2012 GRAND FINAL DIARY – PART I

Saturday 22 September

7.40am

[Alarms sounds]

Gah…. Alarm…. But I don’t wanna go to work…. Hang on a minute. That’s Hoff’s alarm. I don’t have to go to work. It’s Saturday. And last night was Friday. The preliminary final. We won. It all comes flooding back. It is beyond exciting.

Excited as I am, I’m also pretty tired. My eyes refuse to open. We got home last night at around 1.30am, which doesn’t seem like that long ago.

After the game, Ryan’s parents, my family and I went down to meet him. He met us at the front door, grinning from ear-to-ear and pulled us all in for a big hug. I’m not going to lie – he stank. Sweat, grass and Deep Heat. So gross.

And so we hovered around in the warm-up room for a while, exchanging excited glances and congratulatory cuddles. We even had a few congratulatory cuddles with some of the boys that had yet to fully dress themselves – score.

Then Ryan said, “why don’t you guys head off and wait for me, I’ll be with you in twenty minutes, I’ll just shower and get changed.”

Around an hour later I started to think I should go and see security for a map of the stadium. Perhaps Hoff has gotten lost and is wondering around aimlessly through kitchens and physiotherapy rooms, high-fiving kitchen hands and security personnel in the process. Never fear, he was just waylaid by a scrum of media, which after the scrums of the game prior to that, was probably a preferable option.

Finally it was dinnertime, then a few more congratulatory back slaps, followed closely by solemn reminders that there is one game to go, and finally home. At 1.30am. No wonder I’m so tired.

Plus, yesterday was epic. A dawn walk before work to burn off some nervous energy, a whole day of work, pre-footy dinner at the pub, then the main event.

I did feel for my colleague at work, Mary. Not only did Mary agree to swap shifts we me so I could get to the game on time and stress-free, but she listened to me chatter on about the game all day whilst nervously spinning around on my wheely chair in the process. Poor Mary’s not exactly a footy fan, but I think now she knows more about rugby league and Melbourne Storm than she every thought she would or probably ever wanted to know.

Yep, it’s been a big few days.

Hoff doesn’t seem to have stirred so I figure I should roll over and make sure he’s planning on getting up and going to his recovery session. I roll over and find myself nose-to-nose with him, eyes wide open and grinning in a manner that I can only describe as maniacal.

“So…. still excited about last night darlin?” I ask sleepily and somewhat redundantly.

He gives me a smooch by way of answer then bounds out of bed towards the shower. Well, as much as anyone who has played 80 minutes of finals footy in the last 24 hours can ‘bound’ anywhere first thing in the morning.

And so begins the joy and excitement that is grand final week. What a spectacularly special time, and how lucky we were to be amongst it. I’ll be reporting in regularly with some grand final week updates, and I look forward to seeing as passionate people in purple up in Sydney next weekend. Woooooohooooooo!

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FINALS FEVER

“Maybe it would be better if we only had finals every second year….”

Said me, to my dad, about thirty seconds before kick-off last Saturday night when we were about to watch the boys play (nay, smash) the Tigers.

Dad rolled his eyes.

“Do you think?” he said, humouring me. “And what would be the point of the seasons in between?”

“You know….fun….” I trailed off meekly.

I’ll admit it. It was not one of my finest moments. In fact, it was a downright ludicrous idea.

It’s just that I can’t believe finals are here already. It seems to have come around so quickly. One minute Hoff and I were gallivanting across the US, preparing to move home from Wigan and the next minute it’s round 26 and finals are mere days away. I don’t know if I’m ready. I’m so nervous. Hence the outrageous suggestion.

Fortunately, Hoff is ready. In fact, he’s chomping at the bit. Thank goodness.

My nerves aside, I have to admit; this is a pretty exciting time of year.  The calendar flips over to September, the weather gets warmer and eight teams have the opportunity to play their way into the history books. Best of all, our team is one of them.

Everything ramps up at this time of year. There are more training commitments, more media commitments and around our house, we pull together to ensure that footy is the focus. For the rest of the year, Hoff and I purposely spend time away from the game because we believe that balance is important, but we suspend these efforts for the month of September. If there was ever a time to tip the scales in favour of footy, it’s now.

It’s such a unique time of year, not knowing what is going to happen from one weekend to the next. As a partner, it presents a host of new questions that we don’t deal with throughout the season.

