Three Premierships

 

 

“Why is this place underground?” the new bloke asked.

“Are you serious? All places like this are underground,” the long time bloke said. “Interrogation rooms, chemical weapon facilities, covert government departments.”

“Yeah, but-“

“This is big business. Millions of dollars are spent here, which leads to billions in the broader economy. Our results could potentially affect everything from betting syndicates, to mass marketing strategies, to population growth, to-“

“Population growth?”

“Sure. You never heard of war babies?”

“I’m only 20, Sir,” said the new bloke.

Sir’? The long time bloke liked that. It made him laugh on the inside. The new bloke was just a kid.

“A popular team wins the flag, and 9 months later-“

“All this for sports science research?” said the new bloke.

“All this for Aussie Rules research,” the long time bloke corrected him. “The hush, hush stuff. Joe Public can’t look into an underground building. C’m’ere,” he said.

They walked down long, well-lit grey corridors, funded by the season tickets of old Arden Street biddies. By Bombers merch, Freo away jumpers, telly rights, stadium naming rights, the logos on plastic footies little tackers kicked through muddy Sundays.

At its very heart football was still football, but the beast of it was a whole new invention. Its top level was housed by something else entirely.

“Kid, things are-” started the long time bloke.

“I’m not a kid!” protested the new bloke. “I just don’t get the secrecy.”

The long time bloke grinned to himself. The way the kid protested made him sound like a baby.

“God, how much did they NOT brief you?” he smiled. “You know how the Government has military research into the paranormal? Tellaca-whatsits, pre-cog-a-me-doodles, psychics?”

“What, that stuff’s real? Like on telly…?”

The long time bloke rolled his eyes. Damn the Placements Department. Giving glorified teenagers ‘character evaluations’ to see if they can keep a secret, checking their uni scores, then shoving them blindly down the hole.

“Sticking two-hundred motion pads on a player to figure out his kicking technique, only to discover dropping a torp is all the one action? Those days are over. Old school. Since then we’ve… expanded.”

“But-“

“Look,” said the long time bloke, nodding at a lab window.

Inside was a middle-aged woman. She looked nice. Attractive, for her age, thought the new bloke. Likeable.

“She had three children in the three Premiership years of her family’s AFL team. All during the season. Which means the babies were conceived before the parents knew their club would win the Big One.”

“And?” protested the new bloke.

“Their team was hopeless. A bunch of talented handbags-“

“Geelong…”

“Couldn’t win a damn thing. She has three kids over five years. An unusual spread, yet-”

“Three Premierships…” breathed the new bloke. “Surely you don’t-“

“Here’s the thing,” the long time bloke said, grabbing the new bloke by his I.D tag, pulling him to the next window. “We tested the husband, 200% obsessive Cats fan. Lives for them. Turns out his sprog’s totally normal. Yet-“

“He looks too young to be a triple Premiership father.”

The long time bloke looked through the window at a big, donk, about 19 years old, swiping his arms at a footies as if he had no fingers. Somebody gently lobbed another ball the donk’s way from only two meters. He missed it entirely. The men in white smocks winced as it bounced off his forehead, marking little crosses all over their clipboards.

“Shit! Why doesn’t someone tell me when we shuffle labs!?” yelled the long time bloke. “Sorry, that’s the room where we’re trying to figure out what makes a first round draft pick suddenly become useless when selected by Richmond.”

“I… Oh.”

“Now, in this room,” the long time bloke dragged the new bloke along again, ”is the father. Addicted to the Cats. Won’t miss a game, even interstate. The sort who genuinely believes if he doesn’t watch, or barrack hard enough, Bartell might miss that goal.”

The new bloke looked. Sitting in the lab was a middle-aged man as everyday, so it seemed, and likeable, as his partner. Footy fanatics, you just can’t pick ‘em, the new bloke thought in wonder.

The long time bloke then dragged the new bloke back to the first window.

“Yet here’s the irony. We think the Premiership gene is in his wife,” he opened the door. “And she doesn’t barrack for anyone…”

 

The long time bloke walked up to the woman like they had been friends forever.

“Mrs Larry, hello,” he smiled.

“Hello, Chuck,” smiled Mrs Larry. “Not Mrs for much longer,” she added, almost sadly.

“Chuck?” said the new bloke.

“Just a name I fed her. Makes me more relatable,” whispered the long time bloke. “Mrs Larry, I’m showing the kid about. Do you mind if I speak frankly?”

“I would appreciate it if you do,” said Mrs Larry.

“Mrs Larry here is a saint,” the long time bloke turned to the new bloke. “Doesn’t like football, or more so, simply doesn’t care about it. Yet married a footyhead for love. Put up with the Geelong theme song being played at their wedding. Looked after the kids on their anniversary while he went and watched the Cats play Freo. At Freo. She never minded he spent all their money following his love of…”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” said the new bloke.

The long time bloke liked that. Save the violins, just give me the bottom line. Maybe Placement was right to send him here.

“She wants to leave him,” said the long time bloke.

