VAFA Premier B Round 10 – Fitzroy v Monash Blues: Rattle and Hum

“Don’t believe in the 60s
The golden age of pop
You glorify the past
When the future dries up”
U2, “God Part II”

 

It’s a winter’s Saturday in Melbourne Town. Anyone standing on the Tropic of Cancer at 1:54am (AEST) would have had their shadow directly beneath them. In the south it is Winter Solstice. We’re huddled in front of the heater.

 

“Check this out!”

And we look at pictures of Amy (Bureau of Meteorology staff) celebrating mid-winter’s day at Davis Station, Antarctica, with a swim.

Pic via Bureau of Meteorology Instagram

 

Management and coverage of AFL footy has gone a bit crazy in 2019; a bit crazier. It has turned me away from the game. No AFL for me so far in 2019; either on TV or in person. The competition has fallen out of my orbit and that is fine.

 

Today though, footy calls. It’s a Fitzroy home game in VAFA Premier B against Monash Blues.

 

Without gloves, I’m riding the backstreets of Brunswick East, Fitzroy North. Breaks appear in the low cloud. Yet my fingers, numbed by the cold, would feel no colder at Davis Station. I’m on Rae Street, wondering about people in decades past, walking to the Brunswick Street Oval to watch their Fitzroy Football Club.

 

And while in this fog, I pass a perfect specimen of 1969-70: an HT Kingswood pale green sedan. I stop for a look. There is rust in the back door. The past is alive today.

 

click to enlarge

 

Still thinking about the grip of times past, I pass a second Kingswood, also parked on Rae Street. Incredibly, it is another pale green sedan.

==

 

The reserves slug out a close game as I arrive at Brunswick Street Oval. Within minutes, I am two sausages into the day; the mighty grandstand prevents even feeble winter sun from reaching us here on the northern rise. The number 11 tram clunks down Brunswick Street.

 

On the fence, the piercing smell of linament snaps my brain to attention. For the tramp of these 36 men, it is game day. On the outer wing, brick terrace houses of Newry street frown into the midwinter sun.

 

Reserves Final Score
Fitzroy 10.5.65
Monash 11.7.73

==

 

I have come here alone today, to watch the footy. To watch people try their best. Have I? I’m not sure. Maybe I am here to be among a tribe. Maybe it is to get out of the house; to walk freely around a suburban park, winter sky above me. I’m not sure why any of us are here. Why does anyone go anywhere? Certainly there are no behaviour awareness officers here to be seen. Or felt.

 

In front of the grandstand, pockets of dark coats gather.

 

Familiar faces float (there’s Kate, there’s Richard, there’s Joan, there’s David); all of us another year older. There’s Tom, in an electric wheelchair now. Who knows what’s around the corner for any of us?

 

And here are the senior teams. Fitzroy second last in Premier B Division of VAFA, Monash Blues last. In a competition of annual promotion and relegation, every game is a Big Game.

 

Hanging onto the fence, a toddler steps lightly, lollipop stick hanging from his mouth, on the fringes of a puddle. He sings loudly, repetitively, “We will – we will – Rock You!”

 

Within a minute Monash Blues have two marks on the lead and a shot at the eastern goal.

 

Monash Blues have set up classically, with leading forwards, attacking half backs. Both teams attack the ball. The Monash ruckman is clearly taller than his Fitzroy opponent and looms as a threat. In the first quarter, it is the Monash midfield getting more of the ball.

 

Quarter time
Fitzroy 1.5.11
Monash 2.3.15

==

 

A band of showers drizzles in from the south east. We see them coming across the Fitzroy rise from Richmond. I’m up and into the grandstand for the second quarter, where I am shocked to find a row of maybe a dozen tents set up behind the back row of tiered seating. Tents here the sheltering place for homeless folk. Tents as silent reminders of the precariousness of life. Again I feel grateful for what I have. This evening, I have a home to return to, with food and heat.

 

On the field, Monash play a tall full forward. In contrast, Fitzroy players seem more uniform in size. The four Fitzroy on-ballers look and run like four ruck-rovers. It gives the illusion of greater numbers and greater intensity around the ball.

 

Against the dark timber backdrop, I see clouds of my own breath.

 

Half time
Fitzroy 7.7.49
Monash 4.9.33

 

click to enlarge

 

I prefer to watch footy from ground level; so with the showers clearing, I am back down onto the muddy rise in the frosty shade of the grandstand.

 

A commotion of dogs rings out on the hill.

“Kransky AND mustard?!?” someone yells.

 

And here is Rod Oaten. Former teacher, principal, keen Essendon man, Almanacker, dog man (I learn today), marathon runner Rod Oaten. It is great to see him.

 

“And you, Regnans.”

 

He tells me of his first memory of Brunswick Street Oval.

 

“There were two grandstands then…” How he caught a tram to the ground, how he remembers the thrill of watching John Coleman. And Rod points “…watching John Coleman just there.”

 

“And there were timber yards behind that hill. And the Fitzroy shunting yards. Train lines everywhere. And steam trains! On one side of the hill was John Coleman, on the other side were steam trains! For a boy, it was heaven.”

