Don’t let the idea of your child barracking for Geelong put you off moving to Geelong, Bellarine or the Surf Coast. Parental hard work and determination can cut through the toughest of play-ground situations to keep “We Are Geelong” off your home entertainment system.
The sun is setting and the Kardinia Park stadium lights are beginning to take effect. You can see the glow from your backyard. When the wind is blowing from the right direction, you can hear the roar of the crowd. The anticipation of the match is building. There are Geelong listed players living directly opposite your house, and further down the street from you. All of your son’s school friends and most of his family support the local team. It may sound like ‘Mission Impossible’ but don’t be deterred prospective Geelong residents; you can raise a child in Geelong who supports an AFL team other than the Geelong Cats. Oh yes, it can be done.
Be under no illusion, the task before you is a difficult one, where ‘negative’ influences abound. Many a Geelong supporter will be willing to offer their advice as to where your child’s allegiance should lie. The ‘mission’ I chose to accept began in 2010 with the birth of my second child, a son (I saw the early writing on the wall that my first born daughter would follow Geelong, just as her mother does). I was adamant that this new addition to the family would support the Carlton Football Club, just as his father and grandparents did before him.
There’s no doubt I was up against it. Years of mediocrity from the Blues, coinciding with Geelong’s run of success from the ‘07 premiership, meant my powers of persuasion needed to be first class. What I did have in my favour was Carlton’s history of success, so the process of indoctrination started with adorning my son’s bedroom with Weg posters celebrating the 1987 and 1995 premierships. The latter holds particular significance, as it was Geelong we smacked that day. Next came the timely viewing of some classic victories from years gone by. Let’s face it, there haven’t been too many recent classic’s to draw on.
After the full-scale propaganda assault, the key to success in this scenario is an early start, and the concept of the ‘non-negotiable.’ It is vital to impress upon your child that ‘it has always been this way’, or ‘you’ve always barracked for Carlton’. When he or she looks around their bedroom and sees their Carlton posters, Carlton scarf and jumper, a Chris Judd signed raffle ticket wishing them ‘all the best,’ there’s a shrug of the shoulders and an acceptance of your word as gospel.
With these solid foundations in place, it was smooth sailing through the pre-school years, with a fair degree of insulation from the threatening pro-Geelong forces. But once the school days kick in, and you begin frequenting your local Auskick centre, the pressure starts to mount. The annual ‘super clinic’ at Simmonds Stadium is always a particularly challenging time. If you haven’t done the groundwork prior to this, you’re in big trouble. Coming face to face with the likes of Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor and Andrew Mackie is enough to test any young person’s loyalties. But, to my son’s credit, he has held firm, even in the face of some robust questioning of his choice of team from a heavily tattooed, bearded and recently delisted forward/ruckman.
As has always been the case when brainwashing, er, encouraging your child’s love of the game, and a particular team, you cannot beat the excitement of game day. Walking to the ground and seeing your child realise there’s thousands of other Carlton supporters other than just the two of you is a watershed moment. Hearing the club song ring out over stadium speakers pre-game adds to the anticipation. The games, as they always do, ebb and flow. After several false starts in the form of some ten-goal hammering’s, at last father and son witnessed a Carlton win in Round 6, 2016. This victory sealed the deal. The cherry on top came some weeks later via a tidy 19 point win over the local team.
Despite this possible shift in team fortune, it’s important to remain vigilant and accept the ever present danger living in a one team town presents. However I’m confident the hard yards have been done, and that my son is now a committed ‘other than Geelong’ supporter.
Helping the cause is that while the Carlton premiership window remains shut for now, the blinds may be opening. Simultaneously, the sun appears to be setting on Geelong’s golden era. Ultimately though, my boy is happy to be a little different from the majority of his peers, and takes great pride in wearing his Blues kit to Auskick each Sunday morning, especially when we’ve had a win!
Don’t let the prospect of your child barracking for the Cats hold you back from moving here. With hard work and determination, you can nurture resilience in your child to barrack for a team of your their choosing. Meanwhile, it’s game on between my wife and I for the team allegiance of child number 3.
Chris Gemmill is a senior teacher at Geelong High School where government legislation prevents him from exercising some of these dangerous influencing techniques on the student population. Special shout out to the most excellent George Horlin-Smith for being a very good egg.