Winner in the adult category: Nicholas de Dear 

Eaglemont, Vic, Richmond Supporter

Dear Footy,

I love you…now.

And finally, I think you love me back.

Shakespeare, as penetrating as Maurice Rioli’s left foot, assures us that, the course of true love never did run smooth.

True? Smooth? ‘Footy love’ is as crooked as Carlton’s ‘noughties’ salary cap.

My team, ‘at first sight’ was the Footscray Bulldogs.

I should have loved them, but t’was not meant to be and, before you ask, it was not them, … it was me.

A week later, I glimpsed those two colours, saw the mascot and then…, heard that song. In 1973 and with all the fickleness of childhood, I was in… in…. well, infatuation, with the Richmond Tigers…and with footy.

Infatuation held, grew into adulation, into worship and, finally…you guessed it, into addiction. The early ‘80s (like many a coke-sozzled merchant banker of that same decade) saw me revelling in the repeated success of the Tigers. I thought it was love but I was fooling myself. Like Tony Montana from Scarface, I was face down in my own product. I was lusting after footy like a fling and not a commitment.

But from afar like H.G. Wells’ Martians, the ‘Footy Gods’ were watching (with intelligence and wisdom far beyond our own). They knew I was hooked.

I thought I could handle it. I thought I was l in control. I thought I was, ‘in love’. I could not see that my black and yellow dealer and their supplier, Footy itself, had me in their thrall.

Three decades of purgatory.

Three decades of Essendon, Hawthorn, West Coast, Adelaide, Collingwood, Sydney (even) Carlton. Three decades of pity. Oh, the humanity!

Shakespearean Footy Gods play with us mortals. Sometimes for pleasure, sometimes with purpose.

Their play was complete in 2017. Conjuring a once-brutal half back flanker as Coach (cast from the forge that was Sheedy’s Essendon), a CEO with Christ-like locks and serenity and, a President sporting the wisdom of Yoda from far beyond, their lesson was complete.

Love is hope, not expectation. True love needs loss and redemption, not endless ecstasy. Love is patient.

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