Lament for supporters lost

It was a simpler time.

Saturday arvo, knock on my grandfather’s door.

A thermos of black, sweet tea, some sangers and a tin with some fruit cake. Stick them in the green vinyl Sherrin bag and away we go.

Off to much maligned VFL Park, listening to 3LO on the way, Tim Lane, Drew, Swan McKay, talking about everything and nothing in the way that you do.

Strolling along up the rise to the ground with my grandfather, with his pretty flash looking pure wool 3/4 length coat and his pure wool hat looking like something out of a British ad for upper class gits. That shuffling, rolling gait of his signaling the hip replacements soon to come.

And then, this charade, played out weekly, that still makes me laugh 30 years later.

The careful checking out of the attendants on the gates,  “You have to find a young one”.

The wink, then off with the good hat, on with the moth-eaten Pies beanie, OUT WITH THE TEETH, and then up to the gate.

“I’m a pensioner and I’ve forgotten me ticket” he’d croak, doubling up like bloody Steptoe.

Every week, without fail … “Ahhh, through you go old timer”.

And then we’d meet inside, him with a mouth full of teeth again, laughing like a drain,  and me shaking my head calling him a disgrace all the way to our seats.

The sangers, the fruit cake, the scalding hot tea.

The game.

Then home again, the post match in the car, in the door in time to watch “The Winners” and the half hour replay, with a cup of soup and some toasted ham and cheese.

I still have the Sherrin bag.

I still have his thermos.

I still have his memory.

And so starts another season.


About Nick Gibson

Worked out early didn't have the skill or the ticker to make it past the twos in the local league. Thought I'd try brains, not brawn, and took up umpiring in the early 80's, enjoying a couple of years on the VFL Cadet Squad, then off to the Bendigo Football League in the mid 80s while at uni. Finally back to weekly footy as an AFL member, clocking up a couple of dozen games each year. If it's a blockbuster, I'm there, level 2A on the wing, watching the greatest game in the world. GO ABC! That'd be anyone but Collingwood.


  1. Beautifully and simply captured Nick. Thanks.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    I can’t decide if the simplicity of the sangers, fruitcake and scalding tea plus a half-hour replay was better than the over-kill but luxury of nine games ‘live’ on TV over a week and a half.
    I think the closeness of your family attending a match where you probably got free seats at Waverley for example probably wins. Although a roof over Waverley would have been handy on some days.
    It reminds me of people from the Depression era saying they were poor but happy as a family unit. That half hour of the ‘Winners’ would have been like gold compared to the way we are swamped by football 24/7 these days.

  3. Glen Potter says

    Lovely, Nick.
    Did you ever catch a train to either Glen Waverley, Clayton or Nunawading, and then catch the connecting bus to the ground? I think one of the major downfalls of VFL Park, apart from the cold, was not having direct public transport. I’ve been back out there in recent years. The change is mind-boggling.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Nothing better than dipping a corner of the toasted ham and cheese into the bowl of steaming condensed tomato soup. Thanks for the reminder Nick.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Nick love the grampa , false teeth getting in part brilliant ! Over here in SA it was race home for the channel 9 footy show with KG Cunninham followed by the big replay hosted by Bruce McAvaney and Sandy Roberts and yep boiling hot tomato soup .
    Great memories Thanks Nick

  6. Stephanie Holt says

    Lovely story – has brought back the memories.
    Long before I got to know Waverley as the Saints home ground, Mum and Dad bought memberships for it to take their blended family of Saint, Pie and Bombers for family footy outings.
    Mum would bring out her special footy hat – bright yellow, bobbly knitting, appalling. As if being a Pies supporter wasn’t enough, could she do any more to embarrass her children? Took about thirty years to realise how much sly pleasure it probably gave her to watch her kids cringe.
    One game I lost my glasses – again … Got a phone call the next day from another supporter who’d found them under the seats and tracked us down.

  7. Dennis Gedling says

    Wonderful stuff nick.

  8. mickey randall says

    Wonderful Nick. Sparse and beautiful.

  9. The Wrap. says

    They never should have sol;d Waverley. It was the last people’s ground.

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