Supporting: who and why?

[first posted Feb 27 2014]

SteveB’s thought-provoking piece about his unanswered peering into the reflection pond of EssendonFC has me wondering.

A mate of mine and contributor to this site (g’day Squiz) grew up a Collingwood fan, but jumped ship as a protest at Eddie McGuire’s presidency. For many years now, he’s followed the Dogs. This has me wondering, too.

Why do we support the teams we do? Family tradition? Conscientious pick? Influence of neighbours, friends? Have we ever swapped allegiances?

I support Collingwood because my paternal grandfather, George Wilson, played 15 or so games for them in the 1940s. He only ever saw football as a game. Certainly nothing to take seriously. Time with his family and providing food for that family dominated his priorities. In fact, when posted to an army camp in St Kilda during WW2, he moved clubs from Collingwood to St Kilda to reduce his commuting time. This gave him more time at home. (He played a couple of matches for the Saints).

So I’m a magpie who fails to take it seriously. And that’s why.

What about you?

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Was Richmond, swapped to Essendon. I was an unabashed fan of Kevin Sheedy as a kid. I cried when he retired, but when he was named as coach of Essendon, I wrote myself out of the family trust and followed Sheeds to Essendon. That, as well as my best friend was also an Essendon fan.

  2. West Torrens in SA is my first true love. St Kilda in the VFL/AFL from listening to the 66GF with my dad on the Bakelite radio in Renmark (3WV from Horsham). Through all the travels and travails (theirs and mine) I stayed true and managed to see a game live most years. Losing did not bother me. There was the compensating swagger and bravado that Patrick O’Brien wrote about so eloquently earlier this week.
    Then 3 things collided. 1) Moving to Perth in 97. New life. New wife and the Avenging Eagle had me as an Eagles member but I was still a Saints fan first. 2) Sacking Stan Alves who I greatly admired as a man and a coach and had delivered the greatest success for 30 years – to hire an untried twerp in Watson. 3) Hiring my hero Malcolm Blight at great expense (knowing that he was a left field maverick) and then sacking him before his magic had a chance to work – for an even bigger twerp in Thomas.
    That DAY I sent AE an email reneging my attachment to the lunatic Saints and pledging to the Eagles as the one true faith (perhaps it was a pledge to the Avenging Eagles?)
    Never looked back..
    Had I stayed a Saint I would probably been seduced like Patrick into the faux success of the Lyon years. A sad bastard sitting on the Fremantle docks like Les and Sean, pathetically waiting for my ship to come in.

  3. Kath Presdee says

    I grew up being a follower of the Cronulla Sharks and nominally a supporter of the Sydney Swans. Why? Because they were the team in NSW.

    The Swans were always my team of convenience, and I wouldn’t have given them much thought if I hadn’t actually gone to a few of their matches. And they started playing well. And I had to nominate them as my team in tipping competitions. And they provided a point of difference when I married into a Geelong supporting clan.

    When a team in my own backyard started, I ditched the red and white and donned the Orange and Charcoal. I’ve been to more Giants games in two years than Swans games in over 20. I’m also looking forward to some great years ahead. I’m a Giants fan, whereas I was probably only ever a supporter of the Swans.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Norwood is my 1st love and then VFL wise sort of swapped around became Collingwood because of Norwood guys Kingo Taylor , Ned Kelly and Tony Francis and then it just evolved in to the crows thru watching them but I have become ambivalent towards AFL thru the game style and umpiring and now with what has been done to SANFL, give me amateur league with the new lights at Uni oval ( aka Bob Neil Num 1 )
    Every time ! Go the blacks !

  5. Ben Footner says

    Adelaide Crows, because:
    – I am 80;
    – I enjoy knitting;
    – I love a hot thermus and a home made bikkie at half time;
    – I cheer using player’s first names (Go Patty! Give it your best!);
    – I know absolutely nothing about football.
    ….or so the stereotypes keep informing me anyway.

    In all seriousness they were formed when I was 10 years old, and with parents who had no interest in the SANFL the hype around the AFC would mean I never had a chance of supporting anyone else.

  6. Footscray, because there is nothing more that I enjoy than slamming my head repeatedly into the seat in front.

  7. My parents ran a string of businesses growing up and the one common thread was that I would attach myself to one of the young female service staff and follow them around like a puppy. So it was that I started following the Bulldogs because Debbie supported for them and actually had a real bulldog (that is a clincher for a 4 year old).

    Story has it that my Great Uncle, who had managed to entrance two generations of Nieces/Nephews about his jelly bean tree out the back, was a major influence in my brothers following of the Blues and my subsequent conversion. As he likes to say he has drank long into the night on the back of a Blues win on many occasions.

    However, I think Craig found the Blues himself and that my conversion was more related to his influence (and 3 flags in 4 years) than dear old Uncle Jim Fitz.

  8. sean gorman says

    Freo. Why coz they are not West Coast. For a more erudite analysis read my chapter in Best On Ground (2010) – The Wiz and I. p 79-96.

    PS They are NOT West Coast.

