The Perfect Groundhog Day

Smokie Dawson

When I recently re-visited Groundhog Day, one of my all-time favourite movies, I was more than a little taken aback to see that it had been released in 1993. Thirty-one years ago! My, how time does fly. Groundhog Day is a marvellous film, one of the very best, with its title long since having entered the vernacular as a descriptor for something that keeps re-occurring ad nauseum. As the weatherman Phil Connors, condemned to repeat on loop the same day until he at length discovers humility, Bill Murray’s performance arguably stands at the apex of his long acting career. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have seen the film so many times now that I can recite most passages of dialogue without even pausing to think.

Another shock to my system came in the form of a reminder that the local footy season begins in earnest this week. How quickly it comes around, the summer over before it ever really managed to get cranked up.

This confluence of surprises led me to consider just what would be my ideal hypothetical ‘Groundhog Day’, should I be so forced into living one day on eternal repeat. And how much could I cram into those twenty-four hours? Immediately to mind came the probability of time with loved ones, sharing a dinner and conversation. Up for consideration would be the squeezing in a few quiet ones with close mates. Perhaps the icing on the cake would be a couple of hours spent at the Fearon, watching the CY’s in the opening match of the season. And just how would I prefer the latter scenario to play out?

This Saturday we will not be woken to the strains of Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe, but when we venture to the Fearon to see what coach Con and his charges have in store for the 2024 season, it will feel a little like Groundhog Day. How many times have we supporters gone through this first-Saturday-of-the-season ritual? Recognizing familiar faces in the line- up, marvelling at how certain players have developed and grown even over one mere pre- season, and inquiring amongst the crowd as to the identity of players whom we do not know. There will be acquaintances to be renewed, hands to be shaken, whipping-boys from whom the piss is sure to be taken, and backs to be slapped in mirth. Perhaps a hotdog from the canteen, maybe a coffee if the southerly is blowing. In sensible shoes we will tread the flanks on which we once wore footy boots, to the quarter-time and three-quarter-time huddles to listen intently to the words of encouragement from the coaching staff. Most of all, there will be barracking to be done. For confirmation of the wind’s strength and direction, we will glance occasionally toward those Osborne Street trees, silent but all-seeing and all-knowing; those trees which I have so often seen in my dreams that I could surely trace their outline on a piece of foolscap with my eyes closed. The perfect end to this day would be a CY’s win, of course.

Back in the year of Groundhog Day’s release, me and many of the old team-mates with whom I watch the CY’s these days were still donning the guernsey and pulling on the boots. We were blissfully unaware that, some three decades on, we would be on the sidelines cheering on players who themselves were still years away from being even a glint in their parents’ eyes. Ah yes, time sure does fly.

With CY’s teams playing across Melbourne on any given Saturday, phone apps will be checked and the inevitable questions will be posed as to how the women’s and under-19’s teams are faring. It seems like yesterday that we assembled at Elsternwick Park to urge the women’s team on to a flag. With such speed does time fly. As the new season dawns, they will be particularly keen to continue on their upward trajectory and avoid the dreaded premiership hangover.

We supporters did all this last year, and the year before, and good fortune permitting, we will do it again next year. Each year when we convene for this first April home game, like the current-day players we are full of hope for the season ahead, blessed that we can participate in this annual Groundhog Day. Although Bill Murray’s protagonist never ages, because he is doomed to repeat the very same day over and over again, we all will have grown just that little bit older. Some of us imperceptibly, some more obviously so. But all of us will be supporting the CY’s with no less enthusiasm.

And with the weather so recently morphing from autumnally mild into a chillier pre-winter, I wonder what Punxsutawney Phil himself make of the Fearon on Saturday.

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