x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

What's it like... to play at the MCG

Cameron Hotton, the football operations manager of the AFL Middle East, recalls his playing days at Collingwood.

I was with Collingwood for a season and my first game for them was against Carlton, who are their biggest Australian Football League rivals, at the MCG. I was only playing in the reserves, but there were 80,000 people, probably more, in the ground by the time we came off that day. It was nerve-wracking playing in front of that many people, even though you were aware they were still coming in for the main game.

At the start of the game there were not too many people there, so the nerves were not exactly racing then, but when you walk off the ground you realise how many people there are in the famous stadium. After the game I met up with a load of people I knew through footy circles, who said they had been watching, and that was when it really hit home. I was 20 at the time, and Collingwood had invited me down to train with them during pre-season then put me down on the supplementary list.

That meant I was eligible for second grade, or reserve games. I trained with them and played every game that season. Leigh Matthews was the coach during that season, but then he was replaced by Tony Shaw who was not a big fan of mine, so we parted ways. I was also attending university, and I think I enjoyed the social side of that more than what was required of professional players. It was strange that I ended up with Collingwood as they were anything but my team when I was growing up.

I had friends who were typical one-eyed Collingwood supporters, very passionate. Whenever they won they let the opposition know all about it. Everyone likes to give it back to them when they lose. I didn't suffer though. Friends and family were just pleased I was playing at that level. Some supporters yell abuse from the sidelines at teams they don't like, but you don't really hear it while you are playing. I had actually grown up barracking for Richmond, because my dad was playing for them, but I was not a passionate supporter at all. I would watch anyone who was on television and it did not matter to me who was playing.

Cameron Hotton now plays for Dubai Heat in the AFL Middle East and is the football operations manager of the regional league. For information on the league visit www.aflmiddleeast.com