Arghh, the pain of The Game

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TERRY BROWN has suffered hard and long as a Magpie fan, but he reckons you can never get enough agony:

THE way I hear it, Paddy Dangerfield kicked a bag on his right foot while smashing backmen away five at a time with his severed left stump.

With luck, he should be right for Friday night.

Jeff’s view July 21


On Saturday, Scotty Pendlebury got more skeletal breaks than centre bounce ones, 27 pained touches and a one-handed tackle.

A vitamin company gleefully sponsors the Pies injury report.

Presumably Pendles went down to Pharmacy Barn (not its real name) on Sunday and loaded up on their bone-healing herbs, before heading into the Epworth for some precautionary scans, screws and plates.

He has more metal in his hand now than I have in my Japanese car. Back on the park in two weeks? Fair chance.

Footy players are so tough. It is like they have been 3D printed out of cats’ heads, which sounds awful but at least is a use for cats.

They have to be tough, because fans are hard nuts too.

Before Danger’s shank had stopped throbbing, before Pendles was sliced and plated like a MasterChef entree, a debate began on which one played through less pain.

This is probably not surprising, but it is pretty harsh.

Pain has always been a key performance indicator in footy, both sides of the fence.

But the armchair experts sipping cocoa in their massage chairs complaining “you can’t even see the bone” – what would they know about pain?

Modern footy has lost the stuff that put steel in supporters’ spines, the shared suffering.  Discomfort peaks now in the long, single-origin coffee queue, or trying to watch Sam on The Footy Show.

While Danger and Pendles dance around on mashed limbs and bandages, blancmange-soft fans poke their wounds for fun, to see which hurts the best.

They don’t appreciate the suffering like they should.

I like a bit of misery for the team. Hell yeah. At Pie Park, before roofs were invented and global warming kicked in, I would enjoy shivering, sodden inside and out, warmed only occasionally by the volcanic outer shell of a pie with a still frozen core.

Allan McAlister, a much-derided Magpies president, would sit on the pine in the rain in what appeared to be a dressing gown.

I didn’t go in for a closer look. Pop Brown used to wear a similar dressing gown, which would fall open at family occasions frightening the children. You don’t get over that stuff.

McAlister was always there in a soggy clump – you could hear his teeth chatter over the crowd. But if the players were getting rained on, it only seemed fair to catch your death too?

How that vitamin mob must wish The Nest was still a Saturday fixture. How many immunity boosters could you flog to the snotty on Victoria Park Station platform? How many mucous suppressants?

On One Eye Hill, on feet that lost all feeling in the second quarter, you got a small sense of how tough it was out there in the Yarra Falls mud, and a feel for the history of heroics.

If I could take one thing from the Holden Centre, I would take Eddie’s wallet. Two, though, and I’d grab Dick Lee’s leather shinguard.

In 1908, one of his teammates kicked his shin open, goodonya! The sock dye seeped in and it got all angry.

Every winter Saturday for five years Dicky ran out, got kicked in the shin first time he saw the pill, and played with a gash full of ground.

Imagine the pain? That foulest of mud!

After the last AFL game at Vic Park, the crowd stole the centre circle. All that was left was a crater.

Collingwood marketed the sacred soil too, five bucks from memory for about a cupful of mud, and it would have come with a bonus – human ashes from hundreds of surreptitious scatterings.

I would not like that inside my shin.

Tommy Sherrin finally made Dicky Lee that leather shin guard.

And the wound did get fixed eventually – caustic soda to the flesh from some turn of the century Steve Dank.

Of course, they didn’t have $30 a bottle immunity boosters that might assist …

The history of footy is littered with heroes who might not have given their all but definitely gave bits.

Daniel Chick had his finger cut off so he could play.

Nigel Smart let his feet do the talking and belied his name by walking on coals. He wasn’t afraid to have a bit of skin in the game, or the fire pit anyway.

Mark Jackson played his last five seasons without a brain and launched a pop career.

The sacrifices players make are incredible and big mouth fans shouldn’t whinge about insufficient  agony until they have hobbled a mile in Danger’s blood-filled boot.

(Anyone who bought Jacko’s single, though, has suffered enough.)


Author: Terry Brown

TERRY BROWN worked for many years as a general reporter, columnist and colour writer at The Sun and Herald Sun. He is now an academic lecturing in journalism and is an unpublished novelist.



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