For example, if the boys have to play a semi-final, preliminary-final or qualifier interstate, do I go? On the one hand, it’s a big occasion, and I want to be there to support Ryan. On the other hand, if I go, am I insinuating that I think that it will be the only opportunity? Maybe staying home is a show of faith that says that I believe that I will need to pace myself for the Big One. I am sure this is a quandary that fans can relate to as well.

We also forget about a normal social life for this month. If we get invited to anything throughout September, the RSVP conversation goes something like this: “Thanks for the invitation. At this stage we’re not sure if we’ll be there. Well, I might be there. But Ryan probably won’t be. Hopefully he won’t be. What? No! Of course he wants to come. But he might be otherwise engaged. Hopefully. Depending on scheduling. And winning. Do you know what I mean? No? Never mind. Shall I bring a salad?”

I also find it a little difficult not to dwell on the elephant in the room – post-season. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Ryan has a career that I can share in, and that has the potential for great excitement and reward. But a small part of me wants to chew his ear off talking about all the fun things we’re going to do when we get our weekends back for a couple of months. And that’s an unnecessary distraction. Only if we’ve booked our place in the Big One do we get to be a little excited about what comes after. Before then, it’s a case of being careful what you wish for. Too much dwelling on the post-season might encourage it to be a reality a little earlier that what we all might wish.

Ultimately, these next four weeks have the potential for great excitement, or great disappointment. And it’s the tension between the two possible outcomes that makes finals such an exciting and nerve-racking time of year. I’m so proud of Ryan and all the boys for giving themselves a shot at the ultimate reward, and I can’t wait to sit back, relax and watch them do their best.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. I can’t wait to on the edge of my seat, rigid with nerves, and watch them do their best.

EXCITING TIMES

So here’s my summary of the 2012 season so far: we’re at the half way mark, our boys are 11 – 1 and we are sitting on top of the NRL table. Hurrah!

A superfluous summary for this readership, perhaps?

And whilst credit has been paid where credit is undoubtedly due, many commentators have also wondered whether we can continue our run this Friday, without Billy, Cam and Cooper. The bookies have suggested outright that we will not.

As a result, some may believe that this is a round we must simply endure, a necessary evil of the Origin period. Some may be already looking forward to the business end of the season, where blue and maroon disruptions are behind us.

I humbly suggest, however, that this is a round to be treasured, not to be wished away.

This is a special time of year. It is an opportunity to test our depth, to provide a stage on which some new stars can shine and it is a chance to marvel at the development of some of our younger established players, who will be expected to share an increased load of responsibility this week.

Personally, I think this is the week to sit up and take notice. These are exactly the right set of circumstances that will provide an opportunity for the next generation of greatness to show a glimpse of what’s to come.

At times like these, I am reminded that our established superstars were once in this position too – awaiting their opportunity to grab the ball and run with it, so to speak.

No matter how quick an ascent to stardom might seem, there is always some time spent waiting in the wings. Or on the wing, or in the centres, or on the bench, as is sometimes the case.

There is no such thing as a free or easy ride. To onlookers a player may seem like an overnight success, to the players themselves, the wait can seem like an eternity.

Until a week like this comes along and an opportunity is presented. Times like these are not only a natural part of the team development process, I would argue times like these are valuable and necessary.

As fans we simply get to watch on, hold our collective breath, and hope for something special. That something special might be an outstanding team effort, or it might be an individually brilliant performance. And goodness knows here at Melbourne we are accustomed to those!

One game that stands out in my memory was Round 13 of 2007. We took an Origin depleted side across the Tasman to take on the Warriors and came home with the points after a score-line of 2-4. Ryan didn’t even play in that game and yet it always springs to mind when I think of my proudest moments as a Storm supporter – oops, sorry Hoff.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone down here that we also came away with the two points in the corresponding fixture last year as well.

Wins like these are so rewarding. They are rewarding for the players who prove that they are up to the challenge of any opposition, anywhere, anytime, and rewarding for fans who can rest assured that whatever the future holds, the club is in good collective hands.

At the Storm we have in our ranks some players who will no doubt go down as some of the greatest players in the current rugby league era, and I know we are all very proud of that.

But in weeks like these we are duty bound to share that talent with Queensland, and the week-to-week objectives of this team are left in the capable hands of the players that pull on the purple jersey this week.

