5

When Too Much Football Is Barely Enough

SS

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.

oval

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.

winx

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?”

chuck

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.

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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.

JC

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.

BC

0

Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney: Junior and the Meat Tray

 

happy hour.png

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[1]

Robert Downey, Jr      Junior Murvin[2]             Marlon Brando, Jr

Robert De Niro, Jr[3]     Martin Luther King, Jr Dale Earnhardt, Jr

Floyd Mayweather, Jr Sammy Davis, Jr[4]       Hayden Button, Jr

Harry Connick, Jr        JR Ewing, Jr               Teddy Witten, Jr

Rucks

JFK, Jr                         Mark Waugh[5]              Junior Seau

Interchange

Ray Parker, Jr[6]           Mickey Rourke, Jr      (only two on the bench, as it should be)

meat tray

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.

ray

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.

SDJ

 

[1] Love a Windies ‘keeper

[2] On the strength of “How to Make Gravy”, of course

[3] Could bring some Rhys-Jones unpredictability

[4] I’m assured he could also play tall

[5] sorry

[6] He ain’t afraid of no ghost

2

Round 7- Adelaide v Carlton: Come, Come Mr Bond

radio.png

 

We have radio wars in our car when the boys, wife and I travel together, and I’m annihilated, acoustically.

Despite my best attempts to provide a robust musical education, as the Subaru backs out of the garage, voices from the back seat holler, “Mum, can you put it on NOVA?”

Or, “Change it over to MIX.”

To which I respond, “What do you say?”

From behind me a reluctant, “Please” then chirps across.

MIX self-describes as, “Adelaide’s widest variety of music” but if there’s any truth in radio station slogans it’d be, “Adelaide’s widest variety of Pink.”

Saturday night viewing is providing similar conflict, at least for me. The footy is winning the battle, but only just as 9 GEM is showing all the Bond films, having started a month ago with Dr No which, given our youngest’s current oppositional defiance, is a domestic theme.

However in a rare nocturnal excursion, for the first time this season, I found myself on the bottom deck of the Chappell Stand, taking in the Crows and Blues. To alleviate any clash concerns The Blues are wearing their John Howard-inspired gray guernseys. Really? You’d find greater similarity in the vocal stylings of Taylor Swift and Taylor Walker.

gray

It’s a glorious autumnal evening by the mighty River Torrens – warm, still and clear. Both sides are missing many of their big names and given how many have moved between these clubs, out on the turf it must be like the first hour of a school reunion, you know, before the Brandivino works its liquid magic.

Carlton find space early and vital big rooster Kreuzer snaps to give the Blues their first, and only lead for the encounter. Adelaide then settles and slots the subsequent six with alliterative forwards Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern each scoring an appropriate two goals.

On TVs across the ‘burbs Thunderball is also away and SPECTRE has stolen some NATO bombs, and is threatening to destroy a US or UK city, later revealed as Miami which seems a little unambitious, given they’re working in the Bahamas. Why not be lofty in your aims and lob one at Luton, although, to be fair, it’d be difficult to tell.

In his first match against his former mob B. Gibbs (Bryce, not Barry) has continued his silky form and is accumulating possessions across the ground like MI6’s finest collects casino chips. During the break I get out my Texas Instruments calculator and start punching in cricket scores to see how far up the table the Crows will be by midnight. This arrogance guarantees the Blues (Grays) fightback is on.

boat.jpg

Skill execution errors, even from diminutive half-back assassin Rory Laird means the visitors enjoy a dominant quarter with some clever work from Levi Casboult whose hulking presence could be handy in Thunderball as things get desperate in the Aston Martin. The game is poised at the half and I get approval from our bank to undertake some Goldfinger action of my own: I buy a beer and some hot chips.

Any lingering tension quickly evaporates into the May sky as Adelaide registers a pair of majors in the opening minutes. Eddie Betts is involved, but his form and his season are simmering, not Bond-movie-speedboat-explosions, just yet. Footy itself has been strangely subdued thus far in 2018.

spectre.png

Mitch McGovern doesn’t so much mark the Sherrin as pluck it from atop the pack in a way that startles everyone. He elevates himself onto Liam Jones’ shoulders and completes the catch as if Q had lent him the famous jetpack. It provides some frisson on a night when the narrative arc is as predictable as a commercial radio playlist (Up next we’ve got some Captain Beefheart).

Cam Ellis-Yolmen continues his steady progress and is stringing together games in his much-interrupted career which began way back in 2011, when you could sneak your track-suited self into a Blockbuster and borrow Kung Fu Panda 2 for a fiver.

I admit it’s been a minor treat to see Carlton’s Cripps and Curnow in action. They’ll drive the Blues bus for the next decade, or half a dozen coaches, whichever comes first. Their win/ draw/ loss tally now reads:

007.

Despite another obligatory hamstring injury Adelaide moves confidently to the next instalment of the Showdown franchise next Saturday in the twilight.

There should be no televisual conflict with Casino Royale beginning just on the final siren. I best iron my new tracky-daks.

jetpack

 

 

 

0

Round 3 – Adelaide v St Kilda: The Noel’s Caravans/ Jock Cheese Cup

BREAKING-

Malcolm Blight to replace Neil Kerley as face of Noel’s Caravans

Green Fields, Adelaide, April 2018

In a jolt to the chummy SANFL-football-icons-turned-caravan-promoters-community Neil Kerley has quit his post as a spokesperson for the quality but affordable leisure vehicles that are available at Noel’s.

With the reggae-kitsch and ear-wormish jingle playing over the lot’s PA system Kerls barked “I’m cooked,” to the mob gathered among the Millards. The gnarled legend then elaborated, “From now on you’ll only catch me by the yabby-rich yet cotton-theft-ravaged waters of Walker Flat. Flogging caravans is a young man’s game.”

noels

Heir presumptive Malcolm Blight then took an Island Star twenty-one-footer for a spin about Noel’s substantial block, and upon returning frowned at the narrow corridor into which he had to back the van. He was heard to mutter, “I can’t get this in here,” and despite The Messiah and his towed entourage being eighty metres away, another, likely interior voice breathed, “Yes, I can. I’m Malcolm Blight!”

Onlookers attest that the ex-Woodville Woodpeckers star then neatly reversed the caravan to a parking space by the front office, just like a wizened Jim’s Mowing franchisee.

After decades away from Adelaide, we welcome him home and await his work with Noel’s. And Malcolm, watch those bunkers on the 18th at Glenelg, an emu couldn’t escape them.

*

Like the charismatic connection between Adelaide oval’s hot chips and the ever-newsworthy chicken salt, or early period Miles Davis and the popularisation of modal jazz’s harmonic rhythms, I can’t think of St Kilda without seeing Melbourne band TISM and their music video, “Greg! The Stop Sign!!”

