TWO INSTANCES in recent weeks have reinforced to me just how powerful football clubs - and sporting teams in general - are in forging friendships that will last forever.  
Football clubs are a wonderful common denominator. They develop and nurture friendships and create a common bond, which people will enjoy and cherish forever.
Here are the two instances I’m talking about.
Instance one: I am sitting at a cafe in Elwood - one of those groovy little outdoor types - talking to a mad passionate Melbourne supporter about our team over a latte (skinny, of course).
Moments before, I drove past ‘Neita’ (aka David Neitz) doing the same thing. I will use him later to reinforce the point of my story.
The supporter and I are also chatting about the local real estate market - he is a property developer - and mentions to me that I should make a call to Hodges Real Estate in Brighton. He suggested I have a chat with one of the directors, Campbell Cooney, who knows the bayside market well.
I think to myself Campbell Cooney. Why does that name suddenly ring a bell?
A couple of quick calls identifies Campbell as the Cooney that played in the seconds and thirds for Melbourne in the late 70s, before a bad knee injury cut short his career.
He is the same Cooney, who also accompanied me on footy trips to Singapore and Gold Coast - places where greater friendships were developed, but those reasons are for another time.
After a call to Campbell we arranged a meeting and caught up.
An hour into our meeting - and a few laughs later - we realised 30 years had evaporated, as we chatted to each other like we knew each other forever.  
Instance two: Recently, the club initiated some new staff awards. The winners received a small trophy as part of their recognition.
We were using a local trophy business called Southern Cross Trophies in Collingwood. During the email exchange, I noticed the signature at the bottom of the email: Mr John Dellamarta.
Could that be the John Dellamarta of the famous Collingwood trade? The one which brought Phil Carman, John Dellamarta and Wayne Gordon (RIP) to the Dees?
Further investigation revealed it was!
So after a few more emails - and a few more stories - the club will now bring John and his wife back to the club as guests at one of our next home games.
These two instances were on top of numerous others in recent times, which first amazed me, but then made me realise the power of football to forge lifelong relationships.
Six degrees of separation springs to mind! And it’s amazing how your personal network can connect relationships.
Recently, Paul O’Brien, who played 22 matches for Melbourne from 1980-83 and made three appearances for Essendon in 1988, celebrated his 50th birthday.  
His gathering unearthed names like Roger Ellingworth, Tom Buntz and Stephen McCarthy.
A recent game of golf at the Victoria Golf Course coughed up Ian Todd as the Superintendant at Victoria.
Then there was a call from Des O'Dwyer to attend a reunion. And after all these years, it’s great to see the likes of Stephen Bickford, Trevor Korn, Glenn Boland and Stephen Smith at the football.
I have not seen these guys for years, but within minutes we are talking like the mates we were roughly 30 years ago.
I’ve also got to know the likes of Paul Hopgood, who played in a different era, so it’s a great coming together of past Melbourne players.
It’s also been very special to learn how well everybody has done in their life after football. We have some very successful businessmen, who have gone achieved great careers post football.
Again this allows and creates greater relationships, as we are now helping each other in other areas of our lives - not dissimilar to our days on the footy field.
All these recent instances have just reinforced how strong football - and sport - is in developing lifelong friendships.
I believe they are different to those developed in your professional careers, or social circles or through your children’s activities - although there are always exceptions.
These friendships are born out of young people being brought together at a critical time in their life.
They are leaving home for the first time and these new acquaintances will become their housemates, social mates, teammates and people within the club will become their mentors. The club, in a lot of ways, becomes their family. And they all have one great thing in common - game-day, when they run out together, play for each other and forge life long bonds. 
It has been a great experience to renew these old, forgotten friendships.
We all have one thing in common. We played footy together in this case, for the Melbourne Football Club.
This means deep down there is a passion, a certain fond connection to our club, regardless of where our careers, lives and families have taken us.
The challenge is to reconnect and rekindle these relationships - not only with each other, but with the club itself. It’s not easy, even for all the right reasons.
I am currently trying to convert my family from Carlton and back to Melbourne.
I know it’s not good as a father to allow your children to chop and change their teams and I apologise, but there have been genuine reasons for this!  
Slowly, but surely, it’s working.
One son now has Brad Green’s jumper and number, so he is on track. Another grew up playing against Jack Watts, so he has a strong interest in Jack and the team. My daughter has taken a shine to one of our young players, so her interest is on the rise - that player will remain nameless - and my wife, for some reason, is a fan of the ‘stripped and ripped duo’ Col and Beamer! (It must remind her of the good ol’ days!)
These situations show how football can connect people throughout their lives, plus provide a special friendship that is unique to those involved in sporting teams.
The challenge for our club is to find everybody who has been associated with it.
And in some way reconnect them, as in most cases this will reignite long friendships and unlock great passion and affection for the Melbourne Football Club.
It's called ‘Mates of Melbourne’.