SATURDAY NIGHT NOSTALGIA

I’ve always been one for nostalgia. As someone who can’t help but accumulate stuff, I basically collect my childhood: Little Golden Books, old footy cards, records and furniture from the 60s and 70s. Even old footy records. And as I walked along the concourse towards Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, the Record seller also seemed to be giving a nod to days gone by as he yelled “get your Footy Record!” in the manner of the corner newspaper boys of old. “Read all about Brad Johnson’s testimonial game.”

My ears pricked up as he shouted that. For a second I thought he was going to say, “read all about Brad Johnson’s testicles”. It really wouldn’t have surprised me. Because I believed this Bulldogs side to be one with balls. One that will not be brushed aside by the big guys, like Geelong anymore. This would be a battle between challenger and champ, with neither side giving an inch, and every man-to-man tussle pivotal in giving one side or the other the slight edge that would ultimately deliver the points.

Or so I thought.

And really, if it wasn’t for one small thing, you could make a case for saying that’s exactly how the match panned out. Both the Dogs and Cats trading goals and blows before the Cats, with the greater experience and greater poise, drew away to win late in the last quarter.

That’s what happened. Apart from that one small thing. What was the small thing? Well it was just a little thing – really. Just one thing. One – quarter. One… small… quarter. Take it away and you’ve got exactly what I described. A close contest with the Cats pulling away to win 15.7 to 9.5. A six-goal win. But really the margin only blew out near the end, and the Dogs fought it out most of the way.

One small thing. One quarter.

Do I really have to include that quarter in summing up this game?

Yes. I do. Because in that one little quarter, the Cats blew us to smithereens. Ten goals they kicked. Ten. To nothing.

I was surprised to learn recently from one of my mates, who studies ancient Greek texts for a living, that the second half of the word “nostaligia” derives from the word algos, meaning pain or distress.

In the second quarter of Saturday night’s match, Geelong delivered real nostalgia to me. Their footy took me back to the early and mid-nineties. Those days when Footscray, as they were then, would scratch and fight their way into the finals and perform admirably – until they met Geelong. And each time they met Geelong, they would get blown away:

1992 – the Qualifying Final – the Dogs jump to a six goal lead and look the goods, until Geelong flicks the switch, turns the game around by almost 100 points and wins by 61.

1992 – Preliminary Final – two weeks later, the Dogs have recovered to knock off the Saints and front up to the Cats again – and get blown away again – 64 points this time.

1994 – Qualifying Final – this time things would be different, wouldn’t they? Perhaps not. The Cats kick 8 goals to one by the 25-minute mark of the first quarter. But this time, the Dogs slowly fight back, and hit the front with 30 seconds remaining. And then Billy Brownless blows them away again.

1995 – Qualifying Final – having limped into eighth spot, the Dogs face up once more to the Cats. This time it’s ten goals to one at quarter time – and there’s no sign of a fightback for the rest of the night.

Painful memories – nostalgia. Saturday night’s second quarter brought it all back in spades. The Dogs got smashed out of the centre by Geelong’s elite midfield, just as they did all those years ago.

The Dogs were just brushed aside. They were intimidated. Not physically, but definitely mentally. They showed no balls at all. They had no hunger. I had more hunger than they did – and even that was only driven by the need for comfort food after witnessing the second-quarter debacle.

Truth be told, even in the other three quarters there was a gulf between the two teams. The Dogs’ goals had to be manufactured in an incredibly labour-intensive fashion, while Geelong’s ball movement to goal was knife-through-hot-butter stuff.

For Geelong, everyone was good; no need to name names. In the case of the Bulldogs, I feel the need to name two names – for the wrong reasons. Nathan Eagleton and Will Minson. Both serviceable players. Both probably only in the side this week because Cooney and Hudson had the ‘flu. To be honest, I think Cooney and Hudson would have done a better job had their illnesses been terminal. Eagleton at his best can be breathtaking. But in the pressure games he buckles, and buckles badly. Minson is a battler, no more. I cannot conceive of a Bulldogs side that contains either of those two players winning a Grand Final.

I used to hate Geelong when they smashed us in those finals in the nineties – but only until the next week. Then I’d be willing them on to break their premiership drought, because they were kindred footy spirits.

