Almanac Art: Premiership Dreams

I love the beginning of the finals, when the eight best-performed teams of the previous five months embark on a new campaign.  Their prospects are enhanced or diminished by their rankings, to be sure, but all start with a new sense of tantalising possibility.

 

Yet this year, we have to endure a fortnight’s breathless anticipation – with no actual football.

 

To fill the void, here is some artwork created by my nephew, Ben.  For all you folk who are lucky enough to have teams battling on in September, these images might cause you to stop and dream for a moment that this could be “our year”.

 

Roos flag - Copy

There’s a muscular down-to-earth look to this Roo. It suggests that after three months of hibernation, North Melbourne’s dramatic return to their form of the early season was only to be expected.  I suspect that if the Kangas salute this year there would be a more dramatic outpouring of rapture than this picture portrays.  A fairy-tale finish for Boomer.  Vindication for Brad Scott in the face of all his critics. But this is not a demonstrative club. Perhaps this unassuming thumbs-up salute might be the extent of it.

 

bulldogs flag

I think this Bulldog looks as surprised and delighted at holding a Premiership cup as any of us would be if this occurred.  2016 minus 1954 = how many years….??  It’s almost as though he’s looking at his reflection in the silverware and saying: “is it me?…is it really me?…isn’t there supposed to be a Libba goal that wasn’t, another gut-wrenching injury, a heartbreaking ‘sting-in-the-tail’ defeat?”  This would truly be a result akin to Leicester and Stephen Bradbury, rolled into one.  And who would begrudge them?

Eagles flag

By contrast, this Eagle has that look of modest, but gritty, satisfaction that comes from a club with an abiding expectation of success.  I don’t think the raised fist has any political overtones.  It’s just the natural expression of triumph that spontaneously emerges, even from those who are born to rule.  After their last three weeks, who could doubt that the first Premier from sixth place isn’t a real possibility?

Crows flag

 

This bloke looks like he’s about to launch into a lengthy rant about how great leadership enabled Adelaide to overcome the tyranny of umpiring atrocities, MRP howlers and Victorian bias in general to claim the ultimate prize. It’s important to note that it’s the index finger being raised.  No, it’s not a gesture towards AFL headquarters.  Possibly it’s a statement from last Friday night that one bad game doesn’t make a bad season.

Giants flag

The Giant is, indeed, a towering figure.  I love the reduction of ball and trophy to miniatures and the   “First Flag” slogan has an ominous ring about it!  This fella doesn’t look as if he’s been too intimidated by his first finals campaign.  Nor does he seem to have suffered unduly at the hands of any giant-killing “Jacks”, although there are plenty lurking – Kieren, Gunston, Darling, Fitzpatrick even!  No, I reckon he might be around for the long haul.

Hawks flag

Need one say more!  The Hawk is so confident he doesn’t need footy boots as he clings precariously to his trophy stash!  After all, surviving on the edge of the precipice has become Hawthorn’s trademark in 2016.  Was that one-point win over Collingwood a sign of his glorious destiny?  That the side that so proudly guards its unique four-in-a-row record came so close to trashing Hawthorn’s campaign, but somehow didn’t?

Cats flag

 

I particularly love this wild-eyed Cat, complete with a chunk taken out of his ear, claws still displayed, as though straight from battle.  Not sure if he should also be carrying a surfboard, or perhaps have that wound dressed with a makeshift bandage?  Whatever the case, he’s the epitome of Geelong’s transformation from sleepy moggy in 2015, to the mewing, spitting beast that took the cream in 2016.

 

Swans flag

This Swan’s expression just looks like the Flag was always meant to be!  There’s the grace of Buddy in that long-necked, muscular upper body, but combined with the dour, hard-working stumpy legs of a Hannebery.  And the slightly open beak reveals the gritted teeth that epitomises “Bloods Footy”.  It’s a bizarre package, but a brutally effective one.

 

About the Artist

 

Ben Kirkby is from northern New South Wales and moved to Melbourne at the start of the year to study at Deakin University.  It’s been a big journey of discovery for many reasons.  The one that we didn’t predict was his sudden passion for AFL footy.

 

It began in May when I casually selected Hawthorn v Sydney at the MCG as a potentially decent game for ticking the “you’ve gotta go to a footy match while you’re in Melbourne” box.  Ben’s not a sports fan and we didn’t expect that his reaction would amount to anything more than “oh yeah, thanks – interesting”.

 

How wrong were we!  For starters, Ben scrupulously researched the competition to the point of understanding the teams’ history, geography and supporter demographics.  Having fully expected that he would side with the Swans this night, being a NSW boy, we were surprised at his announcement that he had no desire to support a Sydney team.  He was siding with Hawthorn on the basis that he’d moved to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and it made sense to support a local team.  It was a more compelling reason to join the Brown and Golds than many, I thought.

 

Rather than watch dutifully and with the scant interest of the typical footy novice, Ben rode every bump that night, but with few grins, as his newly adopted team conceded the first six goals of the game.  He appeared as emotionally invested as any of the Hawthorn faithful as his new team fought hard but eventually slipped to an unexpected, narrow defeat.  He was back at the “G” a couple of weeks later to see his maiden win against Melbourne.  His visits in the subsequent months have always been dominated with footy banter.

 

I must confess to having become a bit of a “grumpy bum” about footy in recent times.  I am quick to see negatives, the glass half-empty.  I acknowledge that my writing has reflected this cynical bent.  But when I go to the footy with Ben and see his new-found enthusiasm for the game, kindled by no particular cultural connection, nor any familiarity with the rules, I am reacquainted with the joyful obsession that I had with this great game in my younger days.  He has reminded me that footy is a gift.  It is art, it is ballet, it is history wrapped into one exhilarating two-hour package that appeals to novices and experts equally.  I should never forget this, even as I carp and criticise its shortcomings and those of its custodians.

 

I admit to family bias but I think Ben has a real artistic gift.  He has a substantial portfolio of work on a range of subjects, but apart from a few entries into local art shows back home, he has been guarded in displaying his work publicly.  Given his new-found interest in Aussie Rules, it’s no surprise that he discovered the WEG premiership posters.  Whilst his concept is similar, I like to think the images bear his individual flair.

 

Ben was delighted at my suggestion that the Almanac community on finals’ eve might be the right forum and time for these to see the light of day.

 

So if you like Ben’s work and/or want to see more, send us a comment.  He’d love to get your feedback.

 

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships.

Comments

  1. Is Ben from that well known farming family in north west NSW?

  2. I’ll order a Sydney one now thanks. Great work.

  3. Cat from the Country says:

    I sould like the Cats please?

  4. In answer to you’re question Nank, yes.

  5. I would like to say a BIG congrats to Ben from everyone at 2Max FM. He was a volunteer at the radio station for a while and we are lucky enough to have an original artwork by Ben that is based on our eagle logo. I also have a Zebra in my office which is brilliant.. He is very talented and everyone here will be thrilled that he is finally letting others see his talents. Well Done Ben!!!!! You not only present a cracking radio program but are finally letting the world see your artistic talent.

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