How to Watch Footy, part 4: Bang Bang Bang!


Williamstown versus Coburg, Round 3, VFL, Burbank Oval, Williamstown. Saturday 13 April 2013. 1.10pm.

Pre-match: riding the Kona Sutra pushbike through the wide streets of Williamstown down to the ground, pondering this clash-of-traditional-rivals-who-next-year-will-both-be-stand-alone-clubs. (Willi will part ways with the Western Bulldogs, Coburg with Richmond.)

Viewing spot: the eyrie of the citadel (the timekeepers’ room, above the coaches’ boxes, at the top of the grandstand). Measurements: Three metres across, two metres deep, 2.5 metres high.

View: Burbank Oval, Steve Bracks Promenade, city skyline, shipping channel.

Responsibilities: keeping score by pressing the buttons for the electronic scoreboard on the other side of the ground.

In the company of: Graeme, the Williamstown timekeeper since 1978 (roughly 1500 games, taking in Under 19s, reserves – now known as development squads – and seniors) and Sterling, the Coburg timekeeper since 2013 (two games.)

Dress code: Official Williamstown Football Club polo shirt, circa 2008, plus shorts and sandals.

Distractions: BANG BANG BANG! A kitchen hand in the grandstand’s commercial kitchen behind our room is making a racket throughout much of the game. He’s not tenderising meat, he’s doing some re-shelving. BANG BANG BANG!

Faces in the crowd: Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) from Neighbours is a long-time Willi fan. Watches the start of the game down below, near the players’ race. The ABC is televising the game, so we see plenty of Coburg champion Phil Cleary down by the boundary, microphone at the ready. Almanacker Andrew Fithall unfolds his folding chair near the guests’ players’ race. Andrew’s just watched his son down the road in the Willi CYs curtain-raiser and is here to check the form of Bulldog rookie Lachlan Hunter. (I’ve got a good view of Andrew from up here, but damned if I can find young Hunter.)

First quarter: a total of eight scoring shots (2.4) to (0.2) means I can ease into my responsibilities. With no pre-season, save for the lop-sided development game, and the game being televised, I don’t want too much scoreboard pressure in my first senior game of the year. A scrappy match so far, but a good chance for Graeme to teach Sterling the intricacies of timekeeping.

Half-time: Still an unattractive game. We doubt the ABC would be happy with the standard of play. Williamstown lead by 17 points at half-time, 6.6 (42) to 3.7 (25). I take a walk around the ground, admiring the smooth playing surface, and chat with 70 year old Len, whose love of the Seagulls harks back to the golden years of the 1950s. His mother, nearing 95, smiles Hello from her chair and watches kids playing kick-to-kick.

Third quarter: Coburg get to within a goal five minutes in and then BANG BANG BANG! BANG BANG BANG! Williamstown are piling on the goals, right underneath us. I’m pressing the buttons on the scoreboard-keyboard-thing as fast as I can, and hoping it knows its six times tables. BANG BANG BANG! BANG! The Seagulls have kicked ten in the quarter, Jake Stringer five of them. Plenty of highlights for the ABC cameras. Sterling’s getting a good lesson in timekeeping. Coburg are gone, ten goals down.

Fourth quarter: Williamstown don’t let up. Eight more goals. Kicking to the city end, the shipping channel end, Graeme, Sterling and I get a nice view of some yachts. ‘Must be a regatta,’ says Graeme, in-between ringing in some bets for the evening trots. The final score is 24.13 (157) to 8.9 (57), the visitors tidying up the scoreboard with the final goal of the game.

Post-match: I shake hands with Sterling and wish him well with his timekeeping and his studies (he’s in third year sports management). Graeme packs up his clocks and pens and pads and bets. I turn off the numbers of the scoreboard. Two hundred metres away, the orange numbers disappear but the sponsors’ advertisements keep scrolling.

Votes: 3 to Williamstown curator Bertie Tee, who has turned last season’s quagmire into a billiard-table surface, 3 to Len and his 95 year old Mum, 3 to whoever recruited Jake Stringer. The kid can play.

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.

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