I have always associated football, and my beloved Melbourne Demons, with a few basic truths: Melbourne (the city), the awe-inspiring MCG, bitterly cold weather, no-frills Aussie camaraderie and, though it's a stereotype that I loathe, rich white kids and archaic bourgeois in the MCC.
When faced with the choice of sitting in the grandstand or entering the general admission area where fans sit and stand on the grassy hills, my Territory-dwelling sister assured us that we should go with the latter, because it's a more authentic Darwin footy experience. I think she was right.
Going to this match showed me a side of AFL that you don't get in Melbourne. It was instantly familiar, because, as my sister reasoned, a game in Darwin is similar to a country footy grand final: it's such an exciting, rare event that both tourists and locals come out in force to enjoy the spectacle, even if it's not their team, which ensures a healthy cross-section of the entire community.
Australian Rules football can be extraordinarily divisive; witness the vehement exchanges that frequently occur between passionate Collingwood supporters and fans of, well, any other team. But it is also wonderfully uniting. A love of the same team, or even a love of the game, consistently brings people of all ages, races, classes and beliefs together like nothing else I can think of. It is the great leveller. Finally, it is so beautifully Australian.
Melbourne won the game that night, but it wouldn't have mattered too much if they had lost. What mattered to me was the extraordinary experience of Darwin footy. In many ways, it's footy as it should be. And while not everyone was there to support the Melbourne Football Club, there was an overwhelming sense that, when it comes to this great game of ours, every heart in that ground was beating true.
So much more Northern Territory to come.
When Brodie announced a lovely dinner and drinks to say goodbye to her Melbourne family, I felt that it would be fitting to document the night with portraits of her with some of her closest friends.
The above three images are just gorgeous: the first because the close-up framing of those two beautiful faces is so intimate and subsequently quite moving, and because Brodie looks the epitome of bittersweet while Lucy looks so overwhelmingly happy to be receiving Brodie's embrace; the second because while Roberta is animatedly distressed to be losing her dear friend, Brodie looks simply stunning; and the third because to me that wonderful profile shot embodies Brodie's pride, dignity and bravery.
Before I finish with some of my favourite portraits (and no doubt some of Brodie's favourite relationships), I have a few more things to say to Ms Lancaster. You know this already, Brodie, but I love that I know you, I love that you inspire me, and I love you. So do all of the people in this post. Like them, I'm going to miss having you around. But by living up to your enormous potential, you're giving us all something to look up to. You're going to set the world on fire, and we're all going to be here, waiting for you to return to us, and telling everyone that we knew you way back when, when you were our wonderful friend in a fabulous coat.