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Perceptions of a 'toothless, Collingwood bogan'

A look at the ten best games from the past ten years. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Roar Guru
8th February, 2017
20

A couple of years ago, I worked as an editor on the book Joffa: Isn’t That Life?

Who is Joffa? Just some Pies bogan. Toothless. Unemployed. Foul-mouthed. Another feral among the unwashed masses.

A goof who only gained notoriety because of the gold jacket he dons when it looks like Collingwood might win – and fortunately, that’s increasingly infrequent (haha).

Footy’s amazing, in that you’ll generally make snap assumptions on any personalities associated with it, with little or no information.

But a preconception will form, and if enough people believe in it, it develops its own life. Get the media involved, and it becomes a truth – or at least the one that is bandied commonly around.

And the idea that Joffa is just some nobody with too much fame and too little sense to deserve it is the image that’s propagated and championed through the media.

Why not? It makes for good copy. Besides, how many headlines have you read that have little-to-no correlation with the reality of a story? But we’re in a new age – the internet age, the social media age, the click-bait age, where sensationalising is paramount.

Reality’s been left on a curb somewhere, forlorn and unrecognisable.

As far as Joffa goes, I know him the way I know a lot of my Collingwood brethren – I’ll see them at games, have a conversation here and there, and that’s it. We don’t catch up or chat regularly, but we’re part of the same family and, generally, the only time we reconnect is at family outings – namely, the games.

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It annoys me, though, when he – or anybody I know – is unjustifiably bad-mouthed. I know it shouldn’t, that it is just talk, but it does. Because the people involved deserve better.

We at Busybird Publishing are a tiny operation – just three full-timers and several interns. We release a handful of books each year and usually they have some altruistic outcome infused into their production.

We’ve done books on breast cancer and prostate cancer, with a portion of proceeds going to cancer foundations. One of the bosses trekked up to Mount Everest Base Camp and back, and shot a gorgeous photographic journal. Part of the proceeds of that went to the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, to raise awareness and funds for CMT, a degenerative and incurable nerve condition from which the bosses’ son suffers, and which curtailed a promising career in football.

There’s been other things – one of our new books will be giving money to the Seeing-Eye Dog Associations, and one of our novels to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. We try to be community minded.

When my bosses (both Hawthorn supporters) and I talked about football one lunch, we started discussing Joffa. They’d read an article about him in the papers, but I knew Joffa enough to tell them he wasn’t the person portrayed in the media.

We got him in and discovered he had a story to tell that others might benefit from. His autobiography was the result.

Joffa was brought up in an abusive household, was homeless at 14, has a daughter who suffers from epilepsy, and volunteers tirelessly for several charities, including the Epilepsy Foundation (who can’t speak highly enough of him). As for that gold jacket he dons? It’s auctioned off every year, with the proceeds going to the foundation (as do a portion of his book’s proceeds).

He believes in the community of football, and credits football – and the family he became a part of going to games – with saving his life from unravelling when he was homeless.

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Some of you mightn’t care, but it shows he’s thoughtful, compassionate, and charitable; that he believes in a society where the greater good is important, and that football should be fun – full of good-natured characters and fun rivalries.

This mightn’t matter to you. It mightn’t matter to most. But it shows there are a lot of people associated with the game who are good people, but have these misconceptions tarred to them.

It might be a fan, it might be a player, it might be somebody in the media. Just remember, there’s a lot more to the person than the scuttlebutt.

And everybody has a story to tell.