BARRACKING FOR THE LOSER.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Grand Final. It’s  that time of the year when most ex-footballers of any age, era, competition or sex (I reckon Daisy Pearce knows more about footy than I’ve forgotten) are asked “who do you reckon will win?” We are supposed to know or have an opinion ( and if the enquirers don’t get the answer they want, “we” get told we wouldn’t know anything!) Unless one of the teams we follow is playing, probably most of us either don’t know, don’t care or both. Spin the coin or tell them to get the answer from Daisy, Tim, Brian and Co. At least they are paid to know.  

Now here’s the rub for me. The “don’t care” factor should still kick in as neither Geelong nor Richmond is playing. The reality is I quite like both teams. I suspect many others feel the same. I might be getting soft but I don’t want either side to lose. How pathetic is that? It needs some explaining. 

The difference between winning and losing a Grand Final has consequences for the rest of the Players’ lives. I’ve been lucky enough to play in two of them, the first in 1967 when my  Geelong Cats were beaten by the Tigers (Richmond) in a game for the ages. With the lead changing hands numerous times in last quarter, the Tigers triumphed by 9 points. As a 20 year old I was gutted, but like all of us in our youth we feel our time will come again.The misery out on the ground after the game and down the highway to the Geelong Town Hall that night was slightly lessened by the fatalistic hope of my youth. It was not something that unburdened the older members of the team. They knew how hard Flags are to win. A cliche but absolutely on the button, as I eventually discovered.

It took exactly another seven years before I changed Clubs to Richmond and playing alongside many of my opponents from ‘67, I got to run around the MCG holding the Cup and sharing the triumph with a group of blokes who have become mates for life. I love my Geelong mates but there’s an extra depth when you win.

So Melbourne or the Bulldogs this week? There’s a rationale behind supporting The Demons this week as their last Flag was in 1964, the year before my career began. But I don’t get very sentimental about that as it seemed like they were winning every year through my formative days. They had their share so to speak, in the same way Hawthorn has in every decade since. Share it around a bit I say although I acknowledge the majority of fans are probably younger than me and feel a bit sorry for the Dees. Not me.

I can also mount a case against the Bullies but the aforementioned may not have heard of Ted Whitten. Who, some might say? Back when I played Whitten was in a battle with Ron Barassi for the unofficial title of Mr Football. They were superstars. It was my misfortune to play on Whitten a number of times in my early years and to be honest, I was scared witless! Gruff, tough and the epitome of somebody coming from the other side of town. I was a kid from Geelong. The Geelong College! He was Footscray. His pregame handshake was honed to perfection as was every part of his game. He fed on kids like me. He gouged fingers and crunched bones as he wished you well. I can’t see it happening today but it always made me wary of a Bulldog. Man or animal.

The players today seem a lot, um, nicer! Haircuts aside, most of them seem to be the sort of bloke you’d be happy to see your daughter go out with. That big tall blond ruckman/forward for the Dogs, Tim English, is unfairly handsome; ex Captain Easton Wood, I’m told, is a quietly spoken gentleman. And the Demons? You couldn’t dislike Max Gawn! Women just want to rap him in their arms. Kysaiah Pickett brings an Indigenous family history to the game with his boyish polish. 

Of course we want to celebrate having two local teams in the Grand Final again after another year from hell. It’s been State versus State this Covid year and who ever wins is representative of us all. We’ve won the lockdown Premiership, we might as well win the real Flag. To do it in Perth, is another bonus! (My friend Tim Lane reckons Melbourne might lay off til next year and play it in front of their adoring fans at the ‘G. I suspect not.)

