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Round 6- Adelaide v Fremantle: Sea Monkeys

sea monkeys

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

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

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

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

Bazz declares, “No yabbies, sorry boys.”

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

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

Max asks, “What’s that funny one?”

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

 

People lean

from jetties, dream from jetties

fishing for

tranquillity. They are

walkways into and out of

the mind. Umbilical

chords attaching us to the sea.

jetty

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2

My Greg Chappell Hat

hat

 

“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

“You can never have too many good hats.”

Phil Klingberg, Kimba Cricket Club (1993)

*

On this gusty afternoon I’m on our patio writing. I’m just up the road from where the Chappell brothers attended St Leonards Primary School in the palindromic suburb of Glenelg.

It’s sitting on the table quietly, but has a full and boisterous past. Faded and frayed, on its front an emblem; two golden stalks of wheat embrace the acronym KCC. Kapunda Cricket Club. Down one side; the crowded loops of a celebrated signature.

It’s in its fourth decade. Mothers, wives and girlfriends, everyone, please look away now for it’s never been caught within twenty-two yards of a twin-tub.

It’s my Greg Chappell cricket hat.

*

I was at high school when the Kapunda Cricket Club distributed these hats in 1982. Cold Chisel had released Circus Animals, the Violent Femmes erupted with their eponymous debut, and the Eagles presented their second greatest hits album, meaning there were only forty-three such offerings to come (thus far). On average each Australian household now contains six separate versions of “Desperado.”

My hat was there as I featured in four losing grand final sides on the West Coast (South Australia, not California). This doesn’t bother me as cricket was always more social than showdown, and provided a fun, often protracted afternoon and post-afternoon structure to my Saturdays. I enjoyed the temperate rhythms, wit and mateship because if you played cricket with a chap, then bumping into him at Adelaide Oval guaranteed a happily frothy conversation.

How’d you go if you could face your own bowling? Would your eyes light up? Or would you cringe at the crease? Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn attending their own funerals it’s delicious to ponder, but unattainable. I’d endured a poor season when I made more runs than I took wickets. And my bowling wasn’t fearsome. More Les Paterson, than Lenny Pascoe.

I’d my cricket hat with me when old mate R. Bowden and I flew to New Zealand for that shamefully compulsory rite of passage, the Contiki Tour. On the South Island we visited Fox Glacier, where our tour guide advised us to take a hat. Yes, a fox hat.

It was summer, however in the photo we’re huddled on the bitter, elevated tundra. I’m petrified as I’ve climbed many icy steps to the frozen plateau, but know in that nagging way going up is easy; it’s the coming back down which gets unpleasant. I didn’t want my distorted limbs, innards and freshly bloodied cricket hat sent back across the Tasman in a chilly bin.

*

Like any commendable cap it’s versatile. An enthusiastic but fabulously incoherent golfer, on a par four I can go from Greg Norman to Norman Bates to General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (I’m assured he’d a hideous slice) in seven shots. I like to wear my Greg Chappell hat up and down, but more often, across the fairways, and remember a coach telling me, “You’ve got it arse-about. You hit a cricket ball in the air, and a golf ball along the ground.”

It was shielding my boofy face just before the change of millennium when, up the Riverland on the wonderful Waikerie golf course, I lipped out on the last. This would’ve given me a best-ever back nine of 39. The next morning at Renmark, sure I’d the sport sorted, I bludgeoned my way to, and swiftly beyond one hundred, like David Warner in a feisty frame of mind.

At Kimba playing Buckleboo during harvest an unspeakable northerly roared down the desert, blasting sand and flies and primordial horror. While umpiring in the reddish apocalypse a team-mate signed my hat with the names of West Indian cricketers Viv, Joel and Clive. He even spelt most of them adequately. But that was ages ago, and his ink is submerged beneath the yellowing cloth.

While we lived in Singapore my Greg Chappell hat spent three years in friendless and dark storage. How did I do this? Retrieving the hat from its tomb, I felt the antique brim, creased from its slumber, but still sturdy.

*

Now like a retiree forever doomed to two-fruit-and-ice-cream its solitary excursion is accompanying me and my Victa across our lawn. Given its unattractive capacity for making babies cry and dogs growl, my wife’s banished the hat from public appearances.

She’s right.

But on the backyard table it’s looking at me like Wilson the volleyball, from the Tom Hanks’ flick Cast Away. Later tonight with the wife and boys in bed I’ll continue to write and reflect over a Barossa shiraz, and when nobody’s peeking, I’ll stick it on my head.

I might even take a selfie.

 

Eagles