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Standing room only

  • 30 November 2021
The time: Queen’s Birthday Monday 1992. The place: outside the Great Southern Stand of the MCG. The occasion: St Kilda versus Collingwood. One word, belonging to the world we all now live in, brings the scene vividly back to me … because the gathering throng is clearly going to be huge — much bigger than forecast — and because one section of the G, at least as I remember it, is closed off for some local temporary reason, a very large crowd will require more than routine management.

And that’s why thousands of us — milling round, approaching, queuing, changing queues, scanning the multitudes to glimpse the friends, relatives, beloveds or usual footy-going mates who are due any minute — are trying at the same time to pay attention to the continuous announcement from a disembodied voice over the crackling sound system with instructions that go something like this:

‘If you are a Collingwood member or a concessional Collingwood member, go to the left of Gate 7 as you face the ground, unless you’re an AFL member in which case go to Gate 8 except if you are blue ticket AFL member and are convinced Tony Lockett will definitely play today [he didn’t] then proceed to Gate 6 or preferably give up and go round to the Ponsford Stand which can’t be accessed from the Southern Stand which anyway is nearly full so please use the small gateway to the right of Gate 7 if your ticket number is  …’

Well, that’s how it sounded over and over to people in the rush and crush desperately trying to work out which queue not to waste their time in.

I had arranged to meet my sons and a couple of their friends at 12.00pm. We actually met at 12.05pm (some people are just incapable of being on time) and, having tackled with moderate success the intellectual challenge of discovering how and where to actually get into the ground, we were inside and ensconced in standing room at Section M13-14 by 12.45pm. For those who still like to watch football (and cricket for that matter) while standing and with room to move around a little, these covert niches on the ground level of the Great Southern Stand are a godsend. Some of them, including M13-14, are also very handy to a bar.

Being early on this Queen’s Birthday of which I speak, we command the fence separating us from a block of Collingwood reserved