"Life-Cycle" takes a humorous but affectionate look at the passion and mania of sports fans. Though it concentrates specifically on Australian rules football, the kind of characters it depicts can just as easily be found in other sports, too. The poem starts with a dedication to Big Jim Phelan, a former player and key figure in the early development of the game. For the people in the poem—specifically in the Australian state of Victoria—sports are a way of life, a kind of religion.
Young people are initiated into this belief system almost as soon as they're born. Hence, the poem charts the relationship between fans and their team from birth to death. The first six tercets—three-line stanzas—focus on the process through which people come to love their team almost more than life itself.
Babies born in Victoria "are wrapped in club-colours" (team colors) and "laid in beribboned cots" (cribs). The iconography of their club thus surrounds them before they can even understand—before they can even walk and talk! Of course, most people's religious beliefs are defined in the same way, by the environment they're raised in, rather than some more conscious and deliberate process. The wrapping-up of the newborns, and the decorated cribs, might put readers in mind of the nativity (the birth of Christ), subtly introducing the comparison between sport and religion.
Both sports fans and babies scream and shout a lot! The speaker describes the babies' cries as the start of a "lifetime's barracking"—that is, shouting or heckling practice for future match days. Note how the hard /k/ sounds of "club-colours," "cots," and "barracking," together with the plosive alliteration and consonance of "born," "beribboned," and "begun," make the poem's opening boisterous and cacophonous. The poem thus dials up its own volume to match its subject.