One Of The Team, Margaret's True Colors Shine
Friday May 14, 1999
Margaret Porter's "first favorite" North Melbourne player was Les Foote. She was about eight at the time, watching with her father Mick. The list of North players she has liked over the years has names long lost to popular memory.
She remembers a half-back line from the 1950s of Pat Kelly, Teddy Gerrard and Les Reeves. These were the old Shinboner days when North played it tough. She still likes players ``who keep their eyes on the ball".
Her parents lived in Erskine Street, a kick from the old Arden Street ground. Later, when they moved to Ascot Vale, she and her father walked to the footy because they couldn't afford both a tram ride and the cost of admission. Now, more than 40 years later, she's still going to watch the Kangaroos, no longer called North Melbourne, play. Did she mind the change of name? ``What's in a name?" she says.
Little things no longer trouble her. Eight years ago, breast cancer resulted in her having a mastectomy. In 1995, the cancer returned in her bones and further treatment caused her hair to fall out. She didn't let that bother her either. Her manner is clear, positive, matter of fact.
The illness is never going away, but she doesn't think in terms of how long she has living with ``it". She says it's a question of ``how long it has living with me".
One of nine children, she has six of her own and works part-time as a teller at Brambles. She's a lover of books, the best she has read in recent times being the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.
Three things sustain her, she says - church, football and family - although her view of the first has also changed since her illness. She still cares for the community of the Roman Catholic church, but she has a lot less respect ``for the men running it".
As for football, it's a place she can go for two hours each week and forget everything - her illness, her responsibilities, the worries of the world. She likes talking footy, but only with people who go to matches. Most footy talk is gossip. She has no time for that either. She visits the North Melbourne social club several times a week and, on Thursday nights, goes to the club and helps prepare the players' tea.
Everyone at North seems to know her and she greets them in an assured, friendly way. The question of football clubs traditionally being male domains doesn't concern her.
``I don't see them as men or women," she says. ``I see them as people".
One of the players she meets, John Longmire, agrees that the general public often think football teams and football clubs are one and the same. Clubs are the sum of all the people who constitute them, including the team.
He describes Margie, as she is known, as ``part of the fabric of the place". Coach Denis Pagan is frank in his assessment of North's facilities, saying they don't compare with those of the wealthy clubs.
Its football department is housed in a pre-fab building, the old grandstand it uses is faded and creaking. ``I've always said North's biggest asset is its people."
He is openly admiring of Margaret Porter and what she brings to the culture of his club.
``She's always positive with everyone, which is incredible when you consider her concerns. She's always got a smile. She's like a breath of fresh air around the place."
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