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?

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.22.46 pm
The finished product. Next project, chairs that suit!

 

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Backyard Gladiators

Yes, like a lot of you, my backyard was my footy ground as a kid. Poorly placed lemon trees, clothes lines and vegie gardens became obstacles to overcome, much like an opponent, although luckily we grew up on a rather big property in leafy Blackburn.

                  

Here I am in front of the newly erected pavillion (1986)…surely one of the last wooden structures before the modern obsession with concrete and steel. The Tiger jumper you see there now fits my own daughter, although she’d like to morph my Dale Weightman’s ‘3’ into an ‘8, like Jackie.’

I loved playing footy in the backyard as a kid. I would act out each upcoming match, concocting the most bizarre of circumstances! Richmond, 23 goals in the first quarter against Essendon! Or trailing Carlton by a hundred points, the Tiges would come back and snatch it with a miracle goal after the siren! I did commentate a little to myself, but I was more into mimicking the crowd noise as the Tiges came storming back! The glory was never reflected come the weekend, but I’d be back the next week, dreaming up glorious scenarios for my Richmond.

It was often said to me as a kid that the muddier you got, the better you had played. I must have been a bit of a star then! Yep, that’s my sister Mezz and I. Mum did the unthinkable and tried to convert her to Essendon, but she had the sense to follow the family team, and the sash was soon a yellow one. I enjoyed playing footy with my sister, and I had her kicking really well, but her heart just wasn’t into playing, well not 100% of the time like I was. What I needed was a brother….a mind for moulding. Thankfully, he came along.

Inexplicably, though he’s wearing yellow and black here, he grew up a Footscray supporter. He does have a soft spot for the Tiges however, as I do for the ‘Scray, but going to Footscray v Richmond matches is a big no-no!

Far too old to get away with it, but that didn’t stop us!

There was a six year gap between us, but I wasn’t your typical ‘beat-up on you little brother’ type. I preferred an even competition, so would introduce handicaps for myself. I’d have to start on my knees, only kick on my left and the like, all the time searching for some semblance of realism. The backyard was my own league ground, and I tried to play it to scale. This meant kicking shorter, running slower…all in the search for reality. A visitor would come over, boot it over the fence, and essentially ruin our game.

But my brother grew up. Pete now stands half a head above me. In my latter years at home, we were able to compete without handicaps…it was man verses man….ok…. boy verses nearly man. We had two main games. For one of them we’d stand 20 meters apart, one of us would kick the ball high into the middle and we essentially played a version of chicken. After a sore head or two however, we resorted to the game you can see in the surrounding pictures.

Shoulder to shoulder, one of us would kick the ball high into the air, avoiding the pine tree. If you had scored, the other person kicked it ‘up.’ If you marked the ball, you had a set shot. If it came to ground however, it was on for young and old. He was young, I was old. Numerous winter hours were spent here, playing until dark. We’d bump, swear, tackle and rub it in the face of the other. All still within the framework of playing ‘to scale’ in our backyard though. We knew we’d never ‘make it.’ This was it for us!

Three things about this photo. Firstly, I cannot work out if I am wearing long shorts or short longs, but they do lend a certain early 1900’s knickerbocker feel to the photo. Secondly, it’s clearly a staged photo as can be seen by the limp ‘effort’ i am putting in. Our game was not so much about high flying either, rather marking ‘tussles.’ And thridly, it reminds me of finals time. Spring leaping through the trees and the smell of cut grass. I can smell this photograph.

There’s something about us older brothers. Though Pete is well taller than me, I can still outmark him through sheer competitiveness. I imagine league players, with older brothers who never made the highest level, still unable to defeat their older siblings in backyard footy. It’s a different beast. Visualise Jason and Cameron Cloke dominating and making Travis, clearly the pick of the trio, cry in the backyard. David would be umpiring of course. He never misses a match.

So whilst footy can sometimes be the only thing that ties brothers or a father and son, that wasn’t the case with us. We had plenty in common and still do. But the footy is never far from being brought up. On both of our wedding days we even pulled out the footy, ironically in the backyard, to help settle the nerves. It’s something our respective partners are still coming to terms with!

Playing footy in mum and dads backyard is not as easy as it used to be.There’s a new vegie garden on the half forward flank, and though the clothesline has been removed (about time!) the goal posts have since disappeared. There’s more breakable stuff around too…while the golden elm encroaches onto the playing field like never before. But we can still navigate our way past the cubby house, blind turn the bird bath and nail the goal from the clothesline pocket, all with our eyes shut!