Empty crowd has a silver lining

by Jamie Simmons

The burdens of my beloved Lions 0-7 season status are as obvious as they are many. Not

least of all the whimsical barbs I’m obliged to endure from my wife who insists that I,

patriotically adorned in club colours, would invite less derision by exiting the premises in a

kaftan and slippers. I feign amusement at the suggestion and shout my belated retort from a

moving vehicle.

One of the few perks of the destitute supporter, however, become quickly apparent as I near the uncharacteristically mist-laden streets surrounding the Gabba. The threat of rain and an eighth straight loss, mixed together in equal portions, make for a depressing cocktail. The once faithful have stayed away en masse.

The hardest hit demographic by this collective ‘no show’ belongs to the suburban entrepreneurs, with their impromptu parking lots. Placards are thrust at my windshield and the normally exuberant fees are slashed before my very eyes as my casual drive-by sparks a bidding war.

I make my choice and, thrilled in the knowledge that my $5 will now include a complimentary 20 point safety check, I set off on foot. Entering Wellington Road, the early season swell of expectant supporters that swept me along has eased to little more than a trickle into the gates. A scruffy young turnstile attendant shoots me a startled, almost apologetic  look that suggests he would have tidied up a little more if he’d only known I was coming. We complete our transaction, exchange nods and he leans back once more into his Sudoku.

It is now, entering the magnificent Gabba arena, bathed in a beautiful artificial glow that the magnitude of the members’ indifference, nay, intolerance is laid out before me. If only they had a dimming switch.

Enter stage left, Jonathan Brown, into this tragedy of almost Shakespearian proportions. The scaffolding removed from his shiny new, rust proof cranium that provides, if not hope of making the finals, at least a novel new place for him to put his fridge magnets. He explodes from the players race and the crowd erupts as only an undersized crowd can. With nervous conformity and sporadic, acoustically enhanced coughs that are momentarily drowned out by the thumping bass line of a passing Monaro.

What ensues carries all the hallmarks of an encounter between two teams short on confidence. Fumbles, miskicks and spilled chest marks. And that’s just during the warm up.

The umpire wobbles the ball skyward and basic skill errors abound. Both defences comfortably defuse each feeble thrust and parry. It’s like watching my grandparents wrestle.

Finally first blood is drawn, courtesy of an opportunistic snap from Boomer Harvey, and that’s already enough for some in the stands. North Melbourne have mustered as much momentum as one team possibly can in 6 minutes of football and the gentleman beside me leads his section of the crowd in a display of synchronised arm folding, eye rolling and a high pitched sermon that only dogs and humpback whales could possibly decipher. Such is the cynicism that attaches itself to a 0-7 win/loss ratio.

Quarter time beckons and right on cue the heavens open and the entire North Melbourne cheer squad seek refuge. Fitting neatly beneath a single plastic poncho.

There are highlights. Irishman Pearce Hanley revels in conditions bound to promote home sickness. Bryce Retzlaff hacks a freak goal out of mid air and Drew Petrie takes a text book hanger that belies the appalling conditions. The break neck transitions that populate the modern game have taken the night off and the good old fashioned slog, two sides just having a dip, is back. And so is the coaches spray. After a 50 metre penalty and resultant goal to Brown that puts the Lions back in touch, Brad Scott summons Scott McMahon to the bench for a televised blast down the phone line that would curdle the blood of even the most stoic telemarketer.

The ¾ time huddles are an exercise in motivation for both teams. Coach Scott leads his young playing group, Moses style, over to the Kangaroo Cheer Squad, only to find the Promised land, in this case, has ducked out momentarily for a pie. The Lions huddle is positive too. I know because I can hear most of it and I’m up on the second tier.

Unfortunately for the Roos their “Hearts to Hearts” are still in the contest but the run has gone from their legs.

Another 50 metre penalty gifted goal to the reconstructed Robo-Brown puts the game beyond a gallant North. The siren sounds and small pockets of Brisbane supporters begin to gather in confused, open mouthed clumps. Mercifully the scoreboard kindly displays the words to the club song for fans with long term memory loss.

I bound back to my vehicle hoping to catch the post game wrap on AM radio and wave a jubilant farewell to my new parking valet friend, through a freshly squeegeed windshield.

All is right in my world for another week. The car is running beautifully, it’s cold outside but I’m snug inside the Maroon, Blue and Gold, that I just can’t wait to model for the wife.

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.


  1. Ben Footner says

    ‘like watching my grandparents wrestling’ – love it!

  2. David Downer says

    Plenty of gold nuggets in here Jamie, nice work!


  3. I am imagining the need for sunglasses as the artificial light reflects off the rain-slickened seatsat the Gabba. A fond memory of the early days…

    Very enjoyable read Jamie!

  4. Tim O'Pray says

    Tim O’Pray here, longtime reader, first time responder. This is the first game of the season me and my partner, Kylie Simmons have missed. Divo’d I missed Brownie’s comeback. Go Lions, won’t miss another game.

  5. John Butler says

    A hoot Jamie.

  6. Adam Muyt says

    Jamie, great stuff, lots of little gems. Particularly like your panel beating read of JBs new head: ”The scaffolding removed from his shiny new, rust proof cranium….a novel new place for him to put his fridge magnets’.
    Yes, a much better Sunday and Monday this week for us tortured Lions supporters going through with Voss and his ‘stick-with-me-I’m-rebuilding-the-list-after-I-fucked-it-up’ phase.

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