Now I hate them when they smash us. And I keep hating them long afterwards. Because they have crossed that line; the Premiership line. And I hate them even more because I’m scared it’s a line that the Dogs will never cross.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Gigs – I watched the game last night and was, well, speechless. It wasn’t a true reflection of the Dogs. They MUST still be crook. I can’t beleive that Geelong at its best can beat the Dogs by 100 points unless something is wrong – very wrong.

    Needless to say it was easy viewing for Cats’ supporters, but somehow also a bit empty, meaningless. A bit like watching your 10 year old son playing section 21 tennis and getting blown off the court 6-0 in about 12 minuts by a kid who shaves. Yes I had to endure that.

  2. Gigs,

    I wouldn’t look too closely at last night. Doggies were less than their best, and Geelong would’ve blown anyone away with that mindset – if it had been the Eagles or Melbourne, we could well have been looking at a record-breaking score.

    I heard on Triple M that Doggies had 11 players 28 years or older. This is a concern – Geelong are mere kittens compared to this.

    Eade needs to stop trying to give the older blokes “the go they deserve for years of service” and start playing for the future.

    Dogs will not win a premiership with this outfit, and if the young guns aren’t blooded, there are some painful years ahead.

  3. John Butler says:

    Gigs

    It might all be a clever ploy to get better odds before the betting plunge. :)

    Or not. :(

  4. Gigs,

    on another subject the Saints are currently on 2.2 (14) at quarter time.

    At the 25 minute mark both they and North Melb were on 2.2 (14) till bloody Hansen kicked a goal and a point.

    Watch this spot.

  5. Phantom, I was actually at the game with a North supporter and I told her that her team had the game in the bag at quarter time.

    So, has the hoodoo been broken? Perhaps not. The last team to win after being 2.2 at quarter time was the Saints. Perhaps they are immune to the hoodoo…

  6. Non core hoodoo?

  7. Gigs, as I said to Josh: North Melbourne of 2010 aren’t a “real” team – your rule must only apply when two legit teams are playing. ;-)

  8. John Butler says:

    And people say the Cats supporters get ahead of themselves?

    Whatever could they mean? :)

  9. LOL, JB – just taking it one week at a time ;-)

    But I’ve copped too much bagging from Josh not to dish it back once in a while.

  10. JB,

    there’s a quiet “traditional” gathering in a shack by an open fire at Rocky Cape this Friday night between a few Blues and Cats supporters.

    Do you want me to book you a bean bag?

  11. John Butler says:

    Where’s Rocky Cape Phantom?

    I suspect the Blues fans may need some sustaining libation for the occasion.

  12. John,

    We don’t necessarily trust the Blues these days. They have bloodied our noses on the last two outings.

    Those Satanta’s little helpers have given us a fair bit of grief.

    Could draw a good crowd for our home game.

  13. Surely the Cats will be ‘up’ for the Blues game. Them losing this Friday would be an enigma inside a riddle wrapped in a puzzle and would leave us in total confusion as to their prospects come September. Talk about building the suspense, and whatever happens, this September is going to be a ripper!

  14. Pete, in the extremely unlikely event that you touch on in #13 (i.e Carlton beating Geelong this Friday), should I (as a Doggies fan) feel better or worse about it after last Saturday night?

  15. #1. Thanks, Dips. Re: your son. My son joined under 12’s cricket when he was 9. In his first season, the team got smashed every week. The second season was one of mixed results and in the third season, when he and his friends were all still under 12 (just), they won all games bar one. It’s a bit harder in a sport like tennis where it’s either singles or doubles but I’m sure there are better times ahead for your 10-year-old.

    #2. Susie, I accept your point about the 11 players 28 years or older. However, there is a core (there’s that word again, Phantom) of them who are “just” 28 and have had relatively injury-free careers. Most of them can stake a claim to being in the middle of, or entering, their prime, one that should last at least another two years. I speak of Lake, Giansiracusa, Hargarve, Gilbee (although the last two are 29) and Murphy (if he can have an extended injury-free period). Aker’s gone, Johnno probably will be and Eagleton should’ve retired last year, I believe. Hall is 33 but is in peak-condition. Having said that, players of his age can fall away very suddenly if injury strikes (Scott West, Richo etc). Ben Hudson probably falls into that category too but is holding up well, perhaps because he was a late starter. The last one is Mitch Hahn who is perhaps at the crossroads. He may or may not be part of the core of the next few years.