Who can forget the footage of Saints (and Kimba) chap Shane Wakelin, alongside Justin Peckett and those anonymous others, pedaling their gym bikes? That this is accompanied by Beach Boys-styled vocals augments the sumptuousness, and as modern TAC satire’s most illustrious shot the camera then pans past various motivational signages festooned on the walls, including my eternal favourite: “Your (sic) a professional. Keep it simple.”

Screenshot (1)

*
Saturday night and with Blight, Kerley and TISM alumni, Humphrey B. Flaubert, Jock Cheese, Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun, and Ron Hitler-Barassi doubtlessly peering at the box (although probably not together) this fixture is underway.

Crow-for-life Mitch McGovern grabs and goals to get us underway but such is my remove from yoof that I can’t read his Anchorman moustache. Is it authentic, ironic or post-ironic? PM me if you can help.

For the Saints the aspirational housing developer’s dream Blake Acres (You’ll love coming home to Blake Acres) bends it too far at the other end. He’s lively early. While the Crows finished fluently last week they’re stuttering tonihgt.

Meanwhile the wife is watching The Bridges of Madison County. I trust Clint’s getting a few touches. Young Saint Jimmy Webster (was he in Goodfellas?) is also strong in attack, but the home side isn’t capitalising on their possession. Cam Ellis-Yolmen looks impressive around the ball, and his big body adds some grunt in this Crouchless knickers onball division. Meanwhile, Acres continues to be given too much space.

TISM

With daylight savings ended it’s dark at six, but still appealingly warm. I’m watching the game on a device on our patio, but somehow there’s more flies now than there were in January. I should light a mossie candle. I’d also have thought the Docklands seagull curfew to have passed but apparently not.

885 saints have been canonized by Pope Francis (2013–) during his pontificate and most of them (ignoring the five years after their death detail) have turned up to watch their eponymous side. There’s plenty of empty seats across the Docklands stadium so the miracle verification can continue apace.

Tom Lynch again shows his crystal vision and quick kicking which results in a major. He must be in the first six picked, every week. What if next year there’s two Tom Lynches in one side? Speaking of such, how lucky are we to have had so many Nathan Browns play AFL in the last decade?

Eddie finally opens his season’s account with a signature sequence of side-stepping and Sherrin-curling. With the earlier birth today of twin girls he’s had a surreal day in which life and footy have intersected in beautiful and complex ways.

Then, a Richard Douglas goal is reviewed to a behind because, allegedly, a subatomic fingernail particle made contact with the ball for a zeptosecond. Clearly, the physics is beyond me, but I’m sure these decisions are made using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The second half starts and I wonder how Ron, Humphrey, Jock and co are. I wonder if Kerls is cooking some yabbies and how Blighty hit them today. Sweetly, I’m guessing.

Don’t let me down, Bruce, gets one for the locals and they seem primed. But then the game again descends to the mundane, despite the clear nihgt. Like the final hour of a bikie wedding reception this is untidy stuff, until Betts gets it out the back to break the tedium. JB is settling into his new commentating role. I’d argue he’s better than BT or KB or DK or SK or BJ or VB.

The Crows register three rapidly, and the complexion changes. Then, former Pie Seedsman applies an exquisite tackle and we’re five goals to the good. Tex, off a step…

I duck into the boys’ room and coax the youngest to put down his latest Captain Underpants book (No, it wasn’t based upon a Saints’ end of season trip). He’s had a big day.

During the denouement Eddie takes a hanger. The siren sounds. The kick’s skinny, and irrelevant.

MB

 

 

0

Finals Week 3- Adelaide v Geelong: River Dancing in the Riverbank Stand

river dance

With spring’s warmth kissing our little city on this exquisite Friday evening, where else to meet for this Crows and Cats preliminary final clash, but at the Malcolm Blight statue?

Yes, the man who fostered enduring belief in Corio Bay by taking Geelong to three grand finals, and then with a magical swiftness, scurried in and out of Adelaide, but gifted them successive flags.

I shake Citrus Bob’s hand. We chat, and I ask after his dogs, “How’s Freddie Flintoff and Chloe on Flinders?” I wonder if the real Mr Flintoff has ever ascended the stairs at Young and Jackson to admire the eponymous bar’s nude portrait. No, I decide. That’d distract Fred from his singular, ferocious work on the ground floor.

Standing by Blighty with Bob must be like flopping down on a Trafalgar Square bench with Mick Jagger. Celebrities, past presidents, parents of players, media identities: Bob knows them all. As Patrick Dangerfield’s grandfather, this is no surprise, but Bob’s a star himself. Olympians, octogenarians, off-spinners: all say howdy to Citrus. And we’re not inside the ground yet.

Our seats are in Bay 130 of the Riverbank Stand, next to the Geelong players’ race. Finishing his warm-up Paddy runs down the tunnel. His grandfather waves a hot chip at him. “No thanks,” Paddy nods. He was always respectful.

After the curious theatre of the national anthem and the Crows’ warrior stance we’re away. Torrents of sound drown us, like a mallet banging the inside of a 44-gallon drum. Betts and Cameron establish their key theme early with a pair of conjured scores inside two minutes.

It’s hot at Adelaide Oval and the giant ceiling fans are twirling in the Riverbank Stand like the helicopter rotors of Captain Willard’s nightmares, but the Crows fashion a dream start. Cricket Australia would welcome a balmy (barmy) evening such as this for the inaugural Day/Night Ashes Test.

Paddy begins forward and completes a contested grab, to the roaring delight of the Cats who surround me, like a TS Eliot creation. But he pushes the drop-punt to the right, as if he, too, is puzzled by the haunting, inexcusable absence of the Chicken Salt hoarding.

It’s Flemington fast footy. However, the locals are quick by hand and foot, and run to space in ominous formation, while the Cats seem hesitant and lack precision when travelling goalward. Betts registers his second and I ask Citrus, “Has there been a more fun footballer to watch?” Bob has witnessed many decades of this game, and smiles an instant no.

Adelaide dominates the stanza and a message blinks through, not from my man in Amsterdam, but a lad in Largs. It’s raining. What might this mean? There’s not much in it, and I think of my wife’s late grandfather, who would’ve described it as, “three squirts of nanny-goat piss.”

Despite its habitual, incurable dropping, Joel Selwood’s neck continues to play well, and enjoys gushing admiration from the umpires, who offer Secret-Service-murmuring-into-their-lapels levels of protection to the Cats captain’s décolletage.

The third quarter sees the Cats produce some fleeting patches in which they look poised to snatch a canary or two, but the Crows respond and counterattack, if not accurately, at least with psychological potency. The Crouch industrial/ military complex again dominates and as we steadily build a lead, the record crowd begins to sense something special, two decades in the making.

When big Cat Hawkins is caught juggling the ball, like it’s the opening hour of Circus School, I ease into the moment. Then, a mostly subdued Tex Walker curls one through from just inside the boundary immediately in front of our bay, and our collective ecstasy finally commences. The Cats fans are gracious, if resigned. A Mexican wave does a few rippling circuits and once the demons of 1993 have vaporised, throaty baritones belt though the Crows song.

