AFLM Round 13 – Geelong v Richmond: Playing in the Puddles

 

The skyscrapers of the CBD are barely visible, nothing more than stalks of black, as I drive under the West Gate. My windscreen wipers can’t go fast enough to deal with the rain. I’m driving about ten clicks an hour. Geelong and Richmond will be fight it out in these biblical conditions.

 

Later, on the walk from Jolimont to the ‘G, the barrackers are scurrying through the rain. They pull their hoods up, and their scarves tighter.

 

Meanwhile, I’m walking slowly and smiling like a moron, because I’m playing in the puddles in my mind’s eye. It’s a great day for footy. My eleven-year-old self would be thrilled.

 

He’d be lying awake at 7am in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, listening to the rain, waiting to get up and get dressed. The Paringa Park Primary School jumper was a beauty – green with a gold sash, long-sleeved and made of wool. None of that moisture wicking bollocks here.

 

The socks were green and gold hoops. “Pull ‘em up”, Dad would say. “You’ve gotta look like a footballer!”

 

Looking like a footballer was important, because I wasn’t much of a centre-half forward. My best goal, straight out of Fraser Gehrig’s playbook, was a cheap one out the back, executed in four simple steps.

 

Run opponent under the ball – tick.

Turn quicker – tick.

Win the sprint – remarkably, a tick.

Slam the Sherrin through an unreasonable distance from a metre out, just to make sure – tick.

 

The other highlight was a day down at Reynella. The rain was biblical. The hail stones were the size of pebbles, though after a week of storytelling, they’d grown to the size of cricket balls. Some of the team packed it in. I stayed. We won. It took me about half an hour to thaw out in the shower at home afterwards. My legs were raw red from being belted by the hail, and covered in mud, maybe from winning the hard footy, and maybe from just playing in the puddles. Either way, I delighted in washing it off. It signified that I’d suffered for the cause.

 

I hope Richmond debutant Ryan Garthwaite shares my love for wet weather footy. The prospect must surely excite him more than it would the veterans. At Gate 6, the ground announcer tells patrons Mount Buller has nothing on the MCG.

 

The coffee line is huge, and the turf is soaked. This will be a slog. There will be no room for finessing. The rudimentary will become the spectacular. The AFL will become as simple as the under 10s. This is a day for the back-pocket plumbers, and the Tigers have to win it if they’re really serious about going back-to-back.

 

Selwood wins the toss, and kicks downstream. The long-sleeved jumper count: four to Geelong, zero to Richmond. Brandon Parfitt in the long-sleeved number three looks particularly majestic.

 

The opening moments are not memorable. There are shanks out of bounds. There are attempted torps. Every kick falls short. Ablett hits Shane Edwards on a platter – the weather will make fools of them all.

 

 The ball is a cake of soap, but the Tigers are cleaner. The returning Rioli buzzes. The Cats spill marks. Four Richmond behinds ensue. Do they know they’re aiming for the middle ones? A torp up the guts from the Cats kick-out comes back with interest.

 

But eventually, Geelong finds a way forward for their first foray, and against the run of play, they kick the opener, created by Dangerfield but finished by Stanley. Riewoldt replies. Hawkins sends the Cats back in front. Then – Gary Ablett, Junior.

 

The Little Master picks up a handball. He’s sixty out, on a forty-five-degree angle, and he’s flying. He arcs towards goal and unleashes a fifty-five-metre bomb. You know the rest. No one else on the ground can kick the ball more than forty metres. No one else on the ground is Gary Ablett.

 

The quarter-time change has Geelong up fifteen points. The rain has relented, but it’s still ridiculously wet under foot. The Tigers can’t afford to fall further behind.

 

The bullocking figure of Toby Nankervis ensures they don’t. He snaps opportunistically out of a pack on his left, and it somehow sails through. By half-time, they’re ahead by two points. At the final change, that lead has been halved.

 

Chris Scott appears to be playing a game of chess with no more than a handful of pieces. No matter how he arranges them, there’s always a hole. Dangerfield has gone to Rance, but Vlastuin has stepped up to intercept in his stead. The kids behind me are exclusively calling him “Vlastuin the Viking”.

 

Selwood has been exceptional. Guthrie, Hawkins, Duncan and Kelly are all busy, but there’s a lot of dead weight on the Geelong boat.

 

The weather has brightened somewhat – it’s cloudy and there’s less rain, but there’s still no chance of Richmond winning a clearance. The problem for the Cats has been locking the ball in.

