My Mum, Margaret, is a passionate woman; passionate and vocal. She loves sport, and she loves her family, and so the two combined was always going to result in some rather embarrassed teenaged boys.
I’ve played a lot of footy in my time, and Mum and Dad came to pretty much all of my junior games. While Dad is very quiet, and wouldn’t say anything, with Mum there I’d be pretty confident that anyone within 50 metres of her would have been aware that there was a guy out there playing named Greg. I’d also be pretty confident that they would know it was me.
When you are young that kind of thing is embarrassing, but when you are older, or have children of your own, remembering that kind of support is heart-warming. The two of them being there is enough, but as there should be no person on this planet more on your side than your mum, my mum has left me in absolutely no doubt that that is true of our relationship.
I actually hate Hawthorn, but I have grown an appreciation for my Mum’s support of them. In the week just gone I had a conversation with her about the actions of Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis, who had struck a player each against North Melbourne. These are two fantastic players that have been significant contributors in a great side that has delivered three flags in the past seven years. She was absolutely scathing of Hodge, the captain. She thought his behaviour was disgraceful, and wanted him to come out and categorically state them to be unacceptable.
She wanted him to ensure that image of a Premiership Captain striking an opponent in the face could never be seen by the viewing public as anything other than contrary to the values of sport. Amen to that. Team support shouldn’t overcome personal ethics, and I’m proud to say that with my Mum, it doesn’t.
I know that if I had done anything untoward on the footy field that my mum would have told me off. At the tail end of the cricket season, when the Aussies were in the news once again for their on-field behaviour, I had a conversation with her about sledging. She hates it, and told me when I said that I have deliberately targeted batsmen about their performance to get them to slip their guard and get out, that she was uncomfortable with me doing so.
She’s not coming just from the couch or a high horse either. Mum has, despite being a lifelong sufferer of chronic asthma, played sport for most of her life. She was 38 when she had me, and I have some strong and warm childhood memories of watching her play netball for the Hot Pinks every Tuesday with our next door neighbour.
Mum is about 5 foot tall, and played as a defender. She gave every contest absolutely everything, and was one of the most determined sports people you will see. She overcame her lack of height with a great deal of effort, a lesson I feel I carried into my own time playing sport.
Mum is 72 now, and has had a knee reconstruction in her 50s from an incident in netball. That kind of stuffed up her netball career, but she kept playing tennis right through her 50s and 60s until she needed to have both knees replaced. After the replacements, she got herself back to playing tennis again. A 70 year old chronic asthmatic who’d had a knee reconstruction and two knee replacements still playing mid-week tennis is pretty impressive.
She’s had to give it away now as her lungs have deteriorated in recent years, but it had to be pretty significant to stop her. She’s certainly a determined lady. I recall filling in for her mixed Monday night tennis team when I was in my early 20s, and being struck by how quick she was to get to the ball. She was able to reach drop shots or balls you thought were passed her. Her Dad was a sprinter who won a heat at the Stawell Gift, so I gather she inherited a bit of his speed.
I’m no quicker than the next bloke, but I reckon I got a bit of her determination and love of the scrap, the fight for the ball or for the hard to reach ball. It was certainly true in our house that ball games, no matter how energetic, were safe and above board unless Mum was involved. As soon as Mum was amongst it, the competitiveness lifted and something would break.
The timing of this being written on Mothers’ Day would sit uncomfortably with her, as she always made it known that she didn’t really believe in Mothers’ Day, or birthdays, or stuff like that. She didn’t feel that she’d had kids for them to give her things; quite the opposite. Further to that, if you love and appreciate someone, you shouldn’t need a specific day to show your love and appreciation. Rather, your general behaviour should convey that message regularly.
This is true of my Mum’s behaviour towards me. From her barracking for her boys at the footy, to her tolerating hours and hours of junior cricket while learning cross stitch, to her thinking about us when the Tigers lost, to her knowing everything about me other than, on occasion, my name, I have always had her in my corner.
With some reflection, I can state that the same is true the other way. I’m an unabashed fan of my Mum, Hawthorn supporter and all.