I remember the season when the fact that football was over for the year crystallised. It was my third or fourth year in Melbourne. I was not playing cricket at that time. I was too old for the Royal Show to be a drawcard. There was nothing till the international cricket started. Which was late November.
I had spent the season listening every week to the radio and watching every game I could. I was seriously invested. I lived in inner city Melbourne. Football was easily accessible. Tram, train, bicycle. I could get to most grounds if I wanted to.
Then, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Horse racing did not interest me. I watched. Everyone did. But there was no football. The season was over. There was a football shaped hole in my life and there was nothing to fill it with.
Fill the Hole with Drafts and Trades
Last week in AFL media is trade week. Back in the 1990’s trade week happened but it was not the media event it is now. Like the regular season there is football content. A certain set of narratives form over the trade period. But it’s not like the season.
It feels like when you go to the supermarket after 11:30pm. For those in Melbourne, remember back when that was possible? The space, the lack of people, the empty isles, only one checkout operating. You could not ignore the muzack from the speakers.
Trade week and pre-season, for some fans feels like that. A space that used to be filled with multiple narratives and a constant source of information has narrowed to… Well, to trade week. A big catch for your club may get your attention, but only then.
The other event is the Draft. I do not have a family relative in the draft. Let alone a potential draftee who played in my local team. It looks from the outside like a huge moment. Though it does not connect, unless you are connected.
The football media do like to play it up. I think because its part of the dream narrative that football recycles constantly. With the Grand Final so close in our minds, in the draftees minds. The dream to make it to the big stage, with the winning team, cup in hand.
Seasonal Change As World Turns
There was a time when the unwritten rule was six months football, six months cricket. There was also a time when supermarkets closed after 6pm. Perhaps we need a rest. Professional football players get a few weeks around this time of year and then pre-season begins.
For me the change over from football to cricket usually occurs around now. October the cricket season begins. Preseason games have been held. Training has been going on for six to eight weeks. More if you have been playing winter cricket.
Seasons change. Time of life changes. Nothing is static or set in stone. Even the phases of football shift from pre-season, season, finals, best and fairest, trade week, draft and back to pre-season. What was the song from Fiddler on the Roof…? Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset.
Rhythms of the world fold around us, as the world turns. As our planet makes its way around the sun. As you grow up you learn the ebb and flow. You get used to how things are. Perhaps you even see them as how things should always be.
Let’s do the Lockdown Again
We are now, in middle of what should be. How things are expected to occur. Then there is lockdown. That weighs heavily on all the local sport in Melbourne and Victoria. As we shift from a season of local football that did not finish for many, cricket seems tantalisingly close.
My local team is posting bubbled training groups, solo training sessions. Strava gets a big boost on the facebook page. In the background at the committee level plans are being made. Plans to get playing in November, hopefully. Nothing is set in stone, and we watch the numbers grow.
You hope there is something to come. Unlike the football hole left behind when the season ended, this hole is different. Then there is the regret of a season of potential. My Nephew played local football this winter. His team was one of the top two. Finals were definite, grand final possible.
My Nephew is not the only one in that situation. A football season canceled and a cricket season on stand by. That was what happened this time last year. We sat expectant. No wonder people are on edge. No wonder there were grand final parties. No wonder people are over it.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.