The Roos Blues and No Thanks to Youse!
To be honest, I haven’t watched too much of the Big League over the last ten years. I play and breathe bush footy, not AFL. The marketing boys have done well to brand us all with their label. I take in enough games, or bits of games, to be amazed at their strength, skill, vision, speed, discipline, tactics, without ever getting bored, or taking it all for granted.
But play real footy, something to be involved in, and watch the other. It helps me love both.
At this distance you notice trends. The creeping in of basketball and gridiron structures, which is all fine, just observing. My God, the game has changed!
Sometimes I’m tempted to find someone who once followed Aussie Rules, say back in the 60s, then got lost in the villages of Borneo or was frozen for a while in a glacier. Sit them down in front of a telly (explaining they’re flat screens now), offer them a pie and beer, which haven’t changed an iota, just to give them bearing. Then play a Freo v Melbourne game.
I wonder if they’d love it? Shove it up all of us doomsayers?
Recognise it as football?
I think if I was them I’d take in the pace of the game and hold onto my seat as if it and the world were moving to fast for me. And cry for the lack of mud in winter. I suspect going to the Docklands stadium would be like watching a video game of biblical proportions.
Something would have changed, some stayed the same. Overall, I suspect I would be breathless. One thing would really bother me, though. Something that goes to character.
A small thing that says a lot about people. About a nation.
I saw it again on Friday night, while watching the Blues vs Roos on a tiny tv monitor above the beer fridge at my Melbourne local. It was a good game, I guess. You could tell from the first three minutes, like fate, the Kangas weren’t going to win, despite Daw finally having a blinder. It’s just their way, as if they’d rather be contrary than victorious. Or maybe it’s Boomer. When he plays well they nail it. When he doesn’t… I dunno, it’s just a theory. Either way, they have no superstars, so week in, week out, Drew, Thommo, Firrito, Swallow, Harvs, they need their whole team firing.
Only one bloke looked as impressive in the air as Daw. Carlton’s Casboult is fast becoming my favourite player. I like battleships who go for their marks. Who really clunk them, as if their hands are gravity. In a game of whippets there’s something solid about how he goes about it. The beard, the simplicity of a Carlton jumper and diesel motors all suit him.
At one stage the ball came in deep and wide on the fifty, bouncing past him, goal-ward. Hemmed in by two opponents and the boundary, he didn’t panic, running onto it, looking for options, before stopping dead, drawing both chasers, turning them inside out, and handballing inboard to Blondy, now free of a man, who nailed a nice goal from 35 out, on a good but not brilliant angle.
Then Blondy took off! Arms out, tensed, all superstar. He ran nowhere in victory, all look-at-me, letting his teammates come to him with high fives, chesty bomps and bum rubs.
Just like in soccer.
So often I watch that brilliant, brilliant game, see someone do all the hard work, dodge, weave, draw three men, lay the perfect cross for someone else, now free of his man, to tap into the net, only to have the goal-scorer run off to the crowd as if he is Jesus. It’s a blot on their fine sport. Ego. All about the goal, not the team. Not the mateship. And now AFL players are doing it.
Blondy left Casboult for dead. It has always been our tradition, our national pschycie, that our first reaction, our gut instinct, is to acknowledge the bloke who helped us. To be half humble by being a teammate, first and always.
Later, I saw it down the other end. No names. I like this bloke, don’t want to dob him. But he kicked a nice one for the Roos due to brilliant play by one of his mates, then ran off looking for loving.
He should have gone straight to his mate and said: “Mate! That was fucking awesome! Your goal, mate! You ripper!”
It all ties back to the razzle-dazzle. The Gridiron, the video game, the lost of mud. These chinks and shifts in what we are as a country.
As I said, it’s a small thing, but, within our great game, in the AFL, so brilliant and electric, I’ve been noticing it more and more lately.
Anyways, the Blues powered away after that, Gibbs, Robbo, whoever played on Petrie, haha. Hendo kicking six, or something. Judd coming to terms with mortality humbly, slipping more-and-more, each week, into the roll of a good servant. Like the other mob, they need all their best firing. In a shit year, they had their moment, for which they should thank North.
The Kangaroos seem to be good at giving them.