Less than a minute in the umpire blew his whistle to pay a holding free kick to Glenelg, and from a few rows behind us came the comforting, Pavlovian yelp, “He’s been doin’ it all bloody day, Ump!”
A convivial tone now set in the bottom deck of the Fos Williams Stand at Adelaide Oval our afternoon unfolded in exhilarating fashion. Even the subsequent Popcorn Chicken Incident served as a petit carnival of community and generosity.
Footy jumpers, scarves, caps and t-shirts in Port and Glenelg colours smeared across the outer like a monochrome Monet, and with the crowd split evenly the atmosphere was enthusiastically tribal, but also exhibited an unedited defiance of the AFL, in celebration of local footy as it was before we capitulated to national (Victorian) interests, and permitted our suburbs to be annexed.
Admittedly, I’m also an Adelaide fan, but there’s a deeper, elemental quality about your footy team having its own discrete place and particular geography. Last Thursday I walked along Jetty Road and about Moseley Square, buoyed by the balloons and streamers and team posters in the windows. However, in this city the Crows are both everywhere and nowhere. They have no earthly claim; no Alberton, no Patawalonga.
The pre-game concert is another ritual, and I loved You Am I in 2015 with footy-mad Tim Rogers up front siphoning Pete Townsend and Ray Davies. Local outfit Bad/Dreems are energetically gruff and glug West End Draught as they romp through their set. The drummer sports the prison bars of a Magpies guernsey.
History always hovers at the SANFL grand final. Former stars Peter Carey who I pass walking his dog on the esplanade most mornings and Greg Anderson, whose timeless locks are surely in the Mullet Hall of Fame (next to those of Billy Ray Cyrus) do a lap in a ute while clasping the premiership cup, and both relish the sunny applause.
Glenelg skips away early. Their tackling has jungle ferocity and as if channelling the glory days when footy was only on boxy black and white Pye TVs, they kick long into their forward line.
Port are flint-hard and the twenty years since they’ve won a flag must present as volcanic outrage. They harass and coerce, but the Tigers use crafty handball to dominate possession.
For Magpie fans the unknowable has arrived, and nineteen excruciating minutes elapse in the second quarter before Frampton comes alive and they register their afternoon’s first goal.
Alex and Max and two of their primary school mates are as unrelenting in their eating as Glenelg is in their attack so I muster extra supplies. Juggling food worth the GDP of a small Pacific nation I shuffle back down aisle 133 as Marlon Motlop kicks a clever goal, and a rejoicing fan’s arms shoot out periscopically and clock me. Instantly, it’s raining popcorn chicken all over the concrete steps and my person. I’m a friendly-fire casualty.
The colonel can’t help me.
The Glenelg fan apologies saying, “Can I buy you another one of those?”
My automated response is a polite but stunned, “No, mate it’s fine.”
I surrender the surviving chook to the boys who are wholly unsympathetic to my fiscal, social and psychological loss, and inhale them. Old mate comes down and announces, “Mum feels badly so she’ll get you some more chicken.” Claire and I nod thanks. He’s about forty years old. Perhaps he’s already spent his pocket money.
Another most kind witness to the Sudden Chicken Storm appears with a box of popcorn poultry, and says, “I felt very sorry when I saw what happened. Some Port fans started laughing.” She hands these over, and before she can reclaim her seat, the boys have slurped them up. So, the kindness of strangers gladdens our hearts, if not our arteries.
Claire is bemused that my only contributions to the stadium noise are the binary and monosyllabic, “BALL!” when a Magpie player has had too long and, “YEEEAAAHHH!” when we kick a goal. On advice of my singing coach I ration these, but come Monday morning my vocal stylings are still more Joe Cocker than Tiny Tim.
The clouds dart and race, and we alternately soak up the sun and then shiver. Glenelg controls the narrative from prelude to epilogue. At the siren the four boys are on their seats shrieking and waving their yellow and black flag. The Tigers club song loops about the arena.
We cross the pedestrian bridge over the Torrens, and then head for home and our premiership suburb, by the silvery sea.
It came from the Sir Edwin Smith Stand.
A booming baritone with a certain gruff, yet worldly quality, it was also evocative of the larrikin 1970’s. If I closed my eyes, I could see spectators in duffle coats with Ebert, Carey and Blight on their backs. Some were wearing black ripples, and eating Chiko rolls.
