My DIY Football Table

Footy Table 1

I am a magpie, but not in the football sense. I pick things up, I find things and I bring them home. As a kid this included all sorts of useless junk but through maturation I’ve been able to refine this habit to serve house and family in a positive manner, meaning I no longer bring home EVERY speaker I see!  For some years now however there’s been an slowly increasing pile of ‘footy ground stuff’ accumulating in our backyard; old bricks from grand stands, broken old seats and anything that hadn’t been nailed down basically.

As I toured Melbourne’s rotting football grounds in the early 2000s, camera in hand, with the view to documenting much of what has now been demolished, I also began picking up souvenirs. But until recently they’ve sat idle for the best part of a decade in the many sheds of the many houses we’ve lived in, taking up space. I always wanted to do something with them, show them off or use them in some way, and as you can see below I toyed with putting together a sort of football ground collage which never came to fruition, but served as a starting point.

Footy Table 2
Inspiration: Bits and pieces from football grounds I have collected over the years which I toyed with turning into some sort of installation art piece (middle). Also, Ash and I enjoyed a beer at a Williamstown pub last year where the table tops were made from an old basketball court.

Also lying around at home was my old nana and pa’s table, the scene of many happy Friday night dinners in my childhood, and as you can see below, the odd birthday celebration. No one in the family wanted to get rid of the table, yet no one was really able to use it either, so I put my hand up to take it. We used it for a number of years until we found our beloved 1960’s laminate table on the side of the road, so nana and pa’s old table got relegated to the backyard, where though we tried our hardest to keep it dry, the top began to warp and crack badly. I needed to save the table in some shape or form, and I had to use this footy ground ‘stuff!’

Mezz and I table
Nana and pa’s table back in the day. Many a Friday night dinner was eaten here. Here’s my little sister turning 2.

Well as you may know, the old Western Oval at the end of my street has recently undergone a facelift, and a part of that was replacing the old wooden seats in front of the John Gent stand. As luck would have it, I was able to help myself to a fair amount of the old seats as they lay in a rubbish pile.

Western Oval Seats
Western Oval: The old seats early last year, the pile that I helped myself too and the replacement seats ahead of the VFL final played there last year

It sat down the side of our house until about a month ago when my ever-patient partner politely asked what was happening with that wood? Luckily this question was asked during the two weeks I had off work over easter, and I suddenly realised I could kill two birds with one stone; the ‘footy stuff’ and the table. I took the top off the table to find that the base was undamaged and still ridiculously strong. I don’t have any power tools so the beauty of this table is that it was a real ‘blood, sweat and tears’ job, with great assistance from the kids.

Cade Twitter Table

Great minds think alike, and while sharing the progress of the table on twitter, @cade_e knocked my socks off with the tweets pictured left. There’s a sister table out there! It turns out that this wood was salvaged from the tip, and what a great place to sit and discuss the fortunes of the club formerly know as Footscray. Surely footy clubs MUST know that there’s crazy supporters like us out there who’d love the thought of owning a piece of our teams old ground? It frightens me to think of the treasures that have been discarded over the years. Better to focus on what I have salvaged.

The majority of the wood for my table was from the Western Oval but as I’m not a Footscray supporter it was very important to incorporate as much wood from other grounds as I could. Whilst I have nothing from Punt Road, I do have one line of wood which is yellow and black in the table, made ironically from Vic Park and Princes Park, enemy territory for a Richmondite.

Table Build

There is also a plank from in front of the old grandstand at Arden Street and small bit of VFL Park which I scored out of a bin when I went out there ten years ago or so. As you can see in the photo below, they’ve kept a few bays of seating in front of the old Sir Kenneth Luke Stand, and I happened to be there the day after they trimmed them all down. Right place, right time. You can’t teach that.

Footy Grounds
Clockwise, starting top left. Princes Park, Arden Street, VFL Park and Victoria Park.

