Wednesday, 19 March 2003

Every year when footy season rolls around I start to get nostalgic. To fully explain what exactly this annual trip back in time consists of we must first delve into a pointless flashback sequence explaining how I came to be a Melbourne fan. Ready?

(Cue pissy flashback music)

The year was 1988. Australians (most of them anyway) were celebrating the bicentennary, Bobby McFerrin was a major recording artist and a young Adam was searching for a new team to follow.

Having lived right in the heart of Hawthorn, just a few minutes from the Glenferrie Oval, ever since birth he has finally rebelled against the annual parade of brown and gold that seemed to appear everywhere whenever September came around. So, the long and painful selection process for a new team began. It makes it hard to find a compelling reason to align yourself to anyone in particular when you've just turned your back on your local team who also happen to be the one of the most successful sides in league history. Brief and unsuccesful experimentation with most sides in the competition ensued. Days spent trying to love North Melbourne, Collingwood, Fitzroy and even once West Coast - purely for shock value - were roundly unsuccessful. As the season drew to a close it looked as if I faced the choice between staying with the Hawks or following another sport unless I learnt to love someone bloody quickly.

It was all the fault of an older woman, as it usually is in these matters. Some ten-year-old lass who lived next door suggested that as it was Grand Final week I might wish to jump on-board her rising (settle down) team of youngsters. I wasn't convinced - even at an early age I didn't like the idea of being a bandwagon supporter - so I watched the game with a keen interest, to see if these people I was considering making a life long commitment to were worthy. They lost by 96 points, it's still the record losing margin in a Grand Final (though we gave it a tilt in 2000). That was it for me, I was in love.

Despite all that I never actually managed to cart my ass to a game until 1992. I think it was a 13-point win against Brisbane. My sudden interest in the game coincided nicely with the explosion onto the scene of Allen Jakovich. In the last 14 games of that season he kicked 71 goals - nobody had kicked their first 50 league goals quicker since John Coleman and they may never again. He went within a couple of goals of winning both the seniors and reserves goalkicking awards in the same year. Notable Jakovich-assisted massacres that season included 8 goals against Sydney, 7 against Carlton, 6 against West Coast and the coup-de-grace, an 11 goal haul against North that included a bicycle kick expertly taken in front of the rubble which eventually became the great Southern Stand. Of course he ended up getting fat(ter), more indisciplined and injury prone so we did the natural thing and flogged him off to the Bulldogs where he did squat and ended up fleeing to live on a prawn trawler off the coast of Western Australia. Nobody's seen him for years, but he's still my favourite player of all time. Farmer and Robertson have tried to emulate him since - they're both legends but they're no Jakovich.

I've seen Melbourne blow a 46 point lead in the last quarter and lose by a point to a goal after the siren, I've seen them beat the top sides and lose to the strugglers. I've personally asked Tony Modra not to kick 10 on a freezing Friday night at the MCG and he's gone out and done just that.

(End pissy flashback music)

Of course I miss all other the legends like Stynes, Grinter, Febey (both), Lovett (both), Lyon and Tingay - and I'll even look favourably towards those who have legged to other clubs for the cash (Farmer) or who we've shafted (Woewodin) but the ones I miss most of are those who drifted in for a few games or a few seasons and then disappeared off the face of the earth again. To other clubs, to the unemployment line and in one case to the NFL. This is an incomplete list of those long lost icons;

Ben Beams, Darren Bennett, Adrian Campbell, Tony Campbell, Nick Carter, Alistair Clarkson, Matthew Collins, Darren Cuthbertson, Kevin Dyson, Simon Eishold, Phil Gilbert, Andy Goodwin, Brent Heaver, Jeff Hilton, Paul Hopgood, John Howat, Anthony Ingerson, Dean Irving, Ricky Jackson, Rod Keogh, Darren Kowal, Andrew Lamprill, Troy Longmuir, Andy Lovell, Leigh Newton, Jason Norrish, Steven O'Dwyer, Andrew Obst, Trent Ormond-Allen, Michael Pickering, Paul Prymke, Robert Pyman, Haydn Robins, Peter Rohde, Clay Sampson, Marcus Seecamp, Jamie Shanahan, Troy Simmonds, Shaun Smith, Craig Smoker, Earl Spalding, Steven Stretch, Brian Stynes, Chris Sullivan, Jay Viney, Sean Wight, Graeme Yeats

Players I do NOT miss - Scott Chisholm, either Cockatoo-Collins brother Brent Grgic, Darren Gaspar (because they were all shite), Wayne Lamb (because I remember him single handedly costing us a game against Sydney when I was still an impressionable youngster), Steven Powell (because he's scum) and Martin Pike (because he's done quite well for himself with three premierships since).

I miss Fitzroy, I miss the Brisbane Bears and their single digit Melbourne cheer-squad. I miss calling Footscray and North Melbourne by their real names. I'm already starting to miss the Ponsford Stand. As much as I hated the place then I'm missing Waverley Park. It's just not the same anymore - you know something is wrong when you can say that as a 21-year-old.

So, another season is upon us. Whoever you follow (unless it's the scum) I hope it's a rewarding one for you and your team. Me? I'll be cheering on today's heroes like Neitz and Yze and secretly wishing that Phil Gilbert and John Howat were lining up beside them.

UPDATE - At the risk of making this look even more like a self-indulgent wankfest here's a top 5 of my most memorable moments.

5 - Beating Richmond by 121 points in 1993. Jakovich and Lovell with 8 goals each.
4 - Jeff Farmer's mark against Richmond in Round 22, 1998
3 - Jakovich's 11 against North.
2 - The perfect game in Round 2, 1998 against North. We took a shock eight goal lead, choked badly and then won in a thriller.
1 - Beating North Melbourne to make the 2000 Grand Final.

Bloody hell, this is my longest post ever. If I was Nick Hornby they'd already be turning into a movie.

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