General Footy Writing: Footy soul train needs a little direction

By David Mapleston

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am watching the Cats and the Bombers on telly. My girlfriend Sonja’s favourite player has just became Jimmy Bartel due to a close up before a centre bounce. Cameron Ling was No.1 because, as Sonja said, he is the  “Susan Boyle of the AFL”. It’s the mothering instincts of a woman that draws her to Ling. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome. However, Susan Boyle last night slid to second place in the final of Britain’s Got Talent because a funky dance troop stole hearts and votes from the puggish Scot. And like Susan, Ling fell from favour in the face of Bartel’s funk.

Last week I read an article on the Almanac site about the game between Geelong and North Melbourne by Andrew Starkie. Andrew spoke about the train trip down to Geelong, passing Melbourne suburbs and stadiums on the way down to Kardinia Park, which he called The Cattery. He watched the crowd gather station by station and felt his expectations and the atmosphere grow as he got closer to the bounce. The Kangaroos are Andrew’s team. North were beaten by the irrepressible Cats, but it wasn’t gloom and doom. The sunset behind the ground was uplifting and Andrew professed his love for the game.

John Harms posted a reflective Steinbeck-style comment about moments of silence within the countless surges and roars of a crowd. He remembered moments of magic serenity that arrive at odds with the time and place, but linger for a moment nevertheless. I was intrigued.

Last night Ben Cousins continued his strange relationship with the media, the game and his fans. The papers have happily picked up the images of Cousins flipping the bird to a camera in the Richmond change rooms. People are now pretending to care, or maybe they do honestly care, about the message Cousins is trying to send, or blah blah blah … I don’t care.

Daniel Chick has been playing at Subiaco since being delisted by the Eagles in 2007 and he carries an amazing reputation because of his friendship with Cousins. It was a friendship that saw the two in various prickly situations with the police and the media. Subiaco copped a bit of flak in signing Chick because of his past. Every week he cops abuse from the opposition crowd and I’m sure our supporters are quick to give it to him if he stuffs up. He told me his mum no longer goes to the footy as she can’t stand the relentless barrage directed at her son.

The majority of our crowd (Eagles fans) would have screamed with joy when he famously smothered, collected and handpassed to Hunter in the dying moments of the 2006 grand final. It was a play that perfectly reflected the way he played his entire AFL career. He still plays with that intensity and determination. He still does all the team-orientated acts, yet it is his celebrity reputation that WAFL supporters focus on.

My enjoyment of football has always been reliant on success. I have spent my football life trying to play a game better than my last. Each week my teammates and I pull on the boots with the aim of building on momentum or picking ourselves up from the previous contest. And, simply put, that is football for me. There are individual battles along the way but, essentially, winning is the single most important joy in football.

So what have these stories and ideas got in common? Why do I think some have got their football priorities all mixed up while others make me feel like I am missing the point? I am currently gathering a posse that will travel to Melbourne in August. Our goal is to discover and share in an Almanac-style appreciation of football.  We are designing an elastic program that will soak up every speck of fun, soul and energy that can be found in the capital of footy in one weekend. Some games will be locked in, but spontaneity will definitely be a constant companion.

The posse currently consists of Sonja, Cormac McCormacK (an Irishman of Gaelic-football background) and Ray Kuka. My old mate Des Haynes (four-time WAFL premiership player, currently playing for Lillydale) will host the weekend, though he doesn’t know it yet. We fly into Melbourne on Friday 14 August. If you think you can offer advice or you feel that you need to play a part in this journey to the centre of football, welcome aboard the soul train!


  1. David – my advice – you wont find the spirit of footy in Melbourne at Crown Casino. At all costs (please I’m begging you) stay away from Crown. When not at the footy get into the pubs in Richmond and Fitzroy and even Collingwood. Tell us all where you will be and I’m sure there will be some accommodating Knackers more than happy to meet up and join the soul train. Seek out the London Tavern, The All Nations Hotel, or any pub for that matter that looks like it needs a coat of paint.

    You may need to wear something distinctive so we can pick you out – like a WC jumper for example.

    Hope you enjoy your stay.

  2. neilbelford says

    David I heartily agree with everything Dips has said – except please dont wear an Eagles jumper. I was going to suggest a Subi one but seeing as how you do play for them that might be a bit weird.

  3. Dave Mapo says

    I’d be disappointed if there weren’t a few Knackers on board and we will definitely avoid the Crown however
    enchanting it may seem. I think Collingwood play Richmond at the G on Saturday arvo that weekend. Does that narrow the pubs of choice?

    No Eagles Jumpers. Maybe just a nice yellow Burley on the bar.

  4. 3 games at the ‘G + 2 @ the pub Saturday night.

  5. Mapo,

    Burley have had a big campaign to introduce their footies to local leagues in Victoria and it’s created quiet mayhem. In the Bendigo league, ex-Sandhurst defender Chris Greene said people would stop coming to the footy if the league kept using Burleys (a rich sponsorship deal was involved) because games were less appealing to watch. Something about the ball being more “floaty”. Not sure whether Burley have backed off on their campaign, but the Footy Wars were alive and well about three years ago.
    I think it’d be hilarious if you whacked a Burley on the bar. Everyone will try to boot it on to the street and out of sight.

  6. johnharms says


    The North Fitzroy Arms is the centre of the universe.


  7. A little time at the Brunswick Street Oval will do wonders for your footy soul. Walk a lap, sit for a while in the grandstand and then off to the North Fitzroy Arms.

  8. Mapo,

    It’s Dunny. Good to see you are still talking ridiculous amounts of jive. Next time you stay with either myself or Benny make sure you don’t have the plague. I have moved to Melbourne anyway so drop me a line.

  9. pauldaffey says


    Long live the jive.

  10. Oh and you still have my copy of Good Omens that you ‘borrowed’ about 6 years ago

  11. Is the journey still on?
    Best to water a little away from MCG after a big game like Saturday’s or they’ll be packed.
    Sunday, of course, will be a different matter for Dees and Freo- try to scam in to Beames Bar or similar.
    Saturday night’s games can be viewed at All Nations, Rose, NFA…

Leave a Comment