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2022 AFL grand final Haiku

Early in the week I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the annual AFL grand final haiku event run by fellow Footy Almanacker Rob Scott from his Melbourne bunker.

Haiku is the Japanese poetry from which, translated into English, consists of three lines of five syllables, then seven and finishing with five. Traditionally, it centres on natural imagery often involving seasonal change.

As such it lends itself well to the theatre and agony of footy.

Across the week and then on Saturday dozens of poets contributed. It was fun to read and also write and offered structure and interest in what was otherwise a game devoid of appeal for me.

So, we had lunch during which I ran out of barbeque gas part way through cooking it. I love when people say, ‘I was part way through cooking the barbie and I ran outta gas.’ How else would this happen? Do folks turn on their barbeques, forget to pop some chops on the hotplate and just let it run until the gas splutters out?

first bounce kept this year

broadcaster craves for twilight

fans soon in the dark

footy’s biggest week

Family Club cruelty broke

icy winds inward

morning rituals

butcher doing a brisk trade

time to mow the lawn

excited for lunch

pain as gas bottle’s empty

and B Taylor speaks

how many times will

BT say ‘here’ with a spare

syllable? Awful.

avian blunders

Hawk’s a massive lurking Cat

Joel Selwood’s a duck

Cats are flying

Swans are flightless, earthbound, cut

restore nature now!

Swans must hear music

They’ve torn up all their hymn sheets

tuneless as Meatloaf

Cats pouncing on Swans

Port fans suddenly hoping

120 points

Red and white bleeding

onto William Barak Bridge

empty seats and hearts

channel 7 scrambling

Norm Smith narrative lacks fizz

But on they still bleat

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.

tarps.png

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

3

Crows v Giants- Row G’s phalanx of tepid thermoses

thermos

I cross Victor Richardson Road; bow at the Barrie Robran statue; undergo a cheerfully non-invasive security check, beep my ticket and click through the turnstile; sniff a whiff from the Neil Kerley Bar whose patrons are plainly devouring some Walker Flat yabbies doubtless netted (legally) by Knuckles himself; amble past the Chappell Stand that’s next to the Bradman Pavilion so Ian and the Don can symbolically continue their fiscal disagreements in perpetuity; glance sideways at the Favell/Dansie Indoor Training Centre; consider a swift beer at the David Hookes Terrace Bar, or possibly the Phil Ridings Bar; catch some uncharacteristic clatter coming from the Ian McLachan Room, and finally climb the stairs to the Sir Edwin Smith grandstand, where I breathe in the elegant sweep of the Clarrie Grimmett Gate, the Bob Quinn Gate, and the heritage-listed, yet soothingly nameless scoreboard. 

Misty rain is falling as the match begins, and bobbing about us are crocheted tri-colour beanies and tartan thermoses by the bagpipe-full. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll get invited into a shout of bundies with the strangers in Row G.

The GWS-ers start brightly and move the ball forward frequently, but without any significant threat until the man-bunned Harrison Himmelberg opens the affair.

There’s certain footballers who execute specific skills with rare exquisiteness. Brodie Smith is a glorious kick, and invests the ball with joyous flight and astonishing physics. I pay to see him launch a scorching drop punt. He does, and goals at the Riverbank end. Minutes later he slips when tackling, and appears to wreck his ACL. This is cruel. Knees are the most robust of our moving parts, but also the most delicate.

Ex-Collingwood racer Paul Seedsman is in our best side, but again takes the field attired with Andrew Newton Jarman-style three-quarter length sleeves. I’m unsure of the function, and speculate if the inaugural Crow himself knocks these up in the shed on his Singer, as a tribute to himself. It’s not impossible. Still, Seed provides telling run and carry, and is a penetrating kick. He goals to give the home side a small, but ultimately permanent lead.

With appendectomy Wikipedia entrant Rory Sloane spectating, giant Giant Rory Lobb jumps up one place to claim the title of this game’s third best Rory, behind Laird and Atkins. His point is the last score of the first term. Pleasingly, the Crows have not made their customary slow start.

Tonight, it’s not the third quarter that defines the contest, but the second, and on a soggy evening Eddie Betts again shows why he is among our code’s most effervescent players. He generates joy where none should exist. He goals from spatial situations beyond human contemplation. Like McCartney singing over a lonely guitar, or Black Caviar lengthening her stride and lowering her back, his contributions are rare and breathtaking. I’m privileged.

Mercifully, our tidy lead means we’ve heard little from the supporter in Row A who provides coaching and umpiring recommendations from her seat. Her vocal stylings seem to echo mid-career Tom Waits, Bobcat Goldthwait and a distressed, if not deceasing, dugong. For many reasons, we’re all relieved the footy’s not close.

The GWS mob get three speedy majors after the long break, and there’s some momentary tension. Waits/ Goldthwait/ dugong screeches. With a single first-half goal, the visitors have registered the lowest score in VFL/AFL finals footy since 1960.

However, a Richard Douglas intercept mark and conversion ensures that we relax, and not kick over any checkered soldiers in Row G’s phalanx of tepid thermoses. He then collects another in what has been an emblematic season, and at the siren the opposition has crept forward but a single point.

During the huddle, a nearby couple gathers up their goods and squeezes past us saying, “If we go now we can get home to watch the last quarter.” This is bewildering and I wonder why they bother coming at all, and how these Port supporters stole a pair of tickets. Curious.

