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Glenelg v Crows v Carlton v Crows

 

tigers

The combined and cowardly bullying of the AFL and Channel 7 is such that SANFL games don’t clash with Crows or Power fixtures. These are shunted about the weekend, even if it means avoiding the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot. July 27 was an exception, and in an odd symmetry, the Crows were playing at the same time as the Crows.

The spluttering-like-a-wheezy-Grandpa-AFL Crows were having a rare MCG outing against the newly confident Carlton, while down at our sun-dappled bay the top of the table Glenelg Tigers were clashing with the SANFL Crows.

footy

Like a minor gangster in Goodfellas I had some temporary confusion regarding my loyalty. But, of course, I wanted the MCG Crows to win and for Glenelg Oval to witness a Tigers’ victory.

Glenelg has a salary cap of about $360,000 while a conservative estimate would value the Crows’ livestock warming up at the Bay at somewhere around four million. While I admire much of the Crows talent fronting for their Magoos such as Gibbs, Betts, Douglas, Jacobs and Greenwood (why on earth is he not in the AFL side?) my inner socialist (and Glenelg membership) means I want the locals to win.

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But, as I said from the safety of my sports psychologist’s couch, “It’s complicated.”

The bright afternoon and happy crowd on the grassy eastern mound invested the atmosphere with both privilege and picnic. By the southern goals a young girl waved a, “Go, Eddie, go” sign. There were kids and footies and beanies and sausages in bread. With the preternatural sun dangling over the gulf it was a marvellous place to be.

The skilled, fast game was enhanced by the exemplary ground condition. As both sides traded first-half goals I thought of the AFL and wondered at its similarity to the Catholic Church: neither pay taxes, or possess a whiff of social responsibility and while Jolimont and the Vatican have so many riches that their accountants can scarcely tally the gold; the distant parishioners question their faith, and increasingly don’t count their blessings.

Early in these simultaneous matches I remarked to my mate Bob that, “Wouldn’t it be a horrid afternoon if the Crows lost at the MCG but won here at Glenelg?” A glance at his phone showed Carlton skipping away and jubilant that instead of only being a feeder team for Adelaide they’d likely experience some matchday joy.

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Swinging by the beer caravan (is this model available from Noel’s?) there’s cheery banter from the past players serving the cups. The kind of rapport that embeds from playing lots of footy together, lots of years ago. I like that a spoon is used to flip open the cans.

Glenelg sets up their game and late season with a seven-goal third term. Despite none of the Tigers being alive for their club’s last flag in 1986, there’s a buzz and emerging belief in 5045 that the next two months might be special.

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And then I wonder about the Crows jagging a SANFL premiership. What, exactly would such a triumph represent? Who would celebrate it? After the season`s final siren would three octogenarians pull up in their Corolla outside the Checkside Tavern at West Lakes? Would they then ask security if they could please take in their thermos and fruit cake? Would anybody turn up at the West End chimney? Would they bring any paint?

It would be the most hollow of wins.

For Glenelg, Liam McBean continues his great form with four excellent goals and along with Hugh McCluggage from the Brisbane Lions, has one of football’s best names. If only Cool McCool had played as a dashing winger (doubtless standing Hurricane Harry).

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With the Tigers up by two points veteran Crow Richard Douglas accepts a pass from Greenwood but is outside the fifty arc. He uses a Michael Holding run-up, strikes it well, but his kick is short and the Burley is consumed by the mauling pack. The siren sounds.

Strolling towards Anzac Highway and home, “Oh, we’re from Tigerland” drifts happily across our seaside hamlet. And again. And again.

I hope the AFL Crows can self-apply the defibrillator, and quickly, but think the extension cord likely too short for them.

Meanwhile, down at Glenelg they’re showing enormous heart and there’s electricity in the air.

goodfellas

 

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Footy Traditions

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I love traditions, and footy rituals are special.

Tomorrow afternoon, an hour or so after lunch, the boys and I will walk down to Glenelg Oval. Backpacks, footy, coats. Alison Street, dash over Anzac Highway, cross the tram line, and then stroll along leafy Malcolm Street before entering the ground at the Rugless Street end.

We’ll then secure a spot on the sloping grassy mound in front of the scoreboard. Seconds later one of the boys, probably Max, needs a snack. From their backpacks these will be administered, drip-like across the day. Alex and Max only eat one meal a day. It starts around dawn and goes until after they’re in bed.

