Footy’s other hemisphere

When living overseas, footy becomes symbolic. A happy emblem of home. Like Merv’s XXXX-foamed moustache on the side of a London double-decker.

Singapore’s Boomarang Bar is one of those Australian themed-pubs that is both brilliant and dreadful. It shows AFL, NRL and the races from Randwick and Flemington on big screens. It’s at Robertson Quay where the river is muddy and languid; it could pass for the Yarra. The crowd is older than the backpackers at the Walkabout pub in Shepherd’s Bush, and mercifully, there is no Barnesy banging out over the thick, hot air. It’s Saturday afternoon and the Crows and Hawthorn are underway in the preliminary final.

This Asian city’s mostly shy and undemonstrative so it’s exciting to see some punters in Hawks and Crows guersneys. Brash tribalism is rare here. There’s banter between the fans. “Ball” intermittently choruses out across the quay. The footy is electrifying. The Hawks threaten constantly but we persist. We know that it could be Tippett’s valediction. He monsters Schoenmakers and with Walker, combines for eighteen contested marks. It’s close. Back home in Adelaide, my mate Bob texts. It’s too tense, too pulsating for him. He wants a personal media blackout.

Bob was in Edmonton in 1997, for the Crows’ first flag. It was a primitive world. Footy was chiefly inaccessible. No social media. No streaming. Many, like me, were sans mobile phone. During GF week Bob instructs me not to inform him of the result. With the discipline of a Roman soldier, he entirely avoids it. Then, at 2.30pm Saturday, Alberta time, to guarantee the authentic Australian experience, he and his friends watch a VHS recording of the game over a BBQ and beers. And like us seventeen hours previous, underground in Grote Street’s Players Bar, he is bewitched by Jarman’s sublime clinic and Macleod’s exquisite poise and poetry. We love Bruce McAvaney’s coda- “Jarman. Jarman. That will do. That. Will. Do.” Bob rings after their final siren, waking us, in Glenelg, to our glorious and groggy Sunday morning.

With only the GF telecast in Canada, he tells me he followed the Crows’ finals campaign on the internet. In ’97 this meant reading the footy online as an underling at AFL house, typed the action on their rustic website: Smart handballs to Bickley. Bickley kicks to Ellen. Essentially, it is a three-hour telegram. Like listening to Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles in the farm kitchen.

At the Boomarang Bar, we’re a disparate group. Like us, Annie is from Adelaide. She is avid; she streams 5AA’s call of practice matches. Nathan is from Tassie and loves the Hawks in a clinical way. His girlfriend, Alison, is from Vancouver. At half time I ask her, “Are you growing to love our footy?”  She replies that she’s, “Getting there.” As Adelaide and Christchurch are sister cities, our Kiwi friend Ariana supports the Crows.

In 2004 we were living just north of London in St Albans. I’d taken my Sherrin and would occasionally have a few dobs by the Roman walls in Verulamium Park. Back home in the Barossa, Mum and Dad taped the Crows’ games and mailed the wins to us. They saved plenty on postage that year. My friend Barry, from Harrow, records the grand final on Sky Sports and I enjoy Port’s triumph. Whilst I love beating Port in the Showdowns, I am an atypical Crows fan who barracks for them when they play interstate teams. It’s a residual from the State of Origin glory days of the 1980’s.

Barry’s an Irishman, and his Catholic passion is exceeded only by his worship of Wealdstone FC.  I’m with him in Wiltshire by Salisbury Cathedral for the 2005 season closer when the Stones score in the last minute to avoid relegation by a single goal. In reverential electronic whispers, he texts me One fucking goal three times the following Sunday.  Returning to Adelaide, Barry gives me four shares in Wealdstone FC.  Every year I am posted the annual report.

Johncock puts us up with seconds left but then the Hawks finally pinch the prize. It was a tremendous contest and, wretchedly, the Crows fourth consecutive preliminary final loss. Annie and I agree that we’ve done well and next season our youngsters like Dangerfield, Sloan and Walker will improve.  Bob and I text. Mum and Dad message their pride. We take comfort in the future. We leave the Boomarang and walk home along the muddy Singapore River.

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Nice work Michael. That first line resonates strongly. For the moments it is on, it is the smell of eucalypts, beer and barbie back home.

    We have just returned after 8 years os and are looking forward to our first full footy season in real time. My boys have been to a few games at the Gabba, but not followed a whole season. They are signed up with the Coolum Beach Breakers and looking forward to playing where the kids all wear the same jerseys.

    Keep an eye out for a bloke called Haji if you haven’t already met him. He relocated from Abu Dhabi to Singapore last year and is a tragic fan of the relentlessly disappointing Richmond Tigers. Despite this he is cheerful and mostly optimistic.

