I reckon it might be fifty years or more since I went to the MCG to watch a game of footy. Not that footy isn’t interesting, just that there were other more interesting things to do on the weekend during that time or we weren’t living in Melbourne or the Melbourne Football Club team was doing so poorly that it would be painful to go and watch.
My sister’s son-in-law, Mick, and I have chatted idly about going to see a Carlton (his team) and Melbourne (my team) match one day and eventually we got around to arranging it. Since both teams are languishing towards the bottom of the league ladder it seemed likely to be a fairly even, if untidy, game.
The first part of the trip to the MCG was from Ballarat to Melbourne. As part of the government’s policy of making things uncomfortable as possible the train service was replaced by road coaches for the day, which made the trip to Melbourne more cramped and uncomfortable than usual. There were a lot of people on the coach wearing Carlton colours, which seemed ominous. We met at one of the foodaramas near the station and had bite to eat. There were even more people in Carlton colours there, and a few in Melbourne colours, so I guess that a lot of people travel down from regional Victoria for the footy and meet there before going to the ground.
If the match is at the Docklands stadium then it would only be a short stroll to the ground, but since it was at the MCG it meant going back to the station and catching a suburban train to Richmond, the closest station to the ground. I’m not a great fan of crowds these days so seeing all those people headed en-masse to the ground was somewhat startling, and while there was a large crowd milling around the entrances the staff handled the security checks with admirable efficiency. (Towards the end of the match they announced the crowd attendance of over 55,000, about half the population of Ballarat.)
It was a Carlton home match, I discovered, so I found myself at the end of the ground where Carlton supporters had gathered. Not that it seemed to matter much, there was a goodly supply of Melbourne fans in the crowd too. There has been a lot of chatter in the press of late about bad crowd behavior but I saw none of that as we sat and waited for the game to commence, just a lot of chatter among supporters on both sides.
The game itself was not of the highest quality, both teams are low on the premiership league ladder and the skills on display reflected this. The current habit of teams like this is to kick the ball across the ground in the hope of getting towards a scoring position rather than going right up the center of the ground, and it is a very annoying habit, as some barrackers in the crowd reminded the players.
I didn’t mind this for the first three quarters as the Melbourne team gradually built up a very useful lead of 38 points. But in the final quarter they seemed to have forgotten how to play the game and almost all the quarter was played in the Carlton scoring half of the ground with the result that that team hit the front with only a few minutes left to play. Fortunately Melbourne scored one goad in the quarter which was enough to see the team fall over the line at the end of the game.
There was a great deal of yelling and screaming as Carlton surged in that final quarter, if the MCG had a roof it would have been lifted. At the end of the game, however, Carlton supporters, who have become used to their team losing my small margins, and Melbourne supporters, who have become used to seeing their team play poorly, began chatting again and everyone filed out, if not happily at least content that they had seen what proved to be a fairly even match.
What did I think? I thought it interesting and diverting, but not something that I would want to do every weekend for half a year, as hundreds of thousands of fans seem to do. I might go again in the coming fifty years too.