How to Watch Footy, part two
Game: Geelong versus Williamstown, Round one, VFL. Sunday 31 March. Spring Creek Reserve, Torquay.
Viewing spot: top level of the three-tier terraced car-park, on the wing. Standing in front an empty four-wheel drive.
In the company of: son Jesse (wearing Seagulls scarf) and good friend Bill (we go back to 1976, last year of school).
Pre-match warm-up: morning dip at Sunnymeade near Aireys Inlet, ten minute walk down the hill from the carpark at the nearly complete RACV Torquay Resort (formerly known as the local golf club.)
Commentary: gentle quips about the Geelong players from Bill (I haven’t heard him swear in 37 years); Melbourne Victory updates from Jesse. I spend much of the game saying, “Who’s that bloke?” and then looking up the Footy Record. (The VFL has a high turnover of players.)
First quarter conversation: The Neil Young gig at a local winery: “He did Hurricane in the pouring rain, Vin. It was great.” One of the Springsteen gigs at Rod Laver Arena: “He did Spirit In The Night, and The E Street Shuffle, from the early albums.” Bill doesn’t talk in exclamation marks but it’s clear he loved the gigs. (I first heard Springsteen at Bill’s house back in 1976.)
Half-time exercise: a stroll around the ground, nodding and saying G’day to fellow Williamstown supporters while I ask Bill – an English teacher these past 30 years – how my 15-year-old son should approach Wuthering Heights, one of his Year 10 texts. “Tell him to embrace the darkness and he’ll be alright.”
Half-time catering: Jesse plucks a handful of mini-Easter eggs from the deep pockets of his New York Mets jacket.
Half-time match review: Though the game is close, with reigning VFL premiers Geelong always about 10 points up, it’s not an appealing game. Both teams bomb the ball into their forward line and most times it’s marked - surprise, surprise – by the other mob. Still, only the first game of the season.
Third quarter conversation: Jesse’s watching his phone more than the game below us. “2-0 up”, he says of Melbourne Victory, and then almost immediately afterwards, “2-1”. Followed by “2 all”. Followed by quietness. Bill distracts Jesse by asking him about the soccer he saw last year while on student exchange in England. Me, I’m still saying to no-one in particular, “Who’s that bloke?”
Fourth quarter: The Seagulls realise two things. They are nearly four goals down. They have the offshore wind. They put these two facts together and start playing cohesively. I put my Footy Record in my back pocket (I’ve got all season to figure out who 24 is) and almost raise my voice in encouragement. But up here on the third tier of the car-park we’re a little removed from the action. Jesse pipes up “3-2!” Melbourne Victory have stolen victory from the jaws of a draw. Williamstown get close, 8 points.
Votes: Joel Corey 3 (“Been injured,” says Bill), Jackson Hollmer (Geelong full-forward) 2 (His blonde hair wouldn’t have been out of place just up the road at Bells Beach), Willie Wheeler (Williamstown) 1. (Great name for our new nifty on-baller. Now I know who 24 is.)
Post-match: Jesse and I say goodbye to Bill, then we have a kick-to-kick session at the little Bellbrae ground, halfway between Torquay and Anglesea. Our legs are stiff from three hours of standing, so it’s good to run around a bit, especially on the soft green grass of the home ground of the Aireys Inlet Eels Junior Football Club.