Round 1 – Brisbane v Collingwood: Family 53

Gate 7 Section 53 Row JJ Seat 513. For 6 hours of 11 weekends of every year, this is home, my sanctuary, albeit a loud and at times raucous one.

The 7 month hiatus between seasons has been welcomed in some ways. It’s provided me just enough time to finish digesting the pie I ate in Round 21 of last year but I am looking forward to seeing some old friends tonight. Many of them and I go back the 18 years I’ve lived in Brisbane but most of whom I’ve never shared a single word with.

They’re a family of sorts. In some ways I prefer them to the clan I left scattered around the leech infested foothills of southern Tasmania, all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I loved driving mum down to the panel beaters fortnightly to get the dents knocked out of her helmet again (I don’t know why she insists on taking public transport), it just felt like time for a change.

There’s no expectation with these guys. All we share is a little space and time.

There are no awkward moments of feigned appreciation at hopelessly inappropriate gifts over Christmas (though in my defence, a foot spa IS a perfectly acceptable present. How was I to know that Nan’s Lean-To doesn’t have power points?)

Nobody here cares if I turn up late or even turn up at all. There will be no Inquisition into my level of physical conditioning and nobody judges me too harshly for the company I keep. There might be a subtle sideways glance should they favour a conflicting scarf but up here in the stands I am free to assume exclusion from cross examination over the validity of a relationship or the accompanying enquiries over hourly rates.

I offer a casual nod and a “G’day” when I enter, nothing more and even this carries no obligation on my part.

We all don the Gold membership caps as a shared symbol of our long term loyalty, like wedding rings. I have pondered, somewhat excitedly, about what happens at 20 years. We’ve all worn the merchandise embroidered with: Bronze, Silver and now Gold. What’s next I wonder? What’s more expensive than Gold these days? I guess that leaves either diamonds or petrol I suppose.

Some of these people have been with me from my inaugural game here:

There’s John Juan (first name real, surname fictional) whom I’ve watched grow from a pimply young Lothario into a strapping young Casanova, engrossed in many of the accompanying relationships that have played out in front of all of us around him to see. Whether slowly devouring a new love interest like she were a perfumed Kool Mint, forsaking the game before him or slouching his way through another protracted solitude that inevitably followed, he is very much a man with a heart fastened firmly to his sleeve and eyes fixed intermittently to the game.

There’s Stutter Gran who only speaks in short, monosyllabic sentences such as: “Quick, quick”, “Run, run” or “Kick it, kick it!” It wasn’t quite the same without her concise insights last year when she and her permanently sedate husband went missing for a few games. She would eventually return mid-season, more reserved and alone. I fear I know why and it makes me a little sad.

Next is Killorn, not a nickname his actual surname. We used to work at the same company many years ago. He still wears the Lions jumper we bought him as a farewell gift. That was seven years and twice as many kilos ago. He is nothing if not determined in his continued wearing of the jersey. Either that or he’s given up on being able to remove it without the aid of an oxy welder. The once proud lion has been stretched into what appears to be a flat yellow caterpillar. When those seams eventually do give way, two things are certain: 1) Those at ground zero are in for quite a show and 2) It won’t be a beautiful butterfly that emerges.

There’s the Armanis in all things designer from their shoes and glasses, through to their thermos and throw rugs. These blokes are very close friends. Always giggling at each other’s jokes and forever grooming one another. They are extremely nice, well presented, middle aged men who I can only assume just haven’t met the right girls yet. Hang in there guys, it’ll happen.

My old sparring partner Barossa, whom I’ve mentioned before, is bound to return. So called given his impressive collection of whines. He continues not to understand many of the modern game’s nuances, like the switch or possession football but as annoying as he can be (such as praising or berating long since retired players that force me into corrections):

Barossa: “Notting’s done nothing again.”

Me: “Yes, hasn’t had a kick at this level for about 4 years now!

Or clinging to old indiscretions like a disgruntled girlfriend: “Good to see you spoil that one Merrett!” (Referencing a failed decision to try and outmark Shane Mumford in the goalsquare up here…about 6 seasons ago!), he’s always there win or lose, rain or shine. We shared a row to ourselves late in the 3rd quarter of Brisbane vs Geelong 2013, once the deficit reached 52 points and would later share a passionate embrace when an Ash McGrath bomb from beyond 50 metres would steal the game from the Cats after the siren.

Down to my right sits The Andersons (I’m unsure what their surname is but given they are constantly angry, it just feels right). His hair and moustache loan him a certain Stalinesque appearance which is wonderfully complimented by his cheerless disposition. They turn disapprovingly in unison every time a child within a 2km radius dares to exist and spend their down time shouting abuse at pictures of kittens, or at least I imagine they do.

Do not confuse them with The Ticks however. The Ticks are happy enough and love the game day experience as much as anyone except for the curious penchant they have for attaching themselves permanently to a player that they have elected to despise for as long as he shall carry the golden lion on his chest. They clung to Justin Leppitsch from my first year in 97, through his multiple All Australian selections and right up until his final lap in an opened topped car. Jarred Brennan would assume the mantle for several seasons after but they’ve had a tougher time of it lately, trialling players like Banfield, Sherman and Golby but their inability to garner regular selection has challenged their cause in recent times. They are an eloquent, well educated couple for whom I envisage a Nobel Prize once they finally get around to publishing their Theory of Negativity.

Sure, there have been times I’ve wanted a divorce and toyed with the idea of seeing other sections. I even flirted briefly with the idea of a corporate box but like most of my other attempts at flirtation it ended with polite refusal in the face of insufficient funds and a face full of capsicum spray.

Besides, the truth be known, I’d miss them all.

I’m here now, settling once more into place for Round One. I quickly survey the crowd. Stutter Gran has a young friend in toe, perhaps a Granddaughter, and that makes me happy. All others are present and accounted for too.

The umpire’s arm goes up. Whistle! We scowl collectively as the Collingwood army try to form complete sentences. We are one again.

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. Grand. You brought a (knowing) smile to my dial. Thanks Jamie.

  2. Lots of funny observations Jamie. Enjoyed this immensely. Great stuff.

  3. Entertaining read Jamie – makes me pine for the days of Vic Park and incomplete sentences.

    It was like Cheers; the ground where everyone (in the vicinity) knew your name or your quirky personality trait.

    The most fascinating one was Anthony Rocca who came to watch his brother as a young teen and grew up and up before our eyes until he was required on the other side of the fence. The extended Rocca family’s wooden bench seat was under more load stress than the Bolte Bridge.

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