Cats unfurl their flag for an old leader and a new.

I didn’t think I’d see it in my life-time.

And now I’ve seen it twice.

On an autumn afternoon that was more Kirra Beach weather than Kardinia Park, the community that is the Geelong Football Club raised its premiership flag.

I wasn’t there.

I was going to be there for the unfurling and the match against Port Adelaide, but Theo (aged two and a half) was a late scratching and we settled for the afternoon’s (delayed) telecast on Channel 7. We hardly moved from the spot.

Tommy Harley was given a send-off on a kitchen chair in the back of a ute, and then no amount of talking him up by his commentary colleagues would budge him from his (rightly-held) view that he did it pretty tough as a footballer. In his way Tom Harley was open and honest: he thought he hadn’t been blessed with the greatest footballing talent, and that he struggled at times.

How refreshing to hear a bloke not taking a Wallace-at-interview approach to footy, and to life.

But a bit hard on himself I would have thought.

Although he was no Ken Hinkley (who was so very, very gifted) on the footy field, Tom Harley could read the footy in the air like the No. 29, and knew when to spoil and when to fly for the mark. He had terrific hands and a good sense of the position of the game. He could direct traffic. He could encourage.

He will be revered at Geelong forever. What he gave the club was leadership and character, on and off the field. I remember the Round 3 clash against Carlton in about 2004, before Tom was made captain. The Cats had been dismal. Tom spoke to ABC radio, broken, but determined to re-build.

His influence remains through some of the youngsters he nurtured. What he gave the club was a premiership, and then another one, and a Grand Final which was lost while the tweety-birds circled his bashed head on the bench. What he gave the club was a new belief, a new sense that we had every right to believe, and yet a sense of perspective.

Conditions were made for footy and the Cats didn’t let their fans down. They played fast, open, attacking footy on the perfect green sward. It was colour and movement as Johnno stepped on to the stage. Like the comedian whose opening gag gets a big laugh Johnno was loving it and ready to deliver.

The ball came in quickly from the dominant mid-field and Podsiadly (a revelation), Hawkins and Mooney had the space to move. With Johnno as the fourth forward (fifth if you count Ottens) the Cats were potent.

They looked like they could explode at any minute.

But in lackadaisical Cats fashion, and because Port started to move the ball neatly across the big Geelong ground, the scoreboard tightened in the minutes before half-time.

It had been a dominant opening half but the Cats led by just 10 points.

Harry Taylor was having a blinder. A mature recruit from East Freo and Geraldton Harry is a seriously good footballer and a seriously interesting bloke. He is a key position backman who can take a grab. He’s a terrific defender who has plenty of Tom Harley in him, and a hint of Ken Hinkley (particularly when he takes off on those dashing runs).

He is also his own man, in the way Tommy Harley was; blokes who are not dictated to by the norms of the footy herd, but by something loftier. In AFL footy this makes you eccentric.

And so the Cats came back on in the half-shade of the afternoon. They warmed up, drifted off to their positions, and turned on one of the great quarters of footy in the history of the game. The opening 10 minutes of the second quarter of the 2007 Grand Final was footy as it was meant to be played. This half hour, although the context was different, was its equal. The Cats kicked 11.7. Podsiadly looked like he could really play, and that he will be a lot more serviceable than Gavin Exell was to the `89 side. Johnno kept cracking gags. Harry Taylor looked like he was enjoying himself. As well as ability, there was fun in his football.

This was a memorable afternoon.

Apart from the unfurling of the flag and the beautiful footy played (the main memories) we might remember this as the afternoon Harry Taylor made another announcement about being a future Geelong captain. He has made quite a few of these announcements: playing solid games that ended with telling marks. Early in his career at Subiaco in a thriller against Freo. And of course in last year’s Grand Final.

This is a footy team to be enjoyed, built on solid foundations, not the least of which has been the on-field leadership.

I love `em.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf’s Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV’s Offsiders.

He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au

He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids – Theo9, Anna8, Evie6.

He might not be the worst putter in the world but he’s in the worst three.

His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    What Harley gave Geelong is much more than Leigh Colbert could have. Colbert left in the darkest days – for himself.

  2. JTH – love the bit where you say Tom Harley gave Geelong a right to believe but also perspective. That’s exactly correct. Its an often sought combination and seldom attained. I thought Sir James Hird gave it to the Bombers and maybe Kirk at the Swans, but not too many others in recent history, because it goes beyond the quotes and the stock standard captain’s calls about effort and teamwork etc; it goes to good character. And Tom Harley has loads of it.

    If Pods was wearing a Collingwood jumper his story would be sung from the rooftops (front of the Herald Sun, back of the Herald Sun, middle of the Herald Sun.), but thankfully he isn’t and its not. Let him go about his work. Let Harry Taylor go about his work.