  9. Redlegs will remain my one true love – even as the SANFL finally accepts its lot this year as an accessory to the big show after quietly pretending it wasn’t the case for the last 23 years. As a boy from a South Australian family growing up in Canberra, I had an SANFL team, a VFL team and a NSWRL team followed with approachably similar passion.

    It was Carlton for me in the VFL because my older brother followed them, but come 1991 I did not hesitate for a moment in switching to the Crows. Always had (and still have) a particular liking for the Redlegs in their ranks – Rocket Rodney Maynard, Stephen Rowe, Tom Warhurst and David Pitman if memory serves.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Followed my old man into barracking for the Pies even though he has always only had a passing interest. Despite the best efforts of my Carlton fanatic grandfather and growing up in a house where my Mum, step-father and siblings were all mad Geelong supporters. Once you get black and white in your veins….

  11. Mark Duffett says

    Simple – geography. Central District in the SANFL remain my first and greatest love, because Salisbury’s where I was at the crucial ages (7-8) when allegiances are cemented. Adelaide FC later followed naturally from that, though that love has cooled considerably since their insistence on treating the SANFL as no more than a tool for their own selfish purposes.

    This (geography) is why the AFL draft as so pernicious – it completely decouples players from the area the club claims to represent. It might take another generation or two, but the links between club and community are surely headed the same way. Arbitrary support will never be as strong.

  12. Like so many other things, the blame has to go to my mother. Newly arrived in Australia as a naive 17 year old Irish immigrant, she saw the Footscray premiership in her third ever game and thought, this could be fun! She has become one of their most passionate supporters and has missed very few games in the following 60 years. My dad also played in the reserves in the same era. Freedom of choice about who you barracked for was an unthinkable concept, my mother actually refused to give my brother dinner one night when he claimed he’d like to barrack for someone else (ironically it was Fitzroy!)

    Through all the heartbreak barracking for the Dogs is completely ingrained in me, a part of my childhood memories. I’ve wished I could switch teams, or not care, but in some ways the ridiculously long wait for some semblance of success only makes the bond stronger.

  13. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have the desire/need/opportunity to change allegiances from the Mighty Hawks. As a 5 yo, being dropped off Saturday mornings by Dad to Nana and Pa’s house and walking down the three blocks to Glenferrie Oval, this was by far the most exciting and magical time of the week (and still quite possibly my life!). After the 19’s and reserves, and the beaut hot chocolate and curried-egg sandwich from Nana’s picnic basket, I got to see Huddo and Crimmo, Lethal and Scotty, Tucky and Parko weave their magic in the mud, while wearing my hand-knitted hawks jumper with number 5 on the back. I’m not sure how old I was when I was told and/or it registered (maybe 6 or 7?) but my father had actually played for Geelong (a dozen or so games in the 50s)! Not once did I consider barracking for the Cats, and was never pressured into doing so – well maybe from an older sister occassionally – and of course they are my ‘second’ team. Fair to say until 2009 it was a pleasure to watch the Hawks v Cats. And horrific from 2009 until Sept 20 2013. Hopefully natural order has resumed.

  14. Daniel Flesch says

    My Hungarian father and Belgian mother landed here in 1940. Intellectuals. No interest in any sport at all. I was born in ’49 , and we lived in the dusty suburb (well , it was then ) of Balwyn. At the local primary school the kids barracked either for Melbourne -who were winning Flags – or the “local ” team , the lowly Hawks. Wanted to go to the footy , but too young to go by myself . Some neighbours offered to take me , warning that they went to see Hawthorn every week. So i chose Hawthorn rather than Melbourne. The first word that comes to mind to describe that lucky choice is “Whew !”

  15. Brilliant personal stories.
    Our loyalties are complex.
    And simple.
    Thanks a lot- keep em coming…

  16. Daniel Flesch says

    I have a friend from high school who came out from Ireland . A very good rugby player with no real interest in Aussie Rules , but living in Melbourne realised he had to at least pretend to support a team. He lived in Carlton so went for them. When Carlton got pinged for salary cap rorting i asked him (not seriously ) how he could continue to support them. “Easy , ” he said . “When Carlton win , I’m happy. When Carlton lose and John Elliot is unhappy , I’m still happy.”

  17. Mike Delved says

    The mighty Lions (Gorillas, Maroons) The marvelous 3 peat, 1944 – although I was only -7 months old! My father, grandfather, great grandfather & now my sons are passionate supporters. It was a dry journey for a long time, but 2001 was worth the wait. And then to beat the hated neighbors Collingwood twice in a row – bliss!!

  18. My first team was Western Districts Bulldogs. Owen Backwell. Went for St Kilda because I liked the red, black and white. Noticing that the black was over the heart made them more attractive. A critical aspect here was that colour tv had just been introduced and a friend’s father, who religiously watched the Saturday afternoon games on channel 7, bought one early.

    Hitched my wagon to the Bears when they returned to the Gabba, so legitametly claim two teams, along with anyone playing Fremantle or Collingwood.

