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The Sydney Papers Online, Issue 33, 3 May 2016

3 May 2016 163 views No Comment

A life-long Collingwood supporter, Professor Ross Fitzgerald AM is the author of 39 books, including his memoir ‘My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey’ and the co-authored political/sexual satire, ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure.’ In 2016, he edited ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’ which is a collection of well known Australian contributors each writing of moments they hold dear from the team of their heart. Every team in the AFL is represented. On Monday 21 March 2016, Ross Fitzgerald joined Sydney lawyer Gabrielle Trainer and journalist and commentator Chris Kenny for a night of laughs and celebration of a game that is known as a metaphor for Australian character.


As the 37 contributors to ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’ make clear, Aussie Rules football cuts across all divides.
Hence this fine collection includes original essays by and about football players, supporters and administrators who are vastly different in religion, class, income, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual preference.

Contributors to Heartfelt Moments range from devout atheists like myself, Dick Whitaker and Barry Dickins to believing Christians such as Geraldine Doogue, John Birt and Cardinal George Pell – who writes about his decision whether to become a priest, or to train and play with Richmond.

The reality is that not only unbelievers, but also clerics of all persuasions often highlight Aussie Rules. Hence the retired Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, regularly told this story:
“An AFL umpire died and found himself at the Pearly Gates. When he related what he had done on Earth, the saint replied: “Well we can skip Purgatory, you’ve done enough as a football umpire, but is there anything weighing on your conscience that you need to admit before we consider letting you in? And the umpire said: “There was this match, Collingwood versus St Kilda, Magpies ahead by three points, and the St Kilda full-forward went for a mark right in front of goal. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t be sure whether he made it or not, but I gave him the mark and he scored and St Kilda won. “Think nothing of it, my son, come right in. ‘Oh thank you, thank you Saint Peter, said the umpire. “I’m not Saint Peter, replied the saint, “I’m Saint Kilda.
Talking of the Mighty Magpies, my late father Bill (“Long Tom) Fitzgerald who played over 100 games for Collingwood seconds, but never for the firsts, would regularly recount on my birthday, Christmas Day, a story about the Richmond great, Jack Dyer. Dad explained that Dyer, who was commonly known as “Captain Blood, often said: “Whenever I have a nightmare it’s never in colour , it’s always black and white. Collingwood!

On a more earthy note, one of my favourite footballing tales concerns a 20 year old from the country who was about to play his first senior game. When the coach took him aside and said, “I might have to pull you off at three quarter time, the lad responded, “Golly, where I come from we usually only get oranges!

Hmm. Humour’s a funny business! My publisher Anthony Cappello and my wife Lyndal Moor Fitzgerald think that this story is highly amusing, whereas Gerard Henderson, who in the book writes about as a child following Essendon’s star full forward John Coleman, considered it a tad too rude to crack a mention!

Contributors to ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’ include my techno-savvy colleague from ‘The Australian’, Chris Griffith – who writes about Simon Black and the Brisbane Lions. Plus there are revealing essays by leading ex-players Brian Dixon, John Birt, Andrew Ireland and Michael O’Loughlin – who writes about his inspirational journey with number 37, Adam Goodes.

As well, there are contributions from Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen; Liberal Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, Josh Frydenberg; Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and ex Liberal federal minister Amanda Vanstone. Plus there are revealing essays from ex Liberal Party heavyweight John Elliott and ex Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett , who were presidents of Carlton and Hawthorn respectively.

Following Collingwood for a lifetime has taught me that Aussie Rules football is a metaphor for life and that, to take one crucial example, the game is never lost until it’s lost.

Being, and remaining, a dyed in the wool barracker is a sign and test of character, just as switching teams seems to me a symbol of a loss of loyalty, faith and heart.

Changing clubs for which to barrack merely because of a team’s consistently poor performance is something that no true supporter would ever entertain. Indeed, it is a sign of true fandom never to let any number of losses interfere with or dilute a passionate and unrelenting support for a person’s chosen (or in my case inherited) club or team.

The fact is that because it is Aussie Rules football we are dealing with, a number of contributors explore, directly or indirectly, what it means to be an Australian and/or what are key Australian characteristics and personally traits. A number of essays also uncover how, over the decades, our great game has developed, often for the good, but sometimes not, in terms of its treatment of indigenous players and its dealings with women.

Being a lifelong supporter of a club, any club involves a lot of downs and ups. At the very least, to be a true supporter means never giving up or relinquishing ones team.

But it means even more than that.

Ultimately it is the downs that enable supporters to show their true colours and the depth of their personal attachment and commitment to each club. Thus, as Roger Kahn wrote, in his case about the Brooklyn Dodgers: “You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.

How true is that?

Most importantly, I would like to thank my friend Dick (“The Weatherman) Whitaker to whom ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’ is dedicated and who has written a revealing Epilogue about “The Highs and Lows of Aussie Rules Football Weather.”

Thank you all for coming this evening
March 21, 2016

The Sydney Papers Online, Issue 33, 3 May 2016

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