Making the footy more than a game. Getting that winning feeling with ponchos, pies and the kids.

May 1, 2012

Daughter Two did a quick count of available umbrellas, and frowned.

There were two on offer. And three of us. She knew being the youngest in the flock was going to cost her dearly.

We were about to set off on a walk to watch the Brisbane Lions. A ten minute stroll, that would allow us to embrace the excitement of our fellow supporters.

Not today, however. Any pre-game buzz had been washed away, in a near cyclonic rain storm.

Normally, this would pose problems. But not on a footy night. For the true supporter, it all adds to the experience.

The girls huddled under the green umbrella, with The Teenager doing the holding. This meant two things. That Daughter Two would get saturated on one side, and that I would be continually stabbed from the other.

To make things worse, the normally placid footpath that would take us to our destination, now resembled a raging river. Both girls managed to step in every available puddle within our first 200 metres. Shoes were officially soaked.

As is their way, the soggy situation prompted much laughter. They managed to disrupt every other fan trying to find cover. The angrier those around them became, the more they giggled.

The bloke selling the thin plastic ponchos was doing a roaring trade. We added to his bulging money belt, in the forlorn hope that his flashy coloured garbage bag would somehow become a protective shield against the wild weather. It didn’t.

Soaked, but with spirits intact, we found our seats, thankfully under cover. As the girls hit their phones, to alert a breathless social media world of their whereabouts, I reflected on how cool it is for a parent to take kids to the football.

It can be any code. As long as there’s a crowd, and cheering, and a pie stand. Even in the rain.

Dad was a mad rugby league fan, but for some reason, it was rare for us to make the trip to city grounds. Too far away, and too expensive. We did our watching on tv. Not quite the same.

My first memory of attending a big game is my uncle taking me to the Sydney Cricket Ground, about 100 years ago.

Uncle Tom was a member of the SCG. Still is. To be invited to the big smoke with him was a huge thrill. I had to dress up. No doubt Mum would have made a fuss about that.

From memory, it was Wests and Newtown playing in a semi final. Before a capacity crowd. For a country kid, it was an experience to cherish.

With a lifetime spent in and around league, I’ve been lucky enough to attend plenty of wonderful games in the years since. Origin classics, and Grand Finals. Even a Challenge Cup decider at Wembley. But there’s something extra special about joining the crowd with kids in tow.

I’ve been to games of all kinds with cousins, and nephews, and friends. Always enjoyable, especially the first time.

But when it’s your own children, well that’s something again. A rite of passage in the family relationship.

The girls have gradually developed their appreciation of big time sport. It’s taken a while. Now, they love being in the crowd.

They’re mad Titans fans, and have been to a handful of games. Sit near them in the stand at Skilled Park, and you’ll have industrial deafness before half time.

This night, we’d changed codes. Some tickets landing in our lap prompted an unexpected foray into the world of AFL. The torrential rain made things tough. But it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

What made me even happier, was how the girls appreciated the spectacle, even though they knew little about the game. That attitude will allow them to appreciate major events the world over.

We ate plenty of food. The Teenager even wolfed down a pie. Cheered the local boys. And ignored the drunken clowns a few rows back, who thought swearing as loud as they could was an amusing way to pass the time. My glare did the trick. They stumbled off towards a bar by the third quarter.

We left with a few minutes remaining. It was a thrashing, but the girls didn’t mind. We’ll give the new game another go, hopefully on a dry track. And we’ll be back to watch the struggling Titans soon.

There’s so much to occupy young minds these days. Just about all of it with a touch screen. Sometimes, we need to be reminded how enjoyable the simple stuff is. With or without a plastic poncho.