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Grand Final 2016: Country Pubs and Club Sandwiches

magpie

A meandering drive north from Adelaide, the Clare Valley is among my favourite places on the planet. Lush hills host rows of Riesling and cabernet vines, and settlements are sprinkled about, appearing as English villages.

But allow me to be precise. The valley’s best town is Mintaro and in its centre is the superb Magpie and Stump Hotel (est.1851). I’ve minor affection for its architecture although leaning against its bar I first heard a publican say, “Another cup of tea, Vicar?” which amuses me more than it should.

Its beer garden is perfect: generous lawn, tables and chairs, swaying gum trees. Luxuriating in the Magpie and Stump’s faultlessness my lunch arrived: a club sandwich. Of all the cultural contributions of New York state, this, I’d argue, is its finest. How can one not love a club sandwich?

*

Following a voluntary diaspora during which our group lived variously in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Gilgandra, we’re back in Clare for the long weekend. I love tradition, and am thrilled that this one’s returned after too many years.

The old world tone of our visit is enhanced by the medieval floods and tempests. Notwithstanding the problematic marvel of electricity Clare suffers continuing phone and internet outages, meaning we must pay cash for everything. It’s like 1974. My sideburns seem fluffier.

The footy’s approaching so I veer into a winery to collect some sparkling cabernet-shiraz. Despite his splendid location, and gentle days crafting gorgeous things, in our lengthy experience the vigneron remains the grumpiest man within a light-year. I creep in.

“G’day mate. How’s things?”

“Yeah, well, you know we haven’t had internet for three days. Can’t use EFTPOS. What do ya want?”

But there’s something endearing in his longitudinal consistency, and I wonder if it’s a performance, a learned expectation. With two bottles of Anastasia (90+points) under my arm, I retreat.

*

With the wife away for work in Noumea (yeah, I know!) wrangling the boys during the grand final is a challenge, but there’s a pub, the Taminga, just down the street from our digs. On the footpath we’re welcomed by a bouncing troika of red, white and blue balloons while the red and white pair flutters too. Inside is bright and the floorboards and exposed brickwork are stylish. There’s a kids’ playroom. The boys bolt. Sorted. We claim some barstools.

The match is underway. Flagging the impending tension, minutes and minutes pass without the opening score. Old mate Mozz and I watch and chat, exchanging news over our crisp ales. The Bulldogs hurl themselves into the contest, but we know Sydney is undeniably classy.

A footytrip of lads bursts into the Taminga. They’re all wearing nametags. My collective noun is wrong- it’s a buckshow. I ask the groom’s brother, “So, what’s the plan?”

He replies, “The top pub, the middle pub, the bottom pub.”

Brilliant. On this afternoon his exact words are repeated by other buckshow participants, in country towns across this wide, brown, occasionally soggy land.

The second quarter is colossal with lead changes and surging, ruthless football. After a week of apocalyptic storms, the sunlight bends through the windows like liquid straw. Three farmers are anchored at the bar, and I don’t think they lift their backsides all afternoon. Josh Kennedy rampages across the MCG like a pirate, like a Wall Street wolf.

As it’s grand final day (and Mum’s in the Pacific) I get the boys a lemonade and bag of chips. If it was 1974 and I’d a HQ ute parked out the front, they’d be in it with the AM radio on.

With the groom having enjoyed a costume change from Freddie Mercury to nondescript showgirl the buckshow invades the middle pub. Thanks to mine host half time also heralds happy hour, and like Black Caviar on the turn, Mozz starts to accelerate.

The final hour of the season is astonishing. During other deciders I’ve been neutral, but today demands that like the rest of the galaxy my red, white and blue scarf is on, at least metaphorically. The Bulldogs are tremendous, and now the Taminga becomes seismic.

And at the siren there’s Boyd and Johanissen and Picken and Beveridge and Murphy. The boys watched the last quarter with us, and they’re excited too. How could they not be? I’ve appreciated this grand final more than any since last century. 2016 will forever be talked about with wide smiles and damp eyes.

It’s a weekend of rebirth both in Footscray and up here in this patchwork valley of vineyards and fetching hamlets. I can’t wait for next year.

 

sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Round 7 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: Bill Hunter and Your Mum’s Betamax

bill

When I was home looking after our second son ABC News 24 began. Two events of note occurred during those months. Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani compound, and the actor Bill Hunter passed away.

