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.
Now that the gripping conclusion to Fremantle’s season has passed, I figured it was time to get back to Carnage’s story.
To quickly recap, Carnage was born an Essendon supporter because his mother was a member of the cheer squad. His childhood was spent at the footy watching his mum barrack her heart out and his dad drink beers.
So, we are at the point in the story where things start to get messy for Carnage. When he hit legal drinking age, he spent much of his time at the footy with his mates “drinking homebrew and spewing out our noses”.
He casually mentions that he was “locked up in the cells at the MCG or the remand centre for many, many games” during this period of his life, and that his best record was being kicked out three times during one match.
Before the outrage brigade starts blaring their horns, this all happened back in the late 80s and 90s when footy crowds were somewhat different.
“In the old days you’d go and sit with 40 mates and whoever else turned up that day, and you’d have your spot. Our spot was behind goals at the top of the southern stand of the MCG, or the pocket opposite the scoreboard at Windy Hill, and by quarter time there wouldn’t be an opposition member within two bays of us.”
He laments, “It was fun. I miss it. Reserved seating has taken that away.”
As you can imagine, Carnage gained some notoriety due to his behaviour. He tells me, “There’s not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t come up to me and is like, ‘Mate! Remember me!’” Invariably, he doesn’t remember them.
He’s even had a return customer from England who cornered him in a car park once. He wanted to take a photo with Carnage to show his mates. Apparently, he’d crossed paths with him during a game a few years earlier and then returned back to the motherland to tell everyone about this mad Aussie bloke at the footy.
He couldn’t believe his luck that the legend was there again in the flesh.
He does make a valid comment about why he misses the atmosphere of that time too. “There were no loudspeakers and announcements like you’d find at the basketball, and if the crowd was going nuts it was because something serious was going on or we’d had a great quarter and everyone was talking about it.”
“We know the [bleeping] score. We don’t need some [bleep] on a loudspeaker telling us and killing the atmosphere. It [bleeps] me.”
Carnage acknowledges that he struggled for many years to change his behaviour at the footy to fit modern-day expectations.
“I am [bleeping] loud, very loud.” Some might say he is too loud, but Carnage doesn’t believe it’s possible to make too much noise at the football.
It was this noise combined with his drinking that led to Carnage losing his membership last year. It was a devastating blow to him. He was pretty emotional about it.
Fortunately, after a letter of apology, and several people petitioning on his behalf, he was given another year’s extension.
Carnage hasn’t touched a drink this season. “I’ve cleaned up my act for the most part. I still get a bit boisterous but I’ve at least cut out the swearing. Sometimes, sometimes though, I can’t help it if there’s a really [bleep] umpiring call.”
His heart is in the right place. It’s just his mouth that displaces him.
We change the topic and talk about his favourite players.
Michael Long is Carnage’s all-time favourite Bombers player. “I wear my team shirt with 13 on the back every game I go to.” He adds an interesting aside: “My original shirt was cut up by doctors a couple of years back, so I had that around my head for a little while until I had a replica custom made.”
I don’t ask for details about the demise of his shirt.
Instead, I try to get him to expand on Long, but he’s insistent that he describes the unique details of his replica shirt. “It’s black with a red southern cross flag (Eureka Stockade style) on the front. There’s a big 13 on the back and an Essendon version of the Millwall FC chant ‘No one likes us. We don’t care. WE ARE ESSENDON’”.
He also goes on to describe the beanie that replaced the shirt scarf around his head. “It has the indigenous flag on it. You know, the real Australian flag. Not that silly [bleeping] English one. It’s reversible too so if we’re playing Collingwood or [Bleep]mond, I swap it to the red side.”
As for Michael Long, after Carnage finishes his footy fashion rundown he eventually explains, “I’ve never enjoyed watching anyone more. The way he played and went about it. Whenever he went near the play you knew he was gonna make something happen.”
For a moment, he sounds like an Eagles supporter: “And he’d knock guys out.” He then follows up with a clarification unlike Eagles supporters: “But he’d do it legally.”
If you’ve read any of my other pieces, you know I have no qualms throwing low blows at my cross-town rivals. I find it’s a more productive way to cultivate the rivalry than breaking someone’s jaw.
