9.18am SGT – River Valley, Singapore
Is there a more cherished Australian word than chook? It speaks profoundly of our affection for larrikin idiom, contraction and, of course, poultry. Given the pit of existential terror that is our condominium’s BBQ, we’re having chicken (chook) and salads at our AFL grand final lunch.
Our exclusive ownership of chook was illustrated to me years ago in a Hertfordshire school staff room when I told a joke that ended with a punch line something like, “And mum said, ‘Trevor! Stop doing that to the chook.’” I expected belly laughs and streaming eyes, but the audience response was Easter Island. Beyond our shores, chook does not exist.
11.55am-Tiong Bahru Park, Singapore
As the boys rush about in the playground and zip up and back on the flying fox, I get the ABC on my phone, and from his temple The Coodabeen Champions’ mystical mentor muses.
Guru Bob: Chess is the superior game.
Torch McGee: Greater than Australian Rules football?
Guru Bob: No rule changes for 500 years.
In the late 1980’s on Sunday night drives back to SA’s West Coast, The Coodabeens would accompany me as I hurtled past wheat fields along Highway 1. With the cover featuring two goal umpires in traditional coats, their Double White Album is the best cassette I ever bought. Even better than Ripper ’76. Using a funked up melody from Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train”, Champs’ “Rhys-Jones (Goes A Bit Mental)” remains among my favourite Australian songs.
Rhys-Jones is in there swinging,
Uppercut from Rhys-Jones!
12.05pm- Gawler East, South Australia
It is a sweltering, breathless afternoon here on the equator. Air-conditioning blasting, good folk from Hobart, Vancouver, Kentucky, Brisbane, Henley Beach, and Kapunda are bunched on our lounge. 54 hundred kilometres south it’s a nippy day, and my parents-in-law have lit their fire. Pop! They open a bottle of Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir, from the Adelaide Hills, to complement their footy viewing.
12.10pm- MCG, Melbourne, Australia
Birds from Tokyo play a couple of songs to an uninterested crowd. It strikes me as forgettable music. Like Brian Taylor’s commentary, it’s affected, cliché, a grating imitation of something much more engaging. “Pre-game entertainment” has always been an oxymoron, but it must be tough when you’re the curtain raiser to the curtain raiser.
12.25pm- Barossa Valley, South Australia
Mum likes the Crows, and does not care much for the rest, so, invited to lunch with some girlfriends, she takes the opportunity. Now home alone, Dad relaxes into his recliner, and a glass of shiraz. He enjoys the match. He’s like me, there are no bad games of football, only ones you don’t watch.
1pm- River Valley, Singapore
Friends from near Louisville are with us, and Mark comments, “Fremantle’s poor kicking might cost them.” I love sharing our game with others. We discuss their visit to the MCG, years ago, when they saw Richmond play.
We also talk about the Kentucky Derby. Mark says, “There’s two ways to experience the Derby. The corporate experience for the rich, and a real experience for the rest of us.” It’s a telling observation on AFL grand final day, in the Fonzie Demetriou epoch.
2pm- Victor Harbor, South Australia
Bob and Trish and their toddler, Jack are on a Fleurieu Peninsula farm stay for the weekend. As the Dockers thrillingly surge in the third quarter, and Bruce brings out his growl, a text appears from Bob
the purple haze descends
The haze comes, but the brown and gold ultimately disperses the purple smog. Disappointingly, for the specialised subset of Dockers and Prince fans, there is no Purple Reign.
3.10pm- River Valley, Singapore
In our living room, to selected bemusement, the siren sounds. It’s another unique feature to be prized. I always liked the siren at Nuriootpa’s ground, despite it being enemy territory, as its shrill urgency is pure 1939 London air raid. It’s still strangely appropriate in the heart of the German-settled Barossa.
Nathan is a proud Tasmanian, and a happy Hawks fan. I’m pleased for him. In anticipation, he’s picked up some James Boags. We open them enthusiastically. The fruity softness of these Australian beers, contrasts with the metallic sharpness of Asian lagers. They’re a treat.
3.20pm- River Valley, Singapore
“It seems kinda cruel to keep the losing team out on the field,” suggests Mark as Hawthorn is presented to the MCG in a stentorian baritone by AFL announcer Craig Willis, while Fremantle sit there, heads in hands. “In America, the losers would be allowed to go straight down to the change rooms and lick their wounds in private.” I think this tradition means we applaud the runners-up too, conscious that without them there can be no contest. This should continue.
We agree that it is a chief difference. This day is about parallels and diversity, closeness and distance. Football connects. And as generations of ordinary Australians have known, in the dreadful absence of barbequed meat, on this most sanctified day, these simple celebrations are best enjoyed with chook.