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Review: Go Roys, Make A Noise
The Locker Room
Go Roys, Make A Noise
The people have spoken.
The voices in Vulgar Press' new release, Maroon & Blue, are those accounts clerks, bus drivers, pensioners, public servants, council workers, labourers, poets and drunks - the pantheon of the working class sitting alongside football stars old and new, administrators, journalists and other A, B and C list football celebrities.
So, while this book is ostensibly about a football club, a sort of condolences book for a suburban way of life that is lost and gone forever, it is more than just a history to show to the grandkids and say "yes Virginia, there was a Fitzroy", it is a testament to popular will, and the survival of an unpopular idea.
That idea was the Fitzroy Football Club, Australian rules' ugly Aunt Gertrude; unfashionable, unfathomable, perennially broke, half mad from worry and resplendent in its bathos until, as Melbourne writer Barry Dickens put it so eloquently "they took Fitzroy out behind the shed and put a bullet in its head".
As Royboy Rod Walsh, known on the internet as Fat Pizza, puts it "Fitzroy was a very exclusive club. You didn't have to have money to belong to it, but you did have to have a soul".
The Royboys and Roygirls were the faithful, the ones drawn to the jaunty little club squeezed between the brutish Collingwood and the carpetbaggers from Carlton. They suffered greatly; probably more so than they ever have since.
For one underestimates the role of football in the psychology of Melbourne at their peril. It is, or was, unable to be underestimated.
And so, brave little Fitzroy became to mean something more than just eighteen blokes running around a paddock on a Saturday afternoon, something much more, to many thousands - later hundreds - of people.
John Curtin followed Fitzroy. Unfortunately he is not a part of this book, which is fine, as someone of his stature would probably be out of kilter with this inspiring stream of ordinariness that runs through this book.
Even John Blackman of Hey Hey It's Saturday's fame seems unrecognisably vulnerable in this book. It's full of a multitude of very raw and honest tales.
This is not a book of robotic Tom Hafey's or Ron Barassis shouting footy platitudes at you from every page. Even the footballers interviewed here, from gnarled old wingmen with tales of playing in ankle deep mud at Fitzroy's peculiar Brunswick Street Ground, to the men that were bewildered teenagers at the death in 1996, speak in reverential tones.
Adam Muyt has built this book, steeped as it is in grouse Fitzroy bias, from hundreds of hours of interviews with the faithful.
It feels like a comprehensive watch, but the reader can't help but feel there was more to these tales, presented as they are in bite sized chunks that are interwoven in a style as scatological as Fitzroy's half forward line in 1996 - crumbing bits of emotion and information, with some ideas crossing the page like a wobbly punt off the side of the boot that manages to snatch a last minute win in the dying seconds of the game.
This book is full of what can only be described as Australian language. Not swearing, but idiosyncratic, full of metaphors and frank assessments. Pictures built on the unspoken, the use of understatement and the exaggerated grandiose - the way Australians speak.
There are tales of mysterious fogs, songs from the outer, the saintliness of Garry Wilson - the late poet, Chas H Duke sums him up with "In a couple of hundred games/ I never saw him do a mean of dirty thing
I reckon he's worth remembering"
Yeah, that's poetry.
For such a tragic book there is a surprising amount of philosophical acceptance straddling the more expected bitterness. For many Fitzroy fans their relationship with football is akin to that of a lover who has discovered the centre of their universe has been sleeping around. Too often football makes them feel dirty, violated.
But still, they come to terms with it in their own ways, with their own Australian language to express that - whether it's following the Amateur version of Fitzroy, the Reds, of the corporate version, Brisbane, or the Benalla greyhounds, everyone seems to have found a sense of meaning...or not.
Vulgar Press deserve a big elephant stamp for publishing this book. It's a bloody good thing. In a world full of Public Affairs managers, WorkChoices, corporate boxes, Telstra, John Bloody Howard and John Singleton it's good to be reminded that there are people out there who actually give a shit enough to see the usefulness of a book like this.
It reminds us that there is a point to having a soul - the Fitzroy Football Club will never be defeated.
Maroon & Blue: Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club, published by Vulgar press and available online RRP$39.95
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