Its owner knew some theatrical principles and employed expert timing and escalating repetition and like a comedy festival veteran, held his Adelaide Oval audience in high estimation. We thought we were here for the SANFL preliminary final between the Glenelg Tigers and the Adelaide Crows.
A Glenelg fan, the Heckler’s target was Elliot Himmelberg: a stark blonde, tall and imposing Adelaide Crow. If there’s wisdom in going after the biggest enemy, then Himmelberg was it.
In his mockery was an arsenal of cultural and historical allusions.
He put me in mind of the celebrated Sydney Cricket Ground supporter Yabba who bellowed at an opposition batsman from his spot on the Hill, “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!”
His opening shot utilised famous fictional wizard Harry Potter, Hogwart’s School, and one of its four Houses, ironically the one best known for hard work and fair play. Following a Himmelberg skill error and turnover the Tigers scored a goal. Shortly after and aimed sharply at number 34 this boomed around the arena:
“Thanks very much. That started with you, Hufflepuff.”
I cackled in my chair. He now had my attention.
About a quarter later The Heckler then took his pop references in a more 1970’s and 1980’s direction itemising everyone’s favourite Baywatch and Knight Rider star, and unfathomable German pop icon. With the scores tight he barked at the Crow:
“Try and get a kick, Hasselhoff.”
Students of our game will note that Hollywood’s David Hasselhoff and Port Power champion Justin Westhoff share a nickname, “The Hoff.”
This makes it an especially brutal barb, given that Westhoff has played 268 games and is regarded as one of the best and fairest ever in a Port Power jumper. Additionally, Himmelberg’s team and Port Power are fierce, if not bitter cross-town rivals. For the Crows’ AFL side Elliot’s played but eight games.
The Heckler had moved briskly into stinging satire.
Laughing to myself on my seat in the Sunday sun, it was excellent unofficial entertainment. Public witticisms always amuse me, especially when wholly unexpected.
I wondered if these were all studiously prepared, in a manner similar to that of the retired AFL commentator, Dennis Cometti, who once observed that Libba, a Western Bulldogs footballer, came out of a collision with a sore head by saying:
“He entered the pack optimistically and emerged misty optically.”
A polished performer The Heckler understood the Rule of Threes, and his finish was impeccable. In this he married a 1937 German passenger airship disaster to a fashionable phrase originating in World War 1 aerial dogfights.
In the last quarter as Glenelg surged towards the grand final his roaring jeer again riffed upon Himmelberg’s surname, and was delivered with sparkling confidence.
“Hey, Hindenburg! Crash and burn. Crash and burn!”
Laughing uncontrollably, I then had to explain to my eleven-year-old and his mates.
“Crash and burn” is a metaphor expressing spectacular personal failure, and the New Jersey zeppelin calamity has continuing global infamy.
Was the heckling low and inappropriate? Perhaps. Is satirising another’s name poor form? Maybe. Was it different to the usual hollering mindlessness? Undoubtedly.
However, it was an originally funny sequence to hear at a SANFL football match. Having shared it with family, friends and colleagues, days later I’m still giggling.
I’ve not met you but well done, sir.
Driving Alex and his mates to Adelaide Oval last Sunday I’m reminded of the final line from 1986’s coming-of-age film, Stand by Me, in which the narrator ponders his distant childhood with affection and melancholy:
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?
We’re heading to see Glenelg contest its first SANFL final since these boys were toddlers. I’m keen for the Tigers to secure a spot in the grand final, but by sunset I’ll have learnt, all over again, that at best, football should only be a happy distraction.
It’s an archetypal early spring day: fluctuating between encouraging sun, blustery breeze, and quick showers. On our way to Hindley Street the car radio’s on. As it better matches where these boys are at I’ve changed stations from Triple J to commercial pop music. The songs seem immediate and disposable, but my passengers are more interested in rapid chat about teachers; food both healthy and not; exotic classmates; a recent school camp in the Adelaide Hills.
We see the fourth quarter of the Norwood and Crows match. Despite a spirited finish by the Redlegs, the tricolour interlopers advance to the preliminary final. Sitting in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand, of course the boys spear straight down to the fence, so they can get as close as possible to the action, although for most of the afternoon they enthusiastically ignore the footy.
They eat. They chat. They laugh. They do whole mobs of stuff except watch the action.
For them footy is mere situational context; Aristotelian theatre of minor consequence; a fuzzy backdrop to their endless, summery banter.