As the table will live outside I wanted to make it last, so headed to Bunnings and asked which varnish would be the best. Three coats of outdoor varnish later and not only is the table protected, but the darker look the varnish gives really adds something and ties the different parts together.

I set out to make something kind of cool and just used what I had at my reach, but on reflection this table carries a lot of meaning for me, for it is family and football tied together. Family, Football and a place to share Food. I’m not sure what else you really need?

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The finished product. Next project, chairs that suit!

 

Coburg v Richmond

As former partners Coburg and Richmond clash today in round one of the VFL, let’s take a look back at the second time these two great clubs met, back in the final round of season 2000.

To set the scene, this was the first year of the restructured VFL which was made up of VFA teams, AFL reserve teams and some VFL/AFL alignments. Coburg was actually sponsored by the Fitzroy Football Club and as such became the Coburg-Fitzroy Lions, a move which made sense as this was the emblem for both clubs. The team wore it’s Coburg jumper against old VFA teams and a Fitzroy jumper against AFL reserve sides. Upwards of 3,000 old Fitzroy supporters swelled Coburg’s attendances each week and the arrangement seemed to be kicking goals. Cob-Fitz v Rich 2001

Final round of 2000: The crowd was big and tense

But Coburg were broke. Entering the final round match against Richmond there was great uncertainty in the air. This was a very difficult time for both Coburg and Fitzroy people, bearing in mind that Roy fans had already lost their team just 4 years prior. Was this to be the last time a Coburg and or a Fitzroy side graced the Melbourne playing grounds?

As such there was great feeling at the City Oval that day. Though both teams were well out of contention there was a real finals atmosphere with just on 4,000 there to see the game. Coburg-Fitzroy as it turns out were never going to lose the game. It could well have been their last and they planned to enjoy it.

Cob Aaron James

Aaron James lining up at full forward for Richmond

I can’t remember a single passage of play from the day, who played well or who stunk, but football is deeper than that stuff sometimes because I very much remember the feeling of being there; a Richmond supporter hoping that Richmond would lose. It sounds awful I understand, but I don’t follow the Tiges in the VFA-VFL comp.

As the siren rang there was a great outpouring from Lion fans of all persuasions. Richmond fans, who didn’t care about the result, just went on with their kick-to-kicks, un-disturbed by defeat. The Coburg-Fitzroy boys however knew this might be their last hurrah, and the players congregated in front of the fans on the hill and together they belted out the Coburg song. Coburg Song

Above: The players belt out the song in front of the hill, pictured below

Cob Roys on the hill I still vividly remember leaving the ground with a flurry of supporters, and a bloke in a Fitzroy scarf responded to someone’s jubilation with ‘I just hope we have a fuckin’ side next year mate.’ There was very real concern on his face. Turns out they didn’t. Coburg leave the field It’s funny how things work out. I kept a close ear to the ground over the coming weeks to see what would become of Coburg-Fitzroy. Impatiently, I decided to phone the club and ask for myself. When the phone was answered with ‘Hi this is the Coburg Tigers football club’ I had to do a double take. Tigers? Had the person on the line suffered big-cat forgetfulness?

2000.16

No. It turned out that Richmond, whom it seemed may have been Coburg’s final opponents, had stepped in as some sort of white knight and ‘saved’ the club. The catch was, they were no longer the Lions. Whilst I was happy that the club was saved, I was very disappointed in my own club insisting upon the name Tigers. The colours remained red and blue and the Tiger made no sense at all. There was also anther bunch of Tigers kicking the footy around down at Werribee. And the Fitzroy fans? Would they have stayed on board it the name Lions remained? Hard to tell, but what a loss again for the loyal Roys. coburg

The Coburg Tigers logo…the sunburnt Tiger

There’s an odd symmetry with today’s games. Richmond plays the VFL and AFL Lions, both having had an affiliation with Fitzroy, obviously Brisbane’s is ongoing! I now hold a membership for both Richmond in the AFL and Coburg in the VFL, and as such will be wanting for a Burger win with no Richmond injuries!

