Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football
Edited by Ross Fitzgerald
Paperback, 244 pages
Published February 2016
EDITED BY ROSS FITZGERALD
With Contributions from
PHILLIPA POWER, barrister who once was Sydney Swans number 1 ticket holder
BRIAN DIXON, former Melbourne footballer 1954-1968
KEN SPILLMAN, WA ambassador for The Footpath Library
DICK WHITAKER, meteorologist, author, television and radio presenter
BARRY DICKINS, award wining writer
PETER LYONS, former sports Editor for the Canberra Times
JAMES GILCHRIST, author of Tortured Tales of a Collingwood Tragic
FRANK DIMATTINA, former Richmond Champion
PHIL TAGELL, author of the book Footy Tragic
MATT ZURBO, writer on Australian Rules
JEFF KENNETT, former Victorian Premier and former Hawthorn President
BILL HAY, artist and former under 19s Sandringham player
SUSAN ALBERTI, Vice-President Footscray Football Club
CHRIS BOWEN, Shadow Treasurer of Australia
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church
LES EVERETT, Author of Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History
PAUL SANTAMARIA, Melbourne barrister and son of BA Santamaria
JOHN BIRT, played for Essendon 1957 to 1967
PEGGY O’NEAL, president of the Richmond Football Club.
ROBERT PASCOE, Professor of History at Victoria University, Melbourne
RICHARD ALLSOP, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs
AMANDA VANSTONE, Former Senator for South Australia 1984-2007
CHRIS KENNY, Associate Editor of The Australian
GABRIELLE TRAINOR, inaugural director of the GWS Giants.
SALLY MURPHY, children’s book author
MICHAEL GORDON, political editor of The Age
JULIE BISHOP, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs
CHRIS GRIFFITH, is The Australian newspaper’s Senior Technology Journalist.
GERALDINE DOOGUE, ABC TV Presenter
GERARD HENDERSON, Writer and Author
JOHN ELLIOTT, former Carlton President
JOSH FRYDENBERG, Member for Kooyong
ANTHONY CAPPELLO, Founder of Connor Court Publishing
ANDREW IRELAND, CEO/Managing Director of the Sydney Swans
MICHAEL O’LOUGHLIN, played 303 matches with the Sydney Swans
WEATHERMAN DICK, nom de plume of a well-known Australian meteorologist
From the Introduction:
As these thirty seven contributions about the most heartfelt moments in VFL/AFL demonstrate, Aussie Rules football cuts across all divides.
Hence this book of original essays includes contributions by and about football players, supporters and administrators who are vastly different in religion, class, income, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual preference.
The contributors within range from committed Christians such as Cardinal George Pell, Geraldine Doogue, and John Birt to devout atheists and like myself, Dick Whitaker and Barry Dickins.
Indeed unbelievers and clerics of all persuasions often highlight Aussie Rules.
Hence the retired Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, regularly told this story:
An AFL umpire died and found himself at the Pearly Gates. When he related what he had done on Earth, the Saint replied: ‘Well we can skip Purgatory, you’ve done enough as a football umpire, but is there anything weighing on your conscience that you need to admit before we consider letting you in?’ And the umpire said: ‘There was this match, Collingwood versus St Kilda, Magpies ahead by three points, and the St Kilda full-forward went for a mark right in front of goal. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t be sure whether he made it or not, but I gave him the mark and he scored and St Kilda won.’ ‘Think nothing of it, my son, come right in’. ‘Oh thank you, thank you Saint Peter’ said the umpire. ‘I’m not Saint Peter’ replied the saint, ‘I’m Saint Kilda’.
As far as I know, it was the only joke Archbishop Hickey ever told!
Talking of the Mighty Magpies, my late father Bill (“Long Tom”) Fitzgerald who played over 100 games for Collingwood Seconds, but never for the firsts, would regularly recount on my birthday, Christmas Day, a story about the Richmond great, Jack Dyer. Dad explained that Dyer, who was commonly known as “Captain Blood”, often said: “Whenever I have a nightmare it’s never in colour – it’s always black and white. Collingwood!”
On a more earthy note, one of my favourite footballing tales concerns a lad from the country who was to play his first senior game. When the coach took him aside and said, "I might have to pull you off at three quarter time”, the lad responded, “Golly, where I come from we usually are only given oranges!”
Contributors to this collection of fine writing about heartfelt moments in Aussie Rules football also include current and former federal parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide - including Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen; Liberal Minister for resources, energy and northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg; Liberal Foreign Minister Julie Bishop; ex Liberal federal minister Amanda Vanstone and ex Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett. Contributors also hail from many Australian states and territories and range in age from the young to the very old.
Following Collingwood for a lifetime has taught me that Aussie Rules football is a metaphor for life and that, to take one crucial example, the game is never lost until it’s lost.
Being, and remaining, a dyed in the wool barracker is a sign and test of character, just as switching teams seems to me a symbol of a loss of loyalty, faith and heart.
Changing clubs for which to barrack merely because of a team’s consistently poor performance is something that no true supporter would ever entertain – not even for a second.
Indeed it is a sign of true fandom never to let any number of losses interfere with or dilute a passionate and unrelenting support for a person’s chosen ( or in my case inherited) team or club.
The fact is that because it is Aussie Rules football we are dealing with in this book, a number of contributors explore, directly or indirectly, what it means to be an Australian and/or what are key Australian characteristics and personally traits. Also a number of contributors uncover how, over the decades, our great game has developed, often for the good, but sometimes not, in terms of its treatment of indigenous players and its dealings with women.
Being a lifelong supporter of a club, any club (in my case of the Mighty Magpies) involves a lot of downs and ups.
At the very least, to be a true supporter means never giving up or relinquishing ones team. Indeed it means even more than that.
Ultimately it is the downs that enable supporters to show their true colours and the depth of their personal attachment and commitment to each club. Thus, as Roger Kahn wrote, in his case about The Brooklyn Dodgers: “You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.”
How true is that?