A season in The Abyss.

Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your [footy team], let man label you as they may…. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Mark Twain

Betrayal is common for men with no conscience.” Toba Beta

“Come on then, let’s be avin’ ya…” Nicko McBrain; drummer, Iron Maiden

 

Season 2014 fast approaches. Sadly, time has not dulled my anger towards the brass at Essendon FC. I’m probably that one Essendon supporter who is still cutting up rough at the way the club * cough * ‘handled’ the response to the use of PEDs at the club.

In the face of constant sniping from friends (some of it good-natured), the jeers of rival supporters and not even being able to have a quiet beer without blokes putting “Essendon” and “drug cheats” into the same sentence, I did what I was asked by the club as events unfolded; I waited patiently for ‘the facts’ as James Hird and Paul Little called them, to be made public.

The only problem is, ‘the facts’ never did come out. There was no smoking gun. There was just a rush to the negotiating table when the whips started cracking and key figures were instructed to cut deals. For all the bluster and dick swinging, only Dr Bruce Reid dared stare down the AFL, for as the above Mark Twain quote illustrates, there’s honour in sticking to your convictions.

As far as I’m concerned, the Essendon Football Club has betrayed my trust. “We’re innocent,” was the call-to-arms, but again, when it came time to put up or shut up, those in charge at Essendon folded quicker than a card table.

So, six months later, I still have the Earthas* with the people running the club. If they think I’m going to dip my hand into my pocket and hand over the hard-earned like last year never happened, they’re kidding themselves. I’ll always be an Essendon supporter, but it will be a long time before I’m prepared to hand over my hard-earned to the club.

As an insignificant protest at Paul Little and co, I will be taking out a membership with a rival club. But which club? Of the 17 choices, which do I feel deserves some of my financial support? Is there a membership option that I know (as a one-time member services volunteer on the phones at Windy Hill) that would piss the club off?

As a mug punter, I’ve decided to do my own old-school style form guide to help with the decision. Any input from wise Almanackers would be most welcome…

In no particular order….

North Melbourne: Following an up and down 2013 and a genuine horror draw, big things are expected of the Kangaroos this year. Thus, North of 2014 has a bit of a bandwagon aspect to it and the victim mentality still rules at Arden St when it’s all said and done. If you listen closely you’ll hear Jabberjaw-esque cries of ‘no respect’ after they win three on the trot, or whenever Andrew Swallow fails to poll a B.O.G on Brownlow night. And then there’s Lindsay Thomas. Keep safe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ezkrrA4vhs

 

Western Bulldogs: The Bullies: coached by a good man, arriving at games early for a decent seat is never an issue and former Bomber big Stew Crameri lurking in the goalsquare. Wank factor is pretty high with Bob Murphy cranking out his If-Bob-Dylan-Was-A-Footballer shtick for at least another year, the off field Jazz stylings of Wil Minson somehow still getting column inches, Dogs fans still want to argue with a straight face that Shaun Higgins can play and then there’s the horrible “Gather the Pack” membership slogan. One to watch.

Richmond: Due to family urgings I was once a Richmond supporter. At the age of four, however, an angel and three wise men (and my new best friend at the time, Chris Berton) appeared one December night to show me the error of my ways and thus, I swapped a yellow sash for a red one. With respect to various Almanac Tiger fans who never burned a membership card, never spat at a coach or have never been pinged on TV having a conniption at an umpiring decision, there is no bigger bandwagon in town than the one saddled up at Punt Rd for season 2014. That’s footy, but I can’t be a part of it. Not this time.

Adelaide: Their first season at a new set of stables, but it’s Adelaide – the place Tony Leonard once described as “Deliverance with churches”.   Prefer others.

Brisbane: One has to respect the feats of Brisbane under Leigh Matthews and the awesome combination that won flags for fun in the previous decade, but I feel about as emotionally connected to the Lions as a former Afghan asylum seeker waiting tables at The Melbourne Club. Must be respected. Will need everything to go right.

Collingwood: I’m angry at the Bombers, but I’m not high. Put down the glasses, whatever might be in them.

