I was talking to a friend last week about the mental strain involved in supporting a sporting team. For him it’s St. Kilda Football club and for me the Western Bulldogs. We are both long suffering supporters, barrackers, members, whatever you want to call it, but we have both certainly put our money where our mouth is and signed the pledge to invest in the success of our team.

Last year I received a certificate to say that I had been a member of the Western Bulldogs for twenty-five consecutive years. That’s since 1997 when the Footscray Football Club, coming off the infamous Year of the Dogs changed its name, guernsey, theme song, home ground and coach and fell agonisingly close to playing in a Grand Final. The pain inflicted on supporters on that day is still raw and stinging.

I could have packed it in there and then, but I chose to hope, to keep up the payments, and support the club I had loved since I was 6 years old. From that time, it took over 40 years to realise the dream of not only playing in a grand final but winning one. In 2016, I managed to witness the dream first hand from the top section of the Bill Ponsford Stand at the MCG. I was sitting with quite a few blokes who were much more senior to me, who would have seen the last grand final (a loss) in 1961 and possibly seen the last win in 1954. They remained calm throughout the game and I was much in the same vein, reeling in the expectations that had been bruised from seeing my team get close so many times before without the ultimate victory.

When the siren came, I leapt to my feet and tears streamed from my eyes. I high-fived a younger couple beside me and turned around to look at the old blokes behind me who were all sitting, smiling, and breathing out the effort of a 62 year wait.

I thought that this would change me. That I would be satisfied and watching my team play Australian rules football would be easier. But as it turns out, in the words of U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Watching footy has become harder than it was before. I am more critical and expectations have suddenly risen to levels I have never experienced. Should I have just cashed in after 2016? Kept an eye on how they are travelling and basked in the long overdue return on my investment. Perhaps.

But I didn’t. I keep paying my membership fees, collecting the merchandise the club sends me each year, going to games and interrogating every move as closely as I interrogate anything! I will try to relax and enjoy the sport, meditate on ‘it’s just a game’ and wonder at the athleticism and excitement the game showcases.

But I suspect the even though the strain will remain, I will stay invested in these sons and daughters of the west, regardless of whether I pay my fees or not. It’s an emotional investment that I doubt I will ever cash in. I might get the odd dividend from time to time, like I did in 2016, but that’s enough to keep me coming back.

Me in 1975 (aged 6)

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