Almanac Life: On the rebound


To slightly paraphrase the great Mike Brady, there’s a lot more things to parenting than really meets the eye. There are days when you could give it up and there are days when you could fly. As the father of a five-year-old, a two-year-old and one more on the way, I can definitely relate to the rollercoaster ride that many parents find themselves on. There are challenges, laughs, setbacks, joys, worries and occasional moments of the deepest feelings of pride that you might ever feel in your life.  


One of those moments of bursting pride was the first time I took my eldest son Fletcher to see the Bombers play. I decked him out in all his Essendon finery and we headed to Docklands to see the Bombers take on the Kangaroos. As an energetic two-year-old, he didn’t last the whole game but he’d made a start, he was on his way. Afterwards, we adjourned to a gelati shop by the water. It was a long way from the outer at Windy Hill where my own football genesis had taken place at a quaint little competition known as the “VFL”, but I sat alongside little Fletch and envisioned his lifetime in red and black. Surely this was the beginning of something beautiful.   


For two full seasons these little excursions continued, hopping on the train together and heading into the big smoke to watch the Bombers. Dyson Heppell was the main attraction, easy to spot on the field with his bobbing thatch of hair. Up in the stands, I carefully monitored the snack levels, slowly metering out a backpack full of treats to facilitate as much game time as possible. One afternoon, just last year, we climbed to the very top of the Ponsford Stand to find Fletch enough room to wave his freshly purchased Bombers flag without taking any unsuspecting eyes out. Never did it cross my mind that this blissful existence could all come to an end so very soon.   


You see, Fletcher is the product of a mixed marriage. His Dad is an Essendon supporter and his Mum is a Collingwood supporter. Nobody ever plans on life turning out like this but, as they say in the classics, love is blind. When you meet someone so beautiful, who makes you laugh, and who you yearn to spend time with, you’re willing to overlook the occasional character flaw. Negotiations took place during the pregnancy. If the baby was a boy, he’d be an Essendon supporter. If it was a girl, she’d be Collingwood. Naively, I thought this meant our first child’s football loyalty was signed, sealed and delivered. And, if I’m being totally honest, I was probably a bit complacent, not wanting to force the issue, simply presuming this amazing little human creation would do as was expected of him. How wrong I was.  


This year’s season commenced and Saturday mornings became all about Auskick again. As was expected, Fletch took the field each weekend in his Essendon kit. All seemed well with the world. Then, after a few weeks, there was an announcement: “I barrack for Collingwood now”. Initially I thought it was just a ruse. Standard behaviour from an inherently cheeky five-year-old wanting to wind up his Dad. My mock horror each time he said it was met with an evil chuckle. A Collingwood jumper seemed to miraculously appear from the heavens – or a more sinister resting place for the dead. When he first wore that jumper to Auskick a little part of me died. Other fathers on the oval looked at me with sympathy, even the rotten Collingwood supporters among them. Fletcher’s promise to “barrack for both” and wear Essendon gear to Auskick every second week never materialised. I stumbled through all five stages of grief until I eventually reached acceptance. Reluctant, pathetic, down-trodden acceptance.   


So, what does any self-respecting human being do immediately after a cutting rejection? They go looking for a rebound. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look too far. Our second son Jesse is two years old. A gentle soul, and infinitely more malleable… for now. I take him to the MCG, the spiritual home of football. We kick seven goals in the first quarter. It’s an omen. The kid is a lucky charm. The Bombers win. On the trip home, as the train snakes away from the MCG, it slows a little and announces that the next station is Collingwood. Jesse, dressed from head-to-toe in Essendon gear says, “Dollingwood? I barrack for Dollingwood!” I clearly still have some work to do.   


As the season progresses, Jesse seems to be getting more on board. The timing of Picket Palace’s catchy “Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti” song is perfect. I walk around the house at all hours singing its repetitive chorus. Keen to atone for my previously complacent ways, I’m no longer averse to using good old-fashioned brain washing. After all, the stakes are high. I’ve learnt that the hard way.   


At random stages throughout the week, totally unprompted, Jesse will talk about us going to the MCG together, which we’ve now done a couple more times. My heart swells each and every time he mentions it. Next time we pass through Collingwood station after a game, he only looks at me and smirks, no contradictory proclamation is made to our fellow passengers. Progress.  


This week, there’s a lot of talk in our house about heading to Marvel Stadium to see the Bombers take on the Power. Anticipation is high, both for us and for our team. There’s plenty at stake for all parties. The game sits like a beacon at the end of a long working week in the depths of a Melbourne winter. 


Some people believe that you need to have your heart broken to fully understand and appreciate true love. Maybe they’re right.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.


  1. I enjoyed this, Ged – passion, disappointment, grief, a sinister plot to rebound and, seemingly, a partner in crime in young Jesse. (Or is he just playing you?) Mixed (footy) marriages are always fraught with danger. Good luck!

  2. Mark Duffett says

    As the parent of a Power-supporting son despite my best Crow-washing efforts, I feel your pain.

  3. Sally Martin says

    Loved this Ged! As a Collingwood supporter living interstate the indoctrination has started early… I’m winning the battle so far.

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