Round 1 – Ess v Geel: the wait is over.

When I was a kid in Shepparton, I remember that long, long wait for footy to start. Cricket had finished and the linseed oil was put away, and the sports pages were filled with footy again.

I remember the first Saturday morning of the season when I was about seven years old. Getting up and reading the The Sun, to check which radio station had the Geelong game. It was always 3GL and our ancient radiogram could rarely pick up the Melbourne commercial stations. Occasionally, if the atmospheric conditions were right, we would get the Geelong station, but that was rare. And Geelong’s match was never broadcast on the ABC’s country station – Radio 3.

Then began the long wait. Boredom. And not being able to get out of your own way. The autumn morning being a little cooler but you were still in your summer clothes. No jumper. So you’d lie in the weak sunshine, curled up inside the tractor tube which you used to bounce on, and take down the (Goulburn) river to swim among the branches and the snakes. But you’d be too lazy to go inside to put a jumper on.

That morning took forever. Then finally the footy would start and you’d battle with the radiogram to pick up 3KZ which went round the grounds quite regularly. I used to write all those scores down on a piece of paper or an old envelope and would try to imagine what was happening at Kardinia Park.

Often we’d give up, and head outside with the wireless (in an old leather case), to play kick to kick while listening to the ABC. They often covered Melbourne or Essendon and the call was punctuated by crosses to Flemington and Warwick Farm. We’d kick the footy for ages before coming inside and getting ready to watch the post mortem panels of Chicken Smallhorn and Percy Beames, and the replay. We were definitely an ABC family.

Even though we knew all the results we watched like anything could happen. In those days Geelong were still pretty strong – we had a couple of good years left in us. We had the toothless Doug Wade of the booming torp, and Billy Goggin of the stab pass, John Scarlett and Gareth Andrews and Sam Newman (whom my father thought was brave). But Collingwood and Carlton and Richmond were stronger, and not as flaky. We would wonder who the new recruits were, and whether they were any good, and looked forward to getting to know them as they led us in to September.

My mother would bring in homemade sausage rolls with flaky pastry and tomato sauce and we’d sit as a family while the footy pinged from end to end in drop kick parabolas of black and white beauty.

Four decades have passed, which is the most telling statistic of the lot.

We live in Canberra now and have two kids of our own. On Friday night Theo, who is two years old, and prefers golf and tennis to footy, put his Geelong jumper on and we sat down to watch the match against Essendon, as a family. He lasted a quarter, throwing his hands in the air and saying “Geelong” whenever anyone (including Essendon players) scored a goal.

The Cats were sluggish. They looked like a bullock team doing a U-turn in Little Collins St for a while. But they seemed to click at the end of each quarter. They were like a student who does all their homework at the last moment, realizing they’d  better get going. And then cramming for the exam. They exploded at the end, their class getting them by. Selwood, Ablett, Bartel all lifted to get the Cats home with a powerful king-of-the-jungle burst in the opening minutes of the final quarter.

I’m not sure this can work too often this season where a stack of teams have claims, and a top four spot is treasured. At some point the rally will start too late and the homework won’t be finished.

The Pies announced themselves with a big win over the Doggies, whose Icarus moment was profound, and disappointing. The Pies have been backed from $13 in to $7.80 (which is now unders). Those who laid Adelaide for the flag, have probably backed them at double the Betfair odds for an early win. The Brisbane forward structure looked ominous, although they haven’t moved in the betting. You can muck around with Freo at your peril, but their price will be volatile and volatile on Betfair is a good thing.

Theo didn’t come back to watch too much other footy. But his father tried to. Which is one of the major differences between life in 1969 and 2010. You can watch all the games these days. The wait is shorter, and the waiting is filled with all-to-similar footy shows.

But footy still captures you, drawing you to the lounge room, demanding you take an interest, and hoping you will pass your love on to the next generation. It’s that sort of game.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. John,
    lovely story, I always said to my son, that he could barrack for any team that he wanted to, as long as it was Port
    Adelaide. For some reason he hasn’t let me down, god love him.

  2. Sydney Malakellis says

    Yes, we’re all a little bit spoilt with Friday night footy, Saturday day footy, Saturday night footy and a Sunday game all on the telly. Some of my fondest childhood memories are trying to fathom what the hell Ted Whitten was on about on 3GL as Barry Brushfield (was that his name?) called the game through mists of static as our heater blazed and I re-enacted the game with a ball of socks.

    I kind of miss the mystery of those days…

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