VAFA – Ajax v Fitzroy: We’re playing away

 

VAFA Round 11: Ajax v Fitzroy

 

I’ve been feeling very local in recent times.

 

I’m over national – the notion of nation is so over-rated, especially when you watch the dunces who swan about Wimbledon being Australian.

 

I’m not very parochial when it comes to state – although I will identify with certain Queensland traits, and I do support the maroon come Origin time.

 

No, I’m local. When I go to the North Fitzroy Arms, I’m at home. That’s my home pub. They’re my people, for whatever reason.

 

I feel the same across the way at Brunswick Street Oval. I love going there. Being there. Apart from its beauty, I love the stories it contains. I love that 18,000 turned up there for a game against South in 1889, and even more the following year when, apparently, they were crammed onto the balconies of the terrace houses.

 

I especially love that Theo and Anna do Auskick at Brunswick Street and that they are learning a lot more than the drop punt.

 

These days after Saturday lunch we wander back down to catch the second half and the kids play on the mound with other kids and have their secret hiding places and throw wayward tennis balls back into the courts while I watch the mighty Roys. The kids make it to the three quarter time huddle.

 

I barrack for the Roys. Genuinely barrack. A lot of people do.

 

I don’t just barrack for what they stand for – although that is part of it, and a topic for a day when I come back from lunch with a little more Barossa shiraz in me. I barrack for them. The people. The people who make the club. And the club.

 

I am learning the names. And, as I am watching the names, and hearing the barrackers voice their support, I am fleshing those names out. I am getting to know Daniel and Rory and Tom and Corben and their teammates. They’re real and they have character and they have become mine.

 

How can you not like the determination of Tom Cheshire? How can you not like the leadership of Rory Angiolella? How can you not like the aesthetic of Daniel Bisetto sailing – that is the right word – across the pack. He is all Chris Grant with a hint of Brad Ottens. And now he’s been called on to play in the ruck, how can you not like the way he puts his shoulder to the wheel? How can you not like Phil Hill’s stingy back six? How can you not like Ross with his on-our-selection beard trying his heart out. Or those runners who are going to tear a game of footy apart very soon?

 

They’re all ours.

 

They remind me of days in my home town of Oakey, when we (yes, we) had a fantastic rugby league team which I can still name. Mal Muirhead, Willy Weatherall, Nevin Tate, Terry Arnold, Spike Weimers, Dicky Rose, Bruce Millett – and that was just the backline.

 

I used to watch them when they played at home, lightning fast on a winter-hard ground (it’s different Up North) with wobbly goalposts and a tiny wooden grandstand that held about 100 people, squished. Nothing as grand as Fitzroy, but somehow the same.

 

I didn’t get to away games in those days – ever. But on Sunday afternoons assignments on the causes of World War I would be completed (or not completed) as I listened to 4WK’s broadcasts of Oakey and Newtown or Valleys from the Athletic Oval.

 

But there were also days when Oakey was not the radio game and so you’d have to listen to Pittsworth against All Whites or something and hope they’d give updates on the other games.

 

Those days are a technological age away.

 

But they play out from time to time, even in 2015, with local footy.

 

Fitzroy played Ajax away last Saturday and while I thought of driving the kids across town, on a cold afternoon, we ended up staying at home in front of the fire, packing for a trip to Canberra.

 

Mid-afternoon, I remembered the Roys were playing and went to that most modern of concepts: Twitter.

 

The news was not good. What? The Roys hadn’t troubled the calico-wavers to half-time.

 

How could this be? The Roys? Who took it up to St Kevin’s the week before? The Roys? Who have put together a number of impressive wins? Against Ajax with nine on the board?

 

That evening, I went to the VAFA site to read the sorry tale. It seems the boys fought back after half-time but still went down 13.4 to 4.10.

 

That will happen from time to time.

 

I waited for the video, and I’ve just watched the first quarter now. Not too bad. The Roys had a fair bit of the footy but poor disposal meant opportunities were missed. A handball behind. A pass to the feet. While the Ajax boys pounced on mistakes and made good use of the footy.

 

The second quarter was a different story. Six goals to a solitary behind.

 

Next week, as my father always said.

 

I find myself checking he ladder these days and looking at the draw. It’s pretty tight around the danger zone and we’ll need to come off the break ready for Old Caulfield. That will be a cracking day at Brunswick Street on July 18.

 

I’m sure there’ll be many locals supporting the Roys. Our Roys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Nice JTH. Reading these – if I ever move home, I’m thinking it needs to be close to BSO.

  2. The Wrap says

    You’re an incurable romantic Mr Harms. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – Ed)

    I have a grandson who put in a couple of seasons on the BSO. In Auskick. To sit in the stand there after he came off with a snag in white bread fold-over coated in dead horse, watching the Opening Stanza of The Reds v Visitors is a right of passage for every Melbournian.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    John,
    I have only once ventured to AJAX’s very exposed home ground in Albert Park. I umpired there on a day of high wind which I think was similar to last Saturday. AJAX then, and no doubt against the Royboys, proved very adept at using the conditions. My inference is that this is a probable explanation for the disappointing performance.

  4. I’m with you on being more tribal rather than national when it comes to sport, John, other than being obsessed with everything Test cricket and the upcoming Ashes series.
    Being an “out-of-towner”, I’ve only visited the Brunswick Street Oval twice (on non-match days), but sitting in the old grandstand gave me a sense of the atmosphere that would’ve pervaded in the 609 VFL games Fitzroy played there between 1897 and 1966.
    More power to the new breed of Royboys.

  5. Its a wonderful ground with a very strong pro runners history attached to it too.

    Tough to beat the running army of Ajax on their home heap.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    JTH it is interesting that members of the Knackery in general get it re local real footy

  7. I’m not sure if the Nationalism/patriotism scourge in Australian sport has peaked yet.

    ‘Our’ Nick

    ‘Our’ Sam.

    ‘Aussies doing us proud’ – give me a spell.

    If my passport and visa conditions allow me to cross Bridge Road, I must get to the #TimeHonoured BSO…

  8. Steve Hodder says

    J.T.H,
    my heart broke when I saw the scores. I’ve got friends flying down, from Canberra, for the game on the 18th. Gunna be big, gunna be crucial and gonna be fun wine , lose or draw (we’ve actually seen one of these, against AJAX too)!

    onya

  9. JTH

    I needed no convincing, but your piece captures everything I could want from a winter’s afternoon. I can’t wait to get amongst it.

    Years ago in country pubs we’d talk about the teams we supported in every country league we could mention.

    “Riverland?”

    “Easy. Bamera/ Monash.”

    “Mount Gambier?”

    “Norths. Every day of the week.”

    “Whyalla?”

    “You’ve gotta be a Centrals man. The Roosters.”

    And now I’m on Fitzroy.

    Thanks.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Superb John. While I get to the odd Colac FC game, really like the sound of a Fitzroy game at the BSO. Will get there one day.

  11. E.regnans says

    Love it JTH.
    Us & Them.
    Good to have an Us.
    Good to have an Us with which to be proudly associated.
    So complicated at the national scale. Personalities, issues, egos, agendas.
    But that tribal urge persists.
    Local.

    Looking forward to 18th July.
    Isn’t there a lunch on beforehand?

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