Carlton: Given the rivalry between the two clubs, there’d be a nice feeling of satisfaction buying a Carlton membership and sending @EFC_Membership an instagram of the invoice and ‘Welcome pack’ when it arrives. If switching to Carlton is good enough for Dale Thomas, then that’s good enough for me. Given the smarm factor of SOME Richmond fans at half time in last year’s Elimination Final, I could watch Carlton’s comeback ad infinitum. Must be respected, one of the ones to beat

Fremantle: Despite assisting in a group one win nearly ten years ago, Freo’s trainer Ross Lyon clings to the tactics that saluted that day. By FOUR POINTS. Courtesy of Leo Barry. As at St Kilda, Ross Lyon teams employ all the flair, panache and daring of an actuary waiting for the 7.35am bus to Laburnum station, making them about as exciting to watch as a concrete pour. Sure, they’re top four contenders, but you can leave me out. I’d rather watch Super Rugby. There’s little difference, both have twenty blokes packed around the ball at once.  Prefer others.

Geelong: I have always held a soft spot for the hoop d’affaire even when John Devine was famously losing his shit in the coach’s box at Kardinia Park on Saturday afternoons. I used to play for Hoppers Crossing, who, until a dalliance with fully accredited Soothsayer in the 2000s, were ‘The Cats’ and wore the navy blue and white hoops (I even requested the number 4 in honor of Terry Bright, but had to settle on the number 17 of Stephen Reynoldson). Likely to finish 8th through 5th for mine, so band-wagoning allegations likely to be defied.  A standout. Definite claims

GWS: Generously assisted by the handicapper and looked favourably upon by stewards at every opportunity. Like Snapchat, reality TV and burlesque, they represent everything abhorrent about this century (to date). They’re a marketing strategy, not a football team. Like the woefully named pacer currently doing the rounds in the Apple Isle; No. No. No. No. No.

Gold Coast Suns: See GWS. No.

Hawthorn: If I’m not going to entertain a Richmond membership then I’m sure as hell not going to be calling the membership department of the reigning premiers, am I? Besides… Sam Mitchell. ‘Nuff said. Not this time.

Melbourne: Oh please! My sides, you’re killing me. A 0-68 horse trying to run in listed company, and with all those AFL handouts since your last Grand Final appearance in 2000, my money has already gone into your pockets in one way or another. A new trainer will see improvement, but people running Balliang East Juniors could do a better job than some folk who’ve amazingly kept their jobs in Melbourne’s back office in recent years. No way, not even for shits and giggles

Port Adelaide: I love a good honest trainer and Ken Hinkley would have to be the AFL’s Jake Stephens. But I’m a conscientious objector in the morning telly wars, so David Koch as president trumps Ken Hinkley’s good bloke credentials. Place at best

St Kilda: Like Melbourne, the Saints of 2014 are a 0-78 horse trying to mix it with black type company. The new trainer does have a bit of horse whisperer about him, so the Saints will have brighter days ahead. As for a membership? Prefer others.

Sydney Swans: Another stable seemingly favoured by handicappers and stewards alike, and the only remaining premier since the introduction of the draft to keep its premiership core intact without salary cap ‘pressures’ forcing player departures. I’d rather have the rough end of a pineapple shoved up my Khyber (sans lube) than buy a Swans membership. Pass the pineapples, if you please.

West Coast Eagles: As old mate Dave Belovitch once remarked; “West Aussies are a mouthy lot considering their only achievement – besides Tim Winton – is digging shit out of the ground and flogging it to China…” Ne’er truer word has been spoken. Apart from Dennis Lillee, Polly Farmer, Val Lehman, Rod Marsh and Fiona Stanley, just what has Western Australia contributed to Australia except attitude and an inferiority complex? Nope, I can’t have it. No, No, No, No, No.

So there’s the form guide. I’ve come up with the Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Geelong. For first four players, throw in North Melbourne at odds.

Despite my insignificant protest for season 2014, I’ll still get along to a few games. I’ll still take up my standing position behind the Spencer St end goals at the Docklands, drink a few beers and laugh along with the rank and file. I’ll get along to a game or two from the comfort of the Percy Beames bar in the Members, but of the games I get along to, none of them will involve Essendon.

Essendon; you betrayed my trust, betrayed my loyalty and your conduct betrayed the character and integrity of good people who made the club what it is today. I’ll see you in 2015. I hope.

*Kitts

About Steve Baker

Weapons-grade Grump. Quixotic. Jack of all Trades and Master of None. Ex-power forward for Melbourne Superules FC. Quoter of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm at inappropriate moments. Gun-for-hire, sleep enthusiast, contrarian. Meshuggener. Nebbish. Kibitzer. The dude abides.

