Sunday, July 26, 2009

A day at the footy...

What better way to immerse ourselves back into Australian culture than spending a wintry afternoon at the MCG watching a game of Australian Rules Football? The Handsome Australian's beloved Geelong Cats were playing against the Hawks from Hawthorn and he was determined to be there to watch it all happen.

We've been to the footy many times, the Handsome Australian and I, but we've never been to the footy as a family. Last season, the Handsome Australian took our daughter to her very first footy match and she's been a huge fan ever since. She loved it. It was the coldest, rainiest day of the year and she sat through the entire match. Never complained and hasn't stopped asking to return. For one reason or another, the Handsome Australian hasn't managed to take her back to a game. Geelong plays a lot of night games which we thought would be too late and too cold for her and they play a lot of games in Geelong which means we'd have to travel quite a distance to get there. This weekend though, all the stars were in alignment and it was meant to be.

As for our little fellow, he'd never been to a footy match before. Nearly 3 years old now, we decided he'd probably be able to handle a game of footy--or would at least welcome all the food bribes we'd be offering throughout the match. When we told him the news, he was excited. He kept saying, "Take me to the footy match. I want to go to the footy match." So take him we did.

Knowing that I'd require a small bit of convincing to take our two young children out into the chilly winter air and endure four hours of their antics whilst he was engrossed in the football, the Handsome Australian offered a sweetener--if we got organised, we could leave early and have lunch on Victoria Street in Richmond before the match. As much as I hate to admit it, I was easily swayed by this suggestion. I love Vietnamese food and I love eating it in Victoria Street at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Phong. Just the thought of their tasty spring rolls and a bowl of rice vermicelli with beef and lemongrass and I was in the car wearing Geelong colours before the Handsome Australian even put his shoes on.

Our lunch at Thanh Phong was delicious. The children love the spring rolls, the Handsome Australian digs the prawn rice paper rolls and we all love one of the vermicelli dishes. The staff are friendly and they are great with the kids and most importantly, the food comes out quickly.

Full and happy, the Handsome Australian indicated we needed to get moving and get ourselves to the MCG. Not interested in fighting the traffic that would surely be swarming the MCG at this stage, the Handsome Australian suggested we leave the car behind in Victoria Street and make our way to the stadium on the public transport. So we walked up the top of Victoria Street and caught a train at East Richmond station. Two stops later and we jumped off at Jollimont--right at the doorstep to the MCG.

The Handsome Austrlian forged ahead and queued for tickets. We got General Admission tickets which meant we didn't have assigned seats. The tickets were $20AUD each for adults and the kids were free. Even better!

Tickets in hand, we navigated our way inside the iconic stadium and decided our best bet for seating would be on the upper deck. Instead of climbing the endless flights of stairs with two little people, we found a lift and took it straight to the top. When we walked out into the seating area, it struck me just how high up we were and how immense the MCG really is. Previously, I've always sat on the lower level quite close to the field and the atmosphere has felt intimate. From the top deck though, things looked a lot different. We still had an excellent view of the field, but I spent a great deal of time worrying that the little fellow was going to somehow topple down the super steep seats. Definitely not a place for anyone who suffers from acrophobia.

The children were rife with anticipation as we watched both teams warm up on the field. The Handsome Australian was answering their questions and pointing out different players to them. Before we knew it, it was game time. Shortly after the first bounce, the little fellow curled up in my lap and fell asleep. Yes, he fell asleep. Crowd roaring, whistles blowing, buzzers ringing--none of it stopped this kid from sleeping. It was amazing.

Our girl watched the match intently and peppered her father with questions. Unfortunately, her father had brought along his pocket radio and had the earphones in one ear so he could listen to the commentary of the game. You'd think being there would be enough, but apparently you also need to listen to someone else explaining the play. Watching the game and listening to it on the radio simultaneously is pretty much the extent of the Handsome Australian's multi-tasking capabilities, so I was left to answer many a footy question from the inquisitive five year old.

"Who's that player Mommy? The one with the number 3 on his shirt?" she asks.

"Oh number 3, that's Jimmy Bartel (luckily one of the 5 players I can name). He won the Brownlow Medal once (a bit of trivia emerges from the depth of my brain surprising even me)."

"Does that mean he's a good player Mommy?"

"Yes, he's a good player. He's also really hot!"

"Hot? Is that because he's running around a lot and it makes him hot?"

"Yes, that's it. That's exactly what Mommy meant."

Ah yes, conversations like these were had throughout the match. I'm sure she learned heaps and heaps of very accurate details about the football. What can I say? I'm a true fan.

The match itself was always very close. Geelong was behind for most of the game, but found that little bit of something special in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. With minutes left, they managed to pull even with the Hawks. For all intents and purposes, it appeared as if the game would end in a draw. Then in the dying seconds of the game, Jimmy "the Hottie" Bartel took a mark. Then the buzzer went. When you "take a mark" in Aussie rules, you are entitled to an uncontested kick of the ball which meant that Bartel had one last kick to make. He only needed to score a single point to ensure a Geelong victory. The crowd inhaled deeply and waited...Bartel kicked the ball and scored the needed point. The crowd erupted. It was so exciting. The Handsome Australian and our little girl were jumping up and down. I was jumping up and down.

Meanwhile, sleeping beauty who'd been awake all of 5 minutes was looking at us like, "What's the fuss all about? How come everyone is screaming and most importantly, where's my apple juice?" Yes, I think the thrill of the game was lost on the little fellow. Maybe next year he'll get more out of it. I'm certainly keen to go long as there are spring rolls involved that is!


Annelise said...

I have missed your posts!! Does this mean the injury is almost all healed?
I must admit that it does sound good to go to a footy match! Should I ever finally make it there maybe you can take me.
Why is it you didn't take the nephews also, is it that they left or that 4 kids might be the death of you?
I love that the eldest loves going!!! I think she needs to know what hot truly means though! haha

suzinoz said...

Thanks Annelise. Still injured, but powering through--stupidly!! I thought about you at the footy match. There was a lot of talent there...and not just on the field. The good looking blokes were everywhere! You must come to a footy match when you finally visit us!

Annelise said...

I do love a pool of talent!

kristin said...

What did you injure? Glad things are getting back to "normal" for you -- I had a momentary thought about coming to your place from Hawaii (where I'll be next week) but am not there long enough and can't really leave! But the thought counts, yes? I miss you! Need to plan on meeting up on the west coast -- next year?

suzinoz said...

kristin-can't believe you're going to Hawaii. Paris and Hawaii in one summer? Unfair. We do need to meet up. Let's consider the West Coast next year...we'll catch up on fb.