AFL Round 1 – Fremantle vs West Coast: Hard to be a father of a Weavil

Malarkey Medal: 3.  Mundy, 2. Griffin, 1. Barlow

Halfway through Holy Week, I have something of a confession to make.  My middle son is a Weavil.  I realise I am to blame for this.  Inadvertently following in the footsteps of my father, I did nothing in the way of footy indoctrination when my boy was young.  For my dad this was just an extension of his general hands-off child rearing policy – expecting things to come good when I was old enough to buy him a beer – but for me it was a conscious decision to allow my kids to make their own choices.

You see, I once saw this horrible, fat harridan of a West Coast mum training her toddler to hate, dressing the poor kid up in the hideous blue and yellow and flapping her yokel gums along to some foul Weavil ditty.  My recoil, immediate and visceral, was amplified by the realisation that the things you most despise in others are most often weaknesses of your own.  In one of those moments of clarity you come later to regret, I realised that functionally there was no difference between me – should I force my kids to follow my footy team – and this braindead termagant. I thought this sight so wrong, I swore never to brainwash my own kids, when I had them, and I have stuck true to this.  I am of course now paying the price for this hilariously misguided belief in the virtues of free will and personal expression.  I now have this child, this otherwise perfect little specimen, who on occasion dresses up as a Weavil and who expresses an interest in the fortunes of a footy club I have hitherto been quite content to view as the work of the Devil.

In raising children – I have four and the other three are all perfectly normal Fremantle people –you learn more about yourself than you ever teach them.  This happens because you effectively have your childhood again but this time burdened with consciousness.  Stuff you never really thought about, stuff that you just accepted and did, you have to actually consider through adult eyes and determine its usefulness or truth.

Stuff you would never have thought of as a moral issue becomes precisely that because you are now choosing it, and, more importantly, choosing and considering it for someone else who you really love.

I imagine a lot of blokes my age and station first learnt to really love when our children came.  We learn a lot of other things as well.

What I have learnt is that I am a complete arsehole to watch the footy with.  Pretty much completely unacceptable.

I spent twenty or so years just venting at the footy.  Screaming a nonstop stream of frothy-mouthed filth.  Highly inventive and often eye-wateringly funny filth, but filth nonetheless.

Put me in front of the footy and I am a disgraceful beast of a man, swearing like a trooper with his cock caught in his fly.  I hate with positively diabolical glee.  I spare no-one, not even the obviously afflicted like Ashley Smith or that Masten character. I am not the sort of thing you want around your kids and not the sort of thing you want your kids to ever even begin to think of as appropriate.

So when last Saturday rolled around and I came to sit down in front of the gogglebox with my two oldest boys to watch the derby, I had to not only re-learn how to behave when there are actual real live Weavils running around being crap and wrong, I had to learn what to say to and in front of my sons that would enrich their experience of the Great Game; that would ennoble and instruct them in some way.

As the game began, I realised my available repertoire was even worse than I had thought.  I began by thinking I could get away with dropping a few of the more egregious insults and fruity language, but then I realised I couldn’t even simply point out how wrong West Coast are.  My son is eight.  Nuances are lost on an eight-year-old – like why one lot of ridiculously fit young men, while similar in pretty much every circumstance to another lot of ridiculously fit young men, is somehow completely different and not just different but ineffably evil and wrong.  You have to have lived a bit to understand why one rigorously-detailed corporate franchise is the avatar of the monstrous and another is charged with defending all that is right and true.

It would have been easier back in the good old days, when the arrogant Weavils, drunk on their self-importance and the worshipful gaze of the dumb and dumbstruck, smoked ice and partied with bikies and rejoiced in nicknames like “The Human Vacuum-cleaner” – when they weren’t forging prescriptions for comedown drugs or abandoning their girlfriends in the middle of highways while they did a runner from the police.

Easier but a bit tricky to just casually lay on some kid in an ad-break between play.

Skewering your own kid with prejudices, even your own really quite amusing prejudices, is hard to do when you are sober and giving it any thought.  I might think it hilarious that half the contemporary Weavils look like escapees from a Ned Kelly-themed mardi gras float, but my son is growing up in a different world.  The signifiers are all wrong.  I grew up when a heavy beard and multiple toughstickers meant you wanted to be outside society, not in the society pages.

So pointing out the failings of the opposing team joined spewing cathartic vitriol on the list of the verboten.  I couldn’t even point out to him the hideousness of the frontrunning, theatregoing, morally suspect Eagles supporter – he being one, after all.