At the ten-minute juncture of a fizz-less final stanza Coniglio achieves the game’s concluding goal, and at 10pm the Crows have advanced to their second only home preliminary final.

As we cross the Torrens foot bridge, even the mediocre busker warbling an Oasis cover is thrilling.

It’s getting exciting.

eddie

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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 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

 

 

 

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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

 

2

Round 3- Adelaide v Richmond: Now, I know why Tigers eat their young

rodney

In Caddyshack one of Rodney Dangerfield’s much-loved lines is, “Now, I know why tigers eat their young.” He’s speaking of Judge Smails’ disagreeable grandson Spalding (I want a hamburger. No, cheeseburger. I want a hot dog. I want a milkshake. I want potato chips.) but could be referring to the Richmond Football Club, for this club has a tradition of enthusiastically self-devouring.

Regardless, there’s still universal affection for them. Who can hate the Tigers? Hands up if you’ve had or heard the following conversation:

“So who’s your second team?”

“Richmond.”

“Me too!”

“They’re just a likable team, and never cause anyone harm.”

“Yeah, exactly. And how great was Richo?”

“Yep. And they’ve got the best song.”

“Oh, mate. Easily the best song.”

*

Adelaide’s Tom Lynch is a late withdrawal because he didn’t complete a late withdrawal, and he’s flown home to attend the birth of his child. Richmond’s Griggs gets the first goal, but it’s reviewed to generate some theatrical tension for the assembled unwashed, but quickly confirmed.

It’s frantic, but like the front bar of a sailors’ pub in the last hour of shore leave, it’s untidy. Adelaide’s early skill is awful. Finally, we string some disposals together. Sloane receives it wide, settles and goals. Milera impresses with his efficiency. He moves well, has excellent awareness, and dare I say it, shows the poise of a young Andrew McLeod.

With their long kicking indoor footy should suit the Crows, and we witness this when Sloane and Walker transport it the length of the ground with two huge dobs. Adelaide’s now applying pressure and Betts claims Houli in the pocket. He goes back and sets up. Has there been a better shot at goal from a pocket? He slots it. Eddie’s kicking is now so widely celebrated that a footwear retailer should be named in his honour. Twice.

Jarrod Lyons get one for us late, and resolves the age-old dilemma. Despite the inter-continental impossibility, a Lyon indeed, defeats a tiger. New Crow McGovern shows composure to also goal. I’m starting to relax.

Adelaide are direct like a Mt Isa publican, and gaining confidence. Douglas gets his second. Following a corridor turnover, Sam Lloyd records a goal, but almost immediately after a Tiger disaster allows Lyons to get Adelaide’s seventh from turnovers. Richmond deals with the pressure like a drummer auditioning for Spinal Tap.

Seedsman’s proving to be the best thing Collingwood has given the Crows. Ever. Or at least, since the Magpies guaranteed the Crows a 2015 finals campaign by beating Geelong in the penultimate round.

Vickery gets one to give the home side consecutive majors. Then, suddenly the Tigers control everything, and like the William Blake poem, are burning bright within the Dockland’s forests. Against the Tiger-ish mood, the Crows force a midfield error and gift Jenkins a late goal. After a mammoth thirty-four minute, twelve goal quarter, it’s half time.

*

Today the Barossa and Light Bowls Association First Division grand final is between Eudunda and my Dad’s team, the Nuriootpa Tigers. Like Hawthorn Nuriootpa’s after four flags in a row. Unlike Hawthorn, most of the planet is not hoping for Nuriootpa to fail fabulously.

To open the second half Seedsman takes an excellent defensive mark, and Adelaide quickly moves it the length. In time when he gets the ball I hope the crowd yells, “Seeeeed” to belatedly continue the Wayne Weidemann of Fish Creek tradition.

Richmond persist, but unmethodically. Talia and Reiwoldt are having a tussle. The ill-fated Vickery takes another solid grab, but like an angry lumberjack, bangs it into the woodwork. Rory “Bruce” Laird is cultivating productively, and streaming forward, Ed and Tex (coming soon to your local RSL) again combine.

Sam Lloyd takes a screamer and converts to keep the Tigers within five goals, which history tells us, is not nearly enough for the tricolours. Briskly developing Crow Milera weaves exquisitely around some seemingly extinct Tigers and finds Walker.

Tex looks about uninterestedly, ignores all, saunters back, and bombs it straight into the stand from sixty-five out. Despite the doom merchants this, and other cracking moments, speak to me of the robust and enduring health of our great game.

Now, the Tigers game plan appears less certain than Tony Abbott becoming honorary President of the Onion Farmers’ Association (OFA). But like Tony, Richmond don’t disappear as they should, and with another burst, get three rapid goals.

However, Adelaide asserts itself during the final term to keep the Tigers caged. Shane Edwards gets one after the final hooter, but it’s ninth prize in a chook raffle.

*

Tigers, if you think about it, are everywhere. On their terrific album Daisies of the Galaxy American band Eels have a wonderfully upbeat song about imminent doom, which I delicately suggest, is most appropriate for Richmond. The Esso petrol-inspired “Tiger in my Tank” could be sung by any of the Punt Road faithful

 

I bought some rock star ashes

From the back of Rolling Stone

I guess he wouldn’t mind it

They couldn’t sell his soul

The tiger in my tank

Is going to go extinct

And I’m not feelin’ so good myself

I think I’m on the brink of disaster

Well done to my Dad who played in his umpteenth decider, but fell just short of winning his twelfth bowls pennant. So, enjoy your evening. Whatever you do to celebrate or commiserate, can I advise you, on the back of three years in Singapore, to not have any Tiger beer? You’ll be pleased you did. And it’s goodnight from my lounge room.

tiger

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Finals Week 1 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide Crows: Disco-Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes

Tex

It was a moment of unfussy beauty.

