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  • Writer's pictureAisling Salisbury

It's A Great Moment, But So Hard To Stay Positive

On August 27th 2017 I remember boarding a flight to the UK, completely dejected at the fact that the results of that day's games didn't go the way Melbourne would've hoped. As such we would not make the finals for another year. With that result, I changed my return date, originally in two weeks to instead be open-ended.

During the flight, I watched a documentary about the Boston Bombings. It mostly covered the story of Jessica Kensky who had her legs badly damaged during the bombing and it covered her decision to eventually amputate her last remaining leg in the hopes it would result in a better quality of life for her. It sadly didn't.

The doco put a lot into perspective in regards to my dejected emotions at that point in time. The fact that someone who had suffered such horrific injuries could still face the world with a smile and then eventually come to a decision to amputate her last leg hoping it would improve her life. I remember thinking of Club Great Jimmy Stynes' attitude at that moment in that "it's only a game".

'Gentleman Jim' was reported to always have a smile on his face win, loss or draw.

I had an exemption to go to WA directly from Sydney and if I took it, tonight would mark the completion of my 28th day in Quarantine since I arrived in Australia. Going to WA would've meant a total of four weeks of self-isolation, with a tally of six COVID tests in that space of time, what a joke! However, if I did go to WA, I would be going to the Grand Final this weekend. But if I did go to the game then I would've been there with the heavy burden of guilt on my shoulders. The guilt of knowing that hundreds of people in my social circles, including my family and boyfriend who are massive Demons fans, couldn't be there but I was. So on the day, I was released from COVID Prison in Sydney, I took the path of Nathan Jones and chose family over the game. So yes, I chose to fly to Melbourne.

A city so flat and destitute that I have no idea how people have survived 230+ days in lockdown. On my first day in Melbourne, I saw nothing but boarded-up businesses, restaurants and cafes. A lively city, once the most livable city with an arts, events, sports, restaurant and café culture has been totally destroyed. Nearly impossible to see anyone give eye contact to one another or even say a "G'day". It's a depressing state of affairs with no end in sight. I arrived home where I would only be permitted out of my house for two hours a day and only for five specific reasons. Also I would be limited to being only permitted to go 5kms from my house (10kms now) and must be home by 9 pm otherwise I'd be breaching a curfew. I have to register an "Intimate Partner" in order to see my boyfriend. What has become of this city?

Downtown Melbourne at lunchtime on a workday.

Since when was it the duty of Government authorities to dictate how someone lives their life?

Now I get the premise that Government has to protect the whole but this isn't that. It's interference with our everyday lives.

The fact that the Government now has the right to restrict your ability to see a dying relative, just because they live in another state or the fact that you can't see your friends or family in the same city because it's not deemed essential. You can't even see them for a walk along the beach. Even then you better be sure that your travel radius intersects. This isn't protecting lives, it's destroying them.

After just one week I had enough of it. I personally came to the realisation that if I was here for the last twelve months then I probably wouldn't be around anymore. Dozens upon dozens of my friends and former colleagues are unemployed from their industries. They did get other jobs that have been shut down also because they aren't deemed "essential". Three friends have committed suicide in the last year because they couldn't take it anymore. I can see why and seriously fear I'd have done the same.

Personally, I don't think it's the culture shock of coming from a country (and countries as I have travelled to Central America as well) where people are getting on with their lives and protecting themselves. Making decisions in their best interests to get on with life and enjoy it. Then I arrive in Australia where the average citizen has no control or civil liberties anymore. The country is divided and doesn't have a perspective anymore. It's turned over the control to unelected bureaucrats and incompetent governments that continue to follow the "best health advice" but never release it. The goalposts are constantly shifted with States not planning to reengage with the rest of the country despite agreeing to a National Plan. Yet people keep taking this?

Right now the week of the Grand Final this city should be pumping. Bars packed each day, people wearing their Footy Colours to work, attending the Grand Final Parade and having discussions about who was robbed of the Brownlow or who will win the Norm Smith Medal. All of this would be occurring right now. The atmosphere would be electric. Even those not interested in the game would still be enjoying a drink in a bar after work and soaking it in. They'd have their freedoms with a splash of electricity in the air. Instead, all of this is replaced with dread. Two teams who are starved of frequent Premiership success is meeting head to head on the last Saturday of September and their fans are 3000kms away. They can't even get together to watch the game.

On the day of the Preliminary Final, a Melbourne fan told 3AW's Neil Mitchell that if Melbourne did win the Grand Final it would "probably be the worse day of my life". Mitchell was shocked not just at that but the fact that people weren't celebrating finals footy even at home.

Have you lived under a rock Neil?

Footy is and always has been about the social aspects of the game. The social aspect has been robbed. Long-suffering fans can't even get together to watch the game because of the "best health advice". The city of Melbourne was once the sporting capital of the world and now you can't even celebrate sporting victories with friends. It does nothing for the mental health toll.

When I think back to that UK flight and watching the story of Jessica Kensky she had a battle, and it is nothing to a game of footy, but the thing was, she was always surrounded by the people she loved. They were always there for her, every step of the way. She was never isolated and was determined to continue her zest for life.

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes never lost their zest for life.

But it's hard to have that attitude in Melbourne Australia because there is no zest for life. You can't be surrounded by your friends and family at times of need. Zoom will only go so far. If a family member is in hospital you can't be by their bedside. God forbid if they pass away then you have to say your final farewells over FaceTime. Probably attend the funeral via Zoom. It's a depressing State to be in. The zest for life has been extinguished, the right to live life has been removed and it's totally depressing.

During the season of footy, I get it. It was the one outlet people had to forget their troubles. It's what they lived for each week, but now in a time where the air would be electric and the soul of the city pumping you can't even get together in a tiny group of friends to watch it as it will be after curfew. Maybe even outside of your travel limits.

Australia is not Australia anymore, it's so one-track-minded that it's forgotten about the big picture and that is to let people enjoy their lives as they see fit. That is not selfish, or centre-minded. It is about living life to your best potential. All of this has been robbed on a daily basis and this is why the mental health toll is through the roof.

As I watch this weekend the emotions will be greatly mixed. I always dreamed of that day watching it from the stands with my friends and family and, if we got over the line, I'm sure it would've looked exactly like this . . .

Now that response is very likely to be immediately followed with . . .

A moment that should be filled with joy will also be filled with a lot of anger and more importantly, there is barely anyone around to share it with, because of the "best health advice". If you can't be with friends and family at any moment in time without breaking a law then that isn't living, it's Government overreach and they have no right to interfere with the individual decisions of your social circle. Yet many think they can?

That is probably why Melbourne and Australia are so flat and backwards right now. Many I don't think simply understand the real pain that is being felt across the board. Time to start living again Melbourne and that doesn't involve lockdowns, segregation and authorities telling you how to live your life.


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