean??????????????  Arrrrrrrrgggghhh.  Then, right at the end of the show, up pops a live cross to Oakley’s press conference.  Last Saturday wasn’t our last game… we’ve been granted four days grace to finalise the merger with North.  PHEW.

6 July 1996. 

The Shit Bounce of Fortune – Barry Dickens, 1984.

The Roys are dead.  To ‘merge’ with Brisbane!

Absolutely stunned – either Death after Saturday’s game or merging with North the only options apparent to us who don’t sit in club boardrooms.  But no, Oakley pulls off the deal of the century, sending us 2000 k’s away in the strategic interests of the game.   Apparently Brisbane’s offer was too good to refuse.  So the other club’s stymied North’s chances of becoming SUPERNORTH (yeah sure) and got to bolster one of the far flung colonies of the League.  And there’ll be more $$ around for the queue of creditors, plus more of the Baby Roy Boys to share around since Brisbane only want 8 of them.

I’ve been utterly tormented all week.  Shakespeare could not have written this tragic-comedy any better.  What a way to die.  Going off to the Geelong game wondering if it was the last time I’d ever see them on the field.  Waiting, waiting, waiting all Monday night for news from Oakley.  For once, he offers us a lifeline.  Three days of breathing left in the corpse –use it wisely.

And then the rumblings from other clubs begin.  Footscray, in dire financial straights themselves, announce they’ll take Fitzroy to court over $ owed to them for the pleasure of playing at their decrepit piece of shit.  Richmond starts stirring up the other clubs, warning of the threat posed by super-club, North-Fitzroy.  Then on Thursday morning a soft sensuous voice whispers from the shadows, ‘Hey Big Boy, take a look at us’.  Miss Brissy’s in town.

Thursday evening, flew through the door at 6.59pm turned on the tele and radio just as the ABC news themes blared out: ‘ Fitzroy is to merge…’ – ‘Yes…’ I think, ‘…we haven’t been wiped out’ – ‘…with Brisbane’.  I cannot believe it.  Where the fuck…?

Over to Dave and Mel’s for the ‘Footy Show’ (of Horrors).  Some flesh badly needed on these bones.  Well, the colours, design, logo and eight players is what we Royboys (stuck in Melbourne!) are getting.  Ron Casey looks exhausted, deflated; Noel Gordon is a-glow and gloating.  Poor Ron, poor Royboys.  Sleep impossible so I head off to get the first edition of the morning papers.  Try digesting a greasy, fatty disgusting souvlaki at Stalactites while trying to digest the news.  They’re gone, no matter what the men in suits claim as a merger.  But this ain’t the time for decisions (me decides!).

The men in suits and many weary, worn down Royboys and girls are viewing matters positively.  A new club – the Old and the New – a Bright future – CERTAINTY.  Um, yeah, well, I suppose it is.  But!

What are the ‘options’?  Accept we’ve been screwed, adopt a bastardized version of Royboydom, rejoice that Alastair’s back, invest in a 28” screen tele and settle down to a cathode-eyed view of footy????  Thankful that at least a part of Us continues, even if we get maybe 6 or 7 games live a year.

Now’s not the time for making commitments.  Off to the footy – Roys Vs Dons.  GO ROYBOYS!

7 July 1996

Roys got done though they had a dip.  That’s all you can want or hope for these days.  Undermanned and undermined.  Showed some pride.

Back to the Rising Sun for post match drinks.  We Roys went through ‘alternatives’ without wanting to hit on any decisions.  Put simply most of us can’t stand the other Melbourne clubs.  One, sometimes two of us expressed a particular ‘like’ for one or other club though the others would inevitably have a huge problem with that ‘choice’.  The colours, the fans, the culture, the theme song, even ‘personal reasons’, a la, ‘I grew up there, I can’t stand ‘em’.  Maybe we’ll end up like so many Bloods / Swannie supporters – it’s in our veins and we’ll be unable to completely cut the ties no matter how different the circumstances are??????????

23 July 1996.

Jo & Alan came down from Sydney last weekend.  Here to pay their final respects to the Royboys.  We wandered over to Pie Park to watch the last Pie – Roy match ever.  Bloody hell, who would have thought…

They gave it a shake in the first half but of course got done.  Oh well, so what, was more about soaking up the atmosphere of the Game and Place with some mates.  For the very last time.

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Part Three to come…

 

About Adam Muyt

Born into rugby league, found aussie rules, fell for soccer, flirts a little with union. Author of 'Maroon & Blue - recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Football Club' (Vulgar Press, 2006). Presently working on a history of postwar Dutch migrants and soccer.

Comments

  1. So sad.

    Great footy book but.

  2. george smith says:

    Fitzroy was always the bloke who blundered in and changed the conversation when one was chatting the prettiest girl in the room, in our case Miss Premiership Cup. In 1981 they waited until the last round to beat our mob at Victoria Park, costing us the minor premiership and the rails run at the flag. 1976, 1992, 1986, and 1984, they were always there like some red and blue speed hump stopping our run at the last (76 they handed us the wooden spoon). It didn’t matter that we put them out of the finals in 79, 81, 84 and 89, the damage had already been done. Interesting they never seemed to beat Carlton or Hawthorn…
    I hated them, and was pleased to see them go. But I never imagined the horror that the new cashed-up Lions would inflict on my beloved Magpies..
    Remember Lions fans, without the pain of 1996, you would never experience the joy of those 3 cups.

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