Weeks like these are a testament to the best thing about this sport – it takes an entire team to achieve success. I know that the team that runs out this week will be eager to prove that.

And make no mistake – it is all about the win. It might be tempting to suggest that the result is immaterial, that a good showing will be enough, but this is not the case. I believe our boys will only be happy if they put in their best. The question is, is their best good enough?

I think we all know the answer to that.

*****

A final thought…

Whenever I write COARLW posts, I try not to let me own biases and preferences get in the way of a good story and I like to think that most of the time I succeed. But today, I give up.

I hope you will all forgive me a little bias when I say – good luck to my all time favourite Melbourne Storm player (and indeed, my all time favourite person) with the captaincy this weekend! I am very proud.

And finally, a little shout out to ‘Bellyache’ on this occasion of his 250th game as coach. What can we say about a man whose influence has been so integral to the direction and success of this club? Here’s hoping a simple but heartfelt ‘congratulations’ will suffice.

SINCEREST THANKS

My confession for today is this: sometimes, Hoff and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye.

Sometimes we respectfully disagree. Sometimes we share a heated exchange. And sometimes we argue around in circles until I lobby our cat Rosie for her support so we can outvote Hoff 2-1. At this he usually refuses to talk to me again until I leave the cat out of it.

One of our biggest recurring disagreements is this: Ryan thinks that I am overly zealous in my pride and status as a Melbournian.

Pffft. What would he know? Can I help it if I was born and raised in the best city in Australia and possibly (probably) the world?

He reckons that my unashamed city pride is obvious because I will vehemently dispute any anti-Melbourne sentiment, but blindly and wholeheartedly agree with any Melbourne endorsement.

This might be true, but it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a proud Melbournian. It’s just that all the bad things I hear about Melbourne are wrong and all the great things I hear about Melbourne are right.

How is that my fault?

Case in point: State of Origin 1.

Much was said about the decision to host the series opener in Melbourne, and not all of it was nice. It was a shame that any negativity permeated its way into the lead up of what was essentially an exciting moment for the legitimate national expansion of our game, but far be it from me to wish to stifle healthy debate.

The point is, it turned out be one of those aforementioned moments where the anti-Melbourne rhetoric was wrong, and we in the pro-Melbourne camp had a win.

SOO1 in Melbourne was absolutely a success. Record breaking ratings, a sold out stadium, and a game that rugby league fans will not soon forget. Surely, as a code, this is all we could wish for.

And yes, that stadium was full on Wednesday night. Some may think it was full of the wrong type of people (Victorians), which seems archaic at best. At worst, it’s a little rude.

I am sure I am not alone when I say that the build up to the game down here was fantastic. Rarely has rugby league had such a palpable presence in this state.

All of my trips to Tullamarine over the last couple of months were watched over by Paul Gallen, grimacing down at me from an over-freeway billboard.

I have listened to my sister chat excitedly about the group of ten of her workmates that had arranged tickets well in advance to go and make a night of it.

We drove to Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night through a sea of Blue and Maroon.

It was ace. And it was a far cry from some of my earlier experiences of supporting rugby league in Melbourne.

Admittedly, my own foray into the world of rugby league was initially not so much an exercise in curiosity, as it was in practicality. Ryan came to me as a package deal – love him, love the game. So I did.

I was a quick and enthusiastic convert, and in the early days I found myself spending a lot of time and energy explaining my new found hobby (and boyfriend) to my Melbourne friends and family.

Some of my favourite quotes went like this:

“So, your new boyfriend, he’s a rugby player…. Does he have a neck?”

– My sister, Tara.

“Oh yeah, Melbourne Storm, that’s that basketball team…”

– A girlfriend, on chatting to Ryan about his job.

“When I asked what you did for a living, Ryan dear, I meant what is your job? Surely you have a proper job?”

– A well-meaning aunt.

“So, it’s basically a gigantic, professional game of stacks-on, right?”

– That one was me, actually.

These days, this kind of confusion is rare. Thanks to the tireless work of many rugby league fans, administrators and players, the code has a real presence down here mow, and whilst I miss the hilarity provided by these early exchanges, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

SOO1 was just another step in this important process. Maybe the 8-year-olds of Victoria haven’t always grown up feverishly anticipating the first hit-up of another State of Origin series, but maybe next year some Victorian 9-year-olds will.

