I was eight when I arrived in Melbourne and came across Aussie Rules Footy. I’d come from NSW where my brother and family friends had played one of the two codes of Rugby—neither of which had captured me. But in Melbourne, in the year the Western Bulldogs won the flag, there was something that swept me up.
I lived with my parents, my older sister, Laurel and older brother, Peter in a rented half-house in Parkville (this was before the days where you had to have a few million in your pocket to live there). Every night I went to sleep to the roar of the lions in the zoo, just over the park from our house but around the corner and over Royal Parade was the Carlton Football Ground, Princes Park. My new mates and I would go in at three-quarter time for free, collect bottles and so on and watch the game.
It would seem natural then that I would follow Carlton but only my brother took up that option. My Dad was a Chaplain at Collingwood Tech School and the stories he brought home enthralled me. The kids at the school also taught my father all about Aussie Rules and insisted he follow the Collingwood Magpies. So I followed in his footsteps and became an ardent fan.
Then my sister fell in love with Ray, who she married. He was a Collingwood supporter as well and took me along to games, often with a wooden fruit box that I stood on to see the game.
In 1958 I listened to the radio as Collingwood beat Melbourne—something everybody thought would never happen. Some thirty years later I couldn’t get a ticket to the Grand Final but watched it on the telly with family and friends as the Maggies beat Essendon in the 1990 Grand Final. I remember standing for the last ten minutes with tears streaming down my cheeks as I realised that this time we weren’t going to lose again (I know, I’m a Magpie tragic).
My eldest son, Jesse followed Richmond for a while, then Essendon but these days loves his music and doesn’t care all that much for footy. My second eldest, Shannon and daughter, Rebecca both love their footy and follow the Pies.
However, my wife Gabrielle and youngest son, Zachariah both support Carlton which makes it difficult when the two teams meet each other—one of us usually leave the house and watch with others and try and contain our enthusiasm when one or the other wins (which lately has been the Magpies . . .)
Teaching Sports Writing at Victoria University I come across many sportspeople. One of my students turned out to be Richard Osborne, the 300 game AFL veteran who was playing for Collingwood. We developed a good friendship which led to me and him writing his biography, Ossie Rules. I asked him to improve my kicking style while I helped him with his writing. His writing improved but I’m not sure about my drop punts.