My son hates footy

Caption: Ben Critchley-Roy shows how excited he is to participate in the MCG Rite of Passage a few years back.


By Cheryl Critchley

The love of our great game is not genetic. As a Richmond tragic I can prove it. My son hates AFL footy and is angling for a spot in the Guiness Book of Records as the person who has attended the most AFL games but NEVER watched one. Now nine, Ben has attended on average 12-15 games a year since he was two weeks old and not watched even half a game. Not once.

As a pre-schooler Ben played with his trains under the seat. As soon as he could read he’d bury his head in an Andy Griffiths book. Last year all his Christmases came at once when Santa bought an iPod touch, which he now plays from siren to siren. When Richmond beat Hawthorn by 10 goals this year Ben didn’t look up at all. Us: “Hey the Tigers are winning Ben!” Him: “Who cares?!”

So where did it all go so wrong? How did a footy loving family produce a footy hating child? Like any good psychological analysis, we should start at the beginning.

As a tomboy with a dad who played for Hawthorn and one of those brothers you hate because they’re good at everything, I grew up loving footy. But I didn’t follow Dad’s team as that would have been too sucky. Instead I chose the Tigers when the bloke over the road told me to as a pre-schooler in about 1970.

My sucky brother did follow the Hawks and our two sisters chose Carlton, but I was the one who really caught the VFL bug, catching the train from Croydon to the MCG from the age of 11 to watch my beloved Richmond. No paranoid parents here. My siblings, mates and I would catch the train and tram to all the old VFL grounds – the Junction Oval, Moorabbin, Princes Park and even Geelong.

My husband also grew up with black and yellow in his blood. His dad migrated from Ireland after the 1956 Olympics and ended up in Richmond, adopting the local footy team. Brian grew up watching the Tigers with his dad and saw our 1973, 1974 and 1980 flags. Being a spring chicken, I only witnessed the 1980 win and both of us have followed footy religiously since.

At our wedding the vows included “in premiership and wooden spoon years”, and the cake had Richmond dolls on it. Instead of white ribbons on the cars we had yellow, and we left the wedding to the Richmond Theme song (Yes it is quite sad).

Barring an ill-timed family birthday party or wedding, I’ve attended nearly every Richmond game in Melbourne since. Brian also turns up to most, sometimes refusing to grace “stupid bloody twilight games”. Winter revolves around footy and we both coach the local Auskick preps.

Our kids have naturally been immersed in footy culture. They attended games within weeks of being born (Rebecca was just eight days old at her first game), enjoyed Richmond family days and played Auskick when they started school. At 13 Jess loves football and always wants to go while Bec, 11, is a “swinging voter” who’ll watch if we’re winning but switch on the iPod if things look grim.

Their brother has hated footy from day one.

As a future train driver he doesn’t mind going to games as it involves a train trip and junk food. Before they started building that monstrosity between the ground and the train station, the Docklands was his favourite venue as he could watch the trains come in and out of Southern Cross station at half time. He could tell you how many V-Line trains were lined up that night, but ask him the footy score and you’d get a blank stare.

Ben agreed to do Auskick because I coached the preps and his mates were there. But he has never enjoyed it and every Saturday morning wakes up and says: “I’m NOT going. I HATE Auskick!” An inactive child who hasn’t come up with an alternative to keep fit, he still does it under sufferance. Not long ago he noted casually: “I’ve been doing Auskick for three and a half years and had about four touches”. The sad thing is he wasn’t joking.

As an amateur psychologist I can see a few possible reasons for Ben’s hatred of all things AFL, but one stands out: being forced to follow Richmond. His team has NEVER made the finals since he was born in 2003. Until we beat St Kilda this year, we had not beaten them since the poor lad was two months old.

I’ve often been told only half-joking that taking my kids to Richmond games is tantamount to child abuse. And who am I to argue? My son is clearly suffering from football phobia and following the Tiges is as good a reason as any. Or maybe he just hates it. As hard as it may be for us footy fanatics to comprehend, some people just don’t like the game.

