Round 6 of the 2020 season will be like no other when all matches this weekend are played across just four venues in two states.
I’m back with a two-part edition of the supporter series for your reading pleasure.
This edition comes after lively negotiations with the man of the moment, Carnage, who insisted that he be quoted verbatim. The problem with this stipulation is that Carnage was using the c-word before the c-word was even a thing.
So some off-the-books deals were made to secure censorship, and here we are.
I met Carnage over ten years ago, but I’ve only ever called him Bomber. He tells me that he’s known as Carnage in Essendon circles, so I have to use that.
I don’t think he’s ever told anyone his real name. He’s like those dragons in that Robin Hobb series who don’t share their true names with mere mortals (I obviously just finished reading this series so it’s fresh in my mind). I’m guessing I’d have to feed him freshly caught wildebeest and pick the gnats from between his scales before he’d tell me, so it’s not really worth it.
Anyway, Carnage has an ‘interesting’ history with the Essendon Football Club.
Before we get into that stuff, we talk about last weekend’s match against West Coast. I didn’t watch the match (I just reacted with glee the next morning when I heard the Eagles had been beaten), so I ask him whether the talk was true that the Eagles lost the match due to inaccurate goal-kicking.
His response is quick and definite. “Nah, nah, nah, nah, the game was over by the time West Coast started having shots. Yeah, they missed a lot of shots, but that’s almost irrelevant. The game was over before their [bleep] aim became a factor,” he says.
He also tells me that he hates watching footy on the TV, but after the media being all over Essendon about how [bleep] they are his “lounge room was erupting” when the score was 38 to one at quarter-time against a top team.
Devon Smith’s performance impressed him, although he notes “that’s become normal this year”, and Tippa’s goal of the year nomination was “pretty [bleeping] good”.
Maximum praise goes to Tom Bellchambers, though. “He murdered Naintanui,” he says. He then goes off track with a side conversation (with himself basically) about whether that could actually be a reportable offence and what difference high contact or deliberate intent would make. I let him carry on because at least he isn’t swearing.
Before I can ask another question he starts musing about the season so far.
“It’s a weird year. It’s all over the joint,” he says. He asks me how my tips are going and I have to admit, embarrassingly, that this is the first time in 30 years that I haven’t been in a tipping competition. I get him to give me a run-down on the season.
“Richmond and Sydney are a cut above. West Coast are up there with them. Then there’s three [bleep] teams and the rest are still competitive, so it’s pretty even.”
I’ll try to keep that in mind for when the next person asks me for my season overview so I can sound like I know my [bleep] when in actuality I’ve hardly followed anything beyond the Dockers. By the way, swearing always seems to be contagious when Carnage is around.
We finally get to the beginning of Carnage’s story with the Bombers.
I ask him why he supports the Bombers and he replies with, “Because I was born this way.” That is the best answer I’ve received to this question. It cracks me up. Footy gold.
He goes on to explain, “My mother was in the cheer squad so I had no say in it.”
“You’re born with a team. Unless your parents are immigrants, and even then, most of the time you’re still born with a team. If you change your team, you’re looking for a new place to live at the age of seven and, well, that sucks, so you stick with the team that you were born with.”
He’s incredibly proud of Bombers supporters in this respect: “I’ve rarely ever met someone in my life who used to barrack for Essendon. Once you’re an Essendon supporter, you’re always an Essendon supporter.”
“That’s why there’s such a huge Essendon following in WA. In 1987 when West Coast entered the competition our supporters weren’t turncoats. It didn’t matter if they were born in Western Australia or not, they still stuck with the Bombers.”
Even more special than his loyalty to his team is his first memory of a Bombers football match.
“I would have been four and a half. I remember it was also Timmy Watson’s first game – 1977. I’m pretty sure it was against Richmond. Mum didn’t know who this Timmy Watson kid was and from that day on he was her favourite player.”
Carnage went to the footy with his mum – and still does, along with his children. She was the footy matriarch in the family. I dig this.
“My dad wasn’t really into footy. He had to go. He was forced to. He’d wear an Essendon umbrella hat on his head every second week and he’d be drinking beer and not really watching the footy.”
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There’s a break in conversation as he reacts to something during the Bulldogs versus Cats game. He explains, “We need Footscray to win.”
Carnage only ever refers to the Western Bulldogs as Footscray. They’re also his second team. There’s a story behind that.
“I grew up in St Albans and played in Footscray District League. Back then there wasn’t a draft, so I always dreamt that I was going to play for Footscray if I was good enough. I’d already resolved with myself that I’d be an Essendon supporter but I’d be playing for Footscray.”
He was even a Footscray member at one point and got to vote on their name change. He’s still confused by that. “How the name change got through I have no [bleeping] idea.”
Apparently junior footy was pretty serious back then. Carnage played wherever the ball wasn’t – back pocket or full back. He’d rough up their forwards.
“As early as under-nines we were getting dragged for not manning up and not going at the ball hard enough.”
Girls didn’t play footy when I was a kid, so I can’t relate to this, but I reckon I’d probably have been in the back pocket too so I could rough up the forwards. I would have been like a charging baby rhino – cumbersome but single-mindedly unrelenting in my pursuit of opposition goal kickers. My mum would have been proud.
Carnage’s middle years at Essendon are his most ‘interesting’ but we’ll get to that next week. I still need to wade through his recounts of booze being spewed out of nostrils to sort of the bad from the worse.
I’ll catch you then.