It is just over 48 hours to that one great day for all Australian Rules football fanatics; the last Saturday in September when two top teams fight it out for ultimate victory and the premiership! But beyond the boundary, I have toughed it out for my personal premiership, borrowing the philosophy and psychology of football and applying their tenets to my own life. Despite the many disappointments that have pervaded my journey over the years (which permeate the psyches of all players, too), football has reigned sacrosanct as a significant source of joy and pleasure. Indeed, it has taught me to not just care for my physical well-being, but has enhanced my mental tenacity to enable me to ride the crests and troughs life has dished out. Stripping away the pretense of superficial prizes such as the great career, house, car, husband and family, I have endeavoured to enrich my life with the excitement that emanates from loving myself; feeling good without needing to live on the outside for society’s approval. It’s been a journey that spans nearly 50 years (am I really such a football addict?), when I’ve laughed and cried over the antics of my beloved Blueboys every winter. I have admired their prowess not just on the football field (and it’s certainly waned at times) but especially, the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Without it, there would be no premiership and no plaudits and it is that intensity that I have used as inspiration for my success. Call it a personal power; a sense of self-worth and dignity that allows me to withstand the many trials and tribulations as I traverse the avenues of life.
There is no prize for coming second; life, and of course, love, demand a winning mentality that enshrines a wisdom about the complexities and confusions that can at times, bedevil our sanity and our reason. It is about keeping focused, positive and confident, and backing yourself when no one else does. It is about rebounding from adversity, the capacity to bounce back, even after a big defeat. Or taking it one week at a time as the football pundits have it! Understanding loss in your life and transcending that to triumph. Our society can be cruel; there are many footballers who have been written off because they can’t make the grade, only to trade to another club and flourish. That is what football can teach us; don’t give up, don’t dispel the dream and don’t believe what others might think of you. What you think of yourself is ultimately what matters most. Pursue your passion and dare to dream again – albeit in another dimension! Beating our competitors can often seem impossible; reality dictates we are failures, losers, but turning that around to win for ourselves will outsmart the opposition every time. Self-belief against all the negativity and put downs I have written about will conjure up the magic needed to maintain our majesty. In 1970, a long time ago, Carlton was playing Collingwood in the Grand Final. Sad to say that at half-time, The Blues were losing by 44 points and I shed a few silent tears, wanting to abandon the MCG and bury my sorrow in a beer. But I stayed and what had seemed impossible just 20 minutes before actually transpired before my moist eyes. Carlton came out in the third quarter like a new team and played with sheer guts and determination, a relentless resolve to just keep on fighting. It won the game, the premiership and remains for me a great testimony of indefatigability, courage and inspiration. It made the impossible, possible. I was absolutely euphoric; and the lesson I learned from that game still inflames me today – it’s not over till the final siren rings and that is the challenge of life! Never say die! (At least, keep on going while you can!)
Certainly, there have been moments in my life when I’ve felt depressed, remiss to know who to turn to and where to turn, when the pressure of simply making ends meet seemed insurmountable. Now without an income is one of those times. But I no longer sink into despair; I don’t allow the pressure to pin me down and some good friends have helped me along the way. And that’s football too – a team effort when mates can buck you up when all seems hopeless and lost. Winning football teams don’t panic; they take one kick at a time and play it out without surrender, they believe in each other and stand strong and together as a team. That’s life, too. No man is an island, to quote the poet John Donne, and we need to know who our real friends are; those who support us through the hard times and aren’t impressed by the accoutrements of superficial success. They buy us dinner, they shout us a drink and are positive to our endeavours and aspirations, even if they seem just out of reach. They encourage our hope and our dreams, and are pivotal in our pursuit of life, with all its riches. I’ve also learned to turn to myself; to search profoundly inside myself and find the strength for self-belief. Yes, I’ve succumbed to pressure at times, I’ve failed at some of my undertakings, but now, as a Femmosexual in middle-age (I won’t say old age!), I have regained my confidence, self-belief and optimism that allows me to enjoy my own power and love – of myself and others. I might not have the riches that belong in a bank or the prestige or status of a coveted job, but I certainly have a few good friends and a passion for the inspiring rewards of life itself. That is my personal premiership; the prize I’ve struggled and fought for over many years, and I look forward to the Grand Final in a couple of days with joy even though Carlton isn’t playing in it. Follow that Football! And hold your own Cup aloft! May it be brimming with champagne.