This Is Not The Way Home

Fremantle. It’s a pleasant enough place to sit and watch the rest of the world spin by, but it is barely a city or is one in name only. For all of its industrial attachments, Fremantle’s charms are quite easily found in numerous other port cities; somewhere else. Everything that happens here from the marketplace to the bus timetable seems to be going through the motions of a metropolis without actually being one and that presents me with a feeling more vacuous than I had imagined.

Empty City Circle buses glide by me as I sit staring through a restaurant window that could be any restaurant apart from the Chicken Tikka Masala settling in my stomach. The dessert menu will be reviewed but will go untried yet again. I search the seats of a series of these buses to determine if yet again it would be full of the inevitable emptiness but without fail there is a solitary person on it which means its one too many.

Freo emerges from its slumber on a Sunday arvo where it seems to become home to every second Perth hipster looking for a pile of coffee and a Sunday Sesh all of which is seemingly found within a 500m radius of the “main street” and barely anywhere else. The rest of its suburbs are sleepy; deathly quiet again save for a couple of hamburger shops and general stores. Legend has it that AC/DC wrote Highway to Hell somewhere between Melbourne and Perth and there is no need to guess which direction they were driving.

I’ve watched the first two marvelous games of Origin from this vantage, for the want of a more appropriate word, on 2 hour delay. While it doesn’t lose any lustre from such distance the 2 hour delay drives one a little stir crazy. Lock down Facebook and wait!

Today, it’s the shortest day of the year and I’ve spent the best part of the last two weeks here – a town almost completely devoid of any reference to rugby league and almost anything else interesting. If it wasn’t for the New Edition bookshop on High Street this week I would have probably passed out from boredom.

As I walk around, I browsing the shelves of New Edition with a copy of Rugby League Week under my arm, I contemplate tomorrow’s matchup between the increasingly rudderless Dragons and the increasingly buoyant Gold Coast Titans who have, this week, met just below halfway on the competition table. I decide to pick up a copy of Granta 118 Exit Strategies – which appears to be an appropriate choice in the circumstances.

As far as slumps go St George Illawarra are in a particular boring one. Owning the worst attacking record in the game Steve Price is getting deeper in the shit with every match. It appears that Ben Hornby has stayed a year too long and Jamie Soward is not taking the common sense, percentage approach to his footy that seemed to come so natural to him under Wayne Bennett.

And this game vs The Titans is no different; numerous offensive opportunities missed. Hornby drops the ball cold in the 8th minute deep in Titans territory. In the 11th minute Jamie Soward gives the ball away at the end of a promising movement. In the 36th minute Trent Merrin drops a sitter ten yards out from the try line. Numerous line breaks are not completed by quality finish; typically ending with poor pass options or from a lack of enthusiastic support play. Empty boring football.

If it wasn’t for the undisciplined mind of everyone’s favourite hotel guest, Nate Myles, giving away two avoidable penalties in the shadow of both full time and the Titans goal posts the completely uninspiring rabble from Wollongong would have dropped another game.

The talking heads suggest that the Titans were just as uninspiring or that the Dragons defence simply held up strong. However, this footy is a far cry from the tradesman-like performances of 2010. A shadow of our former selves. We are now the rugby league equivalent of Fremantle. We know we are entitled to be better but we’re just going through the motions. The excitement is somewhere else. This is not the way home.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 8 (D Vidot try J Soward 2 goals) bt GOLD COAST 6 (S Prince try S Prince goal) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Gavin Morris, Jason Robinson. Crowd: 10,194.

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