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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.

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Round 14 – Adelaide v North Melbourne: Thursday

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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.

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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 an inward breath and sent the ball inward to Cameron.

Our captain had just won the match.

Broken Hill

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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.

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The View from Afar

darwin

It’s a hot and muggy evening in Darwin for the footy. And it’s a hot and muggy evening here in Singapore too. Both cities are former colonial outposts, and I’m watching West Coast and Melbourne in an apartment fourteen stories up, and can see across to the famous suburb of Little India. After the game we’ll head down there for a Rogan Josh Kennedy.

There’s a boisterous crowd in at TIO Stadium, and a grassy mound behind the goals. Both teams get an early goal, and Melbourne’s playing with welcome vigour. Coming to the Demons from Glenelg in the SANFL Billy Stretch collects some early possessions. It’s also the suburb to which I’ll return next week after I fly from here. Today the Tigers won consecutive matches for the first time in, well, eons after last week knocking off current premier Norwood.

I’ll soon be on the Glenelg Oval terrace, or in front of Snout’s Bar, named for 1970’s cult Tiger John “Snout” McFarlane. My mate Bob coached twelve year old Billy Stretch in SAPSASA, the fabled week long carnival for primary schoolers. He told me then Billy would play at the highest level. He was on the field with thirty-five other kids, but playing his own game.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch the footy in some fun places. I saw my Crows get flogged by Essendon in Barb’s Bar in the east of Bali a couple seasons’ back. The highlight of that night, apart from Barb’s rissoles and chips, was Black Caviar’s win in the William Reid Stakes; shown at half time.

I was in Singapore’s Boomarang Bar for the Adelaide and Hawthorn preliminary final of 2012. This was Tippett’s valediction before homesickness forced him back to the Gold Coast suburb of Sydney. I was strangely relieved when Cyril got the Hawks home in the final minute as I was to be at a Hong Kong conference the following Saturday. Barely into my new job, I didn’t think I could be suddenly stricken by illness, and seeking alternative treatment in a Kowloon bar.

During the second quarter West Coast exerts their dominance in front of the vibrant Territory crowd. I think of my only trip to Darwin, again for a training workshop (No, I’m not just a conference attendee!). By the final afternoon I’d had my fill of multi-literacies and neo-Marxist interpretations of Hamlet, so headed out to the Adelaide River for the jumping crocodiles and termite mounds. How many chooks are annually dangled off boats to coax the reptiles to leap up like Nic Naitanui? I couldn’t pause for a Darwin stubby at Humpty Doo, but there’s always next time.

I’m always keen to see how Shannon Hurn performs. The prodigious kicking Eagle is from Angaston which is in the Barossa and Light league along with my home town of Kapunda. Shannon’s dad William was a solid footballer with Central Districts in the SANFL.

Angaston is the scene of my own football misfortune. The season after I finished school the association changed the age rules for senior colts footy. To be eligible you had to be under eighteen at the start of July. A premature baby, my birthday’s in June so, both happy and forlorn, I watched on as my mates won a flag on Angaston oval. I didn’t play in one ever. My friend Trev took what we still reckon is the best mark ever taken by a Kapunda Bomber. A lanky lad, Trev rose impossibly to the crest of the pack, grabbed it and it stuck! This got the loudest roar when the video was shown at their recent reunion.

I spent most of that season in the B grade. We hardly won a game. In the huddle at three-quarter time of the final match we were down by truckloads. Our coach’s address was less Barack Obama than drunken barracker. “Well boys we’re in trouble. Again. And we’re out of excuses. I don’t know what to say. Just go and run a lap. Or something.”

With the West Coast comfortable victors, the crowd spills out into Darwin’s balmy night. And we head down to Little India to continue our balmy night too. My last Saturday in Singapore.

This story was first published in Inside Football. For more go to http://digital.insidefootballonline.com/#folio=1

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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

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

0

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