Slow Start by Pamela Sherpa (Snowy Mountains correspondent)

‘ A National game it’s supposed to be
But Friday night football my team I won’t see’…. 2002

……so began a poem I wrote

Frustration had led to inspiration.

The new TV rights agreement had led to Friday night football moving networks and  timeslots. Instead of the reasonable  8.30 timeslot it was consigned to starting within an hour of midnight.

I’m still trying to understand how taking  the game away from people was actually meant to help it grow.

The AFL seem committed to charging into new territory. But as much as some things change some stay the same. One step forwards two steps backwards it seems.

Fast forward to 2009. Have we ever had a bigger build up, excitement and hype for a season opener?

Fans could barely wait for the turnstiles to open. Those of us who couldn’t make it there would tune in however we could.

The long wait was finally over last Thursday night – or so I thought. But not quite.

Like many other football fans around the country I was looking forward to the start of the real stuff with enthusiasm. What a  dissapointment, but not shock I must admit,  to discover that the big event – the game the football world had been talking about, Richmond V Carlton would not be televised until 11.15. in the ACT area. A part of Australia where football has long been played and followed.

After all the fuss during the week about the opening game  finally being screened live in Melbourne I didn’t think twice about it not being  telecast at a reasonable hour in the  viewing region of the nation’s capital. I should have known better.  The fact that  Melbourne were getting it live and we were getting it after bedtime made the deflation even worse.

Not being  a Richmond or Carlton fan I had no reason to be REALLY cranky, however there are some defining events  the football world talks about- like Ben’s hammy twang; that you can live to regret missing.

How can you get into footy mode when you miss such moments?

Never mind I told myself, Friday was  a working  day and I needed to function in an alert state. Sleep had  to come before football  and by all reports the Tiges were woeful. Perhaps I’d made a wise choice after all. Besides,  something  better was in store.

Only a day to wait. We always get Friday night footy at 8.30. Coincidentally, during the week I’d been telling a friend how grateful I was for this. I spoke too soon!

Last years finalists- Geelong and Hawthorn would be something to look forward to. There’s  something to prove after you’ve lost a Grand Final. Geelong would try to do it  and perhaps feel a tad better about life in the process. Hawthorn could afford to lose knowing they  had turned it on when it really mattered last year and could confidently hope to do it again. It would be a cracker.

With the working week  over there’s no better feeling on a Friday night than blobbing  on the couch knowing you deserve to enjoy a game of Friday night football. Never assume too soon.

At 8.30 Friday night I turned on the TV – shock horror- no football. What  was going on I wondered? I scrambled around looking for the TV guide  to find it was programmed for 9.30 then  double checked it on the internet. It if said the same in both places it was probably right. The internet program showed that it was sheduled for midnight. Aaaargh!

Would I get frustrated or not? No a phone call to PRIME TV in Canberra would sort it out. I’d  speak nicely and hope to be enlightened.

The 9.30 start was confirmed and that games would be shown at this time slot for the rest of the season.
After having adjusted back and endulged in 8.30 games  for two years I was mildy stunned. How foolish of me, but then again I’d heard nothing about the impending change and was completely unaware of an off season ratings poll. I’ve always been suspicious of poll results, mainly because I’ve never been surveyed for one.

A dilemma presented itself. To check the scores via the internet or not to check and just wait for the game.

I’ve discovered some advantage to the sneak score check. If in weary state I can actually make a desicion about whether the game will be worth sitting up for.

As it was the opening round and I was keen to see some action I decided to at least watch the first half.

Unfortunately tiredness got the better of me  so I dragged myself off the couch , checked the score on the internet and went to bed. Geelong winners – At least I could sleep peacefully knowing some parts of the football world would be sleeping peacefully too like  some  of my very nice Geelong friends.

The next day was Saturday and there would be a game on. Unless it was one of those strange weekends when it all changes because we have a game being played on an  extra day or night.( Any extended weekend seems to cause extra chaos  with the TV schedule)

Footy routine – I wasn’t quite  into it yet, having to think about which station I actually had to tune in to on Saturday. That mistake had been  made  before.

Some  habits are hard to break. 2 p.m Saturday seemed like a good time to turn on the TV. I pressed the on button.  Car racing ? Oh that’s right it’s the Grand prix weekend in the sporting capital of the world. So that of course affects life on all other planets. Don’t distress, I could live  for one more  lovely Saturday afternoon  without football.

