Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v Sydney: The Dogs are no Bunnies
It’s an excellent word, unfurling. Comes off the tongue with its meaning ready made. And if the Doggies had been put away over the off season just like their Premiership flag, they sure rolled themselves open and spread themselves out on Friday night.
With our Cygnet away at music camp, the Cob and I found ourselves with a rare three nights as a twosome. We headed to our favourite Pakistani in Enmore. It’s a white tiled affair with lighting that doesn’t hide a blemish. There’s a tandoor at the door with strips of chicken and fish oranging on skewers against the wall. The palak paneer has punch. The breads come too hot to handle. It’s a place whose din always reminds me of the months I spent on the subcontinent as a nineteen year old, living on a few dollars a day, eating at roadside stops and street carts, months of simplicity coupled with sensory weight. The Cob and I sat eye to eye, pulling at naan, scooping at daal, spooning spinach and tearing chicken, past the point of being full, into that territory when taste overrides sate.
We waddled to the pub down the street. The Warren View has sat at the intersection of Stanmore and Enmore roads since 1870, when it boasted a view of a mansion called ‘The Warren’, the home of a tycoon wool merchant and politician, Thomas Holt, who named his estate after the rabbits he bred for hunting. I suppose he would have kept dogs.
We rolled in on the coin toss. Two fellas peeled off a small round table right in front of the main screen just before the siren. We haven’t watched a game together in a pub for an age. Possibly it was a dozen years ago in Lismore with a mate who barracks for Freo; we watched them play Sydney with the sound down. But sound and mood were up at the Warren View. The room was lined with lads. A table to the right propped a single numberless Doggie and a rowdy cohort of unidentifieds around him. We noticed a small plastic Premiership Cup in the centre of their beers. One hundred games for Libba and Reid and Sam goaled within the first minute. But I was still taking in the room. The numbers 19 and 29 down the front, the six sole women in the room, the SciFi door of the Pokie lounge, swallowing and spitting its callers. Tippett was suddenly down. But a second to Reid gave permission to be loud in there! And then Laidler was lining up for points. Swans had the first ten clearances of the match! The lone Dog applauded Bob’s first.
There’s something wonderful about the watching experience that is not from one’s sofa, nor from one’s stadium. In the intimacy of the pub, it’s a bit of both. We come together as spectators, casually, unsorted by the rigours of the stadium, intimately. We have one eye on the play and one eye on each other. And it’s a dance of attention that somehow expands the game.
It was horrid watching Reid in the ruck; I want him to think of himself as Swarovski crystal from now on. The shout for Ollie was already up for Florent. And Hayward ingratiated himself straight away. Newman and the replacement MO didn’t do too badly either. But the midfield looked inert. And our defence looked terrifying—for us. What was once stable now felt like that room of one arm bandits next door, a confined space where you might lose everything. The bodies we offered up down there for bolstering left a vacant lot in our front half. So when the rebound did come, the chase and recoil came quicker. Rabbits hounded into their warrens. The Dogs just run you to death.
The Cob and I spent half time sipping and wondering. Sydney’s population has just hit five million. What would become of humanity? We ordered million dollar scotches and a middy. One of the guys at the table ahead of us sat head down, rolling his coaster round and round while his mates stocked up for Part 2. He looked like Jared Moore, the brick-wall ex Swan 33. He looked very like Jared Moore.
He stayed calm while the rest of us swelled to the fourth. Up we went, down we sat. But he watched with the pendulum swinging on the inside. A Dogesque daisy chain of handballs landed in Buddy’s basket. One goal, two goal, three goal … When Reid’s sixth kicked us into a four point lead, the front room erupted. I wished it was 12 seconds on the clock not minutes. Picken missed the next attempt and the Irishman at the Cob’s shoulder gave him a wink: ‘I was calling to hook it.’
But they were so quick. They were so organised. Their structures were impeccable. Bont, Picken, Stringer, Picken. What was left to defenders? Our lone Dog in the pub was calm enough simply to applaud. He knew that his fellas had the smell of the kill in their nostrils now. The Doggies are playing with taste not sate.
As the siren cleared the field, the ladies at the adjacent table gathered up bags and coats. The Dog had his photo taken with the plastic Premiership. The fellas at the table in front ordered another round. All of our collective feeling unfurled in a jumble of shown and kept. That must be what teammates feel like sometimes. The Cob and I sipped the last of the amber medicine and contemplated Buddy’s effort, Reid’s dessert, the kids, Jared Moore.
‘He doesn’t look big enough to be Jared Moore,’ said the Cob.
‘He looks too young. His nose looks too straight,’ I added. He was glancing at us too.
Onto Enmore Rd we stepped, nothing in view but the downward slope. The Warren doesn’t exist anymore. Well not in its entirety. But much of the sandstone was used to line the gutters of Marrickville. We googled Jared Moore on our way down the hill. It was him! He did have the straight nose. But it wasn’t him. He’s got a coaching gig at North Melbourne. Long gone. Swings and roundabouts. As we passed the park, the Cob piped up:
‘Remember what we used to call him?’