This is what Ben says: “It sucks. It’s the worst thing ever. It’s the stupidest game ever. All they do is chase the ball and kick it around and do nothing. It’s really dumb. And playing it’s even worse because it’s exercise and you get puffed out and I hate exercise and I have to get up way too early every Saturday morning to go to that crappy place.”

After leaving the room, he thinks of something else: “I’ve got something else to add,” he yells from the other end of the house. “I can’t come down because I’m on the toilet but my least favourite number is 40 because it sounds like you know what. When you say forty really fast it sounds like footy.” How can you argue with that?

Are we disappointed that our only son wants to join the other AFL – the Anti Football League? Of course not.  As long as he stays active, he can play any sport or do any activity he likes. And given how expensive following the footy can be these days, the less the merrier. If Richmond ever does make the Grand Final we wouldn’t e able to afford to take him anyway!


  1. Scotty Mac says

    I’ve got one the same. He is 11 years old and went to his first game of footy (Melb V Carl) in a baby pouch at the age of about 2 weeks. We kept taking him to the footy when he was a baby and he slept through most of it in his pram way, way up high behind the wooden bleachers at the back of the old Olympic Stand. But the minute he got big enough and knowledgeable enough to know what was going on, he wanted out.

    Now, the only way we can get him to a game is to guarantee him a supply of enough brand new unread comic books to get him from first bounce to club song without a pause. This is a kid who lifted his head up from his PSP in the middle of the last quarter of the Dees/Essendon thriller-diller a month ago and said “What I don’t understand is how all these people haven’t figured out how boring footy actually is”.

  2. Cheryl

    Great story. Considering your family involvement and regular attendance, I can see it is an issue. Good to see you aren’t approaching it from so much of a ‘he’s out of the family’ perspective, more what impact this has on something you enjoy.

    Kids are all products of their upbringing, some embrace it, some reejct it. You can’t pick it or force it.

    At least if he’s going, even if not paying attention, it is still family time well spent.

    Coudl be worse. what if he decided he wanted to take up something terrible as an alternative. Like accountancy!! That would be worse than hating footy.

    Like all parents, I want to share interests with my kids, and you do too. My 12 year old son loves footy, but I am a Tiger and he follows the Hawks, so we differ there, but that makes for fun too.

    Maybe turn it into another activity, like helping him learn his times tables while working out the score (funny how I think all Auskick kids know their 6 times tables before anything else)

    Good luck, not easy, but lovely piece


  3. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Sean, and some good advice. We try to encourage him to do other sports but he hates them all at the moment! I do agree it is still good family time as he doesn’t mind coming along. If he really hated that we’d be in trouble. And it could be worse – he could come home and say he barracks for Collingwood. Now that would be a disaster :-)

  4. Cheryl, that was priceless – especially “I’ve got something else to add,” he yells from the other end of the house. “I can’t come down because I’m on the toilet but my least favourite number is 40 because it sounds like you know what. When you say forty really fast it sounds like footy.” How can you argue with that?
    How indeed?!
    Thanks for sharing your footy phobic son :-)

  5. pamela sherpa says

    Sounds like you have a very bright , logical, sensible kid Cheryl so I wouldn’t worry at all. And it’s amazing how things can change with time . Neither of my two children showed any interest in footy when I took them to games as young kids but since moving from country NSW to cities they amazingly took an interest and went to games. Daughter in Brisbane and son in Sydney. Your son might move to the country and connect with local footy. Strange things happen.

  6. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hey Scottie sounds like our sons were separated at birth :-). Pamela it sure will be strange if Ben changes his mind now. Maybe if the tigers start winning!

  7. Oh Cheryl, how sad for you! Are you sure Ben isn’t my son? Perhaps he would like to learn an instrument instead ;-) the Trombone is pretty exciting …

  8. Hi Cheryl, lovely article. I wasn’t going to the footy when my kids were little, only when young myself and now. So my kids are not only pretty disinterested, two barrack for Carlton but from afar, and one is “only invite me to the next GF if they are going to win” kinda disinterested. Doesn’t matter, like others says, he’s (your son) sounds bright and grumpy and there’s a place for him in our hearts.Meanwhile, enjoy Richmonds improvements. I like watching them too, even as a Sainter.


