I arrived in Australia in June, 1987 as a 10-year-old with my family, emigrating from Scotland.
From my early days in Melbourne, I was aware of the passion and footy-mad culture of my school friends and adults around me. Wanting to be part of it, I had no idea of which team to follow but knew once chosen, this was going to be a loyalty for life. You never change teams.
In 1987, Hawthorn, Carlton and Collingwood were floating around with success and followers aplenty. None of those teams appealed to me. I just couldn't get any kind of buzz from them. So when the 1988 season rolled around, I was still without a team.
Enter my friend Angus and his dad Alan, who took me to my first-ever live game - Essendon against North Melbourne, round one, 1988, Windy Hill.
We were in the terraces, standing room only. It was packed and the atmosphere was electric. The crowd and roar of those local footy grounds was so intense that every goal that Essendon kicked seemed to shake the stands, hurtling chips and beer into the air.
As the game got underway I said to myself, 'whoever wins this game is going to be my team'. Without any footy history in my family, I needed a contest and a team that would form a lifelong commitment.
In-between watching the game, Angus and I also collected cans for money. Remember the Alcoa Cash a Can ad? Yes, we could make money as we watched the two teams slug it out. We combed the terraces looking for cans, weaving in and out, often watching the game from crazy angles or between people's backs.
As Essendon got on top, I just remember this feeling of pure joy with each goal that rained down. We stopped collecting cans and soaked it up. The ball kept going through with ease, launching into the stands from different parts of the ground. It was brilliant. The crowd was yelling 'Fish! Fish! Fish!' I said to Angus, 'who's that?' And he said, 'that's Paul Salmon'. He kicked seven goals that day as the Bombers won easily.
I have loved the Bombers ever since that magical first game. The team. The colours. The history. The wins have been great, the losses gut-wrenching at times. The premierships (1993, 2000) so very satisfying. Now, I get to watch my beloved team with my two sons. That's special.
Thank you for everything, Essendon, and I'm glad you won on that day in 1988. Red and black is so much better than blue and white.
Go Bombers. Forever.
In Red & Black Reflections, we'll select a fan-written piece to feature on the website each week.
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