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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

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AFL Round 5: Adelaide v GWS- Jesus Was Way Cool, but Dangerfield is Risen

12.40pm, Easter Sunday, 20 April

Adelaide oval

quint

Like everything else, public holidays are allocated cautiously in Singapore. Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic celebrations of the island’s polytheism. To an Australian it is puzzling that Easter is only given Good Friday. What beyond the resurrection? No Monday holiday! It is like Bruce McAvaney saying

So it is half time here in the Grand Final. It is all set up for a riveting finish. Will there be a comeback? Goodbye from the MCG. Stay watching for Are You Being Served?

Watching the game in our River Valley home as the equatorial skies open, I become nostalgic. Has any built environment spread more psychological benefit than Adelaide oval? The rustic scoreboard is a temple, and the happiness, contagious.

I love that 50,000 can be there, and when the ball travels into the ground’s northern half we see the Morton Bay Figs, evergreen and embracing, surreptitiously poisoning the otherwise chain-smoking opposition fans with fresh oxygen. A goal kicked to this end provides among the most fetching views at a sporting venue.

Despite the arresting re-development, it remains a cricket ground. Just. TS Eliot declared, “April is the cruellest month,” but autumn is Adelaide’s exquisitely liveable season, measured out with sunny and still afternoons.

GWS have a Curtly (Hampton) and a Devon (Smith) in their team giving it a Port-of-Spain quality, and the Giants dominate play early. They don’t kick sufficient goals though. A murder of Crows may be the collective noun, but such is the home side’s initial impotence that a suicide of Crows seems apposite.

Dangerfield’s season has been erratic, and scattered with anomalous decision-making and sometimes poorly applied aggression, but today, he is astonishing. His centre clearances generate many goals. Once a concern, his kicking on the run displays brutal penetration and sniper accuracy.

He is the complete modern footballer. He is also an old-fashioned footballer, and would belong in an ancient black and white photo taken on a muddy suburban ground like Alberton or Victoria Park. He can be ferociously brave. Occasionally he is poetic and elegant. Dangerfield will collect a Brownlow.

Becoming the eighth Crow to reach 250 games, Scott Thompson accumulates nearly forty inventive possessions. He even plucks multiple one-handed marks, and this artistry conjures the darts commentator Sid Waddell

Taylor is so hot he could hit the bullseye standing one-legged in a hammock.

After the final change Podsiadly slots a check-side major, and for the third consecutive quarter the Crows get one within the opening minute to establish an attacking tone. While he does not kick many goals, he adds appreciably to the forward structure, along with Eddie Betts, through creativity, pressure and contest.

Petrenko is effervescent, and Sam Jacobs rucks like the big, cheerful country boy he is; deceivingly simple and occasionally unwieldy, but with critical effect. Then Betts soars for a screamer, unsuccessfully, but contractually obliging Fox Footy caller Anthony Hudson to hyperventilate. They then cross down to special comments monolith Barry Hall, who sounds like Barry White but without the intimate diction.

Of his intimidating size Amity Island’s Quint would have said, “This shark, swallow you whole,” and indeed, Crow Josh Jenkins is a monster fish. Able to roost it from outside fifty, he uses his battleship physique with military clout, and collects four goals.

A highlight of Adelaide’s performance is its imaginative use of the footy on the elongated ground. Podsially sets up a Rory Laird goal, courtesy of a smart handball into space. However, the forward line cannot house Lynch, Jenkins, Podsiadly and Taylor Walker. Who will make way?

In a passage more agricultural Yorkshire than Homebush, Lamb kicks to Plowman across the field. It comes then to Cameron whose kick drifts right of goal. This is emblematic of the Giants as their best is exciting, but inconsistency is their anchor. Treloar’s final term goal is a sizzling and accomplished individual effort.

Key GWS forward Jonathan Patton tries to be a general, but too many orange troops have deserted. However, after the main break the Crows kick ten, while GWS get seven. This is positive for the visitors, and probably of minor unease for Adelaide. Against Geelong or Hawthorn, the Giants would have been mauled, without respite.

It does not have the seismic impact of the Crows’ historic win at Football Park in March 1991, when, in a striking announcement, they conquered Hawthorn by 86 points. But it is their first home victory of the new Adelaide oval era.

