Edited by Elle Atack
One of the most vivid memories I have of my granny’s house is a large black and white print of a Krakouer brother taking down a huge Essendon player. That print hung, moth-eaten and dusty, among the ephemera of Wayne Carey newspaper cut-outs and North Melbourne merchandise. Granny, also known as Dot, was eccentric, smoked like a chimney, and was a one-eyed North supporter who’d been there to see their first premiership against Hawthorn in 1975.
In Melbourne, family and football go together — like orange juice and champagne, or Simon and Garfunkel. There is often a golden thread of support passed through families for one team or another, ranging from “this one aunt went for Collingwood” to a generational support for one team: dyed in the wool.
My relationship with North Melbourne is familial and warm. I was presented with three choices as a child: Hawthorn, my father’s team, who were rather uncharacteristically awful in my formative years; Geelong, who had an innate connection to the Victorian Western District where I grew up; and North Melbourne, my granny’s team, and quite successful in the 90s. I hated the idea of brown and yellow, and Geelong weren’t doing so well at that point, so North Melbourne was the obvious choice. With that choice, I forged a relationship with my granny that continues today, even though she passed away more than ten years ago.
On Saturday night, I cried buckets as Brent Harvey walked off Adelaide Oval in the royal blue and white for the last time (to be honest, I’m tearing up thinking about it now). It’s the end of an era, but also the definitive end of the North Melbourne team that I shared with my granny. I can remember her talking of a young Brent Harvey, what a great player he was, and as a woman who stood hardly more than four feet tall herself, she probably appreciated him for his stature as well. I loved that I had this connection that no one else in my immediate family had with her; my mum, sister and father didn’t go for North, so it was just the two of us. To a child like me, who struggled to be my own person and to make friends, this was truly a blessing. These memories are bathed in a golden light of positivity and nostalgia in that way unique to childhood recollections, but also indicative of the way in which many people reflect on AFL during this period.
This year, with Boomer’s milestone game and North’s 1996 premiership reunion, I have been able to reflect on my own relationship with the club, and I’ve never missed having my granny around more. I’d love to be able to talk to her about the club, to talk footy in the way a family that’s connected like that can. I miss the comfortable nature of a family relationship with football; I envy the closeness it brings my partner and his father to have that bond, and have often ached to be able to share this same connection.
At her funeral service, her signature North Melbourne jacket was draped among the flowers and cards. I don’t tend to believe in the afterlife; I do, however, believe that when people pass on they leave an imprint upon us, a mark that often aches so greatly it feels as though they’re right there with us. That ache hit home hard for me this year, but at the same time I have realised that my granny will never really leave me, even if the last of the players we supported together has walked off the field for the last time.
Photo from left to right: My non-North supporting sister, my granny and I