Football in the Time of COVID: The Great Match



The poster for the big clash.



by O Tecnico


It was Tuesday the 17th of March. I found myself staring at the box of footy cards for season 2020 sitting freshly opened for sale on the counter of my local independent supermarket. This box started to emit a magical aura as I found myself and my thoughts drawn to it while waiting to be served. Often when waiting in line the mind wanders to the mundane events of daily life, nothing was quite so mundane anymore, new words had taken over the psyche, Pandemic, Covid19 and Social Distancing, these great unknowns at the time were the catalyst that piqued my interest in this box of shiny new cards.



Would the season still go ahead? Would this box of players be able to grace the field and rise up to the contest we were anticipating for season 2020?  ‘AFL teams 2020’ it said on the box, flashed with gold and the AFL blue, white and red livery….would there actually be any teams or games, I wondered. The government had just announced no gatherings of more than 100 people, the AFL had just delayed the announcement as to whether the season would start in two days’ time or even at all.



As my turn to be served came closer I decided to buy two packs, hey maybe these cards will be a lucky talisman I said to myself and if I buy them the season will start Thursday night and all will be well with the football world. I took the cards home with the rest of the shopping and placed them in a chosen place on the shelf next to my beloved Saints cap and scarf unopened, as a sort of offering to the football gods that we were all worthy and deserving for season 2020 to start because if we ever needed some good news and a piece of normality to hang onto this was it.



As we all remember, one day later on Wednesday the 18th at 8pm, the AFL announced that season 2020 would go ahead, with shortened quarters and in front of empty stadiums all teams would commence Round 1 starting with the Carlton v Richmond blockbuster at the G. I texted a few fellow fans and we shared the joy and a few good-natured sledges as footy was back and it had seriously taken on a new and comforting significance for us during these crazy times. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was off, all over, with the jaw-dropping announcement during the final game of Round 1 that the season would be postponed indefinitely.


On the Monday, I arrived home from work and took a seat in the backyard with a coffee and my thoughts. I reflected on how fortunate I was to still be employed, mentally ticked off how friends and family would be faring, how about my Saints, how did they give up a nearly 30 point lead at half-time and capitulate yet again, what is going to happen with the season and then I thought about the two packs of footy cards. I retrieved them from the altar I had created, still in the shiny packs, still factory sealed. Maybe I should open them up, is it possible to do the tarot with footy cards I thought, maybe it’s not a good omen to open them.



I stood the packs up on a shelf framed by stairs as I sipped my beverage and looked to them for guidance during these troubling times. It was then that I had an idea, I pulled out my phone and took a pic of the two decks sitting up in all their glory on the stairs and texted the image to a couple of mates, let’s call them Roy Boy and Top Cat. With a message “Lads 2 x unopened packs of cards…have a guess, 9 cards per pack I’ll open them after you submit your teams, team list of 20, before 8pm.” Most matched players wins.


Both replied within five minutes, Roy Boy already with his team list of 20, Top Cat soon after and then, the good-natured sledging leading up to a footy game of sorts was on. At a few minutes to 8pm the excitement was building, I could almost smell the goanna oil in the change-rooms and hear the coaches giving the boys a final rev up. Both team lists written out, photographed and posted. At 8pm “The Aggot” was held aloft, the siren sounded and we were away with the first pack opened. Of course this was all before we had heard of Zoom, so a pic was taken of the first pack of cards dealt Texas style and sent to the coaches of both teams.


One each was the cry… what a ding dong arm wrestle this was…. “Are you there Harry…yes Tommy this will go down to the wire…second pack about to be opened”…the ump / commentator texted .


A pic of the second pack sailed forward to both coaches, and we ended up with a draw, game over no further pack available….it was decided that the lads would hit the beach for some socially distanced salt water recovery on the Tuesday and we would have a blockbuster match on the Wednesday. It was touted as “The Unbeaten” and generated a flurry of emails, posters and general excitement from these great rivals and myself….footy of sorts was back.


The game was a blockbuster sell out, the chosen and most fitting venue Brunswick St Oval booked, a Wednesday night 8pm start locked in and three packs of cards with the third pack to be an extra time decider if it was all tied up at the final siren. How much more excitement could you want during the early days of COVID. The next two days saw a flurry of emails, both coaches rising to the contest, we were talking footy again, each offering a story, a memory of days gone by, tactics and players being analysed this was a welcome and wonderful escape from the new world of social distancing, home schooling and Government announcements that were currently rocking our world.


The 7:30pm deadline for submission of team lists arrived, once again the teams were written out and a pic sent to each coach. At 7:50 the commentator/ump texted “Brunswick St, perfect conditions attacking side is down the guts….defensive side grandstand wing… the ump will be paying the man in front…no sling tackles” and then at  8pm “The Unbeaten” got underway. Half time saw Top Cat in front 2 – 1. Roy Boy is renowned for his inspirational speeches and well-weighted sprays…what could he conjure up in the second half, it went down to the wire and at full time both teams were all locked up at 2 each. Extra Time was on the cards and so it was, the third pack was opened and it saw Top Cat run over the top of Roy Boy 5-4 in a hard fought contest. Roy Boy spat the dummy, he came around though and did congratulate Top Cat on his fine win.


We didn’t play again, however the lads did play a few games of dice footy. It was great fun while it lasted, it certainly took the mind off COVID and was a great way to decompress, like a lot of things these days I won’t be taking sport for granted anymore and value participation in it at any level. I’m really looking forward to a season of sorts getting underway and recommend that fans dig out treasured memories and opinions of days gone by and happily reminisce until then.


O Tecnico also turned to the Lakelands and produced this piece which records this footy contest for posterity:






  1. The things people will do. Welcome to the site O Tecnico.

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