By Bill Hodges
1977 was a big year.
The Centenary Test in March between Australia and England, the Grand Fina between Collingwood and North Melbournel in September and the Melbourne Cup in November - the latter two televised live into Melbourne for the first time.
Channel 7 purchased the last remaining standing room tickets for that Grand Final and offered the VFL a reported $100,000 for the rights.
Under new President Alan Aylett, the VFL wanted to go big. Barry Crocker came down from Sydney to sing The Impossible Dream pre-game and a parade was held down Bourke Street the day before.
By a quirk of fate, I happened to be in the city that day and convinced Mum to take a detour for a quick look. We saw the start of the parade at Parliament House and later passed Collingwood coach Tom Hafey in the street.
Dad was not a full MCC Member then, so we drove to my grandparents’ home after lunch on Grand Final Day to watch the match of their new colour TV. Live TV sport was a rarity back then, so I was filed with excitement.
And what a match! North Melbourne came from 27 points down at three-quarter time to draw it. For the record, the Kangaroos won the replay the following Saturday.
In 1982, the Bourke Street mall was being dug up, so the parade made a shape right and proceeded down Lonsdale Street to the back of Myer. Host Peter Landy announced a direct telecast had been agreed earlier that morning and it was all go for a classic between Richmond and Carlton.
Someone should have told the Broadcasting Control Board that the normally G-rated program would suddenly become XXX-rated early in the third term with the unscripted appearance of a female streaker, Helen D’Amico, wearing nothing but a Carlton scarf.
For a young 13-year-old boy, this was a rather confusing moment and became even more so as the 1980s rolled on. As one wag asked at the time, was our streaker a natural blonde?
By the time 1987 came around I was working in the city and embracing the game as an adult. I still found my way to the parade at lunchtime. This parade left a rather flat memory.
It was at this time I noticed groups of men roaming around the city, heading who knows where. It soon became clear that lunch on Grand Final Eve was a rather large event; a tradition that needed to be examined, investigated and embraced.
This took a while, but now I am fully committed to the cause. My constant lunch companion and I (and a few extras along the way) always have a great day, subject to some interruptions, like pregnancy (her) and hospitalisation (me).
One year it was suggested that one of us (I can neither confirm or deny who) had a spray tan pre-event. This led to comparisons with Hollywood actor George Hamilton and the formation of G H Tan Pty Ltd.
On Grand Final Eve 2014 the phone rang around 11am. It was Laura Francis from A Current Affair, letting me know my story on road safety would run that night.
By 6.30pm I was at a pub finishing our celebrations. Channel 9 was on in the corner.
“I’ll be on that TV in a minute”, I said to the young barmaid.
“Listen buddy,” she said, “you’re full of it.”
My attempts to convince her failed badly. “If I see you on that TV, it’s free drinks for you for the rest of the night,” she offered.
“You’d better turn around,” I said.
Her face did rather tighten as Laura and I appeared in a tight two-shot.
Bill Hodges has been a MCC member since 1988 and, prior to that, attended numerous matches with his Dad. He loves footy and attends almost all matches at the 'G. In fact, the first VFL final he attended was in 1975 at the tender age of six. Of the 58 qualifying finals played since 1972 in Melbourne, Bill has attended 53. Seriously injured in a transport accident in 2006, Bill walks permanently with crutches. Yet, he can still manage a spring in his step every September.