One day just after lunch as Max slept I watched Bill’s memorial service on the television. Mick Molloy worked with Bill, most impressively on Crackerjack, and as a touring double-act across many inner-suburban pubs.

In his eulogy at the Princess Theatre, Mick recalled Bill’s favourite sayings.  Operating within a narrow theme, the first was, “I’m just two schooners short of the horrors” and often used in response to a cheery salutation, the second was, “Get fcuked.”

At the Footy Almanac lunch, and in conversation with our Kapunda crew, John Harms observed that every Melbournian has a Bill Hunter story. And key to these fabled tales was Bill’s seeming ability to be relaxing with a lager at multiple pubs. Simultaneously. He defied quantum physics for Bill could teleport himself, when thirsty. Forget arc-welding, here’s an enviable life-skill.

In town for the weekend with five mates to celebrate my looming birthday, I was keen to pay homage to Bill.

It had begun well.

*

How do you build a publican?

As there is no instructive literature, I suggest the following. Make him slow of gait, even lumbering; commanding yet enigmatic; an employer of understatement as his primary method of communicating, and drench his back-story with equal measures of hyperbolic myth and striking reality.

In short, you make him Percy Jones: proud Tasmanian, Carlton royalty, and mine host at the North Fitzroy Arms.

In this pub bursting with memorabilia, the best example is a photo in the back corner of Percy, standing shoulder to shoulder with another hulking 1970’s icon, Gough Whitlam. It’s invested with historical context, colossal vitality, and fun.

Happily, we now have our own photo with Percy, taken at a front bar table, as he worked unhurriedly through his steak, hands like dinner plates, further enlarged by long seasons of ruck-work. Somehow, reminiscent of Bill Hunter’s corporeal talent he sat with, around, and over us by the window as twilight stole the day. Increasingly, Percy appeared to have descended a North Fitzroy beanstalk, with the scent of an Englishman (Collingwood pest) twitching in his nostrils.

Having concluded the luncheon we repair to our Elizabeth Street digs. A bunk bed sets an appropriate tone and function, for our trip is merrily reminiscent of a school camp. We lie there giggling at, well, nothing in particular, each with a brown paper-bagged Coopers Sparkling Ale to close our proceedings, as against the Tigers, the Hawks predictably close theirs.

*

The top deck at the MCG for the Magpies and the Blues. Footy can be of heightened appeal, especially when you’re disinterested in the result. The man-bun count is dangerously high, and incurable offender Bryce Gibbs is doing well. He’s a Glenelg boy.

Soon, we locate a narrative in Levi Casboult’s afternoon. He’s a great mark, but his kicking is a curious tribute to James Manson: former Magpie and according to the Coodabeens, a “rock and roll Tasmanian.” Still, his inelegant disposal wins me ten bucks from one of the old muckers. Collingwood present as fragile, listless, and impotent. Is this uncharitable?

As the Carlton song booms about the Olympic Stand, our ears detect Percy and Bill Hunter, adding their baritones to the celebration.

*

Pausing involuntarily at Young and Jackson for a head-count and pot of tea we then move to the Docklands for the Crows and Dogs. This could now be the competition’s finest rivalry. Anecdotal evidence suggests that on that September day in 1997 over quarter of a million Dogs supporters were behind those goals for Libba’s notorious point.

Earlier in the day, and fittingly around lunchtime, we were enjoying boys’ church at the All Nations Hotel in Richmond when above the fetching old bar, Bill Hunter’s apparition appeared, declaring, “Trust me Mickey. I was there. Don’t listen to ‘em. It was a fcuking behind.”

Tonight, though, the Crows are walloped in the middle, and have to launch too many attacks from deep in defence. This makes it tough, especially as the Dogs are on. Jenkins kicks a career-best eight, and while the free kick count is lopsided, it’s an excuse, and we lose a thriller.

Bontempelli shows poise and creativity in becoming tonight’s difference. He’s only just concluded being a teenager. When I was his age I could almost speak in sentences, and keep my Kingswood on the left.

After the siren, and walking along the swirling concourse a Dogs fan barks, “Crows supporters are two-headed at birth, and they’ve cut off the rong (sic) one.” This, of course, required appropriate rebuttal, and with volume one of our group replied, “Hey mate! You best get home and watch the ’97 prelim on your Mum’s Betamax.”

