Friday, October 10, 2014

There's no trade week for fans

I've blogged about a variety of topics here but not football, that I can recall. A blog post is usually triggered by something that affects me emotionally...something that causes words and thoughts to float around in my head, desperate to get out and yesterday football triggered that. It's a bit romantic, and I know football is big business now and I'm a little naive to all the machinations...but here it is.

[Note: I wrote this before Brendan McCartney, the coach, resigned]

I was home with my sick son. We were watching a movie and I was scrolling through twitter on my phone, when a bombshell tweet in the @afl feed rocked my socks.

The very fact that it was on the AFL twitter account was enough to cause concern as it gave it authenticity. I gasped and my son nervously asked, "What?.....What?" I could barely bring myself to say the words. He has No.16 on his football jumper. "Griff wants a trade". He joined me in shock. Just days earlier we heard speculation that Adam Cooney, our Brownlow medallist, was being considered for a trade and prior to that Shaun Higgins and Liam Jones. Football is pretty brutal when it comes to player movements but some players are at the core of the club, well, I thought they were. Gone are the days when being a one club player was almost the pinnacle, behind being a premiership player I guess. It just feels so.... brutal. I was reminded today of the 20c that a young fan sent to Chris Grant to lure him to stay a Bulldog.  He's considered a legend these days.

I'm a footy chick. I always have been. I've followed Australia Rules Football since I was a tween. I would draw up team lists and listen on the radio or watch the replay (they used to do that - show a replay on Saturday night of one of the Saturday afternoon games...when ALL the games were played on a Saturday afternoon). While I watched (or listened) I'd mark the goals and behinds against the relevant player. I'd cut articles from newspapers and sticky tape them into scrapbooks.

My husband and I would go to Footscray games in the early to mid 90s and we'd take his elderly Dad with his thermos and packed lunch. My husband tells a story of being at the Western Oval (now Whitten Oval) when the club was on its knees being forced to merge with Fitzroy back in 1989. He saw his pensioner Dad open his wallet, and moths flew out, but he threw some dollars in the collection tin to help save his beloved Doggies. Up until his death, my father in law had a framed news article on his mantle. It said "There are 3 certainties in life: Death, Taxes and The Doggies in the Wet", alongside this was a framed picture of Tony Liberatore; his favourite modern day player. He loved the Dogs, and that love had been passed to his son, and now it has been passed to our children.

Footscray became the Western Bulldogs in an effort to appeal to a wider fan base and we accepted that change. We were signed up members from about 1996, and in 1997 saw the club on the brink of success. It was an incredibly exciting time. The club had only ever won one premiership, in 1954 and its only other Grand Final appearance was in 1961. The Dogs were not a powerhouse. There was no cabinet full of silverware, but the fans were devoted and loyal...they still are. In 1997 we could almost taste success. We were at the infamous preliminary final that year. It is such a vivid memory. The excitement at three quarter time when we began to believe we might see our team in a Grand Final... How would we get tickets? Then the cruel unravelling, as Adelaide powered home and we suffered the most painful of losses, by only 2 points. We wept real tears that day. We were stunned, and to this day the Adelaide theme song haunts us.

I have tons of football memories. I have pictures of players holding my children as babies, and my kids attending clinics on Whitten Oval, or standing with their paraphernalia at games, and school footy days. We didn't really give them a choice about football. We signed them up as Bulldogs members and dragged them along; kitting them out in red, white and blue. We live in Geelong. It's a tough gig to not support the Cats when you live here. People don't understand how we can live here and not support the local team and its hard to explain, but we feel we have red, white and blue running through our veins. The kids have seen some success, but not the ultimate success. A few years ago we planned our September school holidays around the likelihood of the team being in the finals, but the current team is rebuilding and struggling. It can be demoralising being at games when your team isn't doing well but we hang in there. We've stayed members all through this. The club labels us Bulldogs for Life, as they deduct payments from our account each month. With all the various commitments that a young family has we don't get to many games, but still we do it. The membership feels like a donation, but still we do it. I don't have regular employment at the moment, but still we do it.

This post has turned into a family history about the Bulldogs and that wasn't my intention. I guess I'm giving some background to our family commitment to the Dogs. We love them. We've been through thick and thin, and we're still here. 

There's no trade week for fans. We don't have a two week period at the end of the season when we consider the membership options of rival clubs. Where can we get a better financial deal? Which club has the most appealing package?  Where will the games be played? We don't have a look at the teams in the Premiership window and consider jumping on board to taste success. We stick. We're true. Coaches, players, administrators come and go. We stick. We're here for the long ride through all the turmoil; as a player we love, a player who has captained our team, endeared himself to our kids, announces he wants out. And we're entitled to be angry, and sad, and tearful. We may even threaten to tear up our membership in the heat of all that emotion...but we don't. We stick. We have no real power. The club needs us, and we need them. Our frustration leads some to rant on Facebook or Twitter...or to write a long rambling blog post with no real purpose except to be a small voice for the fans.

Fans are the backbone of clubs, and I know the Western Bulldogs fan base does not compare to teams like Collingwood and Hawthorn in number, but in passion, we rival any team. We love our club and we hate to hear that there are tensions, or issues that can't be resolved. What can we do? It feels like the only time we have power is when the club needs money. Without the fans, there would have been no Footscray, no Western Bulldogs after 1989... But otherwise, we watch from the sidelines, Bulldogs through and through, as coaches are sacked, or resign, players walk, or get dumped, new players come along, new hopes are ignited and we endeavour to #bemorebulldog, even though we're SO Bulldog it's a wonder we don't bark.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Thus, Outlanderaholic denotes a person addicted to Outlander...and that is me.