That said, I recognise that as a Melbournian, it is easy to get swept up in a sense of entitlement. State of Origin is an exercise built on tradition and for those that have loved it since the beginning, it must not be easy to see that tradition altered.

So to the people of New South Wales and Queensland, I personally would like to say this: we offer our sincerest thanks. Thank you for sharing your amazing exercise in sportsmanship and physicality with us. We loved it, we appreciated it, and if you will let us have it again, we promise we will look after it.

Thank you to the players for a great show. Thank you to the fans that came to Etihad Stadium that night – locals and welcome visitors. Thanks to the Melbourne and Broncos fans who backed up on Friday night and came along to AAMI Park – Bill, Cooper and Cam are not the only ones who deserve a shout out for endurance this week! Thank you to the decision-makers that made it happen.

I think we can now all agree that this is not just another shot-fired in the Melbourne v Sydney or Melbourne v Everyone Else war. This is not about that.

It’s about sharing the rugby league love (man). It’s about exposing new audiences to the jewel in the rugby league crown. It’s about the ‘N’ in NRL.

Which I think is something that we can all agree is important. Even Rosie the cat knows that.*

* No kitties were harmed in the making of this blog

LEST WE FORGET

In October 2010, Hoffy and I were fortunate enough to spend a week in Paris. We ate baguettes under the Eiffel Tower, we devoured crepes outside Notre Dame and we munched on cheese and crackers at the Moulin Rouge.

And two things occurred to me then (as they do again now):

(a)     Why is it always about food with me?

(b)     This is all a bit girly. Perhaps I should ask Hoff if he has any requests for Paris sight-seeing…

I ignored point (a) and kept right on eating, but in response to point (b), I relinquished my Chief Holiday Officer title momentarily and opened the floor to suggestions.

And this is how Ryan and I ended up spending a day touring Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux and Pozieres, immersing ourselves an area of France that is fundamental to Australian military history.

I should note at this point that Hoffy is a bit of a history buff. He is particularly interested in the conflicts of WWI and WWII and has a depth of knowledge that is quite remarkable. So it was no surprise to me that he made this particular suggestion.

And as this was very much Hoffy’s suggestion, in taking the tour I felt that I was doing my duty as a wife and travel companion, but not necessarily as an Australian. Which I later realised was much more to the point.

Without wishing to sound melodramatic, that day changed my whole perception of our history. I had no idea so many Australian lives were lost in that region during WWI. I had no idea our soldiers were so highly regarded as a result of our efforts. I had no idea that many of the people in the area still value the ANZAC contribution today as if it were yesterday.

Now ANZAC Day takes on an entirely new meaning for me. I have seen the remnants of the trenches of WWI, I have seen the pristine monuments marking this turbulent time, and I have seen the original grave of the Unknown Soldier who now rests in Canberra.

And today Melbourne Storm and the New Zealand Warriors have the privilege of competing in a fixture that honours the men and women of our ANZAC history. It is just one of the many occasions that mark this day in the lives of Australians and New Zealanders each year, and it means many different things to different people.

For Matt Duffie honour is three-fold. Aside from the prestige of the ANZAC fixture, Duffie made his debut during this very round two years ago and is honoured that his debut coincided with this occasion. What’s more, Duffie was an avid Warriors fan growing up and looks forward to this round every year, and particularly to the chance to come up against Manu Vatuvei, who he considers the benchmark for wingers across the competition.

Kevin Proctor also eagerly anticipates this game each season, and cites another important part of this round – the opportunity to compete for the Michael Moore trophy, which honours the memory of the Melbourne Storm football manager who tragically passed away in 2000. Kevin believes that the reminder of the commitment Michael made to the club, along with the playing of the Last Post prior to the game, both work to ensure that the atmosphere will be charged, providing ample motivation for an exciting and hard-fought game.

Jason Ryles is no stranger to the ANZAC Day fixture, having played for both the Dragons and the Roosters in the corresponding game north of the border. That particular game attracts around 30,000-40,000 fans and according to Jason, creates an atmosphere similar to that of a semi-final. This year Jason looks forward to not only to participating in the Storm/Warriors fixture, but to being in the vicinity of the AFL equivalent for the very first time, and seeing how things are done south of the border.