    Add in 24-year-olds Cooney, who I would rank as having had a far more influential (though less prominent) season this year than in his Brownlow year, and Ryan Griffen who really has only found consistency this year, along with Boyd and Cross (both 27) and Higgins (22) and I think we can say the midfield should be OK for some years to come.

    A big forward to replace Hall could be a key. Grant looms as a star but I’m not sure he’ll ever have the strength to be a key forward. Liam Jones is a possibility, and Ayce Cordy remains an unknown due to ongoing injury woes. (In fact those injuries and the spelling of his first name make him both an “x” and a “y” factor.)

    If Tom Williams can gain footy ‘nous’ – and in my mind that’s a big ‘if’ – then he along with Lake, Morris and Hargrave could provide a solid defence for a few years yet. Harbrow’s run will be missed if he defects to G Ablett’s next team, but Easton Wood (and Murphy) could fill that gap.

    The glaring weakness is in the ruck. Without Hudson, things look grim in that area. I’m confident Roughead will be good but he is a couple of years of being consistently good, I think. Will Minson is a battler at best. I love the bloke but he falls short in too many areas (contested marking, disposal and decision making). Everitt can pinch-hit there occasionally but is not a long term answer.

    In summary, in terms of cattle, strength and ability, the “window” is not yet closed. But the psychological window that was flapping in the breeze until Saturday night might have slammed shut. As far as I can see, the Dogs tick all the premiership-winning boxes except one: the one above the shoulders.

    #6. Exactly right, Phantom! We “retrospective stats people” are always happy to flip from “core” to “non-core” if it suits the argument.

    (Possibly this comment is lengthier than my original article.)

  16. Stephen Cooke says:

    Poor old Gigs. I went to the game with another long-suffering Bulldog man, Bultman. Poor old Bultman. The Geelong supporters in the crowd didn’t know what to do. if it was Collingwood we were smashing we would have revelled in it. Hawthorn – it would have been a dream come true. But the poor old Bulldogs, how do you take enjoyment from that. The realisation of another year without a flag was etched on their faces – particularly when this was meant to be their year. That’s good when Collingwood supporters have that look, but not poor old Bulldogs fans. Poor old Bulldogs fans.

  17. #9. When do I bag you? :)

  18. Fair point, Gigs.

    But there is a lot of “injury permitting” contingencies in that answer. And in this current day and age, a knee or ankle is always just around the corner.

    #17 – Lay off my Gazza, already! :P

  19. And <3 Byrnesy <3

  20. G’day Gigs,

    In keeping with the nostalgia theme, I bring your attention to Round 9, 2008. Collingwood 20.14 Def Geelong 7.6. Geelong was completely humiliated and was a much better side than that (and IMO, better than they are today). On the last day of September, Geelong was there but no Maggies.

    There were extenuating circumstances that lead to that defeat, at least as far as I was concerned. Victoria played the Dream Team two weeks ealier and the Cats had 12 players play in that game while the rest of the teams had the majority of their players take a rest and I think they were just tired.

    I think it was the same with the Doggies on Saturday though I don’t think the Dogs now are as good as the Cats were back then. And its a much tougher year this year in terms of the quality of the opposition. Its just such a shame that Doggies and Saints have picked the wrong seasons to peak. We were lucky in 2007 that there was no real competition though I think Cats would have beaten anyone that year. Still, it was nice to peak in a ‘soft’ season.

    Prior to that though we kept coming up against ‘super teams’ in the GF, excluding 1992 perhaps when Eagles were gaining momentum but where we should have won.

    They say a week’s a long time in footy Gigs. But as you’ve eluded to, those weeks paradoxically flash by ever so quickly and if you’re footy team does not experience the ultimate then you’re left with unrelenting nostalgia.

    We were there with you until….thank Gazza for 2007 and beyond.

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