AFL Round 7 – Essendon v Western Bulldogs: The Final Frontier

As I neared the top of the escalator a woman in Bombers gear leant forward to get a closer look at the badge on my chest.

“It IS Stewart Crameri.” she said “Good onya.”

with an unspoken “wanker” at the end.

I laughed it off. If only she knew I was a treacherous bastard who was going to my first ever Essendon game as a non-Essendon supporter. Perhaps less would have been unspoken. I was late to meet my Bulldogs mates, two separate groups.  They were getting to know each other when I finally got to the bar. Bringing people together, I thought, and gave myself a silent pat on the back. The mood was upbeat. The whole pub cheered the Dees home on the TV and then spilled out towards Docklands stadium.

My Doggies mates stayed upbeat. Their biggest concern was that we would play Carlisle into form. None of the Bombers mates I’d invited had shown up yet, but I was hoping to see them inside. I thought the Bombers would be far stronger, almost in a different weight division. I worried about a blow out, a 15 goal flogging, but realised this was classic “Danny from Droop St” thinking and tried to put it to one side. After only 6 weeks training I was already thinking like a Bulldogs fan.

Before we even found a spot to stand a huge roar went up for the Dons first goal. It was scarily loud. I felt the power of a Dons home crowd from the other side and it was intimidating. Two more goals and my pre-match dark worries resurfaced. The crowd around me was mostly Bombers, though I wondered if the guy next to me had just yelled Go Dons or Go Dogs? Or was I just projecting? Maybe I was unsure what I was going to yell when the moment came? My Bombers mates arrived, not all greeting me warmly. What did I expect?

Suddenly the game started to turn, the Dogs smashing in and winning the ball. When Dahlhaus marked in the square I let out my first full-throated “Go Doggies!!!”

As the game went on it became obvious that the Bombers tonight were not the same Bombers that nearly beat Hawthorn a few weeks back. It was surreal to see their best forward, Hurley, playing on our best forward, Crameri. It wasn’t that long ago I expected these two to take the Dons all the way, standing next to each other in the forward line. Now they stood next to each other in different jumpers and neither team looked like it was playing top 4 football. I mentioned this to my Bombers mates as we went into half time with the Doggies 14 points up. This time they genuinely blanked me. They were pissed off. It occurred to me that this game was actually a must-win for the Bombers. All their early season promise would be snuffed out if they lost tonight.

The full strength beer flowed freely in the Locker Room at half time and I ran into an old Bomber, one of my father’s generation. He saw the Crameri badge, and we had an awkward conversation above the din, but he walked away looking confused. It was hard to yell in a few words why I’d changed teams. A ran into another Bomber mate who was there with his wife and three kids. When he asked about my conversion I gave him my usual spiel about Hird’s million-dollar holiday in Paris on members coin, and he nodded along. His 12-year-old boy looked aghast though, like he was going to cry, I found this a touch unnerving. Meanwhile my Bulldog mates were cock-a-hoop. A half of footy like that, with young Doggies crashing in bravely and knocking bigger opponents off the ball was enough for them to feel warm and fuzzy at half time.

We didn’t quite make it back out of the bar until half way through the third quarter and things started to get a little hazy. The Bombers ground their way back into a lead by 3 quarter time and they looked like they had a bit more on the line.

Late in the last quarter the Dogs kicked a goal to get us back in with a chance. My Bulldogs mates and went up as one. An Essendon supporter turned to us and and said

“When did you last win a flag?”

What a smug prick. His voice reeked of entitlement at being from a powerful club, and disgust that his team couldn’t finish these minnows off. I wondered if I’d ever come across like that as an Essendon supporter? Probably.

The Dons get home, “winning ugly” they’ll call it, like the Crows did after last weeks game. I’ve made it through the toughest test so far. I feel a little punch drunk, and a lot actual drunk, but it’s over. It’d be easy to say the Doggies were gallant in defeat, but that kind of thinking becomes a bad habit. Old habits are hard enough to break God knows I don’t need any new ones.

 

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says

    What a wonderful initiation as a Bulldog supporter you are receiving this year.
    All the classic tests of Bulldogism thrown up at you and still you refuse to scamper back to Windy Hill, Essendon Airport or Craigeburn or where-ever the Red-Sashes have bunkered down.
    You’ve seen the games where we’ve led by a few goals and get over-run. You’ve seen the young star player hit the post from just a few metres out. The forward line that barely functions. The second tall guy after Minson (Roughead) get injured and no replacements available out of 42 players. And last Saturday you watched our great white goal-kicking hope from your old team decide to have a night off.
    But hang in there, because you have chosen to join the best supporters of the best team in the AFL.

  2. cowshedend says

    Joe, I detest the’how many flags have you won’ brigade, as though some flog choosing a team due to its premiership tally, has contributed to their accumulated success is hilarious.
    if Essendon had the Dogs history they would have beaten University to the morgue

  3. Peter_B says

    Terrific piece JF. I am sure you are a much nicer person as a Bulldog.
    Neil – if you had said the best supporters of the best CLUB I might agree with you.
    My Eagles are starting to feel a lot like the Bulldogs. They have had an RHG the last 3 weeks, but have the skills of a Beirut brickie. Last year I was disgusted at their lack of effort, this year I am only frustrated at their ability to butcher the ball.
    I saw all your game on the teev on Saturday night. Macrae, Stringer, Dahlhaus, Libba – all very impressive. Same old story – no good talls. It forces you to play a very indirect style because long kicking is not an option.
    At least you gave Old Man Fletch a good send off (why does he still stick his leg out every time someone runs around him? Pavlovian reflex from growing up in the 80’s?)

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Quite right Peter, I meant ‘Club’ and not team. Fingers trying to type quickly so I could get back to domestic matters and the brain just lagging that bit behind the action.
    I would have thought a Beirut brickie would be a busy chap, that’s for sure, but don’t know if he would necessarily lack the skills.
    No segue, but speaking of talls, you have a mighty bunch over there and still you struggle, unless they’re playing the Dogs of course.
    We did give Fletch an early birthday party. You can count on the Dogs to allow opposition players to play at the top of their game or play them back into form. Eg. Carlton and Adelaide players found their mojo and snapped out of it when facing the Dogs. Maybe it’s a compliment to the Dogs.

  5. Kerrie Soraghan says

    This is a really fascinating perspective. The intimidating roar of the crowd..as a Dogs fan I always feel other supporters are much louder, more cocky, more.. Certain.

    Dogs fans might not all be saintly paragons but we’ve never had any reason to be arrogant. The self deprecation can be masking a bit of bitterness, but it’s heaps better than the sort of reaction you copped in even your brief career as ‘one of us.’ love the article, thanks for sharing

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