At home and at the MCG we were looking at the goals, and dared to hope that he’d kick it straight. The distance wouldn’t bother him. But then Jenkins rushed forward, and we were fearful that the footy might go his way. He’d hardly touched it all night.

So why wouldn’t he have a ping? Minutes before, from a set shot, he’d brutalised a goal from sixty, in a statement of daring and confidence. Our game affixes much currency to the physical, to risk-taking, to muscular magnificence. And many would have rightly expected this from a swaggering centre-half forward. We could have expected a captain’s goal.

But we want our leaders to see what others can’t, and to show the way with the brain, and not only their brawn.

Until this point the camera had ignored Charlie Cameron, and then he appeared just beyond the goal square. It was an exquisite stratagem. With a low, spearing pass Tex found him, and he goaled. Done.

Taylor Walker has displayed enormous bravery in this season of unspeakable tragedy, his first as captain. He has moved from lovable country lad to a figure of purpose and clarity. On the field, in his debut final as leader, with only moments remaining, this is his finest effort. It wasn’t a pack mark, or inspirational goal, or brutish bump. It was an act of intelligent selflessness.

It was an act of such clarity that I wonder if Tex had recently read Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

*

About the only Latin I know is the phrase in medias res which means, “in the middle things” and it’s often used with reference to a story that begins in the midst of action. If the Roman satirist Horace was at the footy Saturday night he’d have recognised this in the explosion of dramatic events beginning with the opening bounce.

South Australia has again debated switching to the Eastern Standard time to align with the bulk of the nation’s population. The Crows were similarly uncertain about their clocks for they were their customary five or so minutes late in taking to the field. In that period the Bulldogs kicked four of the five opening goals.

Eddie Betts then occupied that rarefied space in which we all knew that no matter how many opponents were between he and the ball, no matter what cruel trajectory the Sherrin took before or after it bounced, that he would welcome it into his sure hands, and kick a goal. I was reminded of the Frank Zappa song from Just Another Band From LA fittingly titled, “Eddie Are You Kidding?”

*

Red dirt and whirly-whirlies and haunted, silent pubs. Broken Hill was our first stop on the road to Queensland. We wandered about the Living Desert sculptures just out of town. It is a place where sky and sand and heat and people connect. In the hot morning sun we started pulling up the tent pegs prior to the long drive across to Cobar.

Our caravan park neighbours were packing up too, and the woman made me think of the diverse country this is. She was handsome; on the cusp of middle age, but wearing a blue bikini, and although it was 2001, she was smoking a pipe. I hadn’t seen anyone smoking a pipe since my primary school principal, who’d patrol the corridors, leaving an olfactory, if not educational impact.

Until Tex arrived I’d thought little about Broken Hill and the Bikini-Clad, Pipe-Smoking Woman. But I like that Tex similarly brings a singularity of unique thinking to his game, influenced by the place that gave us Pro Hart and Wake in Fright and the Flying Doctor.

*

Neither side could outrun the other. At various moments Stringer, Dangerfield, Dahlhaus, Sloane and Dickson all seemed to charge into the straight with the baton a pumping, and the finishing tape mere yards away. But then the opponent would surge, and we’d gasp.

It was unrelenting entertainment. It was a Tarantino movie, a Ramones album, and it concluded in a Flemington photo-finish.

Finally, with a clever dispatching of a Bulldog on the wing, Tex seized the footy like a chalice, ran methodically, bouncing twice, before approaching the fifty metre arc.

With his sure disposal honed by long afternoons dominating kick-to-kick at Willyama High School, and then among men at the North Broken Hill footy club, he took a breath and sent the ball inward to Cameron.

Our captain had just won the match.

Broken Hill

0

Round 17 – Adelaide v Gold Coast: A Pillar of (Chicken) Salt

chiko

Sporting teams are rarely singular, and often present as splintered groups, but wearing the same uniform. Australian cricket is illustrative. Bradman’s leadership caused edgy subtexts between the Catholics and Protestants, while under Ponting and Clarke the dressing room was less camp fire cosy than front bar brawl.

The Gold Coast Suns is a peculiar ensemble. In one corner, gathered in pre-bounce worship, there’s the Gold Coast Sons (of God). Led sermonically by Gazza, the son of another God, they’re a puritanical enclave. And in a night-clubbish nook, under strobing lights, with UDL cans and thin boundary lines of white powder (not the type used at ancient footy ovals) we’ve the Gold Coast Sins.

This is our family’s first footy match. We’ve been back in Australia for a few weeks, and today our boys make their Mitani Chicken Salt Adelaide Oval debut. We take the Glenelg tram in.

For the first time the Crows have three Rorys in their side, but Gold Coast jump early with two brisk goals. Kade Kolodjashnij gets the ball across to Nick Malceski, and I wonder how local commentator KG Cunningham might have managed that with his exotic pronunciation. Soon after the Crows find some fluency with a neat sequence of disposals and Walker gets us away. The scoreboard’s level at the break.

