AFL’s back.

Not the soap opera/reality TV version that has been inescapable during the off-season but the stuff that causes every budding football poet to pen a piece entitled “The Big Men Fly”.

There is a certain sadness for all football followers when, after trade week in October, the stories dry up. Reluctantly our focus turns to our flannelled heroes, the yachts in Bass Strait or having our patriotic fervour stretched to breaking point by the Hopman Cup.

This pause or diversion is necessary. It enables the fans of all 16 AFL clubs to regenerate their optimism. Doesn’t matter if your key forward finishes the season leaning on a goal post, your defenders bring new meaning to the term “zoning off” or that your onballers couldn’t outrun a car driven by Mark Webber. By the time Albert Park becomes a park again you believe this season will be different from the last. (Excepting those that support the reigning Premiers)

This off-season has allowed little respite, footy fans being bombarded with a series of stories better suited to Entertainment Tonight.

Remember when the biggest story of the summer was Jason Akermanis being traded to the Bulldogs? From that point on it’s felt like we have followed a time conscious, waist-coated, white rabbit repeating “Oh dear, Oh dear” into the realm of fantasy.

It was not yet summer when Brendan Fevola was sent home from the International Rules tour for grappling with Ireland’s responsible service of alcohol rules and a Galway barman. I recall he and his wife on a current affairs program, was that the same story that involved a Qantas hostie? That’s the problem with these kinds of stories, they become enmeshed in my mind.

February — gambling. March — drugs. Oh dear, oh dear.

Matthew Scarlett head butts a companion and column space is filled to bursting. Perhaps the papers will have to go to a supplement?

The media pass these off as football stories, but I contend they make us feel less connected to the game. Do we want to debate whether these men are/should be role models? The merits of employees (players) being tested outside of work for non-performance enhancing drugs?

No. We want them to do what they do best. So we can do something primal. Barrack.

I can’t wait for some wag to scream five minutes into the first game, when a defender infringes, “He’s been doing it all day!!!”

I want to marvel at Hird’s courage, Goodes’ athleticism, Judd’s speed (no pun intended), the beauty of a perfectly timed and executed hip and shoulder.

I want to leave a message for a mate suggesting his coach is GONE and that he can book his holidays for September.

A goal snapped from an impossible angle, an unfathomable decision, yep at this point I’ll even take a flood (that one won’t last long).

I suspect I’m not the only one for whom this off-season has seemed an eternity, but as of 7:40pm tonight when the umpire bounces the ball in the centre of the MCG, footy’s back… BALL!!!! …YES!!!!

This scribe’s version of “The Big Men Fly” available upon request.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off