Life Stories: Wander No More

While I don’t think I’d ever stuck to one previously, in the last three years I’ve managed to make and deliver on three life-changing New Years Resolutions. 

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In 2012, that resolution was to quit hospitality. It got to early November and I still hadn’t really made any inroads on developing my career, but I’d had enough and thought ‘why not?’ I quit, with no real back-up plan besides another facet of hospitality. Within two weeks I’d found another job doing something awesome, and I’ve never looked back.

This year it was, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’re one of the few who reads regularly, to quit smoking. It was another great decision that changed my life.

2013, though, was life-changing for another reason.

I’m a football fan – by which I mean the round-ball game actually played with feet, not the oval-ball game that is predominantly played with hands. I’ll go into my love of the game another time I’m sure, if my World Cup previews and review didn’t do so already. Like many Australian football fans I’ve been playing that classic game of ‘staying up till 3AM/getting up at 4AM to watch kick-off’ for over a decade.

I’ve never minded the A-League, but it certainly never captured my imagination. Give me the EPL and my beloved Arsenal any day – or so I used to think. When the FFA announced the formation of a Western Sydney team for the A-League, I was overjoyed. Sure, they were playing in Parramatta instead of my beloved Penrith but that was ok.

I followed them avidly from inception. The restaurant I worked at was just around the corner from Cook Park, where they played their first ever game of existence, and I managed to get out and drive past just as people were leaving. That pretty much summed up what would be my relationship with the Wanderers at the time. A strong passion, convincingly nullified by the fact I was working in hospitality. I enjoyed the first win over Brisbane… on Twitter, in the back dock of the restaurant on a smoke break.

When I quit, and got a new job, I realised I was no longer a slave – not only that, my partner lived literally up the road from the stadium! After a particularly enjoyable and boozy New Years Eve, I woke up the next morning, January 1, 2013, with strong resolve. It was time to see a Wanderers game, see what all the fuss was about – so we ‘wandered’ down.

After a bit of a line to get a ticket, we took our seats in General Admission, behind the goal. It was a lovely day, the crowd wasn’t massive by any means, and all the way down the other end sat the active support – the RBB. Our opponent? The highly-regarded Melbourne Victory.

I’ve been to Rugby League games, I’ve been to the AFL, and both are great experiences, there’s no denying. The vibe you got from the small crowd that was there, though, created almost as much atmosphere as either. The first time I witnessed the ‘Who Do We Sing For?’ chant, I was amazed. I understand now, that all active support is like this, but that was my first experience.

Then there was the on-field action. Shinji Ono was our marquee man at the time, and the first goal I ever got to witness was an absolute stunner.

That’s the goal we were sitting behind, too. One of those replays is pretty much exactly how I saw it. Talk about an introduction to the league.

We won that game, and I was sold. Next season I was a member, and I am again this year. I need a damn good excuse to miss a game at home, and I’ve been up the F3 to a multitude of away games, and sat in the cauldron of Sydney derbies. I’ve seen us lose Grand Finals, I’ve seen us compete with Asia’s best to make it to the final of the Asian Champion’s League. I’ve shared in some truly incredible experiences in the very brief history of this club.

The small but amazing atmosphere I experienced that day has only grown since then. The RBB are the best active support in the land, even with the bad reputation (it’s Western Sydney, no matter WHAT we do we get a bad reputation), and the team have performed amazingly. It’s been an absolutely incredible journey to be a part of, even if I didn’t get my bum on a seat for the first few months.

Sure, we’ve yet to see a bad patch, and when we do some fair weather fans may come and go – but I’ll be there, no doubt about it. Even if the team hadn’t enjoyed the remarkable years it’s had, I’d still be there.

Of course, quitting a bad job and quitting smoking are both decisions with quantifiable benefits – but the Wanderers have been beneficial for me, too – and probably in a much wider variety of ways. It’s only fair that I repay the favour every weekend or two for 8 months of the year.

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