Glenelg and Port is pulsating. The Magpies are taller, bigger and dominate aerially, but the Bays appear to quicken as the shadows lengthen. The boys’ chat continues.
“Our grade five camp had way better food! Don’t you think Ty?”
“I met Steve Smith at the Cricket Warehouse when I was six. Mum let me have the day off school.”
“Jacob, are you going to do karate next year?”
I love the easy egalitarianism among them. Each takes his turn, enjoys his moments in the sun, is allowed his voice. There’s no clear pecking order or obvious Alpha male. There’s esprit de corps.
At half time they dash behind the stand onto the lawns for some kick-to-kick while I watch their black backpacks, bursting with snacks as we arrived, and now mostly empty like deflated tyres.
Stretching my legs too I wander down to the ornamental grass. There’s an irresistible puddle. The boys are bunched by the statue of Boof Lehmann while Alex skims his footy through the water and at them, again and again while they squirm and shriek. However, they’re wet and it’s fresh so I ask them to stop. They do. Maybe I should’ve left them to it. Boof is spared further drenching.
In the gathering gloom (literal and metaphorical; tending towards pathetic fallacy) Port win by four points over a fast-finishing Glenelg. The boys exclaim their vague despair, but it’s vaporised before we exit the Southern Plaza and their natural natter then pings about, as it should. We cross the footbridge.
With my headlights cutting through the murk I again steer along Anzac Highway and think of Stand by Me. Alex and these mates will have next year in their snug, neighbourhood primary school, and then move on. They’ll likely attend different high schools. Maybe their bond will endure, maybe not.
But, for the moment, this exquisite, unrepeatable moment, Alex and his eleven-year-old friends, bouncing between childhood and adolescence, are deep in the greatest of simple gifts: each other.
It must be acknowledged that autumn is ridiculously good in Adelaide. The cloudless, immensely liveable days host a tremendous array of outdoor fun at the beach, at the Fringe Festival, in the backyard. It’s a spectacular time in this cosy city, clinging to the edge of our isolated island at 34.9285° S.
Every month has highpoints, but September is the one to which I pin most happy expectation. I love winter, and while here it’s brief, I’m mostly pleased to wave farewell to it, and smile at spring.
So what is it about September?
From my home town of Kapunda, to Adelaide’s suburban competition and then to the immovable Australian Football league, it’s the best month to enjoy our unique game. I love that it must be the only sport in which competitors miss a goal but are rewarded with a point for being close. You know, for having a go. In this country we value laconic imprecision, of course.
With the Adelaide Crows yet again having September off for poor behaviour my attention now goes elsewhere. I still take a huge interest in the AFL finals, and my inner socialist dictates that my temporary affections are with the most deserving, and generally least successful team.
I can offer no love towards Geelong, Collingwood, West Coast, Essendon or the confected opportunism that is the GWS Giants so I’m barracking for the Western Bulldogs. They’ve one flag in the last six decades.
Triumphing on the month’s last Saturday will provide associative hope to the Crows for 2020. Football fans, after all, must be optimists. Without this, we cease to be.
At the local level my team Glenelg qualified for the finals following a dark decade of absence. Indeed, they have a shot at the premiership cup; their first since the antediluvian era (1986, but you get my point). It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be surprising. Most vitally, it’s going to be memorable.
Spring is a seductress, but a shameless tease too. With the days lengthening swiftly we end our hibernation and amble outdoors expecting bright, sunny skies. There’s a burst of cheerful warmth, and suddenly, barbeques sizzle, thongs flip-flop out of the wardrobe, and a few frenzied punters even splash down to the beach.
But, before you’ve pumped up the tyres on your cobwebby bike, or ironed your speedos, a gusty change lashes through, and again you need a beanie on just to stick out the bins. And this schizophrenic weather can go on endlessly. It’s like buying tickets to a Bob Dylan concert and worrying about who’ll turn up on the night. The good Bob, or the bad Bob?
The international cricket season is slow to get a rumblin’ so horse-racing enjoys some attention until mid-November. I love the Group 1 races such as the Makybe Diva Stakes, named after the Port Lincoln wonder mare who won three consecutive Melbourne Cups, and the Moir Stakes, which sadly isn’t the Moi Stakes and therefore named after Kath and Kim. The boys and I will invest the odd hour in the Broadway pub watching some of the turf action. Max might even wear his Black Caviar cap. It’ll be a raspberry and chips for all.
