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It must be like Keef teaching you guitar: our footy day

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On some days footy can come at you from many directions. Like Mum’s roast it can be expected, but occasionally it’s a happy combination of the old and the new.

My wife had gone to Sam Jacobs’ territory, the Yorke Peninsula, for a friend’s birthday so on a whim the boys and I drove up to the Adelaide Hills for an early lunch. Heading to the Aldgate Pump Hotel we passed a footy ground with the reserves fixture underway, and there were sparse knots of blokes along the fence, the red beer cans contrasting with their navy rain jackets. Up here footy is often beneath a Yorkshire fog. Not far down the road as the hills become the plains is Chad Wingard’s home territory at Murray Bridge. Chad was about to wow them for Port in Alice Springs.

Between my Laksa and not plonking some coin on Music Magnate in the Doomben 10,000 I looked at my phone to check the Alice Springs score especially as my old school mate Chris is related to the Hoff from the Power. No signal. But, I reminded myself this English village sleepiness is the attraction of the Adelaide Hills. It’s why we visit.

Descending through the mist and back into the sunshine we listened to In The Superbox With The Coodabeen Champions and because it’s a family standard, sang along with Greg Champion, “You’re the player, you’re the player, Gary Ablett! Gary Ablett!” I told our eight and six year-old boys that the tune was originally about the Gold Coast star’s dad. They ignore me and keep singing. One day, it could be about a third generation Ablett too. Footy ditties, like Paul Kelly songs, are also timeless.

The car was warm with nostalgia when I found myself turning left down Belair Road and parking outside a handsome villa in Kingswood. I’d decided the boys might like to see where their Dad had a kick and a catch with the Unley Jets before his career finished one August afternoon (split eyebrow; hours waiting in Flinders Medical Centre). As the pale sunlight bent onto the forward flank, we saw the reserves get up against Port District. To celebrate we each had a Freddo Frog (caramel).

How wonderful is local footy? I love the unpredictability. There’s the moments when grace rises above danger as the gangly kid blind turns and jags one from the pocket, and the roar makes the BBQ veterans look up from their hotplate of snags. Later danger reaffirmed itself when a Jets defender surged thrillingly across the wing, but didn’t steady, and his kick squirted across the boundary, like a drive shanked onto a neighbouring fairway.

Our evening was the Crows and the Giants. As had been our day’s theme, the past and the present would again meet. Entering the competition in 2012, Greater Western Sydney has only been discussed in future tense, as a club to whom success would surely come. That day is now speeding towards us, like a growling Monaro.

For Crows fans, ’97 and ’98 have transmuted from glorious history to nostalgic, troubling distance. Is it nearly twenty years? But, yesterday and today often connect, and Andrew McLeod is the football name Eddie Betts rates above all others. Who better to mentor him than the great running half back, as beautiful a player as has strapped on footy boots? It must be like Keef teaching you guitar. With his poise and promise, Wayne Milera, Adelaide’s first selection in the 2015 draft, has been compared to McLeod by judges like Scott Thompson. It’s tantalising.

Eddie’s a senior player now; a leader. Just before the third quarter siren Eddie fabricated yet another miraculous major, one that could net him successive goals of the year. While the kick itself was impressive, it’s how he gained possession: materialising on the boundary and somehow trapping the Sherrin with the surety of a NFL holder assisting in a field goal kick, then accelerating away from a grasping Giant and curling it through at the Cathedral End.

It’s fitting that the Indigenous Round’s best moment came from a Port Lincoln Nunga, a footballer like Sir Doug Nicholls: diminutive, exquisitely skilled and shaping the game in remarkable ways.

The young Giants raced home, but once more Eddie created a goal from gossamer and his fifth in the final seconds guaranteed my Adelaide a fine victory.

It’d been a brilliant day. Yet again footy had jumped out at me in unexpected and blissful ways. Just like footy can.

 

This story was first published in Inside Football. For more go to http://digital.insidefootballonline.com. My thanks to co-founder and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac, John Harms for the opportunity to write this story.