Exploring the revamped Adelaide Oval’s eastern side I discover the Garry McIntosh Bar. In the pit of winter I once saw the iconic Norwood hard man in a Parade pub. Alone on a stool, wearing shorts, singlet and thongs, he looked as if he’d come from the cricket. He wasn’t having a drink, but a large cigar.

I then cross the Graham Cornes Deck, and think it well-named given that there have likely been many who’d merrily deck Graham Cornes.

The golden match-up of Tom Lynch v Tom Lynch hasn’t happened, but Betts is vibrant and slots the stanza’s first. Reminiscent of Nathan Burke with his black helmet, Rory Sloan provides his usual grunt.

It’s a bright and breezy afternoon, and monolithic Sun Chaz Dixon then takes a contested, one-handed grab. But we have Charlie Cameron, a fleet fox in our forward line. Confidence growing, he runs onto a loose ball, collects it and converts.

Our boys enjoy the footy. They clap and cheer and inhale food like Merv on twelfth man duties. The wife gets a chiko roll. It’s disappointing. I think she’s right. Conceptually great, but ultimately an inadequate vehicle for bad cabbage.

Some officiating decisions appear inconsistent, and the crowd boos like we’re at a Christmas panto. They have a point as you’d expect a better affinity between umpires Farmer and Hay.

Behind the grandstand at half time I spot a menu

Entree

Portions of lightly pan-fried fritz speckled with chicken salt

Main

A proudly upside-down meat pie submerged in swampy pea soup, tomato sauce and buried by chicken salt

Dessert

Sponge cake sculpted into the shape of a frog’s head and bejewelled with cream and green fondant icing*

* May contain traces of chicken salt

For the Crows Lever and Laird have been impressive in defence, against the Suns’ behemoths. In his breakout season Laird is magnificent. He’s a solid mark, and composed decision-maker.

Jenkins goals, but he’s got the chassis of a Leyland P76, while under his bonnet is a misfiring lawnmower engine. Mercifully, at the other end Charlie Dixon line is astray, with his kicking affected by the swirling gusts.

At three-quarter time we have a double substitution. Our youngest is done for the day, and he and his mum head to the tram. Both have played well.

Sixteen seconds into the final period, Douglas dashes to half forward and with his deceptively long kick he goals. Harley Bennell has been good in his first game back, but yet again the loss of Ablett is telling. Without the son, the Suns are eclipsed.

Young Crow Knight goals tidily to conclude the game, and just misses the Mitani Chicken Salt hoarding on the Riverbank Stand. If he’d struck it the entire crowd would’ve received a lifetime supply of chicken salt.

After the siren we’re siphoned across the Torrens footbridge to the canary yellow tram. We’ve had a top afternoon in Row X of the Gavin Wanganeen Stand.

It’s great to be home.

salt

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Round 13- Adelaide v Brisbane: Johnny Gastev Is Playing Quite Well

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Climbing over Fort Canning I’m sweating buckets. Stewart Loewe-sized buckets.

The wife and boys are this morning back in South Australia, where there’s boots and Nanny’s pumpkin soup and a fire. I’m in Singapore, wrapping our stuff up before jetting to them, and the thrilling, forgotten winter.

Like Adelaide, the Lion City has modest hills. Fort Canning’s among these, and is less intimidating than a wheat silo, so I reckon Billy Brownless could get a torp over the silent cannons and trees, and drop it into the Singapore River.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival established his command post here to defend the island from the invading Japanese forces in 1942. Singapore was mostly conquered by bicycle, which is both ghoulish and brilliant.

I stroll on towards neon-drenched Clarke Quay.

*

I’d love to get to the Gabba again. Last time I was there I saw Greg Ritchie club a quick forty in a shield game. Correct, there was no running between wickets.

The Adelaide Crows are proudly top-knot free in 2015, but with horrid predictability Brisbane opens us up and goals with a decisive movement. As Casey Kasem used to say, “For the thirteenth big week in a row Adelaide begins in a pedestrian fashion.”

As good as the Lions appear we’re fumbling and sporadic, and our forward line is Hong Kong tram while the home side’s is Tanami desert. We’re down by three goals, quickly.

Narrowly edging out Alex Ischenko, my favourite ever Brisbane player is Johnny Gastev. In an upset win over the Sydney Swans early in 1989, Gastev kicked seven goals after half-time! Beforehand, he’d not kicked a goal all season. Who doesn’t love this story? Not long after his career was ended by a brutal Gary Ablett bump.

*

During the second quarter the outrage grows as Man Mountain cum dwarf ant hill Josh Jenkins continues to be pushed off the contest. Is he a footballer or an ectoplasm? Then, miraculously, he goals.

Suddenly, the Crows find focus and Smith fires a fricken laser. We’re alive despite being outplayed across the ground. Cameron demonstrates singular poise and vision to get the ball to Crows’ forward impersonator Jenkins, who converts. Brisbane is efficient; meanwhile we launch the footy out of bounds with galactically shite regularity. Half time and the defibrillator’s on its way to our rooms.

*

Zorko. Zippy Lions forward, but was he a member of the Animal House fraternity? His name suggests Delta Tau Chi frat debauchery with Flounder, Boon, D-Day, Hoover, Bluto, Stork, Otter and Pinto. Based upon today’s performance, Faber College (“Knowledge is Good”) Dean Vernon Wormer would surely announce the Crows’ grade point average as,

Zero…. Point….. Zero.