 

Butler ridiculously chips a five-yard pass to Riewoldt off the side of his boot, which gives Richmond the first of the last. Dusty, well held for much of the day, finds himself at full-forward. Three Cats fly, but none of them marks. Dusty swoops. The trademark fend-off makes its return. He wheels onto his right. Another goal!

 

All over the ground, the Cats fumble. They seem rushed. And they are rushed, by mounting Richmond pressure. On Level 2, a sense of déjà vu comes over me. I’ve seen this movie before. The Cats have mounted a fair dinkum challenge and the Tigers are telling them to fair dinkum bugger off.

 

The final two goals do more to explain the Richmond Football Club right now than any other pieces of evidence you could conjure up. They’re a wet weather team in all conditions. They celebrate the rudimentary as excellent, and make the game painstakingly simple – forward, at all costs. 

 

The first of the two goals begins with Edwards, like so many before it. He crumbs at the back of the centre-square, accelerates, then slams it long into an open forward line. Zach Tuohy is on hand for the Cats, but Jason Castagna has the jump. His arms and legs are a blur. He looks like the road runner. The ball reaches the goal square. Castagna palms it forwards, and slightly to his right. Tuohy attempts to tackle, but slips and falls. The Richmond man looks every chance to fall over, too, but he somehow balances and manages to swing the ball through on his right-boot.

 

The second goal is even better. It’s an act of faith – or rather, several of them. Rioli jumps and competes just back of the wing. Lambert soccers the loose balls towards the boundary, then chases, and narrowly keeps it in. It rolls along the line, then darts back infield. Rioli is still in pursuit. He shins it to the rushing Jack Riewoldt, who doesn’t bother taking possession, and spanks the ball around his body and into the path of Rioli, and two Geelong defenders. One of them, Mitch Duncan goes to ground and gathers the ball. Rioli is there to tackle him. The barrackers scream – “Ball!”. The umpire pauses, blows his whistle, crosses his arms, and then uncrosses them. Rioli slots the set shot. Richmond have just moved the ball from half-back to the goals without a conventional disposal between the arcs. Game over.

 

The rain has now relented, but nonetheless, this has been a memorable day at the footy, or a memorable day playing in the puddles. For debutant Ryan Garthwaite, it’ll be a memorable Gatorade shower, though he deserves a proper, warm one. I hope he enjoys scrubbing that mud off his knees.

 

*See more articles by Jack Banister’s HERE. He’s on a book quest as well as watching a lot of footy.

 

 

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Joe De Petro says:

    Love reading your stuff, Jack. Isn’t it great to go to the footy, watch an Ablett do something outrageous and not get that familiar sinking feeling any more?

  2. JBanister says:

    Thanks JDP. I think I told Gary to go forth and multiply, not because of any animosity but I just couldn’t believe he managed to kick that one. It was outrageous given the conditions.

  3. Nice work Jack. Tigers are still the team to beat. They don’t seem to mind the wet or the dry. Sign of a good team. But the Cats are nipping at the heels.

  4. E.regnans says:

    That was a bleak day, alright.
    Beautiful writing, observation.

    “The ball is a cake of soap, but the Tigers are cleaner.” – ha.

  5. JBanister says:

    Ta Dips.

    Ta ER – I wish I could say that line was deliberate. Apparently I’m cracking gaffs without even realising it these days…

  6. Hey Jack any update on the book reading quest?

  7. JBanister says:

    Books quest is in dire straits, Noel! I’ve had three false starts Tender is the Night & A Season With Verona, but I’m somewhat back on board now with Everything is Illuminated, though the pages aren’t going as quick as I’d like.

    Going to have to have a big back half of the year!

  8. Stainless says:

    Jack
    I must be getting spoilt. I came away from this game thinking it had been a frustrating slog and yet all the subsequent commentary was about what a great contest it was. For mine, Geelong’s bottom 6-8 were well below Richmond’s (although they have several experienced names to return) and were it not for a few well-timed “statements” from their usual suspects, aided by some enthusiastic contributions from the 4 whistle-blowers, this could have been a 7-10 goal victory.

    I greatly enjoyed that The Three Amigos comprehensively trumped The Holy Trinity, especially in the last quarter – what a return by Rioli! But in truth, Richmond had a couple of Holy Trinitys of their own in addition to the forward rat pack. Rance, Grimes and Vlastuin – HT defence. Martin, Cotchin and Lambert – HT midfield.

    Weird that we’ve got a return bout in 7 weeks. It’ll be fascinating to see what the two teams have learned about one another.

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