Round 3 – North Melbourne v GWS: Calm amid the Confusion at Blundstone Arena
Modern day Australia is a confusing place. Life was once simpler and many of today’s happenings bewilder. Just this week, our very own Prime Minister declined the offer of a free sausage sandwich while visiting the flood stricken area of Lismore, in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. A sausage sizzle is quintessentially Australian. Rejecting one most certainly is not. Quite simply, this diabolical contempt for a snag would never have happened in days gone by.
The embryonic phase of the 2017 football season has also brought its very own sense of bewilderment with it. My own team, the Swans are closer to the bottom of the ladder than the top, the holding the ball rule appears to be in utter turmoil and I find myself heading to Blundstone Arena to watch a match as a neutral. Our local mob in this charming corner of the world is the Clarence Roos, who wear the red and white of my Swans. Today, the Roos have bounded across Bass Strait from their North Melbourne surrounds. They wear blue and white and they are today’s local mob. Confused?
Bellerive and the Eastern Shore of Hobart has been the territory of my young family for the past five years now. Amid the chagrin of modern life, the familiarity of home provides a much welcomed serenity. It’s beautiful. The village itself is forging ahead, adjusting to the expectations of the young professional demographic and capitalising on its waterfront advantages. Cafes, restaurants and bars are beginning to take hold as this area embarks on the challenges of modernisation. The pre-game vibe is one of celebration that we now have regular access to top-level footy. The atmosphere in the Yacht Club is always one of wonderment on match days as the Shinboners meet the sailors and after some light refreshments, the hordes take the short stroll up the hill.
With my mind in a spin at the glaring absence of red and white at the footy, my mate and I pass through the turnstiles and calmness is soon restored. Wow. Our modern day version of Blundstone Arena is impressive. The new Ricky Ponting stand is imposing and the refurb of the old gem has taken sport in ol’ Hobart town to a higher plane. The ground is nestled on the eastern shores of the Derwent River opposite the CBD and must now surely qualify as ’boutique.’ Many things in Hobart now do. Buoyed by a sudden burst of parochialism, we take our seats in the David Boon Stand, among the blue and white faithful.
Adding to the unfamiliarity of the day, the weather is more cricket season than football. Rarely do we enjoy a day at the footy in t-shirt, shorts and thongs and today is a rare treat. The crowd is a little light on but the twelve Giants supporters in attendance put in a herculean effort to rescue a wind-torn banner from total destruction just in time for their team to run out. The Roos follow and their Tassie members find their voice.
Recent years have been kind to Hobart. Tourism is booming and the town is brimming with a newfound self-confidence. A major contributor to this rise in popularity has been the city’s ever-increasing love of a festival. These days, barely a month passes by without a major event capturing the imagination of Tasmanians and travellers alike. My very own festival of confusion rolls on and as the Roos strike up an early lead at Blundstone Arena, it quickly becomes apparent that it is no party out in the middle. There’s spice in this one and the usual suspects for the Tangerine Terrors come to the fore – Johnson, Mumford, Shaw, Greene and Smith – all equal parts antagonist and annoyance.
Jack Ziebell is a constant for the adopted home team and it seems as though they rely on him to do the heavy lifting each and every week. He generally responds with all the dependability of a trusty Blundstone boot and today is no exception. Mumford plays a similar role for his side and when he and the Roos captain clash in the centre square, there’s absolutely no puzzlement surrounding what they’re up to. The first half is a tough, torrid affair with the AFL’s very own Frankenstein Football Club taking a slender lead.
The third quarter sees the visitors begin to skip ahead and confusion reigns supreme at the three quarter time break as the on-ground ‘entertainment’ takes a bizarre twist. An oversized coffee cup is wheeled in to the goal-square as a contestant is marched towards the fifty-metre arc. Curiously, we await his challenge. In what can only be described as farcical, he must kick from fifty metres out and land the Sherrin through a hole the size of a cheeseburger in the top of the ridiculous prop in order to collect $5,000 cash. With the sea breeze now in, the poor old punter is faced with Mission Impossible.
Mount Wellington dominates the backdrop from our seats and you can’t help but marvel at its magnificence – overlooking the city with a watchful eye, I wonder what she makes of all this. The site is home to many local outdoor pursuits and with Hobart’s burgeoning reputation for the adventurous and experiential, I suggest she’d be watching these Giants with a glint in the eye. There are many reasons for their current dominance but to see them cut a swathe through the Roos, as the game grows older is a sight to behold. They play with arrogance – a trait we don’t generally have much time for down here – but it does make for entertaining viewing.
AFL footy and Hobart make fabulous companions, especially at Blundstone Arena which is so distinctive in the parade of Australian sporting venues. In what form it takes in the future remains unclear, but there’s nothing confusing about its worth to our community. The Giants vacate our shores with the four points, but the Roos will return, and most welcome they are.