September is rebirth and renaissance; promise and hope; a farewell to the murk and a cautious nod at the light. It’s when the year stomps down on the accelerator and tyres squealing, burns towards Christmas like a mad Monaro.
Let’s wind down the windows, and crank up the radio!
*the title comes from the celebrated American poet ee cummings
The combined and cowardly bullying of the AFL and Channel 7 is such that SANFL games don’t clash with Crows or Power fixtures. These are shunted about the weekend, even if it means avoiding the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot. July 27 was an exception, and in an odd symmetry, the Crows were playing at the same time as the Crows.
The spluttering-like-a-wheezy-Grandpa-AFL Crows were having a rare MCG outing against the newly confident Carlton, while down at our sun-dappled bay the top of the table Glenelg Tigers were clashing with the SANFL Crows.
Like a minor gangster in Goodfellas I had some temporary confusion regarding my loyalty. But, of course, I wanted the MCG Crows to win and for Glenelg Oval to witness a Tigers’ victory.
Glenelg has a salary cap of about $360,000 while a conservative estimate would value the Crows’ livestock warming up at the Bay at somewhere around four million. While I admire much of the Crows talent fronting for their Magoos such as Gibbs, Betts, Douglas, Jacobs and Greenwood (why on earth is he not in the AFL side?) my inner socialist (and Glenelg membership) means I want the locals to win.
But, as I said from the safety of my sports psychologist’s couch, “It’s complicated.”
The bright afternoon and happy crowd on the grassy eastern mound invested the atmosphere with both privilege and picnic. By the southern goals a young girl waved a, “Go, Eddie, go” sign. There were kids and footies and beanies and sausages in bread. With the preternatural sun dangling over the gulf it was a marvellous place to be.
The skilled, fast game was enhanced by the exemplary ground condition. As both sides traded first-half goals I thought of the AFL and wondered at its similarity to the Catholic Church: neither pay taxes, or possess a whiff of social responsibility and while Jolimont and the Vatican have so many riches that their accountants can scarcely tally the gold; the distant parishioners question their faith, and increasingly don’t count their blessings.
Early in these simultaneous matches I remarked to my mate Bob that, “Wouldn’t it be a horrid afternoon if the Crows lost at the MCG but won here at Glenelg?” A glance at his phone showed Carlton skipping away and jubilant that instead of only being a feeder team for Adelaide they’d likely experience some matchday joy.
Swinging by the beer caravan (is this model available from Noel’s?) there’s cheery banter from the past players serving the cups. The kind of rapport that embeds from playing lots of footy together, lots of years ago. I like that a spoon is used to flip open the cans.
Glenelg sets up their game and late season with a seven-goal third term. Despite none of the Tigers being alive for their club’s last flag in 1986, there’s a buzz and emerging belief in 5045 that the next two months might be special.
And then I wonder about the Crows jagging a SANFL premiership. What, exactly would such a triumph represent? Who would celebrate it? After the season`s final siren would three octogenarians pull up in their Corolla outside the Checkside Tavern at West Lakes? Would they then ask security if they could please take in their thermos and fruit cake? Would anybody turn up at the West End chimney? Would they bring any paint?
It would be the most hollow of wins.
For Glenelg, Liam McBean continues his great form with four excellent goals and along with Hugh McCluggage from the Brisbane Lions, has one of football’s best names. If only Cool McCool had played as a dashing winger (doubtless standing Hurricane Harry).
With the Tigers up by two points veteran Crow Richard Douglas accepts a pass from Greenwood but is outside the fifty arc. He uses a Michael Holding run-up, strikes it well, but his kick is short and the Burley is consumed by the mauling pack. The siren sounds.
Strolling towards Anzac Highway and home, “Oh, we’re from Tigerland” drifts happily across our seaside hamlet. And again. And again.
I hope the AFL Crows can self-apply the defibrillator, and quickly, but think the extension cord likely too short for them.
Meanwhile, down at Glenelg they’re showing enormous heart and there’s electricity in the air.
Who doesn’t love an existential question just after dawn, on a festive Friday? Our flight had entered Victorian airspace (the state, not the historical era) and breakfast (adhering to Spartan and not Southern American culinary tradition) was dumped onto our tray tables.
Propelling eastwards, several kilometres above the awakening and expectant earth, Chris asked, “So, what’s the difference between banana bread and banana cake?”
“Extremely good question, old mate,” I replied staring at the brownish block of mashed fruit, all unanimated and morose.
