Almanac Footy: Confessions of a Turncoat

I am a turncoat.


Can I say from the outset that nearing the age of 70, although I feel sure of my present feelings – and safe in the knowledge of how it happened – I cannot totally understand such a reversal in loyalty. If it had happened to someone else, I might even have been scathing. So, I will understand the waves of disgust and loathing the following might evoke. Perhaps we all spend our lives trying to figure out who we are.


Personality Trait (PT):  As much as it hurts, by every definition of a football follower I am a turncoat.


As a ‘ten-pound pom’ at the age of 7, some good-hearted Victorians took our family to a VFL game at the mighty MCG, then the sole home ground of the powerful Melbourne Demons.  The Red and Blues were in their heyday. Between 1955 and 1960, Melbourne finished top of the ladder in every season, winning five Premierships. I can still name nearly all their players.



The 1954 Melbourne side [Source: Demonwiki]


We weren’t to know then that when back-pocket player (they held their positions in those days) Neil ‘Froggy’ Crompton kicked his only goal of that season, a low floater which somehow evaded half a dozen players, and won the 1964 Grand Final, it would begin ‘The Drought’.



Melbourne’s ‘Froggy’ Crompton [Source: Cromptons of East Yorkshire]


At our small local primary school, I proudly wore No 6 –Demon’s winger Frank ‘Bluey’ Adams (although I’m not sure I knew his first name then). The only kids in that school who we didn’t understand were those who didn’t play footy (or netball) at every recess and lunchtime break in season, or wore their footy colours to school, or – unbelievably – didn’t follow a footy team. Sadly, they were ostracised (I am ashamed to say) and often spent their breaks playing in the sandpit.



Melbourne’s ‘Bluey’ Adams [Source: Australian Sports Museum]


PT: When one is young, one is very likely to follow a successful Football Team. I did and so did most of my schoolmates. I suspect they are now the mostly successful Baby Boomers, criticised harshly for their Range Rovers and ski lodges.


I moved to South Australia to go to university, and my new friends (IJH my closest) took me to a Sturt v Port Adelaide game at the Unley Oval (Sturt’s home ground where it was reported that older female fans sat knitting in their grandstand seats, like those at the French Revolutionary guillotine executions). Sturt were in their heyday (seven premierships in eleven years, including five in a row between 1966 and 1970) and my friends got on board.


But I had changed.


PT: A tendency to feel sorry for underdogs and those disadvantaged and to support them.


I love football and became a Foundation member of Port Power – went to all of their games and lost my Melbourne Demon passion. But what has surprised me is that the Demon sentiment went completely. They are not my second team. I don’t believe in that.


PT: I am clearly somewhat ignorant and one-eyed and only have the emotional intelligence to follow one team at a time.


My family back in Victoria don’t understand me. Any chance of an inheritance has probably gone. My 92 year old Mum (aka Bette Thurlow) bought me a Melbourne membership this year. She obviously still thinks I can be saved. If anyone wants a new blue and red scarf and sticker, let me know!


My brother Pete in Victoria rang me when Port went Premiers in 2004. He wondered how it felt to go top. He had decided not to go to Melbourne games because he was sure that his attendance made them lose.


Even on Saturday night he turned his TV off when the Bullies were three goals ahead and went to bed, certain that his beloved Demons had ‘stuffed up’ again. Fortunately, during the last minutes of the game, he dared to look at his phone, and got out of bed to enjoy the celebrations.


PT: I do have some empathy.


I rang my Mum to enjoy her euphoria. We host a GF party here annually (all Power people) and the whole group were barracking for ‘Andy’s Mum’s Team’. We remember how it felt. It’s just the best feeling.


To all of you who are savouring the daily write-ups in the newspapers and can’t get enough of the TV commentaries, who have watched the replay already many times over, congratulations and my deepest respect for your loyalty. It is a fairy tale and glorious drama.


PT: I have discovered that I have an irritant in my make-up.


But the talk of a Melbourne dynasty is premature. Assistant coaches will be poached. Fitness guru Darren Burgess will be at the Crows. There will be injuries, retirements and your playbook analysed and copied. It happened to us. There are 17 hungry teams out there who want that Cup badly. Some (like mine) are bearing scars. Their only redemption is success. Sometimes the fear of failure is hugely motivating.


Enjoy the moment, Demon supporters, Mum, Pete, Sandy, Tom and especially those interstate Demons who remained loyal, unlike me. You deserve every bit of it, but in my experience it’s something like the share market, where you go up on an elevator…and down in a lift. Happy celebrating! Now for the trade period…




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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Born on Guernsey in the Channel Islands, my parents migrated to this wonderful country when I was 7. As teachers, my wife and I ‘worked’ in some pretty SA and Queensland tourist locations and ended up in the Barossa Valley, where I enjoy gardening, socialising, reading, writing, sport, travel, handyman projects and wine. Since retiring I’ve written 3 published biographies about Kieran Modra, Rolph and Marg Mayer and Margaret Ames. I started a Valley social cycling and coffee-ing club called the ‘Sprocket Rockets’ After some success at hockey, volleyball, tennis, golf, Church picnic sprints and the ‘Henley on Todd’ regatta, I’ve settled down to walking, cycling, Fantasy Football and watching sport, particularly AFL and cricket. A Queenslander described me as an ‘Ex-Pommie, ex-Victorian who barracks for Port Adelaide’ so it can only be up from there!


  1. As you say, there goes the inheritance – convicted by your own keyboard. And there I was all these years thinking that you were an old sentimentalist with a (small) place reserved in your heart for the Demons! I hope Betty and Pete are lapping it up. At least I now know who you’d support if Port ever played Melbourne in a Grand Final. On a different point, the voice of cold, hard reality at the end of your piece rings all too true in the commercialised industry that footy has (sadly) become.

  2. Andy Thurlow says

    This article seems out-of-place, like a Bulldog supporter at a Melbourne Demons celebration. As pimply and long-haired uni students, Ian, we often talked idealistically about cutting through the nonsense, so while this prose might seem to border on narcissism, I’m simply here trying to understand what is going on. I am a sport tragic and was a Demon supporter through and through – and so why is there little evidence of sentimentality? On the other hand, I’ve just finished reading Grant (and Janna) Lock’s ‘Shoot Me First’ – a biography on their 24 years living in the hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan. To try to imagine what is going on there now makes my confession about a switch in a sporting team’s allegiance seem like a definition of trivia. Nevertheless, thank you for taking the time to read it. And I am enjoying the red and blue euphoria rising from this terrific website. That feeling is why we take our sporting allegiances so seriously.

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