Playing on the ‘other’ Gazza

We  arrived  in  the  land  of  big  things  and  took  in  the  new  ground.  Metricon  Stadium  has  a  roof  like  a  crinkle  cut  potato  chip;  a  really  big  potato  chip.  It  curves  around  the  top  of  the  stadium  in  a  horse  shoe  shape  leaving  one  end  open  to  the  world  like  a  giant  front  door.

What  does  Metricon  mean?  What  do  they  do?  I  believe  they  build  things.

In  Queensland  they  are  trying  to  build  another  football  team;  the  Suns.  But  football  teams  are  made  of  people.  The  building  process  is  infinitely  complicated.  At  least  they  have  a  home.

They’ll  assemble  the  Suns’  squad  around  a  muscular,  sporting  freak.  A  man  who  can  swivel  and  baulk  with  magic  in  his  legs.  The  ball  sits  in  his  hands  with  the  same  ease  that  a  bunch  of  grapes  lay  in  the  grasp  of  a  Roman  Emperor  and  he  kicks  it  with  uncanny  precision.  He  can  also  run  this  bloke.  It’s  an  interesting  gait  that  he  has;  hunched  at  the  shoulders,  low  like  a  prowling  leopard,  a  combination  of  burst  and  bust.  His  shiny,  sweaty  head  makes  him  look  even  more  poised  in  full  flight.  He’s  my  little  bald  mate.  He’s  Gazza.

I’ll  play  on  Gazza  but  not  the  one  I  know.  He  won’t  be  wearing  the  blue  and  white  hooped  jumper  that  was  once  tattooed  onto  his  body;  he’ll  be  wearing  the  jarring  red  guernsey  of  the  Gold  Coast  Suns.  It  sits  awkwardly  on  his  frame  like  a  hat  on  a  horse.  He’s  now  our  foe.  But  how  can  he  be  an  enemy?  We  both  have  the  same  premiership  medallions  forged  out  of  blood  and  sweat  and  worn  around  our  necks  on  those  last  Saturdays  in  September  2007  and  2009.  We’re  brothers.  Isn’t  that  what  premierships  do,  make  men  brothers?

But  once  he  puts  on  his  new  red  armour  we  must  try  to  bring  him  down.  We’ll  batter  him,  pound  him,  and  exhaust  him  until  his  skill  is  blunted.  It’s  an  outrage.  Scotty  wants  me  to  stay  goal  side  of  him.  I’ll  do  my  best,  but  it  will  be  a  bit  like  staying  goal  side  of  the  equator.  You  can’t  simply  corner  a  player  like  Gazza  for  the  same  reasons  that  you  can’t  hold  back  water  with  an  open  hand  or  crush  the  human  spirit  by  erecting  a  wall.

The  scoreboard  doesn’t  matter.  We’ll  win.  A  bigger  battle  will  be  unfolding;  the  battle  with  ourselves.  When  we  crunch  Gazza  we’ll  be  crunching  a  little  piece  of  us,  when  we  sing  the  song  in  the  rooms  after  the  game  a  note  will  be  missing.

The  fireworks  blast  off,  the  first  siren  sounds,  and  we  go  after  Gazza.  We  block  him,  cajole  him,  and  harass  him.  But  it  seems  the  Suns  have  the  planets  aligned.  Kids  with  pimples  and  blotchy  arms  kick  some  goals  and  we  look  old;  old  and  tired.  We  feel  old.  The  ball  is  falling  their  way  because  they  haven’t  been  around  long  enough  to  question  its  shape.  Experience  tells  players  to  be  wary  of  the  oval  ball,  to  acknowledge  the  absurdity  of  the  unpredictable  bounce.  But  a  lot  of  the  Suns  have  no  experience.  The  ball  is  the  toy  and  the  paddock  is  the  stage  and  they  want  to  play.

Names  are  placed  in  the  reference  library  of  my  mind  for  future  seasons;  Zac  Smith,  McKenzie,  Swallow,  Weller,  May,  Krakouer.  The  Suns  are  21  points  clear.  Incredible.  We’re  scrapping  our  way  around  the  turf  like  a  walrus  on  the  sand.  Red  flags  and  music  bursts  greet  moments  of  joy  for  the  Suns.  In  the  first  half  they  have  nine  of  them.

I  find  Gazza  at  the  centre  bounces  when  it’s  my  turn  to  block  out  the  sun  in  the  light  towers.  With  each  attack  he  takes  longer  to  get  up.  Skill  is  succumbing  to  the  brutality  of  defence.  We  are  taking  turns  to  knock  the  stuffing  out  of  him.  It  seems  to  me  that  as  Gazza’s  energy  is  sapped  so  the  shine  of  the  young  Suns  fades.  He’s  the  barometer,  the  peg  in  the  ground  upon  which  the  Sun’s  tent  will  be  hitched.  When  it’s  loosed  so  are  they.  They  are  learning  about  the  value  of  physical  strength;  of  concerted,  unflinching  concentration.  But  they  are  learning  quickly.