With the siren, I feel a couple of hot tears, and wonder at the berserk week ahead. My phone pings a message from Louisville, Kentucky, and then one from Harrow in London. I thank Citrus Bob for a great night. He’s going down to the Geelong rooms to see his grandson.

The world’s a shadowy, sometimes unknowable place, but right now Adelaide’s golden.

AO

2

Round 20- Adelaide v Port: Barney 43

hill

I blame the shameless brewers of that most horrific muck West End Draught. Where were the dissenting voices at that fateful marketing meeting? Here we are, into the third decade of the state’s biggest football event and it’s still, somehow, called the Showdown, as determined by the fifteenth best beer manufacturer in Adelaide.

However, it’s also another example of American linguistic imperialism. If we were talking about Ole Miss and Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl then the word would work, but here in South Australia we should’ve gone with Dust Up, Yike, Blue, or my preference, Barney.

“We’re underway in Barney 17.” Or-

“There’s the siren. Adelaide has won a thriller in Barney 31!”

For the first time this millennium I’m on the Hill, just down from the world’s best scoreboard. We’re in a tidy quintet of chaps. There’s ferocious rain and wind and the sky is like an aubergine. The mud and slushy grass is tundra. Old mate behind us has on a Power scarf and is in shorts. My phone says it’s eight degrees. Jason pulls out his sunglasses, “Reckon I’ll need these soon.” We laugh, and Chris asks, “Did anyone bring the 50+?”

With a significant wind-assistance Adelaide traps the ball within their arc, and like an over-zealous debater, makes point after point after point before The Hoff collects his own kick and soccers cleverly. This, I’m delighted to report, would be the Power’s sole major until about ten minutes into the third quarter.

The Crows dominate across the ground and despite the conditions are clean and sure in disposing by hand and foot, which is a happy contrast to their dismal first half at the MCG last Sunday. Tex Walker appears impatient with his side’s inability to punish the Power so, both as captain and big forward, monsters his teal competitors in taking strong grabs and slotting telling goals.

Paddy Ryder has been in colossal form and various denizens of the Hill voice their anxieties about how Sam Jacobs might handle the Power star. They needn’t have worried for while their aerial and ruck duels are spirited, the boy from Ardrossan is also outrageous at ground level and kicks a great pack snap for a rooster who’d bang his red-combed head on the hen-house rafters.

Despite now missing his appendix Eddie Betts kicks some amazing goals, including one from his pocket just down in front of us. As the ball bent through, the heaving crowd about me leapt and there were ponchos and scarfs bouncing and flapping like a Latino dance party. The only deviation from the Happy Days script is when yet another goal-of-the-year contender is deemed by the evil umpire to have been touched by an evil Power player.

And what of Port? They’d appeared to be entirely unlike Port such is their pedestrian spectating. They seem disinterested, and must be waiting for The Choir Boys to reform. In the sheds at half-time only Robbie Gray has earnt his hot cup of Milo.

September looms and pleasingly Sloan finds plenty of it, and creates well. On the Hill, I spy a gent wearing a bespoke shirt featuring a picture of Rory’s blonde bonce with this accompanying prose-

Men want to tag him

Women want to shag him

The crowd is boisterous and enjoyable. I see lots of Crows fans standing with Power faithful, and the banter is lively. Not Disney channel, but not Tarantino either.

Suddenly, Charlie Cameron has it and he accelerates through the middle. It’s among our game’s most exhilarating sights, but while his pace is Lamborghini, his kicking is still often Holden Gemini.

Then Brad Ebert gets one, but unlike last Saturday against the Saints, it really is too late, and the Port supporters are shuffling towards the gates like an Alabama chain-gang. The Nissan Urvan will soon be pointed towards the Lefevre Peninsula, and I just hope that Uncle Ernie managed to fix the heater when he popped round yesterday.

Adelaide records its biggest winning margin against the INXS wailers, and after two decades now lead 22-21 in these most magnificent of contests, the Barney.

I must get back to the Hill again.

nissan

 

0

Round 7- Adelaide v North Melbourne: Four quarters, four pubs, four points (pints)

death mobile.png

Inspired by seminal film-noir offering Animal House and the road trip taken by Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto I realise I need a robust plan. How was I going to watch the footy on Saturday?

With Bass Strait likely to be beyond our modest 4WD, a road trip wasn’t possible, so I contemplated my options, and late one night the answer burst upon me like the Gospel chorus of “Shout” as performed mid-toga party by Otis Day and the Knights. I could hear Eric “Otter” Stratton saying, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture.”

Pub crawl.

And so, a Glenelg walking and refreshment tour happened.

First quarter: Holdfast Hotel

The Holdy reinvents itself often. It was once a brew-pub and now it’s trying to get down with the kids, as its website has an Instagram gallery. A couple months’ ago, I took our boys there for a bite to eat. Despite thousands of punters going through the inn in the interim, Lucy, the young bar server, remembered our boys. Probably because having brought a footy, they enjoyed some spirited end-to-end kicking in the bar. No, an outside bar. Yes, during an engagement party.

The game’s dominant themes emerge early: North first to the ball and constructive, and Adelaide’s chasing Roos like some misfits in Wake in Fright. The early goals then became regular scores and worry changes to disbelief and ultimately laughter at the absurdity of the events unfolding. I was reminded of Macbeth who remarks upon seeing the seemingly endless dynasty begat by Banquo: What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?

Our first quarter score matches exactly Bluto’s grade point average in Animal House as declared by Dean Wurmer: Zero POINT zero.

Second quarter: Broadway Hotel

The Broady is high-vis and TAB tickets, but it’s been renovated; the side wall’s been knocked through, and now there’s a cheerful beer garden. How great would this actually be? A garden which grows beer. But, I do wonder if the new hole was deliberate and not caused by an energetic brawl, all whirls of orange and flying Blundstones*, or a stolen WW2 tank.

Eddie Betts registers his 500th goal and then courtesy of ill-discipline, his 501st. But Jarrad Waite dominates for the Roos, while for the Crows Tex Walker may as well have sat in the Ricky Ponting Stand and had a few jars, given his uncustomary invisibility.

Third quarter: The Jetty Bar

Attractively located on Moseley Square, the Jetty is a fantastic boozer for nursing a beer and people-watching, but I’ve always thought it was a pub. And an exotic, earthy one at that. It formerly advertised “Half-price Brandavino” at Happy Hour. Apparently, it’s now a bar and is sometimes known as the “J Bar.” Stop it, you man-bunned assistant manager, you’re fooling no-one. It’s a pub. Apparently, it opens at 8am for those mornings when tea and toast just won’t cut it.