*

Soon after the recommencement, Hanley goals with the cringeworthy effortlessness of a George W gaffe. In the emotional gloom of the Boomarang (sic) Bar I start to hope the TV will switch to a replay of Lee Kwan Yew’s funeral highlights.

With his Grand Tour classical antiquities moustache back on his beak Tex gets one, and crazily we’re still in this. An unscheduled break in Australia’s Funniest AFL Footy Videos allows Cameron to goal with a roost that should generate confidence for the young Crow.

Everyone’s nineteenth favourite Mitch (Robinson) then drives his head into Talia’s groin in an unrehearsed outtake from an adult film I don’t wish to see. His pornographic pluck is rewarded with a free kick. He goals. I reach for a fork.

*

During the final period the game abandons its dreadful, cartoonish tone, and Adelaide, terrified of the implications, starts to behave. We kick six goals, Betts and Walker metamorphose into the forwards they should be, and the Crows win.

*

My Eyre Peninsula mate Craig worked in the Minnipa pub, on the highway from Perth to Adelaide, where he’d often amble past the dining room’s Japanese tourists, bewildered and broken by the long, bitumen ribbon. He’d ask,

How was the crow? What! You didn’t have the crow? That’s what we eat ‘round here. Mutton. And crow.

Craig would tell them about the mythical outback station, the Speewah. He’d talk of its continental size and gigantic shearing icon Crooked Mick. He’d describe Mick standing on a towering peak, and peering out across the plains. The mountain was so tall, of course, that he could see the back of his own head.

But Craig especially loved recounting that, “During shearing, the Speewah was so huge, it had six cooks cooking for the cooks.”

Today, at least, unlike those of the Minnipa pub, the Crows are not yet done.

NB- the title offers homage to Central Districts Footy Club’s cult fanzine Brendan Maguire Is Playing Quite Well. Brendan’s career really took off when he subsequently moved to the Kapunda Bombers.

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Round 9- Adelaide v Fremantle: Colin Sylvia’s mother says

dr hook

In even greater news the Fremantle Dockers have adapted Dr Hook’s 1972 hit, “Sylvia’s Mother” as their new club song

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s busy

Too busy to come to the phone’

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s tryin’

To start a new life of his own’

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s happy

So why don’t you leave him alone?’

With their gargantuan pressure evident immediately Fremantle forces an error, and Mundy goals for the Dockers. Walters snaps tidily and it’s two majors to zip. Freo is big and fast and skilful. Adelaide is bedazzled. Then Ballantyne (Gandhi would doubtless find him punchable) gets one too.

Evoking the joyous regularity of Warney jagging one back from outside leg and onto an Englishman’s off stump, Betts kicks a cracker from the pocket. Moments later his protégé Cameron slots it truly.

The rain is torrential. The splotches of poncho colour give the screen’s sweeping vista a Monet quality. We’re getting the Fox telecast here in Singapore, and the absence of BT gives the experience a Christmassy quality.

Fittingly, Adelaide’s third goal is courtesy of Ellis- Yolmen, meaning all three have come from indigenous players. While Fremantle dominated the opening scenes, the Crows have since applied themselves productively.

The second quarter opens with both sides slugging away in a scrappy yet engaging affair. Cameron takes a super grab reminding me of Mick Jagger’s comment to the crowd about his drummer during their live album Get Your Ya Ya’s Out, “Charlie’s good tonight.”

Suban gets one for the visitors with an impressive left foot poke to give them back the ascendency. Like a series-winning moment in Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, Dangerfield then kicks the ball into the back of an oblivious teammate’s head, giving the footy shows footage for tomorrow.

Adelaide’s controlling the ball, and Betts slots one from the boundary with an exquisite, almost slow motion left foot checkside punt, ensuring his 2015 highlights DVD is already into its second hour. He’s become the most watchable Crow since McLeod.

Against the flow Fyfe takes a telling contested mark. He’s in Exile on Main St form, and has had important touches. Talia punches the footy away from Pavlich to save a late goal, and show his sublime All Australian skill. Half time.

Are you aware of Crows Forever? It’s a bequest programme founded in response to the insufficiency of the billion-dollar AFL underwriting the Pride of South Australia. So, I’m bequeathing my modest assets to the Adelaide Football Club. However, the seventeen future cats my octogenarian self is destined to share house with are going to be disappointed when they read that they’re out of the will.

The good Adelaide Tom Lynch, and not the evil Gold Coast version, starts the second half with a wily conversion to give us confidence. Dangerfield and Fyfe are magnificent. Each is symphonic, brave and artistic. Punctuating this the star Docker goals to claw his purple haze back.

West Torrens royalty Pavlich has been quiet, and puts the Dockers but a point behind. Walters benefits from panicked Crow kicking, and they surrender the advantage.

Both sides trade majors in a pulsating period. Fremantle’s death row pressure is again evident as Adelaide’s defensive work stutters. Monster truck Jenkins ties things up, and moments later Pav gets his just desserts. Three quarter time. If this were East Enders I’d make a cuppa tea. But it’s hot Singapore, so beer is medically necessary.

Was it only twenty years ago that the Dockers had their first game against Richmond at the MCG?

Ill-fated forward Chris Groom took four marks, yet only had three possessions. Following his fourth grab, did he simply sit on the ball and refuse to budge, like a toddler in a supermarket aisle? Half back flanker Todd Ridley received two Brownlow votes for the best twelve-possession performance in the history of our code.