Not to worrry, all comes to those who wait. As  luck would have it the Swans were playing  on Saturday night (was it a carefully planned  feature of fixture months in advance?) which meant that we would get a live telecast.
Perhaps Andrew was thinking of us after all.

Finally, two days and three nights into the season I would get to see a whole game live. The Saints and Swans, a chance to check out beginning form.

Nick Riewoldt looked fit, strong and tanned. What a difference a few bandages make. Out was the mummy look. In was the  footballer look. It would help  him to play like the Nick we want to see surely.

Young Zac Dawson had a spring in his step against old Barry Hall. Bazza scored the first goal of the game but young Zac hardly allowed Bazza  a smell of the leather after that.

The Swans seemed to be handballing more than they were kicking. Short passes into space. Lots of clogging up and tackling and not much real dink-di football actually.

At times I wonder what living in a rugby state has done to the Swans (and myself.) How about a few long kicks fellas? The Saints seemed powerless to unclog it until they tried something new. After quarter time they started to kick long bypassing the clogs. Give the forwards half  a chance to get the ball and most likely they’ll end up with a goal or two. Miraculous stuff!

The warmed up Saints  then gave the Swans some of their own medicine. The Swans didn’t score another goal  until  half way through the last quarter. Farren Ray impressed his new club by gathering a myriad of possessions. Sometimes I wonder why players actually change clubs.

Are the Swans going to play like this all year again? Mmm …next week they play the premiers at the bank stadium in the area  that Andrew’s going to plonk a new team in. That should make the news this week. Will Barry Hall run into the fence again or try harder to get the ball?  Already the season is having an effect on me . My mind is wandering.

Sunday dawned and I  had wisely learned my lesson. The TV guide was checked  to see what was in store for the day.

You can always count on the AFL  for variety. They vary the start times just to keep us on our toes.

Starting  time for the Sunday game between  Melbourne and North Melbourne  was 1pm. The Demons would be hoping to show an improvement on last years form and I was  hoping North wouldn’t cause their coach a stress attack in round one. There were already news reports of some coaches looking stressed  and strained before their first press conferences of the season had ended. A long season lay ahead.

The Dees showed some endeavour. What more could their fans ask of them? But their skills- like the game itself in some places- existant, still developing and looking to make a bigger impact. When a teams big men fire, as North’s did, it’s confidence boosting and  intimidating. Hamish McIntosh kicked three but it felt like he kicked six. Strength and experience -North had it and used it.

The Dess blooded four new youngters keen to make a mark – hope is all you need for the future .

Because the game finished early at 4pm there was time to venture  outside and absorb  the glorious  warm autumn weather. A dip in  Lake Jindabyne would be refreshing and help ease the strains of round one so far. It was a pleasant interlude late on Sunday afternoon.
My team the Bombers were yet to play so a dose of fresh air  and cold water was probably a good idea.
I felt as if I was hundreds of miles away.

The other game in the far west was sheduled to start even later. What went on between the Bulldogs and Freo would hardly scratch the radar before the working week began.

At least the TV trauma was over though. The last two games of the weekend would have to be  accessed via the internet.

Relying on the nightly news can prove to be as unreliable and frustrating  as the television guide in a non football state. Give me one good reason fans would want to know all the scores? A morsel is all you deserve so that’s all you’re going to get! Enough to survive on. A snippet. Be grateful. Don’t expect a full story when half is good enough!
Besides doesn’t everyone in NSW  barrack for the Swans ?
This won’t be an issue when the new team is established in Western Sygney- people are just going to automatically follow it aren’t they?

Round one is a warm up really. It gives us insight, a reality check,  hope and a reminder to check the TV schedule.

A National game it’s supposed to be
But the footy on TV -it’s pot luck for me!…..2009

Note: Rugby league is screened live on Friday nights at 7.30 followed by a second game at 9.30.

By Pamela Sherpa

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  1. pamela,

    i feel your pain. your post made me actually feel the pain that i feel evey week. I have been known to write letters when channel 10 play the dream time game from 11pm, and then have the game go to ads after the first rushed behind is scored only to have it come back and see that you have missed 5 mins of the first quarter. I have also been to known to ring and leave abusive messages on their answering machines when they balto 2 on a sat arvo instead of carlton vs richmond at the g. the 9.30 fri nite start has hit me hard. i know that it’s partly puerile, but i can practice my culture. fri nite footy is an institution. is there nothing that we can do. you seem to have it under control. not me. i am hurting.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    It’s corporate greed nothing more, nothing less.

    Peter Schumacher

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