A Season in the Abyss (with apologies to Slayer)

This article first appeared at The Footy Almanac. If you appreciate good sports writing. Go there. Now.

“Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your [footy team], let man label you as they may…. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Mark Twain

“Betrayal is common for men with no conscience.” Toba Beta 

“Come on then, let’s be avin’ ya…” Nicko McBrain; drummer, Iron Maiden

Season 2014 fast approaches. Sadly, time has not dulled my anger towards the brass at Essendon FC. I’m probably that one Essendon supporter who is still cutting up rough at the way the club * cough * ‘handled’ the response to the use of PED’s at the club.

In the face of constant sniping from friends (some of it good natured), the jeers of rival supporters and not even being able to have a quite beer without blokes putting “Essendon” and “drug cheats” into the same sentence, I did what I was asked by the club as events unfolded; I waited patiently for ‘the facts’ as James Hird and Paul Little called them, to be made public.

The only problem is, ‘the facts’ never did come out. There was no smoking gun. There was just a rush to the negotiating table when the whips started cracking and key figures were instructed to cut deals. For all the bluster and dick swinging, only Dr Bruce Reid dared stare down the AFL, for as the above Mark Twain quote illustrates, there’s honour in sticking to your convictions.

As far as I’m concerned, the Essendon Football Club has betrayed my trust. “We’re innocent,” was the call-to-arms, but again, when it came time to put up or shut up, those in charge at Essendon folded quicker than a card table.

So, six months later, I still have the Eartha Kitt’s with the people running the club. If they think I’m going to dip my hand into my pocket and hand over the hard-earned like last year never happened, they’re kidding themselves. I’ll always barrack for Essendon but it will be a long time before I’m prepared to hand over some folding stuff to the club.

As an insignificant protest at Paul Little and co, I will be taking out a membership with a rival club. But which club? Of the 17 options, which do I feel deserves some of my financial support? Is there a membership option that I know (as a one-time member services volunteer on the phones at Windy Hill) that would piss the club off?

As a mug punter, I’ve decided to do my own old-school style form guide to help with the decision. Any input from readers would be most welcome…

In no particular order….

 

imgres-3North Melbourne: Following an up and down 2013 and a genuine horror draw, big things are expected of the Kangaroos this year. Thus, North of 2014 has a bit of a bandwagon aspect to it and the victim mentality still rules at Arden St when it’s all said and done. If you listen closely you’ll hear Jabberjaw-esque cries of ‘no respect’ after they win three on the trot, or whenever Andrew Swallow fails to poll a B.O.G on Brownlow night. And then there’s Lindsay Thomas. Keep safe

 

 

imgres-4Western Bulldogs: The Bullies: coached by a good man, arriving at games early for a decent seat is never an issue and a former Bomber – big Stew Crameri – lurking in the goalsquare. Wank factor is pretty high though, with Bob Murphy cranking out his If-Bob-Dylan-Was-A-Footballer shtick for at least another year, the off field Jazz stylings of Wil Minson somehow still getting column inches, Dogs fans still arguing with a straight face that Shaun Higgins can play and then there’s the horrible “Gather the Pack” membership slogan. One to watch.

 

images-2Richmond: Due to family urgings I was once a Richmond supporter. At the age of four, however, an angel and three wise men (and my new best friend at the time, Chris Berton) appeared one December night to show me the error of my ways and thus, the swapped a yellow sash for a red one. With the utmost respect to Tiger fans who’ve never burned a membership card, never spat at a coach and who’ve never been pinged on TV having a conniption at an umpiring decision, there is no bigger bandwagon in town than the one saddled up at Punt Rd for season 2014. That’s footy, but I can’t be a part of it. Not this time.

 

images-3Adelaide: Their first season at a new set of stables, but it’s Adelaide – the place Tony Leonard once described as “Deliverance with churches”.   Prefer others.

 

 

images-4

Brisbane: One has to respect the feats of Brisbane under Leigh Matthews and the awesome combination that won flags for fun in the previous decade, but I feel about as emotionally connected to the Lions as a former Afghan asylum seeker waiting tables at The Melbourne Club. Must be respected. Will need everything to go right.

 

 

 

images-5Collingwood: I’m angry at the Bombers, but I’m not high. Put down the crack-pipe.

 

 

 

 

 

images-6Carlton: Given the rivalry between the two clubs, there’d be a nice feeling of satisfaction buying a Carlton membership and sending @EFC_Memebrship an instagram of the invoice and ‘Welcome pack’ when it arrives. If switching to Carlton is good enough for Dale Thomas, then that’s good enough for me. Given the smarm factor of SOME Richmond fans at half time in last year’s Elimination Final, I could watch Carlton’s comeback ad infinitum. Must be respected, one of the ones to beat

 

 

Boredom

Hmm, Freo V Sydney… what else you got?