In the last stanza Fremantle kick a goal. Another score review. Touched. The match is like a gripping forth innings run chase. It’s Brett Lee and Kaspa at Edgbaston during the 2005 Ashes. Half way through the quarter we’ve a nil all FA Cup thriller with both sides bursting and holding, bursting and holding.

Barlow then gossamers it from the boundary to put them up by over two majors. The Dockers surge. Pleasingly, Pearce is off with his kick at goal, but Adelaide is being trooped to the gallows.

We trap the ball. The clock gallops. Another behind. We pump it in, but there’s three Dockers smothering our square. It comes out. It splutters back. Our final quarter is gallant. Dangerfield loads one through from the boundary. Score review. A behind. Fremantle win.

The good Sandilands- Aaron and not evil Kyle, records sixty-nine hit outs, while collectively Fyfe and Dangerfield have nearly eighty possessions. While we’ve luxuriated in our chairs, these two have played us Let It Bleed, and also Revolver.

As my loved ones sleep I now sit silently, and morosely, staring into the hot dark, looking tearfully out at the eighteen wheeled truck I don’t have, and feeling forlorn about my football team, and myself, like a wretched character in a bad country song.

Like, possibly, a Dr Hook song.

truck

3

AFL Round 3 – Adelaide v Western Bulldogs: He used to cut my grass…He was a very nice boy

mower

I miss mowing my lawn.

Pushing the Victa back and forth, and then nodding at the tidy rectangle of green. Saturday morning’s cheery chore, so the afternoon can open up.

It’s three long years since I emptied the catcher. Functional and ornamental, private yet often public, lawns also represent our idealised selves.

The Kikuyu tribe is Kenyan, and gives its name to Kikuyu grass. A popular lawn species in Australia, South Africa and Southern California, it’s inexpensive and needs little water. However, because of its swift growth and assertive nature, Kikuyu’s often branded a noxious weed.

Kikuyu a noxious weed? This doesn’t worry Adelaideans. We don’t eat Devon, but fritz! We drink iced coffee more than coke, then give you back ten cents on the container. I love my Kikuyu.

It’s not used at Docklands Stadium. Like a Beckett play its motifs are shadows and dying grass and expensive buckets of hot chips. But the footy’s on and we’re hopeful.

Immaculately bred, but boganishly handled, Ayce Cordy snaps the opening goal, and lurking dangerously upfield, Dangerfield responds after a free. He then misses to either side, and sets a dismal tone.

The Crows dominate the ruck contests, but the Bulldogs dictate in the air, and through Dalhaus, on the scoreboard. Adelaide’s unable to penetrate halfback. With Stringer’s goal, we’re a spooked mess.

Finally getting an inside fifty, we’re impotent. Pick it up! Don’t pat it! It’s not a Persian cat. Did the Crows get on the wrong flight and go via Vladivostok? The siren provides respite.

The bullocking Stringer is sweeping us aside. Dangerfield has another kick from close and misses again. His Austin Powers haircut isn’t helping him, baby. Brodie Smith of the laser leg sprays it wide. Betts bananas it into the point post. Jenkins has an opportunity, and flops it like a fluffed wedge short of the green.

Adelaide’s kicking continues to be crude, and billion-dollar Boyd puts the Bulldogs up by truckloads. Tex Walker goals tidily with his first meaningful disposal. But an unfortunate defensive kick allows a Dogs goal.

Bontempelli is racing towards the elite and kicks their tenth. This is no surprise as his name is suggestive of luxury watches, and I can see someone like, say, Pierce Brosnan and a chunky timepiece on a full page spread in GQ. The tag line would be

I need to achieve so I wear a Bontempelli

The Crows’ kicking is comically poor. Eddie Betts gets one late, but we’re in more poop than a pregnant nun. And then the best Henderson kid, Ricky, gives Adelaide consecutive majors for the first time this evening.

*

Half time! Why not enjoy a tune from the bursting backyard of lawn-mowing music? I suggest Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and, “He Used to Cut the Grass.” Its guitar solo is xenochronous — overdubbed from older live recordings. In a woeful and insufferable sense, so is BT’s commentary.

*

The second half commences with the Crows better in the air, but the Dogs more effective on the ground. Well, what do you expect?

Stringer gets his fourth with frightening ease. And then he embarrasses Hartigan again, who must want to disappear down the race, and get a taxi with tinted windows to Tullamarine.

Crameri snaps accurately and it’s now becoming gruesome. Then, after the bounce, Rory Laird slaps the kicked footy away like Kareem Abdul Jabaar, but a Dogs’ mark is paid. Goal.

I decide now would be a good time to take up ironing, but imagine an electrical fault incinerating all seventeen floors of our condominium. Still, as long as our TV was engulfed by fire early.

I glance up from the history of Finnish biscuit-making website in time to see Stringer inexplicably alone in his fifty metre arc. He goals. He has six. Adelaide doesn’t.

Tex gets the footy in the open, and strikes it as high and wide as a Warner cover drive. Lin Jong goals from the turnover. They have half a dozen for the quarter. Adelaide manages a single point. It’s an unholy torrent.

To open the last period the Crows bomb it to Eddie Betts who is surrounded by four Bulldogs. It’s not even a prayer. Dangerfield then takes a mark, plays on, evades and goals. Stringer is subbed off with a sore ham-stringer. He’s been colossal.