It is a beginning and a return, and Easter Sunday belonged to Patrick Dangerfield.

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Dangerfield and the Rickenbacker guitar

 

RSL

 

Patrick Dangerfield is the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles.

George Harrison’s Rickenbacker strum is pop music’s most thrilling moment, and Adelaide’s most dynamic midfielder also electrifies. Both are anticipation and frisson. Dangerfield exhilarates just like The Fab Four’s two and a half minutes of frenzied, intoxicating genius. Both are astonishing illustrations of their respective art.

It’s a Mother’s Day game so I offer to listen to the footy via a radio app. The wife urges me, “to watch it live, so you’ll appreciate it better.” Radio streaming is brilliant, and one morning I found a local Mandarin station. Despite having limited Chinese I quickly establish that the show, certainly called the Wacky Breakfast Zoo, features a zany guy, a straight guy and to use media industry jargon, a chick. Sound familiar? Doubtless, there’ll soon be a Black Thunder stalking my Singaporean street, giving out icy cold cans of Coke and Whispering Jack CDs.

The Sydney Showgrounds arena is fetching in the autumnal sunshine, but the wood chopping at the Royal Easter Show makes more happy noise. Iconic Tassie axe man David Foster would have been terrifying in a forward pocket, and I once saw him departing the Adelaide Show in a 4WD, fresh from dichotomizing a feeble log. Struggling to mount a speed hump, his car appeared to have been assembled around his singletted bulk. Like the Bluesmobile outside the Cook County Building on Richard J Daley Plaza, it would surely disintegrate.

The Crows and Giants begin before lunch Singapore time. I’m at The Boomarang Bar, and not wanting to evoke the ancient Barossa rule of, “One at 11, or eleven at 1,” I get a frosty pint. With a cornucopia of splendid Australian beer from which to choose, Boomarang’s management could have Coopers Sparkling Ale, Little Creatures or Fat Yak as their ambassadorial lager. No, Pure Blonde is on tap. It’s like Phil Tufnell being Wisden’s Cricketer of the Century. Still, come June I’ll be watching the footy back in wintry Adelaide. A glass of Dutschke GHR and a boisterous fire will then suit.

GWS. The acronym suggests a K-Mart quality law firm to which Dennis Denuto of The Castle might have aspired. GWS, I’d also argue, could be a mildly exotic skin infection. I can hear my GP grimly saying, “I’m afraid you have GWS.”

And Giants? The Icelandic nu-folk listening, hipster marketer obviously said, “Greater and Giants totally share a ‘G’ and that is, you know, like, alliterative, so let’s go with that.” However, I hear you retort, your team is mascotted by a hostile bird, best known for Graham Kennedy’s 1975 infamy. Faaaark.

The dazzle from the empty orange seats is as sorry as the AFL’s probable excuses for the attendance: catastrophic competition from Mother’s Day luncheons, the eight race card at Gunnedah, Col Joye headlining the roast and three veg fixture over at the Rooty Hill RSL. In a pulsating heartland of three million people, that only 5,800 bother is alarming. GWS will be successful eventually, but I think they should become successful elsewhere.

With a population of over eighteen million, that Los Angeles has not hosted a NFL club for nearly two decades might indicate a vast community is not itself a guarantee of football permanence. Green Bay is a small municipality by American standards, and its team continues to thrive. Similarly, supporters in Tasmania, Cairns or Darwin would have attended a Crows and Giants encounter with an increased and vociferous presence.

Tom Lynch provides the best breakout performance by a carroty-haired youth since Richie Cunningham’s work in season one of Happy Days. With Arthur (Tex) Fonzarelli’s knee having jumped the shark, and Potsie (Tippett) taken by a swan on his lonely way to Inspiration Point, Lynch presents himself. When he laconically kicks his tenth, and becomes the first Crow to do so since Tony Modra in 1994, the few spectators remaining are glumly playing paper/rock/scissors to see who locks the gate.

Adelaide wins by 135 points, a solitary behind shy of their record, but I remark that it’s not a game I’d buy on DVD. All at The Boomarang nod agreement. We stroll out into the tropical afternoon.