AFL Round 1 – Hawthorn v Geelong: P. Flynn, G. Galilei and the insight of the Hawthorn fan

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

Easter Monday afternoon. I walk into All Nations Hotel in Richmond which is alive with that something-about-to-happen atmosphere that keeps the nostrils clear and the tears away. It’s an atmosphere that locates you in the cosmos. The place is filled with laughter and raised beers and busy bar staff, the clink of cutlery and the wiping of parma crumbs from chatty lips.

It’s as fresh as any place on the planet at that given moment. Like someone has just opened a new tube of Dencorub.

Old friends catch up. New ones meet. P. Flynn has taken his position at the bar in the way that C. Enright assumes his territory across half-back.

P. Flynn is on a post-Springsteen, pre-Geelong high. Not a bad combo. He has a crew with him including Corka, a bloke who is just he sounds. Corka runs cricket tours out of England. He’s been there for 20 years and has stories about cricketer professionals, insiders whose services he has engaged: both the conscientious and the licentious. A young Dermot Reeves features in one of the two categories.

I spot Jake Norton of the Wandering Eye, of Melbourne Racing Club and Almanac golfing fame, leaning on the mantel piece of the fireplace. It’s a happy coincidence he’s in the All Nations. An Essendon fan he is with Walmsley the Younger. Walmsley the Older is absent, away in Perth as a banker, because they have all the cash over there. Walmsley the Older once engaged me to present to the ANZ Risk Management Team on the very topic of Risk Management on the basis I was a mug punter. I opened with a slide of my big toe-nail and the effect you can have on the tendency for it to in-grow if you have the skills to manage it well enough. I proceeded to explain how The Handicapper decried my shaping technique – one which has worked perfectly for 20 years – as unsupported by the literature. I followed Paul James – son of Bronwlow medallist John, and former Carlton player himself, a solicitor of some law firm with a name like a 1950s half-back line – whose hour-long dissertation was on insolvency. I listened carefully but it was more about financial than marital.

I meet Corka’s brother Shane, a truckie, and establish origins. When I tell him I am from Oakey on the Darling Downs he starts laughing.

“Know it well mate,” he says. “Oakey: best abuse on the CB in Queensland. They have the highest rate of resident fuckwits per head of population anywhere in the country.”

“Really,” I say.

I order the Weiner Schnitzel (with lemon), or the veal schnitzel as it’s called at the All Nations where the chef Chris is rusted on Collingwood. I’ve decided chicken parmas are so 2006 and I’m starting a Weiner Schnitzel movement. Mine is delicious.

The pub’s bus, which prompts the term jalopy to come to mind, is coming and going as fans of both sides head to the ground. We hang around for the Stawell Gift on TV which takes a while because Swain breaks just as we are itching to get away. He’s penalised a metre and goes down by a foot which prompts calls for all betting sheets to be analysed. The bus has gone again and, as we stride to the station, a train leaves North Richmond station in the distance. Crisis.

We do the only sensible thing and head straight back to the pub. Chris, the chef, senses the gravity of the situation – it’s less than 20 minutes to the first bounce – and piles us in his twin-cab ute. Five blokes and a Collingwood chef. That’s the sort of pub it is, although the capacity for P. Flynn to sup there means that this act of kindness could also be strictly a business decision.

We praise the food. Almost. Corka, who has failed to recognise (despite the checked pants and apron) that he is being driven to the MCG by the bloke who has just cooked him lunch, says as we turn into Powlett Street, “I was going to have the schnitzel but I didn’t like the look of that coleslaw. I don’t really like coleslaw.”

There is a pause.

Chris the Chef, forever the diplomat, says, “Neither do I. Don’t like makin’ it. Don’t like eatin’ it.”

We are dropped off and hurry down a path with the Hawthorn hordes.

Thankfully we have taken up the position, standing on the half forward flank at the city end, just in time. A further coincidence: MOC is there with his two lads as well. A Collingwood spy? A connoisseur of footy?

There is no consensus about what will happen. The thinking is that it could be a draw plus or minus seven goals. A fair spread. I think any of those results are possible.

The Cats start well enough, winning their share of the footy but there are numerous skill errors and missed opportunities. They could have a couple on the board but they wrack up the points. The Hawks kick straight and skip away. Buddy, who looks like a felon from an Alabama prison, runs around looking dangerous. Mitchell seems permanently loose. Who is that No. 10? Is he quick? Does he have the loose limbs of the mega-star? Who is he? Who is he?

