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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

 

 

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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

 

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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

 

 

 

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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

 

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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

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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

 

 

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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