AFL Round 13- Adelaide v North Melbourne: Western Democracy and the Wally Grout Snack Bar


Is there a better-named wine than Jim Barry’s Cover Drive?

A classy cabernet sauvignon, it’s been a highlight since we arrived in Adelaide from Singapore. Earlier in the week, some old school friends said, “Let’s go to the Prince Albert.” I’m happy they didn’t say, “Let’s get a Prince Albert” as that would’ve been excruciating and brash.

So there I was in the dining room of the Prince Albert Hotel, considering my glass of earthy red. Years ago a mate met Nick Cave following a gig at the Thebby. Instead of the usual, fawning fan stuff, he asked, “Who do you think was the better cover driver? David Gower or GS Chappell?” Cave replied promptly. Australia’s thirty-fifth Test captain.

While contemplating cricket, the Clare Valley and music NME once described as that of the “gothic psycho-sexual apocalypse” a text invited me to the Crows and Kangaroos fixture!

In our flat and featureless city, Adelaide Oval is a soaring basilica. Moving through the Saturday evening of our screen-doored suburbs, I’m struck by the darkness. In Singapore there are few shadowy spaces; it’s a casino, it’s drowning in loud light. As Nick Cave might note, there’s comfort in the gloom. He’s not a man of the tropics.

Its website brags, “Adelaide Oval will exceed Australian design standards for stadium toilet facilities by 30 percent.” My now equatorial bladder applaudes, but does this mean those instructive pissoir queue tête-à-têtes are cut by a third?

This is my first time at the new ground.

The redevelopment is striking, however the timeless features endure: Edwardian scoreboard, Hill, Moreton Bay Figs. Despite the half-billion dollar investment, the flora triumphs. Which other major stadium has trees?

We head to the new David Hookes Terrace Bar. Above the fridge, a glass case contains a poignant tableau: stumps, cap and Hookesy’s Gray-Nicolls double scoop bat. On tap there’s West End Draught, but there’s no mortal situation I can conceive in which I’d actually drink it. My James Squire Pale Ale is tasty, and I recall my 1989 visit to the Gabba’s now demolished Wally Grout Snack Bar.

The opening period is dour until Eddie Betts slots a boundary line snap from in front of the Gavin Wanganeen Stand. It’s a wonderful kick, and my friend, R. Bowden, notes that unlike those at Football Park, the pockets are shallow, so we could see more of these. It’ll be fascinating as the idiosyncrasies of this new/old venue emerge.

Podsiadly performs with energetic imagination. In the third quarter a huge moon hangs like a Monet above the Max Basheer Stand, while on the wing far below Pods takes an equally luminescent mark. I understand why Geelong released him, but unlike mature Crows recruits Ronnie Burns and Wayne Carey, he is a success. Vitally, he also kicks two rippers.

Beyond an early patch when they suddenly score three majors, the Kangaroos don’t threaten. Their forward line’s dysfunctional, and across the field North claim only nine contested marks. Petrie’s imperceptible, and extraterrestrial umpiring and absurdly generous teammates provide Thomas with four goals.

Dangerfield is thrillingly robust, but doesn’t dominate. This, I suggest, is heartening as the Crows can be a single-engine Cessna. Half-back Brodie Smith rebounds resourcefully with missile-like disposal. His third term conversion from fifty is telling.

The Roos’ premium player is Brent Harvey. Despite his autumnal age, he’s still quick and frequently finds space. Like King Lear, the time to relax has not yet arrived. Someone yells out, “Good work Harvey, but Joe Hockey needs you to play until you’re seventy!”

Taylor Walker demonstrates confidence. His vision and command is soldierly, and he takes five pack marks. But his kicking fluctuates bizarrely. R. Bowden says that he appears to have a wooden leg. However, with swaggering muscularity he asserts himself like a thirsty publican.

It’s the most fun I’ve had at Adelaide Oval since the 2006 Ashes Test. I was there on Day Five when with 4/49 in England’s second innings, SK Warne bowled us to a far-fetched, illustrious victory.

As my train rushes through the wintry velvet, I ponder Nick Cave, and the joy of different Cover Drives.




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