Cats bring cheer to a hoarse throat

By Susie Giese

This game will probably never be used in a promotional package for the AFL. There were no standout performers, no exceptional displays of skill. What this game was, though, was something quintessential to the game we all love.

It was a contest.

Tackle after tackle, pressure to match a game being played on the right side of September 1—this was tough, spirited footy at its best. In a game touted as the shootout of the season, it was both sides’ defences that ended up stealing the show.

As I walk to the MCG with my mum and Aunty Mary, I am struck by how much this night feels like a final.  There are so many people! Everywhere I look, streaming around the MCG’s concourse in all directions are fans decked out in stripes of various orientations. I love being right in here with the fans, where everybody feeds off each other’s energy and the excitement just grows and grows. Against Collingwood, however, I take a closer look at the fans. There’s something about them – they just seem to belong in this setting. Friday night. Blockbuster. A sell-out, as the ground announcers keep saying over the PA. This is their stage.

I feel little more than a country bumpkin (even though I am not actually from Geelong). I feel out of place. What am I doing here? All week I’d been so confident Geelong would win, but now I am seriously taking stock. Collingwood are in red-hot form. They’ll humiliate us – just like they did in ’08 … and ’06. Clearly, even-numbered years just do not bode well for Geelong fans.

As I get to the gate, I pass none other than man-mountain Dawson Simpson. He’s like a beacon: the lone, tall Geelong figure standing up in a flock of Magpies. This gives me some small comfort. It’ll be okay.

There is a minor scuffle between the two midfields before the ball is even bounced, but these teams are all professionalism. They sort it out, set themselves, await the umpire.

First blood is drawn by the Pies through a goal to Dane Swan, who easily outstrips his opponent in Cameron Ling. Before too long, Geelong responds through Gary Ablett up the other end of the ground. Someone really should warn the Gold Coast to stop before they embarrass themselves. They just look desperate now. Take a hint: if you couldn’t woo him with $1.5million a year, $2million isn’t going to work. Money is clearly not the issue.

Pods smashes his body into the point post, then smashes the footy into the goal post when he kicks.

From my birds-eye view on the third level, I groan as I notice every player on the ground has flooded into one quarter of the oval. What happened to the open, free-flowing brand of footy both teams are famous for?

Hawkins, relishing his time off the leash, is one of Geelong’s best in the opening term, saving the Cats in both the midfield and in defence. Wojcinski is popping up left, right and centre, winning the ball, but his disposal leaves much to be desired.

The pressure coming from both teams is immense. Perceived pressure is posing just as big a problem as direct pressure, and players all over the ground are wasting their opportunities. This feels as tense as the 2007 Preliminary Final, which is ridiculous, except the skills have been left on the respective team buses.

It’d figure that I have a throat infection on the day I am surrounded by the worst kind of Collingwood supporters. To heck with my voice—who really needs one, anyway? The umps do not have the flashest of starts to the night.

The second quarter begins. Thank God for our defence. They are, as a unit, playing a stellar game against the Pies’ versatile and volatile forwards. Whenever the Pies forwards do get their hands on the ball, they are in undesirable positions.

At last, Stevie J manufactures the elusive goal. As Varcoe makes error #126, I jot his name down under the ‘liability’ heading of Geelong’s balance sheet. As brilliant as he can be, his worst is rather ugly.

As the dour struggle continues, and fans question whether this is an Aussie Rules match or a soccer game, it seems it will come down to which team has superior fitness and can run out the game. A voice in the back of my head tells me it will be the Pies – they aren’t playing their fourth game in 20 days, coming off a six-day turnaround after playing on the infamous hard-as-Chappy Gabba surface.

Then, a rare highlight. Pods exerts his enormous strength to smash through a pack. The ball finds its way to Shagga Byrnes who quickly handballs to Cameron Mooney. Mooney scores his first goal for game 200.

Then, a sight that warms the heart of every footy fan: Scarlo torps the ball into Geelong’s Forward 50. Benny Graham would have been proud (though he wouldn’t exactly be shaking in his boots).

For the ensuing minutes, errors seem to outnumber effective disposals as neither team can break through the flooded zone. It then comes as a bit of a shock when Mark Blake, or all people, gathers his own tap and makes a beautiful pass to Byrnes, who recaptures his 2008 form and misses.

