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Glenelg v Norwood: Quarter Time in Chernobyl

“If only people would label things,” announces Trev.

Instead of “Hello, how are you?” this is his customary greeting, and he lurches up to the table.

Pete also pulls out his chair in the Glenelg footy club bistro. We remove our masks. We have permission. We will be drinking and eating while seated. No vertical consumption. Just vigorous consumption. We all grew up in Kapunda.

Of course, straight away we speak of Chernobyl and Fukushima, both Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Afterall, we’re about to watch a battle between first and fifth on the SANFL ladder. Traditional rivals. Finals loom.

I mention an old friend who grew up in Poland and was at kindergarten during the Chernobyl incident in 1986. She remembers being told to not go out in the playground the week after the No.4 reactor went on the fritz. Trev wonders if they closed the kindy windows too. You know, as a precaution.

Lunch arrives and it’s excellent. The boys are on the Japanese beers. It may be a Fukushima tribute. I’m on Little Creatures pale ale. It’s not a Fremantle tribute. We’re all pleased we don’t have shares in the Pripyat pub, near the frozen Ferris wheel.

We claim our seats on the 50-metre arc, at the southern end, just in front of the Edward Rix Stand. Pete’s happy to be catching some Vitamin D. I’d never abbreviate this sentence to “catching some VD.” He and his family’s only just completed a fortnight of quarantine after his wife was caught in a “hotspot” at the Burnside hospital. When I was a boy Lennie’s, The Planet and Heaven on West Terrace were the only hotspots.

The footy’s underway. Norwood’s dominating and we’re chasing. Mercifully, the Kernahan End goals prove repellent and the quarter time score is like losing your Titanic boarding pass- a near disaster.

It’s cloudy over the hills, but sunny by the beach. We wonder if it’s hailing in Belair. Other Kapunda mates are at Williamstown in the Barossa as the Bombers try to sneak into the finals. Up there’s a very wet winter. Trev wonders if it’s more suited to submariners. I ask about folks eating a marinara sub. It’s probably bad news for all.

We speak about life with the virus like we’re in an Atwood novel. I mention that the night before we were supposed to go see the Whitlams at the Gov. A Sydney band, I maintain their best song’s titled “Melbourne” about a girl, “who calls her dog The Bear.” But the Eastern seaboard lockdown means they couldn’t come. Of course, if they were GWS, they could. We wonder about the injustice of this. Footy and live music are both in the bucket called entertainment.

There’s talk of Clare wineries such as Skillogalee which was just sold by our former PE teacher and footy coach.  Pete announces he’s embarking on a cabernet sauvignon self-education course. He’s become too comfortable with shiraz. Trev and I chorus, “Coonawarra.”

Pete mentions popular racehorse Morty, which shares a name with an identity back home in Kapunda. I check to see if it’s done well. It hasn’t. The Astrologist salutes at Flemington in race 8 for me. My horoscope told me it would.

It still looks dark and wet up in the Hills. We wonder how the footy’s going in Belair. Good day for back men we reckon. At half-time in Glenelg there’s kick and catch. There’s only been seven goals thus far and we wonder if the game’ll open up in the second half.

Trev played drums in some prominent Adelaide bands including Imelda’s Shoes. Still a great name, we agree. He was asked to audition for another band but declined as he was happy where he was. They were called The Superjesus.

A prodigious kick, Pete played full back for Kapunda in the 1987 grand final. They lost to Tanunda. The day started warm, but it was pouring by the final siren. I remember driving home from Freeling in a mate’s Torana. In the cassette deck was popular saxophonist Grover Washington’s Winelight and, “Just The Two Of Us” with Bill Withers on vocals. It features extensive use of steel drums, but we don’t mention this.

Inflicted with the same calamity as the AFL there’s loudspeaker music at the breaks and it’s too loud. A splash of plutonium in the footy club PA could be timely.

Then Pete talks of the trip he and his family made recently to Port Arthur and its tragic natural beauty and I speak of Arkaroola as a single-visit only destination to use a tourism term I just invented. Then we discuss the Prince of Wales pub back home going on the market for the first time in nearly forty years.

Like Hawthorn for most of this century, Glenelg find a way, somehow with a seven-goal last term burst. Former Tiger cub Richard Douglas kicks a late major for the Redlegs and this irritates some in the boisterous crowd. The Bays are now 15 and zip. It’s still looks grim over Belair, but Chernobyl oval’s in the longest winter of all.

We’ll all watch the footy together again soon.

