Carn the NAFFS

My next-door neighbour loves footy, but he is that most singular of beasts – he doesn’t follow a club.

When he first told me this he qualified it with, “I don’t care who wins, I just want to see a good game’’.

Obviously he is part of a minority, but an objective observer must in all honesty wonder why.

After all, not many players, coaches and administration staff remain with the one club throughout the career and an even smaller number would have won a guernsey, in whatever capacity, with the outfit they had supported since childhood.

Yet the vast majority of fans stick with their team through thick and thin. To even contemplate switching allegiance is to toy with something not discussed in polite society.

We have all met folk who shamefacedly admit they used to follow such and such, but then …. `I moved to Geelong’. Oh yeah, sure.

It looks especially bad when their previous team was a perennial cellar dweller.

No-one bats an eyelid when someone changes spouse, career or address, but if they change clubs they’re likely to elicit a facial expression indicating they are truly beneath contempt.

The turncoat will slither away and resolve to keep mum in future when the vexed question of who they follow is posed.

But, in the main, fans follow the same team their entire lives. It’s probably just as well, for the AFL bean counters rely on this unswerving loyalty to keep their coffers full.

Just imagine the consternation if for example, a huge swag of the once working class but now well-heeled black-and-white army downed weapons and deserted to the economy black-and-gold brand.

Or, to really stretch the bounds of credibility, if the fans of the beleaguered  Bombers came down to earth and decided as one to paint the town red-and-blue.

The demon-possessed horde would have the Windy Hill accountants scurrying for yet another messiah. James may yet be that, or perhaps he’s just a naughty boy? Time will tell.

But there will be no mass desertion. Fans remain amateurs while the hierarchy has for some time been unashamedly professional. Some or even many of them may love the game, but it is married to an equally great passion for money. It’s the way of the world, they say, we must have money to ensure the game’s future.

To be an amateur was once thought to be something admirable – someone who did something purely for the love of it. Now it is regarded as somehow second-rate. “Bit of an amateur effort there mate.’’

Love is not quite enough any more, they argue. And they have a point – full-time sportspeople are of course more accomplished, better-trained, in a word more professional than their amateur counterparts.

It says something about the human condition that decades or even generations after fans, or more likely their forefathers, forsook their ancestral inner-suburban homelands some mysterious link remains.

But let’s call a spade a spade – at worst it’s mere sentimentality or at best nebulous tradition – one that the AFL blatantly exploits, but which is really in this day and age just another brand.

Unfortunately in the process fans have become just another commodity to be factored in before the ever-important bottom line.

Well maybe now is the time to concentrate on the real bottom line, the one us benighted amateurs, the long-suffering, mere lovers of the code have firmly in our sights – the game.

For too long have we struggled to secure seats at home-and-away games let alone finals, been hit with astronomical prices for food and drink, sat bemused by the ceaseless merry go round of coaches, players and officials and been nonplussed by constant rule changes.

The solution is to adopt my neighbour’s stance and become non-aligned fans. At the height of the Cold War the non-aligned nations were a significant player on the world stage eschewing as they did the claims of the two big boys on the block – the West and the Soviet bloc.

This refusal to take sides really got up the noses of the Yanks and the Ruskies. It can be argued the non-aligned nations didn’t achieve much, but at least they made a stand, whereas all we have to do is sit in it – if we can secure or afford tickets.

Non-aligned footy fans or NAFFS could attend matches and watch the proceedings with a truly unbiased eye. They could applaud good play and groan at mistakes no matter by whom. They could also closely scrutinise the draw, rule changes and indeed everything pertaining to OUR game.

C’arn the NAFFS bedecked in their hues of grey!

A bit of a joke? It’s not as funny as seeing the world in black and white.






About Phil de Bong

Hi, I am one of a legion of subeditors unloaded in recent years. Before working at News I made a name for myself as a sports journo in regional WA in the 90s, (man that was a long time ago!), where I twice won the AJA award for best yarn. Now, I am back writing.


  1. Double take! Is black and white being Collingwood if so I agree- go the NAFFS!

  2. Very amusing. I also enjoy the reference to the Pies. Makes for a very good read

  3. Brilliant and true and the slam at Collingwood is forever appreciated!!!

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