Trev observed. “I reckon the difference is about three dollars. “
“Yep,” I confirmed, my linguistic prism primed. “Given the alliterative appeal, banana bread is more expensive.”
In part the North Fitzroy Arms appeals because it presents as a country pub. Pushing open the front door at 12.01 is all frisson and happy expectation. The décor and the memorabilia are as I remember. Unlike some soulless modern venues there’s no seductive chrome or glass. The taps offer familiar brews. I comment, “Good to see Pentridge Pale Ale is available.” Gough and Percy are on the back wall, in black and white, forever frozen in the early 1970’s.
It’s great to see everyone, and the lunch is a beauty with the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup with Mascarpone & Basil Oil scoring well. This weekend, everyone is a Eurovision judge.
Today’s guest speaker, George Megalogenis, is compelling and his book, The Football Solution: how Richmond’s premiership can save Australia, underpins the conversation with John Harms courtesy of a magnificent mix of history, politics, inner-Melbourne geography, sports psychology and Bob Hawke memoir.
The post-lunch exchanges are always splendid and I especially enjoy meeting Footy Almanac editor Colin Ritchie and hearing of his most recent trip to New Orleans. We yak of jazz icons Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, and the legendary venue Preservation Hall which with a wave of his hand Col suggests is the same size as the pub’s dining room.
Saturday morning we’re strolling north. Chris asks, “What time is it?” Of course, breakfast television motifs litter our weekend, so I channel former NBC Today host Bryant Gumbel and reply, “There’s breaking news overnight, but firstly let’s see what’s happening in your part of the world. It’s thirty-seven minutes after the hour.”
Mere moments later we pass Barrie Cassidy, in the midst of a Very Big Week, given the passing of Bob Hawke and the election. “We should’ve asked Barrie to join us in the All Nations Hotel for a quick beer,” laments Trev. “I reckon he might be on the hop for the next day or two, but otherwise I’m sure he would’ve been in,” I reassure the boys, based on zero personal insight.
Trev stops suddenly and points across at a concrete structure. “See that architecture. That’s Brutalism and inspired some of the buildings and spacecraft in Star Wars.” And indeed, looking at the stark, overbearing façade I see his point. If Trev went on Hard Quiz or Mastermind he’d pick Star Wars as his topic. That, or The Kapunda Tennis Club in the early 1980’s, or Shoegazing: Indie Rock’s Most Alluring Sub-genre. Same as all of us, I reckon.
Chris had spotted on Friday that Coopers Brewery launched a new XPA ale in Melbourne. Suitably inspired, and trusting the Internet, we arrived at the suggested pub, but were told it was closed for cleaning, hadn’t heard of Coopers XPA and that we might simply bugger off. Our disappointment could only have been lessened if the pub was instead a Frank Walker’s National Tiles outlet.
Surging into the All Nations Hotel at thirteen minutes after the hour we note that our regular stools (of the furniture variety) are waiting. Instantly, there’s an ornithological theme: geese. On tap is a craft beer called Goose Session IPA. We then spy the Grey Goose vodka on the shelf. Naturally, we text Kapunda identity Greg “Goose” Mickan whose prolonged digital silence indicates he’s delighted to hear from us. Googling him we find an introductory video on his business website. He boasts of there being, “720 degree views on his property. Provided you turn around twice.” We dedicate the following game of spoofy to him.
Safely at the Punt Road End (or Free Bird Seed End) of the MCG having invested (badly as it turns out) in Adelaide’s premier sprint, the Goodwood Handicap and Brisbane’s Doomben Cup, we locate our seats, and SANFL memorabilia enthusiast and champion bloke, Swish Schwerdt.
We yak about our respective Adelaide teams, Centrals and Glenelg, who are playing at the Ponderosa (the Tigers prevail for the first time out there since accidental leg spinner John Winston Howard was in power although as near as I can tell there’s no deep connection). We also recall the fabulous days on local radio when, at an urgent juncture a voice’d announce: “Let’s go round the grounds. Nipper Christie down at Alberton.” Much giggling follows.
During all of this, sixty thousand people completely ignore our charming dialogue and instead watch a match between Collingwood and St Kilda. The half-time Four N Twenty pies are at least equal to the footballing Pies, and the fixture finished, we move with clear-eyed purpose towards the Duke of Wellington cup-house.
