What being a Geelong fan means to Malcolm Wood

What being a Geelong member means to me


by Malcolm Wood*


First, there’s nostalgia. From the late ’fifties, I stood in the Outer at Kardinia Park each second Saturday afternoon in winter, with my mate. To us, barely ten years’ old, a (rare) Cats’ win was exhilarating. ‘We’ beat teams led by Whitten and Skilton. Not by Barassi or Weideman, I think – but we heckled them too! Standing among boozy blokes, behind mums and small children on the bench inside the fence, we imbibed the atmosphere. Running on to the ground after the match was fun. On the terraces, some kids collected bottles in billy-carts. Were they the same ones who ‘collected’ the footy after it cleared the hill behind the goalposts earlier?


Second, there’s steadfastness. To a child, every player is a demi-god – even the journeymen. As an adult, I’ve wished individual players dropped. But my loyalty to the team, and the Club, does not, and cannot, waver. You stick with the Cats through dark days. And the late ’fifties were very dark days. Two seasons when the team languished at the bottom of the ladder were character building for players and fans alike. That’s the positive way to look at it! And when, five games in to the 2007 season, the Cats had lost three, and not known a premiership since 1963 despite playing in five grand finals, you keep hoping.


Third, there’s the bond with family who’ve also followed the Cats over the years. I’m thinking of an elder brother who drove me to games in Melbourne in 1962-63, and bought tickets for me to the finals. Of my son, born and bred in Canberra, who lounged on the carpet when I was watching the occasional telecast of Cats’ games in the 1980s, and became hooked. Of my wife, who used to go shopping on Saturday afternoons expressly to avoid our yahoo-ing (as she so delicately put it), and yet, returning home before the match was over, couldn’t help but ask the names of this player and that, such as Gary Ablett Snr, Paul Couch and Gary Hocking. She got to know them, and to thrill to the competition. Of my son, older now but not wiser, who baked a cake with blue and white icing on Grand Final morning in 1995 (oh, the heartbreak later!).


Fourth, there’s community. At Kardinia Park, clearly. (Not for me the passing parade of stadium brand-names!) In Geelong, of course. But also in Canberra. Many Canberrans, having come from different places, may find community elusive, but there’s a microcosmic community of shared interest at Canberra Cats gatherings. Many of those present have come from Victoria, if not Geelong. Cheering and jeering together is a proxy for ‘being there’.


Finally, there’s the game itself. Although a hybrid, no football code can match Australian Rules for pace and spectacle. The Cats achieved the pinnacle of both in 2008. The teamwork, involving perhaps half-a-dozen players running and handballing from full-back before short-kicking to full-forward, was beautiful, and the skills exquisite. In that year, irony of ironies, Geelong didn’t win the match that really counted. That’s sport. The best team in expert, pre-game analysis not infrequently fails on the day. The psychological edge is crucial. But winning wouldn’t be delicious if you didn’t also lose. Geelong’s drought-breaking premiership of 2007 followed a disappointing tenth finish in 2006. The Cats then atoned for their final-match failure in 2008 – well, sort of – by returning to the premier’s dais in 2009, and again in 2011. They achieved glory as the best team ever. (Show me a sports fan who’s unbiased.) For me, all the same, the best wins in my career as a Cats fan (finals aside) were those of the late ’fifties. They were special because they happened so seldom.


Malcolm Wood

Malcolm Wood


Born in 1947, Malcolm spent his childhood in Geelong 1949-63. After graduating in Arts (Honours in History) at University of Melbourne, he worked in the Australian Public Service for 30 years, including as a Senior Executive for 18 years. He gained a doctorate in history from ANU in 2005 and now writes on religious history and the history of secularization.

He attended the 1963 and 1967 Grand Finals, but have watched Geelong’s appearances since on TV at home in Canberra.




  1. Thank you Malcolm. Lovely to read of the days at KP during the 50s. Inspired my own memories of the early 60s when we’d rug up, get to the game early and throughout the course of the afternoon, eat Mum’s home made sausage rolls and drink hot milo made with milk from a thermos to ward off the cold.
    Whether at the ground or watching from far away (with the sound turned down on the telly and the more favourably biased commentary of krock – or 3GL in earlier days – turned up), seeing those beloved hoops run out onto Kardinia Park always feels like a homecoming.

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