And of course Hoffy is anticipating this game as much as anyone. He is quick to point out that the teams’ efforts today are a spit in the ocean compared to the efforts of our ANZACs back in the day, but he is glad that the two clubs have the opportunity and honour of doing their bit to mark the occasion. During the Last Post he will be thankful that today he gets to go out and play footy, and think of the ANZACs, many of whom were around his age, and instead spent their time at war. He is acutely aware that he is playing footy on a day that means so much to so many people, and looks forward to honouring these people with an appropriate performance.

As fans we can only ask that the game is befitting of the occasion, and I personally look forward to seeing a sea of purple tonight at AAMI Park to help continue this special ANZAC tradition.

DOING THE DIRTY

Sometimes in life, it is perfectly okay to do the dirty.

Hear me out.

Maybe you are loyal to the golden arches, but one day only a Whopper will do.

You might be a caffeine fiend, but occasionally you will try a chai.

Your heart might belong to Ramsey Street, but you holiday in Summer Bay.

Sometimes in life, it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

So here it is: [Braces for inevitable cacophony of objection] It is okay to follow both the NRL and the AFL.

Hello….? Are you still with me….? Is this thing on…?

I realise this is a contentious proposition.

Full disclosure: I am Melburnian. I barrack for the mighty Dees. I am forever looking for the fixture on the NRL website, not the draw. I tend to ask who was ‘Best on Ground’ despite repeatedly being told that we call it ‘Man of the Match’. I try to keep abreast of news at the tribunal, always forgetting that we call it the judiciary.

And as a proud Melburnian and even prouder Melbourne Storm supporter, I am here to put the case forward for ‘doing the double’, having have seen both sides of the NRL v AFL debate.

‘Debate’ is probably a euphemism. Perhaps ‘battle’ would be more apt.

NRL fans call AFL ‘aerial ping pong’. AFL fans call NRL ‘thugby’. NRL fans call AFL players soft. AFL fans call NRL players ‘bum sniffers’ (an unfortunate reference to our scrums, in case you are wondering). And so it goes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is okay to enjoy both.

Let us take a moment to consider the very subjects that spark all of this conjecture – the players. For the most part they seem perfectly happy to co-exist, working together side-by-side to deliver the utmost in Victorian sporting entertainment. (Victoria the state, that is, not the Victorian period. That would be weird. Imagine the boys playing croquet or lawn tennis.)

My very own husband has committed to follow the mighty Dees at my insistence. He is forever marvelling at the fitness and stamina of AFL players, and was as proud as punch when our game produced two athletes in Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, who were able to make the switch.

And the love affair is by no means one-way. Hawthorn Football Club’s Shaun Burgoyne counts himself as a rugby league fan, having followed the game now for about 8 years. He cites the physical differences between the two types of athlete as the most marked difference, and suggests if any AFL were to ever make the jump to the NRL, that they may like to pack on a few kilos first!

Shaun’s interest in the game began when he himself went professional, and he was looking for an outlet for his love of sport outside of the AFL, which already demanded so much of his time and energy. Having met our fearless leader Cam last year, he is now officially in the Melbourne Storm corner. You may have seen him at AAMI park already a couple of times this year and fixture allowing, he hopes to make it to many more.

Let us also not ignore the synergies between the two games. Time and time again Melburnian sporting commentators will ask our boys whether they’ve soaked up any AFL pointers, being exposed to the game as often as we are down here. And when Billy scores a try like the one he did in round 1 against the Raiders it’s not hard to see where they are coming from.

On the subject of Billy, it was great to see him mixing it with Eddie McGuire on ‘Eddie McGuire Tonight’, a couple of weeks ago. It was an in-depth discussion about all things AFL and league and in my humble opinion, it should happen more often. Had Mr McGuire shared the black and white view (no pun intended) that one must firmly plant themselves on either side of the AFL/NRL divide, this discussion would never have taken place. And Billy would never have had the opportunity to use his not insignificant charm to work his way into the hearts of AFL followers everywhere.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am unconcerned about the commercial battle between the AFL and the NRL. Like every rugby league supporter I am watching the AFL make inroads into Queensland and Western Sydney with interest and foreboding. As a code we absolutely must keep pace with our rivals but I do think that this is a battle to be fought by administrators, not fans. As fans all we can do is continue to support our wonderful team and let the other war play out in the boardroom.