Twenty years in, this rivalry is escalating. It’s a ripper.

*

Because it’s the best method of dealing with our (temporary) Crows grief, we each purchase another Coopers Sparkling Ale and return to the school camp confines of our hotel room.

Safely snoring in the tiny space, we’re again visited by Bill Hunter who nods, just like he so often did in Muriel’s Wedding, and remarks, “You boys have had a bloody good weekend. Now go home tomorrow to your wives and families. If you behave, you can come back next year.”

Thanks Bill, we murmur from our bunks.

NFA

 

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Finals Week 1 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide Crows: Disco-Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes

Tex

It was a moment of unfussy beauty.

At home and at the MCG we were looking at the goals, and dared to hope that he’d kick it straight. The distance wouldn’t bother him. But then Jenkins rushed forward, and we were fearful that the footy might go his way. He’d hardly touched it all night.

So why wouldn’t he have a ping? Minutes before, from a set shot, he’d brutalised a goal from sixty, in a statement of daring and confidence. Our game affixes much currency to the physical, to risk-taking, to muscular magnificence. And many would have rightly expected this from a swaggering centre-half forward. We could have expected a captain’s goal.

But we want our leaders to see what others can’t, and to show the way with the brain, and not only their brawn.

Until this point the camera had ignored Charlie Cameron, and then he appeared just beyond the goal square. It was an exquisite stratagem. With a low, spearing pass Tex found him, and he goaled. Done.

Taylor Walker has displayed enormous bravery in this season of unspeakable tragedy, his first as captain. He has moved from lovable country lad to a figure of purpose and clarity. On the field, in his debut final as leader, with only moments remaining, this is his finest effort. It wasn’t a pack mark, or inspirational goal, or brutish bump. It was an act of intelligent selflessness.

It was an act of such clarity that I wonder if Tex had recently read Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

*

About the only Latin I know is the phrase in medias res which means, “in the middle things” and it’s often used with reference to a story that begins in the midst of action. If the Roman satirist Horace was at the footy Saturday night he’d have recognised this in the explosion of dramatic events beginning with the opening bounce.

South Australia has again debated switching to the Eastern Standard time to align with the bulk of the nation’s population. The Crows were similarly uncertain about their clocks for they were their customary five or so minutes late in taking to the field. In that period the Bulldogs kicked four of the five opening goals.

Eddie Betts then occupied that rarefied space in which we all knew that no matter how many opponents were between he and the ball, no matter what cruel trajectory the Sherrin took before or after it bounced, that he would welcome it into his sure hands, and kick a goal. I was reminded of the Frank Zappa song from Just Another Band From LA fittingly titled, “Eddie Are You Kidding?”

*

Red dirt and whirly-whirlies and haunted, silent pubs. Broken Hill was our first stop on the road to Queensland. We wandered about the Living Desert sculptures just out of town. It is a place where sky and sand and heat and people connect. In the hot morning sun we started pulling up the tent pegs prior to the long drive across to Cobar.

Our caravan park neighbours were packing up too, and the woman made me think of the diverse country this is. She was handsome; on the cusp of middle age, but wearing a blue bikini, and although it was 2001, she was smoking a pipe. I hadn’t seen anyone smoking a pipe since my primary school principal, who’d patrol the corridors, leaving an olfactory, if not educational impact.

Until Tex arrived I’d thought little about Broken Hill and the Bikini-Clad, Pipe-Smoking Woman. But I like that Tex similarly brings a singularity of unique thinking to his game, influenced by the place that gave us Pro Hart and Wake in Fright and the Flying Doctor.

*

Neither side could outrun the other. At various moments Stringer, Dangerfield, Dahlhaus, Sloane and Dickson all seemed to charge into the straight with the baton a pumping, and the finishing tape mere yards away. But then the opponent would surge, and we’d gasp.

It was unrelenting entertainment. It was a Tarantino movie, a Ramones album, and it concluded in a Flemington photo-finish.

Finally, with a clever dispatching of a Bulldog on the wing, Tex seized the footy like a chalice, ran methodically, bouncing twice, before approaching the fifty metre arc.

With his sure disposal honed by long afternoons dominating kick-to-kick at Willyama High School, and then among men at the North Broken Hill footy club, he took an inward breath and sent the ball inward to Cameron.

Our captain had just won the match.

