Brownlow Bolognese

Maz’s Famous Brownlow Bolognese

Earlier this year, my 11 year old daughter, Anna wrote an article for the Footy Almanac. It was all about footy tradition. Tradition is a key word in our house. Much to my wife Jenni’s chagrin, I spend just as much of my time looking back as I do looking forward. She is a very supporting and understanding wife…with the patience of Jobe (which is kind of ironic tonight).

Tradition is what my football is all about. And I know I share that footy tradition with all of my close footy family and friends.

Being a Cats man, I enjoyed (?) the tradition of losing games and losing grand finals for 44 years before the new tradition of success has taken over.

Every now and then however, I relapse into the tradition of “expecting to lose” until the boys somehow find a way… somehow.

Tradition is very important when it comes down to Brownlow Medal night. Every Brownlow Medal night I can remember, since we were little kids, I have spent with my sister Penny, a Carlton fanatic – but a realist.

She knows everything about footy and loves her boys…and she has seen a lot of success in her day watching 68, 70, 72, 79, 81, 82, 87 and 95. She is footy wise and proud.

Living through “The 44 Year Drought”, I watched on as my sisters Blues won flag after flag and dreamed of one day experiencing the joy of winning a premiership…just one in my lifetime.

The last 10 years has seen our circumstances reversed with the Cats winning everything in sight while the Blues are going through a rough patch. But she has stuck with them through it all. Loyal. Just like I stuck with the Cats through 44 years of disappointment.

The only Brownlow Night I haven’t spent with her was in 2006 when, through a corporate client, I somehow received an invitation to the actual Brownlow Medal Count at Crown and sat amongst the former winners, players and dignitaries. I was on the same table as Steven Silvagni and his lovely wife Jo – but that’s another story for another time.

Also part of my footy and Brownlow tradition is my life long buddy and Cats loving Cousin James. He and I have been regular footy buddies going to watch the Cats for as long as I can remember.

We have spent our lifetime following the Cats around week after week. From our beloved home at Kardinia Park (where we have seen everything happen)… to Princess Park (Bosustow’s Mark of the Year over John Mossop in front of the Heatley Stand in 1981 still hurts)… the Junction Oval (where Garry Sidebottom ended up playing after missing the bus in 1981)… Victoria Park (once only and NEVER again)… Moorabbin (local Saints boy Con Gorozides was our ethic link)… Windy Hill (Bloody Timmy Watson!)… VFL Park (Bosustow’s Goal of the Year in 1981 against Ian Nankervis still hurts)… the sterile environment of Etihad (where we watched the Cats kick-start their unbelievable run beating the Tigers by 157 points in Round 6, 2007)… and of course, the famous MCG (we were actually the last to leave the ground at around 7pm after the 2011 Grand Final victory over the Pies).

Every key footballing memory in my life has been with James and Penny.

The most recent years have now included my passionate Cat daughter Anna and my sometime Cat loving son James. He is 10 but would rather make movies instead of watching the Cats – however he wanted to come to the 2011 Grand Final and he sat with the 8 of us, front row behind the goals. He watched the Cats win, ticked that off his bucket list and promptly moved onto his next movie masterpiece!

Anna on the other hand is the opposite. Her whole world revolves around the Cats. When she was only 6, she knew all about inside 50’s, clearances and hard ball gets. One of my fondest and wettest memories was sitting in the freezing, pouring rain in the front row, on the fence in the Doug Wade Stand in 2009 against Brisbane when Gary Ablett kicked that miracle goal from the pocket. She insisted we sit and watch in the rain “because the players play in the rain and so we have to support them in the rain”. You can’t argue with footy logic from a (then) 8 year old!

The other addition to the footballing tradition is James’s partner Maz. Before they met, many years ago, Maz was a Collingwood supporter but really had no choice when she and James hooked up. She now is so passionate about “her” Cats and importantly she has added the newest tradition to our footballing lives… Brownlow Bolognese.

Every Brownlow Medal night, we head over to James and Maz’s house to watch the count and enjoy Maz’s magnificent spaghetti Bolognese.

This year was no different as Penny and I drove up, strangely calm about the count.

Both the Cats and the Blues didn’t look like they would trouble the scorers, Judd had been suspended and missed a large chunk of the season…but I wasn’t so sure. The way the umpires treat Judd, I’m certain he would have got votes in games he didn’t even play in!

Penny said something similar about Joel Selwood. We couldn’t decide who would get a free kick if Judd and Selwood tackled each other in a game!

We set about placing our team and overall bets which is a tradition that continues to this day. Tip the leading vote getter from each club and the overall winner.

$1 for each team and $1 for the overall. Winner take all. No sheep stations here.

The count started early as we loaded up on the famous Bolognese. A couple of bay leaves in the sauce added to the flavour, but Maz wasn’t giving any culinary secrets away.

Little Gary took an early lead and I secretly wanted him to win. Although he has left the Cats, I cannot dislike him. After all, he is an Ablett and he helped deliver the drought breaking flag in 2007 and backed up again in 2009. He won a Brownlow, a few All Australians and a couple of Cargi Greeves Medals along the way. How can you hate someone who has brought you so much joy?

The cameras flashed to Tom Hawkins. What a stellar season the young fella had. A breakout year. Jenni, who I’m certain harbours a secret crush on the Tomahawk, was sitting at home with the kids. I’m sure she would have been very happy at this point.

By the halfway point of the count, I was onto my third plate. I had been fasting all week in anticipation. I was in great eating form tonight. I was the James Bartel of eating, in and under, take whatever is dished out and just keep ploughing through.

By the time young Jobe Watson had streeted ahead, we were onto the after dinner sweets… a traditional box of Cadbury Favourites… which was demolished very quickly. I’m pleased that they have now added the Mint Aero bar into the mix.

It’s nights like this that live on forever in your memory, great friends and family, watching, analysing, and reminiscing about the great times we have had playing and watching football and loving our teams. In our lives, the key moments and key people in them are intrinsically woven around football and our memories are so much stronger because of it.

At the end of the night, Penny and James made the biggest killing. Maz was down a whole dollar while I was the biggest loser.

Driving home after midnight, Penny and I talked about the Blues and Cats chances in 2013. She is still disappointed about Rattens departure and the way the Blues treated him but she is excited about having Malthouse on board.

Me, I’m delighted about the next generation of young Cat kids coming through the ranks that just won the VFL Premiership yesterday. The window just might be opening up again.

I thought back on the night… another football inspired family event to savour.

Jobe Watson won the Brownlow. He seems like a really nice kid.

The tradition continues…

About Nic Pavlou

A lover of all things beautiful in the world...a Matthew Scarlett defensive run, a Darren Millburn floating mark, an Andrew Mackie long bomb goal and anything Stevie J conjures up!


  1. Really fantastic story! I love how you write.

    The best part was about the Mint Aero bar…
    Great job!!!!


  2. Nike Pavlou. says

    Very good Nichols. But just remember who began this tradition – with Geelong on the one side and Carlton on the other. GO BLUES.

  3. Shane Kennedy says

    Anna has more insight into the game than the 7-8 “experts” that frequently talk at me during the Channel 7 coverage.

    The Mint Aero is a welcome addition, but will need a few more pre-seasons before it can oust Moro as the number 1 onballer.

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