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The Quiet Time

From the Members Tuesday JUL 07

By Lynda Carroll

So, now the MCG is empty.

It’s in the winter of its discontent, drained of colour, noise and activity.

Late on Sunday, Melbourne and Richmond played the last game at the ground for the foreseeable future. The bags of players and officials were packed, ready for teams to retreat to interstate hubs.

Richmond won, but there was nobody there to create the surround sound spine tingle of ‘yellow and black!’

Melbourne lost, but there was nobody there to exchange disappointments with, stomping disconsolately across Yarra Park.

Hannan’s goals, Pickett’s almost mark, Petracca’s bustling efforts; all observed by a distant audience. The crowd noise was like so much static, the supporters on the broadcast a lovely reminder of bigger days.

Will any of this be filed away in the memory bank? Everyone carries images of the game in their mind’s eye, and one that holds firm for many Melbourne supporters is Jeff Farmer’s beautiful mark of Round 22, 1998. Propelling his height high above the turf, he balanced briefly on the shoulders of Garry Lyon. Richmond opponents and teammates alike were left amazed – but not surprised – by the flying ‘Wiz’. As it was replayed on the scoreboard, the entire crowd united in lifting its gaze, a murmur of excitement paying homage to the achievement.

The result seemed almost immaterial, but checking back now, it was Melbourne by 76 points, heading for the finals, while the loss condemned the Tigers to ninth place.

Now, of course, two of the most recent premierships – 2017 and 2019 – are in Richmond’s keeping, and as reigning premiers, the Tigers quite rightly lightly boxed the Demons’ ears yesterday.

And now, the MCG is empty. It is always a different place when it’s quiet. This silence of 2020 is prolonged. It is not even like the Second World War, when Marines and RAAF personnel came into the ground to stay. There was a presence there then. But – right now – nearly everyone has moved away from our beautiful ground, and we don’t quite know when we’ll be back.

Like the memories we hold, let us focus on what is there, and what will always be there when we are, too.

The views, and the queues, and the ushers and the families and friends; the MCC couches and Level Four nosebleed seats; the clatter of beer barrels and feet on stairs: all will be there when we are, too.

The sugar scent of doughnuts, the excited shrieks of little people playing kick-to-kick outside, the friendly banter about on field theatrics, the low blare of the siren and the steady glow of the lights. These will all be there, just for us, when we are too.

Sometimes, I think that this is why the MCG has to be so huge. It has much to hold, much to protect, from those ghostly honour boards in the stairwells, to the thousands of seats and every blade of grass in the middle of the ground. That is just the tangible stuff, of course. It also has millions upon millions of stories to hold close, part of what makes it more than purely concrete, steel and turf. It is positively buzzing with generations of memories, experiences and connections.

The MCG is a magic place, and – again, when Melbourne and Richmond meet – one of the occasions on which its true heart is shown is Anzac Eve. Light dominates on this occasion, with the huge towers beaming down benevolently, the commemorative cauldron glowing brightly, and the crowd reaching out, phones in hand. The stadium is lit up as if by fireflies; past and present meet across the void, and everyone is part of the night.

It may be a while before such sights are seen again. But we will be back, scanning through the turnstiles, tracking down our seats, and the MCG will welcome us, ready to be part of our stories once more.

Lynda Carroll

Lynda Carroll considers the MCG to be her second home, so is a little bit forlorn at the moment. She is looking forward to getting back there, and to spending some quality research and writing time in the MCC Library, which is undoubtedly one of her favourite places at the ground. Lynda has just started work on a history of the Melbourne Football Club focusing on the seasons from 2000 onward. This is being undertaken with the support of the MFC Past and Present Players' and Officials' Association, of which she is a committee member.