Broken Hill

3

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

3

Killing the Mockingbird: Recollections of the 1997 Bulldogs and Crows Preliminary Final

sandy

Saturday, 20th September 1997. Half-time in the preliminary final. The Crows are getting paddled by seven goals.

I take a nap.

*

A soap opera fledgling, Greg Fleet swiftly enraged the nation. His Ramsey Street character had dispatched Daphne, like a Cairns cane toad, by expertly running her over with his car.

Later, he was strolling along a Melbourne street when a Truth headline screamed, NEIGHBOURS STAR TELLS: ‘MY HEROIN ORDEAL.’ Shocked at his public shaming, Fleety’s initial thought was, Oh my God! I can’t believe it. I was on Neighbours.

TOURIST DIES OF THIRST is a memorable newspaper poster too. It’s on the yellowing wall of Adelaide’s Exeter Hotel. I smile every time.

It’s an ageless boozer. Resistant to infantile trends, (Irish pub folks?) it’s a rollicking temple for cups and conversation. There’s nothing to distract your entourage from its tasty project. No TV, no TAB, no pokies. But there’s music. Thoughtful, eclectic music, with entire albums pumped into the front bar.

If I could design a pub, it’d be the Exeter.

*

The night before the Crows and Bulldogs clash. Our mate Chris is emigrating to Queensland to work for a software company. So, to mark this, we dine on curry and Kingfisher lager, and then gallop across to the Exeter.

Dawn’s closer than dusk. Only Nick and I remain, our Doc Martins moored to the floorboards. He’s from a farm in Shea-Oak Log. We met in school. Years ago, we saw the Rolling Stones at Footy Park.

As always, we talk cricket and travel and bands and film, and our discussion arrives at Harper Lee’s autobiographical masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Lizard was a heavy-metal mad, Axel Rose-haired kid. I taught him in Kimba and he read the book, reckoned it was about the only one he’d ever finished. In his Cannibal Corpse way Lizard often mislabelled it, “Killing the Mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch. Is there a more inspirational dad in literature? He’s metonymous for courage. I wish the Australian cricketer Aaron Finch was nicknamed “Atticus.” But, of course not. Can you imagine Tubbs and Slats explaining this? He’ll always be “Finchy.”

Over and through our Coopers, we ponder the novel’s last lines, admire their uncomplicated elegance. They’re among the finest words printed. After the rush of the climax, and Bob Ewell’s demise, we’re left with a painterly scene of love, a world profoundly restored

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

Radiohead’s then recent release OK Computer played in the Exeter that evening. I love the cinematic melancholy, and the immaculate alienation. I’m a fan of lengthy, multi-sectioned songs, and “Paranoid Android” is superb. There’s venom in Thom Yorke’s

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy

The album is additionally embedded with references to the cult novel “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!” How excellent is this? Satire, existentialism and guitars!

Despite its anguished doom, OK Computer becomes a happy soundtrack for me. Living in Hertfordshire, we listened to it once before enjoying Terry Wogan’s wine-soaked Eurovision commentary. In his brogue he noted

They’ve got four languages in Belgium and they’re singing in an imaginary one. The essence of Eurovision.

We laugh at the songs, and are bewitched by the geopolitics. It was 2003, defined by the charming nadir of England’s nul points.

I remember Triple J first featuring OK Computer. On breakfast, Mikey Robins and the Sandman considered life’s unknowns

Sandman: I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to be a woman.

Mikey: Come here.

Like gates clanging in a prison movie, the Exeter finally shuts. Nick drifts to his Hutt Street townhouse and I taxi home to Glenelg.

*

Rampaging Roy Slaven famously spoke of playing golf with Seve Ballesteros. As an ornament to rugby league, fishing, cricket, horse racing (he piloted Rooting King), and pig shooting, he is peerless. Roy’s vanquished are “hopeless pillows” or “mooks.”

Obviously, the big man from Lithgow was towelling the Spaniard. Without warning, Seve walked quietly over to his opponent’s bag and went the bushman’s hanky all over Roy’s clubs. Standing “ashen-faced and tight-lipped,” Roy then turned to his caddy and said, “You know, there’s something I just don’t like about this bloke.”

*

I wake during the last quarter, wander out to the lounge, flick on the TV, and see Liberatore’s snap on goal. He jumps haughtily onto his team mates, fists a-pumping. The result’s a formality, the remaining time, an irritant. His Dogs are home.