It’s a grim afternoon when among the second half highlights is a patch when North kicks the ball out on the full three times as the comically blustery wind blows across Belerive and the bay. Adelaide surges occasionally, but the Roos are easily able to withstand and then counter these attacks.

I note that just up the road from the arena is The Lost Sock Laundrette, and wonder if the afternoon may have been more productively spent in there, watching a stranger’s second hand sheets tumbling and tumbling while outside in the murk and swirl an uncaring football universe rushes by.

Fourth quarter: The Grand Hotel

The Internets say that the Grand Bar is “smartly casual” and welcomes hotel guests and Adelaidians alike. All true, but I’d argue it’s actually “casually smart” which means your thongs must roughly match, or they won’t let you in. Their website (it could be an Instagram gallery, I’m unsure) includes photos of a surprisingly inert metal bucket with Corona beers (sic) and a jaunty yoof sporting a backwards cap.

Standing by the bar my Volleys are instantly glued to the floor. Ahh, The Grand, where the tiles are eternally sticky, and the beer’s not pouring well. This is the first thing all new staff are taught. “Repeat after me. That tap’s not pouring well. Can I interest you in a rare Japanese ice beer? They’re only $15.”

The last quarter plods away to its sure conclusion. Not many Crows players will want a DVD of this match for their CV while the Roos are led by Waite and Cunnington. We’ve been flogged at the ruck contests and North gets the ball inside their fifty nearly 80 times! The mathematical weight of this alone ensures that we were in trouble.

Still, we remain top, and it’s been a fun afternoon out and about in Glenelg. Next time I’ll also invite Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto.

otis.png

 

 

 

4

Round 3 – Port Adelaide v Adelaide: A Moment

tex

In contrast to the previous torrid energy it was an uncontested mark with nothing in the way of opposition pressure, such as a spoil, or a sudden, secretive fist to the ribs.

Resulting from a David MacKay disposal it was an unhurried and simple catch; the kind associated with circle work at a country oval’s Tuesday night training, while inside the glowing clubrooms volunteers squeezed pies and pasties into warmers.

In January 2015, many were surprised that Patrick Dangerfield wasn’t appointed captain of the Crows. However, with a likely acceptance that their star player would soon wish to return to Moggs Creek, there was a quiet nodding of sage heads at the news that the role had been assigned to Taylor Walker.

A key component of the Phil Walsh legacy, he was about to demonstrate the wisdom of this decision.

Having taken the grab Walker wheeled around like a rattling cattle truck and assessed his options. He made a quick, barely perceptible scan of the landscape and decided.

Despite his Barry White/ Stephen Kernahan/ Dad joke baritone possibly suggesting otherwise Tex is an astute footballer who knows intimately the ecosystem of Adelaide Oval. With the Riverbank Stand towering taller than the MCG he knew that its surrounding microclimate, largely windless and advantageous on this autumnal evening, would assist his endeavours.

Watch now as into that rare real estate, sufficient space, he strides, not as a gut-busting midfielder, but as sizable, agile forward. Yes, he thinks, the time is right. The fifty-metre arc slides into distant view.

He balances and connects.

Despite the infantile and myopic scrabblings of the game’s rules committee and cash-drunk administrators and the carnivorous stadium vendors and the grasping media outlets and the petty trivia of the footy news-cycle, it’s these moments that’ll endure, that’ll guarantee the endless charisma of our game.

For lesser footballers, this spot on this long, lean ground might be no man’s land, an uncomfortable location where the options are crippling. Do I pass to a leading forward? Centre the ball? Aim for the top of the square? Handball to team mate on the burst? However, at this spot, seventy metres from goal there’s another possibility, but it’s only available for an elite few.

Tex Walker has a kicking technique that’s akin to a David Warner pull shot. Elegant in its simplicity, it marries outback power, untainted physics and Mick Jagger arrogance.

Now launched, the ball spins in a somewhat ungainly fashion, lurching through the air, slinging itself goalward with hungry velocity, rather than with the pure, fizzing momentum of, say, a Luke Hodge pass.

It travels through the roaring night and there’s now a sudden, muted quality to the stadium soundtrack that’s universal disbelief, Port Power horror and Adelaide Crow awe. The ball travels and travels and continues to travel. The pregnant seconds stretch onward, invested with everything we love about our mighty, Indigenous code.

Unlike a Malcolm Blight torpedo, it traces a low parabola across my screen as the crowd rushes past in the background, a smeared Monet. Walker’s drop-punt is at once sublime, but also gigantic. It taunts the line between possibility and impossibility.

It’s a goal.

As the Sherrin thuds into the turf midway between the goal line and the fence, leaving a crater in the Santa Ana, the clock announces that four minutes remain. Adelaide is three goals up.

Now, for all present at the ground, or at home or in a pub across Australia, or peering at a screen in midday London or Auckland or Albuquerque, all is denouement.

The necessarily curved narrative of football is concluded. We’ve had a moment.

oval

 

http://www.afc.com.au/video/2017-04-08/highlights-r3-tex-seals-it

 

0

Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1993

wellington

Gee, I love the early nineties. Indeed, my wife has often remarked that I’m still living there. She may have a point. So, I’m listening to some old songs. Here’s two that reverberate.

Girlfriend- Matthew Sweet

I remember the first time I heard Triple J. I was driving around Adelaide on a Saturday during 1990 in my VK Commodore. Roy and HG and This Sporting Life was on, and Roy was telling of the occasion he was marlin fishing off Bermuda with It’s a Knockout host Billy J. Smith, Kylie Minogue and celebrated cricketer Steve Waugh. He narrated with such earnestness that like all good satire I believed him for a few minutes.

Back then Helen and Mikey did the breakfast shift on Triple J and it remains the most exciting, deranged radio I’ve heard. They regularly played Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.” It’s power pop perfection with its exhilarating, urgent guitars and ambiguous lyrics. It still transports me back to 1992 when I and Greg Anderson both sported (unironic) mullets.

A few years later Mikey was still on breakfast, but with the Sandman, and this happened.

Sandman: I’ve often wondered what it’d be like to be a woman.

Mikey: Come here.

I’m not sure if Matthew Sweet is a one-hit wonder, but “Girlfriend” endures as a glowing artefact from a fun time.

Saints- The Breeders

Emerging as a Pixies side project for Kim Deal, their signature song is “Cannonball” from their album Last Splash. I bought this when I was down from Kimba, in Adelaide to undertake my first City to Bay fun run. My aim for the gently downhill twelve kilometres was modest. I wanted to break the hour mark.

The run was Sunday morning, the day after the 1993 preliminary final between the Adelaide Crows and Essendon Bombers. I watched it in Magill with a couple mates who were enjoying some footy beers. Adelaide was up by 42 points at half time. How exciting was this? We were going to our first grand final!

As things unravelled in the second half I was tempted to apply some medicinal lagers, but resisted as I’d been training for two months. Of course we lost and a week later Essendon claimed an unlikely premiership.