The last Footy Record anyone bought had Bluey Hampshire on the front (in a Geelong jumper).

“It’s Bradley Hill,” comes the explanation from someone in the general vicinity stage left, a chest-out peptidinal Hawthorn supporter who has already crayoned-in the win.

“He’s trouble,” someone says.

The Hawks thrash Geelong at the clearances and the Cats defenders are copping an onslaught.

Pods looks a little gentler than the average footballer and, for a short time, the average lawn bowler, and just as P. Flynn is drawing breath to point this out Pods takes a beauty. In fact, Pods holds the forward line together for much of the first half, Tom Hawkins suffering from a bout of pour positioning while not being helped by some terrible delivery.

Varcoe draws the eye for all good reasons. “Is it possible to be manic and have poise at the same time?” I ask of the crowd generally.

Forever the theorist P. Flynn chimes in. “Yes it is,” he says in that deliberate way of his, like he’s a professor on an American sit-com. “Travis Varcoe is our first quantum footballer.”

Motlop maybe the second – if he develops poise. Motlop draws the eye because he runs like billeo and eventually that must serve the Cats well, although for a while fans are frustrated with his game. He would do well to sit at the feet of Boris for a while.

After the break, where the players suck in the air after a frantic opening, Chappy works his way into it. Played at such pace, the contest is relatively open and that suits both sides. It’s entertaining footy, sadly just a little more entertaining for the Hawks, who kick clear on the scoreboard even though to the beer-drinker it looks to be an even contest.

The flogging at the centre bounces becomes obvious (even to the beer-drinker). The Hawks seem to run it out at without the threat of any restraint. Buddy gets on the end of a couple. “I hope he goes to Freo,” says P. Flynn.

Corka turns around: “I hope he goes to prison.”

Birchall is also damaging for the Hawks, running off half-back. Burgoyne has plenty of touches. Mitchell draws the applause of all supporters – even us, grudgingly, after a sharp handball and darting (modern-day) stab pass to Shiels (who misses).

Chappy finds himself on the slippery Hill which might prove interesting but reads the game well enough to have an impact and, when he dobs one from 50 there is a hint of W.C. Fields about his follow-up chat with Hill. There was never anything avuncular about W.C. Fields.

At five goals up the Hawks better not get another one. And they don’t. Hawk takes a good mark in the pocket which moves a Hawks fan to say, “Geez, we miss Lake.”

Can you miss a bloke who hasn’t played for you? Quantum? Or more silly?

Hawkins goals and then Varcoe roves spectacularly half-controlling the footy on the tips of his fingers while looking the other way, running at top pace, faking to get three defenders in the air simultaneously, before squeezing an exhausted snap through.

The Cats are 20 points down at half-time and the game is alive.

There is a sense among Cats fans that the boys will come but we are all surprised by what happens.

Joel Selwood takes control.

It’s not the stand-in-the-jeep-and-be-saluted control of a Malthouse or the you-go-over- there control of Nick Maxwell. It’s just a St-Crispin’s-Day-was-for-soft-cocks sort of will.

In the next minutes there are bumps, tackles, gathers, pilferings, a high mark, maulings, and a pass to the leading Hawkins which flies through the air with a neon sign flashing “THIS IS OUR GAME BOYS”. (Thankfully Hawkins snaffles it and slots the goal.) All done with Joel Selwood’s face as stern as Rushmore rock.

The Cats are completely dominant. Hawks fans have vacated our standing room.

But the Hawks fight back after another Mitchell clearance. It is two points the difference at three-quarter time with the Hawks just hanging on.

Which is how it plays out in the final quarter – for a while. The Hawks defenders are under such pressure that the Cats backmen, well-positioned, pick off their hurried clearances. Enright, Mackie and Lonergan are all solid. Buddy is hardly sighted.

Taylor has been very good all day and he is outstanding in the final stanza.

“Harry’s very good at marking opposition kicks in the last quarter,” P. Flynn says.

“It’s a new stat,” I say. “Making opposition kicks in the last quarter.”

On cue Harry lands another one.

“See,” says P. Flynn.

