Last week when I reminisced on this blog about our one-sided enmity with Geelong, my mother chimed in on the Tragician Facebook page to tell me that on her wedding day, 22 April, 1957, the Dogs drew with the Cats at Kardinia Park. After the wedding, which was held in the morning at St John's West Footscray, most of the Footscray-mad guests made the trek down to Geelong. Meanwhile (I love this bit) my parents headed off to their honeymoon, via bus, to Marysville. No twitter updates, no Foxtel-go, no excited text messages: the newlyweds heard the result via a helpful bus-driver.
Fast-forward some 57 years and my mother, now 77, is a cosmopolitan citizen of the digital world, contributes a well-placed 'LOL' into family SMS conversations, emails us from her iPad...and travels almost 3000 km to Cairns to watch her beloved Bulldogs play.
With her was my sister. While The Tragician languishes in the grey Melbourne winter, she has stepped in to capture all the action as this week's guest blogger:
Coming off the interchange
It's game day and I'm setting off for the match: but hang on, it's only 6.15 a.m!!
I'm off to Cairns and there are two big OUTS for the day: Ryan Griffen and The Tragician. As I meet Mum and her partner at the airport and we get ready to board, things feel strangely out of order. I'm not travelling down Footscray Road, there are no text messages to my siblings about who is going, where to meet, what time...Then a giant shadow literally looms behind me. When I turn around I see that Barry Hall is also on his way, and then I realise it's a National Competition and order is restored.
We arrive at Cairns airport, drop off our things and walk to the bus stop, which is decorated with footy balloons. Suddenly we're surrounded by a sea of others wearing red, white and blue. We board the bus and chatter begins among the fans that Griff is out...he has woken with a virus. There's others that say he was on their plane and had to stand the whole way because of his back spasm...and here I was thinking I was dedicated!
We arrive at the ground to a carnival atmosphere, with marquees, tents selling fairy floss (unfortunately no Cherry Ripes, the favourite footy indulgence of the Tragician and myself). We walk to our seat and amazingly enough bump into a 'friend', a woman we sit behind at Etihad each week. We chat; she asks if my siblings are here. I tell her I am flying solo and she raises her eyebrows - I can't be 100% certain but I suspect she is questioning the Trag's commitment.
When we take our seats, we realise the interchange is right in front of us. How am I supposed to concentrate on contested possession, kicking efficiency and forward entries when there is another mini game being played out in front of me (not to mention hulking bodies)...but the ball is bounced and I am focused again (well sort of).
The game is underway and we can clearly hear the goings-on of the interchange, which is operating at a frenetic pace, yelling, screaming, pointing, hand signals and also words of encouragement. It seems like total chaos as we hear 'Keith, Keith, get off, get off now'. I find out Keith is Boyd. 'Where am I' - that was a bit of a worry... 'Am I forward or back now?' ...'this side or the other side'...a little grin for a second gamer who just kicked his first goal... as much as it appears to me that nobody knows what's going on, to the players I suppose this is a normal day at the office.
Back on the ground we're doing really well (well ok except for a poor second quarter) but The Bont did take that spectacular one handed mark and that kept us all excited.
Next thing you know it's the last quarter. We're only 2 points down and right into the match. Can we do it?
Chaos continues to reign on the interchange bench, players coming on and off, bent over, gasping for some air, stretching, crouching and looking like they can't take another step - but then they're back on. Everyone is playing well and this week another of our kids steps up, it's Jackson Macrae. He has a great last quarter and also kicks two goals...everyone cheers when he comes off for a well-deserved breather.
Suddenly it's around the 25 minutes mark and Libba has snapped a goal. I mutter 'Can we do it?' My new Bulldogs friend beside me says to relax and enjoy the rest, I say I have followed them for too long and I can't rest until the siren goes. Finally the siren, everyone goes up as one. The song begins to blare out and we are all singing loudly, but then I realise that someone in control of the PA system has got over-excited and pressed the button too early, as the Suns are still lining up for a shot at goal.
The music abruptly goes off, but we are all still singing without the music. We don't need it - we're 1000s of miles from home, but we all know the words. What a moment, it was spine tingling, something I will always remember.
We take our picture. We are undefeated in Cairns!
About the Bulldog Tragician
The Tragician blog began in 2013 as a way of recording what it is like to barrack for a perennially unsuccessful team - the AFL team, the Western Bulldogs.