“I have all these doubts,” Mrs. Larry said, turning to the new bloke. “What if my love for him, to want to please him, birthed those Premierships? What if they were caused by my desire to give him the best year of his life? Three times? A baby and a flag? Geelong’s list is on the slide. Do I have the energy to make it happen again? Do you know how hard it is to make a good battler like Mooney receive All-Australian? It defied all logic. An important part of a bigger team plan was what he was. Nothing more. No wonder my labour was so intensive that year.”

“Made no sense to me at the time, either,” said the long time bloke.

“What if I can’t do it? Win another flag for my husband? This footy obsession is fine while they’re winning. Cute. It’s like I’m married to the happiest teenager. The one who has all the lollies. But what if we lose for the next 30 years…?” Mrs Larry sighed.

A tear rolled down her cheek. The long time bloke wiped it away.

“Do I just keep pushing out babies?”

The long time bloke gave her a minute. She didn’t move, sitting on the bench, in her smock, staring at the floor in front of her.

“She is a saint…” whispered the new bloke. “Married to a Cat supporter…”

“Good angle,” whispered the long time bloke, jotting down ‘Sainter v Catter’ for further study.

Eventually, Mrs Larry raised her head, giving the long time bloke a wobbly smile.

So!” he boomed, clapping his hands. “We have a beautiful lady here who just might be able to predict, or make, Premierships, out of love for her partner, and she’s soon to be single.”

“My God…” said the new bloke, the full weight of it finally hitting him.

“Imagine the ramifications…” said the long time bloke, almost gleefully. “What Collingwood wouldn’t pay to-“

“Yes, well…” coughed Mrs Larry, interrupting him.

She knew, if she left Mr Larry, her children would need supporting. Money. But the thought of a toothless husband producing a toothless baby sort of scared her. She couldn’t see any love in it, no matter how much they paid her.

The long time bloke knew what she was thinking. The love angle was tricky, a real challenge for him and the other beakers. Maybe it was only genetics, though, no love required? Then the sperm lab would be justified. God, this place empowered him! He worshipped his job! Science and football!

The long time bloke was shit at sport when younger. Sometimes this place felt like finding a way to be involved in it, anyway, like luck unadulterated. No training required. Sometimes it felt like revenge, over those Under 15s stars, back at school, that landed all the pretty girls, got all the attention, then grew up and into jobs cleaning fast food store toilets.

“Good-bye for now, Mrs Larry,” he said.

“Not Mrs for much longer,” she threw an even wobblier smile at him.

 

The long time bloke turned to the new bloke when they stepped back out into the corridor.

“I’ve got a busy day ahead,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how just one player called Milne can make hundreds of thousands of people not want to barrack for St.Kilda. If only we could use his power for good, rather than evil…”

“In what way?”

“I dunno. Inject what he’s got into a few famous soccer players. It’s thrashing Aussie Rules in schools these days. Anyways, what’s you’re title here? Let’s get you working.”

“Cleaner,” said the new bloke.

“What!? For the love of…!” the long time bloke raged, slapping the new bloke on the back of the head as if he were Austin McCrabb.

“But-“

“Here!” he threw a mop at the kid, before storming off towards where they were trying to figure out how to steer the romantic pull of batter-cooked dough shot with jam and sprinkled with sugar towards overpriced ‘gourmet’ pizza slices.

The new bloke didn’t get any of it. So many idiots had jumped onto the back of something simple. Football. Milne was a wanker, there was no science to it. The game needed them, villains.

Then, out of nowhere, the long time bloke stormed back at him.

“Who do you barrack for?” he demanded.

“Whu-“

“Who do you barrack for?” he shouted.

“… Ha… Hawthorn,” the new bloke lied.

The long time bloke glared, long and hard.

“You sure?!”

“I-“

“Are! You! Sure?!”

We’re a mighty team at…” the new bloke started singing, feebly.

The long time bloke gradually let his eyes slip off the new bloke.

“Okay, then. You’re probably not desperate enough to try something stupid. But stay away from Mrs-“

‘Alright, alright. Jesus.”

The long time bloke walked off again. The new bloke started mopping.

“Out! Out!” he heard, as the big donk in the Tigers jumper pushed past him, sobbing, a clearance to Nar-Nar-Goon held loosely in his fingers.

No, the new bloke wasn’t stupid – everyone in here was mad as a hatter.

But geez, not even his Granddad could remember that one, lonely flag for the Doggies! It couldn’t hurt, if her got close enough, to be a bit loose with the labels in the sperm lab, surely.

 

 

Comments

  1. Malby Dangles says:

    Nice to see some fiction from you Matty. Or is it???

  2. Malby Dangles says:

    ‘A work of fiction’ I meant to add :)

  3. Malby Dangles says:

    To be clear the second sentence of the first post should read “Or is it a work of fiction???”
    Ok time for me to shut up now

  4. Malby Dangles says:

    To be clear the second sentence of the first post should read “Or is it a work of fiction???”
    Ok time for me to shut up now suffering sleep deprivation

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Good Stuff Matt Amusing Bloody Good Imagination !

  6. Basso Divor says:

    Good one Zurbs. Inspired by JTH and The Handicapper?

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Basco that is exactly what I was thinking and wondering as well !

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