The Footy Gods: an introduction


by Ian Latham

In millennia past, the Greeks believed that the gods could determine our future. At times they would act with justice. At times, they would punish you just to prove that they could. But there was little that humans could do to influence them. To make matters worse, they sometimes took human form to torment us further.

When they tried, they could be really difficult. Prometheus, for example, was chained to a rock and left outside without sunscreen. As he dreamed of ice cold soft drinks, an eagle would tear through his skin and gobble pieces of his liver. And what did Prometheus do to deserve this? He delivered fire to humans to cook their food. Not such a crime, you might say. But that was the gods for you. They didn’t like people getting ahead of themselves. Today, they would be called the footy gods.

The footy gods have great powers. They can blow at football grounds until the ball deviates from the arc that would take it through the middle of the goal. They can flick rain clouds with their fingers and make them burst so that the foot stumbles and the ball slips. They can strike down players with injuries that you have never heard of. If only that was the worst that they could do.

It was when they dressed in yellow and ran onto the ground that you really started to resent them. Like today when they fronted up to get the Dockers over the line. Not that Sydney played well. But when the game was really in the balance, the footy gods leant back in their sofas, turned on the telly and wondered how much mischief could they create. First, a few 50 metre penalties.  Then the rain and a range of mystifying free kicks. And then when the Swans finally burst back to within a goal; the footy gods picked out a free kick for Freo and that was it. A game that Sydney should have won; at home; Freo missing Sandilands; so much at stake. You could say a lot. But it wouldn’t make any difference. The footy gods would just lean back and change the channel and find some other team to mock.

Life hasn’t really changed in 3000 years. All of the stats and all of the form and all of the ladder position means nothing if the footy gods decide to get involved. And all you can do is cop it. Because if you say a word, they’ll march your opponent down to the goal square. Just to show you that they can.




  1. johnharms says

    I must say, that on a lazy Sunday afternoon, flicking between Geelong-Lions and the Sydney game, with the sound down, I did notice the umpires a few times. I was surprised Sydney didn’t finish over the top = Freo looked to stop. Although most of my time was spent watching the Cats lazy performance.

  2. I agree we probably had the rub but it’s about time. And if you’re playing on a niggler like my darling Ballantyne then you should really not get sucked in.

    And while we’re here lets celebrate the brilliance of Nat Fyfe, the youngest looking footballer in history.What a gangly yet graceful marvel of a player.

  3. Nice piece. I liked the metaphor. It really was one of those games decided by fate, or perhaps the Fates.
    I read in my dictionary that Lachesis was the goddess who decided how long your cloth of life should be, or in Sydney’s case, how long a last quarter 50 metres should be.

    I think the AFL should look at a 30m penalty for some minor offences so that the punishment more often better fits the crime.

  4. I suspect that Ray Chamberlain is more inspired by the Devil.

    That is all

  5. lee donovan says

    Discipline or a lack of it cost Sydney. The penalties were there and the footy gods had nothing to do in the 3rd quarter when Freo took Sydney to the cleaners with the depleted side they have had all year. The footy gods have not been kind to fremantle all year with up to 10 first choice players missing at times so what goes around comes around.
    And while I’m wound up I wouldn’t pay 5cents to watch the defensive rubbish that Sydney(and St Kilda) serve up every week.-very boring

  6. Nice article – the gods were certainly smiling on Freo for the first time in a long while. For most of this season we’ve been riding their wrath – they’ve been striking our players down all season. It was deserved though – we should have never changed our jumpers and overhauled our ‘logo’. That was just asking for a good smiting. Anyway, we obviously spent the bye making some juicy sacrifices to appease those footy gods. I just hope it was enough as we’ll need them smiling on us for the rest of the season.

  7. Neil Belford says

    There were some mystifying decisions in that game – not all headed Sydneys way either, but the most clear cut decision in the whole game was the throw at the end. That was a blatant, highly visible throw, that would have been paid any year the game has been played.

    So Sydney got smashed because they couldn’t keep up, then their mighty skipper did everything in his power to will a win, but it was never going to happen. The scoreboard flattered Sydney actually.

