This Geelong Life

 

by Ed Harcourt

 

“You don’t know what love is until you’ve learned the meaning of the blues.”

It was June 16 1991. A typical Melbourne day at the MCG. Round 13 of The Australian Football League’s season was my first as a member of The Geelong Football Club. We sat on the wing in the old Olympic Stand. I remember watching cars drive down Brunton Ave as the new ‘Great Southern Stand’ was being built. It was a day I’ll never forget.

On the front cover of the Football Record (which cost $1.20) there was a caricature of Chris Lewis, a member of The West Coast Eagles. My father tells me that by half time I had the entire Geelong team memorised by name, number, games played, debut season, previous club. I fell in love with statistics and the history of the great game, and I fell in love with the club.

Geelong played Melbourne that day and won by 30pts. They went on to play in a thrilling, if unsuccessful, finals campaign; 2 points off defeating eventual premiers Hawthorn in the Semi-Final. The Eagles ended our season in the preliminary final. I cried as 7 year olds tend to do.

‘There’s always next year,” they said. “We’ll be there.”

And we were.

In 1992 the Cats produced some unforgettable games. Round 7 versus The Brisbane Bears. Geelong broke the all time scoring record, a record which still stands to this very day: 37-17-239. I know the score from memory. Billy Brownless kicked a point at the death the break the previous record. Surely this was one of the greatest teams ever to take the field. Surely we were unbeatable.

The 1992 Grand Final. Mum & Dad tied a plaster Eagle to the back of our car and towed it 100Kms all the way to Melbourne. We were playing The West Coast Eagles. On the walk from the car to the ‘G, people were handing out free bumper stickers that read “West Coast Wankers.” Such was the arrogance and hatred of the foreigners. Mum said we were only allowed to call them “The Weagles.” I sat in the Ponsford Stand. I still have the ticket.

Trevor Poole kicked the first goal for Geelong. He wore number 24.

We were 25 points up at half time. There was no way these pirates from Western Australia would come and plunder the Premiership Cup and be the first non-Victorian team to do so. Enter Peter Matera.

I can still see him, the sun shining on his back, the entire state of Western Australia riding on his shoulders, cutting a swathe through the heart of Geelong. He won the Norm Smith Medal. His team won the Grand Final. 28 points. They played the Eagles theme song so many times that I still have it memorised – against my will.

“For years they took the best of us and claimed them for their own,

And now we’ve got them back again,

Our Eagles have come home.

We’re the Eagles

West Coast Eagles

And we’re here to show you why.

We’re the big birds,

Kings of the big game,

We’re the Eagles, We’re flying high.”

I couldn’t ignore the truth of the song. They were the kings. Champions of the big game, all at the expense of my team.

I felt ashamed. Our theme song proclaimed

“We are Geelong. The greatest team of all.”

Up until that moment I believed in its bold, anthemic declaration. I was forced to concede within myself that we were clearly not the greatest team of all. It was all a big lie. Geelong sucked.

‘There’s always next year,” they said. “We’ll be there.”

1993 was another unforgettable season, but not for the team of Geelong. Season 1993 was about one man. One man who captured the heart and imagination of a town like only one other. Gary Ablett.

I had the privilege of season tickets in the R.J. Hickey stand. I sat only metres from him when he muscled, wrangled, strangled, glided, twisted, manouvered, shirked, caressed, cajoled, played his way to becoming recognised as one of the gods of the game of Australian Rules Football. I sat in awe as he kicked 14 goals against Essendon at the MCG.

In a losing side.

That game has since been voted as one of the top ten memorable moments of all time.

Another of those memorable moments was the 1989 Grand Final where that man kicked 9 goals, again in a losing side. I was too young to attend, but I watched it with my late Grandfather Albert, who explained to me that winning the award for the best player on the field didn’t mean that your team won. Later he would foster my enthusiasm for the sport by attending an all-star trivia function with me. I had won tickets to it by competing in a quiz on the local radio station.

My Grandfather and I sat next to Barry Stoneham. A Geelong Champion. He wore number 26. One of my most cherished memories of my beloved Grandfather is watching him talk with Barry about life and football and the look on their respective faces. Both sat in awe, but for different reasons.

1993 ended with Geelong having the seemingly impossible task of winning their last five games of the season to make the finals. They did it. The run included beating eventual Grand Finalists Carlton and Premiers Essendon and overcoming West Coast in the final round of the season….in Perth. Malcom Blight stood on a table for the duration of the game and communicated with the runner via CB radio. When we won he ran out and hugged Peter Riccardi. We were the best team in the competition.

To make the finals, Collingwood had to beat Adelaide in Adelaide. They didn’t. I watched the Grand Final with my Grandfather.

1994. Another Season of promise.

This finals campaign yielded not one, but two games that were decided after the siren. Brownless, Ablett, both kicked truly to send Geelong into another Grand Final. This was out year. It was destiny. A rematch. West Coast Vs. Geelong.

West Coast were the better team all year but we had luck & fate & God on our side.

Billy Brownless took the Mark of the Year. We were demolished by 80 points. I still have the ticket.

I cried and cried. I declared I would never barrack for the Cats again. Geelong sucked.

1995. Another successful season. Another Grand Final. Another Heartbreak. Geelong.

‘There’s always next year,” they said. “We’ll be there.”

It’s taken 12 years. Again we are there. I could tell you a dozen more stories of heartbreak and how I saw Nick Davis do this and Leigh Colbert do that and how I was there but it matters not. I am no longer a child, but I understand the meaning of the blues. I don’t love the Geelong Football Club for any other reason than that they are my club and I have supported them through the good times and the bad.

Sport isn’t life and death, but I’ll never forget the words of a local pastor who described the passing of a Geelong supporter whilst in attendance at a Geelong game. He suffered a heart attack during a West Coast Eagles comeback. At one point we were winning by 10 goals. We Lost. I’m really sorry mate, but we lost.

Football means nothing and it means everything. It proves nothing, it proves you can kick a dead cow around a paddock but I don’t care. It’s the only thing I’ve ever dreamed of.

Just once….just once…..I want to sing the song

“We are Geelong. The greatest team of all” and bloody well mean it.



 


 

 

About Edward Harcourt

I’m 31 and I love the Cats!

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