  19. Ralph the Bomb says

    Picked up the tigers as a 10 year old from Mt Isa in 1974 when I had to stay in Melbourne when my parents went overseas. Probably because they were premiers from the previous year. Still with them and hoping to see Damien Hardwick become their longest serving coach, and Cotch lift the cup in the next few years.
    Have a lot of faith in Dimma, and like the way he goes about coaching.

  20. Manny Koufalakis says

    Lived behind a shop on The Parade opposite the Norwood Town Hall for my first 20 years so it had to be the Mighty Redlegs.
    Dad followed them when he first arrived in Adelaide from Greece and my older sisters were in the Norwood cheer squad in the 50s/60s so it was probably genetically preordained.
    Loved the SANFL and what it meant and I have been a Norwood member continuously now for over 40 years.
    Nothing better than watching from the members stand at Norwood or in the outer at away games amongst like minded neanderthals.
    Barracked for Carrrrrrrlllton in the days of Jezza, Doull and Southby and followed the Blues from afar listening to the radio or watching the Winners on the ABC.
    These days however I hardly take notice of AFL and couldnt tell you who’s playing who in a given week.
    It’s Norwood for me forever, and like the old man I intend to buried with the red and blue scarf (hopefully in the off season so I dont waste a season ticket).

  21. Great yarn Manny. I take it that “like minded Neanderthals” is a reference to Rulebook and Dave Brown.

  22. Dave Brown says

    Yep, that cap fits, PB. And as Swish sleuthed I was the “Davo” in the above comment in Feb last year before I had established an Almanac presence – how the time flies…

  23. Sturt no 1. Carlton in the old VFL. Now Brisbane in the AFL.
    I’m really not enjoying the big stadium experience at the Gabba.
    I really miss the SANFL home grounds so I have been attending some local club games in Brisbane, the food is better, the spectators are amusing, the players are angrier but manage jovial interactions with the crowd, you can park your car around the boundary line, you can bring your dog, no entry fee.

  24. Geelong – because we play the game the way it should be played.

  25. Dennis Gedling says

    Grew up in South Fremantle’s district but almost become a Perth supporter because of a wayward cousin. Dodged that bullet thanks to my two older brothers threatening to lock me in my room and feed me dog food if I didn’t go for their team West Perth.

    Never really had a VFL side until an episode of the Winners when Matthews king hit Neville Bruns and Jacko was being Jacko so that appealed to an 8 year old me and I went for Geelong that was a pain for the next 22 years after that. Hawthorn were even upsetting me for what they did to Geelong even before supporting the Cats it seems.

  26. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Parents bought first house in the shadows of Vic Park in the 1950s. Mad older brother who took me to see Phil Carman, in white boots, destroy Hawthorn in 1975.

    Because drama needs a capable villain

  27. Neil Anderson says

    Classic baby-boomer football history.
    Lived in North Footscray when the eleven suburban teams and Geelong reigned supreme. Three ks from the Western Oval, saw Footscray win the premiership, Ted Whitten was the local hero…no further questions your Honour.
    Like the stories of twins separated and who meet by chance years later, my friend from primary school and I were reunited last year. Nothing had changed. Both of us were Bulldog fanatics wearing the Footscray colours as photographed at the 2014 Almanac launch and never entertained the idea of jumping ship over the journey.

  28. Scott McIntyre says

    Moved to Melbourne 20 years ago. Having grown up in the rugby league tribe of one of the “two tribes” Riverina towns, I had previously had only a secondary interest in footy and followed no team. Wanting to immerse myself in the culture of my new home, I had to throw my lot in with a Victorian club.

    I didn’t want to hook up with a “big” club, so no Essendon, Carlton, Richmond, Collingwood, Hawthorn.

    Love the Geelong hoops, one of the great sporting uniforms, but too far away.

    Didn’t want to waltz into town and straight away start bandwagoning for an up-and-coming powerhouse – cross off North Melbourne

    Everyone at my office barracked for the Saints, and talked about them non-stop – no, thanks.

    Very attracted to the ultimate underdogs in Fitzroy but Jack Hill the blind miner could see they were going out of business.

    That leaves Footscray and the Dees.

    Fancied the idea of being ensconced at the MCG, rather than traipsing out west every second week. Also, the Dees had the same colours as my hometown team, my grandmother was a Flower, and the Dees boasted some of my favourite players in G.Lyon, S.Tingay, G.Lovett, J.Stynes.

    There you have it. I’m a person who not only voluntarily became a Melbourne supporter, but I also made the decision using some sort of thought process. In my defence, when I joined the Dees in ’95, they had just come off a preliminary final the year before, and only had to win 1 of their last 5 games to make the 8. Of course, they lost all 5.

  29. My club: St Kilda

    To be honest, when I started watching footy in 2011, I didn’t have good image of the club due to the infamous schoolgirl scandal and then Ross Lyon’s departure. However the club’s plan to play footy in Wellington, New Zealand changed my mind and I started barracking for St Kilda. I have lived in New Zealand for four years and Wellington is my favourite city in NZ. Even the club won’t play in Wellington any more, my loyalty to the club stays and I renewed the club member last month.

    Go SAINTS!!

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