Season In The Abyss – Part Deux

Season 2014 is underway.

Already, according to many sage and august talkback callers, round two will already throw up a few ‘season defining games’, and some club supporters have begun to sharpen their pitchforks, prepare torches in haste and round up a posse to meet at the town square after evensong to run either a coach, a club administration – or both – out of town.

All things change, I know, but the lack of a genuine opening round blockbuster or the sight of 80,000 fans crammed into the MCG for the season opener has started the 2014 season with all the excitement of receiving a group certificate.

Desperate to steal some of the NRL’s oxygen, but with key venues contractually tied to Cricket Australia, the PTB* has served up an opening weekend snore fest delivering vacant seats across the opening four games (In any other job, someone would have had a please explain handed down on Monday morning, but as one fails upward at the AFL, you’d take the short odds-on that old mate Gillon will be employee of the month. Once again).  Pass me the valium post-haste, for I fear the excitement levels may do my delicate constitution much harm.

On the plus side, with Sydney stunned by GWS and Collingwood shellacked by Freo there’s an overdose of schadenfreude on offer and the round is only half way done.

Still brimming with the Eartha Kitt’s at Essendon FC, I put it to the Almanac community to help me choose alternate membership options for 2014.

The people spoke. I listened… And then went ahead and did my own thing anyway.

The winners were;

SB Storm

The Western Bulldogs, Geelong, Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Western Bulldogs – Sideline/International Membership $50 and a $50 ‘Bulldogs Backyard’ donation. (24,800 members as at 21/3/14).

The punters came for the ‘Scray like it was the Sermon on the Mount. There’s been talk that North Melbourne is everyone’s ‘second team’ but the overwhelming support for the Doggies from Almanackers suggests there’s much naches for Brendan Mac’s pups.

Of the non-match day membership options I had a look at, the Dogs have it licked *audible groans*. Only $50 and you get the same goodies as a reserved seat or general admission member and I got to nominate Ryan Griffen as my favourite Bulldog player. Natch, when my membership letter arrived with a note from the Rhino, I got all warm and fuzzy. Get down with yer bad self!

On a serious note, the affordability of a Kennel membership left room in the budget for some extras. While most clubs (AFL and NRL combined) wanted to on-sell me coterie memberships, and reserve seat upgrades, the Bulldogs membership site was the only one I looked at which invited you to get involved in a charity program. In this case, the ‘Bulldogs Backyard’ program:

“Every year, over 3,000 children who wouldn’t normally be able to go to the football, are given the opportunity to do so through the Bulldogs Backyard Community Bay at Etihad Stadium.

Invitations to Bulldogs Backyard are extended to schools, community groups and not-for-profit organisations throughout the West.

Your donation of just $50 provides a seat in the Bulldogs Backyard for nine children throughout the season. Each donor receives a special certificate of appreciation and this makes it an excellent gift idea for a friend or loved one, or as an add-on to an existing membership.”

So while the Bombers are stinging Hi-Mark Members with sneaky opt-out clauses as well as passing the hat around the rank-and-file to pay their multi-million dollar drug cheating fines, the Bulldogs – by contrast – are asking their members to help them take kids from families doing it tough to the footy. A no-brainer. Sign me up. And shame on you Essendon. For. Fucking. Shame.

Geelong – General Admission 3 Games. $85  (37,00 members appx as at (21/3/14)

Speaking of doing things tough, the good folk of the greater 3220 aren’t exactly chock-full of financial confidence these days. It’s not so dire that young Alastair and Pippa have to be driven to the College in the Landcruiser as opposed the Range Rover, but there’s certainly a few people having sleepless nights.

I detailed my (tenuous) links to the hoop d’affaire in part one. What’s not so tenuous is that there’s a bit of resentment down at Geelong towards Mark Thompson. He didn’t exactly endear himself to sections of the club when he gave little Gaz a nice whack on the way out for joining the Suns. For his encore, after assuring the faithful that he wasn’t leaving the club to coach somewhere else, he’s um… how does one say it? He’s um… he’s coaching again. As much as I love ‘Bomber’ and his roles in 84/85 and 93, the added spice of some Geelong fans now disliking the man intensely, Geelong gets some coin.

As the three games can be selected from the Dome, the ‘G or Kardinia Park, I have the thermos of hot chocolate laced with half a bottle of Kahlua ready to go for the train ride to South Geelong station (it doesn’t draw any attention from fellow passengers) and my standing room spot reserved on the city end terrace. With plans for a few jars to be had at The Barwon Club hotel after the final siren, who said tradition was dead at AFL games?

Then again, the people of Geelong elected this pickle as mayor.  And he’s already usurped Kosmo Kramer’s immortal ‘giddy up’. Shaky ground Geelong. Very shaky ground.

SB Kramer


Melbourne Storm – Flexi-Game 12. $195 (12,900 members as at 21/3/14)

Not so much a ‘screw you’ to Essendon’s membership department, but the AFL in general.  You’ll suffer from a raging case of tinnitus and the strains of ‘Thunderstruck’ echoing in your head long after the full-time whistle, but experiencing a Storm game at AAMI Park is like going to a Maori Hangi with a game of League thrown in for free. I’m a big fan. There’s nothing like the MCG as far as Melbourne stadia go, but Insurance Park’s got panels on the Dome. I love the joint.

As far as membership is concerned, the Storm have got it all over the AFL. For your money you get access to 12 general admission tickets and you can – effectively – use those tickets however you want. Go on your Pat Malone to 12 games, take 11 guests and your good self to one game, or take a mate to six games, it doesn’t matter – you use the tickets however you want. Brilliant.