So where does that leave us? It’s not easy doing the double and it is certainly not an exercise recommended for the faint-hearted. Not so long ago my Dad came along to a Storm night game having played golf if the morning, then having watched his beloved Dees at the G in the afternoon. He went around telling everyone that he was a tri-athlete. Now I don’t know about that, but certainly it is a valiant effort.

And for all you Melburnian AFL supporters out there – you are extremely lucky. It’s so easy to pick your NRL team down here because there’s only one of us. The hard work has been done so get on board. We promise you’ll be happy with your choice.

Of course there are going to be instances when the back pocket or the fixture will not allow you to attend both games and in these cases, of course AAMI Park takes precedence. In fact, you don’t ever have to attend an AFL game if you don’t want. Certainly after being spoilt by the precision and pace of our two 40-minutes halves I find my own attention span challenged by an afternoon of AFL.

Nevertheless, I have a dream. It is a dream of a city where AFL and NRL supporters band together for the betterment of both of our codes. Where tries and goals are scored in front of equally adoring crowds. Where our newsagents stock as many Big Leagues as Records. Where referees and umpires are abhorred with the same amount of collective vitriol. That’s what I would like to see.

A MELBOURNE STORM MENAGERIE

So here’s the thing: I never really wanted to write a Confessions piece about Billy. Slater, that is, for those of you currently residing under a rock.

Now before you all go hitting ‘send’ on the ‘You are cordially invited to a lynching’ emails, hear me out. I have a good reason.

I just don’t like him much.

Pitchforks down, people – I’m kidding. Obviously.

I actually think Billy is rather ace, and this is exactly what makes him a difficult subject. Much has been said about Billy and his ace-ness and I really don’t want to cover old ground. Yes, he is a Storm, Queensland and Australian superstar (old news). Yes, he is super fast (duh). Yes, he scores many spectacular tries (yawn).

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Melbourne Storm fans will not appreciate this reluctance to cover one of their favourite sons. So this week I set about trying to find a way to ensure the most up-close and personal of insights. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

And seeing as there were no horses available for comment, I decided to go to the next best thing. Not a horse, but a dog, a rabbit and a parrot.

So here’s the first fun Billy fact: Billy not only shares his home with wife Nicole, and two munchkins Tyla (3) and Jake (18 months), but with Puggles the Pug, Charlie the Mini Lop rabbit and Lewy the Grey African parrot.

And it’s Puggles, Charlie and Lewy who sat down with me to share their exclusive views* on living with the man himself.

Me: Thanks everyone for joining me today to chat about Billy. How are we all feeling?

Charlie (the rabbit): Delighted to be making my media debut. Does my fur look okay?

Me: It’s not a TV interview, Charlie. How bout you Lewy?

Lewy (the parrot): Peachy keen. Wait – so, Billy is the one that gets around in purple all the time, right? Sorry, I’m new here.

Me: Yes Lewy. And you, Puggles?

Puggles (the Pug): (Doesn’t hear the question as she is straining her neck to see where Billy is sitting in the lounge room. Looks decidedly anxious to be forced to sit somewhere other than at his feet).

Me: Perhaps we’ll start with you, Charlie, an obvious question: have you ever been concerned that Billy might ask you to volunteer your foot as a good luck charm?

Charlie: Heavens no! I need all of my feet for hopping and other bunny activities. As well as general symmetry, of course. Actually I don’t think he has a good luck charm as such, but he certainly has an unusual game day habit…

Me: Sounds interesting, do tell…

Charlie: He announces everything that he’s doing to the household-

Lewy: (interjects) Yeah! Like, he’ll say really loud, “I’M JUST GOING TO WATCH TV ON THE COUCH FOR A WHILE NOW” or “NOW I’M GOING TO GO FOR A WALK AND READ THE PAPER”. It’s super weird…

Me: So the usual match-day stuff, but with a running commentary – fascinating. And you mentioned going for a walk, Puggles, I assume you would accompany Billy on these and any other walking activities?

Puggles: Yep, that’s me, number one walking buddy. Actually, number one favourite pet and golden child to be specific (Puggles glares at the bird and the rabbit). I’ve been around for the longest, you see. (Puffs out chest) 

Me: Of course. But Billy’s pretty fast – commentators used to call him ‘Billy See-You-Later’ – do you have trouble keeping up with him?