Betts sneaks one over his shoulder, but as advertised on their website, the Dogs are thinking about the free popcorn and discounted pies on offer after the siren. The Crows should avoid the pies, as they’d surely fumble them, slop scalding mince onto their groins, and then miss a month.

Wikipedia then tells me coloured socks were first knitted by the Egyptians at the end of the first millennium AD. Annoyingly, Sandy Roberts distracts my research, shouting that Betts has kicked another.

*

So I depart with the words of an American humanist poet. No, not Walt Whitman’s, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” Instead, eccentric green keeper Carl Spackler, exploring his relationship with grass in Caddyshack:

This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play thirty-six holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

 Carl

2

AFL Round 23 – Adelaide v St Kilda: Mr Squiggle and Dr Smith, trapped aboard the Jupiter 2

robot

Remember the cranky blackboard that Mr. Squiggle used for an easel?

Blackboard’s catch-phrases are applicable to the 2014 Crows. All on their payroll should heed the be-chalked one’s gruff proclamations.

“Oh hurrry up!”

“Hmmph.”

“Double hmmph!”

“Booorrriing.”

In 1999 mere months after Adelaide’s second, and seemingly final premiership, Mr Squiggle was axed. However, there wouldn’t be a kid on your street who’s heard of Gus the Snail or Bill the Steam Shovel.

It has been too long.

The Adelaide Football Club is the now underperforming Harvey Norman salesperson who previously played bass in the long defunct, forgotten band that opened for Powderfinger, before a half-empty Thebby twenty years back.

They’re becoming the quiz night question, that no-one gets. Not even that young, skinny physics teacher who ambled in alone, and is drinking diet coke.

The autopsy states the Crows’ season died as the siren sounded in Sydney when Richmond knocked off the minor premiers. But misery can be complex. Was it actually last week against North? And the defibrillator was whirring during those home losses against the Tigers, West Coast and Melbourne.

Or was it already on the fritz way back on that balmy Saturday in April after the Swans spanked us at home? When we were 0-3 with the ambulance already shrieking towards War Memorial Drive?

*

St Kilda start brightly, and register the first major. It takes the Crows ten scrappy minutes to score courtesy of Taylor Walker. The visitors dominate play, but fail to assemble any scoreboard pressure. Kicking like Mark Waugh used to bat, he then gets another.

A Tex roost is among our code’s joys.

Plainly dejected, Bruce McAvaney has left the growl home at Glenelg South. His descriptions reflect the stature of the match. It is an exhibition game between the locals, who, like Bob Dylan in concert, are maddeningly erratic. And we’ve got the AFL’s eighteenth best side.

In a spurt, Adelaide inserts five goals and smotes the Saints. Suddenly, it’s an unpleasant mismatch, like a professional footballer setting fire to a hired dwarf on Mad Monday.

At one terrifying point in the second quarter the commentary team go a complete minute without mentioning Lenny Hayes’ retirement. The Channel 7 receptionist has me on hold, and then, over the muzak, I hear Tom Harley reminding us the Saints star is the all-time leading tackler. Wow-wee!

Relieved, I hang up.

Adelaide and St Kilda exchange easy goals early in the second half. Whilst there are six-pointers aplenty, the contest now has less fizz than flat Fanta. Mrs Rutten is well thrilled as her Ben kicks a goal with his last kick in AFL, due to a handball from that most scarce of footballing creatures, the unselfish, crumbing forward. Eddie Betts is then compensated with the fifth major of his own in a fifty goal season.

Of some interest to the crowd is the third stanza moment when the Crouch brothers are on deck together for the first time. They’ll provide substantial midfield grunt for many seasons. Of course, they’re the first siblings to wear the tri-colours since the Jarmans, who are now providing substantial midriff grunt.

Game over, but questions remain.

Did Farren Ray and Spencer White co-star in a string of 1930’s Hollywood musicals? Why is Leigh Matthews still in the media, when Basil Zampelis is offering his considered insights? Did James Podsiadly play for Geelong? And, if you had the choice, who would you take to a Hugh Grant rom-com: David Armitage or Samantha Armytage?

*

It has been too long.

Listen. You can hear it. On a distant AM radio. So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999. Yes, it is Prince. When Mark Bickley last thrust the cup aloft, 1999, somehow, remarkably, hadn’t yet happened. Like The Jetsons, the song was in the delicious, crazy future.

With an official mission launch date of October 16, 1997, Jupiter 2 of the cult TV series Lost in Space was, at least narratively, drifting silently about the galaxy when The Crows last triumphed. And Dr Zachary Smith was the show’s enemy agent and saboteur.

If he were to burst flamboyantly into the 2014 Crows’ post-season review he’d surely exclaim to one and all, “You bubble-headed booby!”

mr squiggle

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When The Sun Sets Over Carlton: Moments in Melbourne

DK

I am walking towards him.

And there is DK, those Puma bowling boots flying, in his magnificently menacing delivery stride, about to hurl it at me. Doubtless, pitching just outside off-stump, and jagging back sharply and unplayably onto a knee roll. Plumb.

With its classical vitality, and evocations of my summery, simple childhood, the Dennis Lillee statue outside the MCG’s Gate 1 is brilliant. Just brilliant.

*

The MCC library captivates me. A reading room within a colosseum! In other places and times this might be strange. But this is Melbourne. The complete Wisden’s Almanack (still using the archaic “k”) catches my eye, as does its predecessor, Lilywhites. As a built environment the MCG is superb, however it’s also a rich human location. It swirls with stories.