With the Storm a genuine chance to make this year’s NRL Grand Final you don’t need to be a math genius to work out that with close to 13,000 members and Bank Stadium at Homebush with 45-50,000 odd seats available for punters after the corporates have left the trough, you’re a good chance of getting yourself some NRL Grand Final action as a competing club member. Who doesn’t love a weekend in Sydney? That’ll do me, thangyaverymuch. 

South Sydney -2014 Three Game Membership. $100 (28,500 members as at 21/3/14)

Another up yours more to Harbour Esplande than Essendon, but I’ll take it!. Prior to Melbourne Storm joining the NRL, I always had a soft sport for Balmain and the Rabbitohs. When the Storm were born, then there were three. When the Tigers merged with Western Suburbs back in 2000 that left the Bunnies and the Storm in the frame. Like Melbourne, Souths have bona-fide claims on a Grand Final berth, so I’m taking a leaf out of Melbourne-based Freo and Brisbane supporters as a way of avoiding the queues for GF tickets.

Plus – there was this corker of a membership ad a few years ago. Because when big Roy Asotasi tells you to do something, you fucking do it, awright? (Apologies, Rabbitoh fans, but I couldn’t edit out Chris Sandow).

** Late Scratching by Order of Stewards and the Raceday Integrity Unit **


Carlton – At Home Membership. $95 (44,200 members as at 21/3/14)

The aftermath of round one has delivered a consistent narrative from rank and file supporters and members from Royal Parade; “We’re ferkakta off field, Gibbs is a pea-heart and Matthew who?” etc. After considering membership options at Carlton, I’m inclined to agree they may have lost the plot at the house that Pratt built.

Let’s break the $95 cost down. From their own advertising material, we can safely assume that the ubiquitous lanyard, cap, stickers and what-nots are valued $45, because, using the same ballsy *cough* logic employed by Ticketmaster that came up with a $9 ‘handling fee’ to print your own ticket and thus, not actually handling anything, apparently a Mick Malthouse approved video package, exclusive breaking news emails and a weekly team selection email runs at $50.

Hmmm…. Where does one start with a retort on this? 10s-on says the ‘exclusive breaking news’ won’t exactly be the stuff Woodward and Bernstein in its newsy-ness, nor its exclusivity.

Given the number of late changes occurring these days as well as structures and set-ups *vomit*, team selection emails rival only Fango for irrelevance and redundancy.

And as for exclusive 24 hour video access to Mick’s highlights and plays of the day? I’m sorry, but unless it’s Bec Judd, Megan Gale and Jackie Waite (Spong) in a La Perla lingerie sponsored pillow fight and sleepover video, we’re taking an awful liberty meshing the words ‘Carlton’ and ‘highights’ into the same sentence.

But hey, you get also get a fleece blanket! A fleece blanket? To paraphrase 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghey “what am I, a Dees fan?” At least with Geelong, you get to go to three games of your choice.

$95. Give me a spell, please…

Plus: this guy is a Carlton fan.

SB Vaughan


So, there we have it. Despite my ramblings, I have no doubt that the Essendon Football Club won’t give a shit about my stand. They’ll be far more concerned with the 50,000 members they have ready to go for season 2014. Their games at the Dome will remain ‘all ticketed events’, they’ve got a lot of prime-time games on the box and – in a perfect example of leverage – Essendon’s crowd sizes make them so vital to the AFL’s bottom line that they’ve managed to keep ANZAC Day, plus two Richmond and Carlton blockbusters in this year’s fixture.

All I do is return to the Mark Twain quote from part one of ‘Season in the Abyss’:

“each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong… to decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor,”

I have decided what’s right and what’s wrong. I’ve remained true to my convictions of integrity, honesty and fairness. I’ve spent $395 spent on club memberships (not including my MCC membership subscription) and the Essendon Football Club’s not seeing a fucking penny of it.

And I’m sleeping just fine at night.

*Powers That Be


About Steve Baker

Weapons-grade grump. Currently in an "it's complicated" relationship with Essendon.


  1. Steve,
    I would say that your piece is witty and clever, but team rules prohibit any generosity toward Bulldogs supporters until next Tuesday morning, when we might concede that you tried hard.
    Your first selections may be OK, but the Geelong stuff is obviously only coming in on last night’s grouter, as a suck-up to Almanac management.
    In the unlikely event that your Bulldogs win on Sunday, I will have all your drafts deleted from the Inbox before Harms has even sobered up in the mornings.

  2. Steve Baker says

    Was I that transparent Pete? Dang!

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Sounds like money well spent Steve. The Bulldogs Backyard sounds like a great innovation, well done Dogs. Loved the line about Alistair and Pippa.
    Just relieved Carlton didn’t get any of your money. Very entertaining Steve, even if I did have to look at pictures of the Geelong mayor and bloody Michael Vaughan.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good stuff Steve and the reply I give Adelaide FC when rung to buy anything is the day Steven Trigg is sacked is the day I will support the crows again .How there are rules for businesses re impropriety and solvency issues etc and they go out the door re sporting businesses has me buggered ! V entertaining and love your conscience
    ( How bout the Hird camp this week wonder if they’re related to Shane Watson ?
    Is Hird really a optometrist as it’s all about eye eye eye Dickhead

  5. Didn’t know about that endeavor at the Western Oval. Makes me proud of my club. You’re an impressive man Steven and I hope we can truly win your heart over the next season or two. Welcome aboard and thanks for a really enjoyable read.

  6. This Essendon to Doggies thing is becoming a movement!

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