“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
Sunlight and wind. It feels like spring. The Woods are taking on top-of-the-table Hawks after two big wins. Myrmidons of justice are swirling. I’m off to the footy with Anastasia. She’s a mad Hawk. For years we’ve shared footy talk over coffee but never been to a game together. At the pub now I learn a key part of Anastasia’s history: she once threw a man.
In round 1, a Geelong supporter attempting to make his way to the aisle during the last tense minutes of the match, squat-paused, just as Cyril started weaving his magic. He paused right in front of Anastasia. Anastasia now tells me how she picked up this man, a man bigger than her, and threw him back to his seat. I’m tense.
We meet her mate Ivana (with MCC membership) outside Gate 3. Tonight I will enter the fabled MCC members for the first time. I feel ill-at-ease; like Pip upon his first visit to Miss Havisham. But I expect I will, like Pip, get a look at the human condition from the other side. The Russians take me immediately down to the famous Bullring. A silver haired employee appreciates my companions: “Good onya,” he winks. There are photos on walls down here. The MCC bowling green, October 1, 1898. Without me, the game has started.
It’s fast and open. Swan, Ball and Beams are in it. Buddy kicks a goal with that appalling kicking action. Gibson stands up in the tackle. Beams snaps and goals. It’s 6-4. Quarter time.
We’re in the Blazer bar as the Hawks kick four to start the second quarter. No one is moving. Do people come to the members to watch footy on TV? When I emerge from the bar, the crowd is restless. Antagonised. It’s 10-4.
Further evidence is gathered to support the removal of all video review from all sports. And rain is falling now. Rubbish blows boldly across the turf. The Russians head strategically back to the Bullring. Lynch kicks through the detritus. 10-6. The umpires confusedly gift Hawthorn two goals through incorrectly awarded free kicks. It’s 12-6.
The staid members’ pavilion is now erupting. In the standing room behind me are four young Collingwood boys, dishing it out to the umpires in high-pitched anger.
“Two teams ump!”
“Ruining the game!”
It’s easy to imagine them as Fagan’s posse of contumacious vagrants. Ahh, the Member’s.
Immediately behind me, a man in a tweed jacket (“I follow the Adelaide Crows, you know”) is leaning over the seats and speaking directly into my Eustachian tubes. “The crowd wants to see tackles rewarded. But the league are poofing it out. I blame Demetriou.”
My senses are jarring with the Fagan louts, Tweed Crow and a characteristic HarryO goal all vying for attention. Tweed wins: “If they can capitalise with one more before half time it will be invaluable!”
Cloke goals on half time and it’s 12-9. There’s argy bargy. Mitchell is remonstrating. Maxwell and his magpies leave with spring in their step. Aggrieved. Has something turned?
I fail to find Anastasia and Ivana at the Bullring. It’s chockers. Adult staff are chasing adult patrons who are carrying glasses where they shouldn’t be. Ahh, the member’s.
Third quarter starts frenetically. Puopolo misses then goals. Goldsack’s muffed kick-out from full back is marked by Franklin. Goal. It’s tough out there. Sustained pressure. The umpires have swallowed their whistles. Scores remain 14-9 for a long time.
Last quarter. It feels like an even match, though the Hawks are starting to run ahead of the ball into an open forward line. It looks good when comes off. But it’s a risky and arrogant way to play footy. It’s 16-9. Collingwood peg back three goals. It’s 16-12. Fagan’s troop start up again:
“Oh whaddoya want Lewis? In the back?”
“Give it to Buddy he fell over”.
“What a disgrace”.
Tweed: “What exactly are the entry requirements to the members enclosure? I’d like to know.”
When Roughead goals from 50 metres it’s over. Hawks have won in close and split the Collingwood unit.
Anastasia is belting out the song. We all head to the Bullring again. I’m waiting to buy three pots when I find myself getting picked up at the bar by a man (“you are very good looking”). Another first. The Russians are somewhat envious.
That’s enough social research for one night. When Pip returned home from Miss Havisham’s he felt “ignorant and backward.” That’s not my feeling now; though I do need to adjust some Great Expectations.
HAWTHORN 6.4 12.5 15.9 18.11 (119)
COLLINGWOOD 4.5 9.8 9.11 12.12 (84)
GOALS Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Smith 3, Whitecross 2, Gunston 2, Hill, Rioli, Hale, Lewis, Roughead, Breust, Puopolo.
Collingwood: Cloke 3, Beams 2, Blair 2, Swan, O’Brien, Elliott, Thomas, Lynch.
BEST Hawthorn: Hodge, Birchall, Lewis, Sewell.
Collingwood: Swan, Pendlebury, Beams, Grundy.
UMPIRES Stevic, Nicholls, Rosebury (check your pockets).
CROWD 71,533 at MCG, a fair proportion in the bar during play