Johnno  plucks  the  ball  inside  our  forward  fifty  like  he’s  picking  apples  from  a  tree  and  kicks  four  goals  in  the  third  quarter.  The  kids  with  pimples  and  blotchy  arms  fall  apart  like  wet  paper.  Pods  grabs  the  ball  out  of  the  sky,  we  win  it  in  the  middle  and  slice  through  their  hearts  like  a  fisherman  gutting  a  trout.  Thirteen  goals  to  one  after  half  time  kill  the  red  army’s  joy.

He  went  to  Queensland  for  the  challenge,  for  the  opportunity  to  be  part  of  something  new,  to  lead  a  team  of  youngsters  to  the  dais  on  Grand  Final  day.  He  plays  in  a  team  whose  front  door  is  wide  open,  welcoming  the  locals  to  be  involved  in  the  story.  One  day  they  might  get  there  and  if  they  do  Gazza  will  have  another  family  of  premiership  brothers,  but  I  still  think  he’ll  call  Geelong  home.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK – which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought ‘The Sorpranos’ was the best TV show ever made – by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne’s suburbs.

Comments

  1. Andrew Fithall says:

    Dips – The way you were travelling in the first half, I reckon you might actually have been one of the Geelong players. Once they subbed you off at half time the team came good.

  2. AF – what are you suggesting? That I’m old and fat and slow??

    The Suns actually impressed me a lot (even though the Cats were awful early). They’ll be good in a few years, especially up there. The young fella McKenzie is the best kick of the football I’ve seen since Jarman.

    Here’s a record of my stats from Saturday night: 0-0-0 = 0

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Nice one Dips.

    Was that interchange infringement because Geelong wrote O’Donnell on the sheet instead of Hawkins?

  4. Andrew Fithall says:

    You’re not fat Dips.

    I agree re Trent McKenzie. Played his early junior football at Altona before coming across to Williamstown for a couple of years prior to getting selected by the GC. I think he is a relative (nephew?) of Williamstown Team of the Century player Brett McTaggart.

  5. John Butler says:

    Dips, if you’re fat, I hate to think what I am.

    I think you Geelong folk are very nice and forgiving. If Judd left Carlton we’d want his blood.

  6. Rick Kane says:

    For a young side I thought the Suns put up a good fight.

    Seeing the comraderie between Gazza and Geelong players after the game reminded me again to not soak up the media’s views verbatim. There was genuine love and respect, built from years of knowing and trusting one another. These are profound and resiliant qualities. For all the superficial analysis of whether someone is following the money there has been scant regard given to what the players truly know and think of each other. We got a glimpse after the siren sounded.

    Cheers

  7. Phantom says:

    Another area where the Cats have set a very high bar.

    Will it be the same when the stars start to leave Collingwood. I’dd like to see that.

  8. Phantom – excellent point. I wander if Pie supporters will go nuts when Daisy kicks a long 60m bomb from the uranium enrichment plant side of the GWS stadium in his new orange and grey jumper.

  9. Phantom says:

    Oh, you are a naughty boy Dips.

  10. Phantom says:

    Did anyone catch a glimpse, late in the game, of the banner held up by some bloke inviting ‘Chaaaaaaaaapy’ to have breakfast in bed with his wife?

    (Well that’s not exactly what it said, but as this is a family blog I can’t repeat the exact wording)

  11. Phantom – saw that and had a giggle. Chappy is so reliable.

  12. Andrew Fithall says:

    I also saw the sign and wasn’t so impressed. But I suppose if you are at risk of losing more players to interstate clubs, and you aren’t confident that your offering is going to be sufficient to make them stay, you have to provide more. Especially if history has already shown star players and successful coaches are very keen to leave. You have to introduce additional incentives for players. However, if I was Chappie, I would want to see some photos before making any decision.

  13. Phantom says:

    He was asking ‘Chaaaaapy’ not you Andrew.

  14. lscacciante says:

    I found the whole game difficult to take. Seeing Geelong players trying to tackle Ablett instead of blocking for him just didn’t look right. Seeing Ablett running at full speed in the opposite direction to the Geelong goal looked even worse. At least we won. Not looking forward to the day when the Ablett Suns actually beat us.

    Regarding Chappy: I think he was distracted by that sign. He had three shots at goal and missed them all.

  15. GigStat: GONE MISSING – D O’Donnnell, no touches, last 120 minutes.

  16. Phantom says:

    Cats dual premiership stars (apart from Dips) sign for life.