Moments later an inspired effort by Mooney on the boundary line of the forward pocket ends up with the ball in the hands of Hawkins, who was never going to miss. Geelong are 15 points clear, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Hawkins continues to prove why he is in the team with his second efforts. Against the trend, the Pies end up with two goals in the last 45 seconds of the quarter, both through Dayne Beams. His first came off the back of some very hard work by Geelong’s Josh Hunt to give Collingwood a goal. The second was a beautiful long bomb on the siren. (It was later revealed that the siren should have been blown before the kick, but we’ll forgive the time-keepers this one time)

At half time, Mum produces a Curly Wurly from her bag. Brilliant. I don’t know whether the caramel is going to be strictly helpful to my plight, but I’m no doctor, so I eat it anyway.

The third term is opened by Beams’ fourth goal. Is that Mackie on him? He needs to be dragged. NOW. Beams nearly gets his fifth soon afterwards, if not for a nice mark-that-wasn’t to Jimmy Bartel. Beams is seriously starting to freak me out. We need to reach into that bag of tricks and find someone or something to stop him.

The game becomes very painful for a Geelong supporter to watch as Collingwood continue to dominate. Dasher Milburn breaks his self-imposed “thou shalt not speak to umpires” rule and then has an altercation with Daisy Thomas. I shan’t say who started it, but I’m sure you can figure it out when I note how Scarlo (best friend to aforementioned Dasher) became quite riled-up.

The 19-minute mark of the third quarter comes up and, just when things are looking truly grim for the Cats, fans see a rare glimpse of a true Geelong play, resulting in a Travis “Dog-of-a-night” Varcoe goal. Varcoe lifts, Geelong lifts. Next thing you know, Stokes has goaled. Welcome back Stokesy!

At this point, my notes are starting to resemble a Danni Eid match report. “Moooooooooooons!!!!!!” is scrawled across the page. I assume this means he marked and goaled. At least there is one highlight in all this for Danni!

It’s at this point of the night that my voice breaks. Pods marks and goals – I have to cheer! The sound that comes out of my mouth is definitely drag-queen worthy. Rather unflattering. Moons again goals, and my voice packs it in all together. Instead of the nice strong “Mooooons!” that was meant to come out (not to be confused with “Toooooves or “Booooooooo” that also dominated the night), I elicit nothing more than a rasp. Mum and Aunty Mary take pity on me, and take over the cheering. Three-quarter time comes and it’s time for the honey and eucalyptus throat lozenge.

Collingwood dominates the early part of the fourth quarter, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. They are their own worst enemies, however, as inaccuracy (five straight behinds) costs them the chance to put a bit more pressure on the scoreboard.

It seems to me the umpires are continuing to operate at a subpar standard, but I fume in silence: what little that remains of my voice is needed for more important things.

Nick Maxwell intercepts yet another Geelong entry—it feels like he’s killing us tonight. Stokes (twice) and Varcoe add to Geelong’s goal tally, but both teams are clearly (for want of a better word) buggered. Geelong play keepings off, and a dispirited Collingwood let them.

The siren sounds. Game over. Geelong are officially “the team to beat”—again. Aunty Mary has done such a good job of covering for me in the cheering department that she has lost her voice also. We join in for what is arguably the most off-key rendition of the club song ever.

If there is anyone who still thinks Geelong have a premiership hangover: I’d hate to see them sober.

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol’ ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. Whoops, forgot the little game stats down the bottom ;-)

    Collingwood: 1.2.8 4.2.26 6.8.44 6.14.50
    Geelong: 1.3.9 4.7.31 9.12.66 12.14.86

    GOALS
    Collingwood:
    Beams 4, Swan, O’Bree
    Geelong: Mooney, Stokes 3, Varcoe, Johnson, Hawkins, Ablett, Podsiadly, Wojcinski

    VOTES
    3
    James Kelly (Geel)
    2 Jimmy Bartel (Geel)
    1 Dayne Beams (Coll)

  2. Danielle says:

    Susie, pass the throat lollies!
    I have been realllllllllly sick for 3 days now. Left school early yesterday, arrived late today (so i could sleep in) and then left right after double lit.
    i hate being sick :(
    And i don’t know about you but i’m no beauty queen when i’m sick! lol

    as for your votes i think it should look like this.

    3- Mooney
    2- Mooney
    1- Mooney!!!
    lol

    Yours faithfully, fellow president of the ‘WeloveCameronMooneyfanclub’ :)

    Danni

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Susie,

    Thanks for the great report. Pretty good votes.

    First time I’ve seen Curly-Wurly mentioned in a report.

    Try to be patient with number 5. I reckon he’s getting there.

  4. Fellow WeloveCameronMooneyfanclub president – you made me laugh (if you can call that a laugh, more like a Mutley laugh than anything else) which then brought on a half-minute coughing fit. Thanks -_- LOL. Mooney was very unlucky to miss out on getting into the votes, but I figured, seeing as we’ve just set up a fan club in his name, he won’t be too upset.

