I am in a deep malaise today.
Part of it is the reality of being back in cold, old Melbourne, and the lingering sense of post-holiday depression after a terrific 3 weeks with my wife and baby son in mid-20s temperatures in Italy.
But more so, it’s the “how close” world of football. As far as depressing days of my life go, this ranks alongside the 2005 Grand Final (4 points) and the first 2 weeks of the 2007 finals (3 points one week, overtime the next). With tough games (and a not inconsiderable amount of flying) to come, West Coast badly needed to win last night to stay in the mix for home finals… and so I’m ruing what might have been…
But hidden away in last night’s epic clash was an individual milestone that warrants a bit of recognition, as much as anything for the fact that it was probably quite unexpected: Quinten Lynch is now a 200-game player.
I’ve got to make a confession here. I’ve always liked Lynch, but over the years, I have often doubted him, and I never expected he would get anywhere near the 200-games mark.
When the Eagles were at their zenith in the middle of the last decade, there were many who thought he was a bit lucky – that he was in the right place at the right time, as a Full Forward in a team with Cousins, Judd & Kerr winning it out of the middle. He didn’t help that impression by dropping the odd chest-mark and missing a few sitters. Various so-called experts in the Melbourne media loved to get stuck into him, focusing on him as they tried to open up a weak spot in our side. We resented them for it, but quietly, I worried that they might be right about him too.
It was in the subsequent years that he proved his worth. Once Cousins and Judd left and we fell away and became a rubbish side, Lynch confounded us, and showed that he didn’t rely on being spoon-fed – he actually became a better footballer in that circumstance. Playing more up the ground, he emerged into a real hard-working utility, at times at Half-Forward, pinch-hitting in the ruck, and even occasionally up on the wing. It was in this space that he did his best work, revealing himself to be surprising mobile, presenting and contesting in the space between flank and wing.
So it is that I reveled in his achievement last night. And it brought back a great memory of our cult hero.
Following his 6-goal haul against the Bulldogs in the 2006 finals, Lynchy did a round of interviews, with a big focus amongst questioners about his glove. At that time, he would quite theatrically remove his one glove after every mark, tossing it away on the ground before taking his set-shot. In his interviews he revealed that it wasn’t custom-made or indeed any sort of professionals sports thing, but that “it’s made by an American company called Ironclad and I think you can buy them at Bunnings”. Yep, our key forward wasn’t wearing an American NFL Wide Receiver’s glove – he had something from the home of the charity sausage sizzle.
The following Friday afternoon, I left work early and hit the road with a car-load of other Melbourne-based Eagles fans, bound for the Prelim in Adelaide. We decided to make a stop at a Bunnings somewhere in Melbourne’s western outskirts, and bought a few sets of Ironclad gloves. The following day in our seats at the back of the stand of the outer wing at West Lakes, every time he took a mark, we all stood and ceremonially removed our Ironclad gloves and threw them on the ground. And we waved them in the air as we sang the full 3 verses of the old-school version of the Eagles theme song on the shuttle bus back into central Adelaide, and we found they served as quite effective insulation (a la stubby-holders) as we drank the Austral Hotel dry that night.
My old Ironclad glove made a comeback yesterday – I managed to find it (turns out my wife hadn’t thrown it out after all), and dust it off to take it the MCG last night. My own personal tribute to a bloke who has worked really hard to get there (and it still works well as a quasi stubby-holder).
Well done, Big Q. I’m thrilled to have been wrong when I doubted you, and even more thrilled that the Melbourne media were wrong also (hope it’s not the last time for that either).
You are an ironclad yourself (and that’s not just a US civil war vessel). Last night’s loss makes it harder, but here’s hoping you get to taste September glory one more time.