Fremantle: Despite assisting in a group one win nearly ten years ago, Freo’s trainer Ross Lyon clings to the tactics that saluted that day. By FOUR POINTS. Courtesy of Leo Barry. As at St Kilda, Ross Lyon teams employ all the flair, panache and daring of an actuary waiting for the 7.35am bus to Laburnum station, making them about as exciting to watch as a concrete pour. Sure, they’re top four contenders, but you can leave me out. I’d rather watch Super Rugby. There’s little difference, both have a twenty blokes packed around the ball at once. Hell, you may even see someone score full points! Prefer others.

 

images-7

 

Geelong: I have always held a soft spot for the hoop d’affiare even when John Devine was famously losing his shit in the coach’s box at Kardinia Park on Saturday afternoons. I used to play for Hoppers Crossing, who, until a dalliance with fully accredited Soothsayer in the 2000s, were known as ‘The Cats’ and wore the navy blue and white hoops (I even requested the number 4 in honor of Terry Bright, but had to settle on the number 17 of Stephen Reynoldson). Likely to finish 8th through 5th for mine, so band-wagoning allegations likely to be defied.  A standout. Definite claims.

 

imgres-2GWS: Generously assisted by the handicapper and looked favourably upon by stewards at every opportunity. Like Snapchat, reality TV and burlesque, they represent everything abhorrent about this century (to date). They’re a marketing strategy, not a football team. Like the woefully named pacer currently doing the rounds in Tasmania; No. No. No. No. No.

 

The Gold Coast Suns on-ball brigade

The Gold Coast Suns on-ball brigade

Gold Coast Suns: See GWS. No.  

 

 

 

 

 

images-13Hawthorn: If I’m not going to entertain a Richmond membership then I’m sure as hell not going to be calling the membership department of the reigning premiers, am I? Besides… Sam Mitchell. ‘Nuff said. Not this time.

 

 

 

Handouts are bad mmmkay?

Handouts are bad mmmkay!

Melbourne: Oh please! My sides, you’re killing me. A 0-68 horse trying to run in listed company, and with all those AFL handouts since your last Grand Final appearance in 2000, my money has already gone into your pockets in one way or another. A new trainer will see improvement, but people running Balliang East Juniors could do a better job than some folk who’ve amazingly kept their jobs in Melbourne’s back office in recent years. No way, not even for shits and giggles 

 

 

images-10Port Adelaide: I love a good honest trainer and Ken Hinkley would have to be the AFL’s Jake Stephens. But I’m a conscientious objector in the morning telly wars, so David Koch as president trumps Ken Hinkley’s good bloke credentials. Place at best

 

images-11St Kilda: Similar to Melbourne, (but with a better handicap rating) the Saints of 2014 are a 0-78 horse trying to mix it with black type company. The new trainer does have a bit of horse whisperer about him, so the Saints will have brighter days ahead. As for a membership? Prefer others.

 

 

Mission: Accomplished

Mission: Accomplished

Sydney Swans: Another stable seemingly favoured by handicappers and stewards alike, and the only remaining premier since the introduction of the draft to keep its premiership core intact without salary cap ‘pressures’ forcing player departures. I’d rather have the rough end of a pineapple shoved up my Khyber (sans lube) than buy a Swans membership. Pass the pineapples, if you please.

 

 

images-12West Coast Eagles: As old mate Dave Belovitch once remarked; “West Aussies are a mouthy lot considering their only achievement – besides Tim Winton – is digging shit out of the ground and flogging it to China…” Ne’er truer word has been spoken. Apart from Herb Elliott, Dennis Lillee, Polly Farmer, Val Lehman, Rod Marsh and Fiona Stanley, just what has Western Australia contributed to Australia except attitude and an inferiority complex? Nope, I can’t have it. No, No, No, No, No.

 

So there’s the form guide. I’ve come up with the Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Geelong. For first four players, throw in North Melbourne at odds.

Despite my insignificant protest for season 2014, I’ll still get along to a few games. I’ll still take up my standing position behind the Spencer St end goals at the Docklands, drink a few beers and laugh along with the rank and file. I’ll get along to a game or two from the comfort of the Percy Beames bar in the Members, but of the games I get along to, none of them will involve Essendon.

Essendon; you betrayed my trust, betrayed my loyalty and your conduct betrayed the character and integrity of good people who made the club what it is today. I’ll see you in 2015. I hope.

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