    Collywood single premiership stars sign for one year.

    Thats show biz baby.

  17. johnharms says:

    Dips, very creative way of telling the yarn. I think R. Kane’s point re the media constructing the terms of the discussion is a good one. More on that from me tomorrow, once I have a few things out of the way today. I am also enjoying the AF style of jousting. Very parliamentary. Menzies: the member ofr Woop Woop has the brains of a sheep. Speaker: retract that statement. Menzies: the member ofr Woop Woop does not have the brains of a sheep.

  18. Mark Doyle says:

    Gold Coast did well for the first half and could be a a very good team in four or five years. As a Geelong supporter, I was pleased with the Geelong players treatment of Ablett during and after the game. I agree with Rick Kane’s comment on the media. Most of the mainstream media coverage of AFL football is trivial and celebrity nonsense. On the question of Gary Ablett, I believe he was given an offer that he could not refuse; it was reported to be $1.8 million dollars per year for five years with most of it to be paid in the first few years. Ablett gave great service to Geelong for nine years and will be remembered as a great player. The Gold Coast offer to Ablett reminds me of what the great Bob Rose once said. He left Collingwood in the late 1950’s to coach Wangaratta Rovers in the Ovens and Murray League for more than double money. Apparently, He was earning 400 pounds a year at Collingwood and Wangaratta Rovers offered him 1,000 pounds a year. He said it was like winning Tattslotto. I have great memories of watching Rose play for Wang. Rovers, especially the 1962 O & M League grand final; he was a fantastic footballer.

  19. Mark – Bobby Davis retired from football because the media offered him a better deal. I think he was only 28.

    I’ve heard a few commentators saying that Geelong players showed too much love to Gazza after the game.If Gold Coast were at the top of the table and a September rival this might be valid, but given they are not I thought the scenes after the game were very uplifting.

  20. Dave Nadel says:

    JB Can’t see why Carlton should be more upset than Geelong about mercenary behaviour if Judd were to go. After all that was how you got Judd in the first place.

    Phanto, your comments about Magpie players going to GWs are becoming increasingly shrill. Is this a sign that you are finally realising that none of our key player are leaving? Daisy Thomas, after his brilliant last few weeks, will be getting a lot more money next year, but he will be getting it from the Pies not the Giants.

  21. Dan Crane says:

    great read dips – really craving cheese and onion now, or even chicken perhaps….

    surely you’d be better than karmichael hunt, ok his goal was good but goal of the year?? (as some have said)

    bartels in round one or any one of thomas’

  22. John Butler says:

    Dave,

    As a good Collingwood man, you know both clubs look at it as a one-way transaction.

    However you enter the tribe, you don’t leave.

  23. Dan – Chappy kicks goals like Carmichael Hunt’s every week!!

  24. Phantom says:

    Dave,

    those one year contracts are interesting.

    If every one at Collywood is to get remuneration commensurate with their superstar premiership player status next year (when ten premiership players will be out of contract) there will have to be some salary cap pressure unless there is some special deal akin to the you don’thave to travel clause.

    Those who miss out, and some will have to, will move on and subsequently the list will be weakened. It’s not rocket science.

    Currently injuries are a challenge at Collywood as they are at all clubs. You don’t want grumpy monkies going elsewhere after they fill in for the injured superstars only to be dropped when the finals campaign that they underpinned starts.

    Why would Collywood have a different dynamic to all the other clubs?

  25. Dave Nadel says:

    I am sure that Collingwood will eventually lose players through salary cap pressure but they will not lose their top players. A lot of experienced players left at the end of last year. That decreased salary cap pressure. Two out of Tarrant, Davis and Johnson will be veterans next year (and the third may well retire if we win a second flag). Many of our best players are young and can be offered structured contracts because they will be at the club long enough to collect if the contracts are backended. Even though our seconds “lack depth” we do have a few players struggling to force their way into the firsts who would look good at GWS.

    With free agency looming and Collingwood having a lot of young talented players there might be problems holding players in the future but it won’t happen until long after the Gold Coast/GWS special concessions have passed

  26. Phantom says:

    Good Dave,

    that looks like you are shifting a bit. Pleased to have been of assistance in this important break through in attitude adjustment. We can add another quality to the list for Pies supporters: strategically flexible.

    I still strongly believe that one, or more, of your big boys will go soon.

    Phantoms listen to the drums. (Old Jungle Saying)

  27. Dave Nadel says:

    “Sometimes drums miss the beat. (Old Pie saying or actually, Saying of Old Pie.)

