WEST COAST EAGLES v GEELONG
Patersons Stadium; 5.40pm; Saturday August 17
The Avenging Eagle’s niece from Reading in the UK arrived in Perth on Friday, and we had a spare ticket for the Eagles-Cats match. Nadya is backpacking around Australia and had never seen an AFL contest. She still hasn’t. This was an exhibition match between the blue and white hoops and the blue and gold witch’s hats.
In the car on the way to the game Nadya asked me about the Federal Election campaign. I told her not to get too interested. It would probably be cancelled under a long standing Australian convention; as KRudd had recently revealed that he was a ‘top bloke’. I explained that like North Korea, Zimbabwe and West Coast Eagles – there is no point wasting your time with elections or debates once you have a ‘top bloke’. In Australia we have the celebrity expose’ on Channel 7 instead – to anoint ‘top blokes’ as our future leaders.
Luke Darcy: “How have you viewed the season to date, Kevin? You’d have to say that it hasn’t all gone to plan. There have been a few ups and downs.”
KRudd: “Well we’ve had a lot of unexpected outs. Gillard, Crean, Ferguson, Smith, Conroy – that’s a lot of experience to lose all at the one time. Now Nicoski and Adam Selwood have confirmed that they won’t go around again. I was even on the sidelines myself for quite a while, but I’ve fought my way back into form. I know many supporters may be disappointed at our season to date, but no one expected that we would have to deal with the GMC (Great Midfield Crisis). The Club have told me that the job is mine for as long as I want it.”
August has been unusually cold and wet in Perth. There were showers as we drove to the match, so we debated the perennial “will the wet suit them or us?” My learned conclusion was that “at least it will keep it close”. Once again proving that it is wiser to observe than predict. Wives and children living on stale bread and dripping this week can than thank the bookies benefactor (JT Harms) for his Friday recommendation “The Eagles are a good bet at the line even though I’m keen for my boys to get up. West Coast by 1 point.”
Now he did say “Maybe I’m easily convinced”. I hope so; as I need him to make an offer on the Fremantle-Rottnest Island Bridge that I now have under construction.
From the bounce down the Cats are clearly in a hurry to get the job done, with 5 goals in the first 13 minutes. The Eagles are still congratulating themselves on their successive wins over the underage Suns and the cold turkey Bombers. We manage to string together our only 10 minutes of competitive footy for the game, and respond with 2 goals. I am watching with one eye on the game and the other on the storm front looming up the river from Les Land. One more goal and we could be in touch before the impending deluge.
Instead we get the first reading from the Book of the Joel, as he goals in time-on to take the Cats to an unassailable 4 goal lead. Almanac scholars of the Hebrew Bible will recognise the familiar pattern of Joel visiting judgment on the enemies of God (we all remember him) and his vindication of Israel (modern day Geelong according to Pastor Harms).
Five minutes into the second term and the heavens open with Kelly and Bartel (as old as Noah) loading the Geelong arc two by two, while my Eagles are consumed in the flood. The Cats handball further than most Eagles can kick, and it was sobering to watch their ruthless offensive strategy while Woosha thumbed desperately through Tommy Hafey’s “Boot it Long – Tactics for Dummies” and “Pagan’s Paddock – How I used Big Forwards to Win Premierships in the 20th Century.” The Cats hold us clueless for the quarter, while kicking 5 goals themselves.
The third quarter is stocktake time, as I run the ruler over the Eagle’s playing list to decide on the ‘never to be played again’ list. My one rule is that you don’t get dismissed until you have played at least 30 AFL games, as the pace and ferocity can disable even talented players in their infancy. The red pencil identifies 2: SheppardB (43 games and softer than Joe Hockey’s budget numbers) and HillJ (I love watching him but there isn’t a place for skilful opportunists who offer nothing defensively). But there are bigger fish to fry.
Woosha has announced that he is embarking on his Johnny Farnham Farewell Tour again next season. Doesn’t he know that fans and players alike all hide under the seats when he winds up the bagpipes for another go-round of “I’m the Voice”. Olivia Newton Selwood and Colleen Nicoski have both announced that they are pulling the pin after distinguished careers as chart toppers. Can’t Johnny take the hint?
