Footy is like a meat pie

Standing Room is your stock standard pie ‘n sauce – and it’s my favourite choice on the footy menu.  Crowded standing room, with your Pies mates, a few beers (and a Four ‘n Twenty, of course), a few opposition fans (but not too many), plenty of banter and some good natured insults.  You get the raw emotion of the game – fans pour out their heart & soul here, boots and all.  You move with the game – a jump to the left and a step to the right as you watch Krak weave his magic around the goals – a high five and a pogo when number 35 kicks a blinder – and you ride every wave of the day.   It’s exhilarating and it’s footy heaven.

The Corporate Box is like the gourmet thai chicken & vegie pie – its actually quite nice when you try it, but it’s just not the same as the good old pie ‘n sauce!  Sure the free beers (in glass, not plastic) are great.  It’s warm, clean and comfortable.  But after growing up on the terraces of Vic Park through the 70s to 90s, it’s just not my regular cuppa tea.  The Box can be hit or miss on any given day – sometimes you get a rowdy bunch of real footy fans, but on the flip side, you can run into some corporate theatre-goers that just don’t understand.

And so it was that today I was a guest in a Corporate Box for the Pies and the Dons.  

The first thing that struck me was the invitation and its dress code of “Smart casual; no thongs, singlets etc”.  “WOW”, I thought.  Fancy that, it’s the middle of a Melbourne winter and I wasn’t able to wear my thongs or a singlet.  I could only wonder whether the “etc” was meant to include boardies, budgie smugglers and bikinis!  I pondered on their dress code and I “Kung Fu flashback’d” to the mid 80s to the Royal Hotel in Essendon after a Windy Hill game and decided that it was clearly directed to those Essendon types.  Thankfully, the all too common “no denim” clause was nowhere to be seen, so we didn’t have to endure the uncomfortable ritual of meeting outside Gate 6 and standing out like “Dog’s Sherrins” in Suits and Ties as the passers-by sneer and blame us for not getting a ticket on GF day.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get my share of corporate invites.  I attend the odd game, but generally decline – especially when it’s a big game or against traditional rivals.  It’s bloody hard to withhold your loud barracking instincts and wear your “professional hat” in such clashes.  I remember one fateful Pies and Dons game in late 90s.  Pies Premiership stalwart, Gavin Crosisca was stretchered off with a leg injury and some Bomber clown on the “outside” gave him a feral and disrespectful spray (he was probably still bitter at Gav’s great 2nd quarter on October 6, 1990).  He was close enough for me to give him a measured and politically correct response to which he responded with another barrage of feralness.  A bit of verbal tennis ensued between us and our host started to turn a whiter shade of pale and closed us off from the outside world and we resumed normal civilised duties without any further threat of violence.

But back to today.  I hauled my Smart Casual self off to the G – I wore the “good” jeans, “good” jacket and “good” Blaq black & white check shirt, accompanied by the 2010 premiers scarf and 1990 Premiers T-Shirt underneath (yes, 1990 – it’s been well preserved and always worn at Essendon games, just in case they need reminding).  As I get dropped at the station by the eldest daughter and she asks if we’ll win, I’m feeling calm and confident and tell her “if we don’t win by 10 goals I’ll be disappointed, but they beat Geelong a few weeks ago, so you never know”.

The Glen Waverley train makes its way to Richmond station and seems to pick up 1000 black and white fans to every one Bomber fan.  As I walk out to Brunton Avenue I’m bombarded with Dare Ice Coffee, Nivea Deodorant, free glasses wipes and some sort of blow up Collingwood whacker!  The Gate 6 meeting goes smoothly and I enter the Box and it’s decision time – Crownie, Cascade Premuim or Asahi – I decide to live in the moment and go for the Asahi.  Lunch rolls out and it’s a smorgasbord of delights which fills the void until Presti and Tarks appear for their lap of honour. The highlights reel shows some of the long forgotten courageous efforts from Tarx, but I’m particularly taken by Presti’s highlight reel of smothers, spoils and one percenters (God bless you Presti and god bless number 35!).

As the teams warm up it’s announced that Daisy is out and Sinclair makes his debut.  The Bombers team, compared to their gallant 22 on Anzac Day is like comparing Apples and Oranges.  Ironically, there was no Pears in either game and their backline is looking very green – no Fletcher and, unlike Warnies’ place on a big night, there was no Hurley and no Hooker.

The first quarter started with a bang – a shirt-front to Clokey in a marking contest and a push in the back to Leon that nearly impaled him into the fence – neither of which seemed to warrant any whistle blowing from Geish’s disciples and resulting in the Dons getting off to a good start (and the Box getting an early verbal assessment of the incompetence of the men in yellow).   We go goal-for-goal with the feisty Bombers in the first 25 minutes, but in the meantime they lose two players to game ending leg injuries which will surely come back to bite them in this day or subs and rotations.   Fasolo provides a highlight with a 50 metre goal that was the better than a Terry Alderman outswinger, Sidey outsmarts his opponent for an open goal, Pendles finishes smoothly from the boundary and a Beams set shot that splits the middle is a welcome sight.  Then all of a sudden before you could say “Another Asahi”, the Bombers take their chances, take us on and go bang, bang, bang, bang to charge to a 4 goal lead at quarter time.