Which he displayed in fine fashion halfway through the first quarter when his older brother, a dutiful Docker and splendid chap, asked him why he even went for the Eagles.  Parents will know the voice used – “WhydoyouevengofortheEagles?”all one word, squeezed out in a rising inflection of disbelief and disgust.

“Look at the score,” said Son Number 2 and in a perverse moment I was almost proud of him.  If you are going to be a wrongheaded fuckwit, you may as well tick all the boxes doing it.

Faced with this defining moment, it was then that I made the strangest discovery of all.  It dawned on me that the near-silence of my own father, whose general countenance was like that of Eeyore with a hangover, was probably because he couldn’t say the things he wanted to say.  The Amos of outer suburban Perth, his grim mouth only ever cracked open to hose down hope or expectation.  Each word was a Winnie-red-fuelled hope-seeking missile that shot across the room looking to smack down any giddiness or folly.  I now discover that he was probably like this because he loved me.

Meanwhile I have some eight-year-old Weavil kid pointing to the scoreboard as justification for his denial of all that is fair and right, and all I could do – me, the gnarly old sage, the veteran of years of footy combat – was mutter, “It’s a long game, boys.”

What I really wanted to say was “Get fucked, son.  If it wasn’t for the maggots slinging your filthy cheats all that fucking charity, your evil little mutants would have been completely drystroked by now.”

But a desire for something better to give my kids left me only with the solace of cliché and the safety of silence.

For the first half I watched Freo pretty much dominate everything except the scoreboard and I was left without my usual words to articulate it.  I can count the number of sentences I uttered throughout most of the game on one hand and all of them ended up making me sound like I write screenplays for Australian period dramas.

When in the third Jonathan Griffin flicked the switch and the Freo midfield just began monstering West Coast, leaving Pearce, D and Hill, S to peel off and swoop and dive like God’s favoured machines of grace and speed, I grunted something about the virtues of sticking to your plan.

When Tendai Mzungu sprinted thirty metres to get to a boundary-line contest, hitting it so hard he broke a man’s arm, I burbled on about how it’s always good to run hard and stay on your feet.

When Ashton Hams tried again to draw head-high contact and Justice herself was demanding that I shout something scary and weird about cheating little mongrels, instead I actually said something very much like, “Well, that’s not the done thing.”

I even tried praising the less-offensive of the Weavils.  When Andrew Embley came on to sub out the injured Le Cras, I applauded his courageous mark, but that was easy because I have always applauded courageous marks and good kicks, no matter where they come from.  Emboldened though by my graciousness, I talked Embley up some more – because he went to the same school my boys do and a connection like that could foster their love of the game.  Make it nearer.  That Embers followed this mark up with a shocking miss that completely took the wind out of West Coast’s tiny little sails was perfect.  Here I was, even-handedly pointing out the virtues of the foe’s great warrior and he carries on like some poorly-paid circus clown, indulging in the football equivalent of industrial sabotage.  I was calmly stating the facts about how good the Weags were and they were confusing my son by then proving to be remorselessly shit.

This was great.  This was my new tactic.  When Cox marked it on the halfback flank and pinpointed Embley up forward late in the game, I saw this standing up of the Weavil Old Guard as another opportunity to show off my newfound magnanimity.  “Second best ruck in the comp,” I greeted Cox’s mark with.  “Inexplicable Norm Smith medallist – should kick this” – a tip of the hat to Embley.  And then Shannon Hurn runs the length of the ground to pick up a cheapy, Embley dishes it off and the lactic-acid casualty Hurn may as well have turned around and kicked it backwards.  “Oh, well,” I say, “That wasn’t such a good decision.”

Of course, I was freed up now.  I felt able to praise the run and precision of Freo.  I was loving seeing the balance Freo now have.  I was loving seeing the spark and fire of Walters and Ballantyne – the real deal when it comes to outsider aesthetics.  I was loving seeing Pearce, C and Duffield, P slice up a proven forward press with sublime footskills and superior decisionmaking.  I was loving all this.  But I was hating not being able to share it with my son.

Well, we parents live and we learn.  I’ll figure something out with the young bloke.  He’s a proven frontrunner, after all, and I suspect come September we may be seeing him in the purple all of his own doing.

And you know what?  I’ll be hugging him tight once he’s aboard the bandwagon.

