x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The family feel of the Royboys

Second home The 8,394 of us who withstood the miserable cold and wet of May 14 1988 in the open spaces of Princes Park remember the day with some pride.

The 8,394 of us who withstood the miserable cold and wet of May 14 1988 in the open spaces of Princes Park remember the day with some pride. The radio commentators repeatedly referred to the "true faithful", in the reverence the Americans hold for their pioneers, when describing those who had arrived in dribbles to the Australian Football League venue in the grey, wintry Melbourne suburb of North Carlton.

But those of us who had come to see the Fitzroy Football Club play the Sydney Swans would not have been anywhere else. Our mob's established spot was on the eastern side, in front of the old suburban footy ground-style scoreboard. It was at the top of a hill of asphalt with concrete steps; a whole quarter-oval of uncovered standing room now swallowed up by the multi-coloured plastic seats of corporate football.

There we would meet, anywhere between one and six brothers, Dad, and various friends. Prominent Melbourne sports journalist Rod Nicholson would be there too; the middle man in three generations of stout Royboys who always made an appearance. It was every bit the home, where the family celebrated successes, mourned losses, and gathered to catch up at the end-of-quarter breaks. It was more comfortable than Junction Oval and Victoria Park, home to the menacing Collingwood Football Club - the two other homes used after the Lions were forced in 1966 to leave their spiritual home of 68 years, the Brunswick St Oval in North Fitzroy.

But like many victims of the recent global hardships, in 1994 the financially struggling Roys were forced to move to cheaper accommodation when their landlord, the Carlton Football Club, raised the rent for Princes Park beyond affordable levels.