MUM MADE ME GO FOR COLLINGWOOD
Tonight we witness another match that plays out one of the most stubborn grudges in Australian Rules football – Collingwood vs. Carlton.
Collingwood top of the ladder. Carlton in 10th place with everything to prove. The Blue Bloods vs. The Hoi Polloi… it’s a tried-and-true recipe for a classic encounter.
Did you know the feud goes back as far as 1915? Neither did we!
Journalist and author Paul Daley tells readers of The Hoopla just what’s at stake tonight and why he loves the Magpies so…The author Paul Daley. Photograph by Simon Schluter via The Age.
I can scarcely remember not being a Collingwood supporter.
It was back when I was five or six and my dad would dress me in a South Melbourne guernsey and take me to the Lakeside Oval every second Saturday. My sister and my mother, meanwhile, joined a vast horde of aunts, uncles and cousins who went to Victoria Park – or wherever Collingwood played on “away” weeks – to watch the Magpies.
Eventually Dad surrendered me to the Magpies. He remained loyal for life to “South”, even after the team’s reincarnation as The Sydney Swans. I still have a soft spot for the Swans. But for me it has been Collingwood for 40 years. And so it will remain; watching Collingwood play feels like a family celebration even though we have all long since scattered to more gentrified suburbs or interstate.
Collingwood is part of my DNA.
Mum’s Dad, William Bourke, was born in Johnston Street, Collingwood. He married a girl from a tough-as-nails pub across the street called The London.
Collingwood was the poorest, roughest and most economically – and ecologically – downtrodden suburb of industrial, pre-federation Melbourne. Down on the notorious “flat” between Smith Street and the Yarra River they produced the beer, meat and tinned food, the soap and leather goods – especially the shoes – for the rest of the city. It remains a bitter irony that the suburb whose raison d’etre was to provide fine footwear for Melbourne’s wealthy could ill afford to shoe its own young.
So, the enduring visual metaphor of depression-era Collingwood remains the unshod urchin scavenging in the rubbish piles by the soupy river.
In summer, dust swallowed Collingwood’s unmade streets.
The river would stagnate with toxic tanning effluent and brewer’s waste. Then in winter the rains would sweep the offal, rubbish and sewerage down from the higher suburbs. It would settle on “The Flat” for weeks – a stinking mosquito-ridden miasma that further secured Collingwood’s reputation as home of the colony’s highest infant mortality rate.
I wrote in my book Collingwood: A Love Story, “for a major influence on its social awareness, it is hard to go past the fact that, for a good part of the year, its poorest residents effectively dwelt in the shit of the city’s richest”.
Amid that awareness the Collingwood Football Club was born in Smith Street’s Grace Darling Hotel in 1892.
There was no seconds team back then, when my grandfather began playing. But there were a series of feeder teams like “Collingwood Trades” for which William, by then a rookie boot maker, played.
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