He’s Talking by Pamela Sherpa (Snowy Mountains Correspondent)

The CATS are playing in a grand final. I’m surrounded by Geelong supporters and no-one is watching the game. What’s going on? There are two other  sporting finals on in town tonight, but it’s not even that.  John Harms has arrived in the nation’s capital and he’s talking.

The Canberra Cats’ supporters group have organized a function and there are about 50 like minded footy sorts in an upstairs room at the Southern Cross club. The apparent clash of sporting finals in the capital is itself cause for discussion amongst those present. This  is a city where following more than one code is generally acceptable.       Not everyone present is a Geelong supporter. Some of us are here  just because its a footy night. I bring along a friend who has never seen an Aussie rules game and wonder what she might think of us and our language. (She was fascinated and impressed.) Moblie phones are off, score updates are not needed- perhaps the Geelong people are confident -or they prefer not to know.

John talks about the collectice consciousness of Geelong fans and what fate has dealt them in life. He claims to have never seen a Geelong fan in a fight at the football because they are by nature – nice people. I’d have to agree with that- I’ve yet to meet an ‘un-nice’ one.  How alarmed I was next day to hear about a fight in the crowd ‘At a Geelong game.’ I presume the  Pies started it. There is an elderly gentleman in the room who is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Geelong facts- good and bad. There’s not a stat he can’t recall. Amazing. During a break in John’s talk word filters through that the Cats are in control and there’s nothing to worry about. As usual with fans living north of the Murray- the coverage of the game always features in discussion. John resumes and talks about the  history of the game and the recent debate about it. Questions are asked about where the game might be heading and how the  term ‘footy’ is now widely used to describe other codes.

John talks about the enjoyment of  talking to old people, about old times in old language and compares it with the robotic, cloned un- insightful  media trained athletes  we hear today. Naturally he speaks about the project that is the Almanac and what a success it has been! He could probably talk and keep his audience entertained and interested  all night on a number of topics but declares that he’s probably talked enough for one night and conveniently ends his talk at three quarter time . The crowd adjourns downstairs at the Southern Cross Club  to claim a corner and enjoy the last quarter.

One screen is all we need for our game. We collectively establish our territory. The Cats are up enough to give their supporters that rare  feeling of security. I marvel at Gary Ablett. His intent is intense as usual. A man on a football mission to be the best he possibly can it seems,  no matter what the significance of the game. Enduring a long season should be enjoyable for the Cats with gems like him to watch.  Perhaps fate will be collectively  kinder to them this year. Beating Collingwood in a final is a  good start.

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