As a young kid, I was obsessed with footy. I collected all the stickers, cards, footy records… you name it. I could rattle off the stats of a random game from as far back as I could remember. How many goals did Wayne Carey kick in Round 8, 1999 versus the Hawks?
7 goals 1 behind, of course. Easy!
It seemed a little bit obsessive, and even more so considering I wasn’t even a Kangaroos supporter! My heart bled red and black, and every single week I’d either be sitting in the back of the Ponsford Stand with my old man or watching the game on TV, screaming my little lungs out. It’s fair to say he converted me good and proper, but I wasn’t always this way…
Flash back to a few years earlier. Dad decided to take me to my first Auskick session. Back then I was far less interested in sport than I was in Sesame Street, so it was time I got active and out of the house! There I was, with an old Essendon jumper way too big for me, wandering around the oval watching the ball whiz past me. I don’t think I touched the ball the whole morning. Afterwards, my dad asked “‘How did you like your first game of football?” to which I replied “I know how to spell football. F-O-O-T….” Not the most convincing answer.
My dad was never the type to force me into anything, but thinking back now he was probably heart-broken that I wasn’t sharing the same love for the team and game he considered religion. I continued to attend Auskick and even went to a few games, but I wasn’t really involved. Football wasn’t for me. Later in the same year, he took me to an Essendon Football Club clinic for junior members. Something happened that day that changed my life forever…
After participating in a few drills (and still not getting a touch), the players and coaches started signing autographs. All the stars were there, and kids flocked to get the back of their jumpers tagged by their favourite players. My dad pointed out Kevin Sheedy and encouraged me to approach him to sign my football. However, there was already a mass of young bomber fans swamping the coaching legend, and I wasn’t the biggest of kids, so every time I got close to Sheeds I would get pushed back into the crowd and to the back of the queue.
After a few failed attempts to get close enough, Sheeds looked down and spotted me in amongst the chaos. He then picked me up, hoisted me over the other boys and sat me on his lap. He then proceeded to ask me questions for 10 minutes, whilst the other kids stood there, mouths gaping.
“What’s your name?”
“Who’s your favourite player?”
“What grade are you in?”
“What’s your favourite thing about school?”
Afterwards he signed my football, with the classic Sheedy swirl and smiley face and gave me a wink. I skipped over to my dad who had a huge smile on his face. He went over to Sheeds and said thank you. Years later, he told me what he said. “You didn’t have to do that, Kevin”, to which he replied “Of course I did. He’s a Bomber for life now.” And boy was he right…
Something about that moment stayed with me. This man, who I didn't know, made me feel part of something that I didn’t really understand. Seeing the way the other kids reacted made me feel special, and I thought to myself “I want to be a part of this!”
Two years later, my dad scored access into the rooms after the game to surprise my cousin for his birthday. I was in on the surprise, and brought my footy sticker book ready for all the autographs. When the time came, I was in heaven. I went up to all my heroes, including big Steve Alessio, who was shocked to see me wearing the number 27 on my back. Every other kid had 5 or 18 for Hird and Lloyd. I explained that he was my favourite player, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was predetermined, as the jumper I was wearing was a hand-me-down Simon Madden jersey and I didn’t bother to change the number! Every one of the guys gave me the time of day, and it reinforced not only why I loved the club, but why I loved the game as well.
It's experiences like these that last a lifetime. I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet my heroes and in doing so I gained a stronger bond not only with my team, but also with my dad, who was there to share these great moments with me. Unique opportunities such as these are hard to come by, but TIXSTAR is here to help make dreams become a reality, for you or a loved one or even a colleague.
Whether it be organising your kids to have a kick to kick with Gary Ablett Jnr or playing a round of golf with Jack Riewoldt, at TIXSTAR anything is possible. What about getting four-time premiership hero Jordan Lewis to provide key insights into leadership and teamwork at your next work function? Or a private dinner with Essendon guns David Zaharakis and Darcy Parish? The choice is yours.
Your next life-lasting experience is at your fingertips. So what are you waiting for? Go There.