Aussie rules football is the sport that makes Victoria tick. I’ve never been a massive footy follower myself, but when I moved to AFL heartland a year ago, I decided it was time to try harder.
I joined Carlton, and usually head along to matches with an old school friend who’s a lifelong bluebagger. He explains the rules I don’t understand, fills me in on the Blues’ glory days, rubs his hands with glee at the thought of the Judd twins wearing navy blue guernseys in 18 years’ time, and bemoans Levi’s inability to kick straight when it matters. All good fun!
But what do you do when he’s jetted off to Bali on holiday with his family? You go along anyway and make your own fun. Here’s how.
1. It’s all about the prep
Joining a club is a great first step – it’s better value entry to matches, and helps you to identify with others when you get there. Don’t forget, it’s always cold at the MCG! Layers, layers, layers; the more navy blue, the better.
2. Choose your seat wisely
The worst thing about going solo is the risk of being a lone fan surrounded by nasty opposition supporters. But you’re also more likely to find a single seat in a crowded bay. Get there late-ish when most people are settled in, and look for groups of women and men who are showing their support for both clubs playing that day; there’s much less chance they’re going to be boorish ugly neighbours.
3. Be bold – part one
Try talking to those around you. Last match I went to, I ended up chatting to the bloke next to me, Simon, and his dad, Rob – we bonded over Carlton’s not-quite-there game. They were both from the inner west too. Now, we’re friends for life. Easy peasy.
4. Have a back up plan
Not everyone is friendly. But never fear: solo enjoyment of sports is where Twitter comes into its own. Every match has its own hashtag, and you can find out what everyone else who’s watching the game – whether they’re at the ground, home or the pub – thinks about the action. It can add that level of “conversation” you might be missing. Don’t forget the back-up charger for your phone!
5. If steps 2-4 fail or you get bored – go mobile
Get around the ground and check the view from different sections. There are usually general admission seats available at ground level and in the rafters, and it’s interesting how you get a different atmosphere and perspective on the game depending on where you sit. Fun fact: there’s a sneaky shortcut route above MCG Members’ that joins the Ponsford and Olympic stands. Check it out.
6. Be bold – part two
If there’s a post-match member’s function you can attend, do it!
Yes, even if you’re worried you’ll be a sad billy-no-mates! Late last year I plucked up the courage, and found myself queuing for the bar behind Dave Lawson, from the ABC series Utopia and funny Toyota cricket and footy ads. We got chatting. He was hiding his Melbourne scarf under his coat, but nice guy all the same. Dave was there with his friend, #1 Blues fan, radio/TV star and event MC, Andy Lee, and another random guy called Rick who complemented my woollen Carlton jumper, so I didn’t mind him crashing the selfie; much later I discovered he was Rick Davies, from TV series Offspring and the movie Oddball.
Voila! I now have evidence of my grand day out AND three new celeb buddies. Going solo ain’t so bad after all.