An Irishman, a Sudanese and an Aussie walk into a bar

by Downer

An Irishman, a Sudanese and an Aussie walk into a bar and …gee I’d like to finish that, but for today I can’t – thanks to the continuing football “experiment” (I hope) that is the Sunday twilight match.

My lack of opening punchline sets the backdrop to the St.Kilda 2pm “curtain raiser” where the day began  …albeit taking place not at the Collo-seum, but a few jetty stops away at the Trevor Barker Beach Oval – where the Saints VFL-affiliate Sandringham took on the “Roos Half Magoos” of Werribee (in the absence of East Freo or South Freo showing up).  Two other ambitious football “experiments” were in their infancy on Sunday – the Irishman Tommy Walsh at St.Kilda, and the Sudanese Majak Daw for North.   This was the first time the two imports would be squaring off, with our powerful Paddy roaming the defensive 50 for the Zebras, and a Manut Bol-esque Majak pinch-hitting the ruck for the Westies.

As for the Gaelic “great white hope”, my update for Saints fans is hardly a conclusive one.  Whilst it cant be denied the young lad is reminiscent of Dolph Lundgren in both looks and build, his oval ball skills progression was difficult to judge – Tommy was in no danger of suffering from leather poisoning on the day.  He floated about a little lost in the manner of a St.Patrick’s day hangover, not knowing quite where/when to move.   Thanks to the Ricky Nixon hoopla, I arrived hoping he’d snaffle a 75m bomb from the boundary on his non-preferred – in the finish I would have settled for seeing him touch the pill just once.  It’s early days though, he has “plenty of upside”.   On the other hand Majak Manut had a few tricks in his kit-bag, and whilst not averse to the odd clanger, he was a definitive “spring-heeled jack”, with a centre bounce spring leaving Nic Natanui’s vertical leap looking more Woody Harrelson than Wesley Snipes.  And whilst Sandy eventually won the war by 8 goals – and fear not Sainters I’m reliably told Tommy got a few touches late, from what I saw the “project player” scoreline read, for today at least:  Sudan 1, Ireland 0.

Five minutes into the third term I left behind the $3 hot dogs and $4 beers and headed city-bound for the late “main game”,  also farewelling wife and German shepherd – with the good-dog Cuba looking resplendent in a Saints scarf of his own.  Whilst the Cubie dog is a “pet patron” of the Saints and does have his own membership card, my chances of getting the big man inside the cast iron gates at the Dome would be a long-shot – for one his ticket doesn’t have a barcode, and secondly he did actually destroy said card within 5 minutes of laying his front paws on Dal Santo’s face. Not to mention some “fun police” OH&S warble precluding a canine from entering AFL venues also.  But given the early departure from the beach-side game I did miss the traditional VFL after-match presentation …where an Irishman, a Sudanese and an Aussie did quite literally walk into a bar.

En-route I reflected on Saints-Dockers encounters of years past (well, no not really, it was just a segue in to this paragraph).  An apt description of the overall StK-Freo history collective is : “WTF?”.  The two most bizarre of these games have even been accorded movie titles  – or at least, they should be.  “Sirengate”, and “Whispers in the Sky” – admittedly the latter screams more a straight-to-tv Hallmark job as opposed to Hollywood blockbuster.  In other duals over the journey we’ve also had umpires taking regulation chest marks, and just last month a NAB Cup clash was delayed when that armageddon storm flattened the roof on the Livewire bar.   So what was in store tonight in the annals of “freaky freo fixture folklore?”  Well maybe the lead-in was odd enough – half the crowd kitted in shorts, T-shirts and thongs at a mid-April Sunday “night” game vs an undefeated Purple Haze.  A match of the round clash no less.  And whilst the onset of  “working week dread” is usually kicking in at 4:40pm on a Sunday – and usually we’d all be at home glued to Suzie Wilks on Postcards (I assume) –  the game itself staved off any early thoughts of oncoming Monday-itis.

What a cracker of a contest it was!  Dare I say, “pulsating”.

