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Footy Grief, Hope and Perspective

Damn it! I say. Just as I felt that the grieving period was drawing to a close – although it’s been known to last until the cricket season – a simple road trip has set me back.

Sydney to Melbourne, via the Hume, 900 kilometres. An eight-hour journey that knows me only too well. For nearly 20 years I’ve been travelling this road.

Brisbane to Melbourne, via the Newell, 1600 kilometres. A two-day journey that for over 22 years saw me covering this ground.

Brisbane to Sydney, via New England, 940 kilometres. Eleven hours, on a single-lane highway. From 1982 until 1998, this too was a well-travelled route.

Road trips, apart from the annual Christmas, Cricket and Courtin journeys, are about footy. More to the point: my footy team.

I, the driver, sit behind the wheel for hours upon hours, driving to the footy. Hours spent thinking, imagining, fantasising, anticipating, longing and hoping. The unknown is ahead.

On the return journey, the hours are spent analysing, critiquing, rejoicing or regretting. And hope, hiding away there in the recesses, still lingers. There is always next week.

In the 40 odd years of road trips, this week’s journey along the Hume, with no next week, is the only trip I’ve made where footy hasn’t played its part. With no anticipating, longing and hope involved, this family trip (which had been planned weeks ago), was in some way challenging.

It started on Thursday morning, when packing the bags. Two bags were removed from the wardrobe. The routine is simple: one for everyday clothes, one for footy gear. One went back into the wardrobe. It felt strange.

Packing the car was different. Red and white was nowhere to be seen. It felt empty.

Approaching the Hume, away from the traffic, I started to relax. Beethoven was inserted into the slot. An hour or so had passed and I wondered why everything felt at odds. The ever-changing landscape – which is often commented on – was a mere blank canvas; the music was nothing but an unemotional background noise; the sky – normally at the forefront of my vision – was dull and boring; the joyful windmills, just out of Goulburn, were lifeless; and when the first of the spring wattle greeted me, in all its vibrant yellows, all I could think of was Richmond and their happy supporters!

Where was the longing, the anticipation, the hope?

Approaching Albury, where we usually stay for the night, I dreaded Swans talk from the owners of the motel. Every trip, we would share our Swans memories, but tonight would be different. Marshall registered on arrival and the woman was kind and considerate. No mention. We’d no longer unpacked the car, when there was the knock on the door. The man, not so considerate, greeted us with “What went wrong?!” Followed by “There’s no footy for you in Melbourne this weekend, in case you hadn’t realised. Why are you going to Melbourne?” Some people!!

The night was uneventful, unless you think a few uncontrollable tears is the norm. For whatever reason, these tears have been bursting fourth this past week, at times least expected. I’m used to this behaviour though. Every year it happens when there is no more Swans. No more footy.

When the void seems all too difficult to deal with, and when driving to Melbourne just five days after the disaster at the SCG has not seemed such a good idea, life has a wonderful way of thrusting perspective right in your face. Your stupid, grieving face!

Friday morning and we’re back on the road. The mobile rings. I pull over. “Liz (my brother’s partner) is in the Alfred Emergency with a brain aneurism”.

I drive the three hours, full of a very different type of hope, thinking all the while how vulnerable we are. All of us.

At 5.30 we arrive at my sister’s house in St Kilda. At 5.40 an ambulance is called, and Marshall is soon in Emergency at the very same hospital. I am devastated.

Anticipation and longing have become real, and hope, in all its manifestations, is crying out to be heard.

Football? What’s that?

Ps Marshall spent the night in Emergency and is now happily back with me at my sister’s house. Liz has to remain, on alert, for two weeks. She will hopefully be OK.


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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Neil Anderson says

    A giant dose of perspective. Best wishes to Marshall and Liz.

  2. Head down to the Lakeside Oval and rub Skilt’s nose for good luck. He was the best at bouncing back from adversity.

  3. george smith says

    One tends to forget that opposition supporters are humans, with human problems and pain and sorrow. Footy is supposed to alleviate those problems but it doesn’t. ANZAC day matches v Essendon will always be the day my father died (2010). Final series 1981 will always be the time my girlfriend dumped me, followed by the car breaking down in Seymour the following week.

    We mark the passage of time by memorable footy matches, for good or ill. Good luck to Liz, I hope for your family’s sake that all will get better. Cherish the good times – 2005 and 2012, for who knows when they will come again.

  4. Tony Courtin says

    Jan,great word perspective. So often in our too busy western lifestyle we get a jolt which puts everything into context.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Jan, fully understand the football end of your team’s season grieving period. It feels weird watching the Bushrangers on the live stream today open their season while Collingwood are still active in finals.

    All the best to Marshall and Liz, hope everything is ok.

    Time for a new motel in Albury??

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  7. Thanks one and all. Much appreciated. Took a photo, Peter, of me rubbing Skilt’s nose, but don’t know how to include it in this Comment!
    Cheer cheer

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