The Grand Final presented difficult choices for many West Australians. The first part was easy in our house. We were barracking for Hawthorn. My beloved the Avenging Big Golden Bird would have it no other way.
It’s the 2 hour time difference that makes the Grand Final a lunch event in WA, rather than the Saturday arvo swim through for East Coasters. In Melbourne the only choice is peanuts or chips with the game. Here it’s the lunch menu.
My golf buddy Ken and his wife Gae were coming over, together with the Avenging Accipitridae’s best friend Jenny. I was given catering responsibilities on Friday.
“All done’” I assured the AA as I picked her up on Friday evening. “All the shopping is done and I’ll be cooking”.
There must have been something about my casual confidence that alerted the AA’s acute antennae. Over the years she has developed more sensitive tripwires for trouble than a dwarf at the St Kilda Grand Final breakfast.
“What are we having?” she demanded with the tone usually reserved for bank statements. Over the years I have found that there is no point trying to hide the truth. The crumpled evidence is always discovered.
“Party pies, sausage rolls, little boys – the pink sav type – and dead horse,” I assured her with Matt Preston like debonair nonchalance.
“Bloody hell,” she said “I’ve got 2 of my girlfriends coming you know. I don’t care how you and Ken choose to poison yourselves after golf on a Saturday; but my friends like to eat food that has been prepared in a recent decade. Not deep frozen in a Rumanian rest room, or deep fried in a Shanghai shithouse.”
“Little boys are boiled not fried,” I protested. Perhaps I should have said “poached” or “simmered”, or offered to wear a cravat. She was having none of it. So I tried a strategic change of direction.
The appeal to family and tradition is the last resort of the scoundrel. The AA’s niece Nadya from the UK is staying with us for a few months as part of her ‘gap year’ working holiday.
“I just thought we should show Nadya the sort of footy food we both ate when we were kids growing up,” I reasoned.
Nadya is a vegan. She tells me that her new glam heels had to be certified ‘road kill’ before she would buy leather. No animals could be sacrificed for human pleasure. Why does a girl wear killer heels if not for human pleasure?
A compromised was reached. When our friends arrived at noon on Saturday the AA’s elegant platter on fine bone china was on the lounge room table. Avocado dip; blue cheese (not the ‘past use by date’ type from my student years); bread sticks; tzatziki; Croatian prosciut; and worst of all indignities – carrot and celery sticks. Glasses of bubbles were poured to polite applause.
At 12.30 the ball was bounced and the pre-game trivialities were over. The golden parcels of grey sludge of indeterminate origin emerged from the Westinghouse tunnel to greet a stunned crowd. The blood red of the dead horse dripped succulently from the pink slime (no purple in our house) of the little boys. Beers were poured to cleanse grease-dripped palates.
Lips slavered like Pavlovian (not Pavlichian) dogs at those childhood memories of watching The Winners with Mum and Dad in front of the oval-screened AWA “genuine teak” box. Even the women joined in, joyously ignoring their figures in favour of their memories. Shandy the Wonder Dog looked disconsolate as the steaming bowl of little boys was steadily reduced to single figures (he got the last 2).
And that was the Grand Final at our house. A great day full of banter, beer and bad food induced ridiculous screaming at the Samsung flat screen. One good quarter made the footy passable, but the companionship was memorable.
Life is too important to be taken seriously.
Oh the game? Just a couple of thoughts. Many of the Dockers players had clearly paid the game over in their heads a hundred times in the night and weeks before. They were tighter than a temperance teacher at an Almanac lunch. In need of sedatives more than supporters.
As someone who has frozen over a B Grade Golf Club Championship and parklands cricket finals I can empathise. A counsellor friend is always telling me it is “the mind” not “my mind”. “The mind” has a life of its own. Throwing up childhood insecurities and the consequences of failure when it should be dealing with skill execution.
I well remember being at the 2005 Grand Final when Chris Judd’s zen-like master class saved my Eagles from humiliation, when in truth most of them froze. For both Big Birds, the wilderness of 2005 and 2012 were the seeds of subsequent enlightenment.
Which brings me to Ross Lyon and the wrung out exhaustion of his Saints army by the time of the 2010 replay. To a man with a hammer every problem is a nail. Lyon is obviously a very smart man, so the question is whether he can expand his repertoire beyond one-dimensional kamikaze sacrifice to the cause.
And that brings me to the biggest joy I got out of yesterday. The MCG and it’s wide open flanks – 19 metres broader than Subiaco.
Like many footy purists I despair over the rolling maul scrappiness of much modern football. Rossball is its apotheosis, not its originator. Science, nutrition, business economics and analysis is the core of growth and change in our society. Why should footy be any different?
I might dislike many aspects of celebrity culture and social media, but I can’t change it. The internet that I decry for its effect on books and thought, is the same medium that I use to get my viewpoint and love of wry Australian vernacular across to the Almanac audience.
Looking down at the MCG from the Bruce blimp or the Cometti copter or whatever Channel 7 was using, I marvelled again that it was a cricket ground and not an oval. Our forefathers knew something when they decreed that the Grand Final would always be theatre in the round.
Any military strategist looking down on this battlefield would have decreed “with strength and skill I reckon we can outflank their defences.”
Ross Lyon is a great trainer of Caulfield Cup winners. But the Melbourne Cup is run over 2 miles on the wide expanses of Flemington. Occasionally the race is won by an average horse in a modest field, when the pace is slow as with Green Moon last year. But if the great skilled competitors like the current Hawks, recent Cats or earlier Lions are in the field, these honest triers find their limits at the clock tower on the open expanses of the Big Day.
Conservatism and traditional values have persisted for a reason. They are not anachronisms. They endure because they separate the excellent from the good.
Lyon and the Dockers are smart enough to work that out, and hone their skills and team makeup to learn from it. But so will 16 other hungry teams.
For my part I am happy to offer some grit to shape the pearl of the Dockers first flag.
In 2043. That I can watch from the vantage point of Midland Cemetery.
- MCG (3)
- Party Pies (2)
- Beer (1)