Melbourne: A City Surviving, a Team Arriving.

 

 

 

 

It’s Grand Final week and our neighbourhood is all red, white and blue.

 

Lockdown walks with the kids have turned into an exercise in ‘decoration spotting’, though unlike the Halloween version, windows aren’t covered in floating ghosts, but in floating mullets of Smith and Naughton. Instead of the nativity in December, we’ve got Bontempelli in September.

 

In our home, we’re all about the Bombers (me, Rory6) and Lions (Mrs. E, Phoebe41). The Bulldogs ended our seasons, but we’re not bitter about it (anymore) and have enjoyed the build up. In a time in history where weeks have a memory-erasing sameness, we’ve appreciated the fervour of our neighbours and, in their opponents, the allure of history being made.

 

Meanwhile, the heart of Melbourne is broken. Lockdowns, curfews and now riots.

 

The extension of ‘freedom’ from 5km to 10km has meant that we could take the kids into the city and the Botanical Gardens for some spring sunshine, but we became slightly hesitant about that prospect once we saw….you know…the West Gate Bridge being overrun and the shrine of remembrance being tainted by selfishness.

 

More than once over this year I’ve thought about Neale Daniher. In his book When All is Said and Done, he talks of what it means to survive, but then to strive, then thrive and then arrive. Most of us in Melbourne are just surviving.

 

So, for the first week of school holidays we were more or less confined to the house, which, to be fair, was going along swimmingly. The kids appreciated the lack of home schooling/kinder Zooms as much as their home headmasters did, and puzzles and backyard footy became the focus. Yes, our home provided comfort…until the earth nearly shook it to the ground on Wednesday. While the 5.9 earthquake did rattle the adults, Phoebe’s jumping on the couch was uninterrupted and Rory was adamant that it was ‘just the washing machine’. After texting friends and family (while also Googling service options for the ol’ Bosch washer) I informed the young fella that it had been felt across Melbourne and beyond. His response of ‘well it must’ve been an earthquake then because not all of those people could’ve put their machine on at the same time’ made me rather proud, and admittedly was a clear improvement from Monday when he sat on the bathroom scales in order to, in his words. ‘see how much my bum weighs’.

 

With Grand Final day arriving, all we had to do is get through the day to get to the game. In another lockdown twist, Melburnians have to plan their springtime catch-ups outdoors with no back-up plan, despite having lived their lives knowing you should never organise an outdoor springtime catch up in Melbourne with no back-up plan. Of course, we understand the greater good (sort of) but it doesn’t get any less tedious as the days roll on. As we walk back from another windswept playground with water bottles leaking from the backpacks, I peer into another house with Dogs flags and I swear I can see mulled wine in hand and red gum on the fire. It’s that sort of life when your team is in the big one.

 

Despite this warm, fuzzy, westie feeling, when I complete my entry for the family sweepstakes, I tip the Dees by ten goals. As good as the Dogs were a fortnight ago, as handsome as Bevo’s messaging is and as neighbourly as I’d like to think I am, I just think the Dees are very, very good. Over the previous weeks, I’ve just seen a side playing with the belief that a forward handball will generally land in the lap of someone who can give another one, and then again to someone who can kick it with power and purpose. They’ve just been great to watch. I’d have to admit that I like the idea of a drought breaker too. I’ve many friends and family who bleed red and blue and, well, the Dogs had their go a few years back. Rory has also tipped the Dees, and has been adamant all week. This confidence reached a tipping point on Tuesday when he stuck a drawing of a Demons jumper on our letterbox, which was spotted by the Doggies’ supporting next door neighbours. With three primary school aged boys in the house, they’ve been a beacon for Rory for some outside play these last few months and I did suggest to him that maybe he could be more supportive. Naturally, he took no notice of my lessons in stakeholder management and our already gracious neighbour took no umbrage as he reinforced his tip repeatedly this week.

 

By quarter time, the kids are in bed, the pizzas are eaten and I’m just about ready to call it a night. This game is done. The Dogs are fluffing their lines down back, Gawn is just warming up and Petracca doesn’t look like he’s planning to just float along. Given his prominence in every street-facing window from Altona to Seddon, we all know Bontempelli needs to play well for the Dogs to win and so far he hasn’t. As I rip the plastic off my Bulldog-themed Yarraville Sun Theatre choc top, I feel content with my tip but flat about the potential grand final procession.

 

Thirty minutes or so later, I’m wondering how they made the choc top so blue and I start thinking about how those sugar levels could be impacting my pulse. I’m getting hot flushes visualizing Dees’ supporting friends/family all thinking ‘this is it’ before The Bont’s arms stretched like a snap lockdown towards the Sherrin, and Adam Treloar cashing in on Collingwood’s money. They couldn’t could they?