And what would Coburg-Fitzroy look like now if they had been able to continue. We’ll never know sadly, but it all came down to money I guess. At least we have the name Lions back in the old VFA. And who knows, hopefully one or two old Roy boys pop down for a look.

Go the Burgers

Happy Snap #23 Saturday Afternoon at the G

MCG Saturday AfternoonThe universal reflex reaction to victory, hands in the air followed by clapping.

This photo was from a gorgeous Saturday afternoon spent at the footy back in the mid-2000’s, and marked the last time I would sit in the old Olympic/Northern Stand at the MCG. The occasion was Footscray v St.Kilda, and I took my Dog supporting brother, Pete. We sat in the middle deck on wooden seats. Come to think of it, this is the last AFL match I watched with the risk a slpintered bum. It was also the last time that I could sit and watch league football in Melbourne and see trees, something I miss greatly.

Today we find the Dogs again on one of their exciting excursions to the MCG to play Richmond, a day that me and my Footscray supporting brother never relish. The last Richmond v Footscray match for points we went to together was the game at Docklands when Richmond snatched a draw from the jaws of victory, and Nathan Brown greeted the siren with arms raised. We are both rather fond of one another’s team, yet we are fiercely competitive…it’s just not a good mix. The Liberatore/Knights incident threatened to tear us apart!

Whatever the result, football will always be the winner when the MCG is graced on a Saturday afternoon. Long may it continue to do so.

Football

“I know there is strength in the difference between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap” -Ani DiFranco

2 Lil Tigers

Side  by side

I was born in Box Hill, Melbourne. I grew up in Blackburn. At school we played cricket in the summer and football in the winter. Australian football. This is what my father did, what his father did, and so on. This game was the centre of my life. I had no comprehension of it’s limits outside of my own little bubble. I never twigged that Australian football was, on a world scale, nothing but a quirky, little-known game played in a Colonial backwater. To me it was everything. All the people I knew followed a team that their sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers all followed.

Of course I could have grown up in Aberdeen, Scotland. My great grandmother hails from that part of the globe. Then my world would have revolved around what we in Australia refer to as soccer, but is better know world wide simply as football. There’s that word, football.

What comes to mind when I say the word cheese? Plastic cheese? Cheddar cheese? Swiss, camembert or mozzarella? Blue vein? Perhaps shaved parmesan? I guess it would depend on your experiences, on your preferences, heck, it might even depend on where you come from. But are they all not cheese? Similarly, I consider football to be a collective noun. Australian Football is my main expression of football, whilst I very much enjoy other expressions and acknowledge that each expression has very similar roots and beginnings.

In a criminally simplified history lesson for those not aware, ‘folk football’ has been played in countless forms world wide for thousands of years. Some kept score, some included beheading and most had rudimentary rules at best. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, games of football slowly became more formalised. At the Rugby School in England, the game morphed into a physical, ball carrying sport, while at Eton, also in England, the use of hands was gradually eradicated. After much confusion, trial and debate, we ended up with rugby and soccer.

Folk Football Collage

Folk football from around the world

Gridiron is what rugby morphed into once introduced to the United Sates, and Australian Rules football is again what rugby morphed into once introduced to Melbourne, Australia. As history show us, New South Wales and Queensland stuck with the British game, perhaps a sign of the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Intriguingly Gaelic football still evokes that feeling of folk football, a game remarkably similar in movement and ball skills to Australian football.

Australian football began differentiating itself from rugby due to the rock-hard nature of the Melbourne earth. Many injuries occurred which wouldn’t have on the lush playing fields of England. So the game prevented hacking and tripping, but to even things up a little, it was decided that a player had to touch the ball to the ground every 15 yards or so. And from there she kept on evolving. I celebrate the game’s origins. Without rugby, Australian football wouldn’t be. I also love that the game was tailored to suit local conditions. It is these nuances which make the different codes wonderful. It actually all happened rather organically, something we’ll never see again in our overly-managed world.