Sunday’s breakfast television is the PGA golf and we decide that having to skool every time we heard, “In the HOLE!” would be dangerous; then bemoan the absence of David Marr on Insiders, but enjoy Barrie Cassidy’s fine work; and finally, on Eurovision, we decide that having to skool every time there’s geopolitical and not musical merit voting – “Hello Tel Aviv! Thanks for a great show. Greece gives twelve points to Cyrus!” – would also be dangerous, but not as dangerous as repeated listening to any of the songs.
Returning to the CBD after our Lygon Street brunch during which Trev confronts a colossal veal scallopini we pause respectfully at Carlton’s John Curtin Hotel with a Coopers beer to toast Bob Hawke; a venue in which Bob Hawke himself often toasted Bob Hawke (with ample cause).
Our penultimate pub is the Exford (surely a sister hotel to Rundle Street’s Exeter) and we watch the Port and Gold Coast game from a sodden Adelaide Oval. The big screen shows that the locals have turned up in their dozens (forget Winter is Coming, I think the tarps are coming), and with the Filth the Power claiming control we scarper.
It’s forty-six after the hour, we’ve a plane to catch and banana bread to battle.
The best Barry Humphries’ character Sandy Stone would describe it as a “nice afternoon’s entertainment.”
With a gorgeous autumnal forecast in the mid-twenties here’s the plan for Saturday.
1. Stroll down to Glenelg Oval just after lunch for the Round 3 fixture between the Tigers and the South Adelaide Panthers. I understand that in the Big Cat World a tiger would be expected to defeat a panther but in early season SANFL footy there are few certainties. The boys, their mates and I will set up shop on the sloping lawn in front of the scoreboard. While the football will be punctuated by four siren blasts finishing the action each quarter, Alex and Max will eat incessantly and in keeping with the theme of the event, carnivorously.
2. At 2.30 (interestingly I had a dental appointment during the week, which I think I’m pleased to say hurt my wallet more than my mouth) we’ll scamper into the bar and watch Winx make her final start in the (time-honoured) Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.
If Prince Charles had a horse race named after him (not his wife?) would it be known as the Chuck Cup? Before, during and after Max will compare the iconic mare and Black Caviar (he has a salmon pink and black spotted cap with her name on it). “Who would win out of the two, Dad?” and, tragi-comically, “How would Waikikamukau go against those two horses?”
3. During the second half of the Glenelg game the boys will climb one of the trees (as you do at the footy) bordering the ground’s eastern side, leaving me to
drink beer in peace guard their snacks, and check the progress of my assorted trifectas and bets personal investment portfolio. Once the game is over we’ll make our way home beneath the golden sunlight, when in a most fortunate twist it will be time to finally watch some football. Port Adelaide play Richmond and this’ll be on TV. At the continued, if expected risk of upsetting the Port fans the match will open with the rather one-sided clash of each club’s theme songs. The Richmond song, “Oh We’re From Tigerland” is, to linger with the racing motif, the best of the pair by the length of the Flemington straight (450 metres, thanks for asking). It’s a rousing, joyous ditty. However, the Power tune, I’m afraid to report, suffers in many regards such as this significant lyric
We’ll never stop, stop, stop
Til we’re top, top, top.
Even casual fans of the Power (is this really a thing?) will know that they did, indeed, finish top in 2004, but unfortunately, they’ve adhered to their own promise since then, in terms of premiership aspirations, and they’ve well and truly stopped. Of this there can be no doubt. They’re good for their word.
4. By the time the Crows verse (as everyone under 21 says) the Kangaroos at the Docklands Stadium I’ll have celebrated each of my horses having saluted. Referencing the Docklands venue, I prefer to only use its generic label for it has, I’d argue, suffered more nomenclature change than the American singer John Mellencamp who has been known variously as John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, Johnny Mellencamp, Cougar John, John Mellen-head, Old Mellencamp John, and the decidedly unhelpful and confusing mononym John. Anyway, by the time this match ends I may well have had sufficient football for this April Saturday, but we’ll see.
Even if the Crows win, I doubt I’ll watch the replay. There’s a surprise, but I reckon it’s what Sandy Stone would chose.
It might, instead, be time for bed.
In this increasingly fractious world of dilemma and doubt, is there anything better for the soul than winning a meat tray?
Of course not.
About a month back some dear friends moved house. They’re in the same suburb but now are but a tranquil walk to the pub so for the previous three Fridays have invested a lazy hour to finish their week.
This experience is augmented by that lustrous concept: The Happy Hour. Their tavern runs a ripper with cheap drinks, free barbeque and a variety of prizes including that most enigmatic of trophies- the meat tray.