I completed the run in 58 minutes.

Last Splash is an eclectic listen comprising surf music, off-kilter ballads and infectious pop. “Saints” recounts a summery day at the fairground, but through an alternative prism. There’s disconnected imagery and a driving beat with Kelley Deal on a growling guitar. Invited by her sister Kim to join the band as a guitarist presented but one problem: Kelley did not know how to strum a chord. “Saints” shows she picked it up pretty well.

The following Christmas I was in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on a Contiki tour.  I learnt that the Breeders were playing a small venue around the corner from our digs. I didn’t go because I had to drink Steinlagers in a pub with other Australians and talk footy and cricket. As Australians do when overseas in beautiful places they might never again visit.

Ridiculous.

knockout

0

Round 23 – Adelaide v West Coast: Optimistically and Misty-Optically

casper

I’m at the game tonight, but would’ve been happy at home as it’s the last Friday night, minor round clash to be called by Dennis Cometti. With his 1970’s AM radio drive time vocal stylings he’s become a cherished feature of our game. Combining this with precise description and fabulous wit has made him iconic.

“Gasper, the unfriendly post” is his best line in a galaxy of gems. Imagine his joy as the Sherrin was launched by the star Tiger and banged into the upright. How long must he have sat on that?

My personal metric indicating his influence is that every time I say in my head, “West Coast Eagles” I can only complete it in the voice of Dennis. And now like the famous definition of an intellectual: a man who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, I challenge you to silently repeat, “West Coast Eagles” but not in the honeyed tones of Dennis. See? Impossible.

We saw the 2006 preliminary final at Footy Park between the Crows and Eagles in which we were ahead comfortably at half-time. Probably cursing us, a friend texted- We’re going to the GF. As Ben Cousins gathered disposals at will and shrugged off desperate, lunging Crows in the second half, and the result became certain a mate grunted, “Bloody Cousins is killing us. It’s like he’s on drugs.” Mmm.

Drafted as an emergency ruckman former Kapunda boy and church minister offspring Jonathan Giles is at his fourth AFL club having been at Port, Essendon, and most productively, the Giants. He enjoyed an interregnum at Sturt where he won the 2010 best and fairest, while his SANFL life started at Central District. I’d like him to next go back to Kapunda and win a flag, then go to Glenelg and do the same before finishing his career, like many a road movie, in Fort Lauderdale. His “Places I’ve Played Footy” Facebook app is busy.

Giles is brilliant tonight, and makes the Crow ringleader appear tired. Interviewed after the match, Sam Jacobs confessed, “The only one who could ever outreach me was the son of a preacher man.”

As has been the season’s pattern the home side is sloppy early, and save for a couple clean bursts, this endures all evening. The Eagles apply good pressure across the ground and we make catastrophic quantities of errors in every facet of the game from kicking to handballing to dropping easy marks to unplumbed decision-making, most notably when Lyons snapped at the Riverside goal and missed, instead of getting it to a team-mate in the square. I’m also certain that for their post-match meal some of the Crows even went the tofu option.

It takes the Crows twenty minutes to register a major and this comes through McGovern. At the other end the Coleman Medalist is murdering us, continuing the long relationship between grassy expanses, deadly accuracy and Kennedys. He gets five in a solid outing.

Gaff, Priddis and Shuey are getting industrial volumes of ball, and we don’t seem to be doing much about this. Having reinvented himself as a half-back flanker, former Hoodoo Gurus guitarist Brad Shepperd is going well. Good times for him, indeed.

Local highlights are rare, but Tex offers some after midnight insights with his deft footwork in the centre before it lobs to Eddie who goals. The competition’s biggest scoring forward line has a Bolivian prison evening with but two majors to its members.

Our third quarter is goalless. Someone later comments that the match felt like a forfeit. Let’s hope the Adelaide Crows’ 600th game was an exorcism.

Leaving a sullen Adelaide Oval as the West Coast Eagles song plays I realise where I’ve heard it before. It was in 1985 during the final credits of a (bad) Andrew McCarthy film.

steeple

 

 

0

Round 19 – Adelaide v Essendon: Dons’ Party or Don’s Party?

l and s

And a polite patter of applause is hird (sic) for Crows coach Don Pyke on defeating Essendon. Congratulations to Don on another first in his debut year.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, the spectre of the disgraced 1996 Brownlow Medallist looms large. With which metaphors do we now designate this fallen figure? Is he a cultic prophet who fabricated his own Waco? Macbeth is probably too obvious a motif, so could the golden one now be the spectral illuminatus?

But, he was an astonishing footballer. When the Bombers stole a flag in 1993 I became a fan. However, it wasn’t until this millennium when I finally watched him at Footy Park that I became certain of his genius. His grace, immaculate skill, and tellingly, preternatural vision made him among the best I’d witnessed.

*

Roy and HG once considered the sledging skill of a rugby league player, who’d run around with the Lithgow Shamrocks, under the gruff tutelage of Grassy Grannall, expertly baiting his opponents, while using subordinate clauses.

The boys and I begin our afternoon on the Northern Mound at the Adelaide Oval, a secular temple of colossal beauty. We’re adjacent to the heritage scoreboard. With its elegant lines, and yellow and white lettering evoking Bradman and Chappell and Ebert, it’s a majestic icon. I hear no insults of lexical prettiness.

*

Despite the negligible obstacle of being delisted in 2009, a disappointment is that former Crow Robert Shirley isn’t in the side to tag Bomber Jayden Laverde. Who wouldn’t love the match-up of Laverde and Shirley? Happily humming, “Making Our Dreams Come True” I skip to the bar and request refreshment from Milwaukee’s finest, the Shotz Brewery, but instead am presented with a West End Draught.

Adelaide gets one within thirty seconds courtesy of McGovern, but then the footy is marooned for six turgid minutes in the Bombers forward line. It’s much like spending Christmas in Iron Knob: unexpected and increasingly disconcerting. Then, out it pops, and Eddie is scampering across half-forward and the crowd response is customarily seismic. He bounces thrice and goals.

Former Norwood boy Orazio Fantasia replies and Essendon are away too. The early period is characterised by a tussle before the Crows begin to assert themselves and the inevitable occurs. Watching Adelaide mechanically dismantle their opponents is largely joyless. Among the many negatives of the Essendon drug saga is the loss of narrative. It’s difficult to locate a compelling story.

But, footy fights back and presents Joe Daniher. With his moustache and oddly laconic dial, he looks like he should feature in the slow-motion action of a Carlton Draught advertisement. He takes multiple contested grabs, and must be the Bombers highpoint in this most wintry of winters. With less grace than the sacrificed buffalo in the last scenes of Apocalypse Now he stumbles on the grass, but somehow goals. Daniher’s high marking is exhilarating, but his kicking is more Travis Cloke than Travis Cloke.