  28. Rick Kane says:

    You and him travel to the beat of a different drum (old Mike Nesmith/Linda Rondstadt saying) :)

  29. It will be interesting to see how much Collingwood bleat about the salary cap pressure on stars and how many they are able to keep. More importantly, will the top tier take reduced contracts to be part of an era, or will they take the crazy money?

  30. Richard Naco says:

    I am not bitter about Gary going, as that has allowed many who were in his shadow to bloom in the light (thinks, James Kelly). I was impressed by the fact that the game plan against Gazza was so subtle and profound and above all else, effective. Never has he had 30 touches to so little effect, and the give+go which was the foundation stone of his game was utterly obliterated.

    I am proud that we didn’t need to go the cheap shot to make our point, and that the context of the contest was highlighted both by he and Bomber Thompson sitting together at Bob Davis’ funeral service, and by the expressions of respect and genuine undying cameraderie after the game. Kudos to Gary for that as well.

    The willingness of key players to committ to, and to receive long term committments from the club also speaks volumes of a deep club culture that is vastly more appealing than the superficial flirtations evident in certain some other clubs. Stars such as Selwood, Bartel, Scarlet and Kelly are now, and will always be Cats.

    As will I.

  31. Phantom says:

    Rick,

    I suppose we are double or quits(ing) on that Freddo Frog for the next game. They seem to come around nearly as quickly as the Pies get the weaker teams at the “G”.

    I am still owed two Chokitos and a Caramello bear from the last time we played the Hawks. What is it with you guys? You put enormous pressure on me for a bet then you don’t pay.

  32. Phantom says:

    Here endeth the lesson Richard. And a dam fine lesson if I say so.

  33. Rick Kane says:

    Mr Phantomman

    I’m very much looking forward to the re-match and getting my hands on the (chocolate) prize! But first, we take Fremantle (to misquote Mr Cohen). Cheers

  34. Rick Kane says:

    The incredible imbalance of footy reporting and representation was inadvertently highlighted in a segment of The Marngrook Footy Show tonight.

    Andrew Krakouer was the special guest. After highlighting several of his great marks and extraordinary goals Gilbert McAdam took pause. He raised the issue of when Krakouer made a x sign with his arms after kicking a goal. The issue had been the subject of great debate in the mainstream footy media when it occured.

    McAdam said, “Andrew, you brought a tear to my eye when you sent a message to your brother. It really took my breath away. I knew you as a kid and with what you’ve been through, it was just …” and he trailed off. Andrew replied, “I am honoured that you would say that”. He went on to explain that he wasn’t trying to offend anyone. He had spoken to his brother earlier in the day and his brother had asked him to give him a sign when he scored a goal. “It was for my brother, no one else”. The conversation was touching and genuine. You almost felt like you were eavesdropping.

    In all the discussion about Krakouer’s gesture, I haven’t heard one commentator say that it almost brought him/her to tears. Wow! That’s a story, that’s footy right there. Brothers, family, struggles, hard work, luck, belief, and within the corporate controls of the product we know as Australian Rules, individuals will still find individual ways to show the undying determination that the circle be unbroken.

    Cheers

  35. Dave Nadel says:

    I reacted as you did Rick. I hope some of the tabloid reporters who tried to get a cheap “outrage” story out of Krakouer’s gesture were watching the Marn Grook show tonight, but I suspect even if they were they wouldn’t have “got it”

  36. Rick – great point you make. I take no offense at all if a bloke wants to make some sort of gesture so long is its not an obviously insulting one. The other great gesture of course was Nicky Winmar’s jumper lift – what a profound impact that had. And Damian Oliver’s signal to the heavens after his Melbourne Cup victory in memory of his brother.

    This all goes to one of my great gripes with the modern media – they want to make the news not report it. They sit in anticipation of a bloke like Krakouer doing something that they can jump on. They even made a story of the banner held up at Metricon Stadium last week where a bloke was suggesting to Chappy that he would let him roll with his wife in the hay. How pathetic. Was it bad taste? Probably but is there no humour anymore?

    As the great Neil Young sings on his magnificent album called Greendale:

    “They (the media) don’t have any respect, so they’ll get none of mine.”

  37. Rick Kane says:

    Or as little Elvis (that’s Elvis Costello) said about radio: “I wanna bite the hand that feeds me, I wanna bite that hand so badly”.

    I was aghast when I saw the sign from the Gold Coast game but more angered that Channel10 or 7 or whoever chose to screen it. It’s one thing for a dickhead to make a throwback banner that maybe 10,000 might see, it’s another thing for the TV station to screen it for upwards of hundreds of thousands. There is also the messaging behind screening the banner (which was not solely done in good humour) and that is to reinforce a balance of superiority of the more cultured (gentrified) states against our more simple new friends. Ie.- They have a lot to learn (from us). It was a cheap gag but an even cheaper shot.

    Cheers

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