I look affectionately to the Nylex tower. It is colder than eleven degrees.

*

I take the Skybus from Tullamarine to the CBD in twenty minutes. No other city populated by 4.4 million permits such an easy transfer. This pleases me. The Skybus is blasting Triple M. I retrieve my phone, plug in the earphones, and tune into 3RRR’s Respect The Rock with Nicole TadPole.

Federation Square remains arresting, but is discordant, and utterly decontextualized. Is this the intention? It’s a serviceable public square, except, many would argue, a narrative of loss pollutes the pavers. I wonder if finally there’s a begrudging acceptance.

It’d be surly not to invest an hour in Young and Jackson. I imagine when I first visited, the taps poured VB, Fosters and, for the discerning, VB. Murray’s Angry Man Pale Ale is horrible. It possibly speaks of my naiveté concerning American styled beer, but in this case I see “complex character” as encoding for poop. However, Stone and Wood Pacific Ale is golden lusciousness. I drink a second.

My room doesn’t include NITV and The Marngrook Footy Show. Watching The Footy Show is like eating MacDonald’s; few admit to it. And it’s true, courtesy of my Singaporean address, I haven’t seen it for years.

Sam Newman is self-parodying. Does he care about his eponymous character anymore? Nevertheless, there’s a tribute to just-retired Jonathan Brown, and multiple mentions of “frothies.” Before they get to the games, I’m asleep.

*

I read The Odyssey on Mykonos. I heard “LA Woman” in Santa Monica, while driving down your freeway. As a boy, I enjoyed Sun on the Stubble by Eudunda’s favourite son, Colin Thiele. Staying on Flinders Street, I’m reading The Slap. Despite the dark plot, it also celebrates this city’s multicultural confidence. What fun to enjoy the art of a place while there! It informs the literary experience in an intimate, amplified way.

The vinicultural climax is a Murrindindi Shiraz at the Footy Almanac’s Waterside Hotel luncheon. Like the function, it is languid and companionable. The hours rush by. The hours glide by. There’s talk of musician Tim Rogers’ vulnerability within the context of modern masculinity, Dane Swan’s plucky unorthodoxy and Heritier Lumumba’s “I am a golden negro of mother Africa” tattoo.

*

At Docklands Stadium I take in Geelong and Essendon with some Footy Almanackers. I enjoy sitting in the Medallion Club at the Coventry End. The track is a FAST 1; a dry, hard track. The football is Muhammed Ali quick.

Being dispassionate about the result conjures Brecht, and Verfremdungseffekt, or the “alienation” effect. The purpose of this theatrical technique is to make the audience feel detached from the action of the play, and therefore better placed to appreciate it. Yep, as a neutral spectator, that’s me!

Heppell is terrific for the Bombers. As a left-legger he’d fit into Hawthorn’s side, but he’d have to trade his absurd hair to one of the Coasts: Gold or West.

*

Saturday afternoon, and the Docklands for Richmond and St Kilda. I’m at a TAB caravan on the concourse, tapping screens, and scanning the thoroughbred fields.

The wife and I went to Iceland one February. This was Hayman Island next to the frigid lasers of fecking wind slicing at that caravan. Bjork would’ve pulled her beanie of swan feathers down low, abandoned any thoughts of a Rosehill, Race 6 earn and scampered inside.

Good idea.

Having met fellow South Australian Mark “Swish” Schwerdt, we then sit up high in the affectionately labelled Level 3, and chat about our childhoods, Skyhooks, writing, and, of course, cult Crow, Eddie Hocking.

With six goals in the opening term, the Tigers create an irresistible lead. St Kilda provide their opponents Saharan space, allowing frequent invention from Trent Cotchin and Punt Road’s own son of anarchy, Dusty Martin. The Saints kick their only major through Nick Reiwoldt. He’s still as solid as a Chrysler Valiant.

After quarter time, both sides play spasmodic football. The kind that makes folks remark, “ I’m glad I’m not wasting fifty cents on electricity by recording this at home on the Betamax VCR.” Former captain Chris Newman is quiet, but after the half-time siren, threads a tidy goal.

St Kilda hang with them in a way which gives false hope, like the effortlessly beautiful girl you saw on a jetty when you were fifteen. When you were beyond deluded.

Meanwhile, Swish and I are diving into our conversations, and Richmond win by about three lengths.“Oh, we’re from Tigerland” is wonderful as they’re my second team, with the best song. What a shame it can’t be entered in the Eurovision competition. For the yellow and black it’s the first win in their famous nine-match streak. Today is the Saints’ ninth consecutive loss. 2010 must seem Paleolithic.

As we’re leaving I see a merchandise van called the “St Kilda Locker.” Bad eyes. Thought it said “St Kilda Lock Up.”

*

I dine at Il Tempo on Degraves Street.

Eating bruschetta, I reflect on my relationship with the tomato. I fancy tomato soup, but despise tomato sauce, specifically on fried eggs. Surely, among polite peoples, this is indefensible. I accommodate tomato in toasted sandwiches, but I avoid it in the New York underground train network restaurant. I sometimes eat a grilled tomato at breakfast or a BBQ lunch.

Being an adult can be awkward.

In the Sunday quiet I listen to The Whitlams’ “Melbourne.” It’s an enchanting song, and weekend coda.

In love with this girl

And with her town as well

Walking ’round the rainy city

What a pity there’s things to do at home

Y & J