At the other end of the paddock Charlie Cameron is also generating joy for his club. Like David Cameron his last month hadn’t been flash, but unlike the Tory lizard Charlie triumphed today with clear public approval in getting four majors, and keeping us in Europe.

The last quarter is forgettable until Josh Jenkins- he’d been quiet, possibly fiscally pre-occupied, marks assertively and goals. A dreary Festival of Fifty Metre Penalties ensues, but only the umpires have bought tickets. Eddie earns a free and handballs to ex-Magpie Paul Seedsman who again converts from the arc with a penetrating spear. Thank you Collingwood.

Tomorrow’s a school-day for the boys, and Escape to the Country is due to soon begin, doubtless featuring a smug empty-nester couple from Middlesex who’ve convinced themselves that they really do need seven bedrooms, so we start our Riverbank Stand descent towards basecamp. The Bombers get three late goals and the Crows remain outside the top four. It’s an evening carved with Baroque shapes.

scoreboard

 

 

 

0

Round 14 – Adelaide v North Melbourne: Thursday

greyhounds

In the truly tremendous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the central character Arthur Dent laments, “This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” Shortly after, and with effervescent style, the planet Earth is destroyed.

Thirsty university students refer to Thursday as the new Friday. If American paint-by-numbers rockers The Knack was the new Beatles, and sauvignon blanc is the new chardonnay (or is it the other way round?) and burger joints are the new burger joints, then let’s agree that Thursday can imitate Friday.

With light snow forecast for our state’s upper ranges the fixture begins, and following a few scrappy minutes Rory Atkins kicks a cracker which is reviewed, extraterrestrially, to a behind. However, soon after, like Arnor Ingvi Traustason in Iceland v Austria, the good Tom Lynch soccers it through.

The Crows padlock it in and Dick Douglas (did he star in a 1940’s Hollywood musical?) snaps accurately. North move the ball without method or fluency, and this increases the spectacular early lack of spectacle.

My Barossa shiraz is jovial in a rumbling, earthy, Thursday way, and it shields me against Ziebell’s goal. Still, it’s the first opposition score in nearly a fortnight. Yet another Crows’ goal review degenerates into circus with the process seemingly being timed-out. As my first-ever boss might say, “The AFL couldn’t organise a root in a wood yard.”

Good Eddie jags a point, and with five consecutive minor scores Adelaide lurches into wastefulness. It reminds me that once there were two British parliamentary committees simultaneously investigating pointless governmental duplication.

The Kangaroos can’t twine together possessions, while the Crows are better in close, especially by hand. Of course, I’d just confidently completed that previous sentence when North get two goals in a minute, and my keyboard is abruptly stricken.

*

A shiraz-aided recovery allows me to now type that Tex ghosts unaccountably to the front of the pack. He grabs it, and slots it to shove the lead to a couple goals.

Lindsay Thomas drops the ball as if it’s an allergen, and to the crowd’s predictable umbrage, he attracts a free. Shortly after there’s a goal by Mason Wood- didn’t this golf stick debut at Troon in 1926 along with the Mashie niblick?

Half way through the second quarter the Kangaroos have impetus and the lead, and then when kicking at goal Adelaide is Ernie Els on the first green at Augusta, tapping it everywhere and really often, but never fecking straight.

After the main break Crouch crashes through a hasty torpedo punt and we’re away. Good Eddie follows within a minute. It’s a frenetic start and typing maniacally requires my shiraz to sit abandoned. Tex tyrannosauruses one from sixty and my glass and I reunite. Just now.

With the wife and boys abed I scramble back into my chair and Thomas sneaks the opposition in front again. Our sixteenth behind. No, make that the seventeen. Spare me. Then, good Eddie triangulates it through, and we’re just up.

Following more frisson from Charlie Cameron in which he’s has moved the ball with scintillating pace, but crude disposal a video review goes against Tex, and as an eye laser surgery beneficiary glaring at a big TV, I’m sure the stinking camera is lying. Why am I watching this atrocious Australian farce? I turn over to ABC 1 for Rake and its superior Australian farce. Cleaver, Barney and company are at their ridiculous best.

No, I don’t. How could I?

A furious scoreless epoch ensues. Buck Roo Ben Brown continues to display deliberately maddening hair. To use a cliché, which is itself a cliché, the next goal is crucial. And the digital ink isn’t dry when it goes to Adelaide, right now.

Suddenly, the Kangaroos are twenty-eight points, and eighty grand down. It’s peculiar to think that these two haven’t played a final since the 1998 decider. September may see these two again clash, and it would be ripping.

*

My wife and I didn’t meet, nor were either of our boys born on a Thursday. However, these happened on Thursdays: as a United Kingdom resident I voted in their 2005 general election (sadly just once); at Thebby we saw a raucous Violent Femmes; and one summer’s evening at the Tower hotel I had a tidy earn with a Hobart greyhounds trifecta.

You see, Thursday goes alright.

burger joint

 

3

It must be like Keef teaching you guitar: our footy day

eddie

On some days footy can come at you from many directions. Like Mum’s roast it can be expected, but occasionally it’s a happy combination of the old and the new.

My wife had gone to Sam Jacobs’ territory, the Yorke Peninsula, for a friend’s birthday so on a whim the boys and I drove up to the Adelaide Hills for an early lunch. Heading to the Aldgate Pump Hotel we passed a footy ground with the reserves fixture underway, and there were sparse knots of blokes along the fence, the red beer cans contrasting with their navy rain jackets. Up here footy is often beneath a Yorkshire fog. Not far down the road as the hills become the plains is Chad Wingard’s home territory at Murray Bridge. Chad was about to wow them for Port in Alice Springs.

Between my Laksa and not plonking some coin on Music Magnate in the Doomben 10,000 I looked at my phone to check the Alice Springs score especially as my old school mate Chris is related to the Hoff from the Power. No signal. But, I reminded myself this English village sleepiness is the attraction of the Adelaide Hills. It’s why we visit.

Descending through the mist and back into the sunshine we listened to In The Superbox With The Coodabeen Champions and because it’s a family standard, sang along with Greg Champion, “You’re the player, you’re the player, Gary Ablett! Gary Ablett!” I told our eight and six year-old boys that the tune was originally about the Gold Coast star’s dad. They ignore me and keep singing. One day, it could be about a third generation Ablett too. Footy ditties, like Paul Kelly songs, are also timeless.

The car was warm with nostalgia when I found myself turning left down Belair Road and parking outside a handsome villa in Kingswood. I’d decided the boys might like to see where their Dad had a kick and a catch with the Unley Jets before his career finished one August afternoon (split eyebrow; hours waiting in Flinders Medical Centre). As the pale sunlight bent onto the forward flank, we saw the reserves get up against Port District. To celebrate we each had a Freddo Frog (caramel).

