I cross Victor Richardson Road; bow at the Barrie Robran statue; undergo a cheerfully non-invasive security check, beep my ticket and click through the turnstile; sniff a whiff from the Neil Kerley Bar whose patrons are plainly devouring some Walker Flat yabbies doubtless netted (legally) by Knuckles himself; amble past the Chappell Stand that’s next to the Bradman Pavilion so Ian and the Don can symbolically continue their fiscal disagreements in perpetuity; glance sideways at the Favell/Dansie Indoor Training Centre; consider a swift beer at the David Hookes Terrace Bar, or possibly the Phil Ridings Bar; catch some uncharacteristic clatter coming from the Ian McLachan Room, and finally climb the stairs to the Sir Edwin Smith grandstand, where I breathe in the elegant sweep of the Clarrie Grimmett Gate, the Bob Quinn Gate, and the heritage-listed, yet soothingly nameless scoreboard.
Misty rain is falling as the match begins, and bobbing about us are crocheted tri-colour beanies and tartan thermoses by the bagpipe-full. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll get invited into a shout of bundies with the strangers in Row G.
The GWS-ers start brightly and move the ball forward frequently, but without any significant threat until the man-bunned Harrison Himmelberg opens the affair.
There’s certain footballers who execute specific skills with rare exquisiteness. Brodie Smith is a glorious kick, and invests the ball with joyous flight and astonishing physics. I pay to see him launch a scorching drop punt. He does, and goals at the Riverbank end. Minutes later he slips when tackling, and appears to wreck his ACL. This is cruel. Knees are the most robust of our moving parts, but also the most delicate.
Ex-Collingwood racer Paul Seedsman is in our best side, but again takes the field attired with Andrew Newton Jarman-style three-quarter length sleeves. I’m unsure of the function, and speculate if the inaugural Crow himself knocks these up in the shed on his Singer, as a tribute to himself. It’s not impossible. Still, Seed provides telling run and carry, and is a penetrating kick. He goals to give the home side a small, but ultimately permanent lead.
With appendectomy Wikipedia entrant Rory Sloane spectating, giant Giant Rory Lobb jumps up one place to claim the title of this game’s third best Rory, behind Laird and Atkins. His point is the last score of the first term. Pleasingly, the Crows have not made their customary slow start.
Tonight, it’s not the third quarter that defines the contest, but the second, and on a soggy evening Eddie Betts again shows why he is among our code’s most effervescent players. He generates joy where none should exist. He goals from spatial situations beyond human contemplation. Like McCartney singing over a lonely guitar, or Black Caviar lengthening her stride and lowering her back, his contributions are rare and breathtaking. I’m privileged.
Mercifully, our tidy lead means we’ve heard little from the supporter in Row A who provides coaching and umpiring recommendations from her seat. Her vocal stylings seem to echo mid-career Tom Waits, Bobcat Goldthwait and a distressed, if not deceasing, dugong. For many reasons, we’re all relieved the footy’s not close.
The GWS mob get three speedy majors after the long break, and there’s some momentary tension. Waits/ Goldthwait/ dugong screeches. With a single first-half goal, the visitors have registered the lowest score in VFL/AFL finals footy since 1960.
However, a Richard Douglas intercept mark and conversion ensures that we relax, and not kick over any checkered soldiers in Row G’s phalanx of tepid thermoses. He then collects another in what has been an emblematic season, and at the siren the opposition has crept forward but a single point.
During the huddle, a nearby couple gathers up their goods and squeezes past us saying, “If we go now we can get home to watch the last quarter.” This is bewildering and I wonder why they bother coming at all, and how these Port supporters stole a pair of tickets. Curious.
At the ten-minute juncture of a fizz-less final stanza Coniglio achieves the game’s concluding goal, and at 10pm the Crows have advanced to their second only home preliminary final.
As we cross the Torrens foot bridge, even the mediocre busker warbling an Oasis cover is thrilling.
It’s getting exciting.