A trip to the family day

Every man reaches a point in his life when he is too old to get an autograph from a football player. We all get there at different ages.

I decided my time was up when I upgraded my dining table from a plastic outdoor setting to something with wood in it – it is fair to say my then wife-to-be twisted my arm to get me to that point.

Last weekend I took Mrs D, Jack (aged 4) and Harry (18 months) to the Sydney Swans Family Day in Melbourne. There was no thought behind it. We just needed to get out of the house. Jimmy Giggle and his Bee-Gees-like high pitched squeal was doing my head in.

How to dress? While I’ve implemented my no autograph policy, I’m still known to wear more read and white clobber than is socially acceptable for most 37 year olds. However, I’m setting a new standard this year – one Swans item of clothing only. No hat and jumper combos! I pop on my Swans cap to add to my faded green ‘muscle’ shirt I brought on my honeymoon (the last time I had anything remotely approaching muscles) and my favourite beige shorts (covered in a combination of milk, bolognaise and kiddies finger prints).

I shamelessly dress the young scallywags in red and white head to toe. I’ve done enough midnight feeds and wiped enough bums to earn the right to make my kids look silly for the time being. I was at a kiddie’s birthday party the other day and a ‘left wing’ mother questioned my right to impose my footy team on the boys. I explained that I left the trivial decisions like religion, schools and healthcare to Mrs D, but that football was my call. I don’t think she understood.

We pack the Camry and head to Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park – for some reason the Family Day will be in a Basketball Stadium. It doesn’t feel quite right not to be on grass in a football environment. On the drive you can still sense that the spirit of the South Melbourne Swans has a heartbeat. We drive pass a beautifully painted mural recognising an old South Flag and most of the pubs remain ‘Swans friendly’ venues.

As we enter the stadium the first person I see is Tony Morwood. He is controlling proceedings, much like he used to do on the Swans’ half-forward line. He works in the back office these days and it is fair to say anyone on the right side of 40 strolls past him, without even a second look, oblivious to the fact he is on a half-forward flank in the Swans’ Team of the Century.

The first player we see is Kieren Jack, standing next to the sponsors vehicle and chatting happily with the handful of punters, ages ranging from 10 to a 70 year-old ‘Nanna Swan’ resplendent in a knitted scarf and with autograph book to boot – I bet it has some names in it.

I steer my young Jack to meet Kieren. He is hesitant at first, but springs to action when I remind him that he does in fact have a Kieren Jack Lego figure at home. Despite a staff member trying to drag Kieren away for media commitments, my Jack gets in his eyeline (with a helpful boost from Dad) to proudly tell Kieren that his Lego namesake resides on the Dodson kitchen table at present.

Kieren is accommodating and genuine with his interest when talking with my young Jack. We grab a photo and Harry is also thrust before the Camera to help capture the moment in time. Harry inquisitively gets within 6 inches of Keiren’s nostrils in a beautiful shot. I think he is trying to sniff out what makes an AFL footballer, either that or trying to impose his 100cm frame in a show of strength. He has got his mothers tough side, so who knows? I think the boys now have a new favourite player.

The photo has a special meaning for me. As a kid I grew up in Wagga following the Swans, but also with a deep passion for the mighty Balmain Tigers (R.I.P.). At a similar age to Jack, I was lining up to get Kieren’s dad’s (the great Balmain fullback Gary Jack) autograph. There is a beautiful symmetry in this photo of family and passing the baton from one generation to the next. It now sits on Jack’s bedside, next to the Lego figure of course.

I ponder for a second what a remarkable thing it is that the son of a rugby league legend is now the captain of the Swans, and with a brother in the team as well.

We head inside the stadium to see about 300 people – not a bad effort for 9am on a Saturday morning. Players mingle around the various stations. Buddy is playing table tennis against a fan in his mid 30s, who is busting a gut trying to take a point off the great man, so that he can regale all his mates at the Pascoe Vale Hotel for decades to come. Jack is a little awestruck at the sight of Buddy and too scared to approach – in his eyes Buddy is only just shaded by Superman and the Incredible Hulk, for pure starpower.

We stay for 20 minutes or so. Harry is delighted when one of the sponsors thrusts him a new pink footy. He runs, throws, laughs and tumbles with it. There is nothing in the world that can match the delight an 18 month old shows when he is happy with the world.

Jack has a go at the lucky dip and to Mrs D’s horror he bypasses the resplendent scarf she had earmarked for chilly days at the G and plucks another $2 kid’s footy. That will make it 46 or so sitting in the Dodson residence.

One thing that strikes me is how trim the players looks these days. It is obvious the running demands of modern day football have changed the shape of the average footballer. They look less intimidating and more like middle distance runners – which in essence I guess they have become.

The kids grow restless and Mrs D craves coffee. We stroll across the road to a park and kick our new footies around the playground – it is hard to think that in a week’s time at this very spot, cars will be passing by at 300 clicks per hour.

A successful trip was had. A photo is captured for the ages. New footies acquired. A new hero for Jack. A chance for me to experience something with my family, to create memories and to enjoy the simple pleasure of shared time together. Life is Good. Bring on season 2016.


About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. jan courtin says

    Hi Craig
    Never feel too old to get an autograph from a player!

    I’m quite a bit older than you and fortunately didn’t feel too shy to approach many of our great past players at the Hall of Fame event in 2011, after they had been inducted.

    I approached, and got signatures on the photographed pages of the “Swans Hall of Fame” book, from Peter Bedford, John Heriot, Graeme John, Rick Quade, Tony Morwood, Stephen Wright, Rod Carter, Warwick Capper, David Murphy, Mark Bayes, Leo Barry, Michael O’Loughlin, Stuart Maxfield, Brett Kirk, Paul Kelly, Barry Round, Dennis Carroll and Greg Williams. Unfortunately Roosey had left the event by the time I searched for him. A treasured book, indeed.

    Great to have a photo of you and your kids with one of our current champions!

    Go the Mighty Bloods!

  2. Keiran Croker says

    Good one Craig.
    Hey Jan, maybe I can pair up with you at a Swans function so that I can get some autographs. Like Craig, I feel a bit self conscious in my 50’s muscling out kids to get to the front.
    Go Swans!

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