I miss the footy


It’s footy weather outside. Intermittent rain with a cold wind in early April and I’m watching Richmond versus St. Kilda at the Docklands from 2012 on Foxtel. What a brilliant spectacle from two teams that didn’t feature in the finals action of that season. The Tigers hadn’t beaten the Saints for nine years. Frequent lead changes as first one team and then the other assumed control. Rapid attack and counter-attack. It was Jack Riewoldt’s hundredth game. Eight goals for Richmond’s number eight, leading to an eight-point win for Richmond. My son and I were present at the match along with 49,000 other excited partisans. Hearts in mouths, focussing intensely on every frantic passage of play and leaping from our seats with arms in the air as Jack brought the Tigers home in a thrilling finish. Two late goals and an assist to Brandon Ellis.


High times indeed. But things are different in 2020. If I can modify a line from Ike and Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits, it’s a case of COVID number 19 really makes the autumn lean.


We hear the word ‘unprecedented’ a lot. It’s a media favourite. But if it was possible to have a  reunion of Richmond’s first premiership team from 1920 the situation today would not be unfamiliar to them. These men lived through the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919. As early as December of the previous year there were parts of Melbourne under strict quarantine. It was a disease that affected not only the elderly, the frail and the chronically ill, but young adults and adolescents as well. And this at a time when the world was still recovering from the carnage of World War One where the killing was done on an industrial scale. Children under 16 were prohibited from entering picture theatres. Citizens wore surgical masks to combat the spread of the virus and police issued fines to commuters without masks on public transport.


My grandmother contracted the disease as a 17-year-old and was hospitalised in temporary facilities at the Royal Exhibition Building. She survived.


At least 50 million died around the world. It’s thought that 40% of Australians fell ill with the virus and around 15,000 lost their lives.


The football went on. In May 1919 St. Kilda could hardly field a team as so many of its list was ill. They were given no chance in their match against Collingwood at Victoria Park. The combination of fringe players and ring-ins overcame the eventual premiers by three points. It was the first time the Saints defeated Collingwood in the VFL and they didn’t succeed again at Carringbush until 1962.


Social isolation. I get it. Prevent it from spreading to vulnerable people and save our health system from being overwhelmed. Take a sledgehammer to the economy and hopefully resuscitate it when we come to the other end.


I can’t help it. I really miss the footy.


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  2. Hope you are well, John.
    I think we are all feeling the same way.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Good read John. I watched Crows v Kangaroos from ’93 around 10 days ago. Enjoyed it but it’s the only match I’ve revisited. I’m not missing the AFL footy at all. Don’t really know why. I feel more for the local leagues and participants.

  4. Frank Taylor says

    My sentiments as well John.
    Missing the footy too.

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