MELBOURNE – We love you!
For those who have not been playing along at home, the weekend just gone we packed up the family and jumped on a steel bird for a weekend in the big smoke.
It’s the great Tasmanian holiday. “We’re going away for a weekend”. “Oh yeah, where are you going? East Coast, West Coast, North West Coast or Melbourne?” “Couple of games of footy in Melbourne, mate.”
We caught two games, one at Etihad Stadium where Toby Greene booted Luke Dahlhaus in the face and one at the Cattery where Geelong recorded its best win of the year in front of a sell-out crowd against Richmond. 50/50 on the results we were looking for as a family.
We also took in the Queen Victoria Markets, Southern Cross DFO, caught up with Heather Braid who met the kids for the first time, shared breakfast with former Cricket Tasmania alumni Scott McNaughton and James Galloway and had a great feed at the Mail Exchange Hotel which I will touch on later.
From a Uni perspective, my classmates went and watched the Poos and Wees against Ninth Melbourne at York Park. Obviously, I couldn’t make it but took the opportunity to scout out Kardinia Park to see what similarities I could find and fulfil the homework I was given that my mates were completing in Launceston.
My classmates were looking at the role of the hierarchy at the home club over the course of the game and what the President, Secretary and Treasurer are likely to be doing. I’ll work that into another blog when the Big Bash League starts and will grill some CT staff members on their role in putting an event together.
I checked out a couple of things that make the game go well and contribute to the experience of the fans at AFL matches and found a couple of stark differences between Etihad Stadium and Kardinia Park.
The most glaringly obvious was the vibe of the ground. Etihad Stadium is an engineering and practical masterpiece with its retractable roof, the way the seats are laid out and the easy access to toilets, canteen and bar facilities. It’s big, bloody big and can hold a huge crowd. We were part of 30,000 odd people who watch the Doggies get rolled. What Etihad Stadium lacked is what Kardinia Park had in spades.
Atmosphere and a soul.
Of the 30,000 people, 75 percent or more were barracking for the Bulldogs and it was easy to identify this, particularly when Greene went anywhere near the ball or the umpire disagreed with the great unwashed when he blew his whistle. (note, there is a PhD thesis in this observation).
Geelong had a similar vibe but being a smaller stadium it was amplified. The atmosphere was electric for the whole match. Well, at least until there was a spit of rain and the Cats were up by three goals with five minutes to go and the Richmond supports showed that they were made of sugar and were worried about dissolving before they reach the train at South Geelong Station.
In terms of having a soul, I could look no further than the food and beverage option that were available. Just behind the Gary Ablett Terrance, where we were sitting, were any number of options to quench your thirst and feed your worms. One particular outlet took my fancy. It was the small, fully enclosed trailer occupied by the Geelong Rotary Club who were selling pies. This seemed like such a throwback to the glory days of footy or even a country game. Cash only and operated by a handful of volunteers making money to fund worthwhile causes around the second biggest city in the state. There would no doubt be some sort of fee paid to either the club or AFL for being able to sell pies there but, unlike Etihad Stadium, you were served your food by somebody who was there to make sure you had a great experience.
This sort of experience helped to create a family friendly atmosphere where we felt comfortable, able to enjoy the footy and overall have a great day.
That atmosphere flowed on to my family. Snuffo (nine) felt comfortable enough to want to go to the toilet by himself. Something he didn’t feel at Etihad Stadium and something that Sarah and I felt comfortable with at Geelong but not at Docklands. The kids went down to the fence to high five the players after the match and it was just like going to the Sheffield Rec to watch the Robins take on Wesley Vale in terms of what we were comfortable letting the kids do.
Congratulations to the Geelong Footy Club for not bowing to pressure to move this game to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A home game is a home game and, despite what the Richmond fans were saying during the day, this game being played at Geelong gave it so much more being a full house as opposed to 60,000 at the MCG.
Now, I mentioned the Mail Exchange Hotel. This is not a paid plug but I needed to put it out there that we had a great experience there. We had decided on getting Indian or Chinese for tea but walking past this pub we saw a couple of empty tables and felt that a decent feed with a heap of vegies was just the tonic.
We were served a ripping feed, the kids had a decent dish too which topped off a great day at the footy and almost book ended our trip.
Using observation techniques discussed at Uni, the kids and I kept our eyes and ears peeled for any observation we could make. The kids have highlighted some of their observations in this video they created. https://youtu.be/BUZvwYNCoo0
My observations using the idea of what each sense pick up were.
Sight: The banner at Geelong which had a swipe at the AFL and Richmond wanting to play the game at the MCG.
Smell: The food and flowers at the Queen Victoria Markets. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate ploy to have them as the first thing you walk past off the tram but it made the markets seem very real and a great experience.
Taste: The beef ragout at the Mail Exchange Hotel. As some guy in an Akubra said about some song one day, “do yourself a favour”.
Hearing: So much to hear. The fire evacuation alarm at the apartment we were staying at right through to the persistent booing of Greene at the Doggies game but my favourite line came as the Richmond fans, beaten, were scrambling for cover. A Geelong supporter started singing a goodbye song which one Richmond fan took exception to saying “you’ve got a gap in your teeth and it’s not good.” Yep, that was all this bloke had.
Touch: This was hard but after being a Geelong fan since before Grandma and Grandad moved off the farm in 1996, I finally brought a guernsey. It fitted like a glove and heightened my experience as is served as a conversation starter for any Geelong fan who we walked past or bumped into at the pub.
So, that’s it.
There are many more tales to tell but this is an idea of what went on, what we learned and the experiences we shared.