That was the season that was: rediscovering the joy of “going to the footy”


It was mid-season this year when my brother was down from Queensland for the weekend. He suggested we take our kids to the Essendon versus Sydney game at the MCG. My response was lukewarm. He was incredulous. It’s Saturday afternoon footy at the ‘G. Why on earth wouldn’t I want to be there?

I had my reasons. Multiple lockdowns meant I’d only been to one half of live AFL footy in over two years. My “going to the footy” muscles had atrophied. I’d become too accustomed to the comfort of my own couch, the taste of my own beer. When a night game finished, my warm bed was less than the length of a legal kick away. Sometimes, if the game wasn’t going the way I’d like it to, I could brush my teeth in the closing stages, switch off the TV at the final siren, and be snoring by the time the victors were singing their team song. In football parlance, I’d “gone soft”.

While I had been losing touch, my northern brother was fresh from two of the most prolific years of his football attending career. The 2020 Queensland bubble had been a veritable footy feast for him. It was by far the most live AFL footy he’d seen since he moved to Brisbane over 15 years ago. He was match fit. How could I now deny him an afternoon at headquarters?

Saturday 2nd July was as good as a winter’s day in Melbourne can be: blue sky, bright sun, crisp air. We drove in, excitement was building. There was talk of possibly flying a scarf out the window on the drive home. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done that.

Sydney held a three-goal lead at quarter time. Despite the scoreline, from my high perch on the top level of the Ponsford Stand, I’d already decided that I was glad that I came. There’s something a bit special about a Saturday afternoon at the MCG. I was enjoying quality time with my brother, I had packed enough snacks to keep the kids happy, and memories of a lifetime of coming to the footy at this place were sitting all around us.

These were the same kind of memories I hoped my kids could start accumulating. Having already lost my first born to the dark side, I was committed to retaining a hold on my second son, Jesse. He was nominally a Bomber, but early momentum had been stolen by two years of not going to the footy. We needed to get back on track.

The Bombers worked themselves into the game. We were only four points down at half time. I shifted slightly closer to edge of my seat. I was a world away from my comfortable couch. The noise around the ground lifted in unison with Essendon’s fortunes.

The second half was a rollercoaster, but the Bombers finished strongly and won by nine points. The song was sung with gusto.

Walking back to the car, Jesse was bouncing with joy. He squeezed my hand the whole way and said, more than once, “I’m just so excited!” It was infectious. By the time we reached the side street where I’d parked the car, I burst from our group – mini footy in hand – and re-enacted Mason Redman’s match-sealing goal, trademark celebration included. A fuse had been lit. I was back.

We started attending games regularly, which serendipitously coincided with a late run of form for the Bombers. We were there for wins against the Suns and the Kangaroos. Jesse’s interest in the game growing by the quarter. His burgeoning love for the Bombers even survived being in the stands for the heart breaking loss to Collingwood after the siren. After a long train ride home sitting next to his Collingwood-supporting brother, Jesse disappeared into his room and drew a picture of Sammy Draper, his new favourite player.

Many adults say Christmas takes on a whole new meaning once they’ve become parents. They see the magic all over again. Footy is the same. I’m watching Jesse fall in love with the game for all its pure elements. The colour, the action, the sounds, the feelings.

Alas, the 2022 season is essentially done for the Bombers. Ultimately, the pre-season hype evaporated by half time in Round 1, and it was a hard slog from there. But now, despite the coaching conjecture, I’m choosing to salvage some positivity for the year. Like a golfer who snagged a few pars on the back nine after a terrible start to their round, I’ll be back for more next season. And there’s a good chance Jesse will be right alongside me.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.


  1. Hayden Kelly says

    Ged Thanks
    Such a good story well written and so true . My 5 year old grandson attended his 1st Bulldogs game on Saturday and frankly he copped a shocking game to attend . On the way home he told everyone he loves footy because you get a hotdog and chips as well as the lights when the Bulldogs kick a goal . But his best thing was watching the supporter race the rocket around the boundary at half time .
    His 8 year old sister who is a regular attendee said ‘Mitch when you get a bit older you will understand what footy is about ‘ . She does understand now and is a joy to take to the game albeit I suspect she has an expectation that the Bont is waiting for her to be old enough to marry before he proposes .
    I knock the AFL on many things but with ground rationalisation and other initiatives they really have made the game family and female friendly and it’s great to see families together safely enjoying a shared passion albeit more afternoon games would further enhance that .

  2. Susan McMahon says

    I just love this story. It is beautifully written and so easy to read. It allows readers to imagine themselves at the MCG, enjoying the thrill of the game and the atmosphere of the ‘G’, but mostly puffing out their chest, set to burst with pride at being able to enjoy the experience with their own child. Ged’s story is full of humour and love. Well done Ged. I hope you and Jesse get to enjoy many more games together.

  3. We enjoyed your story Ged and as Essendon supporters from way back we feel for you and Jesse. Here’s to better times in 2023. Collingwood and Geelong are going well , embrace their finals success in 2022 and let’s hope there’s plenty of great games and success for The Bombers next year.

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