Some random thoughts on what watching footy means to me

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    It’s a late September afternoon back in ‘06, and I’m in a car somewhere in the beachside suburbs of Perth.

    The radio’s on, and my mother and sister are deep in conversation, while a much younger me is inquisitively listening to the words coming through the speakers.

    “The West Coast Eagles have defeated reigning premiers Sydney by one point. They’re the 2006 AFL premiers”.

    Now, it’s obvious I’m not a West Coast Eagles supporter. Never have, never will be. The thing is, though, back on that spring day in 2006 I wasn’t a supporter of any AFL teams.

    I barely knew what the sport was. That anecdote is my first memory of ever acknowledging this great sport. The 8-year-old me decided I was to support the Eagles’ long-suffering rivals then and there, and …. nah, I’m just kidding.

    Young me decided that it was boring, and moved onto thinking about something. Probably what he was going to eat for dinner that night or something. It would be another eight years before I’d become a genuine supporter of the AFL!

    How did I get here, though?

    Sydney Swans West Coast Eagles 2006 AFL Grand Final

    (Jimmy Harris/Wikimedia Commons)

    It’s probably an understatement to say I wasn’t the most physically gifted young lad. Look, I’ve tried many sports. I have memories of my school team being beaten 23 to nil in a Year 9 football game.

    I remember the early Saturday mornings where I’d go to the local tennis club and perfect my backhands. I did many, many hours of swimming lessons. And I’ve even dabbled in a bit of golf … when I was in the third grade.

    The problem is, though, sport wasn’t this euphoric force in my life, unlike many of my mates. I wasn’t good at them, to start. I didn’t have favourite teams, I never collected footy cards or the like, I never had posters on my walls or sports jerseys in my closet.

    Despite being the son of two Queenslanders, I never even showed an interest in cricket, or either form of rugby besides attending many, many Western Force games in my West Australian adolescence.

    I seemed destined to remain uninterested in sport until I discovered, properly, the AFL. It took me until my teens to really start to acknowledge the sport. It was around year 10 (so, 2013) that I decided to start supporting a team – this is where the Perth connection benefited me.

    In 2014, I attended my first AFL game. In 2016, I got my first membership and started frequenting The Roar. In 2017, I started blogging games and writing articles about this sport. A meteoric rise in my fandom, by anyone’s standard.

    Why I started to get interested in footy is still a relative mystery to me. Living in Adelaide, and attending a school where footy was uber-popular, was definitely a part of it. Realising that the sport was a lot more, well, exciting than either rugby or soccer was another.

    Living in the age of constant media attention might have been an influence. Seeing Adelaide Oval being built was another spark. Beginning to support a successful, at the time, team might’ve been a tiny, microscopic enticement. Whatever the reason, I’m now the most AFL fanatic member of my family.

    Now that I think of it, I’m one of only two or three people who like AFL in my extended family.

    The thing to remember, though, is that every day I’m watching, discussing or reading about footy – I’m learning. I’m learning more about the history. I’m learning more about the players. I’m learning about the stories of the fans, or of the great games, past and present.

    I’m learning about leagues other than the AFL. It’s exhilarating, and fun, and exciting. Honestly, maybe I’m the only person who enjoys reading Wikipedia and browsing the web for the history of footy, but I genuinely enjoy it.

    Sean Darcy Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    No matter how ignorant I am of the history, nor how much parts of this great game frustrate me, I’m beyond glad I’ve ‘discovered’ football. For one, I’m now able to finally join in conversations – or arguments – with friends, something I wasn’t able to do for a long time.

    I am able to finally have a team. I don’t have a poster, but I’ve got a sticker on the back of the car. I’ve got a scarf. I’ve got a team. Most importantly, though, I’ve been able to fulfill something I’ve always wanted to do: become a journalist, or at least help my journalism aspirations.

    I’ve written articles and blogged a fair few games, something that I never thought I’d get to experience. I’ve engaged with so many fellow posters, I’ve blogged some fantastic games, and I’ve written articles I’m deeply proud of.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’d be burnt out during the week, but then get to the weekend and watch five, six, seven or sometimes even bits of all nine footy games that weekend – often blogging at least one.

    Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. I’ve also learned watching footy is a wave of emotions. There’s occasionally a crap game – quite common while supporting Freo these last two years – but there’s magical moments.

    There’s controversy, there’s rubbish. There’s arguments and there’s cries of joy from many. I’ll find myself groaning one minute, and frantically cheering the next.

    For every time I find myself getting puzzled looks from family as I swear or yell at the TV, there’s a moment when I’ll find myself cheering at the same time as my neighbors while we’re watching the same game.

    This all sounds like an autobiography of sorts, so I am sorry if you’re sick of hearing about me! But I’ll be honest, for a kid who wasn’t interested in sports, just sitting down a watching a couple of football games has genuinely – and this is a cliché, I admit – changed my life.

    It’s added a whole new dimension to my life – which isn’t always a good thing, I admit – and it’s made weekends between March and October so much better. On those weekends, I feel agony and I feel ecstasy. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    Eight-year-old me wouldn’t understand it, but long may I groan every time Freo misses a set-shot, or cheer every time Fyfey does something magical.