A pilgrimmage

Richard Naco has visited Geelong and Kardinia Park for the first time, and this is what he observed…

 

It was a sensational day, although my wife told me that I looked like death warmed up when she collected me from Sydney airport at 10:15pm (I’d been up since 2:15 am, and had been away for almost 18 hours by that time). I also badly needed a shower by then as well, because I’d dressed for the the predicated cold wet weather instead of the gloriously warm sunny day that had been Geelong’s that day.

Kardinia Park is absolutely the best place to watch footy in my experience. The bond between the players and fans is obvious & very very strong, and I was fortunate enough to blunder on to it from the players’ arriving at the ground (where they willingly mix with all who seek them). A bloke who travels down from Albury for every home game simply described as “community”, and he was spot on. The Cats are just so much more than just a footy club or a (sudder) sports entertainment franchise. The atmosphere in and around the ground was amazing, the sight lines great, and the only downside of the stadium (imo) is the dodgy graphics on the big screen (which I found largely illegible). The infamous lights were not required, even during the inevitable eclipse.

I was rapt with the respect shown to Bruce’s little mate by the crowd, and with Gaz himself for coming out on his own during the fourth quarter of the VFL game and making himself accessible to fans of both clubs in the GA area (mind you, the ground was only 10% full at that time).

It was the first time that I’ve been to any footy game where the number of people in the visiting club’s colours on the paddock outnumbered those in the stands. It was very much a universal navy & white dress code, and the total and utter silence after each of the Suns’ goals was eerie (but also deafeningly articulate). I was also amazed at how the entire crowd in my Bay (beside the Cat’s bench) all seemed to know each other, greeting and farewelling literally everybody by name. It appeared that I was the sole exception, the social pariah (and I don’t really need a logical explanation of the social dynamics).

The City of Geelong surprised me. I was expecting something far dowdier & down at heel, but it was quite enchanting & amazingly clean (there was absolutely no litter). The age and heritage of the place is very visible down Moorabool Street (especially), but the older buildings all seemed to be in very good states of repair. There are some very decent places to get food as well, although I couldn’t find an apple cake for love or money (I always have one during visits to Melbourne to the point where my son thinks it’s seriously breaking tradition if I don’t, and they are not available anywhere here in Sydney).

I walked a long way that day, including out and around the inner suburbs, but I spent pretty much the whole day on my lonesome. Funnily enough, while it was only while waiting at Avalon to fly home that I actually got to sahring the passion by talking with a fellow Catter. This bloke was from Sydney as well – a former son of The Pivot – and he had flown down in my flight that morning. There were quite a few Blues’ fans who also did the one day trip, including one who transitted via Avalon rather than Tullamarine. Needless to say, he appeared quite content by the night flight north.

Twelve hours in a place gives me no authority whatsoever to make any judgements on the place or its people, but I would very much like to revisit Geelong for its own sake. Undertaking a future pilgrimage to once more immerse myself in the total Cats’ experience is a given.

 

About Richard Naco

We are Geelong.

Comments

  1. It often takes the perspective of an outsider to remind one of the virtues of home.

    Besides it being the home of the Cats, the thing I like most is that it’s the gateway to a brilliant coastline.

    Other then that, its very low key which I guess is part of its charm.

  2. Mark Doyle says:

    Richard, I am pleased for you that you enjoyed your spiritual experience to the home of the Cats. A best on ground 18 hour performance! Did you step onto the hallowed turf after the game and have a kick of the footy or take a screamer in the manner of Polly Farmer or Gary Ablett snr. or jnr. It is a pity there is not a history museum for visitors like yourself. Most of the history photos are in the Social Club. However, on reading your report, I am wondering if you saw any footy (only joking). What did think of Joel Corey’s first half and younger blokes such as Duncan, Varcoe and Christenson

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