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AFL Round 3- Adelaide v Sydney: Danger in Dallas

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Saturday morning, in Singapore’s Boat Quay. The footy’s on in an Australian-themed pub called the Dallas Bar. I imagine somewhere like Uzbekistan there’s an American boozer showing baseball, and named the Wagga Wagga.

I’m seldom homesick, but today I am. It’s the Crows first game at Adelaide Oval. Since dawn it’s been bucketing here, and despite the heat, our sodden skies contrast with the sunshiny allure on the screen.

For his new club Buddy has so far done little, but he slots the first goal from fifty. In our code a Franklin major, unlike the Franklin mint, often provides a twinkling of beauty. He’s an elegant kick, not thumping like Travis Cloke. Buddy’s about finesse and timing; more Mark Waugh than Dave Warner. The mythology seems true: Adelaide runs players and teams back into form.

Sydney youngster Luke Parker gets two in a rush, and then Malceski contributes. The Crows are tentative, and lack intelligent aggression. Our backline is a jumble. As fabled Kimba coach Danny Horgan says, “They’re playing with a pocket full of eggs.”

Among the second stanza highlights is a dazzling chase from Crow Brodie Smith. Leroy Jetta’s shrieking through the middle, seemingly clear, with Buddy streaming out towards him. Approaching half-forward, Jetta takes a bounce. Gaining on him, Smith launches himself, and slings Jetta down. Superb tackle! It could be a catalyst.

It is. Like the ghostly detective in JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls Adelaide “takes charge massively.” However, inaccuracy, chiefly through lightning fast, and thunderously built Josh Jenkins, leaves the ascendency with Sydney at the main interval.

Doubtless, the Dallas Bar would be stripped of its Texan moniker if it didn’t deliver a burger the size of Damian Monkhorst’s head. It does, and I star in my own half-time show.

For the third time this season Adelaide threatens hollowly in the third quarter. When Dangerfield and Mackay kick long, stirring goals they appear poised for victory at the fetching oval.

But Buddy again murders the Crows with a wily baulk and a buoyant six-pointer. We’re in grave danger. But as Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan R. Jessup growls in A Few Good Men, “Is there another kind?”

Lady Penelope’s chauffeur Parker then registers his third. An impressive display, and the goal results from a prodigious handball by Kieran Jack. I know he shouldn’t, but I’m reminded of this sentence, which tidily illustrates the value of capital letters: I helped my Uncle Jack off his horse.

At the final change the Swans lead by four goals. During the huddle the Adelaide forwards must’ve inhaled multiple Dallas Bar burgers for they then unforgivably kick seven behinds.

Here in Singapore our own hot deluge continues. Meanwhile, there are telling majors to Hannebury, Cunningham (not KG) and the man with an appellation like agricultural pesticide, LRT. Nothing functions for the Crows. Betts, Petrenko and Griggs all miss opportunities. Like Curtly Ambrose decades earlier, the Swans are fluently annihilating the locals on their own pristine arena.

My friend R. Bowden’s at the game with his toddler. With the match now a catastrophe, the two-year old’s response is reasonable. The bathing sunshine, and Daddy’s football torture offer no choice. He falls asleep.

Bowden and I were among some Kapunda boys who finished our playing careers at the Unley Jets. Late in that season we suited up in the C Grade (obligatory, self-applied nickname: The C Men) against the Glenunga Rams.

The match decided who finished bottom of the A8’s, then Adelaide football’s lowest competitive rung. It was a dreadful July afternoon, and, of course, Unley was whipped.

In the fourth term, my cousin Puggy, once a handy footballer, and also tagged Daicos as a junior, was dragged, mostly for symbolic effect, to rouse the rest of us into action.

As he ambled, for the ultimate time, from the forward pocket toward the bench, I hollered out to him, as only family can, “You know this actually makes you the worst footballer in Adelaide!”

That was a miserable match, made memorable.

On an autumnal afternoon, Adelaide against Sydney was a memorable match, made miserable.