Whereas the Doncaster weight scale at Randwick may have been a sham the day previous, the AFL injury and suspension gods had conspired to create the perfect handicap conditions – Riewoldt gawn and Kosi cooling his heels for another week.  It was goal for goal football.  High intensity, highly skilled.  The best modern footy cliché I could throw at it would be: “war of attrition”.   It seemed the team we had known as the “Shockers” were living up to all their 3 week hype of having “turned the corner”.

I do have to admit however, despite my smug arrival at the Colloseum feeling a suitably “hardcore” supporter squeezing in some VFL action prior, my knowledge of interstate team players, bar the household names, is relatively sub-par.  This includes blokes that have been scoring good Supercoach numbers for me in recent years.  At the Dockers we can tick off Greg Broughton from last year, and now everyone’s dreamteam tyro Michael Barlow.  I can’t even spot them at a game I’m attending.  Even late in the match with the scoreboard screaming stats such as Duffield’s 30 touches – I still didn’t know what number this bloke was, or what he looked like.  Ditto Mundy.  Ditto Crowley.  And what the hell is a Clancee Pearce?   I should probably start buying the Record again.

You may then ask “what game were you actually watching?”  Perhaps there was just a generic sameness about them?   Am I actually a one-eyed supporter when it’s all said and done?  Maybe I too was overly Pavlich-conscious?  Whilst the Freo list has traditionally been howled down for supporting “list-cloggers” and “recycled players”, for us more ignorant types in the eastern states, we need these recyclables to actually identify any of them.  And when its a bloke like Adam McPhee – the easier it is to “emotionally involve” one’s self in the contest.  But not all the new brigade went through incognito – I did note, after he kicked their first and I checked the scoreboard for identification, that Chris Mayne had a Frenchman (Sam Gilbert) similarity to him circa 2007 – although his mop did have more a Blue Lagoon “Christopher Atkins de-flowering Brooke Shields” type natural buoyancy to it.

At the last stanza the Saints entered crunch time eager to convince they could survive in the brave new “sans-Riewoldt” world.  Goddard had taken up the slack thus far, he seemed to be running the full length of the ground all night, and just popped into the forward 50 on the way back to say G’day and slot one.  Late in the third I astutely surmised: “Gee BJ will be stuffed tomorrow”.  But if only all forwards could kick like him – well maybe not Pavlich on the night himself, he was already kicking them from everywhere and didn’t require any extra tuition from us.

With the Saints members wing riding every umpire decision (and “non-descision” alike) – with requisite Bronx cheers upped to an energetically frenzied level for a 29k crowd, the atmosphere for a twilight game vs Freo was unprecedented.

At this point most Sainters were hopeful the more mature midfield bodies would prevail against the Dockers upstarts (if I knew who any of the upstarts actually were of course).  They obliged by turning up the screws early in the fourth – Lenny played his customary “this is how you do it boys” role and picked up his teammates in the manner you have no choice but to follow.  Armitage was a willing servant in this regard, and young Geary threw himself into the contest with some big hits for a lad his size.  Freo native Jonesy kept running and chasing, and Dal Santo finished things off with that silky left foot.  And of course Milney –  the ultimate polariser.  He had a massive last term, playing the lone man role in his own version of “Lyon’s Paddock”, starring despite being “piggy-backed” for most of the quarter without umpire intervention – his reputation of staging clearly preceding him.

With the Saints proving they might just cut the mustard without the big blond 12, and the Purple Haze convincing us they might be the genuine article, it seemed “win-win” in relative terms for those who made the effort to get in there on a balmy Sunday night – er, except maybe for the kid behind the goals who copped a footy in the head from point blank range.  I don’t think BJ will do that again.

Comments

  1. Andrew Symonds walks into an Indian bar and the barman says ‘Why the longs arms?’.

  2. Darren Smith says:

    2 weeks in a row now that StK have iced games in the first half of the last quarter (the 7th 8th?)is this ‘tempo footy’ reincarnated?

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