Puggles: No way, man. These legs might look stumpy, but I’m pretty speedy.

Me: Now Lewy, your cage is situated in view of the kitchen – does Billy have any interesting eating habits we should know about?

Lewy: Does he ever – the man eats all the time!! I thought the dog inhaled everything in sight, but Billy is nearly as bad.

Me: Anything strange or unusual?

Lewy: You bet – he likes to get 3 or 4 different cereals and mix them together and eat them all at once.

Me: How odd – kind of like a cereal mixiologist?

Lewy: Exactly. Wait – a what?

Me: Never mind. So is it just custom cereal blends or does he have other kitchen talents? I know when Hoffy and Billy lived together that Billy cooked a mean roast – have his cooking talents developed since then?

Charlie: Well, I haven’t been around since then, so I couldn’t say, but I do notice he is very possessive of his barbecue…

Puggles: Absolutely. The barbie is Billy’s zone only. Well, I’m allowed to hang out there with him but no one else. Not even Nicole.

Me: How about desserts? Does he have a sweet tooth?

Lewy: Sure does! Tim Tams especially. Sometimes he eats too many and Nicole has to put them out of reach. And not only out of reach, but out of tackling distance. Honestly, you humans and Tim Tams, I’ll never understand.

Charlie: So true! Are they really as good as lettuce leaves?

Me: I reckon they just might be, Charlie. Now tell me, TV watching habits – what’s the story?

Charlie: Our favourite channel is National Geographic, obviously, but if Billy has the remote it’s sport, sport, sport and more sport. But as soon as he’s out the door, Nicole and I get to catch up with the Kardashians and Summer Bay. Bliss…

Me: So Billy’s not a Kardashian fan, that kind of surprises me. On the topic of watching sport, do you guys watch Billy’s games?

Puggles/Lewy/Charlie: (A cacophony of agreement)

Me: Okay, okay, I take it that’s a yes. Now, aside from Billy, who’s your favourite player?

Lewy: Well, Billy’s always talking about this guy Danger who doesn’t stop chirping all day. I think that kind of sounds like me so he’s my favourite.

Charlie: Hmmm. There used to be this guy a while ago who had teeth like mine – I think his name was Finchy? He was my favourite ‘cause we’re teeth buddies…

Puggles: Do I really have to pick someone other than Billy?

Charlie: (rolls eyes) Teacher’s pet….

Me: No pun intended? And no Puggles, you don’t have to pick someone else. Okay, this is the one I’ve been dying to ask someone. We all know the things Billy is good at, but is there anything he’s really bad at?

Charlie/Puggles/Lewy: (Silence)

Me: Come on guys, there must be something.

Hoffy: (interjects from the couch where he’s being pretending to watch TV but he’s really eavesdropping) He’s rubbish at cricket!

Billy: (has similarly forgotten all pretence of trying not to listen) Whatever Hoff, I can take you any time.

Me: Oi – enough couch sledging you two, I’m trying to conduct an interview here. Go ahead guys.

Puggles: (Hesitantly) Weeeelllll, he’s really bad at losing. I don’t know if you have this problem with Ryan, but Billy is really competitive. You should see him play Monopoly – it’s frightening!

Me: I hear ya, sister. Anything else?

Charlie: (meekly) He’s a pretty average dancer.

Lewy: And singer. Totally tone deaf. And I would know.

Me: So epic football talent comes at the cost of performing arts ability? That seems fair somehow. Now one last question – do you know of any plans to expand your merry band of animal revellers anytime soon?

Charlie: There was talk of a guinea pig to keep me company for a while there but I think Billy has toed the line at the three of us. Actually, Tyla was playing outside the other day and befriended a fly, of all things, which she named Gareth Widdop… But sadly Gareth flew away and we haven’t seen him since.

Me: Wow. A fly named Gareth Widdop. Now I’ve heard it all. Well that’s all for now, thanks guys very much for your time, I’m sure the Melbourne Storm fans will really appreciate the insight.

Puggles: Hang on a minute! I don’t want to give my – I mean, Billy’s fans the wrong idea about anything so do I get to read it before it gets published?

Me: Don’t be ridiculous Puggles, dogs can’t read.

*With special thanks to Nicole Slater for ‘translating’.