Sitting with our friends in navy blue, white and gold West Coast Eagles country at Paterson Stadium, I felt like an impostor sitting among the faithful. I’m not an Eagles supporter; I don’t barrack for a particular club, have never paid for a membership nor donned a team scarf. I prefer to watch the footy on telly in the comfort of my own home and hadn’t been to a game for over a decade – even at the deafening blare of the siren, I didn’t feel a smidgen of excitement. I’d agreed to go to the footy because Jac really wanted me to. I was wishing I was home at my desk writing instead of sitting on a hard, narrow seat with Jac and our friends Sascha and Lou, all of us rugged up against the cold. Catching up with mates is always wonderful, but as soon as I started taking photographs, I began to really enjoy myself.
The girls drank red wine and tucked into steaming baked potatoes loaded with beans, cheese, sour cream and chopped spring onions.
I had a hot dog with a plump porky bratwurst, fried onions (buried under the sausage), yellow mustard and tomato sauce. The bun began to fall apart after my first few bites. Not the easiest thing to eat without drips and smears. As the bun disintegrated, so did the Eagles’ effectiveness.
Although the Eagles took the early lead, kicking two goals within the first fifteen minutes, in the second quarter, the Richmond Tigers kicked six goals to none. If there was a home ground advantage, the Tigers were stomping all over it. Jac watched the first quarter intently but settled deep into conversation with Lou during the second. I knew she’d be surprised when she momentarily stopped talking to look at the scoreboard. “What the hell happened?” she asked. She wasn’t the only one. To the growing frustration of their supporters, the Eagles kept on (apparently) kicking to an invisible player, missing their marks, hitting the goal posts instead of kicking the ball through them. The Tigers won contested marks and kicked confidently and accurately. Whenever the ball slipped out of an Eagle’s grasp like a greased melon, a Tiger was there tirelessly chasing it down. It just wasn’t the Eagles’ night. After half-time, three more Tigers goals in a row sealed Richmond’s victory.
Interestingly, early in the game when their beloved team still had a chance, the Eagles fans were vocal, admonishing players for their fumbles and roaring abuse at the umpires. But as the margin stretched to an imposing 50 points in the third quarter, a hush fell over the once noisiest fans. Pursed lips, grim expressions. Beer seemed to provide little comfort. The game had slipped away.
When it was all over, we joined the hoards leaving the stadium as the winner’s anthem blared from the speakers, the traditional rubbing of salt into wounds. A top 4 finish may be beyond their grasp now, but loyalty never gives up and the fans will be back in their navy blue, white and gold at the next home match on June 27 to cheer on the Eagles as they take on Essendon. “C’arn, boys!”
Final score, AFL Round 10: Richmond Tigers 16.7 (103) to West Coast Eagles 8.14 (62).
Are you a footy fan?
PS. Thanks to Sascha for inviting us to the footy. I did have fun, even as an impostor.
My June newsletter is out. This month, a sneak peek at my travels to Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand and our quick getaway to Northam, Western Australia.