AFL Round 3 : Bulldogs v Richmond – A nice day on the hill

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King

The planning started early in the week. Saturday was my daughter’s 1st birthday, it was also the day my partner, L, was returning to work and to top it off the Bulldogs were playing not one but two games against Richmond. My Doggies mates were pretty pumped that a re-born Footscray had a home game at the Whitten Oval for the first time in years. Getting to either game was going to be a challenge.

Ruby was born in Sunshine and I made the argument that a morning at the Whitten Oval would be a perfect way to spend her first birthday. L eyed me sceptically and called her mum to come out for the day as “back-up”. My eldest girl Scarlett said she’d rather hang with her Nanna than go to the game. Then, on Friday evening, little Ruby coughed, three times. L gave me “The Look”. My chances of dragging her to the Whitten Oval the next morning evaporated.

Plan B: At least watch the game. When my mother-in-law arrived I was frantically cleaning the house. Surely I could be the perfect house-husband/father and still watch the game? As the first bounce approached I started to get the kids ready to go to the park. I packed the stroller, got hats on, loaded up the snacks. I must have been getting a bit frantic by the time I was putting on their sunscreen and Nanna enquired “Are you trying to get rid of us or something?”

Suddenly I was Basil Fawlty and footy was my rat.

“No, no, not at all! Get rid of you? Nonsense, take your time, by all means. Lovely day out there though, sun is shining. What’s that Ruby, park? Wow Nanna she just said park for the first time. Anyway is there anything else you need? No? Good. Great. No rush. Oh you’re heading off, already are you? Off you go! Have fun girls!”

They trotted off happily with about two minutes to spare and I raced into the office, pulled out the iPad, plugged it into some speakers and closed the blinds. It was a perfect day for football, 25 degrees and sunny, and I was sitting in a darkened room watching on a mobile device while the game was played in a TV studio with the roof closed. So much for my day of community footy! I checked in on the 2’s. Will reported they’d won by 117 points. Nice day on the hill, he said, trying to sound nonchalant.

The Tigers start with a quick goal and my head drops. Three games as a Bulldog and I’m already a fatalist. Then we swing forward with real purpose and I swell with pride. Watching my new team gives me the same feeling as watching Friday Night Lights, where our team is always up against insurmountable odds and any ground gained has some underlying moral significance, a sub plot. After two losses it already feels like the season is on the line, and we’re playing to prove ourselves worthy of the competition.

Crameri gets an early one and the team seems to find another gear. Fast moving, hard tackling and a fierce drive, this is great footy to watch. After our 2nd goal, Shane, a Doggies mate, texts me “Hope we play the Hawks in the grand final. I wanna beat the best.”

We immediately start making forehead-slapping mistakes, turnovers and kicking into the man on the mark, but before the dread can set in Lin Jong bursts through with a sensational running goal. The #Linsanity dad jokes start flying into my dark little room: great Linside midfielder, straight off the Linterchange bench, Lincredible, Linpressive. This is a good day!

My girls get back and my four year old sits on my lap. Look Scarlett, I say, the Doggies are winning. They can’t lose all the time, Daddy. She’s right, I hope. The Tigers start finding something, Riewoldt stops sooking and starts marking and slotting goals and by three-quarter-time I’m feeling a bit shaky about the result. I wander into the front yard and Scarlett has her Bulldog toy and is bandaging it up with toilet paper. As I head back inside she whispers “Night night, dog dog”. Ominous.

The smartarse texts stop during the heart-in-mouth final quarter. Surely they won’t be overrun? Crameri kicks a crucial goal with 6 minutes to go. My bond with Crameri as a fellow Essendon turncoat grows ever stronger. Down the other end, Riewoldt misses a crucial goal. We’re gonna find out a lot about this side in the last five minutes…

They fall behind with only three minutes to go. The arc of this game has been short and it has bent towards injustice. Maybe the improvements in the side will have to be consolation enough, maybe victory and premiership points are too much too ask.

But then, GIA!!!!!!! We’re back in front. We dig in to muscle the ball to the line for the last 90 seconds and victory is ours!!! Strangers are hugging each other in the stands, or so I imagine. It’s time to get dinner on.

As I fire up the oven Shane texts me to see if I can sneak out for a pot, but my day of perfect parenting is nearly complete and I’m not going to blow it now. We’ll go watch the Giants game somewhere next week I reply.

“Sounds good”

“Sounds like 2-2”

“You haven’t been doing this long have you?”


  1. Nice one JF. Love the MLK quote.
    Been to the mountaintop? Seen the other side? Will you get there with them?

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read JF impressed with how quick you have become a bulldog

  3. cowshedend says

    Great read JF, really enjoying your conversion and the manner in which you have embraced it.
    As a foot note, you missed a ripping day at the Whitten Oval, at about 10.00 am was heading down for a squiz, at the first bus stop at the Ashley st end of Barkly st was 2 blokes in tattered old Footscray beanies….drinking long necks!
    I nearly teared up.

  4. 10am longnecks. What this nation was built on. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

  5. Strangers were indeed embracing in the stands, JoeFloh. It sounds like your inculcation to Bulldogs’ ways is proceeding nicely. Any more wins like Saturday’s and it will be oh too easy and you’ll be accused of jumping on a successful bandwagon. But I like your mate’s droll last line bringing you back to true Bulldog-dom.

    Great piece.

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