 

Conversation possible; conversation promoted, at the footy.
I can’t feel my fingers.

 

Three quarter time
Fitzroy 8.10.58
Monash 6.13.49

 

It is local amateur footy at the local park and it is three-quarter time.
So we’re onto the field for the coach’s address.
He talks of “hard work,” of “humility,” of “resilience.”

 

And promptly, Monash scores the first point and then goal of the final quarter (58-56).
“This will be a test of character,” says a voice behind us.
“It’s never easy, is it? Never easy,” says a woman in front.
And running into an open goal, Monash take the lead (58-62).

 

Barely any deciduous leaves are left holding on

 

Fitzroy attack the old shunting yard end. Rangy runners create the overlap and suddenly it is Fitzroy running now into an open goal (64-62).
Winter voices come alive.
“Carn Roys!”
“Up the Roys!”

 

More run, more run to the old timber yard end (71-62).
And there’s a mark, a centre and a fifty-metre penalty (77-62).
Monash kick a goal from a set shot (77-68).
Before Fitzroy see off the threat, gaining another set shot after a mark (84-68).
Siren.

 

Final score
Fitzroy 12.12.84
Monash 9.14.68

 

With the siren, jubilation breaks over the Fitzroy home crowd. It has been a tough year.
Players are chaired off, supporters stand to applaud.

 

Waiting for no one, the mid-winter sun sets now behind the bowls club. It is time to leave the old shunting yards, the grandstand, John Coleman and head back past the HT Kingswoods. I wonder about history, about place. I wonder about the problems of top-level sport, about passion. I wonder whether I’m glorifying the past. I wonder if that means the future has dried up.

 

Riding home, I pass a bill poster advertising U2’s World Tour later this year; a tour celebrating their album “The Joshua Tree;” their album from 1987.

 

In through the side gate I see the lights on, see the flicker of a fire. And in the gloom I sing:

“I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you…”

 

Well played Fitzroy.
Well played Monash Blues.

 

 

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About David Wilson

Living is easy with eyes closed. Noodling away at The Footy Almanac since 2013. Twitter: @e_regnans

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this, e.r. You captured the mood of North Fitzroy beautifully.
    I am of the belief that local footy and the AFL are now, basically, just two different sports, different cultures, different pastimes, which are enjoyed in very different ways.
    For me, it is local footy every day of the week, especially the VAFA.
    I spent yesterday arvo at Caroline Springs, watching my eldest son playing for Spotswood in the WRFL. It is a different experience to the Ammos, let me tell you.
    Very well played, mate.

  2. Rod Oaten says

    Really enjoyed the chat and the footy result.

    Well done e.r. Rod

  3. E.regnans says

    G’day Smokie – Thanks a lot. Very kind.
    I think you’re right to separate the Big League from everything else. Different motivations, I guess.
    It brings into pretty stark relief the importance of separating the Big League from the sport itself – the sport played in all its diversity across leagues/ states/ territories/ regions.

    ==
    G’day Rod – thanks very much. Loved that impromptu catch up. I hope Buster is well. And the other one whose name I forget.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve been going to most of Ormond’s home games this year E.r. The air is fresher, the walk there and back perks me up, the steamed dimmies at half-time go down a treat as does catching up with locals that I might not otherwise bump in to. You can often find a recent AFL premiership coach on the outer flank watching his son play too.

  5. I love weather. I love weather and football. I love weather and football and HT Holdens. The 69 Monaro could be the greatest vehicle ever designed, assembled and hooked up a speaker at the local drive-in.

    Enjoyed your enjoyment of the day ER..

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Well played ER.
    A footy experience where the senses are nurtured and caressed, rather than dulled and bombarded. Long live the Roys and those brilliant back streets that filled thousands of childhoods with anticipation in years gone by.

  7. E.regnans says

    Hi Swish – How good is the great outdoors?! Celebrity spotting at amateur footy could sustain a twitter feed, I reckon.

    JTH – seconding all of that. Thanks a lot. The HT Kingwood(s) on Rae Street (186 logo towards the front; side panel) had me back with my first car: an 1969 HK Kingswood wagon that I’ve written of previously.

    P Dimitriadis – Thanks. All the senses providing input – you’re right. The centre wicket area of Merri Creek mud was well chopped up, too. Superb to watch footballers going about it while covered in mud. Easy to imagine Fitzroy urchins oozing out of terrace houses, scrabbling along the bluestone in bygone days. Magic.

  8. Gordon Proudfoot says

    GT Proudfoot – Great report. I was a long term follower of the Lions when they played in VFL back in the 60’s and 70’s and was part of the fightback to stop the AFL proposal to amalgamate Fitzroy with Footsgray.

    They were the good old days when Kevin Murrey was coach and also played in a back brace. I remember the likes of Abrahams, Wright, Ongarello etc. All were great players.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic ER. The Brunswick St Oval. What greatness it no doubt had. What charm it has now. What it could have been with tram stop, the parkland. Fitzroy’s Princes Park?

    Sounds a great day out at the local footy. I don’t do it enough. Been once this year to see the Colac FC play. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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