Dean Cox was brave as always, and gave Vardy and Blicavs a ruck lesson. But it is like watching Makybe Diva go round in the Grand National Steeplechase because “she can run the distance”. Same goes for Embley and Kerr (who plods around in the WAFL on dodgy knees but has a $500K contract for another season).
There is lots of talk about ‘premiership windows’ and ‘bad luck with injury’ at the Eagles this season. That window has opaque glass and club loyalists are only seeing their hopes reflected back – not the future. Same with the coaching roster. Scott Burns brought Mick’s ‘defensive press/buffalo girls’ circa 2008. Justin Longmuir came on board last season via the WAFL and a career at the Dockers under luminaries like Chris Connolly and Damian Drum.
Little wonder that Woosha offered a consoling hand, but not a seat, to Michael Voss this week. “Worsfold said there were no positions available at the Eagles now. We have got someone like that around already. We have got coaches that are passionate, motivated and skilful, so we are not lacking in that area.” (KRudd speak for dullards with mortgages).
Woosha has learned from Julia Gillard that it is best not to have ambitious and experienced men on your backbench when you are on the slide.
By the last quarter I had worked through all of the Elizabeth Kubler Ross “5 Stages of Grieving”. The first half was denial, anger and bargaining. The third quarter was depression. Now it was onto acceptance. Even the Avenging Eagle was often moved to applaud the Cats’ skill and their brilliant team work.
Steven Motlop has gone from sporadically brilliant to elite class this season. His first half was as good as I have seen anyone play this season. Chris Scott took him off soon after half time because the game was won and he wanted to protect his ‘pearl’ (there could be a book in it JTH).
Joel Selwood is in scary good form. Two moments stood out. Mackie and StevieJ both missed sitters straight after half time. I said to AE “the Cats are going to have one of their ‘party time’ quarters.” The Old Testament prophet heard me and immediately kicked 2 long goals on the run. “You shall have no other Gods but me.” Shortly after he chased down 2 young Eagles who were clear in possession on the defensive flank. He bumped one to the ground, then wrenched the ball off the other as he slung him to the ground. Two on one seemed totally unfair – to our two. “I am a vengeful God.”
I could offer a long list of Kelly, Bartel, Stokes, StevieJ – who all worked tirelessly – but if there was one player to strike fear into the heart of opposition coaches it was Travis Varcoe. He was like a Grand Prix car cruising around on its warm up laps before the race flag drops. To my eye he has bulked up a little; but his acceleration, vision and deadly disposal were better than ever. He never seriously imposed himself, but he never made a mistake either. Even scarier.
The Cats will make the prelim final, and would beat anybody in the wet. On a dry day they need a ruckman and a key marking forward.
Sharrod Wellingham in his 100th AFL game was a class above any of his Eagles compatriots. The usual suspects – Priddis, SelwoodS, Cox, Glass and MacKenzie – were honest but not dangerous. Lycett continues to show promise (which makes me wonder about the long term value of Cox going around next season), and Sam Butler had his best game in another injury interrupted season.
This was the worst of all performances in the worst of all seasons for my Eagles. Most fans and the local media just salute the flag and parrot ‘my team right or wrong’. I prefer the straight talking of a man like defeated US Presidential Candidate – Barry Goldwater:
- “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
- “If everybody in this town connected with politics (and football coaching) had to leave town because of chasing women and drinking, you would have no government.”
- “Listening to (Woosha) is like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages.”
WEST COAST 2.1 2.3 4.5 6.5 (41)
GEELONG 6.1 11.5 15.9 16.11 (107)
West Coast: Wellingham, Hill, Dalziell, Schofield, S Selwood, Darling
Geelong: J Selwood 4, Podsiadly 2, Kelly 2, Stokes 2, Motlop 2, Christensen, Vardy, Walker, Murdoch
West Coast: J Selwood, Motlop, Stokes, Bartel, Kelly, Varcoe, S Johnson
Geelong: Wellingham, S Selwood, Priddis, Glass, Cox
Umpires: Margetts, Stewart, Kamolins
Official crowd: 34,394
MY VOTES: J Selwood (G) 3; Kelly (G) 2; Motlop (G) 1.