Round 5 – Hawthorn v Adelaide: A courage of his own

Emerging from the Parliament Station stairwell, the MGC lit up the Friday-night sky like a beacon of hope. While hurrying toward I paused a moment, as I often do, in the triangular reserve on the corner of Spring and Macarthur streets, lingering by the monument to colonial horseman and poet Adam Lindsay Gordon[1].

 

Adam Lindsay Gordon

 

A renowned jockey, politician and pastoralist turned poet, Gordon lived a reckless and ultimately tragic life. The effigy in Gordon Reserve depicts a tall, earnest but handsome man who, by the looks, would have played as a forward of centre ruckman in the David Hale mould. He sits reclining on a chair with pen in hand and a saddle by his feet. His most oft-quoted verse, from Ye Wearie Wayfarer, is chiselled into the sandstone beneath:

Life is mainly froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone —
Kindness in another’s trouble.
Courage in your own.

Gordon’s prose was apt in light of the game ahead; the unremitting Hawthorn juggernaut was taking on an in-form Adelaide outfit. Whichever team was to emerge victorious would need to demonstrate conviction in face of adversity.

 

The game marked Shaun Burgoyne’s 300th but had been promoted as a shootout between two of the dominant small forwards of the competition – Betts versus Rioli. A free-flowing rhythm was established early, it was to be an end-to-end coach killer. The small men of both sides were prominent and the crowd lapped it up. Betts made an early statement in response to his recent struggles against the Hawks. With pace and guile, he got away from Stratton, and three first-quarter goals helped Adelaide to a 16-point quarter time lead.

 

The momentum swung and the second quarter belonged to the Hawks. Cyril was up and about, Hill provided dash and Mitchell was accumulating. But it was Paul Puopolo who caught the eye. Squat, thick through the hips and quick, he is a man built for forward line skirmishes and explosive acts. His manic tackling pressure had been rewarded with a goal earlier in the game but now he was also leaping at high balls. The contrast between Gordon and Puopolo couldn’t be starker – a tall, lean colonial poet prone to reckless flights of fancy beside a zippy wrecking-ball – but on this beautiful Friday night the modern-day deeds were echoing Gordon’s colonial prose. Puopulo’s second-quarter screamer was something to behold. Sprinting at full pace he launched himself skyward, soaring across the contest:

Though the hawk with wings extended
Poises over head,
Motionless as though suspended
By a viewless thread.

The little Hawk lifted off the shoulders of Richard Douglas and plucked the ball at full stretch. His mark inspired the Hawks, whose six-goal term saw them take a two-point lead at the main break.

 

Puopolo’s meteoric improvement in recent years: a squat Norwood back pocket, whom few outside of the club rated, transformed into a genuine A-grade defensive forward. Poppy has pace, poise and a sense of occasion. This was demonstrated unequivocally at the beginning of the fourth term. A turnover at halfback saw the ball fall to Wil Langford, lobbing over the top he pitted Puopolo against Rory Laird in a one-on-one sprint. As the vacant forward arc beckoned, Gordon’s prose again rang true:

See, he stoops, nay, shooting forward
With the arrow’s flight,
Swift and straight away to nor’ward
Sails he out of sight.
Onward! onward! thus we travel,
Comes the goal more nigh?

Puopolo pumped his powerful little legs and put five metres on Laird in a heartbeat. Pouncing on the ball he ran into the open goal. The crowd erupted but the joy was short-lived.

 

The Crows quickly steadied, consecutive goals saw them extend their lead to 15 points at the 18-minute mark. Victory looked theirs. Not to be denied, the experienced Hawthorn team rallied and Puopolo was again instrumental. Sprinting onto another loose ball, he somehow managed to get a step on his opponent and soccer a goal from the square. Moments later, he cleared the way for a Rioli goal. Adelaide’s margin was cut to three-points. Mere moments remained and the crowd drew nervous breath:

When will come the goal?
Riddle I may not unravel,
Cease to vex my soul.