The second quarter starts like the first, with a bewildering free kick and resultant goal to Essendon and all of a sudden we are five goals down.  Mick’s dirty look at quarter time seems to have finally kicked in as we start to play with a bit more intent and use the ball with a bit more effectiveness.  Luke Ball, the man who obviously has no neck or back, kicks a bouncing goal, Krak does the candyman, Fuzzy does number 35 proud with another great goal and the Pies are back within range but still not quite right and are two goals down at half time.   Swanny is getting plenty of the ball but struggling with his kicking, Pendles is doing okay, Krak’s switched on so far and Fuzzy is turning each possession into gold.  Down back, Tazz and Reid are holding things together reasonably well.  Trav is quiet and being well held by Ryder and Keefe and Leroy are not offering any options up forward.  Leon and Harry were struggling with their opponents down back.  After a couple of early howlers against the Pies, the umps decide that today is going to be “Holding The Ball Day” against both sides and getting in first for the ball was like playing Russian Roulette.  There’s plenty of upside in us and I’m hoping we’ll pull our finger out in the second half.

As any Corporate Box goer knows, half time is the highlight of the day with Party Pies, Sausage Rolls and Scones with Jam & Cream on the menu.  Strategically I saved myself early for the half time onslaught and was secretly hoping that the Pies had also strategically saved themselves early for a big second half. Our Box is pretty good today.  A few genuine barrackers make it a semi-lively atmosphere, however, the “diamond in the rough” is in the reserved seating out the front of our box.  I’m sure its Digger’s daughter.  She has the radio earphones locked in and her special commentary punctuates the atmosphere at a level of decibels that entertains our box throughout the day as she shares her views on the umpiring, the commentators, AFL administration and the publicity of the Judd baby.

Both teams re-enter after half time and I decide on a switch from the Asahis to the Pinot Noir and am hoping that this half time change triggers a similar change to the Pies efforts so far.  The third quarter starts with a Leroy miss and a Krak goal.  I hate to harp on the umps (well, no I don’t), but this one requires special attention.  A free kick is paid to the Pies in a marking contest and the ball spills from the pack – the ball is on the ground and a Pies player is still one metre away from the ball and the umpire waves and calls “advantage”!  Advantage!?!?!?  He hasn’t even picked up the #$^#$%^ ball yet and it’s advantage???? It’s nearly as bad as the North versus Brisbane one last week – Ken Bruce has gone mad!  Anyway, we resume normal duties and finally we flick the switch mid quarter and start to take over as the Bombers run out of fuel in the tank.  Leon regains his composure after leaking a few first half goals and dominates from half back and goals to Jolly, Krak, Fuzzy and Johnno take us out to a 3 goal lead.  Fuzzy’s brilliant snap goal from deep in the MCC forward pocket evokes a loud reflex cry of “DAICOS” as he rekindles memories of the great number 35.  I win the $15 prize for closest to the 3/4 time margin and set my sights on another 15 smackers with my prediction of a 49 point victory.

The last quarter somewhat predictably became a procession.  Swanny continues the get leather poisoning and sets up a goal for debutant Sinclair and then grubbers a goal for himself (what’s with his underground kicking the past few weeks?).  Pendles snags two goals, Clokey finally takes a few contested marks and converts from tight angles and Fuzzy continues his brilliant touch to end the game with 100% possession effectiveness.  With the siren sounding the Box starts to empty, but the show continues outside.  Ever humble in victory, Digger’s daughter offers a loud and proud “too good, huh” and “no good, huh” in her gruff voice, to two sets of Essendon supporters who were oblivious to the danger and wandered past.  She then proceeds to render the SEN match summary obsolete with her concise assessment of the game – what a priceless way to finish the day.

In the end I gotta say it was an entertaining and hybrid experience with the best of both worlds.  The comforts of the box, a good atmosphere inside and outside and with a full list of attendees in the Box, I was able to stand all day at the back of the Box and not feel guilty about not sitting in a seat  – which goes to show you can take the Pies fan outta the outer, but you can’t take the outer outta the Pies fan.

Go the Hot Pies – Floreat Pica.

Man of the Match Award

“Backs : Rotten Ronnie Andrews, Mal Michael, Robert Hyde
Half Backs : Peter Bradbury, John Williams, Ian McMullin
Centres : Mark Fraser, Geoff Raines, Ricky Olarenshaw
Half Forwards : Mike Richardson, Fabulous Phil Carman, Blake Caracella
Forwards : Rene Kink, Scott Cummings, Alan Davis
Followers : Graeme Jerker Jenkins, Tuddy, Bill Valli
Interchange :Brad Plain, Andrew Ukovic, Jungle Jim McAllester, Richard Cole, Mark Hannebery, Tony Eshaugh
Coaching panel:  Tuddy, Kevin Morris, Choco Williams, Alan Richo
Mascot:   Muzza Browne’s son
Umpire:   Mark Fraser”

Award goes to the player who I adjudged as BOG, and will be revealed at the medal ceremony in October.

About Ramon Dobb

A footy and cricket fanatic. A lifelong passionate one eyed Mighty Magpie fanatic. My writing is unashamedly written with one black & white eye open only - so please don't take offence, it's nothing personal, it's just the black & white way! Also a lifelong player and member of Washington Park Cricket Club, the Mighty Sharks. My 15 minutes of fame includes regular contributions to Hot Pies, the 1999-2004 Fanzine, and regular contributor to the Coodabeen Champions weekly competition from their heady 3RRR days. Go Pies and Floreat Pica.

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