Around 7pm for the last three weeks our phones have pinged that they’ve won a meat tray. Last week they won two. They must be the only family in Australia to go to the pub and come home in an improved financial position. Astonishing. They’re butchering the local butcher.
I spoke with Paul last night before they headed off to their beef-themed El Dorado, to offer some pre-emptive support for that inconceivable day, when they promenade homeward, empty-handed. I’m well qualified.
Rushing out his door Paul added, “I saw young Crow Wayne Milera Junior there last week.”
Beyond loin chops, this got me thinking about a team of Juniors. Here we go-
Junior Wells Clint Eastwood, Jr Junior Murray
Robert Downey, Jr Junior Murvin Marlon Brando, Jr
Robert De Niro, Jr Martin Luther King, Jr Dale Earnhardt, Jr
Floyd Mayweather, Jr Sammy Davis, Jr Hayden Button, Jr
Harry Connick, Jr JR Ewing, Jr Teddy Witten, Jr
JFK, Jr Mark Waugh Junior Seau
Ray Parker, Jr Mickey Rourke, Jr (only two on the bench, as it should be)
I’m in our meat tray-less home ready for the Crows and Giants. Still, I could be in Canberra, bedecked in singlet and thongs.
Josh Jenkins, the Crow who’s more maligned than a mushroom schnitzel, hoofs one and goals, but the Giants respond immediately. It’s a breeze-less, crisp evening in the capital and with the apparent temperature already at -1 the Crows’ hamstrings are nervous.
Both sides trade majors. There seems to be a good crowd in tonight. I guess Lucky Grills isn’t playing Mooseheads Bar this evening. Alliterative forward Harry Himmelberg sets up another score for the locals. So far, the contest is strangely subdued and even hyperventilating commentator Luke Darcy is struggling for hyperbole.
We take the lead but in the shadows of the quarter time post, to mix an arena of sporting metaphors, Tex and Eddie have amassed one possession between them. This is expressive of our season which, somehow, is arithmetically alive.
Having been curiously if welcomely invisible Razor Ray moves himself to centre stage and calls a ludicrous score review. His twitter followers count goes from six to four. During the break I let the dogs out and the Siberian blast makes me delighted I’m not at Manuka where I guess Zooper Dooper sales are slow.
The greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world dream matchup of Keath on Keeffe is yet to eventuate and the second term coasts on until Betts grabs an errant spoil and doofs it through. Before they call the police, I let the dogs back in who show their appreciation by promptly falling asleep.
As Crow Lachy Murphy glides another home I think of our meat tray friends who, I imagine, are recreating a Mongol victory feast. The Giants are bogged and lacking their brisk movement. The ball seems to be slicing prodigiously through the frosty air but then it pings out and Cameron soccers it to the good and the game remains tight.
At half-time I reflect that the match has been subdued and devoid of spectacle. But it’s close and I expect an animated finish. I wander outside and instantly detect barbecue smoke and aroma. Although half a city away, I know exactly the source of this meat tray indulgence. It’s cruel and I console myself with some more tepid eggplant dip.
Razor opens the action with an unplumbed deliberate call against Brodie Smith. As an Irish nun I once knew said, “He’s difficult to love, that Razor.” The Himmelberg disaster gets one and the Giants reclaim the advantage.
They put on three, briskly and I consider muting the telecast and turning on Sammy Davis, Jr.
In a moment that must’ve been orchestrated by a bug-eyed alien, GWS register a clear behind which is then reviewed despite it being a postcode away from the point post. Brain-freeze, methinks.
After an exuberant tackle that’s likely to allow Tex to get to Kuta early, the Crows peg one back. And then Bryce Gibbs steers it through the frozen poles to make it less than a kick. But, Hopper bursts clear and goals and it’s the locals by a couple.
Bonar grabs yet another but this time converts and there’s a canyon opening up in front of the Crows. Cameron and Keath engage in some Greco-Roman wrestling which naturally is paid against the visitor. Luke Darcy reminds us for the nineteenth time that GWS have won their last eight at this ground.
Northern Adelaide meat tray aficionado Wayne Milera Junior is again lively and evasive and this final quarter’s compelling. In what could be season-concluding Adelaide gets a trio of gettable minor scores and Shaw is taken off in the golf buggy.
