Love of footy shines through at Norm Smith Oration


The MCC’s largest football-centric function, the Norm Smith Oration, celebrated its eighth annual incarnation on Wednesday June 7 in the Members Dining Room.

The function continues to gain popularity and a reputation for inspired and moving tributes to our great game from distinguished speakers. The roll call of former speakers reads like a hall of fame of past players, coaches, administrators, media identities and government officials. And this year was no exception.

Writer, comedian, filmmaker, actor and former private secretary to an Australian Prime Minister - not to mention a graduate in medicine from Melbourne University - Rob Sitch, is quite possibly the most over qualified toast master the event has had the pleasure of hosting. Not to be outdone, in the role of responder was Geelong Cats premiership coach, Chris Scott.

Born into a Demons-loving family, Rob kicked off formal proceedings by noting a coincidental connection between he and Chris Scott, both having represented St Kevin’s during their school days. Rob also revealed that his father played alongside Norm Smith during the late 1930s, not to mention Ron Barassi Snr, Fred Fanning, Percy Beames and Checker Hughes.

A goal-kicking teenager, he joined the Demons squad just as Melbourne embarked on three consecutive premierships, laying in a VFL Reserves flag in 1939 before his career was curtailed by wartime duties.

Rob’s recollections of his favourite hidden fabric experiences were touching, humorous and relatable. You would’ve been hard pressed finding a single person in the room who didn’t nod their head in agreement as his stories sparked a flood of memories of their own seemingly insignificant, but treasured, moments attending the football.

A tough act to follow, not many envied Chris Scott’s chair as he prepared to respond to Rob’s toast. But he did so with power and composure, as he explored what he believes are the seven ages of football.

Speaking from personal experience and his own journey in football, Chris provided insight into how football engraved itself in his life from a youngster to the modern-day coach he is today, with all the hooks and turns along the way.

He is confident the game will continue to get better, the only inhibitor in his eyes being the constant default to the negative. “To fill the quota of outrage before rejoicing in the splendour of the game.”

Still on football, back in March the AFL season was kicked off with the annual MCG Footy Season Launch Luncheon on March 22. Compere Tim Lane was in fine form, steering a panel comprising Geelong Cats captain Joel Selwood, Melbourne AFL Women’s player Lily Mithen and former Brisbane Lions captain and triple premiership forward, Jonathan Brown through the game’s big issues.

The annual Young Members’ Anzac Ball was held on April 22, a couple of days earlier than usual due to AFL matches being played on the two evenings prior to Anzac Day. More than 450 members and guests were in attendance, hearing from SGT Anthony “Harry” Moffitt who spoke passionately about the importance of engaging with our veterans both past and present, along with an insight into his time in the Australian Military.

A three-course sit down meal and full beverage service was enjoyed by members and guests. A highlight of the evening was the very popular pop-up Pimm’s bar which saw guests lining up for a refreshing cup of Pimm’s in between stints on the dance floor.

The young members have certainly been busy. There has also been a football function before the opening round match between Collingwood and Western Bulldogs, as well as a gin appreciation evening in the MCC Library in May. Plans are also in place for the next young members’ ball, to be held on September 2. Keep an eye out for details.

There was a fantastic atmosphere in the air for the first of this year’s Comedy @ the ‘G functions held in the Hans Ebeling Room prior to the Essendon v Geelong Cats match on May 13.

Compere and comedian, Joe Shaffer, kicked off the evening with some hilarious stories of his American background, the excitement of his move to Australia and life as an immigrant. He was followed by emerging young comedian Demi Larder, who entertained with tales of constantly being mistaken for a boy, and her eccentric stepfather.

To round off a fantastic night, ‘Lehmo’ had the audience laughing along while discussing the challenges of marriage, and why toilet brushes are useful!

With the Demons showing some promising form in 2017, there was much enjoyment among MFC/MCC dual members at game day functions on April 24 (vs Richmond) and July 9 (vs Carlton).

The functions feature lunch or dinner with afternoon tea or supper, pre-match drinks and MFC past and present player appearances. Chris Johnson and former coaches, John Northey and Mark Riley, were just a few of those who were grilled on stage by fellow Demon Russell Robertson, as was injured midfielder Dom Tyson.

On June 17, the Women of MCC special interest group hosted its annual Women in Football event in the Committee Room, prior to the Richmond v Sydney Swans match. The packed room heard plenty of insights from Harriet Cordner, a member of Melbourne Football Club’s inaugural AFL Women’s team and the granddaughter of former MCC president and Honorary Life member, Dr Don Cordner.

Finally, about 140 members and guests savoured the culinary offerings from talented chef, Ian Curley, and his team at the Celebrity Chef Long Room Dinner on July 13. Three days later, the MCC and VRC teamed up for the annual MCC/VRC Members’ Lounge event at the Carlton v Western Bulldogs match on July 16..