At lunch, I had a choice: the beef, pork or Queensland Barramundi.
However, when I was born, I simply didn’t have a choice as I was born into a football-mad family…
The MCC Grand Final Eve Luncheon provided the opportunity to reminisce and delve into some of the greatest football memories of the heroes that came before me.
For entrée, I chose to talk about the passion of our football family.
Over Minestrone soup, Aunty Penny told me of the 1970 Carlton Grand Final, where her Grandmother baked a cake half way through the game, when the Blues were down by 44 points. “But what if we don’t win?” asked my then eight-year-old Aunty, sceptical of her boys. “Of course they’ll win.”
And her Nona was right and they enjoyed the cake and the premiership cup fittingly.
Dad reminisced on the glory years of Carlton, where he’d follow his sister to their reserved seats at Princes Park in the Heatley Stand. Wearing his Geelong jumper, you’d never miss him on TV, floating well above the sea of navy blue.
He did not have much success, my Dad. But he stayed. For 44 years, my Dad stayed. He stayed through every single heartbreak and too much false hope of a team that only ever ‘almost’.
I told him (and constantly remind him) that I am proud and honoured that he stayed, because without my Dad’s loyalty, I wouldn’t be here for the best of Geelong either.
Main course was served and discussions turned to pivotal, life-changing moments from Australian Football that made everything make perfect sense. Those personal moments, the ones that are least expected, but the ones that bring meaning into men kicking around a red ball.
Aunty Penny explained the pure elation of seeing the fearlessness of Wayne Harmes, with his prodigious kick and how he could play ‘anywhere and everywhere’. His 1979 Grand Final boundary tap was her moment, where she got lost in the euphoria, realising how big of an impact football had on her.
We recalled my own mother’s defining football moment, which is rare, but existent for someone who has never really delved into the ecstasy of footy and all the fervour that is attached to the game.
After the 2007 Preliminary Final, when Geelong beat Collingwood by five points, she found her moment. She wasn’t at the game, but, when Dad came home (well past midnight), she told him, with tears in her eyes, that ‘she got it’. She understood this connection and the emotion behind every bounce and how this sport can define people. That was her pivotal moment.
It was mid-afternoon by the time dessert arrived. We pin-pointed the heroes, the men that changed our perspective of the game. The men with whom we hung onto every single moment, riding along with them.
There was Peter Bosustow and his screamer in 1981, Vin Catoggio, Wayne Johnston – the best finals player my Dad’s ever seen and even Kevin Bartlett received his fitting mention for his seven goals and Norm Smith Medal in the 1980 Grand Final.
For Dad, it was simple, it has always been simple. Gary Ablett Senior takes the cake, much like my Dad chose the cake for dessert too.
He was god,’ my Dad smiles. ‘that is all.’
Food and football at the home of sport, in the sports capital of the world, with the two most influential football people in my life was just what I ordered to finish off the 2017 season. (As they prepared the MCG for the extravaganza the next day.)