Father’s Day

It is a tough job being a Dad. Nothing can prepare you for the 24/7 demands of the role. You ride an emotional rollercoaster and are challenged on a daily basis. When curve-balls are thrown you just grit your teeth and find a way to adapt. No textbook or fancy MBA to guide the way. We all enlist, roll up our sleeves and just try and get the job done as best as we can. For all the trials and tribulations the job brings, there are far more positives than negatives. I love being a Dad. Every now and then there is a moment that stops me in my tracks and delivers a joy that I once thought didn’t exist. Yesterday I had such a moment.

My Father’s Day had started out like any other day in Dodson HQ. At 6.15am Jack (aged 4) screeched ‘It’s morning time’, to awake me from my blissful slumber. The young man has the consistency of a Rooster and likes to let us, and quite possibly the whole of Bell Street, know that his day has started. Harry (aged 2) is a little slower out of the blocks. Quite often this involves a complex negotiation and bribery system before he will surrender his dummy and comforter. Even at this age you can see distinct differences in their little personalities.

Mrs D jumps out of the blocks with more spring than any of our Swimmers did in Rio. I hear chatting and giggles in the adjacent guest room. The pitter-patter of little feet on floorboards rings out. Jack vaults onto the bed like Sergey Bubka and thrusts a crudely wrapped parcel into my face. Out the corner of my eye I see Harry trying to climb the bed, he is struggling to get above base camp and Mrs D gives him a boost to reach the summit. Jack doesn’t even give me a chance to unwrap my present, as he tears into it like only a 4 year old can. A Sherrin for Dad! I am 38 going on 9. Happy days. Now I just need someone to surgically stretch my hamstrings and I’ll be able to roost it 50 metres, like the good old days. Harry opens gift number 2 and says ‘sockeeeys’ with an enthusiasm that perhaps the quality of the gift doesn’t warrant.

The Sherrin must be christened so we hatch a plan for the Dodson tribe to wander into the Melbourne afternoon sunshine in search of Goalposts. We have a few options. The nearby Yarraville Gardens is used for Auskick and junior football. It is my ‘home ground’ to go for a kick and run around like a has-been on a semi regular basis. A small ground, it is good for the ego as it is only about 100m end to end. My only chance at kicking a goal from close to the centre-square! A decade ago (pre Mrs D and kids) I actually played cricket here and nearly got run over by a car as I crossed the road to the change rooms, too busy swearing to look for traffic, after being caught behind when beaten by a bowler that made Kiwi trundler Chris Harris look sharp.

Option number 2 is Yarraville Oval – home of the Yarraville Seddon Eagles in the Western Region Football League. The real McCoy, with a grandstand and marked 50 metre-lines. A few months ago I wandered up to the ground to see the Eagles play and saw a guy who looked like Brian Lake with a few extra kgs, lining up for goal for the opposition. Turns out it was actually Brian Lake. Minutes later he was lying on the ground in agony, having I think slipped on the synthetic practice wickets situated next to the forward pocket. He must have thought he was still in the AFL as he laid on the ground waiting for first class medical treatment. Sorry mate, no medicabs in the WRFL. After a few minutes he picked himself up off the ground and limped to the bench, probably to be treated with a wet sponge and some magic spray.

Sophie throws up Option number 3 – Whitten Oval. I’ve driven past it a thousand times, yet never had a kick there. I guess I was always worried about some grumpy property steward emerging from the depths of the grandstand and telling me to piss off. Mrs D informs me that she has seen the public on the ground before and is pretty sure it is readily accessible to the public on non game or training days. I’m sold and we point the pale Blue Camry in the direction of the hallowed turf where EJ famously implored his players:

‘You’ve got to show me all the guts and determination you’ve got in your body. You’ve got to inspire me with this last quarter finish. You’ve been in front all day and you’ve got to stay there.’

We jump out of the car – each Dodson male with their own footy. Mrs D is like a Sherpa, carrying a nappy bag, spare coats, food, camera’s and a smile. She is letting me have my moment.

Having hosted the Women’s exhibition match last night, the ground is in great shape. The discarded bits of strapping tape on the turf tell you that a battle was recently fought. The AFL logo’s and 50 metre arcs are still freshly painted. This gives the grand old Whitten Oval a sense of occasion. You can feel the history in the old wooden bench seating in the stands, and the ground has a character that a modern oval simply can’t replicate. I glance across to the Doug Hawkins wing and picture his mullet flowing as he dodged and weaved in the 1980s. I glance to the forward-pocket and remember the Day Plugga kicked 16 straight against Fitzroy while playing for the Swans. The ground has balanced the tradition of old Footscray well with the modernised training facilities for today’s young Pups.

Jack heads straight for the centre-square. He has Ruckman DNA. I stand and stare for a moment as he hoists the ball slightly above his 4 foot frame, jumps 3 centimetres off the ground, and hits it to an imaginary rover. Pure joy. I stand still for a few seconds and just watch. I breathe. I take it in. My boy is happy, smiling and falling in love with the greatest game in the world. At that moment nothing else matters. I take it in and hope that I will always remember this day.

As a parent all you want is for your kids to be healthy and happy. In this moment Jack is the definition of it. I allow a rare moment to give myself a pat on the back.

Jack summons me to the centre-square and it is game on. At 4 he can nearly beat me on the outside for pace. I’ve got 85kgs on him so rely on my ‘muscle’ to break even in the contests. We playfully wrestle, laugh, and boot the Sherrin. My hamstrings ache, while his continue to grow. I try and teach as I say ‘clench your fist to handpass and don’t worry mate, the ball won’t hurt you’. 35 years ago my father was uttering those same words.

Harry picks up my new pill and is running like he stole something. I give a playful chase. He stars crying. I stop. He smiles. The sequence is repeated 42 times.

We spend close to an hour running, kicking and revelling in each-others company. I do not have a care in the world. We all take our turns kicking a goal. Harry engages in a Mexican stand-off with another nearby toddler, who has eyes from his mini Sherrin. The concept of sharing has not resonated with my little three-foot dictator. I exchange a wink with the other protagonists father. I suspect he is enjoying his day as much as I am.

We can almost smell the Roast Chook from Dodson HQ in Seddon and it is time to leave. Sophie Marshalls us for one last photo as I take a knee with the scallywags. A precious moment in time is captured – 3 Dodson males, each with Sherrin in hand. Today is Father’s Day.

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About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. The Emerald Hill Chronicle says

    Craig…that is a ripper yarn. Well done…as a father of two young adults I was in a moment transported back a decade and a half to my own experiences with then still malleable kids!

    Notwithstanding that, now is probably an appropriate time to remind you of the paternal obligation that you have to ensure that the footy energy of your boys remains perpetually channeled into a love of the Bloods. Anything less will represent an unacceptable return on time invested!

  2. Well done Craig. I really enjoyed your yarn. Footy, the kids and roast chook. There it is!

  3. craig dodson says

    No chance of any colours other than red and white getting a look in chris..thanks mickey, mrs D does a good chook!

  4. Cat from the Country says

    Lovely story.
    Please keep writing about your family and footy.
    Mrs D is a blessing, with three boys to take to footy?

  5. Cat from the Country says

    The ? was meant to be a smi,ing face, whic apparently is not allowed

  6. Yes, great stuff, Craig.
    Enjoy every minute, the time passes by so quickly.

  7. sophie dodson says

    Glad my call for a kick on whitten oval put such a smile on your face… and the roast chook was well received! Another great story Craig. Xx

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