I had the opportunity to attend the Western Bulldogs Vs Sydney Swans game at Manuka on Saturday. Let me state that I dislike Manuka as an AFL venue. While its quaint white picket fence and gum tree back drop reminds one of a footy game in the bush, it’s not really befitting of the modern AFL game.
In fact, your average footy game in Albury would have more atmosphere than Manuka generates. Witness the deathly silence when the umpire goes to bounce the ball to start the game.
One positive for Melburnians is that they get to have a bit of a look at their old MCG scoreboard which will bring back many memories.
Apart from that, Manuka, and Canberra generally, has very little to offer the AFL, and they should leave the city, and its bureaucrats, to the other codes.
The lack of understanding and appreciation for the Australian game in Canberra is only rivalled by one other city, and that is Sydney, who are on the verge of getting a second team, when they barely deserve the first one.
As luck would have it, through a friend of a friend, I managed to sit amongst the movers and shakers of the AFL and Canberra’s polite society, including our Deputy Prime Minister (a very intelligent woman who happens to be a Bulldogs supporter).
Despite feeling like a fish out of water, away from the great unwashed in the outer, I felt I had every right to barrack vociferously.
Directly in front of me sat the President of one of the teams doing battle out on the ground.
I do not wish to name names, but let us just say that it is unlikely he had attended too many games standing on the outer at the Western Oval on a dreary, cold Melbourne winter’s day.
Now, the former Footscray President, who predates David Smorgan (in case I need to be clear about it, I’m not referring to Smorgo above), was a gentleman by the name of Peter Gordon, a principle of the law firm, Slater and Gordon.
As it happens, our highly esteemed Deputy Prime Minister worked for a while with Slater and Gordon, and it was here that she was forcefully required to follow the Bulldogs as part of her condition of employment (and a good thing too, I say).
Now, Peter Gordon was someone who did understand barracking vociferously from the outer, and was perhaps the very best I have ever encountered.
In 1981, I was a part of a group of supporters that regularly stood on a spot on the wing where Peter Gordon could be heard mouthing wise words at the umpires and the opposition.
His very best efforts came whenever we played Carlton, and his socialist leanings would become quite evident as he layed into those Carlton capitalists from Toorak.
I can recall playing South Melbourne in 1981 and there were whispers about them moving to Sydney, so Peter yelled out the whole game: “C’mon Sydney.”
We all laughed, unaware that there was actually a lot of truth to the rumours.
So back to the top tiers of the Manuka Oval, and here I am following the lead of Peter Gordon (who was also present at the ground), and doing what all good barrackers do, hurling abuse at Barry Hall and company.
Harmless things like: “You’re useless Hall”, “Get a kick Hall” or my favourite, “He’s your man, Hall!!”.
Nothing offensive, nothing untoward, but I can assure you all this, it would have been very loud, especially if you were unlucky to be sitting directly in front of me, as this Club President was.
With the Swans trailing by 11 goals towards the end of the second quarter, I took the opportunity to make my personal feelings on a particular subject known to all and sundry, and I yelled out: “This is why Sydney needs a second team” (referring to the Swans’ pathetic attempts at looking like a football team in the first half).
This particular Club President took severe umbrage at what I had said, and turned around to me and called me: “a f@@k!!g idiot” (with no hint of humour, I might add, which would almost have made it acceptable).
What was the problem?
Ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you the problem. Sydney people don’t understand the great Australian game and most definitely do not understand its culture, history and rituals.
At that very moment, he was being a spokesman for the whole of Sydney, declaring Sydney’s ignorance of our game.
How on Earth can we consider a second team in Sydney when they barely deserve the one they have now?
And Richard, if you’re reading this, I’m really not a bad bloke!