Face it. If you grew up in the Melbourne suburbs then chances are that you’re an Australian rules devotee. I’ve grown up understanding the intricacies and beauty in footy; the high mark, the perfect bump, a well timed torpedo punt. Kids who grew up in Redfern understand the beauty in a well timed sidestep, a well placed dribble kick, a well executed fend off, a beautifully timed pass which finds a hole in the opposition’s defence.

Those who grew up in Dublin have a deep appreciation of a player running at full speed while executing a solo. My friend Gareth who grew up in Scotland appreciates the beauty in a nil-nil draw, the courage in going up for a header in a pack. Someone who grew up in Chicago understands the skill involved in the perfect block and the quarterback who holds his nerve and hits his teammate with a beautifully weighted pass.

Football

The last time I checked, no one gets to choose where they’re born. If you think ‘soccer’ is purely a game for wusses then be thankful you didn’t grow up in Inverness! If you think rugby players are nothing more than brain dead bum-sniffers then be thankful you weren’t born in Capetown. If you hate ‘AFL’ or ‘aerial ping-pong’ then just thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in Ballarat. And PLEASE can we put an end to the term Gay FL? Or perhaps the AFL should turn what is meant to be a derogatory term into a positive GLBT awareness campaign? I’m thinking aloud now.

I understand Australian football’s limitations. It’s never going to be major football code outside of Australia. But that’s what makes it special. While world football has the magic of truly bringing people together the world over, Australian football is a quirky and rather eccentric game. Now I love finding a hidden gem be it a tiny coffee shop hidden in a back street, a great tiny op-shop or record store. This is how I view Australian football on the world stage, a hidden gem.

Now I’m completely sick of the fighting between the codes here in the melting pot that is Australia, and whist I recognise it is a competitive marketplace, it’s time that we leave that jostling for those in charge of our leagues or codes. The arguments between supporters are that of the school yard. Basically “my opinion is right, your football is shit, and get stuffed.” Now I understand that we are each very passionate about our own code and there’s no wrong in that. But why the derision of other codes? The sneering remarks, the belittling? It saddens, angers and frustrates me. Am I allowed to enjoy more than one code?

I grew up in a Melbourne full of propaganda and fear-mongering that soccer is an evil that will come and ruin ‘our game.’ That was my starting point as a young one. The fear demonstrated by Australian Rules Football, in particular the AFL, highlights nothing more than it’s insecurity. The AFL uniquely operates with conflicting inferiority and superiority complexes. How foolish not to partner with other codes under the banner of football.

Barass

Come on Ron, a bit harder and it might magically turn into a Sherrin!

But it’s not just the AFL or Australian Football. Equally ignorant comments are made by rugby league, world football and rugby union fans, and all are based on grand generalisations and the summation that one’s opinion is right. Can we please put and end to this moronic and, quite frankly, childish behaviour? I’m not asking people to fall in love with codes they’re not familiar with, but at least stop and think that even though you can’t see what it is, that each code has it’s own beauty and charm.

Let’s focus on the fact that we all have more in common than we’d like to admit. The joy of winning, the pain of losing, the ritual of going to the ground to support your team. Wearing your team colours and your favourite player’s number on your back. Using football matches from the past as a reference to help remember life’s key dates and moments. The heroes and villains. Do not all football’s serve the same purpose,  providing a sense of community and of place? Of the team representing you, the fan?

South Melb St George

Sometimes there are more similarities than differences

 I talk often with my dear friend Gareth who hails from Scotland but has lived in Australia for more than 10 years now, adopting local side Footscray as his own. His first love however is Aberdeen; the Dons! As we talk about our love of football (collective) I often forget the shape of ball or field we are talking about such is the common thread of our conversation. It’s the ritual, the passion, unique old grounds, the disappointments, the involvement of family and love of statistics which provides more crossover between ‘our codes’ than difference. Don’t get me wrong-football in Footscray and Aberdeen are vastly different experiences, but there is much that ties both together.

