AFL Round 9: What pain is that?

By Andrew Gigacz


When my son Oliver was about three, he took an interest in birds. Living near a park afforded us an opportunity to be exposed to all manner of feathered creatures. Many were easy to identify: magpies, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets.


But Oliver has an eye for detail and he soon became interested in trying to identify differences between males and females, and between the different types of smaller honey-eaters. Fortunately Oliver’s Pa was also a bit of a bird-fancier and he presented him with the gift of the bible of Australian bird watching:


“What Australian Bird is That?”

(Published by the Gould League.)


It became a treasured possession for Oliver.


I reckon a guide like that could be useful in other aspects of our lives. Take pain for instance. There a many different types of pain one can feel in a lifetime. Some are obviously different to others. The pain of a pin prick doesn’t compare with that of a car door slamming on your finger. Other types of pain can seem the same but are distinguished by slight nuances. Like the difference between the disappointment of not being picked for a part in the school play and not getting the captaincy of the footy team. Both forms of rejection but each can be responded to in a slightly different way.


There is pain and there is pain. To make sense of it I think we need a guide.


It could analyse the various forms of hurt that are inflicted on us through our wretched lives. The physical and the emotional. The pain of a paper cut – sharp and strong. The pain of pulling a muscle – long and lingering. The pain you feel when your first girlfriend dumps you for the kid who sits next to you at school because he’s got a shiny new three-geared dragster with streamers, which makes your rusting Malvern Star look like junk – humiliation and heartache.


Over life’s journey you learn to recognise the different pains and build coping mechanisms as you experience each type. A guide to help us through this would surely be invaluable.


Now in my forties, I’m still learning how to deal with pain. And I’m still discovering new types of pain. Like the excruciating pain I experienced in my elbow a couple of years ago, caused by gout. (I like to be different; I didn’t get it in the foot like most blokes.) And the troubling pain in my upper abdomen that last year wouldn’t go away. At least not until the surgeons removed my gall-bladder.


There’s the pain of telling your child that their pet cat was killed by the dog. The pain of discovering that someone doesn’t feel as strongly about you as you do about them. The pain of going to work in winter before the sun comes up and not going home until it’s set again.


Even just this week I was subjected to all manner of pain that required my best coping skills. Having met a mate for dinner prior to us going to Docklands to see our Dogs take on the might of the Cats, I experienced the pain of over-indulgence at the Shang Hai Dumpling House. And the pain of an almost-bursting bladder because I stupidly didn’t go to the loo before we left the restaurant.


The pain of getting there late because we had one beer too many along the way. The pain you get in the toe when you kick a concrete step because you’ve had two beers too many. The pain you get when you’re delivering a round of drinks to your mates and drop yours because you’ve had three beers too many.


The pain you get when you open up the Footy Record and in there’s a flashback to the same round last year when Johnno had a shot after the siren to win the game and missed. The pain you feel when the Dogs keep hitting the post when goals could have kept them in touch. The pain you feel when you see another classic clanger and you realise that Brian Harris must have changed his name because Brian Lake is an anagram of “brain leak”.


The pain you feel when the Cats break away to a six-goal lead and you realise that the Dogs aren’t quite in the same league. The pain you feel when they come back and you think “maybe they are in the same league” until Travis Varcoe snaps what seems like a match-winning goal with minutes left.


The pain of seeing Liam Picken kick a goal that puts us so close but so far because you’re sure the clock’s gonna beat us.


And the pain of Johnno.


Of seeing Mitch Hahn lobbing the ball high in the air and watching Johnno camped suicidally underneath. The pain of him marking it, then having a Brian Lake brain leak and playing on when the siren is due to (and does) go.


The pain of the umpire calling him back and letting him have another shot and the siren sounding and Johnno continuing his approach and kicking… AND MISSING! After the siren! AGAIN! EXACTLY A YEAR AFTER THE LAST TIME


That’s the pain I need a guide to.


I’m going to publish that book. Really. I can see it now in my mind’s eye:


“What Pain is That?”

(Published by the Cruelled League)

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Gigs, your book of pain would be a hit. On the other hand the peaceful pursuit of bird watching sounds like quite a nice alternative.

  2. I still haven’t fully dealt with the greatest pain of all, the 1997 prelim. I need your book.

  3. I know Min. I’m still dealing with that too. I wrote about it a couple of weeks back. You can check that story here:

  4. john weldon says

    So that’s why you came back with only two beers that time… and you made the rest of us think you were a good boy and that we were the boozers!

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