At half time, I get them a pie each from the stall adjacent to the Snout’s Louts bar. Sitting on the grass, these are eaten with joyous messiness. Sauce adds to the theatre and the washing machine.

During the third quarter at the Good Friday game they wanted to kick the footy so I sent them behind the southern goals- the Fred Phillis End (869 goals in 275 games from 1966-81 and the Magarey Medallist in 1969).

Coming back some time later they told me what had happened. Quickly abandoning their game Alex and Max completed a vital rite of passage. One that pleased me and their mum. They joined the unruly, scrambling throng of kids who race after the match ball when it sails over the fence after a goal or a behind. A tradition which dates back to the beginnings of the game itself. An instructive, robust custom.

“Dad, Dad. I touched the footy three times.” Alex declared.

“I nearly had the footy,” Max shouted. “But a big kid grabbed it from me. Then he dropped it. We were both on the ground, so I swam past him and got it.”

How cool I thought. What innocent fun. Get in there with a bunch of kids and try to touch a footy. Scramble about on a dusty hill to grab the Burley ball (probably the worst footy in the universe) and then attempt (often unsuccessfully) to heave it back over the tall mesh fence.

Resilience. Enterprise. Confidence.

It’s remarkable what can be got from impromptu games. Even against the Dogs.

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2

Now You Are Eight

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Suddenly and incredibly, you are eight! Alex, how our world changed when you were born on that bright Saturday afternoon, eight years ago.

Among my favourite things is spying on you. Isn’t this funny? You and Max love spy games, but Dad loves spying on you. What do I see when you’re not looking, but I am?

I see so much that makes me, and Mum proud. You’re funny and alert. Like a puppy, you play with creative energy. You love your friends, and they love you too. You like sharing stories, but listen when people tell you stuff too. For you, games and fun must be fair. You don’t like it if others are unkind to you, or those you care about. Because it’s important, you take a stand. This makes you a leader, and we love this about you.

I’ve so many memories.

We’re on Koh Lanta. It’s a fresh, clean morning and the sky’s holiday blue. I’m on a sun lounge out the front of the resort, looking across the sparkling sea towards the Strait of Malacca. You and Max are on the flawless, golden sand. Buckets, spades, toys. Boys and brothers. Do you remember this? I watched you; long-limbed like a giraffe, and miraculous, as if born of the tropical sun itself.

And later, on the same trip- our last while living in Singapore, we do a boat tour to five islands! In the marine warmth, snorkelling above the coral, Mum and Max are bobbing about on the azure ocean, while off on our own, and peering down through our masks, we see it. Silently, and like a whip cracking in slow-motion, is a sea-snake! It’s there for mere seconds, and only we saw it, together, in our private universe. Instantly we sit up, beaming

Did you see it Dad?

Sure did. What’d you think?

So cool.

A momentary sight, but for us, stronger than two electrons in perpetual orbit. For someone as curious about nature and dangerous creatures as you, it’s a thrilling highlight of our three years in Asia.

Last Friday, in the afternoon sunshine, you’re in your blue Strikers shirt and cricket cap. We’re at Glenelg Oval, and there’s plastic yellow stumps and kids, learning and playing, learning and playing. You’re batting. I’m on a bench by the boundary, spying on you. Again!

The bowler pitches it on a good length, but outside the wicket. In a fluid, looping motion, you step into it, and swing the bat. It’s an on-drive, and possibly having seen an Australian cricketer like David Warner do this, you go down onto one knee. It’s cute, but also shows me how carefully you take in the details of your world, how keen you are to do your best and display some robust mastery. You stay low and hold your position, watching until, just in front of me, the ball jumps the rope. Your first boundary! Certainly a treasured event in many years of loving cricket.

Now finally, back we travel, to 2008 when you’re only three months old. It’s May, Mothers’ Day; fetching and warm like a hug. We’re at Wattle Reserve, by the beach, with a picnic of olives, breads and dips, dolmades; unhurried food for a late autumn lunch. You’re there on the rug, in the breezy, timelessness. Smiling, blue eyes alert, enchanted. It’s a movie, a love song, our lifetime distilled. It’s a dreamlike afternoon.

So, as you begin your ninth year, I wanted to find a few moments among the guitars and the bikes, the barbeques and the blur of the cruelly rushing weeks to reminisce on how astonishing our world became on that bright Saturday. The day you arrived; the gorgeous, clever, amazing gift of you, arrived.

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