And then another. By this stage he needs to. Although Mitch Duncan, handy all afternoon, appears to kick the sealer to put the Cats 21 points up with about six on the clock, Hawthorn sneak back in with a couple of goals, and the Cats have a fight on their hands.

It’s not quite a Crackers Keenan situation but when Breust marks 25 out it’s about to be. He misses and the balloon is pricked.

Taylor marks again with a few seconds to go and P. Flynn thinks he’s Galileo.

The siren sounds and the Cats have had another win over Hawthorn.

Cats fans are thrilled with the games of some of the younger players – Duncan, Smedts, Taylor Hunt (a quiet achiever), Motlop’s second half, Christensen and even the big steeple-chaser Blicavs. We fans also like that we are less lost in the cosmos when the reliable old-timers are doing what they do best.

Both sides have many contributors, some coming in and out of the game. Both look like serious contenders.

But Geelong have beaten the premiership favourites in the first round.

 

Malarkey Votes.  3. J. Selwood (G)   2. S. Mitchell (H)   1. A. Mackie (G)

 

*I have been going to the All Nations Hotel for years, which is why they are one of our sponsors. They host many of our lunches and other events. If you are visiting Melbourne, or just having a beer there, mention The Footy Almanac to the bar staff, and they will give you a free pot. No joke.

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. “Joel Selwood takes control. It’s not the stand-in-the-jeep-and-be-saluted control of a Malthouse or the you-go-over- there control of Nick Maxwell. It’s just a St-Crispin’s-Day-was-for-soft-cocks sort of will.” JTH, I’ve never seen a more precise summation of all three.

    Every player in the game must know that Taylor is going to take those high balls in defence (except Buddy, who always looks confused after he’s been caught out of position to see Taylor with the ball) but he’s left alone every time to do so. It’s like a training drill.

  2. Great story Harmsey- coleslaw should be creamy and soggy (my mum’s was)- not crunchy with bloody radishes in it as it was yesterday at ANH (great pub though)

  3. Mark Doyle says:

    Another great win for the Cats! I agree with your Malarkey votes. My best for the Cats were Selwood, Mackie, Chapman, Taylor, Enright and Lonergan who all played well for four quarters and the pace of blokes such as Varcoe, Duncan, Stokes, Motlop, Christensen and Smedts was the distinguishing factor in the Cats win.

    Your reference to the All Nations Hotel in Lennox St. takes me back more than 20 years when I lived in East Melbourne. Is it the same quaint little genuine local pub that it was in the 1980’s? It had good beer and counter meals and some very interesting regular drinkers who loved talking about politics, philosophy, history, literature, religion and footy. I especially remember blokes such as Kevin Smith, who was a catholic priest at St. John’s Church in East Melbourne, Wes Andrews, who was a Uniting Church Minister in Richmond and Mark Shield, who was a wine and food writer for the ‘Age’. Mark Shield was as a great raconteur and a very funny bloke who had a great knowledge of wine and literature.

  4. Lord Bogan says:

    Enjoyable yarn Harmsy. P.Flynn is a charismatic enigma. Could philosophize with him for hours.

    Has Chappy played in every win since 2008? Is it unreasonable to assume that Hawthorn will not defeat Geelong until Chappy retires? I’m less superstitious than I used to be, but this is a curious case/curse.

  5. P Flynn could be our first quantum Knacker.

  6. Peter_B says:

    Do you mean that P Flynn won the 1966 Melbourne Cup or that he thinks Harry Taylor has the lean rangey look of a Bart Cummings stayer?
    I have an “Ages of Man” theory about knowing how old you are.
    In my 30’s I started to lose money on the progeny of mares that l remembered losing money on as a younger man. This was called NOT keeping it in the family.
    In my 40’s I started to bore people with “I remember watching his father play” stories when I saw new recruits. Matthew Pavlich’s dad Steve as a nuggety left foot half forward flanker with my team West Torrens in the SANFL was a yarn guaranteed to bore people rigid.
    Now I’m in my 50’s I can extend this to all sports. “I remember watching Mark Blicavs’ dad Andy in the original NBL. He was one of the deadliest shooters going around.” Mark’s ruckwork was handy, but his handball and team awareness stood out for the Cats on Monday. His sort of athleticism is what modern ruckmen will need with the quick throw ups around the ground. He’s another Stephen Wells clever catch.
    When I turn 60 I will start to remember seeing their grandad play – shit I already can – Sam Day’s grandfather Ian for South Adelaide in the first SANFL Grand Final I saw in 1964.
    Lovely piece JTH. Seems like the win was a handy by product of a bigger occasion.

