Finding Joy Outside of Richmond

There’s a hundred other, much more urgent, things I could be doing while on the train right now going to Uni. I’ve got two interviews to transcribe (one for Uni, another for someone else, which is even worse), notes to cram before a cadet test today (fun fact – there are 41 Federal and Victorian ministers, and amongst them is Martin Foley, who has FIVE portfolios – how on earth does he ever get anything done?), and five or six podcasts to catch up on that I’ve been neglecting because of the aforementioned transcribing.

But today’s my birthday, and so I’m celebrating my quarter-life crisis by writing what I want to write. Taylor Swift, in her infinite wisdom, said that at 22, people are “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time”. This seems apt because that’s how I feel about football at the moment. Plus I’m 22 today.

My beloved Tigers have slumped to 2 and 4, and seem to have reverted to the early days of Dimma’s reign. I’m doing a project at the moment in which I chose to look back at a week in the sport section of the newspapers. I chose the week of 5-11 April 2010, and found that Dimma was “vowing to not change his approach”, and the Tigers were turning the ball over more than keeping it. They’d just been thumped by the Bulldogs. Things hadn’t changed so much that it was almost laughable.

And so I look elsewhere for my football joy. A friend recently said that he didn’t like sport because there weren’t any storylines or plots, like movies or tv shows. I tried in vain to explain that that was actually the essence of sport, that was why people kept coming back – the ongoing stories, the stories within stories, the heroes, the villains, the judges (umpires) and jury (media and fans). So these are some of the elements of the grand story of football that have given me joy this year:

1. GWS
Ignoring the fact that in two years, this will be an AFL-created monster that will more than likely go on to win multiple premierships while consigning the likes of Richmond and Carlton to another rebuild because the last one was severely compromised, GWS are exciting. These are young boys (topped up by a few older stars) who have suffered loss after humiliating loss in their short careers. And they just beat the reigning premiers, the bullyboys of the comp who they could soon replace. A possible changing of the guard? (also I am so sick of Hawthorn winning everything).

2. Bob Murphy
I’ve loved Bob for a long time now. An ill-fated sojourn into the world of fantasy football, maybe a good six years ago now, saw me pick a then-Robert Murphy, who proved to be a mainstay in an absolute disaster of a team (in my defence, Jack Ziebell and Shaun Higgins are now stars). I’ve followed his career with interest ever since, but it was his columns in ‘The Age’ that won me over. He writes with passion and whimsy, and can simultaneously build a picture and cut to the core of the absurdities of football. Now he’s captain, and the Bulldogs have built a season to be envied out of a club that was gutted at the end of last year.

3. The Bulldogs
Continuing with the Doggies theme, I’ve loved seeing how the Bulldogs have caused upset after upset (last round being the exception). I love watching the pace of Lin Jong, the strength of Marcus Bontempelli, and the cool head of Matthew Boyd. Will Minson has been a favourite of mine since I had an Indigenous Studies class with him at Melbourne Uni. The lambs are becoming lions. Richmond, this is how you do a rebuild. Take note.

4. Cory Gregson
My mum’s a Geelong supporter, so I watch a lot of the Cats’ matches with her, and this little guy has stood out a mile. Being of decidedly below-average height myself, I always have a soft spot for the little guys of the AFL (who are still miles taller than me, I might add). Gregson was an outstanding gymnast who won under-age national titles. In his second game, he tackled Aaron Sandilands, and brought him to ground. On Friday night, he kicked three goals, including the sealer, in his sixth game. He’s gutsy, and he doesn’t give up.

5. Carlton
I know this one might reek of sour grapes (do they actually smell?), but I wouldn’t be a true Richmond supporter if I didn’t take at least a smidgeon of schadenfreude out of the disaster of Carlton’s season. When Richmond is doing badly, you want Carlton to be doing worse. And they are. It’s made even better by the fact that Mick Malthouse is coaching them, a man who treats journalists with complete and utter disdain (granted, Mark Stevens probably deserves it given some of the idiotic “statements-posed-as-questions” he utters). I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

About Sarah Black

I'm a freelance sports journalist, primarily covering AFLW for AFL Media, but I have a passion for all sports. (Except rugby. Someone needs to explain the point of that game to me.) Having never grown past 5 foot tall, I've given up my dream of being the first professional dual netball/football player and I'm doing the next best thing - writing about it.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Happy Birthday, Sarah, and good luck with your career. You certainly have the writing skills, and I suspect that you also have the nose for a story.
    I like your approach too, it’s a matter of taking delight where we can. The great players, brave teams, the triumphs over adversity by individuals and collectives, they’re the stuff of magic.
    As for your dissing my mob, well we Blues probably deserve it, even though I personally have tried to avoid being obnoxious in the good times – there are plenty of my fellow-Blues who don’t mange that grace.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    No story-lines or plots in sport? I think your friend needs a crash-course in Almanackery 101.
    The reason I latched on to the Almanac three years ago was it combined my passion for writing about the Bulldogs with my interest in writing plays. I find it almost impossible to write a ball by handball by kick account of a match without including the story behind the particular match I’m watching. There’s always a plot to be found somewhere.
    Nice to see a couple of Bulldog stories in your top five. Hope the Bulldogs live up to your expectations and the Tigers can turn it around.
    Happy birthday and you”re not even close to a quarter-life crisis.

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Great piece, Sarah. I really appreciate your scanning view of the footy horizon … and your choices of landmarks too! Dare I suggest (heathen Sydney-sider!) that 22 may be still young enough to hop teams!! The sensitivity and intelligence this article suggests feels like it deserves better.

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Great piece, Sarah. I really appreciate your scanning view of the footy horizon … and your choices of landmarks too! Dare I suggest (heathen Sydney-sider!) that 22 may be still young enough to hop teams!! The sensitivity and intelligence this article suggests feels like it deserves better. Happy birthday!

  5. E.regnans says

    Happy Birthday Sarah.
    Nice use of train time.
    Love the way you pick the positive stories.
    The world is full of them.
    (But I guess it can be a small trick to remember to look for them.)

    Taylor Swift is an underrated philosopher.

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