by Catherine Evans
I remember my first AFL game. It was not long after the Sydney Swans ‘invaded’ Sydney. I grew up in Sydney in a sports-loving family who believed rugby league was the best game. We watched the AFL Grand Final on TV, but didn’t follow it otherwise. Then in the 1980s, South Melbourne packed up and moved into Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. It caused quite a stir in Sydney.
We didn’t often attend live games for any sport. There were lots of reasons for this, but cost was what was always mentioned. Now I think back, I have three younger sisters who weren’t as sports mad as I was, and although they would have come for the day out, they wouldn’t have been quite as caught up in whatever sport we watched. That may have been a contributing factor.
I was into new experiences, and I wanted to go to the SCG and see what all the hype was about a live AFL game. I wasn’t old enough to head off on my own, yet no one I knew was interested.
Until Sister M.
Yep, a nun, religious sister.
I didn’t pick her for a sports nut, but she’d come from Victoria and had been an Essendon fan. So when the Swans played Essendon, we decided we’d go. We knew her through church, and my parents often had her visiting, so I knew her quite well, or I thought I did!
She parked in some nearby convent and we walked to the SCG. I didn’t want to be seen as a convert to AFL, so I wore my rugby league gear (the colours of neither team I was to watch). On the way to the ground, there were a lot of men running around in a grassy area. Sister Margaret grabbed my arm, gasped and stopped dead.
Nuns, perving, who knew?
But then this voice yells, “Sister M?” and this guy came flying over. He wrapped her in a hug and deposited her back on the ground. A guy in red and black. A guy who towered over both of us, with shoulders a mile wide full of muscles. A guy whose face I knew (I didn’t know many) because he was the blooming pin-up boy (possibly captain) for the Essendon team.
They chatted, I tried to keep my eyes inside my head.
It turned out that in Melbourne, his family had been very good friends with her, kind of similarly to my family. Except rather than just meeting at church, she’d taught this Essendon star and his brother, who by this stage had also appeared.
The game? Yeah, I can’t tell you much about that. I remember Essendon won. I remember Sister M was horrified that the Sydney crowd didn’t yell enough, or at the right things. I also remember that she, a huge fan, could not answer a simple question for me about the game – why does the time clock count the wrong way? It took me years to get that answered!
Have you been to an AFL game? Do you remember your first?
Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.
Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.
But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…