    The Cats’ challenge will be to maitain the culture post Bomber.

    I love ’em too.

  3. Are you any relation to Winston Churchill Dips. Thats inspirational stuff.

    And yes I have a man crush on them as well. I’ve lerved since 1967. There has been a lot of worse in that time so I have no feeling of guilt during the better.

  4. Richard Naco says:

    First up: Leight Colbert gave us a tremendous amount ………. all of it wrapped up in the one big parcel called Cam Mooney! ;)

    Tom Harley was exceptional, and effectively created a 23rd position in a team: Captain. Intelligent, articulate, passionate and modest, the cohesion and united purpose he brought to the club was sensational. His tradition has been already embraced, and his high standards of behaviour & responsibility will be evident in all our future captains. (It also has to be said that his offsider was exactly the right man in the right place as well, and that it will be sweet to see Harls hand the cup to Lingy later this year.)

    I think that Geelong should not logically be playing in the AFL (let alone dominate it), just as it is not logical that bumblebees can fly. That they are, and have become such an inspirational organisation on so many levels is testament to the unique vision & drive of the Pivot, and it is also why so many of us that have never been within a bull’s roar of Corio Bay are such ardent enthusiasts of the hoops.

    Great piece! (And we never got the game on free-to-air in Sydney: Seven thought that Melbored/ Richmud was a better vehicle with which to inspire the silent potential massed fans yet to be unearthed here in the Emerald City.)

  5. I hate you john lol

  6. Nice piece John.

    Agree with you about T Harley. One of the all time great Geelong captains. I was at the game with my mate Tinners and we happened to notice Tom was sitting a little above and behind us in the Hickey stand, a big smile on his face and talking happily to all and sundry. The man just gives off positive vibes and looks so assured. I reckon he could make a terrific coach (a la Paul Roos) if he wants to go down that path.

    Lots to like about the Cats on Sunday. Taylor, Johnson, Duncan, Pods, Bartel and Ablett were outstanding. Some of Ablett’s work had to be seen to be believed. Does anyone work better in a small amount of space? Hope he, and Selwood, are still with us next year. Fingers crossed.

  7. Peter Flynn says:

    JTH,

    Enjoyed the read. There is a certain symmetry about the surnames Hickey and Harley.

    Have you read the recently released 1963 Cats in Command by Bruce Kennedy and Bruce Coe (both based in Canberra)?

    To my knowledge, the only book about this subject. It covers Geelong beating Hawthorn 3 times in a month.

  8. johnharms says:

    PF

    Had a chat with the authors at MCH recently. Have read some, and looking forwrad to getting to the rest.

  9. nice piece, john.

    i heard Tommy use the word ‘ubiquitous’ in a C7 friday-night call the other night. It seemed to catch Bruce a little off guard. I wonder if Tommy ever used that word in a pre-match pump-up-the-boys speech? He was a great asset to the club who’ll be sorely missed – although Lingy is doing a fine job so far…

    H.

  10. Rocket Rod Gillett says:

    Whatever happened to the fine old tradition of the club president’s wife unfurling the premiership flag? Mrs Jennings successfully unfurled it in 1964!

  11. Stephen Cooke says:

    Just found out my great grandfather – Walter Cooke – played nine games for Geelong in 1898. I have loved Geelong for many years. The sky seems a little more blue today.

  12. johnharms says:

    Please tell more Stephen, about Walter.

  13. Stephen Cooke says:

    I don’t know much about him John although I’m going to find out. He had four children and was married in 1900 – two years after his debut. He died in 1926 at 49 or 50 years old. My six-month-old boy Harley is already shaping up as a big boy and should pass my 195cm so hopefully the Cats can claim him under the great great grandfather-great great grandson rule in 2017.

  14. Peter Flynn says:

    He kicked his only goal against South Melbourne.

    Round 3 1898:

    Geelong 7.18 beat South Melb 1.2.

    Superb Stephen.

  15. Stephen Cooke says:

    Where did you find that nugget Peter? I’m also trying to find out what number he wore – I’ve been meaning to put a number on the back of my jumper for years and once I find out Walter’s I’ll send it to mum to stitch on for me.

  16. Cookey – from Flynny’s description he sounds like a rugged defender type. Hope he wore 29 or 5.

  17. Peter Flynn says:

    Cookey,

    http://www.stats.rleague.com/afl/stats/players/W/Walter_Cooke.html

    Re the number, I would try Col Hutchinson. Maybe ring the club.

    Good luck with it. Let us know how you go.

  18. johnharms says:

    Sitting here in Canberra watching the Blues make St Kilda look ordinary thinking that after a steak at the Sawyer’s Arms I’ll be walking over to Kardinia Park to the re-named Walter Cooke Terrace.

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