The Dickensian festive season footy fan (Part 1): The ghost of footy past

The life of a footy fan can be a roller coaster of emotions (to take it one cliché at a time). Once were world beaters beget cellar-dwelling no-hopers who’d be lucky to get a run for the “insert local reserves team here” lineup. No team is immune and thanks to the “Circle of Drafts” fans can reasonably put their eggs in the hope basket on a regular basis.


But what if you have several baskets to distribute said hope between?


The pragmatic approach suggests spreading the agony and the ecstasy around will insulate from catastrophic and crushing disappointments (see Richmond and 9th, Geelong and Grand Finals pre-2007, St Kilda in general) and susceptibility to floggish hubris (Hawthorn 2013-15, Hawthorn 1980s, Hawthorn post 1960 in general) in equal measure. This is a sound theory, but as with so many others, practice is a different beast entirely.


I am such a fan. I have three baskets that I use (to varying degrees) for my eggs; Brisbane, Richmond and Gold Coast. The analogy I feel best sums up my approach to supporting these sides comes from the classic Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol.


The Ghost of Footy Past


A Roy Boy from shortly after I was able to walk and talk, my relationship with the clubs of the VFL/AFL started ordinarily enough. Paul Roos was as singularly brilliant as his number, Jarrod Molloy held a soft spot that only a (once a rare thing, surprising given the plethora of Jarrod variations running around today) namesake could bring and I had enough 1994 Jim Wynd footy cards to build a house with (I’d happily part with doubles from other clubs, but never the Lions).


The Fitzroy Lions were my team by way of patrilineal gift. My father had in turn inherited them from his dad, who started following football with keen intent in the 1940s as a young man. It wasn’t the longest chain of father-son traditions in my family (the seven generations of carpenters would take a lot of beating) but it was one that I cherished dearly.


Funnily enough, the earliest signs that the Roys wouldn’t hold the same place in my heart began prior to the dark times (1996). When we picked up Jeff Hogg from Richmond, I felt as though my team of strugglers and true believers (sans Roos, Osbourne, Lynch et al) had a champion who could lift the spirits of the club as he simultaneously lifted the club up the ladder. Perhaps in hindsight, my hopes and those of other Roy Boys and Girls were too much for Hoggy’s back to bear. When we picked up Doug Hawkins from Footscray a mere season later, even the primary-coloured lenses of my glasses weren’t enough to stop me from realising that poor old Hawk was being done a disservice by the state of the club within the league of haves, have nots and Fitzroy (had even less).


I loved Doug Hawkins as a player and ornament to the game; we Lions certainly could not have arxed more of him in his brief career at Whitten Oval in our colours.


So when the much heralded centenary season of the VFL/AFL rolled around, I was romantic enough to still believe in the club we held so dear, but pragmatic enough to know that premiers we would certainly not be this year.


I did a lot of growing up in 1996, thanks to the whims of Ross Oakley’s regime. Death was something that I hadn’t yet experienced in a loved one, but the funeral rites were already being written for my footy club. A club with a storied history of 113 years that featured in the lives of countless thousands, but until recently so fresh and rich with promise for a kid like me.


I attended the final game Fitzroy played in Melbourne. I was flanked by my father and both grandfathers, in a shared moment I will never forget. I distinctly remember three things from that day:


1) Richo was a thoroughbred in all but equine genetics. With his long flowing mane and confident gallop, it was easy to admire him as a footballer, even as he took 21 marks and kicked 7.5 on the Roys. My grandfather, so long a keen follower of the nags, spat venom in his direction unlike any he’d projected at a beaten favourite. A one-eyed barracker ‘til the last.


2) The MCG felt colder and darker than I’d ever felt before. Rationally I put it down to being up in the nosebleeds of the Southern Stand for the first time during winter; my gut feel is that nature was expressing its displeasure at the whole sordid scenario.


3) My other grandfather, so Richmond that if you cut him he’d bleed yellow and black, born in the suburb when Jack Dyer was first called Captain Blood and equally as one-eyed as dad’s dad became quiet and reflective as the final siren drew closer. I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face in case he’d let a tear escape.


After Fremantle played gracious host to the setting sun of Fitzroy in the west, I found myself without my club for the first time ever. Some of my favourite players were to be shipped up to sunny Queensland and in less than six months’ time I would witness Molloy line up alongside poor, talented Brad Boyd and rising gun Chris Johnson like they had on that cold, dark day of August 25th, 1996. But it wasn’t the same. It wouldn’t ever be the same.


As my “Past” club in the tale, my relationship with Fitzroy could have ended here. But with time and the getting of wisdom, I’ve been able to glean some pride and joy from the Brisbane Lions, particularly when my grandpa was still around to share stories about chatting to Vossy, Blacky and surprisingly even Lynch who’d left all those years ago as some sort of prototype Richo but had eschewed loyalty for success.


Part 2 here



A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.


  1. Jennifer Muirden says

    J-Rod, J-Rod simply can’t wait to read Part 2 of this delightful Dickensian tale of a family oriented, frustrated (or some might say fickle?) footy fanatic.

    I’m so glad our conversation that started, but never ever got finished (thanks Dips for constantly interrupting with your tales of Geelong and Yablett!!!), at Yoshi’s “Welcome to Melbourne, fellow Almanackers & the nourishing North Fitzroy Arms” dinner stimulated your creativity as we are all now the richer!

    Quick quiz question for you ol’ Royboy…name the Fitzroy F.C player whose nickname was ‘Chicken’? Time’s ticking ….

  2. Slightly before my time, J-Mew, but “Chicken” is one of my favourite Fitzroy nicknames, along with “Butch” Gale and “Doc” Wheildon. If I’m not mistaken, you’re referring to Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn.

    Stay tuned for Part 2!

  3. Jennifer Muirden says

    That answer is both elementary, dear Watson and 100% correctamundo! Maybe you can cut it with the old timers like me and the rest of the learned Almanacker crew afterall ; )

  4. Nice one Jarrod. Adversity makes the success all the sweeter. Tigers and Dogs supporters are very relaxed and generous these days. Hawks and Cats insufferable. Saints manic depressive.
    Looking forward to the next instalment.

  5. Cheers Peter, glad you enjoyed the read. It’s a funny thing the way supporting a club can have such an influence on the way we live our lives.

  6. Jennifer Muirden says

    Hey Pete so…manic depressive Saints fans. Touche!

  7. Gold Coast? Still can’t see where that comes from. Perhaps future chapters will reveal?

  8. Jennifer Muirden says

    Well Dipsy, that’ll teach you not to get sidetracked during a dinner conversation!!! ; )

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