The play resumed at breakneck speed. Out of the confusion a high tumbling ball was thumped into the Hawthorn forward arc. Hurtling downward it drew the gaze of thousands. There, camped at the drop, stood Paul Puopolo. He held his ground with strength and his opponent cannoned into his back. The umpire’s whistle cut through the night sky, his composure rewarded. His fifth goal for the night never looked like missing. The Hawks had snatched the lead.

 

The hurly burly resumed with men throwing themselves into the fray. Seconds later the final siren rang and the Hawthorn masses erupted. In a contest worthy of Gordon’s verse, Puopolo had become a giant among men delivered a performance nothing short of froth and bubble. He had shown courage of his own.

[1] Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870) was born at Fayal in the Azores. Sent to England at age seven, he spent time at Cheltenham College, the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich and Royal Grammar School Worcester where he was recognised as a fine sportsman but possessing an undisciplined nature. Abandoning school for a reckless and aimless lifestyle he quickly found himself debt ridden much to the anxiety of his father, a retired Captain of the Bengal Cavalry. Gordon arrived in Adelaide in 1853 with a recommendation to the Governor. Stationed at Mount Gambier with the mounted police Gordon thrived, quickly establishing himself as a horseman and steeplechase jockey of some renown. It was Rev. Julian Tenison Woods who encouraged his interest in literature and poetry. Gordon became a regular contributor to the Australasian and Bell’s Life. He was elected to South Australian House of Assembly and dabbled in land speculation. A series of falls while riding affected both his health and demeanour, and his fortunes suffered. Moving to Melbourne he continued to write but his behaviour was increasingly erratic. He committed suicide at Brighton Beach aged 37. His prose gained increased prominence following his death and in 1934 he is the only Australian to have a bust placed in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

About Rees Quilford

Communications stooge. PhD student. Occasional scribbler. Football watcher. Underwater Hockey tragic.

Comments

  1. chris cunningham says:

    Beautiful prose yourself ! As a disappointed Crows supporter it is hard to go past the final two umpiring decisions of the game , one 50/50 given one 50/50 not given. Nevertheless my household of family and friends roared and cheered our way through a wonderful game of football. We all marvelled at Gunston’s goal, Poppy’s leap, soccer and sprint, and of course Cyril’s magic.The shame is that the Hawks don’t get to travel to Adelaide Oval for what I reckon would be a belter of a game. Maybe in the finals ???

  2. Dave Brown says:

    It’s hard not to love Poppy, Rees (mixed emotions as a Norwood/Crows supporter). He really found his feet under Nathan Bassett in 2010 after his previous coach didn’t really rate him. He went from being an undersized defender to a line breaking half back. Has made every post a winner ever since and a prime example of shrewd Hawthorn recruiting

  3. Thanks Chris. It was a ripping game, end-to-end entertainment all night. Both sides will play finals from what was on display.

  4. Cheers Dave. Poppy has been a revelation. Agree it’s testament to the shrewdness of Hawthorn’s recruitment staff but also their development system.

  5. Steve Hodder says:

    Rees,
    My mum, who hails from Coleraine, used to read Gordon’s “The Fields of Coleraine” to us kids when we were little tackers. His verse and your prose is a nice combination.

    Onya

  6. chris cunningham says:

    In 2010 the SANFL prelim was between the Eagles ( my team ) and Norwood with the Eagles the favourite , ,Jared Polec and Brodie Smith were cutting Norwood up. However at three quarter time Bassett shifted this short nuggetty bloke who I had never heard of, and who looked nothing like a league footballer should, onto Polec , who was clearly best on ground at the time. Not only did Poppy shut Polec down but he had some very important contributions, and ultimately Norwood won by less than a goal. Out of that remarkable game ( it was a thriller ) 6 players got drafted into the AFL ,with Poppy arguably the best of now , and the least unlikely to succeed at the time.

  7. Thanks Steve, have read Fields of Coleraine, will check it out.

  8. Sounds like ripping game Chris with an impressive list of AFL graduates. Remember reading Bassett interviewed about Poppy. Sounds like he was a big fan and influence.

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