During our interview at the Crime and Justice Festival, Garry Disher suggested his reputation as a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) might be accounted for by his complete lack of interest in AFL football. A week or so later, I read the following in Disher’s award winning novel Wyatt:
He surfed the TV channels again, alighting on The Footy Show, which was celebrating the induction of another cokehead and woman basher into the Football Hall of Fame.
Ouch! Never let it be said the author and the cold-blooded killer he has created have nothing in common.
My own beloved partner and emerging crime writer Andrew Nette shares Garry Disher’s distaste for the AFL, describing himself as having had a ‘sporting gene bi-pass’. Putting a ‘Saints Member 2009’ bumper sticker on his car is merely a Dexter-type ruse, designed to hide his outrageous indifference when it comes to club loyalty.
Of course, not all crime writers loathe football. Shane Maloney‘s Murray Whelan is a Fitzroy tragic, whose beloved team suffers the indignity of a forced merger with an interstate team in Maloney’s 2007 novel Sucked In.
I know how Murray Whelan feels. The Fitzroy Football Club was like extended family when I was growing up, the way they made my brothers shout, cheer and (mostly) cry when they got together every weekend during the season. My paternal grandfather Les Savage was a die-hard fan — literally — who named his firstborn after Fitzroy’s legendary player Haydn Bunton. Haydn Savage was born the same year Hadyn Bunton became the first VFL player in history to win three Brownlow medals. My brothers and I were always relieved our father wasn’t named after Fitzroy’s other great legend of the era, Chicken Smallhorn.
Family legend has it Les lost his hat in the crowd cheering Fitzroy’s 1944 VFL Premiership victory at the MCG. It was fortuitous that he managed to be on leave from the army to attend the match as this turned out to be the last premiership Fitzroy won in his lifetime. Still, he never held that against them and used to joke that he wanted to go out watching his beloved team play.
On 7 April 1984, he was granted that wish, closing his eyes for the last time on the final stages of a Fitzroy Carlton clash at the Junction Oval in St Kilda. Though shocked and saddened by his loss, we were consoled in the knowledge that he went the way he wanted to go. However, we have never forgiven Carlton, holding their win responsible for his loss.
The Fitzroy Football Club sent a wreath in club colours to my grandfather’s funeral and at the following week’s match, the players all wore black armbands in his honour.
When Fitzory merged with Brisbane 12 years later, I was glad my grandfather was not alive to see it.
The game lost its shine for me after that. My brothers and I switched allegiance to the Brisbane Lions, and for a while there enjoyed the novelty of supporting a team that actually won premierships. But living in Melbourne and supporting a team from Brisbane felt wrong, like mismatched clothes or a bad dye job.
In recent years, I’ve drifted to St Kilda because I like the club colours and they have the best theme song. Plus I was born in (East) St Kilda, and a sense of parochialism seems to help when it comes to following the AFL. But what ultimately won my loyalty was the membership deal that gave us discounted delivery of The Age on weekends.
Surely even Wyatt could see the value in that.
Updated 28 Sept 2010
As if a hung parliament wasn’t enough, we’ve now had a Grand Final between St Kilda and Collingwood end in a draw — only the third in the game’s history. I’m predicting a photo finish at this year’s Melbourne Cup.