  7. Neil Belford says:

    When Flynny says ‘our first quantum footballer’ is he talking in absolute terms or just about Geelong. And will there be more. Will there be a limit on the number you can draft.

  8. Paul Daffey says:

    Throughout the last quarter I thought of another pearl of wisdom from Quantum Flynn.

    He’s always wanted to see a stat that shows that Jimmy Bartel does very little in the first quarter and then warms into games.

    In the last quarter he was searing.

  9. Bartel needed to sear in the last quarter as he and Hawkins were the Cats worst for the first 2 or 3 quarters.
    I’m not saying he’s past it, as even an ‘over the hill’ Bartel is better than most at their peak. But I reiterate the same question as with Dean Cox the previous week, is the speed of the game on a fast track going past old legs??
    I remember Peter Matera’s last few years. Still in our best 6 when injury let him on the park, but a long way off what had been.
    There is no problem with that so long as we remember they are human, not superhuman.

  10. Watching Fox Footy channel last night, where it was said Geelong had lost the week following each of their 10 wins over Hawthorn. Is that correct? I can’t remember.

    Glen!

  11. Peter Flynn says:

    Not correct Glen.

    Varcoe violates footy’s equivalent of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

    There’ll be others.

    It’s interesting that Schrodinger used a cat to illustrate superposition.

  12. Peter Flynn says:

    Daff,

    The Bartel First Quarter Last Quarter Influence Differential Index:

    Q4influnence-Q1influence was close to its highest value on Monday.

    Hopkins need to look at these stats rather than crap like contested ball.

  13. Rick Kane says:

    Say there mister can you tell me what happened to the seeds I sowed … sorry wrong thread (that’s a Springsteen opening line). However, Mr Math Guy (yes you, Mr Flynn) can you ascribe a formula to demonstrate how the Hawks allow good opposition sides to dominate one quarter and in effect wreck the hard work the Hawks had already done (as in Cats 3rd Q; Swans GF 2nd Q)?

    Cheers

  14. Peter_B says:

    Bartel looks to me like he his a 2 miler these days. Needs the first mile and a half or a wet track to take the speed out of the opposition’s legs.
    Like Super Impose he used to win Epsom’s but as he’s got older he takes longer to get wound up.

  15. TG White says:

    I must admit to also being on a post Springsteen pre-Geelong high, albeit in Brisbane so unable to attend. I had grown up in Townsville (NQ) and didn’t know anything about footy until my mate Debate moved from Melbourne & then I was bombarded for the next 4 years with all things Hawthorn. Strangely though I didn’t get onboard until my college mate J.T. Harms dragged me to the Gabba to see the Cats kick a record score against the Bears. I think now that Billy Brownless might have kicked 11(?) goals that day, though my brain has always fantasised that it was G. .Ablett snr who did. So started my Geelong journey. My son recently registered online for his 4th season of AFL (Griffith Uni- Moorooka Roosters u12’s, go the chooks) and officially changed his allegiance from the Cats to the Suns, such is his love of G. Ablett jnr. I guess it’s moves like that that justify Gary’s move & big pay packet. I’m hoping the Cats play the Suns up here this season so we can enjoy the best of both worlds, the Cats and Gary Ablett and football is the winner in that scenario.

  16. Harmsy

    Great record of a wonderful afternoon. I identify completely with that laughter filled atmosphere, the clink of cutlery etc. It evokes a warm feeling of familiarity – as experienced a generation ago looking up at your Dad enjoying the same conviviality. That’s the magic of the All Nations – it’s a time machine.

    I was in the same year as Paul James at St Pat’s, Ballarat. I bumped into him in a pub in Vancouver many years after leaving school. He has a habit of turning up when I least expect him! Top fella and good, ordinary footballer to boot.

    I look forward to sharing another schnitzel with you sometime, Harmsy. Next time I’ll go the Weiner – minus the coleslaw of course!

    Cheers
    Corka

  17. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Enjoyable read picturing PJF at his finest great story and yep when teams invariably just hurry and go long in the final stanza , Taylor is a master
    Well done JTH

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