Between Here & Home: Embracing my football DNA

IN THE  world of Australian Rules Football there’s nothing closer to treason than being unfaithful to your football team.

Regular readers of Between Here and Home will be familiar with my regular lament for the fortunes of the Melbourne Football Club; the pre-season rantings of a long-suffering Demons fan.

But it’s time for me to come clean. And what better place to out myself than a daily newspaper. My heart hasn’t always “beat true for the red and the blue”.

There’s a telling photograph in our family album. 

The eight-year-old me clutching a swollen, bladder-weary Ross Faulkner, decked out in the colours of my dad’s beloved Shinboners. Proudly wearing the number 27 of the mercurial Keith Greig.

It’s true, dear reader, I’m a third-generation Roo boy. My dad, and his dad before him, stood on the gravelled terraces of Arden Street in the shadow of the gasometer, cheering on the greats of the 20th century: Jock Spencer, Allen Aylett, John Dugdale, Wayne Schimmelbusch.

Dad took me to the famous ground in the '70s. Even made me a special wooden box to stand on so I could peer over the sea of heads in front of me. But as I got into my teenage years and still hadn’t shown any signs of a growth spurt, watching footy from the terraces was just no fun.

I began going along to the MCG every Saturday so I could enjoy the footy in comfort; see the game rather than the backs of people’s heads.

That’s where my 30-year dalliance with the Demons began. I realise now my heart was never truly in it. That blood is thicker than a season’s ticket.

When my dad was just a lad, his father worked as a truck driver for a company in Spencer Street that delivered oxygen and acetylene cylinders to factories all across the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Dad would often go with him on a Saturday morning, often meeting VFL footballers at their day jobs. 

He remembers meeting the legendary Bulldog Charlie Sutton one Saturday before he and his dad headed back to Arden Street to watch their Shinboners lose yet another game.

My youngest is a mad keen Kangaroos fan. He chose the Roos, innately, when he was old enough to speak. 

Last season we sat in the nosebleed section at Etihad and watched broken-hearted as North lost five games by less than a goal. I knew then my DNA was calling.

Recently I found an old article by Martin Flanagan where he quoted an ageing Kangas supporter he’d met at an Arden Street training session. 

“I know it sounds funny,” the man had said, “but when I look at that ground I see my father.”

I get it now.

We’re four generations of Shinboners. I’m finally fulfilling my destiny.

Dedicated to my editor, Rod Case. The Kanga’s outta the bag.

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