Calling all Nemeses (Any serious offers considered)

Football has taught me many things over the years: “Talent alone will not guarantee success”, “The player’s bar is no place for a man with a change purse” and “Wash the Deep Heat from your hands before approaching the urinal”, are amongst some of the more profound ones I’ve collected along the way.

I offer up another one I fear my cherished Lions continue to overlook and, in some small part, to their accumulating peril: Rivalries sell tickets or, if you will, bad blood is good for business.

Success in the AFL is intended to be cyclical so I understand that sometimes it’s our turn to take a step backwards before going forward but with the posting of an 8th consecutive financial loss looming large this year we have officially started moonwalking; and directly into the path of a bus marked Bankruptsville.

As a result, one of the elephants in the boardroom (there are a couple… so not quite a herd just yet) has sat, quietly thumbing through the magazines for so long he’s offered to pay rent. That pesky pachyderm, is the need for a fully functioning rivalry in The Sunshine State. It won’t fix the problem in the way that 40,000+ members each year will but it would certainly go some way toward filling the hole.

We all know the last half of 2013 held more than its fair share of distractions for Brisbane: the frenzied search for a new coach; the protracted squabbling at administration level; and the mass exodus of young talent, but with most of those issues put to bed or given a later curfew, it’s time to hang out the Help Wanted sign and begin interviewing for the position of Arch Enemy. Success on the field goes a long way toward adding to the bottom line but unless you happen to be Manchester United, it’s seldom a constant. Dyed in the wool rivalries do seem to have a way of enticing patrons to the ground, no matter where you are on the ladder.

Talk to any West Coast or Docker fan about the other and there is bona fide disdain there, similarly Port Adelaide and Adelaide. Power fans still feel cheated that a team with no tangible history “Buzz Aldrined” them out of pioneering status by leaping out the module first into the euphoria of a national game. They may have declared a momentary armistice over the re-birth of the Adelaide Oval as a home to football but with all the pomp and pageantry having waned it is time once more for hostilities to resume. A rivalry willingly fuelled by the media and fans alike, one that starts in the stands on the weekends and continues on into the queue at Centrelink the following day. Croweaters will mobilise all available brethren into sitting down around the family table to plan their holidays, weddings and interventions around the release of the fixture each year, ensuring the weekend of “The Showdown” remains sacred.

Likewise, talk to a Collingwood enthusiast (albeit from behind the relative safety of Perspex during visiting hours) and they will tell you they harbour a genuine pride in the “Us against Them” mentality. They can’t get enough “traditional” rivals and it goes a long way toward their impressive membership base and brings opposition supporters through the gates in droves. The Pies could be challenging Carlton or Essendon for the Premiership, the Wooden Spoon or at Hungry, Hungry Hippos; it wouldn’t matter, rest assured that crowds will ensue.

Our problem is twofold: Such things can take time, sometimes generations, to build so all the more reason to start now. Even more problematic though is that nobody up here hates The Gold Coast Football Club! Tell somebody up here you hate The Suns and they look at you like you’ve just sucker punched a kitten and offer the confused, head-tilting visage of a Labrador you’ve feigned throwing a tennis ball for.

This isn’t going to work if they’re going to be every Queenslander’s second team.

I took an impromptu straw poll of the AFL endorsing staff at my workplace and found that:

* 100% held no immediate disdain for The Suns.

* 90% had no idea who I was, and

* 40% threatened to call the police if I didn’t stop peering under the door to their cubicle immediately

What we need is an incident, a catalyst, our own version of the under arm delivery. Trevor followed big brother’s orders that day and the shockwaves are still felt across the Tasman to this very day. Under overcast Melbourne skies, Trevor did what all good little brothers should do and did as he was told. And despite the constant ebbs and flows in interest from New Zealand sporting enthusiasts, there is scarcely a trans-Tasman contest in any sport that hasn’t benefitted from the actions of that fateful day.

GWS and Sydney already have theirs. The second that Buddy Franklin was poached from under them, advanced ticket sales were destined to rise as Giants fans settled on the idea of registering their disapproval in person.

