Suffering for your art

by Adam Gruer


I took the young fella to the footy on Sunday as part of my efforts to bring him into the Pies family.  Young Tom is almost five and this would be his third game of the season, following successful encounters with Port and West Coast.  When the FIXEDure came out I looked for day games, smaller crowd sizes and a better than even chance of victory.


My young children don’t yet understand or care for the strangling fanaticism of our backline, great team play and majesty of Clokey’s contested marks.  They love high-fiving after a goal, singing the song at the end of the game, hot chips and jam donuts.  And Daisy.  They love Daisy.  My efforts seemed to be baring some fruit when Tom, presented with a choice between going to see Kung Fu Panda 2 or the football, duly chose the footy. I was shocked and not a little choked up.


The weather forecast was for ‘scattered showers’.  Hmmph… for the last few years scattered showers has delivered nothing more than an overcast day and a brief patch of drizzle. It’s been remarkable how rarely it has rained during the football even as the drought has broken.

The threat of bad weather and our new AFL memberships gave me the opportunity to make a play for front row seats which I figured would also encourage an affection for going to the football.


We boarded ‘The Collingwood Line’ at Watsonia early and arrived 20 minutes after the gates opened.  All the front row seats were already occupied or scarved and bagged.  Lesson learnt.  Nearly every Collingwood game is pre-sold to some degree, increasing the competition for the remaining walk-up seats. The undercover seats were filling up fast and we had to make a decision, I dismissed the weather and went for row 2 directly in line with the centre of the ground.  Centre wing the view was not as bad as I thought it would be down so low, must be just at the goal ends that this seating is so compromised.


We had a lot of time to fill. After spending some time watching the boundary and field umpires practising throw-ins and ball-ups, and high-fiving ‘Strauchnie’ who had been playing in some unexplained and inexplicable curtain raiser it was time to employ another item in my arsenal.  The AFL, bless ’em, has established a kids playground outside the AFL Members gate 6 entrance alongside Brunton Avenue.  This small concern is probably consuming the entire AFL ‘grassroots’ budget but the simple offering of a mixture of inflatable goals and running and handball drills is a massive hit with my fella and a real selling point of a day at the footy. We were just heading back to our seats when the heavens unexpectedly opened. That should be it for the day I thought as we took our seats.


It turns out the showers were scattered about every 10 minutes for the entire game and often the heavy, vertical variety that you have to look through like a veil.  I decided to stick it out – rain doesn’t bother me by and large.  I had brought just the one poncho to keep Tom dry, could have done with one more.  I was still convinced the showers would clear and I was already wet so dismissed the idea of retreating to the top deck. I’m an optimist with weather and a pessimist with footy.  Tom watched Daisy and his other favorite Harry, the ‘man with the black hair’ briefly. Long, rarely washed hair clearly being the key to a young boy’s attention.


Three or four minutes into the game he lost interest and it started pelting down.  On came the poncho and out came the big weapon, the iPad.  As Steve Jobs says, it just works.  I held the top of the poncho and Tom sat in there playing games.  It was a bit like holding goldfish in a bag from the pet shop.  Occasionally I threw some food in there and when Daisy took his speccie he popped his head out to watch the replay and high-five, then back inside to Angry Birds.


My trousers were soaked through on top, water was just running off them. Sheets of rain were coming down and when it did stop the wind whipped all the rain off the surrounding ponchos into my face. I didn’t want to move because my seat and back of my trousers were still dry.  I was loving it.  I was hearing bodies slap in to each other and the wind being knocked out of players’ sails.  I could see the little things: The Krak having a tiny glance under his shoulder just before taking a mark and gauging whether he could spin around and have a shot; Thomas feigning fatigue and then pirouetting at a ball up to escape his tag, Luke Ball’s work at the bottom of every pack and Cloke’s out muscling two opponents and taking the grab; ruck contests that the umps should have left alone.


Half time brought quite a bounty.  Another downpour crushed the resolve of those in front of us and they retreated.  We took the front row, the Collingwood mascot passed by for a photo and match highlight for Tom. Tom had enough and wanted to go home, I decided it was time to introduce a lesson about seeing things through and really I don’t want to miss a minute of watching this team play.  They are the best Collingwood team I’ve seen in my 25 years of watching them.  What they may achieve this year is unknowable right now, victory is never guaranteed, but I have never enjoyed watching them play as much as now.  To kick 22 goals in that weather was incredible.  Don’t be fooled that it was easy, from the fence the contests continued to be hard, it’s just that Collingwood won nearly all of them and the pressuring of the opposition never let up.  They play hard, they play smart.  I love watching the backline.  They exude this hatred of the very idea of having a goal scored against them, I wonder if Nathan Buckley will be ‘asked’ to hand over the reigns to Heath Shaw in ten years time.  The Pies could be hopeless by the time Tom is really into it, I will bore him with stories of these guys.


One of my favorite moments came near the end when a sideways low, flat kick saw a ball come towards us. It hit the ground with that loud, heavy thud-squelch-skid and cannoned into the fence, I imagined Matt Zurbo smiling somewhere.  It brought back so many memories of cold, wet days at the football, such a rarity of late.  We sang the song a few times then trudged up to Jolimont while it continued to rain.  My romanticism of sitting in the rain had worn off and I was cold and wet to the bone and just wanted a hot shower.  I didn’t pay attention to my jam donut and it duly squirted all over my jumper.  Tom enjoyed the day in that weird way that kids do after spending a lot of it asking to go home and told his mum and sister of seeing the Magpie and how ‘Daisy is the best kicker for the magpies’.  Eddie, please re-sign Daisy. I and other Collingwood mums and dads will have a very hard time of it if he departs to another club.





  1. Lovely piece. Very evocative.
    Enjoying the footy while soaked in rain and strawberry jam?
    I guess 20 goal wins will do that for a man.

  2. Dave Nadel says

    Wasn’t it like “the old days,” Adam. Getting soaked and beating North by so much that you actually feel sorry for them. It could have been Victoria Park in the sixties.

  3. smokie88 says

    Ouch, Dave !

  4. Sensational – what a great read. Took me back in time to when my girls were around that age which I’m pleased to say ultimately resulted in a successful induction into the Magpie Clan and then further back to the days that Dave speaks of at Vic Park in the 70s standing on Dad’s emply cans!

    I did a piece for Hot Pies fanzine yonks ago with tips on how to successfully make the kids Pies fanatics, I’ll try to upload one day, but you look like you are right on the money!

  5. forwardpocket says

    On reflection the true heroes and masochists were the North fans who stayed to the end. It did remind me of days spent at Vic Park and Waverly. I didn’t even feel the return of the old magpie bloodlust Dave. There is just something really enjoyable about watching this side that’s making me view these games in most un-Collingwood ways (well when i’m not on the sauce at least).
    I loved Hot Pies Ramon, such a great read. well done on being a part of it.

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