The culture of each game is something which should be celebrated, or at the very least tolerated. Don’t criticise that which you do not fully understand. I’m not asking you to like all codes, but let’s stop this nonsense fighting and realise we’ve all actually got a fair bit in common, but thankfully not too much.

I’ll leave you with this quote, or call to arms if you will.

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices” -Henry David Thoreau

Molly Footy

My 8 year old daughter Molly had her first outdoor match last weekend, while her first Richmond membership came in the mail later in the week. She loves both games.

Lachie Hunter and the Impossible Mark on the Dunny Wall

 

Testing? Is this thing on? Ah yes…hullo and a very warm welcome to season 2015. It’s been a long time between posts so I thought I’d kick things off with this pearler emailed into me by Western Bulldogs life member and Lachie Hunter Player Sponsor, Scharlaine. She contacted me in reference to a post I did on my brother’s drawing of an imaginary Daniel Hargraves mark which was immortalised on the dunny wall at Blackburn Primary School….until they knocked it down of course. Anyway, it read like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.15.35 pm

LACHIE HUNTER MARK USE

 

the impossible mark

Quite prophetic brother Pete, and thanks kindly Scharlaine for bringing it to my attention. I’m glad I named it the ‘impossible mark’ because we all know that Lachie Hunter sadly couldn’t hold onto what would have been one of the greatest marks of all time.

But there’s another mark and player I wish to drag into this. Merv Hobb’s famous grab, (below) which he actually held, also bares a striking resemblance to the mark on the dunny wall. To me, the drawing is actually the perfect combination of Hobbs and Hunter’s mark and mark attemp, neatly tying together Footscray footballers in search of aerial glory from the 1960’s through to the current day. Hobbs, Hargraves and Hunter. Three Hs…now this is becoming rather peculiar, a good place to leave it.

merve-hobbs MARK

May football this year be more than winning and losing, deeper than dream team and wider than the AFL. Fill it with colour, confusion and diversity. May it be ritual, family, hobby and beautiful distraction.

“Footy’s on, footy’s here again, back to greet me like an old friend.” Thanks Champs.

Footy Smells

As I cut the grass in our backyard a few weeks back with our op-shopped, $10 push mower, the smell of cut grass, combined with the gradual pinch of warmth in the air made me think of one thing. Finals.

Though finals games at AFL level are more likely to be under lights than the sun these days, it’s still the notion of the sun coming out in spring, playing finals on grounds where the centre wicket has crusted over to become something akin to concrete, the smell of the afore mentioned freshly cut grass and many other wonders which excites this football writer.

And as such things do, it got me thinking about the different aromas I associate with football, the good, the bad and the downright stinky.

So I compiled a bit of a list and then asked my twitter followers for theirs. There were some popular ones such as the already mentioned (twice) ‘freshly cut grass’ to the more conceptual smells of ‘anticipation and excitement’ (@Shaebee22) and ‘the indefinable smells of hope, desperation and disappointment.’ (@Bulldog_Tragician)

First on my list was cigarette smoke. Now I’m not a smoker but the smell of a freshly lit cigarette, be it in the street, at the park, wherever, generally takes me straight to the football. Local footy still has it, and if you congregate near the exits at an AFL venue a cloud sits nicely over those ducking out for a Billy Rag during the breaks. But I do miss the smell at the MCG, so much a part of my formative footy experiences.

Robbie

My twit follower @justin1flynn added that he ‘Will never forget the smell of men smoking pipes in the outer when I was a kid in the 70’s’ and @Footy_Maths made mention of some ‘whacky tobaccy’ being consumed down the old scoreboard end at the Carlton ground.

Next I had the stench of stale beer on a punters breath. Yep it’s all class, cigarettes, stale beer and drunks! In the ‘real world’ this would repulse me, but get me into the unnatural surrounds of a footy ground and it’s somewhat of a comfort. Mixing this with the smell of wet duffel coats (@Bulldog_tragician) and damp cardboard, (@bob_ely) we have a footy feast for the nose.