How wonderful is local footy? I love the unpredictability. There’s the moments when grace rises above danger as the gangly kid blind turns and jags one from the pocket, and the roar makes the BBQ veterans look up from their hotplate of snags. Later danger reaffirmed itself when a Jets defender surged thrillingly across the wing, but didn’t steady, and his kick squirted across the boundary, like a drive shanked onto a neighbouring fairway.

Our evening was the Crows and the Giants. As had been our day’s theme, the past and the present would again meet. Entering the competition in 2012, Greater Western Sydney has only been discussed in future tense, as a club to whom success would surely come. That day is now speeding towards us, like a growling Monaro.

For Crows fans, ’97 and ’98 have transmuted from glorious history to nostalgic, troubling distance. Is it nearly twenty years? But, yesterday and today often connect, and Andrew McLeod is the football name Eddie Betts rates above all others. Who better to mentor him than the great running half back, as beautiful a player as has strapped on footy boots? It must be like Keef teaching you guitar. With his poise and promise, Wayne Milera, Adelaide’s first selection in the 2015 draft, has been compared to McLeod by judges like Scott Thompson. It’s tantalising.

Eddie’s a senior player now; a leader. Just before the third quarter siren Eddie fabricated yet another miraculous major, one that could net him successive goals of the year. While the kick itself was impressive, it’s how he gained possession: materialising on the boundary and somehow trapping the Sherrin with the surety of a NFL holder assisting in a field goal kick, then accelerating away from a grasping Giant and curling it through at the Cathedral End.

It’s fitting that the Indigenous Round’s best moment came from a Port Lincoln Nunga, a footballer like Sir Doug Nicholls: diminutive, exquisitely skilled and shaping the game in remarkable ways.

The young Giants raced home, but once more Eddie created a goal from gossamer and his fifth in the final seconds guaranteed my Adelaide a fine victory.

It’d been a brilliant day. Yet again footy had jumped out at me in unexpected and blissful ways. Just like footy can.

 

This story was first published in Inside Football. For more go to http://digital.insidefootballonline.com. My thanks to co-founder and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac, John Harms for the opportunity to write this story.

BBQ

0

Round 7 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: Bill Hunter and Your Mum’s Betamax

bill

When I was home looking after our second son ABC News 24 began. Two events of note occurred during those months. Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani compound, and the actor Bill Hunter passed away.

One day just after lunch as Max slept I watched Bill’s memorial service on the television. Mick Molloy worked with Bill, most impressively on Crackerjack, and as a touring double-act across many inner-suburban pubs.

In his eulogy at the Princess Theatre, Mick recalled Bill’s favourite sayings.  Operating within a narrow theme, the first was, “I’m just two schooners short of the horrors” and often used in response to a cheery salutation, the second was, “Get fcuked.”

At the Footy Almanac lunch, and in conversation with our Kapunda crew, John Harms observed that every Melbournian has a Bill Hunter story. And key to these fabled tales was Bill’s seeming ability to be relaxing with a lager at multiple pubs. Simultaneously. He defied quantum physics for Bill could teleport himself, when thirsty. Forget arc-welding, here’s an enviable life-skill.

In town for the weekend with five mates to celebrate my looming birthday, I was keen to pay homage to Bill.

It had begun well.

*

How do you build a publican?

As there is no instructive literature, I suggest the following. Make him slow of gait, even lumbering; commanding yet enigmatic; an employer of understatement as his primary method of communicating, and drench his back-story with equal measures of hyperbolic myth and striking reality.

In short, you make him Percy Jones: proud Tasmanian, Carlton royalty, and mine host at the North Fitzroy Arms.

In this pub bursting with memorabilia, the best example is a photo in the back corner of Percy, standing shoulder to shoulder with another hulking 1970’s icon, Gough Whitlam. It’s invested with historical context, colossal vitality, and fun.

Happily, we now have our own photo with Percy, taken at a front bar table, as he worked unhurriedly through his steak, hands like dinner plates, further enlarged by long seasons of ruck-work. Somehow, reminiscent of Bill Hunter’s corporeal talent he sat with, around, and over us by the window as twilight stole the day. Increasingly, Percy appeared to have descended a North Fitzroy beanstalk, with the scent of an Englishman (Collingwood pest) twitching in his nostrils.

Having concluded the luncheon we repair to our Elizabeth Street digs. A bunk bed sets an appropriate tone and function, for our trip is merrily reminiscent of a school camp. We lie there giggling at, well, nothing in particular, each with a brown paper-bagged Coopers Sparkling Ale to close our proceedings, as against the Tigers, the Hawks predictably close theirs.

*

The top deck at the MCG for the Magpies and the Blues. Footy can be of heightened appeal, especially when you’re disinterested in the result. The man-bun count is dangerously high, and incurable offender Bryce Gibbs is doing well. He’s a Glenelg boy.

Soon, we locate a narrative in Levi Casboult’s afternoon. He’s a great mark, but his kicking is a curious tribute to James Manson: former Magpie and according to the Coodabeens, a “rock and roll Tasmanian.” Still, his inelegant disposal wins me ten bucks from one of the old muckers. Collingwood present as fragile, listless, and impotent. Is this uncharitable?

As the Carlton song booms about the Olympic Stand, our ears detect Percy and Bill Hunter, adding their baritones to the celebration.

*

Pausing involuntarily at Young and Jackson for a head-count and pot of tea we then move to the Docklands for the Crows and Dogs. This could now be the competition’s finest rivalry. Anecdotal evidence suggests that on that September day in 1997 over quarter of a million Dogs supporters were behind those goals for Libba’s notorious point.

Earlier in the day, and fittingly around lunchtime, we were enjoying boys’ church at the All Nations Hotel in Richmond when above the fetching old bar, Bill Hunter’s apparition appeared, declaring, “Trust me Mickey. I was there. Don’t listen to ‘em. It was a fcuking behind.”

Tonight, though, the Crows are walloped in the middle, and have to launch too many attacks from deep in defence. This makes it tough, especially as the Dogs are on. Jenkins kicks a career-best eight, and while the free kick count is lopsided, it’s an excuse, and we lose a thriller.

Bontempelli shows poise and creativity in becoming tonight’s difference. He’s only just concluded being a teenager. When I was his age I could almost speak in sentences, and keep my Kingswood on the left.

After the siren, and walking along the swirling concourse a Dogs fan barks, “Crows supporters are two-headed at birth, and they’ve cut off the rong (sic) one.” This, of course, required appropriate rebuttal, and with volume one of our group replied, “Hey mate! You best get home and watch the ’97 prelim on your Mum’s Betamax.”

Twenty years in, this rivalry is escalating. It’s a ripper.

*

Because it’s the best method of dealing with our (temporary) Crows grief, we each purchase another Coopers Sparkling Ale and return to the school camp confines of our hotel room.

Safely snoring in the tiny space, we’re again visited by Bill Hunter who nods, just like he so often did in Muriel’s Wedding, and remarks, “You boys have had a bloody good weekend. Now go home tomorrow to your wives and families. If you behave, you can come back next year.”

