But just like that. After 20 years of nothing but constant support. This is how the North Melbourne Football Club treats me.


You enter my room and there I am. Star-fished on my bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling. I’ve given up on refreshing my phone. But it continues to flash open with messages from my friends anyway.

“It hurts now, but one day it will get better”

“Omg I just saw, are you okay?”

“Thinking of you during these trying times. Here if you need xx”

There are a bunch of feelings that have started circling around my stomach. Pain from having to endure it all. Anger for letting myself get so involved. Frustration for the ending of it all. Denial that it isn’t really over.

But just like that.

After 20 years of nothing but constant support.

This is how the North Melbourne Football Club treats me.

I have been going to the footy pretty much every week since I was old enough to yell the word “ball”. Even before I was born, footy has always had a huge impact on me. Literally. Starting with the impact of a football on my 8-month pregnant mother’s belly when she walked across the MCG post-match. When my parents took me as a little girl, they’d often recall that I would burst into tears every time the opposition scored a goal. Didn’t matter if we were 50 points ahead or 70 points behind, the tears would just flow.

That was cute though, right? Here comes little Velentina in her size 4 kids footy jumper with matching blue and white ribbons tying her hair into piggy tails. She’s got meat pie and sauce stains all over her scarf, and let’s be real, mucus running down her face like any good toddler does. But fast forward to a couple of months ago. It’s Good Friday and that same obsessive footy fan, 17 years later, is holding back tears as she lines up for her post-game hot jam donut. She’s decked out in her North gear and hanging her head in shame. The jam donuts do little to numb the pain of having to watch your team collapse right in front of your eyes.

When I’m watching the footy at home, I have what’s called the Velentina Tipping Point (VTP). To the people around me, VTP is more commonly known as the moment I stand up from the couch, declare “That’s it! I’m done!” and storm out of the room and down the hallway (only to then pop my head in every five minutes to check and see that we haven’t scored a goal). While there hasn’t been much research into what causes VTP, this is definitely not an isolated incident and could be contagious.

It’s no secret that some of us take our footy a little too seriously. Some of us never quite grow out of the child-like admiration for our club. Week in and week out we show up in full footy attire. And just like how the price of a box of hot chips has drastically risen over the years, so too has our love and devotion for our clubs.

Over the summer, I dusted off my blue and white footy jumper and skipped off to Arden Street Oval to go watch the AFLW with my friends. I brought a cheese platter, they brought some lollies, and there was all around Good Vibes. Many footy-goers have commented that the Women’s league has a distinct community feel to it. Clusters of camping chairs spread around the boundary, incredibly supportive attitudes from the crowd, and there’s always that guy handing out the free sunscreen samples—a must! However, even in this livelier, yet easy-going atmosphere, I still find myself tensing up and anxiously pulling on the frills of my membership scarf.

“Come on North!”

“Make them pay!” I shriek from the sidelines as my friends attempt to re-assure me that, win, lose or draw, it’s just a silly little game.

For non-footy goers, it’s easy to be cynical at first. To look around at all these adults getting so emotionally involved and think “Jeez… calm down. It’s just a game”. And I know it sounds all too cliché to argue that “it’s so much more than a game” but alas, this is what I will now attempt to do.

Footy is a part of our identity. When you meet someone who barracks for the same team as you, you form an instant connection with them. Or when you spot someone at a party donning the same-coloured scarf as you, you instantly know they’re going to be your mate because of your connection with footy.

Footy is also a way to engage with the community. If you head down to your local oval on a Saturday morning, you’ll likely stumble across the under-12s slipping through mud as their parents all huddle around the canteen. The AFL website boasts that there are 1.5 million Aussies who currently play football at a local level. Footy is a big part of Australian culture. For many, footy has become a ritual. Almost like a religion.

I mean, sure, is it embarrassing that I dedicate my weekends to watching a group of 18 young men spend their entire season on the bottom of the ladder? Yes.

Is it weird that I let my emotions and overall mood be dictated by these players who, mind you, I’ve never actually met? Yeah, no, even I agree, it’s weird.

But I think the best part about following a sporting team, whether you’re a diehard North Melbourne fan like me, or a Richmond bandwagoner, is the hope. The hope that there’s always next week (or in North’s case, that there’s always next year). Because one day, I’ll be at the MCG on Grand Final day celebrating with my dad and two brothers as we give out a huge cheer when that final siren blasts.

So sure, I get a little too into my footy.

But while the bitter taste of heartbreak stains my mouth for now, I know that one day, when North finally beats Collingwood (and my Nonna must buy a pork roll as part of our long-standing bet), the taste of victory will be even sweeter.

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