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September’s special six

Glenelg is the reigning premier for at least for another week!
Sunday afternoon, just critiquing the front lawn and counting the pickets.
Max’s soccer season slides to a spring stop.
What better gift than the appropriate use of a possessive apostrophe?
The forlorn and haunting beauty of Williamstown’s barbeque (and Claire!)
Teenage boy rule 31: as your parents love it ensure that you run on the grass in your socks.
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Our Grand Final

ROAR

Less than a minute in the umpire blew his whistle to pay a holding free kick to Glenelg, and from a few rows behind us came the comforting, Pavlovian yelp, “He’s been doin’ it all bloody day, Ump!”

A convivial tone now set in the bottom deck of the Fos Williams Stand at Adelaide Oval our afternoon unfolded in exhilarating fashion. Even the subsequent Popcorn Chicken Incident served as a petit carnival of community and generosity.

Footy jumpers, scarves, caps and t-shirts in Port and Glenelg colours smeared across the outer like a monochrome Monet, and with the crowd split evenly the atmosphere was enthusiastically tribal, but also exhibited an unedited defiance of the AFL, in celebration of local footy as it was before we capitulated to national (Victorian) interests, and permitted our suburbs to be annexed.

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Admittedly, I’m also an Adelaide fan, but there’s a deeper, elemental quality about your footy team having its own discrete place and particular geography. Last Thursday I walked along Jetty Road and about Moseley Square, buoyed by the balloons and streamers and team posters in the windows. However, in this city the Crows are both everywhere and nowhere. They have no earthly claim; no Alberton, no Patawalonga.

The pre-game concert is another ritual, and I loved You Am I in 2015 with footy-mad Tim Rogers up front siphoning Pete Townsend and Ray Davies. Local outfit Bad/Dreems are energetically gruff and glug West End Draught as they romp through their set. The drummer sports the prison bars of a Magpies guernsey.

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History always hovers at the SANFL grand final. Former stars Peter Carey who I pass walking his dog on the esplanade most mornings and Greg Anderson, whose timeless locks are surely in the Mullet Hall of Fame (next to those of Billy Ray Cyrus) do a lap in a ute while clasping the premiership cup, and both relish the sunny applause.

Glenelg skips away early. Their tackling has jungle ferocity and as if channelling the glory days when footy was only on boxy black and white Pye TVs, they kick long into their forward line.

Port are flint-hard and the twenty years since they’ve won a flag must present as volcanic outrage. They harass and coerce, but the Tigers use crafty handball to dominate possession.

For Magpie fans the unknowable has arrived, and nineteen excruciating minutes elapse in the second quarter before Frampton comes alive and they register their afternoon’s first goal.

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Alex and Max and two of their primary school mates are as unrelenting in their eating as Glenelg is in their attack so I muster extra supplies. Juggling food worth the GDP of a small Pacific nation I shuffle back down aisle 133 as Marlon Motlop kicks a clever goal, and a rejoicing fan’s arms shoot out periscopically and clock me. Instantly, it’s raining popcorn chicken all over the concrete steps and my person. I’m a friendly-fire casualty.

The colonel can’t help me.

The Glenelg fan apologies saying, “Can I buy you another one of those?”

My automated response is a polite but stunned, “No, mate it’s fine.”

I surrender the surviving chook to the boys who are wholly unsympathetic to my fiscal, social and psychological loss, and inhale them. Old mate comes down and announces, “Mum feels badly so she’ll get you some more chicken.” Claire and I nod thanks. He’s about forty years old. Perhaps he’s already spent his pocket money.

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Another most kind witness to the Sudden Chicken Storm appears with a box of popcorn poultry, and says, “I felt very sorry when I saw what happened. Some Port fans started laughing.” She hands these over, and before she can reclaim her seat, the boys have slurped them up. So, the kindness of strangers gladdens our hearts, if not our arteries.

Claire is bemused that my only contributions to the stadium noise are the binary and monosyllabic, “BALL!” when a Magpie player has had too long and, “YEEEAAAHHH!” when we kick a goal. On advice of my singing coach I ration these, but come Monday morning my vocal stylings are still more Joe Cocker than Tiny Tim.

The clouds dart and race, and we alternately soak up the sun and then shiver. Glenelg controls the narrative from prelude to epilogue. At the siren the four boys are on their seats shrieking and waving their yellow and black flag. The Tigers club song loops about the arena.

We cross the pedestrian bridge over the Torrens, and then head for home and our premiership suburb, by the silvery sea.

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