In the dining room there’s an upright piano.
This declares much about the Alberton Hotel: traditional values, a vibrant history, a suggestion of simpler, better times when live music was the entertainment.
Of course, there’s also a sign forbidding anyone to touch it. It’s a truth widely acknowledged that nobody wants their salt and pepper squid sound-tracked by a kid or drunk uncle banging out ‘Chopsticks.’
Still, there’s nostalgic delight in a pub piano.
The front bar bursts with football memorabilia. Framed premiership photos, ancient posters, murals. Both the Magpies and the Power. Which one is it? No, sorry, it doesn’t seem like one club. Drop Igor from Siberia in here and ask him how many clubs he can see. Igor will reply, “Is two.”
But it’s a traditional front bar and promoted on the website as one, ‘enjoyed by all the family’ and there’s kids in here with dad and granddad all around a table, in their Power tops. The atmosphere is pre-match, festive, Saturday.
Velour coats, black cans and fags are in vogue out in the sports garden. There’s a gigantic TV screen showing the early spring races. My Coopers pint is well-priced at $7 and while nursing this, Nature Strip, one of the country’s best sprinters, wins at Randwick.
A brisk shower squalls over as my beef parmigiana arrives, hearty and tasty, with a decent tangle of golden chips (mercifully not buried beneath the schnitzel). My salad includes pickled purple cabbage, and it’s an unexpected treat.
Today I’m also making my Alberton Oval debut. How can this be? Unlike Glenelg Oval, parking’s easy and there’s no 2-hour limit. I see no sneering knots of yoof in Everlast tops, and the lawns all look clipped. It’s a handsome suburb with splendid villas and bungalows. I enjoy the walk.
Coming through the Bob McLean Gate, the cheer squad is going off-chops. And we’re still a few minutes before the bounce. I’ve not seen (or heard) a real SANFL cheer squad for years so congratulations Port.
I survey the ground. It’s long and broad and the turf is immaculate. Like the best sporting complexes, it’s a measured mix of the historic and the modern. The old grandstands are low and cosy while the Allan Scott Power Headquarters is sleek but not daunting.
I locate the imagery I was anticipating. The Dry Zone is empty. There’s an octogenarian in knee-high ugg boots. Near me is a skull completely covered in a curious tattoo and then, of course, I see his hairstyle opposite, Greg Anderson, whose locks, I suspect, will forever be 1990. While he was a fine footballer, his Vanilla Ice mullet should also enter various halls of fame.
A bar offers Point Nine beer by Pirate Life. It’s a ‘hop forward ultra-light.’ I ask for a 2007 grand final commemorative lager, the One Hundred and Nineteen, but they’ve sold out.
Unlike Glenelg home matches there’s no shrill, unrelenting music between quarters. Just a welcome chance to chat. Ducking into the Social Club it’s festooned in celebrated iconography. Ebert, the Williams family, Ginever. Unforgivably, no Bomber Clifford. This is a unified crowd, a mob who love their preacher, a bunch happy with their evangelism. Ambling about the ground the sense of community is indisputable.
Port’s in front all game courtesy of a five-goal opening stanza. The swirling breeze makes for scrappy footy punctuated by lightning bursts when one side gets clear. Glenelg’s not been in great form over the past month but has scrambled some last quarter escapes. While the Magpies get good service from some of their AFL types in Hartlett, Mayes and Woodcock they’re not the difference.
After seventeen consecutive wins, with all this significant history looming, Glenelg’s final minor round match is a loss at Alberton. But I’ve enjoyed an afternoon plunged in football culture.
However, and this really disappoints: I don’t spot a single duffle coat.