Courtins, Cricket, Christmas – and another C word

After the fourth day’s play at the G, we drove through the rain-soaked streets of Melbourne to join the rest of the Courtin clan in Carlton. A sister was celebrating her birthday. There was much to celebrate and be thankful for – a year free of heartbreak or grief – and much to look forward to in the year ahead.

During the dinner at Tiamo very little was said about the cricket. Most of the Courtins and their partners have no interest in such a “boring game”. They just don’t understand how Marshall and I can possibly enjoy spending an entire day at the MCG – let alone five of them – year after year after year at the Boxing Day Test.

Every year for the past 36 odd years the ritual has been much the same. This time of the year for us is known in the family as Courtins, Cricket and Christmas, and some jokingly change the order of the three C’s – the one with the least letters, at the beginning! It is a time for celebration, a time for reflection and a time for gratitude. It is also, definitely, a time for cricket. It is also a time of year when I throw a spanner in the works – as is my wont sometimes, when it comes to sport – and this year was no different.

Since our Mum died – also 36 odd years ago – the Courtin Christmas has never been the same. The in-laws decided it was time for a change. Even though they loved the Courtin Christmas, they wanted it spent with their own families. Change can be difficult for some, especially when it involves sport. By “some”, I mean me! The decision, way back then, was to have the Courtin Christmas on Boxing Day, when all 40+ of the clan could indulge all over again. Boxing Day! You must be joking!

Sorry family. You know I don’t eat turkey, or ham, or pork, and I’m certainly no foodie, and you know I rarely touch the booze anymore (so I’m not missing out on anything in the culinary sense) and you know only too well that I drive all the way from Sydney (and Brissie for 22 years) for not just the Courtins and Christmas but for the cricket, so, I’m really sorry, but I don’t really like these new arrangements. I hope you’ll all forgive me, but I’m not missing the first day of the Test – no way. How about we drive down to Ocean Grove (where the sister with 7 kids and 17 grand kids lives and where the celebration takes place) after the day’s play, and join in with you all then? It wasn’t really a question!

So, for the 36th odd year, that’s what we’ve done.

By the time we arrive at the sister’s house (the traitor in the family: born a Swan, now a Cat) they’re all complaining of too much food and drink, and that next year they’ll cut back from four turkeys to three, three hams to one, and maybe leave out the pork altogether. As they see SWANZ approaching, the knowledgeable ones in the extended family prepare themselves for the cricket talk. The others, always politely, ask: “How was the cricket?”

The answer is pretty much the same: “Good” or “Not so good”.

No point in elaborating.

The same thing happened when we arrived at Tiamo for my sister’s birthday celebrations after the fourth day’s interrupted play. “How was the cricket?” Whenever I attempt a reply, I can tell from their puzzled faces that they have no idea what I’m talking about. One Courtin partner even asked “Who’s winning?” The only brother in the family (who does understand) smiled a little smile and replied to his inquiring partner “There’s no such thing in cricket”. We tried explaining, but on deaf ears.

So, imagine how difficult it was after Friday’s incredible performance, to explain that Australia actually WON the match, instead of the anticipated draw. “Oh, that’s nice” followed by “What’s a draw?”

It was an amazing Test Match. We were there in the Ponsford Stand for every ball bowled and every run scored. And we loved every minute of it.

The other C word now comes into play. We head off home tomorrow. Our 2016 was near-perfect, the main sadness coming when the Swans lost the all-important game of the year. I want 2017 to be different, when the conversation is about footy. I want for us to continue in good health in 2017, but I imagine the next few weeks/months will test us. Marshall was told a week before Christmas that the tumour in his lung is cancerous and that he needs a major operation, soon. That will be happening on Friday, 13th January, which Marshall believes is a GOOD day. He is being positive. I am trying to be.

And, he has assured me that he’ll be fighting fit in time for the first Swans game of the year, on the 25th of March!

In 2017 I want for the three C’s to be the heading for my post-Christmas story, and for the other C to definitely be a thing of the past.


About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Cat from the Country says

    Thinking of you and Marshall at this traumatic time. Do hope that 2017 will see great improvements for Marshall. (and my Cats)

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Jan, love your dedication to the Boxing Day Test! And still finding time to visit your family, even though a drive to Torquay is involved. Great stuff!

    All the best to Marshall, like his positivity, look forward to hearing about him being in full fitness at the first Swans game.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    I have the same trouble talking to my relatives about footy. I stayed at my daughter’s place after the Almanac launch, pretty fired-up and ready to show off my copy of the Doggies Almanac. They were interested in the venue at Percy Jones’s pub in North Fitzroy, but the yawning and stretching and talk of getting up early started when I showed them photos and referred to a couple of articles I had written.
    It was the usual reaction I was expecting but I persisted because I was so proud of being part of the Doggies Almanac. So before they excused themselves to pour a night-cap and put the dog out, I read a few passages from the book to my captive audience…whether they liked it or not!
    Good luck to Marshall and will be thinking of him on January 13th.

  4. jan courtin says

    Thanks one and all.

    Happy and healthy 2017, and may the best team win in September!

  5. I enjoyed your Courtin Cricket Christmas Chronicle, Jan.
    All the very best to Marshall for his upcoming surgery.

  6. Stuart Hunter says

    Hi Jan. All the very best for you and all of the Swannies family in 2017. Will be thinking of Marshall on 13th Jan.

  7. jan courtin says

    Thanks for your best wishes for Marshall, Pete and Stuart, and I like the other C word: Chronicle, in that context, Pete.

    Go the bloods, Stuart!

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