Simpler footy

As interchange caps, GPS numbers and substitute rotations start to take over the professional era of Australian Rules Football, it has made me think of when football was just that; a game thought about sparingly during the week, and played on weekends. I never experienced footy in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, when names like Dunstall, Carey, Silvagni, Lockett, Ablett and Matthews dominated on mud-filled tracks in suburban Melbourne, wearing baggy jumpers, short shorts and sporting unique facial hair. The corporatisation of the AFL has led to advertisements of major sponsors wherever you look, two online fantasy competitions, clash jumpers, strict off-field policies and themed rounds.

It is not all bad. I love partaking in SuperCoach as much as the next person, while I am an avid follower of the changes each team makes to its wardrobe every year. However, my mind drifts back to what really made me fall in love with this great game.

Nothing quite beats the thrill of waking up the morning of a game for your local side, although tell that to my parents at 7:30 on a Saturday. At the age of nine, they were finally ready to send me out onto the field (dad moreso than mum). It became a tradition. Waking up early, packing my bag, checking the paper to see who ended up winning the Friday night game in the big league, spending the whole trip in the backseat of the car to the ground worrying if I had remembered my boots, kicking the dew off the grass and standing at full forward asking my opponent who he followed in the AFL as we waited for the ball. Sometimes the ball wouldn’t come at all. In fact, let me rephrase that: sometimes, the ball would come into the forward line. Either way, you always left the field with wet boots and socks, packing them away into your bag for mum to find nearly a week later under a musty guise. Lining up after the match for some hot chips beside the kid that had 30 touches and kicked five goals from the other team.

Saturday’s didn’t stop there though. They were only just beginning. After watching 20 or so minutes of the under seventeens, we would travel back home, sometimes a two minute drive away, sometimes an hour. There, I would escape to my room, only after a quick kick of the footy in the backyard just to make sure I was really buggered, and turn on the radio. Hearing the delicate voices of Drew Morphett, Gerard Whateley, Stan Alves and Clinton Grybas talking about the game the night before, and the action-packed events that were about to follow.

I miss those Saturdays. I miss dad giving me a history lesson on the opposition team we were playing on the way to the ground. I miss the smell of deep-heat as you walk into the changerooms. I miss listening to the first hour of footy on the radio, then switching on the TV for the delayed telecast and watching what I had already heard. I miss trying to resist the temptation of turning the radio back on to check the progress score. I miss giving in to that temptation almost every week. I miss when you could get more games on free-to-air TV than you could on Foxtel. I miss the gaping hole at the MCG as a result of the stadium development between 2003 and 2005. I miss a Sunday double-header on Channel 9, I miss the commentators giving progress scores from other games taking place at the same time. I miss footy being played at Princes Park, I miss free-flowing footy before the Paul Roos and Ross Lyon era of defence. I miss seeing my favourite players, such as Nathan Thompson, Shannon Grant, Sav Rocca, and Glenn Archer. I miss studying the Herald Sun on a cold, drizzly Saturday to improve my knowledge on the teams.  I miss trying to figure out whether it’s Brent or Robert Harvey that has the ball when listening to the wireless.

Right now, I just miss footy, and can’t wait for its return in 47 days, not that I’m counting. You could say that the current generation of footy has never been easier to watch, and that may be true, but I do miss when footy was a lot simpler. I’d go back to that in a heartbeat if I could.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    If you’re reminiscing at 20-21 imagine how us old farts over 40 feel about the game?

    Miss Clinton Grybas’ commentary. His enthusiasm and turn of phrase at the right moments was a unique trait.
    Hopefully things will improve with better fixturing in 2015. The AFL knows that it has screwed over too many fans over the last few years.

  2. Great read, Josh, and all the very best with your Sports Media career. Regards the four commentators you mentioned, I’ll miss Drew Morphett, particularly his enthusiastic cricket coverage (I found in recent years he struggled to pick up players when calling the footy); respect Gerard Whateley’s knowledge but am not a big fan (his voice grates, not that mine’s perfect); love Stan Alves’ analysis (he keeps it simple without having David Parkin’s overreliance on statistics); and fully endorse Phil’s thoughts about Clinton Grybas (R.I.P.).

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