    Peter, I used to loathe Varcoe with every fibre of my being. Then his little brother came to the club, and he tried to be a role model. Ever since, he’s been brilliant. I love him to bits. He just tests my patience a bit at times.

    I’d love one day to see both the Varcoe brothers playing in the same team – one in each forward pocket. Their roles are as identical as their looks (almost impossible to tell them apart). Travy is bigger, but Adam is more tenacious. Scary thought, no? ;-p

  5. Muttley* whatever his name is. I have no idea how to spell it. That cartoon dog.

  6. Dan Crane says:

    Hi Susie,

    Absolute ripper of an article, top stuff indeed. I remember watching us play the Adelaide Crows back in mid-2007(when i didn’t realise in my wildest dreams how good we’d be for the next 3 + years) and i got laughed at by Crows fans in typical one eyed fashion when i exclaimed that ” TRAVIS VARCOE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE AS GOOD AS ANDREW MCLEOD”…..

    now i used the word “potential” but as each year goes on he is looking better and better.yes he makes mistakes and sometimes his decision making lets him down but ….let’s hope he can one day do an andrew mcleod in a GF for the cats.

    Cheers
    Dan

  7. Thanks Dan :-)

    I still can’t get over how lucky I am to be a Cats fan! 17 years of heartache, a near-catastrophe in 1995 when I became a Blues supporter for 10 minutes (hey, give me a break! I was only 5 and we’d already lost 3 big ones!) and now this. The golden era. Platinum era, even. The promised land. Fairytale, much?

    I will admit – I am something of a closet Varcoe fan. I reserve the right to still bag him at every opportunity, but I tells ya what: that kid’s got gams. McLeod is a superstar, and though Travy may not have the skill to be the “star” of our very impressive team, he’s got magic. Just look at the game against Sydney! The tap ons, the handpasses … if you get the chance, look at the 2007 highlights DVD. He gives off the stealthest handpass in the history of the game for a Wojcinski (?I think) goal. Beautiful stuff. When he’s on his game, he is arguably the most entertaining footballer to watch (just don’t tell Stevie J!)

  8. Danielle says:

    LOL Susie!
    do you want to know just how messed up my tastebuds are when im sick?
    i was eating nutella and it tasted like WHITE CHOCOLATE…
    :(

  9. Richard Naco says:

    Geez Suse, I appreciate that I’ve said this a few times earlier this year after your fingers have done a pas des deux over your keyboard (several times, in fact), but that was a classic report.

    And …
    [quote]If there is anyone who still thinks Geelong have a premiership hangover: I’d hate to see them sober.[/quote]

    … is going to be my sig on Big Footy!

    (Hope your throat’s come good.)

  10. Susie, really enjoyed reading the report, top stuff.

    Is it just me, or have Mark Blake’s skills improved from horrible to poor? Although, for a ruckman, he isn’t now far below average.

  11. That was a terrific read Susie.

    Couldn’t think of a better way to finish a report off either. It certainly went out with a bang.

    But wait for Round 14. North Melbourne await you.

  12. Mr Naco – thank-you! I really think you overestimate my writing ability, but it pleases me all the same :-) And this may be the proudest moment of my life: someone quoting my work :-) I jest not, this stokes me! The throat is getting there (just in time for me to ruin it again this Saturday).

    Adam – harsh, but it made me laugh. It’s not his skills that are lacking. He is one of the premier tap ruckmen in the league. He is just about our best kicker (don’t fight me on this one, compare the quality of his three kicks a year to anyone else’s and he’ll come out trumps). What he’s doing now is gaining confidence, trusting himself, finding rhythm with his teammates and making second efforts. He’s still like a giraffe in a lion enclosure, but this giraffe just realised he can kick the head off a lion (and he’s taller – always a plus).

    Josh – thank-you! Oohh, shaking in my boots ;-p I just can’t wait to see the Mooney/Rat and Doms/”World’s Worst Forward” standoffs. Should be awesome good fun :-)

  13. Stephen Cooke says:

    Gary Ablett wants as much money as he can extract from Geelong. He would not be a dual premiership player if the top players at the club had not accepted deals 20 to 30 per cent below market rate to stay. This has enabled them to create such a strong playing list and necessary depth. Without this sacrifice, Gary and his teammates would not be dual premiership players. Now, he is putting himself first ahead of the club which has provided him with the opportunity to be a dual premiership player and Brownlow medalist. A lot of his teammates have helped him become his best by helping him break tags and take off the heat. Sign on Gary or walk away – at this stage I really don’t care which it is.

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