I was back home in Warrnambool during the week and caught up with an old mate of mine, Matt Alexander. A southwest wind was blowing hard off the ocean signalling the end of the Indian summer so we decided to have a soak and a yarn in the local geothermal pool. Matt represented Australia in basketball at under 21 and under 23 levels at the world championships. Years later when he was in Adelaide someone stole his car, inside was all his memorabilia for the world titles. You must be spewing about that? Nah, not really, how often to you go back and look at an old coat? I told Matt how I’d heard Ian Stewart didn’t exactly know where his Brownlows were. He seemed pretty happy with that.
Our footy teams played each other that night. The Tigers versus the Magpies. Matt’s late father Terry, a legend of football and basketball in the southwest, played in the ruck for Collingwood in the late sixties. My old man didn’t play for Richmond but at 5’11’’ (formerly) is a Collingwood six footer!
I told Matt there was a Steeplechase on at the local course he said he didn’t even know how to fake interest in horseracing. Besides, he had a busy day ahead, preparing and then taking basketball training. He’s currently the head coach for the Warrnambool Seahawks; the reigning Big V division one premiers.
Last year, the Seahawks surged to a long awaited championship led by the home grown Nathan Sobey. Nathan scored 82 points across the two wins of the championship series against Casey. He followed that by winning the NBL’s most improved player playing for the Adelaide 36ers and is now plying his trade for POAK in Greece. Matt and the Seahawks are needing to find new ways to win this year. They need to avoid the premiership hangover. The old coat of success.
I stopped by the racecourse to watch the steeplechase then strolled to my parents’ to watch the footy with them. I noticed Dad had to sit closer to the telly now to see the game properly. After the first half he would have been wishing he was sitting further away. An error ridden first half did not auger well for either team.
As Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said, “We certainly won’t be rush to the video store to get the first half on tape”.
Collingwood got out to a 17 point lead early in the third term before Richmond willed themselves back into the game. The Tigers managed to take the lead late in the quarter and despite some nervous moments weren’t headed again. To me it was a weird game in that the best players on the ground, aside from Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and the talismanic Dustin Martin, all seemed to play for Collingwood; Pendelbury, Treloar, Hoskin-Elliot, Goldsack, but Richmond’s team pressure got them there in the end.
Last year the Tigers had blown a three goal lead against the Pies with only minutes to spare. I seemed to me through my one tiger eye that the commentators were almost willing it to happen again. There’s a few old coats in the Tigers’ cupboard; the lace-up variety worn by Kevin Bartlett in the 1980 grand final and the tattered coats of disappointment from the seasons since. Neither of these will fit the current players.
I thought of Matt’s Australian blazer probably in an op-shop or being worn by someone at a fancy dress, and of the countless items of sporting memorabilia, most of owned by people who never knew the original owner. The back page of The Herald from the day of Richmond’s 1974 premiership hangs in my hall.
How often do you go back and look at an old coat?
PS – The Seahawks defeated the Chelsea Gulls on Saturday night and are now 3-0 to start the season. Veteran Tim Gainey, captain Alex Gynes and import Xavier Johnson-Blount led the way for the Seahawks. Hayden Rhook, one of three fifteen year olds to debut this year, hit a valuable 3 pointer.
PPS – The steeplechase was won by the Paddy Payne trained Zed Em with Steven Pateman on board.