The Lousy Bounce – Part 3: Royboys last game.

Fitzroy’s last ever AFL game in Melbourne took place 20 years ago this weekend.  And then the final match, way over on the other side of the continent.  Tough, emotional days for all Roylovers.

Here’s the third and final extract from my diary entries from 1996, originally published in Maroon & Blue – Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club (Vulgar Press, 2006).

27 August 1996

I think that God’s got a sick sense of humour…

Somehow I let myself think they’d go out of Melbourne on a high.  I should have learned my lesson after so many years that there’s nothing so deluded as a hopelessly in love, Royboy tragic.   All the hoopla this week and then pre-match couldn’t get the players razzed up.  How the fuck could it, you stupid Royboy idiot?

Within ten minutes it was obvious we were in for one of those not-much-fun-on-the-field kind of Fitzroy arvo’s.  But this one so horribly different from all those other arvos.  Because a group of appalling dickheads without a soul or a sneeze of kindness between them weren’t going to let us lose anymore, weren’t going to let us hang out in hope for the next game, the next season, the next flag, the next Chrissy Johnson mark, the next Jarrod muscle or Pikey effort.  Or breath in the next flogging, thrashing, bucketing, shellacking, the next record score kicked against us, the next pathetic game, the next Plugger rampage against us, the next ANYTHING.

Anyway, pffff, what happened on the field didn’t matter much.  Just watching the Team and the Colours for the last time in the flesh was enough of a reason for being there.  The pre-game passing parade of club greats left me pretty drained.  I just sort of numbed through the next two hours of football torment.

Dave finally let his emotions rip.  Alcohol-fueled, as we made our way out the ground he was going up to anyone in Royboy colours, not saying much but just wanting to shake their hand.  Mel told me later he ended up in church, crying his heart out.  He doesn’t normally go to church.  It’s the only time she’s seen him cry in 18 years.

2 September 1996

Royboydom’s funeral procession finally came to a halt yesterday, the body buried over the other side of the continent.  Football Valhalla resides far, far away from home thanks to the national comp.  We mob sent them off near where it all began, within a torpie of the Brunnie Street Oval.

Yesterday was such a beautiful day.  No clouds or wind, seductive light glowing over everything, the first real hint of spring warmth.  Like the day was created just to confound whatever sombre spirits were hovering around.

We first wandered down to Brunnie Street Oval for a gathering of the Roy Family.  Inspiration for this came from Melinda a few weeks ago and when the club showed bugger all enthusiasm for it, she set about organizing matters.  With little more than a thousand flyers we handed out at last week’s game and a few key announcements she organized on the right radio and television shows, 500 turned up.  No need for any ‘focus’.  People brought their blankets and picnics and scarves and jerseys and footies and got on with soaking up each other’s company and memories.

Lots of people trekked up to the old stand.  Many an ancient face sitting there, doing nothing more than remembering.  One Roy Lady of 70+ years sat there on her own with an old portable cassette player in her lap, just playing The Song over and over for what must have been an hour.  A family group of three generations came up and sat in ‘Nana’s spot’.  ‘Nana’ told me she used to sit in the same spot with her Nan and Ma.  I took a couple of photos for them (I’m weeping now).  A pair of fortysomething women proudly showed off a photo of the two of them as youngsters, caught behind a team shot taken at the ground back in the late fifties.

Balls flying in all directions, into and through the arms of all shapes and sizes and ages and shared just about evenly between the sexes.  Gawd, this Game crosses so many boundaries:  I hope the Heart and Soul of IT can survive the economic rationalists and their egos.  And what’s to happen to us RoyPeople, a bunch of intense romantics but WHATS WRONG WITH THAT?  Will any of us feel as attached, as warm, as heartfelt about any other team we end up adopting?  No matter how wonderful the Game is, something intrinsic fell away from its soul yesterday.

Us lot wandered over to the Tramway Hotel to find another Roy Mob settled in there.  Our Grand Finale and just like any proper Grannee gathering, we spent half time booting a footy through the street outside.  As he watched a mongrel kick flop around, some old wag wandering by commented wryly, ‘I can see why the Roys are in deep trouble’.