  9. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Yvette and Viv. There are some genetics at play as my older sister hates footy and sport too, so maybe it’s come through her! He did do the violin last year but that didn’t last. He just wants to be a computer geek :-). And Yvette, think of the money you’ve saved in finals tickets!!

  10. Lord Bogan says

    Cheryl, really enjoyed the article. I can relate to those bloody ipods! I’ve banned my daughter from taking them to the footy and she has actually gotten into the game more. Of course, it helps if your team is winning. I reckon once Ben experiences seeing Richmond win a final there may be a metamorphosis.

  11. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Lord Bogan. Sorry I just asked Ben and he said even if we won the flag he wouldn’t care :-(. I think he’s beyond help. And thanks for your nice comment Rebecca. My “swinging voter” daughter is also Rebecca!

  12. Great story Cheryl and well written. You left out the ‘extra’s of how at your wedding you were married at Ridges in Richmond, reception at the Richmond town Hall, and each table had little bottles of Richmond soil on them !! How do I know,..I was there. :) oh, and you lived in Richmond for awhile. Can’t believe Ben is so anti, thought it would be in his blood!! Maybe switch him to the Bombers, he might see things in a new light. !!

  13. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Sue. I still have some of the Tiger Turf! That was from when they widened Punt Rd. I don’t think changing the colour of the sash would make much difference :-)

  14. Jim of Chicago says

    Hey Cheryl! Well what the heck do you expect of Ben? I’ve been to a few matches with you, remember, and I have seen the suffering you have inflicted on the boy. Poor Ben. Just take the easy way out and blame it all on Brian! Was going to fly out to see the Doggies for my 60th at the end of the regular season, but I feared it just might break my heart seeing them this year. Hopefully I’ll see you at the start of the 2013 season. I missed that Richmond/Carlton opener like in the previous three years. Watching Richmond lose will always be one of my favourite Aussie activities! Ouch. Take Care. Tell the kids I say hi. My best to both you and Brian.

  15. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Jim we missed you at the usuall Richmond round 1 loss this year! Hope you get to come soon but it doesn’t look like the doggies will play finals this year. We are in Qld escaping the cold for the school holidays, so will have to watch this week’s game on TV. Let us know when you are heading over.

  16. Could be worse Cheryl. Much worse.

    Ben could be very interested in footy. He could like the Pies.

  17. My son hates footy of any sort too and I’m ecstatic! I regard it as a good indicator of a high IQ. Be Happy. Your son has a functioning brain.

  18. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Greg, that’s a good way of looking at it :-). I tried to talk him into trying lawn bowls this afternoon but that didn’t work either!

  19. Chickee Bocker says

    Thank God for Ben. Let us all appreciate this day as a possible end to conformity. Amen, Reverand, amen…

  20. Scott Mclay says

    Looks like your son hasn’t changed in years!
    Same old footy hating Ben.
    Great read.

  21. Cheryl Critchley says

    He sure is Scott. When we won the flag in 2017 he played trains with his younger cousin and didn’t even know the score!

  22. Cannot believe that it is almost 9 years since I first read this. Time flies.
    It would be pretty boring if all children were the same.

  23. Rulebook says

    My youngest,Sam hates footy yep when forced to go as a youngster he just wanted to play with his toy cars and when slightly older play on the bouncy castle ( his highlight was the mayors parlor at half time with the free food) Daniel has far more interest in the SANFL and Norwood than the afl so he takes after me in that regard

  24. Cheryl Critchley says

    It has flown Smokie! Rulebook it sounds like Sam is similar to Ben, who just wanted to play with trains.

  25. Daryl Schramm says

    Just read this for the first time. Great contribution and interesting comments. The second of my two boys (now in their 30s) is still ‘lukewarm’ but does humour me on occasions by engaging in ‘sport talk’. The first was indoctrinated at a very early age and hasn’t really changed. There is just no telling how things will pan out.

  26. Cheryl Critchley says

    They are all different aren’t they Daryl? Ben still hates footy and loves his trains, which is great. I’m also wondering why people are commenting on this again – was the story shared somewhere?

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