Mark Baguley is his current favourite player. Perhaps an unexpected choice for most people. He explains that Baguley is “hardworking and he goes the second and third effort to get his job done and win the contest”. His sentimental favourite is, of course, Jake Long.
The best player he’s ever seen on the footy field though is James Hird. And that’s for any team. Ever.
“He could play any position. Every time the ball came to him he’d have blokes jumping on his head, twisting their knuckles into his eyes, and all that [bleep]. But, he’d still play like a Brownlow medallist.”
His runner-up is Darrel Baldock, who played for St Kilda in the 60s.
I ask him who his least favourite player is. I daren’t repeat what he said to me, even with ‘bleeps’. Apparently, this is one of Carnage’s pet hates – he can’t stand players being bagged. “If you’re playing for Essendon, you’re under my protection.”
He even gets into arguments with Essendon supporters if they’re going in too hard on his boys.
He does relent though and offers Justin Murphy. “For some reason we poached him from Carlton. No idea why because he was [bleeping] [bleep]. When we lost the preliminary to Carlton in ’99, Murphy, who was playing for Carlton then, had the ball in his hands at the end of the game and chose not to shoot at goals. I asked him why he didn’t have a shot and he said, ‘Because I wanted to beat Essendon by one point’.”
That slight stayed with Carnage.
Carnage’s all-time favourite Bombers memory is split between Hird and Sheedy’s last match before they retired, and the 1984 grand final.
For the retirement match he tells me, “We were being smashed all day, and then in the last quarter Hirdy got 15 possessions and Lucas hit seven goals. It was just the most amazing experience because you had these two bays of all black and red going off and the rest of the yellow and blue in the stadium sitting in dead [bleeping] silence.”
The 1984 grand final was special because it was Essendon’s first grand final win in his lifetime. “I thought we were done and dusted in the third quarter and we came out in the last quarter and hit nine to one, or something like that. We hadn’t won a premiership in 20 years.”
As for this year’s premiership favourites, he makes it clear what he thinks of them. Fair warning for Tigers supporters.
“I hate Richmond. This year is the first time I went to a Richmond game without throwing a beer at one of their supporters. Those [bleeps] would always call security on me and they’re worse than I am. Plus Richmond beat us in the semi-finals in ’95 and they waved their scarves like West Coast supporters. That tradition has nothing to do with them.”
“Talk about bandwagon supporters too. All 100k Richmond members have been to every game since 1971. Just ask them.”
The lowest point in his lifetime of supporting the Bombers was the drug scandal. He was devastated that the club’s license wasn’t revoked because he’d been looking forward to going back to watching Essendon in the VFL every week instead.
Carnage is even less of a fan of the AFL than he is of the Tigers. I’ll save myself typing out a string of square brackets to censor his commentary and just leave it at that.
Now, since there’s been a bit of a gap between the first and second part of Carnage’s story, I have to ring him again to get his updated take on the season, and now the finals.
“I’m a little disappointed with the Bombers season because I’m hearing that we’re set up well for next year, but that’s exactly what I heard last year. Yeah, we had early losses and key injuries, but there are top sides that dealt with that [bleep] too.”
“Look, I am happy with how we finished. We finished up as one of the best teams in the competition, but we just didn’t make the eight. If we had made the eight, there’d be a lot of scared teams right now.”
He’s pretty confident about one team that will be in the grand final: “Richmond against [bleeping] someone, but it won’t be Collingwood.”
He even goes as far as sharing his dirty secret that every time he watches Richmond he finds himself barracking for them. “They play so [bleeping] well that they deserve to win.”
“They play for each other and they play to win. They do whatever it takes to get the contested ball out to their advantage, which is how Michael Long played. It’s like I’m watching a dozen of him out there. It [bleeping] [bleeps] me.”
When I tell him his turnaround on Richmond will make for interesting reading he insists that this part of the interview is off the record. He demands that I “don’t write anything [bleeping] positive about Richmond”.
To that, I say, sorry mate, and good luck to Richmond in the finals who I’ll be barracking for if Melbourne don’t have a fairy tale ending.