Thanks Bill, we murmur from our bunks.

NFA

 

4

Round 6- Adelaide v Fremantle: Sea Monkeys

sea monkeys

If talking about the weather is Britain’s obsession, then I’d argue that Australia’s national hobby is yabbying. A crustacean El Dorado, trifling physical labour, kids, and refreshments. Generally yielding inedible miscellany. I love it.

After five long years we’re back in Kimba, and Friday lunchtime the ute of my old mate Bazz clunks towards a dam on the Ballumbah Hill Road.

An exploratory net is thrown in, my boys leap about, and between sips of beer, Bazz and I slap at the late April flies. Out here flies never holiday, never bugger off up north for winter. I remember wearily waving them away at nearby Buckleboo during footy season as I rested in the forward pocket, while some spectators insulated themselves with stout.

Dragging the net onto the bank Alex and Max skip and shriek.

Bazz declares, “No yabbies, sorry boys.”

Pointing at the wriggling aquaculture Alex says, “Are these tadpoles?”

“Yep. Big ones. They’ll soon be frogs.”

Max asks, “What’s that funny one?”

I instantly see my teenaged-self staring at whole-page advertisements within the horror comics I enjoyed briefly. I blurt, “Sea monkey. It looks like a sea monkey.” With exotic smiles and bewitching humanoid figures, sea monkeys belonged in Lost in Space, inspiring Dr Smith to more mission-threatening selfishness.

Sea monkeys taught me a lesson about the cruel gap between advertising promise, and consumer reality.

Thirty yabby-free minutes later, rattling to the Kimba Golf Club, the boys are singing the song they’re inventing, bemused by their own pulsing imaginations,

“Sea monkey, sea monkey, sea monkey….”

*

In opening the breezy afternoon Adelaide’s Tom Lynch forgets physics, which demands a drop punt, and instead sends a tragi-comedic dribbler across the face. It’s inexplicably ridiculous.

Fremantle commences its Behind-Fest as Mayne pushes it right. Then Mundy to the left. I’m sure Ross Lyon could watch a grim, sleet-soaked, third division Yorkshire derby that ended 0-0, and he’d say, “It were rubbish. Constant attack are useless. Too many goals.”

After nine and a half horrid minutes Jenkins gets Adelaide off the duck.

If we still had a VCR (Betamax) it would’ve been wasteful spending eight cents on electricity recording this quarter.

*

The tide’s turning at Coffin Bay. It’s just outside Port Lincoln, which produced Graham Johncock, Byron Pickett and brothers Peter and Shaun Burgoyne. All came from the Mallee Park Football Club.

We’re in the shallows of Long Beach. The boys, running and splashing, running and splashing. Their Mum then urges them to slow down, look and spot the details. Now they see them. Gazing down microscopically, their world inflates like a gaseous giant.

Sand crabs. Pale. Scuttling. Burrowing. Alex scoops some up. They escape, and tumble into the Southern Ocean. Like all younger brothers Max wants to follow, but is anxious as he’s not held a crab before. He jiggles and hesitates.

And then on his palm is a little crab. With curiosity and a pocketful of courage, a crustacean dances across his hand!

This is why we’ve driven seven hundred kilometres to a gentle, enlightening beach.

*

Second term opens with more of the same. To watch a match involving the Dockers is to observe two sloths; one willing and one captive, wrestling under a sodden army blanket.

Recent re-includee Cameron shows poise, and should still be at the club in a decade. Tom Lynch enjoys absolution by collecting plainly, pirouetting twice and snapping precisely. A Renoir in an abattoir.

Behind play Spurr flattens Betts and donates the Crows another. Meanwhile, The Dockers inch up to ten behinds.

Matthew Pavlich gets another minor score after the siren. He’s presented well today during a season in which many saw Pav not as Australia’s (New Zealand’s) favourite dessert, but month-old cheesecake.

*

So, our boys haven’t ever swung at a gold ball, but they’ve now driven a golf cart. Is this wrong? Ahead of tomorrow’s round Bazz wants a hit on Royal Kimba’s back nine.

I’m cart captain, but in turn and on my lap, Alex and Max steer and stomp the pedals. On the 12th Max accelerates up the fairway, but detours through a bush by the ladies’ tee. Crackling twigs and leaves shower us.

We’re only in Kimba three days, but the accomplishments accumulate like boy scout badges. They help in the garden, and Bazz takes them out on an electrical job, and a couple hours later they burst through the screen door. As apprentice sparkies, Alex has fifteen dollars, and Max juggles some toy trucks, bought with his earnings.

On the 16th Bazz pulls another drive left. “What’s going on?” I ask as the cart bounces along the rough. Not for the first time in the decades I’ve known him he self-analyses, “Bad golf made easy.”

We’re halfway across Australia, on a near-desert plateau, but this trip is a sea-change.

*

To commence the second half Betts is slung when not in possession, and then at the opposite end Ballantyne misses. His team-mates are secretly pleased.

Successively, Eddie provides a signature pocket-snap, and Brodie Smith delights with an equally emblematic missile from beyond fifty.

Halfway through the quarter Fremantle have kicked fourteen behinds, and only two majors. Goal scoring is as natural to the Dockers as it is to garfish (grilled).

Obviously using the Chicken Salt (yes, it’s now a proper noun) hoarding as a target, Tom Lynch guides through his second.

The Crows are in control. Rory Sloane continues to play footy the way Ringo drummed for The Beatles: possibly without constant finesse, but with a charismatic enthusiasm that kept things moving along.

In the final stanza the home side accelerates away early as if wishing to escape this dire opponent and direr affair. Adelaide produces some sunny moments, but it’s an oddly cheerless conclusion, and there’s a mechanical, Samuel Beckett-like inevitability. The last three goals go pointlessly to the Dockers, but few will mourn the passing of their season, and their turgid game plan.

I look forward to seeing the Crows and Dogs at the Docklands next week. Can you get Chicken Salt there?

*

If you’re six you run from the holiday cottage to the Coffin Bay jetty in three languid seconds. Max does this each morning.

Late Anzac Day, we’re on the jetty. It attaches us to the glimmering water, welcoming contemplation and quiet gratitude.

Along the jetty there’s ladders, and Alex hovers above one. He wants to drive into the water. The deeper water. Most of his swimming has been in a Singaporean pool.

I can see the bottom, but it’s a scary step from the lower rung. A pause, then with a triumphant splash, he chests the water, dog-paddles about in innocent, furious circles, and scrambles up into the golden light.

At sunset of our final day on the West Coast I think of my old friend John Malone, and his poem, “Jetties” in which he notes that,

 

People lean

from jetties, dream from jetties

fishing for

tranquillity. They are

walkways into and out of

the mind. Umbilical

chords attaching us to the sea.

jetty