Round 20 – Melbourne v Gold Coast: Cashing in on the comforts of home


by Geoff Woolcock


I had this pencilled in my calendar not long after the fixture list was released, sitting as I do on the board of a community housing company in Brisbane and down to attend a national homelessness conference, funnily enough also at the G on the Monday following. A late Sunday afternoon on a sun-bathed MCG against a severely undermanned Suns outfit presented as a welcome lull in this whitewater rafting of a season, the balm from a grinding final quarter win away at the Crows only mildly salving the scars from the Kardinia ‘clutching defeat from the jaws of victory’ the week before.


Throw in a round that had already produced a record number of close finishes, a Gold Coast seeking some redemption from their official excommunication of Tom Lynch during the week and a Dees’ propensity – admittedly diminishing – to cough up sure things (read StKilda) and it wasn’t an altogether serene walk into the swirling wind at Jolimont.  It helped to be in the fine company of an old mate and his affable son of the same age that, as a young fire and brimstoner, I’d coached his father to a flag in the Brisbane Junior AFL. From there, he enjoyed an enormous growth spurt that led him to a couple of AFL reserves seasons, a decorated career in the VFL and then a family home full of Dees faithfuls. As the goals flowed in the surging opening quarter, he wisely observed that there should be no sympathy for the GC but instead these were rewards for the long-suffering, especially the kids!


We’d reconnected earlier in the year at the same junior club’s 90th anniversary, where my keynote address honed in on the importance of home, belonging and connection, including the observation that across all four major football codes in the past couple of decades, the home team won more than 60%.


In a week in which the Suns twelve thousand odd members paled into the shadows of the 100k+ figures from the boom Victorian clubs, it was hard to see an upside for the Gold Coast in their ongoing lack of connection with the local community, mirroring the sunstrip’s persistent inability to foster a sense of belonging in an itinerant tourist mecca. But that would be to take a superficial scan of footy’s health on the Coast. A deeper understanding would go beyond the Bad News Bears Carrara days and recognise that Australian football had been the dominant ‘Goldy’ code for some time, not just through the cashed up Southport Sharks, but a very strong local senior and youth competitions (most Qld junior rep teams field at least a third from GC). This too flies in the face of the now familiar tale of the Gold Coast being a cemetery for professional sports teams, a phenomenon that’s never really been credibly explained.


Anyway, was heartening in the Lynch aftermath to read local press of the club’s determination to direct much more of their meagre resources to local community connection and rapport building, surely the only way up for a club crying out for an identity rebuilt on a de-franchised, emotional investment from locals, indeed a rebirthed sense of home and belonging.


These were all contemplations afforded by the less than stellar goings on down on the hallowed turf, as the half-time 14.6.90 promised a blowout 200pt final scoreline. Remarks about this being the longest junk time ever and queries as to whether you could actually labour to a 100pt win emerged in the floodlit second half, punctuated by the absurd but entertaining rants (“that is the worst passage of play I’ve ever seen on a football field”) from a patently unsatisfied Dees’ nutter detoxing the angst from genuine battles of last month.


The only remaining concern was to stay injury free, spoilt by the impressive Smith’s unfortunate shoulder dislocation. Siren’s end triggered one of the more downbeat renditions of the Grand Old Flag with bigger fish to fry in the finals run up. Fare-welling the G on dusk, it nonetheless felt like I’d returned to enjoy a convivial Sunday lunch in the familiar comforts of home and good company. In this increasingly alienated world, there’s much to be said for this sense of belonging…


Almanac votes: Clayton Oliver (3); James Brayshaw (2); James Harms (1)


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About Geoffrey Woolcock

Geoff Woolcock's parents were newcomers to Melbourne when the Dees won the flag in 64. Alas a curse was put on their offspring. When not defending tanking, Geoff ekes out a living at Griffith University.

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