How to Watch Footy, part 5

Vin Maskell

Beep beep beep.

Game: Williamstown versus Werribee, Round 3, VFL, Sunday 21 April 2pm, Burbank Oval, Williamstown

Pre-match: regular 9.30 kick-to-kick at the Fearon Reserve before pedalling down to the seaside ground for the 11 o’clock development game.

Derby day: traditional-clash-of-the-western-suburbs-teams-who-in-1996-declined-a-league-directive-to-merge.

Tide: a long way out, especially for Werribee.

Faces in the crowd: Terry Wheeler, 1986 Williamstown premiership playing coach, who watched part of the game from the bayside half-forward flank; Donald McDonald, the 1993 Werribee premiership coach, who was guest speaker at the president’s lunch and also there to see his son playing for Werribee; Judy, from Seaford, the Williamstown/Port Melbourne/Collingwood supporter who catches a train from Seaford (about 30 stations) and usually wears the club colours of all three teams.

Viewing spot: timekeepers’ room again, like last week, up in the grandstand.

Responsibilities: keeping the beeping electronic scoreboard ticking over. Like the timekeepers’ clocks, the scoreboard console emits a beep every time you touch a button. That’s a lot of beeping, especially in a high-scoring game.

Discussion topics during lop-sided development match (won by Willi by 152 points): apps for timekeepers, rule changes and impact upon timekeeping, colours of runners’ outfits, Foxtel Cup, AFL Victoria push for night games.

Distractions: see discussion topics above, plus beeping fire alarms and automated evacuation announcements during the final quarter of the reserves. Given that the grandstand’s commercial kitchen is directly behind the timekeepers’ box, I did think of that song by The Clash, Should I Stay Or Should I Go? I did think that I should actually find out what’s going on, but what’s more important – the correct score or my life? The fire alarm was a false alarm but the two fire brigade units arrived promptly.

Lavender vs liniment: during my end-of-quarter breaks I have to walk through the function room to get to the toilets and then outside. There was a ‘lavender ladies’ lunch’ in one of the grandstand function rooms, featuring foot massages and aromatherapy. Imagine if footballers ran onto the ground smelling of lavender? Be worth a few early goals.

First quarter: Willi kick 6.6 (42) to 0.2 (2). The fire brigade’s gone but alarm bells must be ringing loud and clear in the Werribee coaches’ box below us. “What the beeping hell’s going on?” I imagine Scott West saying to his assistants. A Hapag-Lloyd container ship heads serenely into the westerly across-ground breeze, making its ways up the mouth of the Yarra.

Half-time: Werribee manage two goals but are still seven beeping goals down. I consider a foot massage and some aromatherapy but opt for the traditional lap of the ground and peanut-butter sandwich.

Third quarter: The Werribee timekeeper is naturally hoping for a resurgence because after all, he says, all Willi’s done is win the first quarter. (I don’t mention that Willi won the second quarter by a point.) The visitors kick three points in the premiership quarter. Willi are 12 goals up.

Fourth quarter: I’m thinking, but not saying, This must be the Seagulls’s biggest win over Werribee in a long time. (Their games are usually close, with last season Willi winning by seven points and two points.) The final margin today is 83 points. Willi’s tenth successive derby win.

Votes: 3 to Judy from Seaford, 3 to the fire brigade, 3 to Williamstown skipper Ben Jolley (one of five players to kick 3 goals).

Post-match: I want to leave the score up for as long as possible, even until the tide comes in. I want to bathe in the orange glow of the scoreboard’s beautiful set of numbers – 19.15 (129) to 5.16 (46) – as dusk approaches. But I also want to learn the finer points of  this scoreboard-console. With the timekeeper’s room to myself, I start pressing buttons to put up next weeks’ teams, a task usually done by the football manager. (Western Jets are playing Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup.) I press menu (beep), new game (beep), yes (beep), enter (beep), but I can’t find or get to the buttons for typing in next weeks’ teams. I’m caught in a beeping loop, born of impatience and ignorance.  With the skies darkening all I’m getting from the console is beep beep beep. Should I figure this out now? Or try next week? Should I stay or should I go? I turn off the console. Beep. The scoreboard goes black. I pedal home.

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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