We arrived in Australia in July 1956. My father was athletically gifted. He played 'football' and the highlight of his 'fussball' career was when, in front of King Farouk, the German POW inmates at Port Said challenged their English Prison Guards and beat them comprehensively.
By 1959, partly because we lived opposite Selwyn Park, then the home of the Sunshine VFA team, and the Sunshine Sub Cricket team, the winter football/summer cricket tradition crept into our bloodstream and my father used to join us when we played our Test Matches, and the long hours doodling away time with kick to kick. I recall he developed into a good one grab marker and I also recall that after the age of 40, his coordination slowly drifted north, south, east, and west, in much the same way that my once strong throwing arm turned into a noodle in my forties, a huge embarrassment for the once legendary boundary guard of the Sunshine Cricket Club, returns over the stumps guaranteed.
My father followed Essendon because his father came from Essen, and we went to many VFL games together.
On a train journey home from Windy Hill one time, he said it always puzzled him that a played was pinged for a push in the back, for example, but to dig a knee into an opponent's back while marking was a okay. He said in soccer, to an opponent's body was sacred, that you didn't push, shove or jump into him.
Which brings me to an issue I have been brewing on since the 2000 Grand Final. Melbourne supporters will recall the sheer brutality to which Melbourne players were subjected. I'm sure I don't have to enumerate the atrocities committed by the likes of Hardwick, Wallis and Long. That Melbourne caved in without a whimper is now history.
I have also noted that not only is there a set of Rules by which players and umpires must abide by during a season, but also that once finals come around, the idea of rules succumbs to the notion of 'letting play go on'. That also applies to any violence, in other words, a player will get a week or two for donging a player during the season, but you can dong away and get away with it because, after all, it's a Final.
( It reminds me of how the Catholic Church once had its 'Universal' 10 Commandments, plus what they called The Commandments of the Church. One of those sins against the Church Commandments was to do with eating meat on Friday. Now, say, I ate a meat pie on a Friday and choked on the gristle, if I couldn't see a priest to confess my sin before I died, I'd go straight to hell. The Commandment was rescinded in about 1964 or 1965, and I recall my mirth when it occurred to me that if I choked on a pie last week, it meant hell - not a pleasant proposition in my eyes because I presumed that the bastards called nuns and priests were heading to the same place - but if I choked from here on in, hey, no problem, it's off to heaven with Sister Patrick and Archbishop Bell, or whoever.)
During the past week I've heard ex-players like Mat Lloyd declaring that in tomorrow's Grand Final, both sides need to target certain players with extra physical attention, implying, to my understanding, that because it's a Grand Final, not only does anything go, but its to be condoned and expected. In other words, because 'it's a Grand Final' all is fair because it's war. I know this was once simply accepted and acceptable - witness the brutality of most 20th Century Grand Finals, indeed, the Grand Finals Matthews and Hardwick have coached in the 20th Century, and Clarkson, and Scott, for that matter.
All I can say, is I don't get it, and my way of understanding it is to do with 'Cultural' proclivities, in other words, it's connected to that Colonial mindset where anything that comes between you and your goals is game for pure and simple obliteration.
What I'd like to see tomorrow is a game where both sides test each other's skills, where sportsmanship and respect rules. I'd like to see it as a sport, not as a war where blood needs to be spilled.