AFL Round 17: Disaster for the Blues at the MCG

by Barbara Smith

Apparently, life’s experiences are a rich tapesty, woven together to make us the person we end up being. I accept that, & feel that mine will be quite colourful. In particular, the footy threads in my life tapestry will be stunning, with lots of contrast. One more thread was added on Friday night at the MCG.

After many years of success, we Carlton supporters have become used to disappointing performances this century, but somehow we expected a solid performance against the old foe, Collingwood. After all, we have beaten them the last 4 or 5 times, plus they had the distraction of coach speculation, reaching fever pitch in the days leading up to the match.

In hindsight, I should have recognized the signs. My companions were my sister, her husband, another brother-in-law & his 9 year old son. My nephew wasn’t feeling 100%. Warning. They drove in to the MCG carpark early & were directed to park down near Brunton Avenue. Warning. Both brothers-in-law were looking forward to the distraction of a win against the old foe, as they had had difficult weeks. Warning number 3.

Oblivious to impending footy doom, I arrived separately and we met for tea at the Hugh Trumble cafe, then up to our reserved seats on Level 2. Jamison was a late withdrawal, a bit of a concern for our back line. My neighbour in the next seat was a Collingwood supporter, of the one-eyed type. Ok, I am mature, I can cope with that. Which I did right through the first quarter.

You should have seen his celebrations when Davis kicked that freakish goal that did a right-hand turn through the big sticks! Fair enough, it was amazing, but I can’t believe it was intentional. His barracking for his team was fine, it was just the way that he kept celebrating our mistakes that really got to me. For the first quarter, I was a little distracted by my nephew having to rush off to the toilet to be sick. He assured us he would be okay after that. I probably shouldn’t have given him that piece of chocolate.

Early in the second quarter, my neighbour’s continuous rapturous applause of our missed goals became too much for me. A discussion ensued and we came to the arrangement that he would just clap his own team’s goals, and leave our errors unrecognized by celebration. Thank God he honoured it, as we were 2 goals 9 behinds at half time. The Pies were 7 goals 6 and although their skills seemed nearly as bad as ours, they had a couple of brilliant moments, Didak and Davis being the ones most visible to me.  My nephew had to be sick again, and his Dad was sinking wine in the bar, so intense was his disappointment in the game so far.

The third quarter was a dour affair, an arm wrestle, where we actually out-scored them, three quarter time scores being us:3 goals 13, them: 8 goals 8. Thank God for my foresight with the no-clapping points clause. Judd seemed to be injured, extra strapping on his knee, unable to be the Messiah saving the team in yet another game. Another backman, Johnson, was injured and on the bench, and Fev had a rolled ankle but kept playing. My neighbour had moved 3 seats down, a relief to me. Both brothers-in-law seemed to find solace in alcohol, leaving the 2 women alone with a nine year old boy needing regular visits to the Mens, alone. The boy became depressed, hitting himself in the head repeatedly with a free team banner, then condemning every team member. I told him footy was unpredictable, you had to be prepared to lose. Moral high ground hey, despite arguing with my opposition neighbour.

The last quarter was horrible. Collingwood seemed to be on fire, and Carlton seemed to be unable to make any correct decisions. Every Carlton possession seemed to be building up to a turn-over. My neighbour made a point of standing and staring at me when loudly clapping and celebrating his team’s every goal, or brilliant play. My drunken brothers-in-law were becoming angry with the world, my nephew was sick of being sick, and my sister and I were groaning at every turn-over. This was like the bad old days. Actually, they aren’t that old, those days. How quickly we forget.

Collingwood was putting on a show: this is how football should be played. What has happened to our young, valiant, skilful players? Are these the same people who took us to three wins in a row this month?  What a reality check. We couldn’t stand it any longer, and needed to get out of there for the child’s sake, and before the men got into a fight, probably with one of us . At least we would get out and get home early, leaving about ten minutes before the siren. Not to be.

Our little group got separated getting to the car, and my sister and I got lost. The MCG carpark is a big place, and remembering you parked near a path and a tree is insufficient information when returning to your vehicle. After several abusive phone calls from the men (hard to hear over the blasted Collingwood anthem being played on bagpipes) and twenty minutes’ searching, we found the car with the others waiting not so patiently. How is it that two drunk men and a sick boy can immediately zero in on a vehicle, and two sober women wander for hours in the wrong section of the car park?

Our rush to leave was doomed. No cars moved out, just all jammed in on each other, jostling for a cut-in position. Then I remembered why: the sign on the MCG scoreboard at every game warns patrons that the Brunton Avenue car park will be closed to exiting traffic until about 40 minutes after the game is finished. This is to let celebrating members of the opposition team walk slowly, singing their club song, to Richmond station. While losing supporters sit in their car with angry, drunken companions and a sick boy, wishing they had stayed at home.

It seemed like hours later when we drove home past the Fitzroy gardens, and my nephew announced he was going to be sick again very soon. Small boys can run fast across roads, even when they are gagging. After leaving his mark on the tan bark (nobody batted an eyelid, normal footy behaviour I guess) he announced to me that although he knew he would be sick again, he would be “good for the trip home.”

He was the only one who was. Another rich thread.

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