I start the weekend with High Hopes of a 2014 premiership. Mick’s been leading the way to Colorado, prickly at Press Conferences, talking-it-up about five minutes to 11 in the premiership window.
It’s the weekend of Castlemaine District Grand Final between the two local rivals Muckleford (home ground MCG) and Barker’s Creek. In last year’s GF, Muckleford made nearly 200 and Barker’s Creek were chasing them down well – when the ball got lost after a massive six. The “changed” ball swung and bounced and got six Barker’s blokes out! Barker’s were after revenge in 2014 and the three in-season clashes had been heated and close.
My mate urged me to “come up and stay. I reckon it’s gunna be on.” Question. Who wants to stay at home when it’s gunna be on? Wife had suggested a weekend at the beach-house. “Nah, I reckon I’ll go and watch Muckleford’s Granny”. Shrug but the all-clear.
It hasn’t rained in Castlemaine for four months but as the roller is giving its last few flattenings, the heavens open with some of Lancashire’s finest drizzly rain. Covers on. It’s the first of three interruptions for the day.
The game starts with a few maidens but not much chirp. Somehow, Barker’s analysis of the 2013 GF was misguided. This year, they again played the same lofted shots as in 2013 and were continually tied down by Muckleford’s army of accurate seamers and veteran spin. 109 all out. Not enough – surely. But it is a Grand Final and “runs on the board” are always worth a few more. Muckleford get to face 12 overs in the thunder and black clouds. We can hear the “expected” chirp from 100 metres away but Young Peckham stands firm. 0 no after 40 heroic balls. It’s 0/16 when the rain finally arrives. As the boys scurry away I overhear an old-timer say “Hope they don’t produce that 1992 trick of putting a block of ice on a good length again?” Ahh, the joys of cricket in the bush. Or was that a Carlton trick of the 1960’s against the Students?
Next morning. In an instant it’s 3/22. Smithy and Nugget have got it hooping and Peckham is skittled, the Pro is fired LB and a great catch is taken. The captain comes in and the young kid. The young kid plays straight but doesn’t score much. The Captain wants to play “the captain’s knock” and he starts with a punchy (lofted) drive for four and a strong push for 2. The kid looks safer but the Captain cuts and pulls and keeps the scoreboard ticking. 3/58. The spinner comes on with his donkey-droppers.
That ain’t gonna work methinks. 11 off his three overs and he’s replaced by the young left-armer. Nugget and Smithy have one last hurrah but the Captain has passed 50 and assured himself of the Normie. Game Over. Muckleford Premiers again 3/110.
Hardly a bad word is said. Grace and sportsmanship abound. Unlike last week, when the final wicket yielded a four-week suspension and a broken bat, broken stump and broken door!
The bounce at Etihad and despite having 10 quick, cold ales at the MCG, I can see that Carlton are flying. Back to the bonfire and Peckham’s yarns and the back-to-back premiership smiles of country folk feeling very good about themselves. “What’s the score?” “It’s three-quarter time and the Blues are six points down.” ”Gee, where did the time go?”
After 13 beers, it’s hard to see (or remember) if that goal was McInnes’ fault? Or didn’t Watson know he was going to get tackled? Or was that good play by Gray? Or have Carlton gone to bed early?
Foxtel show Mick and he looks more hawk-like each year. Straight-backed, face angled, but strangely not looking frustrated or displeased. Daisy trudges off – his first game over and no joy for him or Magic Mick.
All the joy this March night is with Port Adelaide but more so in Muckleford with a group of blokes having gone back-to-back and happily spending the night smelling the roses.