Round 15 – Richmond v Carlton and Hawthorn v Fremantle: Totaalvoetbal.

Last weekend was one of total football. I watched the Tigers take on the Blues at the G, then headed down to Launceston for the Hawks and the Dockers. I saw brilliance, comedy, anger, anguish, despair, bewilderment, joy and sorrow.
I sat high in the Olympic Stand on Friday night and my seat had a truly Olympic feel. On my left was Reijer the Dockers supporting Dutchmen . On my right were French couple Coline and Peio, taking in their first ever game of footy. Behind me was an unnamed bewildered Bostonian.
Reijer, the husband of an old work colleague, was over from Perth on business. Keen to catch some footy he was given my number as someone who’d be going to the game. He told the story of his first ever game of footy. The morning he arrived in Australia in 1983, he was spirited from the airport to the G and plonked in a corporate box to take in the Hawks play the Bombers in the Grand Final. He was automatically taken by this strangely intoxicating game and a long day ensued. He promises to have a bigger day if the Dockers ever win the flag. Coline and Peio possessed a certain Je ne sais quoi. They could have easily been sitting on a Parisian park bench has they sipped their beers and generally looked cool. The Bostonian kept a rapid fire line of questions at his host.
Surrounded by people new to me and new to the game I wanted a good match. I had that strange anxiety you have as a kid when a friend’s Dad meets your Dad: you hope they like each other. I wanted them to like our game. But alas, the game started poorly and didn’t improve much from there. Skill errors abounded in a underwhelming first half. Alex Rance stood alone as the best player on the ground. At half time Reijer, bringing astute Dutch analysis, said the Tigers needed to kick three or four in a row and the game would be theirs, they opened the second half by doing exactly that. Four goals in ten minutes gave them a lead that was never headed. The skill errors continued and the umpires joined in the comedy denying Matt Kreuzer a certain mark. Even Coline and Peio slipped into footy fan mode at all the errors. Their relaxed body language changing to that of dismay as the ball was constantly turned over.
The Tigers hung on to win. Any year when you beat Carlton both times isn’t a bad year. I showed Reijer the scarred indigenous tress in Yarra park, Coline and Peio headed of into the night, and the Bostonian planned a trip to the Nation Gallery the next day. Heading home on a packed train home I wondered why this game has such a hold on me.
On the flight to Launceston Sunday morning I sat with brothers Rick and Leo. They were the sons of Dutch immigrants. Leo lives in Melbourne and goes for the Dockers. Rick lives in Perth and goes for the Hawks. Rick’s passion for the game extends to Swan Districts. He even runs Lost WAFL, a Facebook page of WAFL history. There was plenty of footy banter. The flight went quickly.
At the game I was back in the company of footy mates. Al the Eagle from Hobart was neutral like me. And Gibbo the Docker from Fremantle. Born in Fremantle, lives in Fremantle, played junior footy for East Fremantle. Gibbo had skin in the game.
We took our seats and were afforded a view of the game I’d never experienced before. Being so close meant we could hear the yap of the players and glimpse the darkness of Brian Lake’s stare. The players looked more human to me than at any game I’d seen. Sitting in the forward pocket our seats were perfectly in line with the goal posts. In cricket parlance we had one stump to aim at. We were sitting so close to the goals but had to rely on the reaction of the crowd to inform us of the score. It forced us to watch the game in a different way. We couldn’t see the goals so we focused on the journey.
When Reijer, Leo and Rick were boys, or maybe a bit before, the coach of the Dutch National Football Team was Rinus Michels. He revolutionized the game with a style of play known as Totaalvoetbal, Total Football. Highly technical and highly disciplined, Totaalvoetbal had every player on the team able to play any position at any time. Right from the first bounce Hawthorn delivered Aussie Rules Totaalvoetbal. The Dockers were never in it.
I spent a couple of days in Hobart vicariously experiencing Post Traumatic Docker Disorder. I’ve had Post Traumatic Tiger Disorder many times. I asked Gibbo why this game meant so much to us.
It’s in our cells mate.

About Chris Daley

Tiger fan Chris Daley works in Community Nursing, which has taken him to Perth, Broome and now Dandenong. Being tall, he used to get a game in the ruck playing bush footy outside of Warrnambool.


  1. Trucker Slim says

    Thanks Chris, that’s as good a compliment as the Hawks could get for that game.

    And what a dizzy night it must have been at the G! I love the reference to when your dad meets a friend’s dad. So true.


  2. Thanks Trucker!

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