Two female Presidents as well. I still have split my loyalties. It’s a game for true romantics. In which case, I have to barrack for the loser. But as Gene Pitney sang in 1962, “..true love never runs smooth..” and I suspect the case will happen again this week. Pitneys’s track was “Only Love Can Break a Heart.” Sadly at the final siren there will be many broken hearts. Maybe a little part of mine.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

RECOVERY.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Emerging recently from the Fifth Lockdown in Melbourne, an almost Olympian First in the Australian Championship of COVID lockdowns, I returned with a surreal feeling of emptiness, an emptiness which would take time to fill, if indeed it would ever be filled again in my lifetime. (I can hear my clock ticking.) And whatever it would be filled with was never going to be the same as “it” held leading up to March 2020. 

I was not alone. The more opinions I sought, the more I realised their was a common feeling of people wearing down as this process dragged on. When I suggested to them that the word Recovery might be an appropriate “descriptor,” they unanimously agreed. It was universally playing on their minds. 

As I write, I had been reading an interview Channel Nine’s Peter Overton had had with veteran  newsreader Brian Henderson in February 2020. In the Herald Sun of August 6th, this was part of reporting of Henderson’s death from cancer at age 89. The interview was “about his kidney cancer diagnosis in 2020. It was his fifth cancer diagnosis after he had beaten melanoma, prostate, bowel and throat cancer,saying he would not be fighting the cancer again. …’there is not much point in having another operation, I don’t want to be cut open again,’ he said.”

It was Brian’s fifth time. We are now heading into our sixth time of being emotionally and physically “opened again” and the pain is becoming more acute. 

This emptiness and the possibility it may never be filled again comes from a place of fear.

Fear that it will happen again. Fear of when it will happen again. Fear of personal freedoms being butchered. Fear of total disconnection from what is real. Fear of Big Brother taking over. Fear of trying to fill in time with soul-destroying thoughts. 

When I refer to Recovery I am not talking about recovery from Clinical Depression and the total debilitating effect  that causes. That make effect 15-20% of our community at any one time. No, I am thinking of a much broader community than that. I am referring to an insidious malaise that is literally affecting 100% of our community. Indeed I recently tuned into an online interview where Lucinda Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, suggested that “5 in 5 Australians are experiencing psychological distress, beginning at the mild end of anxiety and depression.”

Covid affects everybody in Australia at the moment— indeed the World. Of course I can’t speak for everybody but the best I can do is be fair, be balanced, be rational, and as much as possible be non-political. There is no right or wrong in all of this but in a world where discussion has gone out the window and those who make the most noise stand off and face each other with totally opposite views. With anger. With ugly aggression. 

So what does Recovery look like and how does it begin?

A good start is to get out of bed! Sounds stupid in its simplicity but I know it resonates across the board in tough times. The easiest thing is to bury under the blankets and hope the world goes away. Without a train to catch or an office meeting (an actual meeting) to go to, we can all hide. Sadly we can’t hide from ourselves. Your brain becomes your enemy. I experienced it at its worst when I was in deep depression twenty years ago: I’m not afraid to admit I’m still experiencing it today. Depression doesn’t grip me but life does. It’s called being human.

It’s not just a matter of rolling out of bed but also getting some physical movement. Whether it’s stretching the whole body on or off the bed or taking some very deep breaths, it’s remarkable how quickly the whole being can come into action. It’s like warming up your Maserati!!!! At least, think about it like that.

The key part of this whole routine is development of Discipline in your life. Your first step out of bed is like all journeys; it sets the tone of the day.

Of course, it’s important to have a good healthy breakfast. That’s a given. But in the context of Recovery and the necessity of paying attention to mind and body, I am exploring the power of overcoming the belting that the mind has taken over the last year and a half. 

So before or after breakfast, do what you are able to do. Go for a walk, get a coffee, more deep breaths, speak to neighbours passing by (despite the fact that the speech can become a muffled grunt behind the mask) and look up in the sky and notice everything is still in it right place. And when you are speaking, try to avoid the C and V words. Covid and Vaccines need a break.

Resting Recovery might seem to be in conflict with the aforementioned getting out of bed comments, but it’s not. For some of us who have already experienced almost 200 days in lockdown—welcome aboard Melburnians—

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.