Back inside for the last rites.  We watched a thrashing develop but after three quarter time, the Boys gave us one final fling to clap and cheer about, kicking five goals.  We greeted every one of them wildly.  And then the siren went.  The players:  shoulders slumped, heads dropped, some flopped on the ground, some tears and plenty of hugs.  It was like watching any emotionally drained, losing Grand Final side; pure raw emotion.

Freo then did a Great Thing.  A singer took to the stand and began singing Auld Lang Syne, unaccompanied.  The camera fixed on the Club flag.  I burst into tears.

The longest funeral procession ever is finally over.

20 September 1996

One final Royboy event.  No tears, no despair this time.  Dave, Melinda and me went off to the Best & Fairest at the Fitzroy Town Hall on Monday night.  The club promoted it as a traditional footy pie-night.  ‘Cause there’s no $ left for much else!

Having got hold of balcony edge seats, we had a perfect spot for soaking up and goggling over the breadth and depth of Fitzroy.  Chock full, very informal and relaxed atmosphere, plenty of warm smiles and laughter about (most important), naturally everybody floating about draped in the club’s luscious colour combo, the sexiest in the league, any league, any code for that matter.    And what a relief to see the players smiling, relaxing and enjoying themselves.  They really do all deserve medals after what they went through this year, carrying such a weight of expectation and history on their somewhat underdeveloped, didn’t-quite-see-a-proper-weights-room-at-this-club, shoulders.  Went in the Pick the Top Five in Order comp, getting close.  Four right.  Pikey took the B&F honours, getting a huge laugh from the crowd when he thanked the club doctors for providing him with panadols on Sunday mornings.  On ya Pikey.

Laid on the MCG after the last Fitzroy game.

Laid on the MCG after the last Fitzroy game.

 

The Lousy Bounce part 1

The Lousy Bounce part 2

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. E.regnans says:

    Thanks Adam.
    That’s a lovely, sad scene at Brunswick Street Oval you describe.

    Hopefully we learn from history.

  2. Adam Muyt says:

    Thanks King of the Forest, appreciate it.
    There’s a terrific piece in today’s Guardian on the passing of the Roys and what’s become of the Royboy diaspora.
    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/aug/25/what-becomes-of-the-broken-hearted-the-footy-stalwarts-who-kept-fitzroy-alive

  3. Great piece Adam. Best, Philip Mendes

  4. Adam

    I remember being very impressed with the class shown by Freo that day in the respect and honour they showed a traditional club, pretty good for a newbie, and put the efforts of the AFL (in part by having the Roys play away that last game) to shame

    Sean

  5. Laurie Laffan says:

    Sad, sad days were the last couple of weeks of the mighty ‘ Gorillas’ existence.
    I flew down to Melbourne ,was picked up at the airport by Martin Sheean, who drove down from Bendigo, to see the Royboys last game in Melbourne at the MCG. Many beers, cheers and “how are you dears”later, I flew home with my new Fitzroy Lions beanie and scarf.
    These I wore to the 2001 Fitzroy Lions premiership. I was born the same year Fitzroy won the premiership.1944. That was also a great weekend in Melbourne. Karen and I inhabited Lygon St Carlton for four days. I digress.
    I must say the Richmond supporters were magnificent.
    The crowd stayed on, we invaded the ground for a kick and they played the Fitzroy anthem many,many times over.
    Next stop was the Price of Prussia ??? hotel for a few more beers, then off to the airport and home to Canberra.
    A very memorable day it was indeed.

    Laurie Laffan
    Moonee Ponds Boy

  6. Yes, i can alway say i saw the Lions last ever game in Melbourne. Wouldn’t say i was proud at the death of a club, but i was there.

    Glen!

  7. if you are going to mourn, there’s no place better (well, at least in 1996, there wasn’t_ than TRamway. Many a cold Guinness in front of the fire.

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