Comments

  1. Welcome aboard…

  2. Neil Anderson says

    It has to be Bulldogs. You could do a lot worse than having a Dylanesk character playing anywhere from the half-back line to the half-forward line who is fed the ball from a multi-lingual, multi-instrumental all-Australian ruckman. Also they have an ex-Essendon coach who fortunately left before all the bad headlines occurred.

  3. What’s the problem with burlesque and Herb Elliott??
    Very witty and wise Steve. No wonder you are leaving those humourless proddies. Imagine – the only drugs they take are performance enhancing and not pleasure inducing!!

  4. Litsa: da-da-da-da-da… da-da-da-da-da… da-da-da-da-da-da-da… da-da-da… Clubhouse leaders at present.

    Neil: Well played. And yes, well spotted. Macca has ties to both Geelong and Essendon. Bullies shortening in the market

    I’ve just sacked my research department Peter. How I overlooked Herb Elliott in the list of useful WA’s, I cannot say. I was going to mention in the piece that as a recovering Catholic, it was another cross against a Richmond membership! (boom-tish)

  5. Steve

    Too many brilliant lines to repeat, but quality quality stuff.

    Much as I think the Blues membership would stick it up the Dons, it’s the Bullies for mine

    Sean

  6. The top comment hasn’t fooled me. Litza has penned this under a pseudonym

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A sensible and intelligent Essendon supporter thank you I actually as a crows supporter feel similarly re the lies , Trigg fed us re , Tippett let alone the stupidity of jumper gate this year . I reckon sending in your receipt of any membership of a rival club will piss them off so it is bullies in my book

  8. G’day Steve.
    Love it.
    Love the Mark Twain.
    Love the Earthas.
    I fear you’ve confused emotional & rational selves, though, in your listing of CarltonFC.
    Never is the time appropriate to voluntarily give your hard earned to that Kingdom of Elliott, Pratt, etc.
    Come on.

    Reckon a donation to a drugs education mob for kids would be most appropriate.
    Go pies.

  9. E., I had that same internal dialogue, but such is my disgust at the current EFC administration that I would go that far.

    Personally, I wouldn’t normally p–s on Carlton were they collectively on fire, but needs must. The Blues are the clubhouse leader, but the punters are coming for the Doggies. Likely co-favourites by jump time.

    I see Rulebook & Sean also supporting the Dogs.

    Woof!

  10. Gamble it. Back every team that plays Essendon this year.
    (One could perhaps make a case for Essendon gambling with it own player’s health.)

  11. As a Blue I would welcome your membership (any pets?) to help us hit the magical membership number (whatever it is for this year).

    Yet I am leaning more towards the Bullies. I don’t know my VFL history that well, but didn’t the Bombers screw over the Doggies when they were looking to join back in the day?

  12. Excellent , I agree with just about everything you said [also loved the “Erthas”]. How could you go past Geelong – THE GREATEST TEAM OF ALL – WE PLAY THE GAME AS IT SHOULD BE PLAYED. You would then join a band of sophisticated , intelligent , fine examples of the proper type of supporter. Look at John Harms.

  13. You still jizzed your pants when you saw Jobe Watson at Yo-Chi last week, Steve.
    PS. Cats.

  14. Kerry Smith says

    Hi Steve. I reckon it should be the the Bulldogs. Since David Koch stops you from hopping on board with Ken and the boys from Alberton, then Brendan McCartney has to be your other “good honest trainer” .
    Regards
    Kerry

  15. Surely the aim here is to HURT Essendon.

    In which case Carlton has to be odds-on.

  16. mickey randall says

    Val Lehman. You won me at Val Lehman.

  17. Neil Anderson says

    Great to see the Doggies as the go-to team. Unfortunately it could be just a case of everyone’s second team which takes the shine off a bit.
    Djlitsa, the Bulldogs screwed the Bombers in 1924 when they beat them in the Victorian Championship match and gained entry into the VFL the following year.
    They had to wait until 2000 for the next screwing when they were the only team to beat the Bombers during the home and away season, so we still owe them a few.

  18. E,Regnans – “a donation to a drugs education mob for kids would be most appropriate”???
    I thought that was exactly what Essendon had been running for the past couple of years, and precisely what Bakes is trying to get away from.