But I know what Atticus Finch would think. I remember what Roy Slaven said.

And the goal umpire signals a behind. Premature exaltation. The braggadocio is scorched.

The quarter’s been goalless, and we’re down by four straight kicks with ten minutes to go. As the bride’s still asleep I choose to endure the ending. It’ll be a Saints and Bulldogs decider.

On the siren, car horns hop in our windows, zigzag over Jetty Road, and vault about the esplanade like acoustic exclamation marks! The wife stirs.

Having spent the match in a torpor, Darren Jarman contributed three majors. He was learning to love final quarters.

With its lengthening afternoons, pledge of an enriching, outdoorsy lifestyle, and barbeque bouquets freewheeling about like sociable phantasms, late September’s always been good.

Just then, it got much, much better.

ex

2

AFL Round 6- Adelaide v Western Bulldogs: Munch on, munch on, what a lovely luncheon!

 

If dreary soft-rockers Boston, at a mid-tour band meeting, voted for an expansionist nomenclature policy, and re-named itself Massachusetts, would more fans have bought its 1976 single More Than A Feeling?

No, I thought not.

Would it now somehow get more than a single airing on any of the turgid FM No Repeat Workdays? Would Marianne still walk away?

I don’t see why Footscray, with its evocative connotations of Whitten, Sutton and Hawkins, and proud sense of history and place, changed its name to the amorphous Western Bulldogs. From my outsider’s viewpoint it appeared as an ingenuous marketers’ strategy. It’s a cruel dilution. How many new fans pledged allegiance?

The game’s 11am Sunday start suits the unexpected rhythm of my day. Well before dawn I’m awoken by a ferocious thunderstorm. Also electrified, our boys bound from bed in the torrential dark, ready for breakfast and the animated French nihilism of Oggy and the Cockroaches (named Joey, Dee Dee and Marky after The Ramones).

The storm seems to have been conjured by Industrial Light and Magic, and given that we’ve recently endured ten weeks with no precipitation, including the driest month since 1869, we’ll take it. We need to play catch up rain to get to Singapore’s annual average of 95 inches. As happens in the tropics, ambling down to Robertson Quay late morning, all signs of the deluge have evaporated.

The Bulldogs begin brightly, and the Crows spectate, as is their 2014 pattern. Cooney and Boyd collect uncontested disposals, while Adelaide is unable to string anything together. Our tackling is as limp as a British boy band. Suddenly, we’re down by four goals, and the Boomarang Bar’s Martian prices for Heineken look irresistible.

Robert Murphy is a learned footballer, thinker and columnist. I love watching him compete, but will be even more absorbed in his post-playing career. To go dumbly into broadcast media would be beneath him. Why not AFL Writer-in-Residence?

It would be de rigueur to paint him as a Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I reckon his fresh unorthodoxy and scrubby, alert style is more Annie Proulx, of Wyoming Stories fame. He plays wholly unlike the blubbery Newfoundlander Quoyle of The Shipping News, in accumulating many possessions. He might choose to withdraw from public life, but unlike others (BT, Tredrea, Darcy) this would be a loss.

Having put a leash on the rampant Bulldogs, the Crows commence. They re-discover how to tackle, use the football with innovation, and kick eight consecutive goals. Galloping target Josh Jenkins imposes himself.

Revving his modish chassis, Tom Lynch reverberates about the forward line. James Podsiadly has toiled all season for little scoreboard impact, but courtesy of clever marking, steers through two pivotal majors in the middle of the second stanza.

When the AFL salespersons again claw malevolently at our game’s fabric, and players’ names are forever festooned across their backs, the only way Giansiracusa will be readable is if Billy Brownless makes a comeback, and legally adopts this handle.

Typical of the zest is this small forward poleaxing Dangerfield on the three-quarter time siren. However, the subsequent scuffle is brief as all are keen for half an orange and a rub with the magic towel.

The last term is a pulsating classic. Having led early by about five goals, the Western Bulldogs are down by nearly four when they surge, to lead by a point. There are superb solo moments from Wright and the Bulldogs’ boy named Tory and wrestling, attractive football. Betts intercepts an errant goal square handpass, and converts with two minutes left to secure the Crows’ success.

Adelaide’s second Docklands victory in a fortnight gives our season momentum and hope. I head home along the river in the drenching sunlight.