Leaps and Bounds

‘I remember, I remember…’ The distinctive voice of Paul Kelly rang through my economy headset as I sat in the back row of the plane heading from Canberra to Perth. Not a good flyer at the best of times and already suffering from a two day conference, I wasn’t looking forward to the last 50 minutes. Having my knees permanently wedged into the seat in front of me wasn’t helping. Neither was the ‘food’, or seeing people stretch out in business class.

Looking at the screen in front I checked ‘latest music’ but I hadn’t heard of any of the artists. I was under the impression Faith was a George Michael album and Paloma a type of skin condition. When I did pick a song, it sounded like the plane’s engine.

Finally under Australian music, there it was – Paul Kelly’s greatest hits.

‘I’m breathing today
The month of May
All the burning leaves
I’m not hearing a sound
My feet don’t even
Touch the ground
I remember… I remember
I go leaps and bounds’

I had heard the song before. A grown man looking back fondly on his childhood trips to the MCG to watch the football. In the film clip, he belts out the song perched on top of the massive Nylex sign overlooking the Melbourne skyline.

It brought back memories of my childhood experiences watching football at Subiaco oval as it was then known. The year was 1989 and the fledgling West Coast Eagles were still making their way in the newly expanded VFL. Having finished 8th in their inaugural year and 4th the year after, 1989 saw a rapid fall back down the ladder. At the end of the year they finished 11th of 14 teams with just 7 wins. As Port Adelaide found out this year, it’s hard to back up a break-out year when other teams do their homework.

Regardless, I would meet Sean and Jason at gate 10 at most home games. I would catch the 9:15 am bus into the city as buses on a Sunday at that time were like mobile phones – square shaped and rare. I would take the 20 minute walk down the now very different Hay street. If people were drinking skinny soy latte’s or eating quinoa in the 80’s they certainly weren’t doing so in public.

Admission for children was only $1 and you didn’t need to book in advance. By 10:30 we’d be sitting on the front of two rows of old wooden benches that circled the boundary fence on the southern half of the ground. At that time, half the ground was either grass bank or concrete terraces.

As we sat in the sun watching the under 18’s, we joked around as boys do and in no time the teams would be doing their warm-ups for the big game. I remember a fan yelling out “great Collingwood, you’ve sent out your cheer girls but where is your team?” He’d probably be banned for life now.

I’m not sure if it was our close proximity to the action or our age, but the players seemed incredibly fast and tough. You could see the intensity on their faces as they would run full tilt at the ball, or the player. A few years later at the same ground I remember Worsfold running 100 metres to shirt-front Dermott right in front of us. I saw some of the greats – Ablett senior and Daicos. For the Eagles it was Sumich’s first year and he went on to lead their goal scoring.

By 3pm the game would be over, and the fans would be streaming out the probably now non-compliant exits, usually somber but occasionally suprised. I’d walk back into town, spend some time in the only shops at that time open on a Sunday – McDonalds or Angus and Robertson Bookshop, before catching the 5:15pm bus home in time for dinner.

The sounds of my plane touching back down in Perth brought me back to reality, ‘I remember…I remember’ still ringing in my ears. Maybe I should go back to the football next weekend.


Andrew lives in Perth and is a fan of most sports. He is a West Coast Eagles and Perth Wildcats fan.


  1. Dennis Gedling says

    I went along to a heap of eagles games with my brothers around this time as it was a chance to see the VFL rather than going against the Cats. Loved the comment on mobile phones and buses, it was a hellish experience getting there from Rockingham then again anywhere in the metro area was back then. The smell of KFC wafting over the ground and jugs of full strength beer were also something that stuck out at that time. Great read.

  2. Grand stuff Andrew. I didn’t get to Perth until 97 so you filled in a lot of colour of the Eagles early days.
    Good to see the Eagles building up momentum on the Almanac site and not just on the field.

  3. We have officially moved the Almanac clocks back two hours.

  4. Good onya Andrew. There was a period in mid 1989 when the MCG was like a bog. Geelong played three consecutive matches there recording big victories over fellow finals contenders Collingwood, Essendon and Melbourne. In the first of these games Gary Ablett kicked a goal in the final term, a goal i’ve rarely seen equalled, let alone bettered. Spoilt in a marking contest, he gathered the ball, broke a tackle, and goaled on the run from 55 out, falling over in the process. Seated on the muddy turf he showed his elation, one of the rare times i recall him expressing his satisfaction at his efforts during his illustrious career. The next two weekends the ground was a bog, as Geelong crushed their hapless opponents in the mud and slush. The MCG in this part of 1989,resembled a Russian winter,, sans the snow, of the early 1940’s

    i remember…i remember.


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