  8. Jonathan – I agree with you about Fyfe. I used to say that Pav was the only Docker I would take for the Eagles. Now it would be Fyfe and Ballantyne. I think Fyfe and Rioli are the 2 best players to watch from a purely breathtaking skill perspective. They don’t have the brute force of a Franklin or Natanui – so it is all artistry.
    I have put the Selwood boys on mogadon all week. If Ballantyne sucks them in (and they don’t need much sucking any week let alone a crucial derby) then I think it could play into your hands – as it did against Sydney. Harvey has done a good job with building a team in his mould. I thought you were gone after the St Kilda capitulation, but you are made of tougher stuff these days.

  9. Keiran Croker says

    I reckon the Swans did get a rough go from the umps, expecially Razor Ray, though in reality we lacked discipline, fumbled and made poor choices and showed no intensity until the end, then still only lost by 11points. And one other thing …….. that boy Fyffe sure can play. He will be a champ!

  10. I wouldn’t take any Eagles for the Dockers.
    Kennelly held onto the ball for an age for that last 50 and there were actually two throws by Swans in that pack. Full credit, however, to Sydney for getting close even though they still don’t quite know the rules of our game. And to Roger Hayden for playing on with a broken leg.

  11. Pamela Sherpa says

    I must have been watching the same telecast as you Les. You could see Kennelly was going to be pinged – the ump wasn’t fooled there.

  12. johnharms says

    I think Fyfe should be given 3 votes by every Knacker writing Freo games from here on, because he is exactly the sort of player who deserves the Malarkey Medal. He looks like an uber-skilled Terry Daniher with his socks down and his defined quads and his focus on the footy in the contest. Even when it is a scrum the ball is his object. Why does my mind think country and sprouting wheat when I see Fyfe? He could so not play for St Kilda.

  13. John. You think of wheat because he comes from Lake Grace…. tough wheatbelt country. Mark Bairstow’s home town and home of four current AFL players (the others are Mortons). I think Fyfe’s goal on Sunday didn’t get nominated for goal-of-the-day because the commentators were talking about something else – the ball was not in a goal scoring position.

  14. johnharms says

    Les, I particularly loved the one arm gather (and it was arm, not hand) on the boundary line and the piercing pass to Pav. Wow. I also loved the out of position over the top bent at the waist great vertical leap mark – times about three. What a joy he is.

  15. Skip of Skipton says

    I remember seeing Fyfe for the first time last year in a free-to-air night match from Subi. He looked like some kid who had won a competition to play for the Dockers. All at sea and struggled with the rhythm and tempo early on, and I was wondering who the hell this joker was. Then the ball started following him, then he kept appearing in odd places, pre-cognitively it seemed, and then had the ball in hand. Krakoueresque.

  16. Rick Kane says

    Speaking of Gods, Murdoch, or as he was called in a Guardian article today, The Sodmonster, is about to answer to mere mortals. Now that’s sport!

  17. Richard Naco says

    The implication of this article is that the football god(s) are in fact monotheistic – albeit, a holy trinity – and that a certain sporting temple in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is, in fact, their holiest shrine and abode.

    Luckily, I’m an atheist.

    (That is, at least until 6 August, when I shall journey south on my 900+ km pilgrimage to the Holy Town to abase myself & then cavort ecstatically at the shrine of Max Rooke.)

  18. In regards to Fyfe, I also love his socks down and black boots. All he needs is a long sleeve jumper. Freakish ability and only his 2nd year.

  19. Neil Belford says

    Can we just add krakoueresque to the english language right now.

  20. Pamela Sherpa says

    Les, I recall going to Lake Grace – on a seemingly never ending straight road in the middle of summer when it was SO hot. My aunty lived there for a couple of years and I remember climbing over the fence to swim at the pool.

  21. Here’s a little something about Lake Grace from

    Note the perimeter ad for Fyfe Transport.

  22. Nat was busy working a header on the family farm during the 2009 national draft. Like any good country boy.

  23. Pamela Sherpa says

    Thanks for the pics Les . Love the colour of the sky. They must have a strong football community there. How minor/major is the league that Lake Grace play in? I’ll enjoy watching young Nat if he is anything remotely like T.D. I like young Hill too.

  24. I remember reading an article in 1990 when Mark Bairstow, playing for Lake Grace in between his time at Geelong, got something like 80-odd possessions. It was a record, not surprisingly. I imagine it still would be.

  25. The Ongerup Football Association won the B-section of the country championships on the weekend. It’s a well organised comp though some teams have struggled with numbers in recent years. South West won the A-grade.
    Yes Pete, I remember now that Bairstow went home for a year after the 1989 grand final.
    Hasn’t this taken a strange twist…from Sydney to the bush…. footy Gods?

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