I'm trying to remember the last time I seriously watched a TV series requiring a weekly commitment, and never missing an episode. I dabbled with Offspring in the early years, but didn't stay the course. I was a regular watcher of Miss Fisher in season one, but being on on a Friday night meant I occasionally missed an episode, and for one reason or another I missed almost all of season 2 but have it on DVD, still in its shrink wrap. I'll watch it someday. I do watch TV, it's frequently on. I like seeing Mediawatch and Q & A on a Monday. The Project is often on during dinner time, but nothing is a must watch for me. My kids watch a lot of the realty shows, so I could tell you some sketchy details about a girl called Dee annoying everyone on The Block, or that there is a magician on Big Brother, but that's about it.

You may have read this post here about my anticipation for Outlander, and my chance to see episode 1 at a preview screening. The build up had been enormous and I wasn't disappointed. My only real problem was that I don't have Foxtel and that was how you had to watch it...legally. I'm not a fan of piracy. I have friends who work in the movie industry and feel like it could impact on their livelihood if I supported that sort of activity. Fortunately a friend, who also loves the book, has Foxtel. I kind of told her, rather than asked, that I would be visiting every Thursday to watch with her! Luckily for me she was up for that. She was also my plus one for the preview screening. We're on this journey together. 

So, every Thursday, sometime before 8.30, I rock up to her place with a bottle of red or a pack of mint slices and we settle on the couch to watch our hour of television. We sigh and we gasp, and for the most part there is a stupid grin affixed to our face as we see our favourite book come to life with actors performing their roles just oh so convincingly. As book fans we notice little details that non book fans might miss... things like Jamie rubbing the back of his neck when Claire falls on him during her aborted escape attempt, and when he drums his fingers... The attention to detail is phenomenal. We're so hooked it's not funny.

I mentioned to my husband that it feels like I'm having an affair. I slip out of the house, go see my show (and my friend) and then slip back in. We don't spend hours together, just a little over an hour and then we're done for another week. Recently, we realised that I would be away for a holiday with my extended family for episode 6 and 7, and she would be away for episode 8. Six was pivotal. Having read the books, I knew approximately what it was going to feature, but also, I had read reviews from critics saying that it was a key episode, especially for the non book readers who were viewing the series without any prior knowledge of what was coming.

Fortunately my Dad was able to get this episode to play on his computer, so I lay on a bed in a hotel room with his laptop resting on my chest, desperately trying to block out the noise from other parts of the hotel and watched this amazing episode, with details so gruesome only centimetres from my eyes. The whole front of my body was burning from the heat generated by the laptop and my retinas burned from the awesome special effects used to convey flogging scenes that tore skin from the back of the main character. It wasn't ideal, but it meant I hadn't missed out.

The next episode was The Wedding. I should say THE Wedding. Every Outlander book fan the world over was anticipating this episode and the thought that I wouldn't see it was *mildly annoying. (*mildly annoying is drastically understating it) My cousin heard me lamenting the fact that I wouldn't see it and said that perhaps he could get his Foxtel Go app to play it. He checked, and yes, SOHO was one of the channels. I made plans to watch on his phone in a nearby pub, so I could use their wifi.  Thursday approached. I'd been loosely checking in on Facebook and Twitter and had seen excitement from the US fans about the episode. We were out for dinner on Thursday. My cousin encouraged me to download the app from Foxtel on my ipad so I could watch it on there. I had to hotspot into my iphone, which was already in data trouble since I'd been away from wifi for a week, but the app downloaded and it looked like all would work perfectly. My cousin detached his phone from the app and reverted it to my ipad. He could claim it back in 30 days. (What a debt I owe him!) 

We set off for the pub for the free wifi. My family were laughing at me and my need to see this TV show. I rode it out. Their good natured teasing wasn't going to put me off. When we got to the pub and asked for the wifi code they told us we couldn't have it unless we were staying there! We'd cut it fine, it was about 8.25 and I went into a panic. My sister came to the rescue and said I could hotspot to her phone. I didn't know how much data I would use but she had about 1.5gb. I bought her a cocktail, and then I moved myself aside from everyone and got it playing.

The pub was too loud. There was music, and people talking. I tried the verandah...still too loud. Can't they see I am trying to watch...and listen to my TV show?? I had to get out of there. I marched past my family. Sister's phone in one hand, ipad in the other. I headed back to our hotel and sat in the foyer. I had the keys to our room (which also allowed entry to the hotel) and knew my husband and kids would need me to let them in so I sat in sight of the front door. It was a deserted foyer. The reception desk was closed.

Occasionally someone would walk through from the street to the lifts but for the most part I had the space to myself. Thank goodness you can rewind and pause Foxtel. So I settled in to watch. I smiled like a cheshire cat the entire hour. I had to pause, and reduce volume on a couple of occasions when someone walked by....some scenes were quite sexy. But, I saw the episode. It was lovely, just lovely. In the middle my family came back and I was tempted to go upstairs with them but ended up staying in my isolated spot, away from their ribbing.

When I returned to everyone I gave my sister her phone back. She checked. I'd used .9 (point nine) of a gb. Woah! Fortunately her data was refreshing in a few days.

I'm back home now. I was able to watch the episode again, with earphones in and no distractions whatsoever. I smiled again. It truly was lovely. 

As for this week's episode I think I can wait until Saturday when my friend returns and we can watch episode 6,7 and 8 as a marathon...or.... I still have the Foxtel app, so maybe I can watch on the ipad on Thursday night.... 

As for episodes 9 through 16...that wait is until April 2015! I'm going to have to satisfy myself with re-reading the books, and hopefully getting the series on DVD for Christmas. So, yes, I guess I am an Outlanderaholic... I went to great lengths to ensure I didn't miss an episode and I still love the books, the TV series and the fact that there is more to come. I probably owe a few people a drink, or ten and a note of a thanks for feeding my addiction.