FREMANTLE        2.0     5.4     11.10    16.12 (108)

WEST COAST      3.5      6.7       7.10    11.14  (80)



Fremantle: Walters 3, Suban 3, Mayne 2, Pearce 2, Bradley 2, Crowley, De Boer, Barlow, Ballantyne

West Coast: Hams 2, Kennedy 2, Lecras 2, Cripps 2, Hill 2, Masten



Fremantle: Barlow, Mundy, D Pearce, Hill, Fyfe, Mayne, Griffin, Embley

West Coast: Kennedy, A Selwood, Waters, Glass, Priddis



Fremantle: Ballantyne (knee)

West Coast: LeCras (arm), Mackenzie (hamstring)



Fremantle: Cameron Sutcliffe replaced Hayden Ballantyne during the last quarter

West Coast: Andrew Embley replaced Mark Lecras at three-quarter time

Reports: Pavlich for charging Schofield in the second quarter

Umpires: Margetts, Stevic, McInerney

Official crowd: 39,629 at the Patersons Stadium



  1. PeterSchumacher says

    It’s tough being a dad! On the other hand your shockers looked pretty damned good.

  2. Heartbreaking.

    Look I’m not much of a father. No kids. But surely you could give that one back or something.

    As I’ve mentioned on this site before one of reasons I’d didn’t have a kid was the chance it could end up a Weavil. Phew.

    I think Gorman had one but cured it somehow. Talk to him.

  3. Dear Nathan,
    I am surprised that you are OK with writing things for your sons to read that you do not feel safe to say in front of them. Doubtless your tortured son has that “Get f.. son etc” paragraph printed out already and posted on his bedroom wall. He is already picking your nursing home.
    The rest of your rant made no sense except the bit about beards. I fear we are in for a poor season until Woosh cracks the whip on full beards, Romper Stomper haircuts and full sleeve tatts. “Frill necked lizard” footballers who want to look tough via a stylist are ##**@@’s.
    Ashley Smith and Bryce Gibbs both look like they are running for the Neo Nazis at the next election. Masten doesn’t surprise me, but I expected better of Schofield. Looks like he is lead singer for an Alt Country band.
    I was going to write something complimentary about the Dockers’ midfield class and depth, but your rant dissuaded me.

  4. Blocker Hall says

    Ah Mish, good to see you on a roll. My Grandad sorted me out very early on and spirited me away from the evil Old Easts supported by my Dad, and I’m a mighty Bulldog to this day.

    To peter_b, good to see confirmation that the absence of humour gene is coincident with supporting the screaming fowl.

    Rant on my friend, remember- we get it.

  5. nathan jarvis says

    Blocker – you get around, bigfella! I had no idea your dad was Blue and White. I thought all you Halls were Southerners and that Smasher playing for Old Easts was some kind of prodigal son-act.

    Now I discover you’re the rogue element.

    I actually don’t mind the youngfella experimenting with the dark side like this. He is getting it out of his system early.

    The full story is he came home from kindy talking about how all his little mates liked some footy club that had “something to do with flying” and I said “What the Bombers?” and he said “Yeah” and he wore an Essendon jumper all the way through Auskick. It wasn’t until last year that he gathered the gumption to say he meant West Coast. His mum bought him that jumper.

    I am giving him until he is 10 to rectify the situation. 10 is the cut-off point, I reckon. I was 10 in 1979 and you know what colour my blood is. When he is 10 and Pavlich holds aloft the cup for the second time, he should be making the choice that stays for life.

    Otherwise, he might have to start asking his little mates for food.

  6. nathan jarvis says

    It has happened – and he timed his conversion beautifully.

    His birthday is in early August and he asked for a Freo jumper, which he wore all through footy season and still wears at training for summer footy (Friday nights, under lights, the kids love it).

    So, along comes the first ever Freo GF and there he is, resplendent in man-purple, just like he’d been there since day one.

    He’s replicating Fyfie’s $300 hairdo by never having it cut and dodging as many showers as he can and asks me all sorts of questions about how to ruck like Sandi.

    The tears were finally brought to my eyes when he showed me some AFL propaganda featuring Dean Cox at work and pointed out the blatant cheating old Coxtopus is getting up to.

    They have all come home. Nothing can harm us.

  7. Nathan,
    The Department of Child Protection will be around this evening.
    You can have access visits on alternate weekends (not coinciding with Eagles home games).

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