AFL Round 3 – Geelong v Carlton: The clash of Blue and Whites

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

In a little pocket of the Surf Coast ACCC has nothing to do with competition and consumer commissions. It stands for the Anglesea Coffee and Cycling Club, loosely formed in 2006 for the purposes of bike riding, socialising and recuperation. Among this motley group, competing and consuming take on a different meaning.

Some of us are attending Etihad stadium to see the Cats play the Blues. Geelong supporters include this writer; Furio, the cafe proprietor; Merve the mechanic; and Master Paul, the Dutchman. The lone Carlton supporter is Doctor Paul (a plethora of Pauls in the ACCC means each one has a qualifier). Another Blues fan had to withdraw. Recruited in his place is Furio’s son-in-law and Kangaroos man, Adrian.

It’s been a warm, humid day with a north-west wind that made for some hard cycling during this morning’s ride, but was perfect for Doc Paul’s afternoon surf. A sprinkle of rain farewells our departure from Anglesea in one of Merve’s workshop vehicles – a ’93 Landcruiser.

At Etihad, we have seats on level one at the 50 metre line. Geelong is under scrutiny for tardy starts, but I’m theorising teams don’t have four quarters of full throttle in them. Whether that’s just an early season trend or we’re reaching the limits of human endurance is a matter for conjecture.

Geelong players emerge in rarely seen navy shorts. The other apparel I’d prefer navy blue are the Carlton supporters’ scarves, which are blue and white for purposes of economic rationalism rather than tribal logic. ‘Is that a sea of Geelong or Carlton scarves I see before me?’

Master Paul chances a prediction: “Cats by fifteen.”

Tom Lonergan playing his 100th is an encouraging omen given Geelong’s recent history in milestone games.

The tempo of AFL can appear vastly different depending on your elevation, and from our ground level perspective this game, after a lacklustre beginning, soon becomes a mad, but entertaining scramble. The skill under pressure is breathtaking and best appreciated in person.

The Blues get the first goal courtesy of a Scotland snap; another from Lucas is favoured by a lucky bounce. Is it Carlton’s night? They sprint away to a three-goal lead. Murdoch reaches over McLean, steals the ball, preventing another Blues goal then somersaults into the post. Spectacular stuff! Varcoe is subbed-off making a run of bad luck worse – for us and him.

Then Allen Christensen kicks a steadier.

“Johnson, Bartel – bang!” Furio enthuses, as if that’s what you expect from the old firm.

Bundy continues to throw himself into packs trying to win the ball.

“I knew his dad as a kid,” reveals Merve. That was in Corio and Lara. When Merve was a young man he pedalled his Malvern Star from Lara to Toowoomba to visit an uncle.

Doc Paul is a physician with empathy and intuition, but as a footy fan he reveals a dose of white line fever, though good natured, with a pleasantly resonant barracker’s a voice. He also has a tendency to call players by their number, even when he knows their name.

Meanwhile, Steve Johnson is busy like a player too long denied his adrenalin fix. Taylor Hunt curls a beauty in from the boundary. Then Kreuzer is subbed off. Luck has turned our way.

The adjudication also favours the Cats and when Carlton finally gets a free, the elderly, white-haired Blues fan a row in front holds up a wry finger to her chum: ‘got one’.

At quarter time the Cats lead by seven points. Furio jests we’ll have the wind in the second quarter, then Carlton proceed to kick the next four goals. The first one is a left foot snap by father/son Dylan Buckley.

“Good boy,” says Doc. “Number seven.”

This game, like the ocean in Anglesea, is proving to be one of ebb and flow. Now the Blues repeatedly clear the ball from the centre bounce. The Cats roll the dice with reckless handball. Then Caddy forces his way past an opponent to lay a brilliant smother right in front of us, an individual act of desperation that can spark a collective effort. Shortly after, Smedts goals following a strong tackle. Billie has a similar gait to ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan who briefly played for the Cats during the Blighty period. Tom Hawkins shrugs a tackle for a lucky-bounce goal which squares that ledger and also levels the scores – fifty nine apiece.

The ebb and flow is now going our way or is that a contradiction in terms? Is to ebb or flow that’s most advantageous? The literal meaning is ‘decrease followed by increase’, so in that case the flow is with us.

Pods canons out of a pack like a billiard ball, but misses; Hunt gathers a low wobbly punt from Blicavs for a goal; then Pods flies again allowing Hawk to turn and crumb for one out the back.

Furio observes, “He’s good isn’t he, Johnson? Bung knee and he still beats them.” Doc Paul thinks he’s a lair, but doesn’t mask his admiration.