It isn’t so much that nobody’s tried up here. It took a stately gentleman in Simon Black to attempt to ignite the fire when he suggested departing Lions Jared Brennan and Michael Rischitelli were “mercenaries” by chasing financial gain a few kilometres down the road. What should have seen both clubs trading verbal salvos in the lead up to their first big game instead lead to a frenzy of moustache twirling and courteous bowing as both camps tried to play down any misunderstanding.

Clearly this will have to come down to the fans and I’m happy to lead the charge. No more polite applause at games for the opposition. Nary a “Jolly good disposal that, eh what?” from me will be heard.

It shouldn’t be that hard. As far as cities go the Gold Coast is a strutting, preening, posing chunk of superficiality and you don’t have to walk far to see that. Every second person is a veritable Tupperware presentation on legs. Even their shadows have spray tans.

I’m not calling for the burning of effigies, the overturning of cars or the needless assault on shopfront windows before and after games. I’m talking about the building of a culture of mutual disdain, for the sake of the game up here. I’m talking about four hours of controlled aggression that starts with the elbowing past of anybody in the wrong coloured apparel at the ticketing gates.“Out of my way Grandma! Take your silly knitted scarf and inflatable cushion and move!” then if we, by some strange quirk of fate, happen to cross paths on the Monday, I’ll help you across the road and carry your groceries. Hell, I’ll put them away for you, dunk a biscuit and flick through your photo albums afterwards if that’s what you want but if this is going to work there can be no more furrowing of a brow before declaring “Oh, I can’t stay mad at you.”

No more nice. It shouldn’t matter that they’re new-ish to the competition. Do you think Melbourne fans are happy to watch Gold Coast & GWS put on exponential growth at this time?

You build rivalries by stirring in a generous spoonful of contempt. I remember tales of the Visitors rooms at Victoria Park and how they only offered cold showers. I seek a return to yester-year and as much as it kills me to say it, the Pies are the yardstick by which others should be measured. Our club should pump all its funding into state of the art home team change rooms whilst the Visitors rooms should have a single 40 watt light bulb dangling from an unplastered ceiling. They should be furnished with unemptied bins from the previous game, straw and sawdust flooring, milk crates for seating and lava lamps in each corner. And how about no gate at the end of the player’s race so they have to climb the fence to get onto the ground?

It’s a good place to start….And while I think of it…. “Q Clash?” Which Scrabble-playing, trainspotting genius came up with that? “Clash” is only marginally more soul stirring than “Fracas, ruckus or kerfuffle”. Seriously a “Clash” is what happens between my shirt and pants at formal functions. Civil War/ The Great Barrier Rift/War in the North/The Battle of Qld/The Sunshine War/Head to Head/Northern Supremacy are, by and large, better suggestions I like to think.

But why stop at one team? There are 16 other clubs in the league we need to make hate us and it’s past time we enrolled our administration into the Eddie MacGuire school of Inter-Club Diplomacy. Better yet, perhaps it’s time to break the glass, it is an Emergency after all…..somebody get Warwick Capper on the phone stat!

About Jamie Simmons

Born in Melbourne, a third generation Fitzroy supporter, in 1972 before emigrating to Tasmania during The Great Broccoli Famine of 86. Leaving my island lodgings, largely at the request of locals, to settle once more on the mainland in 1997. These days living out a peaceful existance on the outskirts of Brisbane, where I spend most of my time serving as a fashion warning to others.

Comments

  1. Peter_B says

    Jamie, I suggest you get Brownie to finish off his career with a mega punch-on against Geelong in Round 23. A la his 2004 GF against Wakelin, but with a bit more Dave Grainger, Robbie Muir or Robbie Muir thrown in.
    I had a mate who biffed a bloke in an ACTAFL game at the end of his career. He refused to attend the Tribunal so they doubled his suspension. He said he didn’t care because he was retiring anyway. Set up a great inter-club rivalry for years to come.
    The Catmanac would be in a frenzy if he could take out Scott Selwood and Tomahawk for the finals.

  2. Peter the Mudie says

    I think WA’s team south of the Swan share a great deal with the relocated Fitzroy paddle pops – the rebranding debacle, coach assassinations and a host of other issues. But, then again, why would you want a biff up with your mates that suffered from the same lash? In my view, and in the time honoured tradition of almost every Fremantle supporter that I have known, you target the privileged set of corporate wankers up the road (i.e. WCE) – so stare down the Bruce Hwy comrade…..

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