Round 6 – Collingwood v Geelong: Roy Blicavs and Skeeter Stanley wind back the clock
Geelong v Collingwood
Not since Roy Cazaly and Skeeter Fleiter has the third man up had such an influence on the game of Australian football. At the MCG on Friday night a new duo announced itself to the footy world.
I once interviewed Skeeter Fleiter’s cousin, Emil Fleiter, then in his 80s, in a little suburban house in Brisbane. In the old days, he’d wound up playing footy in Queensland and stayed.
Skeeter Fleiter helped make Cazaly,” he told me. “But only the real old-timers remember him. He’d make position in the ruck, and once he had his opponent where he wanted him he’d yell, ‘Up there, Cazaly’ and the champ would climb over the top. He had a fair leap on him, that little bloke.”
So when commentators use the term ‘third man up’ like it was invented by that bloke Luff from Champion Data, they’re actually tapping into a time-honoured method of clearing the ruck with a knock to a team-mate.
The Cats have always had a great respect of history and that marvellous student of the game, Christopher Michael Scott, could see he had the new Cazaly the moment Mark Blicavs walked through the Doug Wade Gates at Kardinia Park. All he needed was a Skeeter Fleiter and, trawling the ranks of semi-discarded skinny blokes, he found Rhys Stanley, the boy from the home of The Big Orange in the Riverland.
Skeeter Stanley started the match against Collingwood on Friday night as a fringe player who was likely to cause Geelong fans in Section M25 to avert their eyes, and finished a household name.
His mate Roy Blicavs had an even better game.
I had started the night in the Builders’ Arms having a very Melbourne sporting experience. I was supposed to be catching up with Andrew Fithall who, worn out from raising funds for the Australian Under 19 Lacrosse side of which his daughter Audrey is part, was unable to make it.
I walk in. It’s very 21st century Fitzroy-Friday-night, full of people who should be playing in a jazz band or inventing The Muppets. MOC is there with John Tuck. Despite being the great grandson of two-time Fitzroy premiership captain (and a great character) Gerald Brosnan, MOC is as black and white as the Catholic Leader. John is a Roo-boy and he’s heading to Hobart and the Blundstone Arena the following morning. The black beer I purchase is a triumph of marketing – using the one for the price of two approach – and wouldn’t get near Toohey’s Old. John Tuck is the nephew (?) of Frank Tuck, captain of Collingwood. This is the pedigree of the inner-Melbourne drinking school. My old man went to the 1951 semi-final against Collingwood – that’s all I have.
I have been struggling to get into the 1015 AFL season. The Cats have been out of sorts, out of form, lacking confidence, and unwilling (or unable) to follow their fanatical leader into battle. But The Handicapper and I saw some good signs when we were at the MCG (courtesy of an invitation from the new MCC President Stephen Smith) to see them play Richmond last week. And it’s been a tough draw.
As we wander through Fitzroy Gardens I am not sure what to expect, and I am not sure what sort of footy these two sides will play. That’s part of the problem at the moment.
We find P. Flynn who has clearly gone the full distance at the Warrnambool Carnival. He looks like he’s negotiated the Houlahan Treble while hanging from Lord of the Song by the stirrup. The mood is flat. There’s a hint of habit, or comfortable addiction, about it all. No alertness in the eyes.
Chewing on a smelly beer, which has the effervescence of Julia Gillard, I ask myself: am I going through the motions? Have a climbed into the marital bed thinking of nothing more than what’s happening tomorrow? Is this a tired relationship?
It’s a flat lead-up. I love the paradox of this. The more that it is considered and designed and orchestrated, the less impact it has. In nineteenth century Geelong, at the famous Corio Oval, fans of the blue and white knew the game was about to start when the timekeeper left the pavilion and walked across the ground to his box.
When the ball is bounced the Cats win a few possessions and they show a bit of vim. Tom Hawkins finds Corey Gregson whose set shot sails through.
Another win from the middle and Johnno, who’s on top of the ground, kicks in the direction of Tomahawk. He holds his ground, gets his hands clear, and lobs a handball in the direction of Darcy Lang and the boy from Colac runs into an open goal.
This will help the cause.
The Cats are running in all directions. Almost immediately Hawkins attacks the bouncing ball, shrugs off Jack Frost, finds Motlop and it’s another one. Three goals in five minutes.
I look at P. Flynn. He is bright-eyed again.
Blicavs covers the ground – like his foot is not caught in a stirrup.
They win the footy again and the players are manic. It’s all happening so quickly, the Pies cannot react. Caddy bursts away and finds Hawkins on the lead. He wheels onto his right, finds Johnno who, rather than going back for the set shot from 25, plays on, steps around an opponent, and snaps across his body.
This is no longer routine. It’s like you’ve tapped the missus on the midnight shoulder and there’s a stirring.
Flynn is feeling it. He has his hand in his pocket. I can’t tell you what he says, all I know is that needs a bit more personal space.
Boris marks like he’s picking a peach. He’s on as well.
It’s still manic. This is high-risk footy which is so entertaining. Kersten handballs to Gregson who swings onto his right and goals from 50. This is how the Cats play. It’s like the penny has dropped. The Pies have paid no attention to Gregson (who still gets into the pictures half-price) and he has run riot from the wing to half forward to the pocket.
It’s five goals to zip.
Skeeter Stanley climbs and palms like he’s Polly Farmer, and when he’s jostling he’s yelling at Roy, “Up there Blicavs.”
Stanley can also run and finds space in the forward line to mark and goal.
Hawkins snaps another.
And, shortly before half time, there is an end to end goal of frantic run and handball that results in a Clark goal. P. Flynn has to leave the area.
The Pies fight back and have their own opportunities and for once we are thankful for Travis Cloke. Travis Varcoe remains loved and he has a reasonable game.
Pendlebury, having been perplexed to look up into the eyes of an opponent for once – Blicavs – plays a captain’s knock.
But the Cats kick three in a minute – to settle the nerves.
Duncan is good again but to the live beer-drinking eye is not noticed as much as Hawkins early and Blicavs throughout. While Tom has the legs early he can be a dominant player. Once the plod gets hold of him he is less effective. Outside of Essendon, I’m not sure there is a cure for that. But he really set things up.
Corey Gregson is a little goer.
Skeeter Stanley’s future rests with him. He has the attributes to be a more than useful contributor, although he played in a match where there was observable link between Grundy and the Collier brothers. Shane Mumford will look at Skeeter Stanley as a crocodile eyes an antelope.
This was an excellent night for Cats fans; a night that put sparkle back into the relationship.
And a night for Roy Blicavs.
Votes: 3. Roy Blicavs 2. T. Hawkins 1. M. Duncan
Ladbrokes is offering $2 on the Swans on Saturday night. (Cats fans? J. Dunne?)