Adrian reveals Joel Selwood’s only had one kick. Soon after, Selwood competes fiercely with two Carlton players, and while bent over catching his breath, annoyed he didn’t get a free, another Carlton player, Tuohy, taunts him with a ‘crying’ gesture, as half time beckons.

“You should be able to whack players like that,” suggests Furio. This sparks a mock argument with Adrian who challenges Furio’s form of retribution.

Master Paul is quiet, enjoying his beer and the spectacle, more so because his attachment to the Cats is nominal. “If you grow up supporting a team you feel more strongly about it,” he says. Before coming to Australia, he travelled across Africa in a Kombi filing copy to newspapers in Holland. Observing is second nature to him.

We ebb at the start of the third quarter; so Judd goes with the flow snapping a left-footer to peg back; but Selwood soon counters after a pass from Pods.

“Gee, Selwood’s good, isn’t he?” says Furio. The white-haired Blues supporter turns around and snaps, “Best on the ground when he’s only had two kicks!”

Furio is nonplussed and asks me in an aside: “Who does she barrack for?”

“Carlton.” Hard to tell with those blue and white scarves.

Though it’s no drama – Furio had already established camaraderie with her mates.

Geelong takes the ball forward where Judd gathers it and disappears behind a pack of players, like Kelly Slater behind the crest of a wave, and emerges on the other pocket, sprinting clear in quick, short steps, sparking a passage of play that eventually results in a Carlton goal.

It’s hard not to enjoy watching Juddy. We still recall his gather and left-foot snap in the fair-dinkum-unbelievable game here two years ago.

“Come on!” demands Doc Paul.

Mathew Stokes is doing a Joel Corey – accumulating possessions, but going relatively unnoticed. Chappy is uncharacteristically fumbly, and at the stage in his career people will unfairly attribute age to each skill error. But it seems to be an even game where few players stand out above the rest.

Mark Blicavs stands out (apart from his similarity to Mark Blake) by his eagerness to get to a contest, and that he makes few errors for someone so new to the game.

The Cats lead by thirty three at the last change, but it isn’t enough to rest laurels on. Beware the ebb.

As if to prove that point, Carlton lift. Our delivery forward is aimless. Steve J. hobbles off. Smedts misses a set shot before a Yarran goal sparks Carlton’s revival and they get within ten points. We’ve ebbed, they flow.

“Hit him!” Doc Paul yells at one contest, momentarily jettisoning his Hippocratic Oath, then elbows me in a stirring way to reassure he’s joking.

 

Then Bartel marks an opposition kick-out just beyond the fifty metre arc. He passes to Steve Johnson, back on, directly in front of goal, but…

A streaker, wearing a smile and a suntan, a male Helen d’Amico, has run onto the arena.

The umpire halts play and the Jimmy gimmie to Stevie is disallowed.

The streaker’s quickly caught by security, offers no resistance and is soon escorted off, but our opportunity goes begging.

Finally, Christensen handpasses out of a tight situation to Motlop for the last goal of the match, and the Cats acknowledge Tom Lonergan with a sixteen point victory. Master Paul’s prediction is vindicated (what’s a point between friends?).

The white-haired Blues fan succumbs to Furio’s charm and departs with a smile. Doc Paul reckons Geelong was too good and leaves us to visit his elderly dad. We retrace our steps to Merve’s Landcruiser and his Esky of goodies. We go with the flow over the Westgate Bridge toward the broad horizons of the Surf Coast with images of the frantic, glorious scramble fresh in our minds.

END

GEELONG 5.5 12.6 17.7 18.11 (119)

CARLTON 4.3 9.5 11.10 15.13 (103)

GOALS:

Geelong: Hawkins 3, Hunt 3, Christensen 2, Smedts 2, Taylor 2, Motlop 2, Podsiadly, Selwood, Stokes, West.

Carlton: McLean 2, Yarran 2, Lucas 2, Rowe 2, Judd, Armfield, Buckley, Scotland, Garlett, Murphy, Hampson.

 

BEST: 

Geelong: Christensen, Hunt, Stokes, Taylor, Motlop, Johnson, West.

Carlton: Judd, Walker, Yarran, McLean, Rowe, Murphy.
UMPIRES Dalgleish, Nicholls, McInerney (were occasionally technical, but mostly let players decide the outcome of a contest: 8/10)

 

CROWD 43,241

MALARKEY MEDAL:  3 Christensen; 2 Judd; 1 Hunt

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