Seventh heaven, my bootlace. Writing match reports is a terrible business

By Andrew Stafford

A few days after the Brisbane v Collingwood clash at the Gabba, I received an email from a fellow Pies tragic. “You must have been in seventh heaven!” she gushed. Several other friends, not all of them Magpie fans, made similar comments.

My job is a source of some envy. I am a freelance journalist, and I make it my business to write about things that I enjoy or am otherwise interested in. One of those is reviewing AFL matches for The Age in Melbourne, and being Brisbane-based, it’s the Lions, a team I have no personal passion for, whose games I follow.

So Collingwood coming to town is an event for me (and for football followers in Queensland – nearly 35,000 people showed up for the game, the biggest crowd at the Gabba in five years). A Collingwood win, of course, is even better. But to suggest I was in seventh heaven would be mistaken.

Most sports fans don’t appreciate the pressure journalists are under when filing match reports. Day games are great – you can watch the match, have a feed, make some notes and when it’s over you’ve generally got a few hours before deadline in which to tailor your masterpiece. But night games – especially Friday nights, when kick-off is delayed until 7.40pm – are a nightmare.

I invite you to try it yourself sometime, even sitting at home watching the match from your lounge chair. Maybe crack open a frosty while you’re at it if you want (no one in the press box would be so cavalier).

Here’s the brief. You’ve got 700 words to write – 600 for the match, then another 100 for your breakout panel. Don’t forget the list of goalkickers (to be written in strict order), your best players, and to take note of any injuries. Oh, and your votes, too. And … could you get it all to me no later than five minutes after the final siren?

Actually, let me put that more firmly. I NEED IT NO LATER THAN FIVE MINUTES AFTER THE FINAL SIREN, otherwise there’s going to be a great big hole in the late edition where your report should be, and in these straitened times there’s no ad to fill it. So yeah, five minutes after the siren, please. In fact, make your breakout panel five minutes before the siren, if you can.

Oh, and don’t bother showing up next week if you get stage-fright and nothing you write makes any sense.

The truth is there’s no hope of seeing much of the match at all under these circumstances. You barely see the final quarter, which of course is when most of the important stuff happens in a close game.

I hate close games. I want every game I write about to be a massacre, with one side (I don’t care which) ten goals up at the first change.

You know what? I didn’t even realise until later that Paul Medhurst was running around with concussion in the final quarter of the match against the Lions; nor did I spy Jamie Charman coming off, never to return. I didn’t see the sickening clash between Simon Prestigiacomo and Michael Rischitelli, or the umpire allegedly bumping Shane O’Bree. I was too busy writing.

So when someone says, “That journo must have been watching a different game”, I just smile knowingly. And look forward to watching the replay in the comfort of MY lounge chair, frosty in hand, later.

That’s seventh heaven.

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