  2. mickey randall says:

    Thanks for that Gus. I agree that footy is great everywhere but its appeal becomes heightened when we’re outside Australia. Hope you’re enjoying life back in Queensland; the Sunshine Coast’s a wonderful place. I’m watching the Lions and Magpies as I type; hopefully a stronger season from Vossy’s men will follow.

    I’ll keep an eye out for Haji; Richmond are my 2nd team so we’d have plenty to talk about! All the best for your boys and the Coolum Beach Breakers.

  3. Superb writing Mickey. Painted a whole bunch of vivid pictures here. I’m putting you forward as the almanacs official correspondent from … well wherever you are next

  4. Ali Hennessy says:

    Nice write Mickey…bought back many memories and emotions…2013 year of the crow?

  5. mickey randall says:

    Thanks for the support T Bone. Currently living in Singapore and looking forward to getting to the races, golf over on Sentosa and checking out the historic Singapore Cricket Club. Should be good!

  6. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Ali! Glad you liked it. You’d have some good stories about golf, tennis and the grand prix in UAE that’d be worth sharing! Year of the Crow? If a few of them can step and fill the hole left by Tippett, who knows?

  7. Forget the Crows Mickey – can the Bays turn the corner in 2013?

  8. mickey randall says:

    I’m not sure that the Bays have the cattle Crio. In 2008 we won 12 straight and made the GF but were up against the Evil Empire of Central Districts. They’re now finished and the Reconstruction has begun so we’ll see. Football fans and incurable optimists so I’m hopeful!

  9. Ian McEwan would give his right testicle to write like you mickey! Personally I think we’ll be a much better chance of winning a premiership without the uncertainty of Tippett’s roulette in front of goal. I’m looking forward to having a beer and watching the mighty Crows with you in the Boomarang Bar in the not too distant future!

  10. Hi Mickey – I am based in Singapore too and enjoyed the GF at the Boomerang – great game and as you mention, a diverse bunch of people. Might run into you there one afternoon during the season. I’m a Blues supporter and was hoping to go there and watch the opening game against the Tigers but will be in Beijing that night unfortunately.

  11. mickey randall says:

    Hello kevmak- I look forward to both the beer and the football in your fine company! Thanks for the encouraging words.

  12. mickey randall says:

    Thanks djlitsa. Whilst I’ve enjoyed the footy @ boomarang (odd spelling, isn’t it?) I’m keen to seek out some alternate footy viewing pubs/bars. Any thoughts?

  13. Ripsnorter says:

    Hi Mickey,

    You brought back some good memories of trying to watch the AFL back in the day in the Old Dart – I seem to recall that Stuart Pearce was an old boy from the Wealdstone FC or could have been Harrow and Wealdstone FC back then.
    If you ever get the chance you could read his biography as it was pretty good about growing up around there in the late seventies and early eighties – he was a good footballer who although named psycho is a pretty clever , intelligent guy.

  14. mickey randall says:

    Ripsnorter- good tip; thanks for that. I’ll try to get my paws on Pearce’s biography.
    I believe that in addition to undertaking gentlemanly duty as president of the Hertfordshire Agricultural Society, and playing a hard nut in various films, Vinny Jones had a spell with the Stones too.

  15. Vic Gecas says:

    Hey Mike
    Great read, well done. As you know, we are long time members of the WCE. We have missed the last 4 seasons and kept up with our very, very expensive memberships. We did see one game last year, the one where Swans belted us at Subi…sigh…
    Some people may think we are a little over the top, but we have a Slingbox hanging off our family home Internet and watch the local news (mainly for the footy news) & the Footy Show. Subscribe to ALF Live and watch most games as well…we aren’t addicted are we?
    Vic & Chris

  16. Hi Mickey. I have done the grand final at Jules Cafe & Bar – closed now – although they are opening up a new place soon I understand. Had a nice community feel. Other than that, nothing that struck me.

  17. Gday

    It breaks my heart looking back at the posts from earlier this year about the crows and now how they didn’t follow up and be a top 4 team

    so this year’s final series. – where will it be on Singapore? I’m in town for the first 2 weeks and I’m hoping port adelaide make it to the first week at least

  18. mickey randall says:

    Hello Adam

    I agree about the Crows; they’ve just lost too many close matches that they should have won. I don’t think it is entirely explained by the loss of Tippett and Walker.

    Boomarang Bar at Robertson Quay will definitely have the finals- good atmosphere, lots of ex-pats, horrifically priced drinks! The Prince of Wales backpackers bar in Little India may have the finals too.

    In the likely absence of the Crows, I’m hoping Port can surprise and go deep into the finals!

    Enjoy your time here in Singapore.

    Mickey

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