  19. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Daves Faulkner, Warner and McComb

    Tom (not George) Grljusich
    Tony Casserley
    Phil “Cracker” Haughan
    Max George

    I’d go Footscray too

  20. Glen Potter says

    Steve,

    At last, an Essendon supporter who doesn’t see the club as the victim. You’re the first one I’ve come across in 12 months. Bravo, Steve, for having a brain, and for not being hoodwinked by Essendon’s PR machine who’ll have any half-wit believe that black is indeed red.

    How should you use the money? Create a foundation that supports the victims of ‘sports science’. Alternatively, the Cats are a safe, and good, option.

    Loved the Val Lehman reference. She’d make a great coach. Out with the forward press, and in with the steam press. Very intimidating.

    Glen

  21. Andrew Else says

    Given you’re a Percy Beames regular it should be Cats all the way. Great place to tut tut the other 17 clubs.

  22. Steve,

    I feel for you man. The Essendon administration have done a real job on their supporters with the 2013 season that shall always be remembered with the suffix, “gate” (Dank-gate, Drugs-Gate, Hird-Gate).

    Whilst I feel your pain, I think your form guide has missed one imprtant and vital element: track conditions.

    I ‘ve been lucky enough to visit Queensland during the “winter” and have attended both the Gabba and Metricon and can vouch for both in terms of supporter comfort levels.

    It is usually a balmy afternoon or evening, conducive to liquid consumption in a carnival atmosphere. Nobody, or very few, know the rules. One is expected to cheer when the home teams kicks a goal or wins a free. Likewise, one is expected to boo when the opposition scores a goal, wins a free kick or witnesses the umpires leaving the playing arena. Easy.

    The best bit, no-one really expects the team to win. You go home happy either way.

    As a Port supporter, I have the unfortunate burden of being completely blind to form, and have 100% conviction that we will win each and every week. This is a hangover from our SANFL days (and the early 2000’s in the AFL) when Port pretty much rocked up, won and then took the premiership cup home. I still go to games at the freezing cold gulag known as AAMI against Hawthorn/Geelong et al and put my hard earned on Port to win because I genuinely believe they will get up. I seriously can’t remember ever thinking before a game that Port might actually lose!!!

    There is nothing like the freedom of barracking for a team that isn’t expected to win. Better still, why not add to the enjoyment of viewing it in beautiful. sunny climes.

    Don’t ignore track condition; you might find you are on a winner.

  23. I really didn’t think I would ever come across an Essendon supporter with this attitude – and hilarious to boot. I have been gobsmacked by the Bombers’ fans blind faith and even ability to play the victim card.

    It has to be the Doggies. The BMac connection should be a clincher. Welcome aboard!

  24. Brilliant piece Steve. Yep, they want your hard-earned to pay the wage of a non-apologetic, unremorseful, greedy and (most laughably) absent/banned coach! What the…?

  25. Steve
    There’s a touch of the reformed smoker’s loathing of cigarettes in your anti-Richmond bias. Whatever smarm was in evidence at last year’s elimination final couldn’t possibly match what was oozing out of every orifice of the Essendon hordes in the ’95 semi final (and we all remember how that one played out).

    However, I’ll forgive it because I haven’t laughed so much at an Almanac piece for a long while.

    If you do go the Carlton way, please do a post on your crisis of conscience when they play the Bombers.

    I note that Essendon’s membership is already over 50,000. And I thought only 50% of the population was below average intelligence…

  26. Having lived in Adelaide for 17 years after moving from Melbourne, the description of Adelaide as “Deliverance with churches” (hahaha, that’s funny!) has to be the most apt description of this joint I’ve ever heard. I love the place but gee there’s some very different & strange people living in this town! Oddelaide……..
    Thanks for a very amusing piece. Great read for a Friday arvo.
    Gotta go now, I think I just heard a pig squeal…….

  27. Punishing lying, cheating and hubris by supporting the Blues?
    Hate to say it, but the logic is peccable

  28. Daniel Flesch says

    Hey ! What’s the problem you have with Sam Mitchell ? Corageous ex-Captain , mixes it with the bigger blokes , popular team player , kicks well both feet , open , articulate and modest in interviews, devoted family man with three young kids. “”Nuff said ” indeed.

  29. tony robb says

    Steve,
    Welcome on board. Please check in all conscious recognition on the bombers at reception and put a bit of time into developing a Carlton strut. The theme song that gives every other supporters pain than paying tax more becomes a wondrous thing in when sang as a believer. And you will son learn to relish being a Carlton Flog
    cheers
    TR

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