It occurred to me the other day that this year – 2020 – will be the first year since about 1979 that I haven’t attended a VFL/AFL game in person – and 1979 I was living in Sydney. I was in Sydney in 1980 also, but I remember attending a Swans game. And in the years before 1979, when I was still in Melbourne, we had reserved seats at Windy Hill and turned up for every home game. By my reckoning, I’ve been to a game every year since about 1971, excluding 1979, and this year.
This has not been by choice. The extraordinary circumstances mean that the games have been played in a bubble, and far from Melbourne. It’s the last round of the home and away season this weekend, but, excepting round one, every round has been away for us Victorians.
It’s been a strange year altogether, and that includes the footy. I watch every week, but it’s a different product entirely. Shortened quarters make for a different spectacle, and the interrupted season has made for a game of a distinctly lesser standard than usual. Add to that wretched umpiring – for which there is no excuse – and it’s only really habit and tribal loyalty that has kept me watching.
After this weekend, my team is out of it, and the finals begin. I don’t have a huge interest in what happens next, except in the usual way – I know who I don’t want to win it. I’ll be watching still, and I may even get excited at times, but I can’t wait for it to get back to ‘normal’, and to a time when I can sit in the outer again hurling abuse at umpires and cheering on the red and black.
There’s a lot of things I can’t wait for.