First published on nickmaxwell.com.au
As a child, each football season saw many family outings to the footy. While my father was kept busy bellowing “Chewy on ya boot” and “He’s been doing it all day” after two minutes of play, my mum stuck with what she knew best. “Go Matthew!”
Why Matthew? As Richmond’s two dominant players during the 1990’s were Matthews’ Richardson and Knights, (throw in Rogers), there was a fair chance that yelling “Go Matthew” would prove correct. However if truth be told, Wayne Campbell and Nick Daffy received their fair share of my mothers “Go Matthews’!” during the 1990’s!
Going to the footy with mum meant routine. We did venture to other grounds, but the majority of matches meant sitting behind the goals at the Punt Road End of the MCG.
As the reserves kicked the dew from the field, mum would fossick around in her KFC lunch bag to produce a Tupperware container full of neatly cut triangular sandwiches. Vegemite, Cheese, Stras and sauce. We’d enviously look on as other kids munched on meat pies, chips and hot dogs… but as a parent, I now understand that in order to eat this way at the footy, you need to take out a small loan.
Mum gleefully saucing a pie, pre ‘taking kids to the footy,’ when the pies dried up and the cut sandwiches were plentiful. (KB’s 400th-1983)
Next, the thermos would surface. Rightly or wrongly, we were all tea drinkers from an early age, and tea was passed along the line, ceremoniously, in colourful plastic mugs. More tea was reserved for half time.
When barracking, mum hated it when we booed. I clearly remember getting told off for booing Mil Hanna in a 1990 encounter.
“Just cheer your team… you don’t have to boo the opposition!” Wrong mum. There are times where you must “boo” the opposition. Visualise Steven Milne or Darren Bewick kicking the winning goal against your team from a dubious free kick? I think restricting yourself to boo’s would actually be the polite thing to do!
Another thing that upset mum was littering. Now I didn’t litter often, and understood that it wasn’t a great thing to be doing. But I was not adverse to dropping my used goods on the ground at the footy.
“John, pick that up!” cried mum.
“Mum, they PAY people to tidy up at the footy, there’s rubbish everywhere!”
I’m not sure that we ever really resolved that one?
But it wasn’t just going to the footy where mum got involved.
There was the tiger birthday cake she made for my fifth birthday, followed by my football field cake the following year. My brother, who follows Footscray, had what was surely the worlds’ one and only “Tony Liberatore” birthday cake, pictured here. Nice work mum. Together, my brother and I must have had four or five football themed birthday parties during our formative years. Luckily however, mum had a daughter whom she could lavish fairy parties and the like upon, but I get the feeling my sister may have also been up for the odd football birthday celebration!
Mum also taught us about courage in football, hobbling to the very top of the great southern stand with a walking stick, having torn her calf muscle to witness Richmond’s final against North in 1995, the first time we’d played finals since 1982! Though mum barracks for Essendon, you’d hardly know it from flicking through our family photo albums. She certainly has a soft spot for the family team!
It’s fair to say that mum jumps into life itself with great passion, and football’s the same. If mum watches a game, she gets emotionally involved to the point of needing a simmer down chair at times. However, she can contradict this passion by spending other game days reading a book or gardening! She’s one of the few footy supporters upset that this year sees Better Homes and Gardens superseded by live footy on a Friday night!
To finish off, there are some things I need to clear up and apologise for over the years.
Number one– my deepest apologies for savagely cutting back one of your trees in order to provide more space in the forward pocket of my backyard footy ground.
I’m well and truly out of home now, and you can tell because there lies a veggie patch in what was once the half forward flank! The price of progress! But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the removal of the lemon tree and clothes line from centre half forward have certainly opened up the central corridor!
Number two- sorry for all the breakages involved with my mine and my brothers’ indoor football matches; fiercely fought spectacles that they were. Now it could have been a lot worse had our skill level not been so high, but there was the odd glass, ornament, photo frame and ego smashed!
Number three- Now this is a big one, sorry for using your expensive material to make me and my mates’ “It’s the Night of Knights” banner to take to the footy! The said material had been sitting in the cupboard for as long as I cared to remember, however it was clearly a big mistake. Mum used her great “passion for life” to explain to me in no uncertain terms that I had erred in my judgement! And as fate would have it, the material turned out to be navy blue and not black anyway! Serves me right!
Number four- Sorry for all of my dummy spits, cursing and general anti-social behaviour as a result of football matches that you had to deal with. I guess I share your “passion for life!” I could certainly be hard to control at footy as a boy, with numerous “This is the last time we’re coming to the footy!” threats waved about. And if Richmond lost, I’d often sulk the whole trip home, be it car or train! And we lost a lot!
It would be remiss of me to not mention one mothers day in particular, however it centres not around my mother, but a game of footy. I guess that’s apology number five!
I speak of what is known at Richmond as the “Mothers Day Massacre”, when Richmond defeated reining premier Collingwood in 1991; Jeff Hogg the star booting 10 goals as the Tigers flew to a stunning 10-goal victory at a Southern Stand-less MCG.
I remember it vividly as I watched it at a family ‘mothers day’ gathering, where the grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins in attendance were one of two things, Richmond or Collingwood! It is oft said that both clubs supporters are ‘cut from the same cloth’, and my family is living proof!
My account at the time of Mothers Day 1991, my teacher was a Tiger too!
So to all the mothers out there, have a great day on Sunday, and remember that without mothers there would be no footballers, meaning no . . . football! And to my mother, thanks for adding a great colour to our families footballing traditions and folklore, and more importantly to mine!
Happy Mothers Day!!!