Time Out: The peaks and troughs of footy tippings past

I’VE been busily joining in various internet footy tipping competitions this week. 

Footy tipping comps are great, especially if you win. You normally get a decent wad of cash, plus the incalcuable glory.

Well over a decade ago, we organised a yearly tipping competition within our considerably-sized extended family, which ran a little differently to today’s internet-based verisons.

Above 80 people took part in it at its peak.

It was during the 1990s, in the days of the Brisbane Bears, Fitzroy and Footscray, with games played at Whitten Oval, Football Park and Kardinia Park.

It was an era when footy tipping revolved around the use of pencils, paper and landline answering machines.

It was a Johnstone household rule that on Fridays you were not allowed to answer the home phone. Friday night was tipping night.

We would have about 50 phonecalls every week, with people calling to leave their tips on our voicemail.

The voicemail only went for 30 seconds, and to fit in up to four people’s tips in that time, you had to talk pretty fast.

So you would get countless amounts of messages like this – Joan: melbourneessendonstkildafitzroybrisbanecarltonwestcoastadelaide Laurie (slight pause): geelongessendonstkildahawthornbrisbanecarltonwestcoastadelaide.

Deciphering it was sometimes like working out the Rosette stone.

Whoever was around the Johnstone household on Fridays would have to go through and cross out people’s tips on photocopied versions of the fixture.

Once the tips were corrected on a Sunday evening, we would send out a group letter with a tipping ladder.

Yes, this was well and truly the 90s.

In 1996, at the humble age of eight, I beat seasoned footy watchers eight times my age to take victory in the competition, in what is still one of my finest moments.

My tips were, in the main, based on my taste in animals. 

I liked swans, eagles and bears, which was great because Sydney, West Coast and Brisbane had particularly good years that year.

I wasn’t a great fan of dogs or big cats, so Footscray and Fitzroy warming the bottom of the ladder worked for me as well.

I always picked my team, St Kilda, who won 10 games that year, which was a very good return for Saints’ teams of the 80s/early to mid 90s. For all my hard work that year, I won $100, which was an infinite amount of money for an eight-year-old. I put $80 towards a Saints jersey, which I took down to training at Moorabbin to be signed with autographs. 

There I got the scibblings of legends – Stewie Loewe, Nicky Winmar, Peter Everitt and Nathan Burke – plus personal favourites in Matty Young, Aussie Jones and Matthew Lappin (when he played for the Saints).

I also got a few signatures from the footy versions of a straight to DVD movie – Murray Pitts and Dylan Pfitzner spring to mind.

With $20 left to burn, I went to the local shopping centre and bought myself a peaked cap.

It was not just any cap. It was a beautiful shade of dark blue, which I personalised by getting “ELOISE” stitched across the front of it in bold white letters.

I thus spent the majority of my ninth year hanging around the schoolyard with my name on my head.

I’m not sure what I was trying to achieve; if it was an attempt to remind people of my name, or whether I was just making sure no one could possibly steal it.

Regardless, I loved it.

My cherished Eloise cap was last seen bobbing off into the horizon on the Great Barrier Reef after it flew off my head while in Queensland on a holiday. 

It was a sad moment of my childhood.

But oh well, if all goes well in my various tipping competitions this year, another Eloise cap could be on my head come September.

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