 

By halfway through the third, it’s the Dogs by 20 and I have a foot out of the stirrup. Bont has kicked another and I know it’s definitely not the choc top. I just know that, judging by the sweatiness of my Ugg boots when the Dons made a slow start v the Suns in Round 22, that I wouldn’t be all that comfortable as a Dees fan right now.

 

Then it happened. Quickly.

 

Surviving…..then striving…..then thriving….

 

Then – finally – arriving.

 

Bailey Fritsch may look like a guy who had his talent brought to him in an Uber Eats bag, but when the Dees needed a goal, he kicked two. This was pointed out to me very quickly on one particular group chat as I’ve been reasonably slow to recognise his talent (in the way I’m ‘reasonably slow’ to drive back from the petrol station after the one ‘outing’ for the lockdown day). Let that never be suggested henceforth, as the guy who makes it look easy did just that with a 57 year drought in the balance. From there, the Dees had a run of centre breaks that suggested they knew which way this was going, and it was done. Gawn, Petracca, Oliver were all magnificent. Daring, smiling, skilful winners.

 

Garry Lyon presenting the cup was a highlight for me. A fine player whose bravery and lion-hearted leadership gets lost in the TV version of himself was a leader in an era in which the Dees were good but others were better. He spoke at Jim Stynes’ funeral and was a mate of the late Sean Wight. Both were players who were outsiders to Melbourne, the city, as he once was as a recruit from the country. The 80s and 90s Demons (and demons) were linked to this success as he handed the cup over.

 

It must be quite the feeling. The team with your city’s name, beaten and broken time after time, and now you’re watching them win the whole thing on your TV at 10pm, with Channel 7 jamming in some gems from Tom Browne and a replay of the Grand Final sprint before throwing to SAS Australia. With the host broadcasters’ ticket punched, you’re probably enveloped in the glow of your phone, with the highlights, the stats, the detailed and rubbish match reports rolling through, being consumed with equal gusto. The group chats are alight, the emojis and gifs are joyous. It’s your team. It’s your city. It’s you this time…..Just as our neighbours felt five years ago.

 

So maybe we will all survive and then thrive once more. It feels gluttonous to want for more than that right now, but there are Dees fans who once tossed away their scarf at three quarter time who were making emotional FaceTime calls tonight. I’m sure there will be one or two red and blue beanies heading to our local shops getting the papers first thing and not caring a jot about what’s covering their smile or what the weather will be. Twelve hours of rain? No worries. That’s four replays.

The Dees have arrived.

 

1 For those playing at home, yes, Phoebe is back on the Lions. For those interested in a daughter breaking her mum’s heart with a pre-game flip flop, read on here

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. Glad you could still watch the epic win after all that blue colouring and sugar fix from the yummy looking “choc” top. Surely you could have worked out an algorithm that takes body weight and divides and multiples to give you butt weight? Glad all is as it should be in the Else household after all. Can’t wait to catch up face to face when we can. Xoxo xoxo

  2. Fabulous read Andrew. Love the outlook and insights. Warm, keen and articulate. Keep writing I say.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    This is great, Andrew. Your customary pithy game review, but the highlight for me was Rory’s observations. Until a few months ago, we had had grandchildren and parents living with us (X. 8 and S. 6). I could just see either boy sitting on the scales and also blaming the washing machine for the earthquake. They will enjoy my mentioning the story to them.
    I hope that community relations in your patch survive the earthquake that struck the Bulldogs late in the third quarter.

  4. Great stuff AE (a well rehearsed line in our house). Your droll sociological asides worth the price of admission. “Bailey Fritsch may look like a guy who had his talent brought to him in an Uber Eats bag” got my 3 votes. Can I use it for Christian Porter?
    I had to re-read “Daring, smiling, skilful winners” thinking it said “Darling…………….”, We all see what we want to see.
    Rory may well be the Bombers next premiership coach.

  5. Cathy Taylor says

    Another fabulous read Andrew. I love your work.

  6. Bowled Shane.

  7. Hayden Kelly says

    A wonderful read Andrew . Not my best day yesterday as a Dogs supporter but speaking to my rusted on Demon mate of 50 years my anger melted when he said ‘ I now know how you felt in 2016 ‘ .
    He doesn’t really given I was at the G in 2016 and he watched with his illegally visiting son in his lounge room and it became so illegal they broke curfew and drank red wine to 4am .Shame on them for not understanding the greater good .

  8. Daryl Schramm says

    Footy Almanac Gold is this piece. Put a smile on my face and a reminder of what my grandson might do and say. Except, he’s not into footy (yet).

  9. Heather Lacey says

    I always love whatever you write Andrew (Rusty Nail) because you have passion and love for the game and your fellow man. This was a joyous piece!

  10. Ripper of an essay AE, with plenty for everyone, especially Dees fans! From floating mullets to “maybe we will all survive and then thrive once more” your good heart, keen wit and community spirit has captured the moment wonderfully. Cheers

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