How to Watch Footy, Part 6

Armed conflict

Collingwood versus Essendon, Round 5, AFL. MCG, Thursday 25 April, 2.40pm

Pre-match analysis: Concurring with songwriter Mick Thomas, who ‘disapproves of the way in which the Anzac spirit is invoked, in particular when describing the achievements of footballers in the annual Anzac Day match. “These guys are on a  f—ing football field. They tell us this was because of the Anzac spirit. I’m sorry but it really troubles the hell out of me.”’ (The Age, Monday 23 April.)

On Wednesday 24 April  the Shaun Micallef show Mad As Hell opens with a World War 1 army commander exhorting his troops to ‘be very, very brave, to find courage, to remember and honour the valour of Australian Rules footballers who risk their bodies week in week out. Do not dishonour these footballers as you go into battle’. A soldier asks, ‘Isn’t it slightly offensive to equate our work as soldiers with the achievements of footballers?’

Viewing spot: loungeroom of family beach-house, The Great Ocean Road.

Pre-match warm-up: lopping and cutting down the driveway trees, as per shire fire prevention directive. My 20 year old son Jesse and I use a bowsaw, some rope and a lot of hope that things will fall the right way, and not onto the neighbour’s caravan.

First quarter: I’d hoped not to watch the game at all (see pre-game analysis) but Jesse was keen. He turns on the telly but I head down to the beach for a dip. Upon my return he’s asleep. (Much earlier in the day, about 4am, he’d fallen asleep watching soccer on SBS.) I’m glad that the Bombers are up by a few points.

Second-quarter: Jesse stirs. I head outside, climb on the car-port roof. Lop a few branches. Do some raking and sweeping.

Half-time: I’m tired from the lumberjacking but it’s funny how the energy returns when Jesse offers a kick of the footy. We head to the gravel road that borders the Angahook forest and send 20 metre drop-punts back and forth, back and forth, the ball occasionally straying into the bush. For a bloke who much prefers soccer, Jesse is a fair kick of the footy. Even left-foot.

Third quarter: I park myself in front of the telly five minutes in.  At the centre bounces I notice the sponsorship logos (including within the centre circle) and ‘Lest We Forget’ painted in white on the green grass, on the members’ wing. When the Bombers look clear, well clear, the Magpies find a way back. The Bombers might have got some soft free kicks in front of goal – things fall their way, you could say – but Magpie fans (the Collingwood army? ) can only really complain if they can prove that the Magpies, in all their games since 1892, have never, ever, ever been paid a soft free kick in front of goal.

Fourth quarter: Jesse and I still have to drive back to Melbourne. Do we stay a little while longer, or opt for the road and the radio? A no-brainer: you always stay as long as you can down this way. The Dons win easily and we’re happily homeward bound.

Post-match: We buy hot chips and potato cakes in Anglesea and drive home with half-an-ear on the broadcast of Sydney versus St Kilda in New Zealand. At least one commentator invokes the Gallipoli spirit. I keep my eyes on the road.

Votes: 3 to Mick Thomas, 3 to Mad As Hell, 3 to The Great Ocean Road (built by many returned soldiers).

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.


  1. Lord Bogan says

    Footy players may take the field shouting “This is War!” I doubt soldiers stormed the beach shouting “This is Football!”

    3 Votes: Vin Maskell. Thanks for the perspective, mate. Look forward to the kicking the footy with you next Friday.

  2. I guess MKR is out of bounds now as well, only last week it was a ‘do or die’ effort in the kitchen for the lads from Bondi, they were ‘going into battle’ against the father/son combo from Tassie …… they were the actual phrases used.

    Only a idiot would actually really equate a sporting contest with a real war

    Watching the Dockers Richmond game on friday night, saw a interview with VC winner Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, who is the Dockers No1 tricket holder, he has no problem with football on ANZAC day.

  3. I wouldn’t mind going into the centre square with Ben Roberts-Smith.

  4. With all due respect for the courage of a VC winner, I doubt that Ben Roberts-Smith won it for intellectual reasoning. His comments about addressing the Fremantle players about courage,discipline and self-sacrifice had me thinking hang on, soldiers are just as uncritical about this tripe as the sports fraternity. I guess they’re trained to obey orders rather than engage in debate.

  5. Stainless, how is it tripe that a soldier address a sporting group, or in fact business leaders or the remaining teams on MKR about courage, discipline or self sacrifice.

    Would it be tripe if a business leader addresses sporting teams on the courage, sacrifices and self discipline he needs or has needed to rise in his field.

    And i see very little debate in the kitchen, when the heat is on, its ‘do or die’ on MKR, maybe time for debate after.

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