General Footy Writing: Diary of a Top End Saint

By Joc Ledwidge

A bonza ten days.

Friday: Flew in lunchtime of Preliminary Final day. Picked up by West Melbourne-dwelling, Essendon-barracking mate, so hung around Puckle Street then Lygon Street and witnessed a few Saints scarves (a future theme as it turns out).

Bought some additional winter warmers, in colours of course. Transport Bar pre-game. Standing area to witness the exhausting, hard-fought Saints victory over Bulldogs, accompanied by my mates Mr Freo, Mr Bombers and Mr Doggies, along with assorted itinerants of varying loyalties.

Y&Js to celebrate. Scarf wearers, normally strangers one to another, freely debriefed on the game. Snuck into the Tankerville on the way home to make sure of it, and for the class

Saturday: Interviewed by Territory ABC as a “mad NT-based Saints Supporter” to report about the finals atmosphere Down South. My barracker’s voice assuredly means I have no radio future. Later in the afternoon, an abundance of scarves at the Snakepit, George Hotel in Fitzroy Street, which provided pre-match entertainment (Clip Clop Club), then jumped the 96 tram to prop on the comfy chairs of a Fed Square snuggy restaurant to watch Cats and Pies on big screen,  through the window.

Compulsory return visit to Y&Js. Out of respect for the teams of the night, resisted the scarf wearing, and inexplicably, and perhaps ironically, was mistaken for a Cats supporter. I quickly whipped out my Saturday Age Sports Section (SASS), which analysed the Saints win, to prove my allegiance. Mr Magpie then indicated he had planned to pick me up, but considered the SASS a contraceptive. I think he meant deterrent. Either way, his change of mind was not a bad thing.

Sunday: day of rest, relatively, footy-wise.

Monday: Brownlow Count at the Rose with the Knackers. We love footy’s night of nights. As long as every vote can be heard, and there is an uninterrupted view of the year’s highlights. Forget the frocks.

Tuesday: attended training at Linton Street. A fortunate meeting with an amazingly dedicated and resourceful coterie colleague resulted in gold — a ticket to the Grand Final. Hadn’t purchased previously for fear of the Mozz, and the only other possibility to date had been $1200 for a Hawthorn Corporate event. Why would you?

Wednesday: lunch with a muso friend who is mad Cats. He provides smart incisive commentary, and understands the highs and lows. I feel better informed going into a game after time with him.

Thursday: running down Exhibition Street to pick up GF ticket, nearly collided with a Territory contingent, including a famous name Matty Ah Mat, and various other officials and Top End funsters. All Cats. Drats.

Friday: Grand Final Parade, of course. More Territory football royalty. Tony Frawley. Yes that revered (Saints) family name. CEO of AFLNT.

Sped to All Nations for the Almanac lunch and, for a variety of reasons, very glad I did. Most particularly, the courtyard logistics proved to be a practice run for conditions at the ‘G the next day!!

Quite edgy towards the end of the day. Attended Moonee Valley that night for distraction. Proceeded to Billboard to listen to Weddoes and Mark Seymour. For further distraction. Then Clifton Hill pub, local music. Just to make sure of it.

Saturday: Territory ABC gig again. Probably babbled a bit. My up-North cousins had caught the tail end of the interview as they devoured their weekly laksa soup from Parap markets and were most amused. As Crows supporters tend to be.

Pre-game Hilton meeting with great friend, part of an annual banshee of Blues (ex-premiership players from the ’80s). On to their carpark marquee to enjoy a quick green can, as we say in the Territory, and a lovingly barbecued dimmy. Sounds shocking. Is yummy. Thinking of taking out the patent and a franchise.

In the ‘G by 1pm. Sat next to quiet but passionate, hoody-wearing, No.16 over the top of that, St Kilda fella. Thankfully. His radio died at the start of the last quarter, so was delighted to share the earplugs with a compatriot, as I have done the same for a Magpie at the Dome once. He looked and acted like the cruel stereotype. Only downside, I had to sit completely still, as my radio was new and cheap – a replacement for the Knackers-endorsed Sony, strangely lost at Y&Js – and crackled a lot with movement.

Game finishes badly.

Stayed for the torture of the presentations, revisited the Carlton boys in the ‘G carpark and warmed up around the fading spit, until the flapping tent sides threatened to do a Mary Poppins.

Back to the Hilton. Sought out Saints scarves and provided counselling. Was approached by Geelong scarves and comforted. Normally a night of fun and entertainment at multiple venues, I did a Harry Houdini and gave the Blues boys the slip, heading back to my temporary home to wallow in sadness and disappointment. The guardian of the house was curious, and uncharacteristically needed to be close and provide support. Why did the normally aloof Tita have to be a CAT?

Sunday: sad, with tell-tale misery eyes. Still, I avoided facing the pain and sooked for over a week when Port beat us in the 2004 Preliminary, so donned the hair shirt, because I hadn’t had enough torture, and headed to the Wake, I mean Family Day at Etihad. Rossy spoke, players paraded and interviewed – tough to take. Then it  got worse. Max retired.

Drifted up to Flemington (geographically opposite to Moorabbin) to meet a supportive Bullies mate, for hot chips and a cold pot. I reckon that’s what they have for Sunday lunch in prison.

Monday: collated every footy record and newspaper article for contemplation on the flight back to Darwin.

Tuesday: almost behaving like a human being again. Maybe it will get better; quicker recovery this time around?

Wednesday: remembered my ARL team Melbourne Storm was playing this Sunday. All the sentiment is against them.

Thursday: remembered AFL NT season kicks off tomorrow. My team is Nightcliff. We haven’t tasted Premiership success since 1965.

Ah, the ying and yang of 365 days of footy.


  1. Love your work Jocey.
    You do get around the watering holes, don’t you…
    Look forward to our next lunch/arvo/session.

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