Finals fever, aches & pains

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.

Go Saints!

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.

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About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. She is a winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award and has thrice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards. Her third novel, The Dying Beach, was also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. Angela teaches writing and is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing at Monash University.
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6 Responses to Finals fever, aches & pains

  1. Julian Savage says:

    Dear Ang – great post. The spirit shines through but a couple of amendments needed. In the ’44 grand final Fitzroy played Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer’s Richmond at the Junction Oval in St.Kilda as the MCG had been commandeered for the entire season for use as an army supply base. The story of the ‘lost hat’ originates from the previous Fitzroy premiership in 1922, when as a young lad Les threw his hat into the air when the siren rang. Together we witnessed the Roys romp home in the 1978 night premiership then played mid-week during the regular season. Fitzroy thrashed top placed North Melbourne to win the cup only to be on the receiving end of a similar margin on the Saturday to the same team! I guess the premiership hangover hadn’t worn off by the weekend, Jules

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    • angelasavage says:

      Jules, I appreciate the correction of all historical inaccuracies. Fascinating to think of the MCG as an army supply base. I’ve always wondered whether the site held any significance for the Wurundjeri, Melbourne’s Indigenous people. Apparently there was a gathering site at Jolimont, but from what I can establish, I think it’s only us ‘boat people’ who have invested the MCG site with sacred status.

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  2. Haydn Savage says:

    When I lived in StKilda I was often”spooked”by the sight of that stand at the Junction Oval.One day I was driving Barbara Robison and her friend Laurie Tout.Laurie,a Carlton supporter remarked that one year on the first game of the season she was sitting in the stand a few seats back from where an elderly gentleman died !!

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  3. Clive Savage says:

    Angela & Julian – thanks for all the Fitzroy/Savage History and just to add to the fateful day which i vividly remember. Leslie J/Dad/Father Bear in the company of his two sons Haydn & Clive attended his first ever Presidents Lunch where, due to his attendance of Fitzroy’s last Grand final Win, (1944) was given special mention and hearty applause. Clive

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    • angelasavage says:

      Clive, thanks so much for your comment. I knew there was a special event that day in April 1984 at which Bear was honoured but didn’t have the details to add it to the story.
      Thanks, too, Dad/Haydn, for the additional anecdote. I always think of Father Bear when I pass by the Junction Oval.
      This has been a great exercise in piecing together a family history story from our collective recollections. We must do it more often.

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  4. Michael says:

    Angela, I’m like you and your brothers in that I tried hard to follow the Brisbane Lions. I was a foundation member and travelled from the country to watch them play, when I could.

    It never felt right though. The premierships were nice, but weren’t the real deal.

    The club didn’t help by not adopting the Fitzroy colors for away games until way too late, and then dropping them again.

    I’ve lost interest in supporting an AFL club. Now that I’m in Adelaide, I go to West Adelaide games in the SANFL.

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