There are the smells that individual footy grounds possess due to their location; the old soap factory smell at Port Melbourne, the poo farm out Werribee way and that fresh seaside smell at Williamstown. There’s the doughnut van smell outside the MCG and hot chips in the outer, which @BrotherAmos so elegantly describes as ‘the smell of fried oil permeating the air.’ There’s the ‘food from home’ smells as remembered by @bob_ely of international roast coffee in the thermos and footy franks, skins blistered and smothered in sauce. And of course there’s the magnificent smell of snags sizzling away at the local footy.

Anyone who’s played a game or two of football would know that smell in the middle of the ground where the cricket pitch lays dormant, the Merri creek mud whiff. It’s a thing of beauty, yet still worth washing off yourself should you be lucky enough to roll around it in the name of winning the pigskin. Or as @dugaldjellie puts it, the smell of ‘damp earth.’ And at three quarter time, as you’re sitting on that earth, the traditional smell of oranges (nominated by @watotiger) mixed with mud activates both smell and taste as you suck a few down, a tradition which many primary schools still maintain!

John mud

To the footy changerooms and there’s that wonderful smell of linament! As @MiltMonster remembers ‘I loved that smell of liniment you’d get as you walked to your seat past the Richmond rooms in the old Northern Stand.’ We still get to see our heroes each week at the ground, but the notion of actually smelling the stars has most definitely gone by the wayside, until someone can develop smellevision into something workable.

Still in the changerooms and @AndrewJohnEgan nominated the smell of Goanna oil, @BrotherAmos and @watotiger deep heat, and @dgunsberg and @dugaldjellie both drew upon the inspiration that is ‘stale sweat,’ a smell which much like beer, is sweet with victory, and bitter with a loss. And speaking of stale sweat, @coynejp mentioned the forgotten footy bag, that’s right, the smell of unwashed jumpers and boots from last weeks match. That stench can put hair on your shoulders.

And I loved this nomination from @ASpeedingCar, and I’ve experienced this, it’s the smell of ‘ciggies in the shower from blokes having a quick nerve settler before the team runs out.’ That in itself is an institution.

Moving from the changerooms we now come to the horror of the old suburban ground toilets. Stale piss, inexcusable body oder and drunks once filled these dank, unventilated pits. It’s a little better at today’s modern facilities, but it’s still a reminder to days gone by.

Vic Park loos

@Bulldog_tragician remembers the enormously whiffy loos at the Western Oval, and in particular when there was a dead rat in the ladies as being particularly memorable. And the less said about the Vic Park loos the better, so I’m told!

Turning to country footy and @Suburbia3121 loves the smell of ‘Woodsmoke from a fire in a 44 gallon drum…particularly at Romsey.’ I haven’t watched a game in such conditions and consider myself the poorer for not having done so. It’s on my list, a magnificent way to keep warm at the footy mid-winter no doubt and a far cry from the sterile Docklands television studio.

Finally, I’m glad that @BrotherAmos brought this up because it was one of the most important ‘footy smells’ to me whilst growing up, yet I’d foolishly overlooked it. It’s the smell of leather Sherrins, or any footy for that matter. I can still close my eyes and smell the magic that was my first leather football (Rossy Faulkner!) Sweet, almost edible, and just so darn new! As the footy aged, and mine aged rapidly due to excessive use, the smell changed. It became less intense, but no less comforting.

And the @Coodabeens take on all of this? That it sounds like a season of scratch and sniff from ‘Outside Football’ (their mock Inside Football magazine)! Make of that what you will, but it’s certainly profound!

In closing, there are some footy smells I’d like to know about. What does the MCC area smell like during a game? When your nose is rubbed into the turf at Docklands does it smell ‘earthy?’ Does Sam Mitchell’s shit actually stink, as I’m sure he thinks it doesn’t? And finally what is that elusive smell of success?

Please let me know what footy means to your nose. What are your footy smells?