Milera is then taken without the ball in a way that’s illegal even in Alabama but Razor’s pea is untroubled. Another Crow behind. The clock and our campaign are ticking away. Hopper’s score confirms what we’ve all known.
Adelaide’s (well) done and GWS are a (prime) cut above most.
 Love a Windies ‘keeper
 On the strength of “How to Make Gravy”, of course
 Could bring some Rhys-Jones unpredictability
 I’m assured he could also play tall
 He ain’t afraid of no ghost
In May, 1991 I collected the ball on the half-forward flank at Cleve Oval, lifted my eyes goalward and ran.
Or, attempted to run, as an opponent tackled me and stomped on my right foot, accidently. A man of bellowing mirth, and ample girth, he was not inaccurately nicknamed Gut.
I’m unsure of the physics, but am certain mass, force, and pressure all rushed together unthinkingly and briefly as elemental energies do and broke my metatarsal and phalange.
I stopped like the coyote hitting a painted-on tunnel the roadrunner has just disappeared down.
My internal headline was
Gut mashes foot
In my new job I had to take a bunch of kids to Adelaide in about a month and needed to upgrade my licence, so later that night, hobbling about my weatherboard home, I rang my dear friend Gareth to say Sunday’s bus-driving lesson about the noiseless, wide streets of Kimba was off.
Crutches came and went, I got my bus licence for the surprisingly agile, if boxy Toyota Coaster, the Adelaide trip happened and I played footy a month or so later.
I forgot about my foot.
Not long after Max was born in 2010 I jogged through Moseley Square one afternoon and returning home my foot had a secret, invisible steam iron pressed to it, as if it was a GAZMAN shirt on job interview morning. It was searing and burning and as tender as expensive mince.
A few weeks later sitting in a medical clinic the doctor peered at the x-ray and asked, “Have you ever broken your foot?”
“Yeah. In 1991. Playing footy. A big bloke stepped on it.” I supplied extra detail. The doctor looked interested. “His name was Gut.”
Comparing my extremity to a formerly wayward chook, she then commented, “I’m afraid your foot’s now coming home to roost.”
Last Friday just after seven Kerry took me to Noarlunga Hospital. It’s a low, flat building that seems like it belongs in the Riverland, or on the Sunshine Coast near a surf club.
In a small office I met with the anaesthesiologist. He suggested a local would be fine but offered a general too.
On Family Feud a team captain will sometimes blurt, “Play!” before Grant Denyer has closed his overly tiny mouth.
With even quicker speed I yapped, “General.” I didn’t even glance at my family.
Subconsciously informed by my previous Australian operating theatre experience this decision was supersonic. Alex was born by emergency Caesarean section at Flinders Hospital and I was there, sat and chaperoned on a stool by Kerry’s head.
A blue sheet shielded me from the birthing action, but on the ceiling a large mirror reflected everything. I didn’t want to faint, so I didn’t look at that mirror, that all-seeing mirror, like Indiana Jones when the face-melting evil spirits fly about after the Ark of the Covenant is opened by the galactically stupid Nazis.
So, yes, I didn’t wish to unintentionally catch a glimpse of my filleted toe, or an electric saw, or a mallet.
I had no wish to spectate.
And yes, I’m comparing a Caesarean section with minor foot surgery.
I’ve not left the house in four days.
I thought I’d spend time watching old DVDs like Goodfellas or The Royal Tenenbaums but I’ve barely turned on the TV. Daytime viewing is beyond grim with the exception of Judge Judy who cuts through the nonsense quicker than a salt-and-pepper deputy principal, or a New Jersey detective.
Instead, I’ve had my foot elevated over the couch-arm like a languid teenager (with a decidedly unyouthful hoof) while I’ve re-read the Lay of the Land from the Frank Bascombe series by Richard Ford and luxuriated in its finely-observed narration.
When this middle-aged introspection was settling too heavy upon my solitary soul, I listened to a podcast featuring Merrick and Rosso, the former Triple J (and Nova) radio duo for whom there’s still enormous affection, twenty years on. They reminisced about Tight Arse Tuesday and Choice Bro TAFE, and I laughed like a pirate.
It’s been good to shut out the world a while. No work, No driving. The weather only glimpsed out the window in a second-hand, oddly-removed way.
Tomorrow, I’m back to the hospital for a post-operative appointment.
My recovery’s going well, and I’ll soon be back, not on a half-forward flank, but out of the house, and in the world, with a foot that’s good for a few more decades of stroll and grunt and run.