A religious experience amongst the football faithful

by David Brewster

I was never much of a churchgoer, but I can pretty much pin the last vestige of my belief in prayer down to 1981. After my ‘Pies had lost their fourth grand final in five years, it was quite clear that the bloke upstairs either didn’t exist or wasn’t a Collingwood supporter. Either way, I wanted no more to do with Him.

These days, I save my religious experiences for the footy. If they’re not at the game or in front of the telly or radio, they’re in a room full of football tragics.

Last night, for instance, I attended a footy discussion hosted by Victoria University as one of their ‘Rotunda in the West’ conversations about writing. The night featured captain of the Almanac team, John Harms, along with Western Bulldog vice-captain Daniel Giansiracusa and footy poet Tom Petsinis.

The passion for our game was fervent amongst panelists and audience alike. There were remembrances of old times when VFL football was played on the Brunswick St oval; references to great players, great coaches and greater efforts; discussions of courage and of coming back after a slaughter. (Daniel was able to give a first-hand account of the latter.)

There was talk of football writing and a potent argument for maintaining the fan’s perspective. There was poetry, read by the poet Tom himself. And of course there was plenty of ernest talk about where footy’s going and whether it’s losing its way.

Wrapping around the whole discussion – and perhaps this is where the ‘footy as religion’ notion gets left behind – was a celebration of the fact that AFL football, like every sport, is only a game. We weren’t there to take it too seriously; we were there to revel in our freedom to be so passionate about a leather pouch full of air and all that it engenders.

As it happens, last Sunday afternoon I did find myself in a church – for a school function. I entered the sacred building with Collingwood having kicked 2.10 in the first half and well down against the Crows. Just as I emerged the first of goal of the final run of 11 was scored. It was enough to get me wondering whether prayers could work after all.

Thankfully, last night’s event at the Whitten Oval reminded me of where my real loyalties lie.


  1. John Butler says


    Some of us had a slightly different reaction to 1981. :)

    The Almanac is a broad church. Welcome aboard.

  2. johnharms says

    Cheers David. Just a pity D. Giansiracusa didn’t get a better result today. He certainly tried his heart out.

  3. And I picked the Bulldogs too, just because Daniel seemed like such a good guy. :(

  4. Almanackers, poets, writers, readers and footy fans all had a great night. See: http://www.vu.edu.au/news/football-and-writing-converge-at-rotunda-in-the-west

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